Castlecomer in county Kilkenny is the venue for a forthcoming talk on a memorial being built in Leadville, Colorado
At 10,200 Feet in Elevation, Leadville is the highest town in North America. It’s also the site of the largest and most politically important Irish immigrant communities in the Rocky Mountain West, consisting of approximately 20% of the population during the early 1880s. This working class immigrant community occupied the most difficult jobs, struggled unsuccessfully to improve their working conditions, many died very young from harsh winters, sickness, mining accidents, and epidemics. The Catholic Free section of Leadville’s Evergreen Cemetery holds the remains of thousands of Irish immigrants, buried in sunken, unmarked graves. The average age of death was twenty-three and nearly half of them are children. Today, a major memorial to these 19th century Irish immigrants is under construction, naming those in the unmarked graves and standing as a visual reminder of the human toll that industrial labour took on Irish immigrant communities across North America. Many of the graves belong to people from Castlecomer.
In the centre of the Evergreen Cemetery will be a memorial. A spiral pathway will lead to the top of a mound where a sculpture will sit. It’s reminiscent of ancient Irish burial mounds. The names of each person in the plots will be carved into glass walls or onto plaques.
Jim Walsh is an historian and researcher at Colorado University in Denver. When he was working on his doctoral thesis, he decided to focus on the Irish in Colorado.
Following a visit to a local graveyard in Leadville, his life was about to change forever.
In a section that is recognisable by what looks like snowdrifts, are 1,400 people, of different denominations, whose stories of trial and triumph had been lost to time. That was until Professor Walsh came upon them.
According to Jim “The sorrow of that journey is lost. It was so traumatic that it was not passed on in oral tradition. “So this Memorial is pausing that narrative for just an instant, to turn around and just look at from whence we’ve come and that offers us our humanity back, maybe.”
Anxious to spread the news and indeed the history of the Irish who travelled to Colorado in the 1800’s, Jim Walsh is undertaking a tour of Ireland to impart his knowledge.
One of the venues will be the Library in Castlecomer on June 21st at 6.30pm.
Booking to attend this talk can be made by phoning the library on 0564440561