An Appalachian Ulster Scot’s St. Patrick’s Day reflections

Thomas Fitzgerald was born at Kerry, Ireland His wife, Hannah Pyne Fitzgerald, was born at Cork, Ireland Burial: Calvary Catholic Cemetery Knoxville, Tennessee

Did you remember to wear something green on St. Patrick’s Day? If not, quite likely you were pinched. Among the mountain youth of the 1970s, St. Patrick’s Day was mostly an excuse for pinching those who forgot to wear green. Teachers would make scissors and green construction paper available so that pupils, who forgot to don the green, could cut out shamrocks and attach them to their clothing.

As a word of caution, I would warn against pinching transplants to the Mountain South, not attired in green, on St. Patrick’s Day. Several years ago, I learned that a female security guard at the East Tennessee History Center, unfamiliar with Appalachian customs, was unaware of the practice. I am glad that I didn’t take advantage of the opportunity to pinch her first. Obviously, pinching those who do not wear green on St. Patrick’s Day, is not as a widespread practice as I would have assumed.

That St. Patrick’s Day is not an important holiday in East Tennessee is not surprising. The Scotch Irish Protestants, who settled the Southern Highlands, were a distinct ethnic group apart from the Roman Catholic Irish. Descendants of Vikings who settled on the outcroppings of Scotland hundreds of years ago, they resettled in Northern Ireland, before making the voyage across the Atlantic Ocean to the New World. Here in the mountains of Southern Appalachia we have remained a unique tribe forged in Ulster.

Mostly isolated from other Roman Catholics throughout much of their history, Coastal Georgia’s Irish have also remained a unique tribe. Living through, observing, and somewhat participating in their St. Patrick’s Day festivities at Savannah was both educational and exciting for me.

Spring itself, of course, comes earlier in Savannah. After a much shorter dormant season than we are accustomed to here in East Tennessee, spring is definitely in the air when St. Patrick’s Day arrives at the oldest city in Georgia.

The festivities, including a major parade, turn automobile traffic into gridlock. The only practical way to move about town for several days is on foot.

The trek from my Reconstruction Era apartment to the souvenir shop, where I worked along the old wharf on River Street in the year 2000, was adventurous in itself as I crisscrossed grass carpeted city squares that had seemingly become a healthy bright green overnight. Water that flowed through decorative public fountains was dyed green and the dome atop city hall was spotlighted in green.

An organization called the Jasper Greens holds an observance at Savannah’s Catholic Cemetery in Savannah around St. Patrick's Day each year. I didn’t attend the event but read about it in the Savannah Morning News.

After I left the East Tennessee History Center on what was a markedly lowkey St. Patrick’s Day, compared to Savannah’s celebratory occasion, I drove east in hope of recapturing the experience at Knoxville's Catholic Cemetery. I was expecting, or at least I had hoped, to find shamrocks and greenery. Instead, I found faded Christmas decorations.

In the mid-nineteenth century, Roman Catholic Irishmen came to East Tennessee to build the railroad. With so many Irish names inscribed in stone, one could easily imagine for a moment that he was in Ireland.

Adjacent to the Potter’s Field and the Confederate Cemetery, the Catholic Cemetery on Martin Luther King Avenue (formerly East Vine Avenue) was established in 1869 at what was then some distance from town. Most likely, the rear entrance, now closed to traffic on the old road to Rutledge (presently Bethel Avenue), was the original entrance.

Before the Catholic Cemetery was established, Irish Catholics buried their dead in the northwest section of Gray Cemetery (presently Old Gray Cemetery) in a section that continues to be known as Little Ireland. The residential area where the Irish lived east of Crozier Street (presently South Central Street) was once known as Irish Town.

Immaculate Conception Church, East Tennessee’s first Roman Catholic Church, was built in 1855 on the crown of nearby Reservoir Hill overlooking the railway below. The present building was completed in 1886. Confederate Army Chaplain, Father Abraham Ryan, author of The Conquered Banner that became the requiem for the Lost Cause, pastored Immaculate Conception Church in the early years of reconstruction. Father Ryan High School in Nashville is named for him.

Perhaps Ryan inadvertently gave inspiration to the post-war political slogan Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion affixing blame for the American Civil War on the Democratic Party.

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UCBPA Meeting

Thursday, January 10, 2019 - 12:00

UCBPA meets the second Tuesday of each month for approximately one hour. Membership is $25 annually. The meeting begins at noon at Hardee's in Maynardville. Anyone interested in making Union County a better place to live, work, worship, or play may attend.

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Goneau Gentry Heath

Goneau Gentry Heath was born August 20, 1921 and went to her heavenly home on December 13, 2018 at the age of 97. Goneau was a longtime member of North Knoxville Baptist Church. She was preceded in death by her father, Cleve Gentry and her mother, Bonnie Stooksbury Gentry; Aunt who raised her, Cora Stooksbury; husband of 51 years, K.C. Heath; Brothers, Ray and Carson Gentry; Sister, Jessie Beeler; Granddaughter, Julie Hourigan; Son-in-law, James "Jim" Bean.

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Wanda Faye Henry, age 81, of Corryton joined her husband in heaven on December 12, 2018 at Tennova Powell. Member of Clear Springs Baptist Church. Preceded in death by husband Harvey Henry; parents Luke and Elizabeth Everett; sisters Juanita Boling, Iola Chandler, Lelia Davis; and brother David Everett.

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Rev. Gains Harrell Lewis, Sr.-age 86 of Maynardville went to his Heavenly Home Friday morning, December 14, 2018. Harrell, above everything else, loved the Lord Jesus Christ as his Saviour and preached and witnessed so others would do the same. He was saved and was a member of Hubbs Grove Baptist Church and attended Fellowship Christian Church. He had pastored Leatherwood Baptist Church and Head of Barren Baptist Church. He was proud to be a lifetime citizen of Maynardville, Tennessee and was well-known and had many friends and family.

Betty Sue Baumgardner

Betty Sue Baumgardner – age 77 of Washburn, passed away on Tuesday, December 11, 2018. She was a member of Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Knoxville. Betty was a loving wife and enjoyed crocheting and quilting.

She is preceded in death by parents, Edgar and Dorothy Glover; sisters, Mary Ann Glover and Nell Harper. Betty is survived by loving husband of 60 years, Reverend Albert “Dick” Baumgardner; sister, Jenntte; brother, Edward Glover; and several nieces and nephews.

Jesse D. Coffman

Jesse D. “J.D.” Coffman-age 89 of Washburn passed away peacefully Thursday morning, December 13, 2018 at his home. He was a U. S. Army Veteran of the Korean War. J. D. was a member of Central View American Christian Church, Washburn.

Nicole "Nicky" Tyson

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Graveside service and interment 12 Noon Saturday, December 15, 2018, Dyer Cemetery, Powder Springs. Arrangements by Cooke-Campbell Mortuary, Maynardville.

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Tommy Ray Bray, age 59, passed away on December 11, 2018. He was a member of the Elks Lodge 160, and was an avid fisherman.

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Regena Kaye Keller – age 65 of Knoxville, went home to be with the Lord on Tuesday, December 11, 2018. She was a member of River of Hope Church.

She is preceded in death by father, Richard Lee Miller; sister, Beverly Faye Murphy; and brother-in-law, Charles E. Keller. Regena is survived by her husband of 33 years, Larry “Joe” Keller; mother, Barbara Jean Pellegrino; sister, Sharon Hess; sister-in-law, Renee´ (Chris) Branum; nieces, Kristina Hess, Kirsten Keller Pruitt and Zoe Branum; nephews, Nate and Christian Branum.

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