Historical Notes of the
St. Patrick's Association

A Non-Profit Volunteer Organization

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Dscstat.jpg (46913 bytes)In the mid 1800's migration from Ireland to America was at its peak. After arriving in New York, many Irishmen worked their way west. Six such families, attracted by the fertile land of Northwest Iowa, established a frontier Irish colony in Palo Alto County on the banks of the Des Moines River near the present site of Emmetsburg.

In later years they were joined by other Irish immigrants homesteading throughout several townships within the county. Later a town was platted and named Emmetsburg in honor of the Irish Patriot, Robert Emmet, who in 1803 was executed by the English government in Ireland's fight for independence.

The culture and customs of the Emerald Isle were preserved in the area. One such custom was the observance of St. Patrick's Day. The Ancient Order of Hibernians, an Irish fraternal organization, was instrumental in conducting the annual celebration but with the passage of time, the practice was discontinued.

In March of 1961, two local men were able to generate enthusiasm among fellow kinsman to revive the celebration. It was the intention of the organizers to commemorate St. Patrick's Day and to develop an interest in local heritage and history. They wanted a celebration that would be entertaining, that would bring families and friends together and provide a break in the long monotonous Iowa winter.

The St. Patrick's Day festivities have grown from a small group of men marching down Main Street with their Coat of Arms and green derbies, to a gala 4 day celebration that includes a variety of activities to please people of all ages.

The celebration involves many hours of work and time from individuals, civic and service organizations and businesses. The St. Patrick's Association was formed to coordinate these efforts.

Many nationalities now live in Emmetsburg and many people, not of Irish roots, visit us during our St. Patrick's Day Celebration. Irish or not, join with us and enjoy the friendly atmosphere and witness our pride in our ethnic heritage.

The link to Ireland was further reinforced in 1962. Negotiations between the Emmetsburg Mayor and the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Ireland, resulted in a joint proclamation officially declaring the two as "Sister Cities". Through this declaration, they agreed to join together in the rejoicing and celebration of St. Patrick's Day.

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Dscpix.jpg (47284 bytes)A statue of Robert Emmet, one of Ireland's most venerated heroes, stands in the Palo Alto County court house square. Emmet was a true advocate of human rights. He is a tribute to all who love their country and detest crimes against their fellowman.

Born of English stock, Robert was a member of the privileged Protestant class. His father was a prominent physician. It was not necessary for him to become involved with the problems facing the country; yet he, and all of his family, joined in the struggle to free Ireland from British rule.

Following an unsuccessful campaign to overthrow the English castle in Dublin, Emmet was captured and hung. Before his execution he was quoted as saying, "We fight that all of us might have our country, and, that done, each of us shall have our religion." [Read Robert Emmet's last speech.]

The life-size bronze statue, clothed in an army officer's uniform, stands with outstretched hand, an expression of sorrow and appeal distort his features as if he still repeats his last request, "When my country takes its place among the nations of this earth, then and not till then, let my epitaph be written."

The creator of this masterpiece, Irish born Jerome Connor, received high praise from the grand nephew of Emmet. The ninety year old doctor, when first viewing the statue, stated, "This is a marvelous copy of nature - a work which will live." Four statues were struck from this mold.  Although not preplanned, they seem to be strategically placed to trace the migration and the impact of the Irish people on our country. The original statue is in Dublin, one is in the eastern part of the United States, one in the Midwest and one on the west coast.

Since 1966, the Association has commissioned  a commemorative coin bearing Robert Emmet's image to mark the annual St. Patrick's Celebration.  These coins are available to the public through the Association.

For more information about Robert Emmet, please visit the Robert Emmet Website sponsored, in part by the Emmetsburg St. Patrick's Association.

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