Alumni & Friends
Tour Ireland (2020)
Savannah: The Most Irish City in the American Southeast
Savannah, Georgia, is the most Irish city in the Southeastern United States. The Federal Census of 1860 recorded one in every four of Savannah's "Free" population — around 14% of its overall population — as having been born in Ireland. Thus, mid-nineteenth-century Savannah was Irish in ways comparable to New York and Boston at that time.
A unique and remarkable fact is that during the 1840s and 1850s, the most intensive period for Irish immigration into Savannah, 56% of the newcomers originated in just one of Ireland's 32 traditional counties: Wexford (or Loch Garman in the Irish language), a maritime county in the extreme southeast of the island of Ireland. One could say that Savannah constitutes "Wexford, USA"! Abounding in Savannah (the "Hostess City") to this day are family names especially associated with Wexford (the "Model County"): Corish, Doyle, Kehoe, Redmond, Rossiter, Sinnott, Stafford, and more. While Wexford immigrants faced challenges in Savannah, including the yellow fever epidemic of 1854, they were broadly welcomed into the antebellum city. On December 6, 1850, the Savannah Republican newspaper offered an editorial comment about "125 emigrants” who had arrived “from Wexford” on the previous day: "[R]arely do we see a more respectable body of new comers from any portion of Europe … who we learn design settling in Savannah. ... May they realize their brightest anticipations, of prosperity and happiness in their new home” (page 2, column 2).