The Early History of the AOH in Columbus, Ohio
It was in the autumn of 1875 when a small but determined group of Irishmen moved to Columbus, Ohio from Sharon and Wheatland, Pennsylvania. They settled in the part of Columbus known as "Flytown,"; which was located in the northwest section of Ohio's capital city. These men decided to bring the Ancient Order of Hibernians to Columbus. After several preliminary meetings, many of them held under the shade of the trees in Goodale Park, the first division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, in Franklin County, was organized in March 1876. The Ohio State President, Peter Dumphey of Cincinnati, came to Columbus to install the division and its officers. The installation meeting was held in the Sessions Building located at 118-120 North High Street on the southeast corner of Long and High Sts. (the building, known as the Sessions Bank Block, was torn down in 1923). The first officers of the new divisions were as follows: Peter Heenahan, County Delegate ~ John Flynn, Division President ~ John J. Cook, Vice-President ~ Patrick Shea, Treasurer ~ Patrick Kilcoyne, Financial Secretary ~ John Duffy, Recording Secretary
The division grew and prospered. It made its first public appearance on July 4, 1876 when it marched as a unit in the parade commemorating the occasion of the Centennial Celebration of American Independence.
Membership in the division grew as prominent Irish-American citizens of Columbus joined the group. Men such as, Michael Burns, Police Commissioner; Jerry O'Shaughnessy, Columbus Water Commissioner and political leader; Thomas J. Dundon, business leader and future National Treasurer of the Ancient Order of Hibernians; James T. Carroll, Columbus printer and Catholic news editor, who would serve as National Secretary of the Order.
So fast was the growth of Hibernianism that soon there were a total of five divisions, each serving a geographical area of the city. In 1900 James T. Carroll founded Company A of the Hibernian Rifles, a military division of the Order (these men saw service assisting the victims of the tragic 1913 food in Columbus). In 1906 a division of A.O.H. Cadets were established at St. Patrick's High School and College (later known as Aquinas College High School). The Hibernians became the dominant Irish group in Columbus and each year organized the annual St. Patrick's Day parade.
Times changed, however, in the late 1920s and early 1930s the Hibernians began to die out in Columbus. The many divisions and units began collapsing with the last division in Columbus being known as the Amalgamated A.O.H. Division. Other Irish groups such as the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick and the Columbus Shamrock Club took over the Hibernians dominant position. However, the spirit of the "founding fathers" of Hibernianism in Columbus was not completely extinguished.
A New Division Comes to Columbus
On Wednesday, July 11, 1979 a new division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians was formally organized in Columbus. After years of hard work by then National Director Michael Coogan of Dayton and Michael Muldowney of Bridgeport, sufficient men were found in Columbus to allow a return of the Ancient Order of Hibernians to the Capital City.
The installation program began with Mass in St. Patrick's Church offered by Father O'Shaughnessy. Following the Mass, the A.O.H. Degree Team from Dayton administered the Degree of the Motto in St. Patrick's Social Hall to the new members. State President John A. Keaton, Jr. and National Director Michael Coogan installed the division. Michael Muldowney was toastmaster for the evening's ceremonies and reception that followed the Mass. The new division was named for Patrick H. Pearse, poet, author, educator and commander-in-chief of the Irish Republican forces in the 1916 Irish Rebellion. The new division officers were as follows: Terence O'Shaughnessy, President ~ James P. Comer, Vice-President ~ Kevin Talty, Recording Secretary ~ William Leahy, Financial Secretary ~ Drew Connor, Treasurer ~ John Delaney, Chairman of the Standing Committee ~ Paul Lynch, Marshall ~ Dave Schafhausen, Sentinel
The Patrick H. Pearse Division grew in size and strength. Meetings were held wherever space could be found. This noble band of "tinkers" were without a permanent home. This situation soon changed when in 1988 the division took up residence at St. Patrick's Social Hall in Columbus. They named the hall Tara Hall after the ancient coronation site of Irish kings. Having a home allowed the division to grow and add new members.
The division became active in both the sate and national A.O.H. organizations. Kevin Talty served the Order as National Treasurer; Gerry Curran has served the Order as State Historian, National Historian and National Web-Master; John C. O'Connor has served the Order as State President; Thomas O'Mahoney served the Order as State Secretary; J. Michael Finn serves the Order as State Historian; Ron Crow has served the Order as State Irish Language Chairman; Jerry Priest, Jim Minor and Jamie Gaffney have all served as State Directors.
In 1997 the division reached the level of 300 members, making it the largest division in the State of Ohio and one of the largest in the country.
The National Organization has adopted many programs initiated by the Patrick Pearse Division, including the flag alteration ceremony, a membership incentive drive known as "300 Men and 3 Men" and a campaign to raise funds for St. Paul's Parish in Belfast, that has raised over $70,000 to aid the struggling parish and their parish center in the north of Ireland.
In April 1999, faced with the loss of its adopted home, the division was forced to leave St. Patrick's Social Hall and seek other quarters. An unfortunate and unpleasant period of homelessness and legal battles with the landlord of the new location followed. This period was an expensive one for the Patrick Pearse Division and drove the division deeply into debt. Eventually, in early February 2003 the legal storm clouds were removed and the division set it sights on a return to the basic work of the Order. Much like the mythical phoenix, the Division reestablished itself as an active and vital force in the Columbus Irish Catholic Community.
The Patrick Pearse Division was once again forced to rely on the kindness of others as we returned to our roots as a "noble band on tinkers." During this period the division met at the Shamrock Club and at Zeno's Bar in Columbus. A gracious offer of assistance was received from our friends in the Germania Society of Columbus and the division shared meeting space in their hall in German Village from 2007 until early 2009.
In March 2009 the division purchased its own building, also christened Tara Hall, at 274 East Innis Avenue in the south end of Columbus. Through the hard work of our members we once again have a permanent home in Columbus. The first division meeting was held in the new Tara Hall on March 12, 2009.
As the members of the Patrick Pearse Division work to build a stronger foundation in the City of Columbus, they look forward to the future of continuing contributions to the Columbus Irish Community. With God's help and blessing the Patrick Pearse Division will continue to operate under the precepts that have governed the Ancient Order of Hibernians for over 400 years. These precepts are set fourth in the motto of the A.O.H. - Friendship, Unity and Christian Charity.
History Updated: April 18, 2009
Note: This history is respectfully dedicated to the memory of A.O.H. brother John Joseph Cook (1851-1940), the first Vice-President of Division #1. Brother Cook was the last surviving charter member of the original 1876 division. Without his diligent efforts, much of our early history would have been lost.
by J. Michael Finn, State Historian