Today, Schuylerville in eastern Saratoga County is not particularly known for its Irish community, but on St. Patrick’s Day in 1898 the historic village had “a metropolitan appearance” with bands, drum corps and 600 marchers.
The Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) organized a parade under the auspices of the local Schuylerville area division.
The AOH, an Irish Catholic fraternal organization, was founded concurrently in the coal-mining region of Pennsylvania and New York City in 1836. They were created to protect Irish immigrants from violent American Nativists attacks on their homes and churches.
In Schuylerville, the recently elected village President (Mayor) James Mealey arranged for the local scrapper to clean the dirt streets (during mud season). The residents of Schuylerville, Victory and Smithville decorated their business and residents “in a fine manner” with the green flag of Ireland intermingled with the Stars and Stripes. These and other decorations “presented a very handsome appearance.”
The various AOH divisions arrived in Schuylerville in large numbers. The Saratoga Springs division arrived by special train with 100 members and were headed by the 77th Regimental Band. This was composed of military personnel from Fulton, Essex and Saratoga Counties who fought in the Civil War. The group banded together in 1872 as part of the Survivors Association of the Seventy-Seventh Regiment, New York State Infantry Volunteers of 1861-65. These musicians kept alive the memories of their experiences during the war and the band continued into the early 1900s.
The Corinth division arrived with 80 men and the Palmer Falls Band with Glens Falls’ cornet player A. D. Wilson. To the south, Mechanicville and Stillwater AOH divisions turned out 112, arriving by a special train and led by the H. D. Safford’s band. H. D. Safford was the manager of a successful Mechanicville based cornet band that performed for about 25 years starting in the late 1880s.
The Greenwich division in neighboring Washington County, with 60 members accompanied by the William Walker Drum Corps, arrived in a convoy of carriages. This drum corps was originally from East Greenwich and they started in 1896 with 16 musicians and performed for about a decade.
The final unit in the parade was the 60 members of the Schuylerville area division led by the Victory Cornet Band which was a pride of the community and performed all over the area for over 55 years.
There were 645 train tickets sold from Saratoga Springs to Schuylerville. The crowd for the parade was over 3,000 from out of town. The parade formed on lower Broad Street at Burgoyne street. The route was just under five miles snaking the parade (long by today’s standards) through the villages of Schuylerville, Victory, hamlet of Smithville, back to Victory, into the Town of Saratoga and back to the start in Schuylerville. The parade was led by Grand Marshall Frank McDonnell and village and town officials in carriages brought up the rear.
The day ended with a banquet and program at the Opera House on Broad Street. The program included nine songs, a recitation and a lecture from Greenwich’s Rev. Morrison, who ended his lecture with:
“The motto was – and let it be ever yours also – ‘always and everywhere faithful.’ Yes, faithful to your God, faithful to your religion, faithful to your country. Your duty then is to this country and her interests, patriotism, and humanity. Aspire to do the work of patriots and of good men, and God will bless the results.”
I’m sure it was not lost on those gathered that they were meeting in Schuylerville where in 1777 a British army surrendered. The Schuylerville Standard described “a better appearing, better dressed and more intelligent looking lot of men would be hard to find than the organization in line St. Patrick’s Day. It was a credit to all concerned and Old Schuylerville will always have a warm welcome for the A. O. H.”
Illustration of St. Patrick courtesy Library of Congress.
Sean Kelleher is the historian for the town of Saratoga, New York. He writes a daily blog at https://historianatsaratoga.wordpress.com/. He is a board member of the Saratoga County History Center. Sean was a member of the New York State French and Indian War 250th Anniversary Commemoration Commission. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.