How Will You Celebrate St. Patrick's Day?
By Pam Stranahan, Friends of the History Center
As we approach March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, will you be wearing green? You don’t have to be certified Irish to observe the holiday. Will you have shepherd’s pie along with a green beer? Or attend a memorial mass?
You could spend some time learning more about the early Irish settlers who came to our shores in the 1830s. The empresario for Refugio County (a section of which became Aransas County) was James Power. He contracted with the Mexican authorities to bring 200 families to settle along the coast. The Mexican government wanted Catholics to be a buffer to the Protestants who were beginning to colonize Texas. Power returned to his home in Ballygarrett, Wexford County, Ireland to recruit colonists. Many relatives, including his sister and nephew, returned with him. Some died on the trip over after contracting cholera.
James Power was a significant contributor to the Texas Revolution. He signed the Texas Declaration of Independence and spent months in New Orleans making crucial purchases to support Houston’s campaign against Santa Anna. In 1837 Power laid out Aransas City on Live Oak Point. An historical marker shows the approximate location near the south foot of the Copano Bay bridge and Hwy. 35. Aransas City had a tavern, a wharf, a trading post and a customs house. He had two wives and seven children. He died in 1852 as the new town of Copano was being built across the bay. Aransas City was challenged by the development of Lamar and later Rockport.
Names of those early Irish settlers include O’Connor, Fagan, Power, McGuill, O’Reily, Duggan, Fitzsimon, Kelly, Roche, O’Brien, Smith, Hall, Keating, Murphy, Malone, Tobin and O’Driscoll. Many of their descendants are active in local communities.
The story of the Irish is told in a gallery at the History Center. It features an exhibit titled “Voices from the Past” that incorporates artifacts with posters to tell the story of times gone by. The History Center for Aransas County at 801 E. Cedar St. is open Fri. 10-2; Sat. & Sun. 1-4 PM and Mon. 10-2. More information may be found on the website at www.theachistorycenter.com or by calling 361 727-9214.