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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

"The long and stormy passage": The 1823 sea voyage of Patrick Cowhey and a spirited Irish priest

"In early nineteenth-century Ireland, the Reverend Jeremiah O'Callaghan refused the sacraments to a dying man until he recanted his alleged usury, an incident that eventually got the priest banished to the wilds of northern Vermont," writes Charles R. Geisst in his newly-published book Beggar Thy Neighbor: A History of Usury and Debt.

Fr. O'Callaghan was a strong-willed priest on a mission. His determination to rid society of the sin of usury (monetary loans that he thought the church should consider unethical) led him to leave Ireland where he took up his cause first in New York, then in Rome. The end of his efforts, which were not taken seriously, resulted in him being sent to act as first pastor to a remote group of Catholics in Vermont.

My interest in Fr. O'Callaghan began not because of his campaign against the errors of capitalism, but because of the description he wrote of his first voyage to New York. It turns out that the priest made the same journey on the same ship in 1823 as my great-great-great-grandfather Patrick Cowhey, and the difficulty of the voyage led him to write about it. Fr. O'Callaghan makes mention of the experience within his 1824 book explaining the reasons behind what became his life's campaign (which was reprinted other times and under additional titles): Usury or Interest Proved to be Repugnant to the Divine and Ecclesiastical Laws and Destructive to Civil Society.
The 1835 printed edition of Fr. O'Callaghan's book
Here is the priest's description of the voyage:
"In expectation that America, the garden of liberty, would grant what had been denied me in Ireland, that is, power to pursue my clerical office, I sailed from Cork by the ship William, on the 6th of March, 1823, [some texts indicate the 8th of March] and after a boisterous passage, made New-York the 23d April. Visiting my old friend, Rev. John Power, of Skibbereen, Ireland, who for some years dignified the pulpit of this city. Several days elapsed in recounting our mutual adventures, putting and solving spiritual questions, and grieving for the distress and gloomy prospects of mother Erin. As soon as my constitution, that had been broken down by the long and stormy passage, was retrieved at his hospitable table, he presented me to Dr. Connelly, bishop of that city..."
A famine ship during a storm
It was a great surprise to find this description of my ancestor's voyage to New York, particularly since I have not even been able to locate a picture of the Ship William.  After discovering Fr. O'Callaghan's words about his negative experience on the ship, I took another look at the passenger list. There was the familiar document that I had viewed many times, with its arrival in New York from Cork, Ireland on April 26, 1823. But now I saw something I had not noticed before. Listed several names above 15-year-old Patrick Cowhey was another name, now newly-familiar to me: "Rev. Jer. O'Callaghan".

Passengers on the Ship William arriving in New York, April 23, 1823
(Click on image to enlarge)

This article was written in celebration of the anniversary of this voyage that brought my Cowhey ancestors to America. Tomorrow, March 6, 2013, is the 190th anniversary of Patrick Cowhey's and Rev. Jeremiah O'Callaghan's departure from Cork, Ireland on the Ship William. Find more stories on my Voyages of My Ancestors Pinterest board

I have also posted this article as part of GeneaBloggers' weekly blogging prompt Travel Tuesday. Visit Thomas MacEntee's GeneaBloggers blog and also see his Travel Tuesday board on Pinterest for more family history journeys.


jrc127 said...

What a great find. Thank you for teaching more and more about Patrick.

Ellie said...

Lisa, What a fabulous find! I'm excited for you.


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