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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

"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 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 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 in the second row, 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

Patrick Cowhey
Abt. 1807-1871
Life at a Glance
  • Name at birth: Patrick Cowhey (possibly O'Cobhthaigh)
  • Parents: Unknown
  • Born: About 1807 in Ireland
  • Siblings: Unknown
  • Immigrated: Departed Cork aboard the Ship William between 6 and 8 March 1823; arrived in Port of New York on 23 April 1823
  • Married: To Ann (unknown maiden name) about 1831, probably in New York City
  • Children: John (1832-1836), William (1834-1892), Ann (1837-1864), Ellen (1840-1898), Thomas (1842-1899), Elisabeth (1844-1845), Johanah (1844-1846), John (1846-1920), Michael (1846-1855)
  • Duration of Marriage: About 40 years ending at Patrick's death on 7 March 1871
  • Died: 7 March 1871 in Pottsville, Schuylkill, PA about age 64
  • Buried: probably at St. Patrick's Cemetery, Pottsville, Schuylkill, PA

This article is included as part of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge organized by Amy Johnson Crow. The theme for Week 10, in which this article falls, is "Stormy Weather". Most of this article was previously published here at Small-leaved Shamrock. [Note: Hat tip to Donna Pointkouski of What's Past is Prologue for the summary format I've used at the end of this article.] Find more stories of my ancestors' journeys on my Voyages of My Ancestors Pinterest board.


Karen said...

Very interesting story! And a great way to learn what travel conditions were like for your ancestor. A very enjoyable read!

Lisa / Smallest Leaf said...

Thanks for your comment, Karen. So glad you enjoyed reading about Patrick Cowhey's journey to America!

Dana Leeds said...

Hi, Lisa. First of all, this is a very interesting story! And, a reminder that although our own ancestors might not have written about their migrations (whether to America or across America), others in their group might have and those records can be a wonderful find.

I was reading the blog "Diggin' Up Graves" today and her post about a family member giving birth during a 'cyclone.' Imagine my surprise when I saw your photos and recognized you!

We can talk more via email, but my daughter & one of your middle daughters used to play together. We watched your older girls do Irish dancing at the library and met at the park to play once.

Drop by my blog and you can see my photo and hopefully you'll remember me. Then, drop me a line! I'd be thrilled to catch up with you! And, I hope you are still in the area... it'd be great to have another genealogist & friend who I could chat with.

Also, about half of my family came from Pennsylvania so I'm interested in reading your posts about that, too!

My email address: drleeds@sbcglobal.net

Lisa / Smallest Leaf said...

Hello Dana! This is a great surprise to be reunited here in the blogosphere! I certainly remember you and we should definitely get together. I'll email you soon. I'm so happy to see that you are working on your genealogy and blogging, too. We have a lot to talk about!

Cindi said...

Great story! I really enjoyed it!


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