Thomas F. Walsh, 36th name on the Pioneer Monument list of subscribers.
Thomas Francis Walsh was a prospector that struck it rich. Walsh came from Ireland to the United States when he was 19 years old in 1869. Trained as a carpenter, he came to Colorado and learned the mining business. As his fortunes improved he was able to buy the Grand Central Hotel in Leadville, CO. Walsh eventually moved to Denver, living at 1343 Vine. In Denver he was able to buy some downtown business blocks. He owned property on Arapahoe between 16th and 17th. When the Silver Crash came in 1893 these properties were heavily mortgage, as Walsh returned to the San Juan Mountains to look for gold.
The technique that Walsh used to prospect showed his tenacity. Returning the mountains around Ouray, he bought up claims. He had a hunch and learned a lot about prospecting in Leadville. He felt that ore near Ouray contained gold. By 1896 he came home and with suppressed excitement and told his ten year old daughter, “I’ve struck it rich.”
Some points of Thomas F. Walsh life parallel the life of Wilfred Scott Stratton, another rich prospector from Colorado. Both were carpenters that used their career to finance their prospecting, Both were involved in the manual labor of prospecting for their fortunes. Later, after initial successes they purchased other claims to increase their fortunes. And both sold out to English Concerns hoping to increase English income at a time that the English Estate system was starting to have difficulty maintaining large houses and large staffs. Stratton sold out for $10 million dollars in 1900. Thomas F. Walsh sold out for just a little more than that but continued to extract dividends. Both Stratton and Walsh owned hotels. Walsh owned the Grand Central in Leadville and the Oxford in Washington D.C. Stratton owned the Brown Palace in Denver for a while. Stratton was an introvert, Walsh and his wife, Carrie Bell Reed were Washington socialites.
Thomas Walsh had two children. His younger child, Vinson, died in an automobile accident. His older child, Evalyn, moved to the mansion in Washington D.C. at age 17. Five years later she married and toured Europe. With her father’s riches she purchased the Hope Diamond. When she died in 1946 it was purchased from her estate for $1 million dollars by Harry Winston. He donated it to the Smithsonian Institute where it is today. Ironically, Evalyn also had a son and named him Vinson. He too died in a automobile accident. Evalyn did not believe in the negative vibes of the Hope Diamond.
Around the turn of the last century technology was changing. Along with owning automobiles, Walsh was a supporter of aviation. He was the president of the Aero Club of Washington. The meetings first met at the home of Alexander Graham Bell.
Thomas F. Walsh had one handicap. He was Irish. By the time of his big strike the prejudice against Irish was subsiding. The Irish potato famine accelerated the exodus from Ireland that started in 1815. Starvation, disease and political dissatisfaction all caused more flight from the island. It is estimated that one million died as the result of the potato blight and one to one and half million fled. Canada and North America were popular destinations, as was Australia. More southern and western Irish who spoke the native Irish language left the island. They were more likely Roman Catholic, poor and uneducated. Once a family member arrived in a foreign land money was sent back to assist the next family member to leave. A right of passage into adulthood was to immigrate to a foreign country from Ireland.
Once the Irish arrived in America they were the target of prejudice. In 1844 there were riots in Philadelphia when it was rumored that Catholics were not satisfied with the version of the Bible used in public schools. The San Patricios were US army deserters that changed sides and fought for Mexico. It is believed a common religion and economic incentives motivated the soldiers to change sides with the result being the U.S. mistrustful of the Irish. The mid-1850 saw the rise of the Know-Nothing political party. They were Anti-Catholic, xenophobic (fearful of foreigners) and hostile to immigration. The battle between the Know-Nothings and the Democrats on election day, August 1855, in Louisville, Kentucky is another example of the hate of immigrants.
Language, religion and poverty set the Irish apart when they arrived to the U.S. They took the lower paying jobs, displacing blacks who traditionally were relegated to manual labor jobs. But, the Irish were able to move up the social ladder. Once a foot hold was made on the next step of the ladder bigoty was transferred to the next class of immigrants. Immigrants from China and Eastern Europe were displace in the social ladder.
Hibernophobia is anti-Irish sentiment. To spot an Irish immigrant you identified their accent or name. They were barred from jobs, public houses and employment. The term, NINA, was used in the newspaper when placing a classified, “no Irish need apply” or INNA, “Irish need not apply”. One of these signs was seen as late as 1909 in Montana.
Mining was a profession on the bottom of the social ladder. Many Irish sought jobs in the Western states because they could get employment. As the fear of a Papal take over quelled, the Irish fell into the melting pot of America. Immigrates voted in higher proportions than the average population. By 1880 New York City had its first Irish Mayor. Boston followed four years later. Now considered Anglo Saxon and white, they were able to assimilated into the U.S. culture. About 10% of the U.S. population claim Irish ancestry.
The Mary McGuire case Pennsylvania 1870, 2018 American Social History Production, The Graduate Center, City University of N.Y., Kevin Kenny, Boston College.
Mining Foundation of the Southwest, Amer. Mining Hall of Fame
John Stewart , Thomas F. Welsh, Progressive Business and Colorado Mining Tycoon, 2002
WIKI for San Patricios, Know-Nothings, Bloody Monday
Christophe Klein, 3-16-2017, History, WWW.History.com