St. Patrick's Number 1

Galway family tomb in St. Patrick’s Number 1

I walk past this tomb regularly in St. Patrick’s Number 1, when I park the car by the cemetery to have breakfast in Mid City. I don’t know anything at all about the Galway family, but that their surname matches the name of a city in the West of Ireland intrigues me.

St. Patrick’s Number 1 for the Irish

The various ethnic groups of New Orleans organized to build cemeteries to bury their loved ones. The French-Spanish-African Creoles had the St. Louis cemeteries in Faubourg Treme, the Germans the St. Joseph cemeteries, and the Irish, the St. Patrick’s cemeteries at the end of Canal Street. St. Patrick’s Number 1 was constructed in 1841.

New Orleans, New Life?

Immigrants coming to America were often leaving a rough life behind in Europe. The Irish in particular had a difficult time of it, between being under British rule and famine wracking the country in the 1830s and 1840s. The Irish needed to escape their homeland, and were willing to take just about any job available to make ends meet in their new homes. In New Orleans, one of the dirty jobs the Irish took on was the construction of the New Basin Canal. Many Irishmen died building the canal, either from the heat or from yellow fever borne by the mosquitoes that lived in the swamp. Still, the Irish perservered, overcoming the odds and carving their own niche in the city.

Name-changes

Many immigrants were more than willing to drop their pasts in the ocean, arriving in the New World with as little baggage as possible. Is that what the first Galway did? Was he a Ryan, a Fitzgerald, a Houlihan? Did he get into some scrape back home, forcing him to take ship for Liverpool, where he would become “human ballast” for a trip to America?

Any Irishmen would recognize his West-of-Ireland accent, therefore there was no way to avoid identifying with that part of the country. Perhaps, rather than carrying his father’s last name to America, he changed his name to that of his home town?

It’s happened before.