Greenburgh’s Cultural Mosaic Part I: The Irish - American Population of Dobbs Ferry
Greenburgh’s Cultural Mosaic Part I: The Irish - American Population of Dobbs Ferry
By: Riley Wentzler and Felicia Barber
In 1800, there were 4 million people living in Ireland. Forty years later, the population doubled to 8 million (Walter 2000 p.2). Potatoes were a major part of their diet. In 1845 however, 33% of Ireland’s potato crop died (Walter 2000 p.2). Between 1845 and 1860, more potatoes died every year. From 1847-1851, 1 million Irish people died because of the Great Potato Famine. In 1860, 2 million people left Ireland. People continued to leave in massive waves so that by 1970, only 2.8 million people remained in Ireland (Walter 2000 p.2). Where did all of these people go?
To the United States generally. A lot of Americans don’t really think about Ireland or Irish Culture until March 17th, Saint Patrick’s Day, a holiday named for the patron saint of Ireland. However, plenty of Americans have Irish ancestry. Specifically, once these Irish people arrived in America, they went to the states of Massachusetts and New York (Walter 2000 p.2).
The Irish in Greenburgh:
When those who chose New York over Massachusetts came to New York, they of course went through Ellis Island. However, most of these new immigrants didn’t stay in New York City itself, but rather went to the surrounding areas of: Duchess County, Rockland County and Westchester County. While the most Irish place in New York is Pearl River in Rockland County (Branch 2015), Westchester County still has its fair share of New York State’s Irish and Irish-American population in places like: Yonkers, New Rochelle, Ossining, White Plains, Scarsdale, and Greenburgh’s Village of Dobbs Ferry (Branch 2015).
From 1788 until 1885 the total population of Dobbs Ferry was around 2,000 people and most of these were Irish (Brown 1981 p.13). These men and women have been in almost every facet of society including: teachers, businessmen, lawyers, and politicians. Even within the business sector, they have been involved in many different industries: clothing, the restaurant business, engine building etc. A former Mayor of Dobbs Ferry named, Brian Monahan, was proud of being full-blooded Irish and recalls with admiration how his one Irish grandmother was a seamstress, his other equally Irish grandmother was a chaperone at Masters’ School, and his great great grandfather founded Ogden Engine Company (Walter 2000 p.2). For many years another Irish -American named John McDermott owned a general store, Butler Co., formerly owned by a Dutch-American, James Butler (Walter 2000 p.3).
While the Irish came to the United States generally, and specifically, to New York in the areas of: Yonkers, New Rochelle, Ossining, White Plains, Scarsdale, and Greenburgh’s Village of Dobbs Ferry as a result of food scarcity, they have now integrated into American Society so well that they are in every occupational strata.
A frequent comment by older members of the Irish Community in Dobbs Ferry is “When are you coming home again?”(Walter 2000 p. 4). This comment is surprising to the younger members of the community who are third, fourth, or even fifth generation American. One can easily imagine a reply from these Irish-Americans, “What do you mean? This is my home.” What this shows is that most Irish - Americans are proud to be Americans in general and particularly proud to be part of such a welcoming and diverse community like in Greenburgh.
In our October 29th article on the history of low income housing in Greenburgh A Moral Duty or A Financial Burden: Scatter-site Housing In Greenburgh we said, “Secondly, while the 1961 development was only in the Fairview Section of town, the 1973 development was widely dispersed among six different locations: one in Fairview, two locations in Hartsdale, one in Ardsley, one in Elmsford, and one in Tarrytown , thus giving rise to the other name for low-income housing in Greenburgh: “Scatter-site Housing” In total, Fairview has 176 public housing apartments in it, Tarrytown has fifteen public housing apartments in it, Elmsford has twenty five public housing apartments and fifteen public housing apartments are on Secor Road.”
Everything we say comes from a documented source. We said this because that is what the Greenburgh housing Authority website says. If you click the link below: http://www.greenburghhousing.org/public-housing, You will see the following:
It was pointed out to us by Councilman Sheehan that this is wrong. The Scatter-site housing is not located in Ardsley, Elmsford, or Tarrytown. All the scatter sites are located in the unincorporated area of the Town of Greenburgh.
“Dear Felicia and Riley,
Your Greenburgh Slice of History articles are always interesting. I look forward to reading them. In the latest one, “A Moral Duty or A Financial Burden,” there is reference to scatter sites: “one in Fairview, two locations in Hartsdale, one in Ardsley, one in Elmsford, and one in Tarrytown.” Later you state, "in total, Fairview has 176 public housing apartments in it, Tarrytown has fifteen public housing apartments in it, Elmsford has twenty five public housing apartments and fifteen public housing apartments are on Secor Road.” For three of them (Ardsley, Elmsford and Tarrytown) you are referring to their post office mailing address, not their actual location. They are not located in the Villages of Ardsley, Elmsford or Tarrytown, as the Slice implies.
Thank you for providing the source of your information. Regrettably, your source, the Greenburgh Housing Authority Web site, is also very misleading (wrong). I see we will need to have that fixed, along with the address of the Town Clerk’s Office on that site.
All the scatter sites are located in the unincorporated area of the Town of Greenburgh, which is the only area the Greenburgh Town Board has zoning and development jurisdiction.”
(Personal Communication from Councilman Francis Sheehan October 29, 2022)
Councilman Sheehan says that the correct information can be found in the property cards at Town Hall.
Previous Slices of History include:
About the Authors:
We are both Town Historians at Greenburgh Town Hall and we are engaged to be married and are currently looking for permanent employment.
I was born and raised in a small rural town in central Pennsylvania. In high school, I took every honors course available including four years of Spanish. I received A’s in all of them. I graduated third in my class of 146 students. This brought me to Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. Once there, I continued my trend of academic excellence. I graduated summa cum laude in Political Science with a minor in Spanish and a Master’s in Communication Studies, with a G.P.A of 3.94. It was also there that I met my lovely fiancée, Felicia Barber. My Master’s in Communication has promoted public speaking, teamwork, and customer service. My Political Science degree has developed my research skills using computer-based tools and provided me with experience using the Microsoft Office products. My minor in Spanish has facilitated my bilingual capabilities. During my internship at Greenburgh, I created the petition for the State Roads project using website tools. My diverse education and areas of interest have provided me with a wide range of skills. I look forward to finding a career opportunity in business or government. To suggest a topic for next week’s article, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or to help me find employment, you can contact me at email@example.com.
I was born in New York City and raised in Hartsdale, New York. I graduated from Ardsley High School. I recently earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Graphic Design at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. It was here that I met my fiancé, Riley Wentzler. As a result of my academic excellence, I won a scholarship every year. I learned and applied many graphic design skills to projects during my summer internships and at school. I am proficient in using Adobe graphic design applications including Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. For my Identity/branding course at Edinboro, I created logos to appear on the tee-shirts of Physical Education majors. For a veteran’s upcoming event, I used a typeface to focus the reader to the soldier in the poster. For the State Roads Legislative Campaign project, I created the embedded graphic-photo that accompanied the petition I am looking for a job to utilize my skills as a Graphic Designer in an agency, print shop, company or government To suggest a topic for next week’s article, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about my artwork or to help me find employment you can contact me at email@example.com.
Two Interviews with the authors:
Branch, A. (2015, March 16). Several Westchester Communities Among New York's 'Most Irish'. The Patch, Retrieved from https://patch.com/new-york/rye/several-westchester-communities-among-new-yorks-most-irish-0.
Brown, B. (1981, September 27). Westchester Housing; THE 'ITALIANIZATION' OF DOBBS FERRY. New York Times, p. 13.
Walter, H. (2000, May (NOT GIVEN)). Irish Program Provides Spell-Binding Evening. The Ferryman, p. 2-4.