Reading #5
Home Up


Immigrant Irish in urban Davenport

Life in the Irish community was centered around church, work, and family. Until the 1860s, St. Anthony's had been the only Catholic church in Davenport . However, Ste. Margarite's (later renamed Sacred Heart Cathedral) and Ste. Kunegunda's (later renamed St. Joseph 's Church) were also built to serve the ever growing Catholic population of Davenport . The Hibernia Society flourished in Davenport during the Famine immigration period, providing a place to meet other members of the Irish community, social events, and dances.

And, as immigrant Irish families interacted, they intermarried. Bridgett Cunningham (b. 1850 in Davenport , Iowa ) is first mentioned in the Davenport City Directory (1880) and is listed as a laborer in the employ of Gifford & Rowdy, a laundry service at 116 W. 3rd St. Additionally, Mary Reagan is also listed as a laborer at Gifford & Rowdy in the same volume. It is reasonable to conjecture that Mary Reagan arranged for Thomas Martin Reagan (b. 1857 in Davenport , Iowa ) and Bridget to meet. Whatever the cause, the outcome of these personal interactions was the marriage of Thomas Martin and Bridgett performed by Bishop Cosgrove at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport in 1882. Thomas and Bridget (Cunningham) Reagan lived and died in Davenport , having seven children of which Sarah Catherine Reagan (b. 1894).

As immigrant streams continued, earlier arrivals began to move up the social ladder. James Cunningham started out as a laborer upon his arrival to Davenport in 1859; however, by 1861 he had become a contractor. Also, note his election as Alderman for the 6th District ("Brigham's," 1861).This demonstrates that the Irish immigrant community was politically active at the time, as James was elected after having resided in Davenport for only two years.

Subsequent waves of immigrants moved into the jobs and homes which had been previously occupied by earlier immigrants. Dennis Edward and Sarah Catherine (Reagan) Mullin moved to Davenport in 1926 with their four children–Thomas Edward, John Martin, Margaret Mary, and Catherine Rose–arriving with only their clothes and four chickens. Arrangements were made to purchase the Reagan family home at 515 W. 11th Street . Dennis worked as a teamster like his father-in-law, hauling freight to downtown stores and the Rock Island Arsenal, managing to survive to retirement. Upon Dennis' death in 1970, Sarah lived with daughter Kay (Mullin) Daley until her death in 1972.