Welcome to new members, to be inducted on January 19, 2016

First Listing:

  • Daniel W. Harrell (sponsors: J. Matthew Wolfe and P. Clarke Glennon)

  • Ryan J. Sweeney (sponsors: Frank Watson and Bill Watson)

  • James Francis Hall (sponsors: Tom Showler and Frank Watson)

  • Paul Mitchell (sponsors: Joseph Heenan and Frank Watson)

  • Heath Wawrzynek (sponsors: John O'Toole and Joseph Heenan)

  • Larry Fiorini (sponsors: John O'Toole and Joseph Heenan)

  • Francis A. O'Donnell (sponsors: Tom Showler and Frank Watson)

Second Listing:

  • Charles Palmer Sturm (sponsors: Michael P. Heenan and Joseph P. Heenan)

  • Jason Skinner (sponsors: Michael Cino and Frank Watson)

Fourth Listing:

  • Daniel Glennon (sponsors: Frank Watson and Liam Hegarty) (Daniel is unable to attend our January meeting but plans on attending the annual meeting/dinner in March)

  • Rev. William Hearter, MD (sponsors: Charles Gallagher and Frank Watson)

Friendly Sons of St. Patrick – A Tradition of Liberty and Charity (part 2)

By Russell W. Wylie
Irish Edition, January 2016

General George Washington was desperate to provide his army encamped at Jockey Hollow in Morristown, NJ with something to boost their morale after enduring the most brutal winter on record. The men of the Continental Army had huddled together in log huts without proper food or clothing during the winter of 1779-1780 buried under as much as six feet of snow accumulated from twenty-eight separate snowstorms. The severe weather made it nearly impossible to get supplies to the encampment where the soldiers suffered starvation and some even resorted to eating the bark from twigs for sustenance. It was estimated that more than a quarter of the Continental Army were Irish either by birth or ancestry. On March 16, 1780, Washington issued general orders proclaiming St. Patrick’s Day a holiday for his troops. The men of the Continental Army enjoyed a much-needed day of celebration conforming to the orders “that all fatigue and working parties cease” on March 17, 1780.

These were trying times for the leaders of the American Revolution. Congress had exhausted all their resources and the Continental paper dollar had depreciated to such an extent that there was general distrust of the paper currency. The prominent patriots in Philadelphia called for the organization of a bank to be known as the Bank of Pennsylvania funded by an emergency subscription on June 17, 1780 for the purpose of “obtaining supplies for the army through the agency of a bank.” In a stunning demonstration of patriotism, twenty-seven members of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick stepped forward to commit an amount, payable in gold or silver, totaling one third of the $315,000 subscription for the bank. The Bank of Pennsylvania was the predecessor of the Bank of North America; the national bank of our fledging nation which was proposed by Robert Morris and established in 1782.

The Friendly Sons of St. Patrick showed their appreciation for General Washington’s brave leadership of the Continental Army leading to the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown on October 19, 1781 by naming him a member of the Society at their meeting on December 18, 1781. Many of George Washington’s generals as well as prominent politicians and leaders of the American Revolution attended the meeting of the Society held at City Tavern on January 1, 1782 when General Washington was presented with the gold medallion signifying his membership in the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick. General Washington also attended the Anniversary Dinner of the Society held on March 18, 1782; both this meeting and the preceding January meeting were recorded proudly as the “Washington Dinners” in the annals of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick.

The ravages of the Revolutionary War left a severe imprint on social fraternal groups in the colonies. Some of the finest leaders had fallen in the war against England. The energies of the people were directed to the restoration and building of a new government. Interest in the activities of The Friendly Sons of St. Patrick began to wane in the late 1780’s. On March 3, 1790, John Nesbitt, President of The Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, consulted with a small group of spirited citizens of Irish birth and lineage and it was decided to broaden the base of the Friendly Sons. A new Society was organized called the Hibernian Society for the Relief of Emigrants from Ireland. The Friendly Sons of St. Patrick had only thirty-five members at this time. The two Societies amalgamated. The Friendly Sons of St. Patrick as the parent, The Hibernian Society for the Relief of Emigrants from Ireland as the offspring. A charter was granted in 1792 to The Hibernian Society.

The Irish Potato Famine in the mid-1840’s resulted in the death of over a million people and the annual emigration of hundreds of thousands sailing to North American. An outpouring of funds sent for the relief of the people of Ireland came from many organizations in America including the Society of Friends, the Boston Relief Committee, and a number of Native American tribes including the Choctaw Indians. The merchant John Wanamaker, who later became a member of the Society in 1886, headed the Famine Relief Committee in Philadelphia. The Society felt so strongly about the suffering of the people of Ireland that on March 10, 1847 a resolution was passed by the members to forego the Anniversary Dinner and instead make contributions to the Charity Fund “to enable the Acting Committee to meet the extraordinary call upon them which may be expected to arise from the large number of emigrants likely to arrive here during the ensuing season.” Representatives of the Society continued to meet the influx of Irish emigrants on board ships arriving in Philadelphia and provide them with financial aid throughout the nineteenth century.

A formal resolution was adopted on December 17, 1897 restoring the name of the Society to The Society of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick for the Relief of Emigrants from Ireland. On March 16, 1907, some 15,000 spectators witnessed the unveiling of a Statue of Commodore John Barry which was presented to the City of Philadelphia as a gift from the Society. The Statue, located adjacent to Independence Hall, was the work of Philadelphia native Samuel Murray also a member of the Friendly Sons and a student of Philadelphia’s greatest artist, Thomas Eakins. A Statue of Thomas Fitzsimons, erected through the efforts of the Society, was dedicated on September 16, 1946. The Statue, located across the street from the front of the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, was the work of the sculptor Giuseppe Donato, a student at the Pennsylvania Academy of Arts who then studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and with Rodin in Paris.

In 1990, the Society commissioned a reproduction of the Book of Kells. This Illustrated Book of the Gospels was donated to the Irish Library at Gwynedd Mercy College in Gwynedd, PA where it was placed on display for viewing and research. An Irish Studies Fund was established in December 1999 by the Society to provide scholarships for students at St. Joseph’s University to study in Ireland. The Society provided an initial grant to investigate and design The Irish Memorial located at Front and Chestnut Streets in Philadelphia. The project, which was completed at a cost of $3 million and dedicated in October 2003, is a monument designed by the sculptor Glenna Goodacre to those who perished and those who were forced to emigrate as a result of An Gorta Mor.

On September 17, 2015, a purposeful group of new officers conducted the quarterly meeting of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick at the Great American Pub in Conshohocken, PA. An important initiative of the meeting was the referendum on a bylaw change to admit women as members of the Society as proposed by the newly elected President Joseph P. Heenan. The members present voted in overwhelming majority in favor of the bylaw change to admit women as full members to this historic Irish American fraternal society which was founded on March 17, 1771. The new officers, board members, and committee chairpersons have worked proactively to implement a broad-based program of organizational improvements to reduce overhead expenses and more effectively conduct quarterly meetings as revenue positive fundraising events. The operational plan for furthering the Society’s charitable mission is based on the three key areas of membership recruitment, fundraising, and benevolence. A St. Patrick’s Gala Dinner is planned for March 12, 2016 at the Aronimink Country Club which will include the presentation of an endowment gift by the Society to provide scholarships to students at Villanova University to study in Ireland. The crowning event of the evening will feature H.E. Anne Anderson, Irish Ambassador to the United States, as the Guest of Honor being inaugurated as the First Female Honorary Member of the Society. It will mark a significant step forward for the Society, under the guidance of the new administration with its renewed focus on liberty and charity, to achieve important progress in its historic work of forging an enduring link between all Irish American people and the Emerald Isle.

Russell W. Wylie is the secretary and a past president of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick.

Friendly Sons of St. Patrick - A Tradition of Liberty and Charity

The traditional values of The Society of The Friendly Sons of St. Patrick were most aptly described by Mayor William J. Green III (the 120th Mayor of Philadelphia and member of the Society) in the preface of Society historian Dennis J. Clark’s book chronicling the history of the Society from 1951-1981. Mayor Green wrote “The Friendly Sons of St. Patrick has enjoyed this nation’s tradition of freedom of association while bringing together Irish-Americans of different religious and political persuasions to unite in service to human needs and to support the aspirations of the Irish people.” It was in this spirit that the founding members of the Society gathered on March 17, 1771 to elect Stephen Moylan as the first president of this Irish America fraternal organization. Although the membership was predominantly Protestant, the founding members demonstrated equability by electing a Catholic as the Society’s first president. Many of the founding members were businessmen in Philadelphia involved in the shipping business and leaders of the American Revolution. Stephen Moylan came to Philadelphia in 1768 where he organized his own shipping firm. It is not widely known that it was Stephen Moylan who is attributed to have first used the term “United States of America” as General Washington’s aide-de-camp from the Continental Army’s headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts in a letter to Col. Joseph Reed on January 2, 1776. Col. Moylan was appointed to command the 4th Continental Light Dragoons, also known as Moylan's Horse, on January 3, 1777 at Philadelphia. He succeeded General Pulasksi as Commander of the Cavalry in March 1778. Stephen Moylan was rewarded for his service in the Continental Army by being breveted to brigadier general on November 3, 1783. 

Two other founding members of the Society who came from Catholic backgrounds were George Meade and Thomas Fitzsimons. George Meade’s father, Robert, was born in Ireland and became a shipping and commission agent in Philadelphia who was influential in helping to establish Old St. Joseph’s Church in 1733; the first Catholic Church in Philadelphia founded under William Penn’s doctrine of religious freedom. George Meade went into business with his brother-in-law, Thomas Fitzsimons, who married Catherine Meade in 1761. Their firm, George Meade and Company, became one of the leading commercial houses in Philadelphia specializing in the West India trade. George Meade was the grandfather of Civil War General George Gordon Meade, Commander of the Army of the Potomac at the Battle of Gettysburg. Thomas Fitzsimons was an active political leader serving as a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1782 and 1783, and a member of Pennsylvania's House of Representatives in 1786 and 1787. He was a delegate to the U.S. Constitutional Convention in 1787 when he had the distinction of being one of only two Catholic signers of the United States Constitution. Following his withdrawal from politics, Fitzsimons served as a director of the Bank of North America, president of Philadelphia's Chamber of Commerce, and a trustee of the University of Pennsylvania. 

John Dickinson and Robert Morris were two of six honorary founding members of the Society. John Dickinson was a prominent solicitor and politician from Philadelphia with family ties through ancestry and marriage to wealthy Quaker families with large land holdings in Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. Dickinson was a Pennsylvania delegate to the First Continental Congress in 1774 and the Second Continental Congress in 1775 and 1776. He prepared the first draft of the Articles of Confederation and was one of its signers. Dickinson served as a Brigadier General of the Pennsylvania militia and then was elected the President of the State of Delaware in 1781. He was drawn back into Pennsylvania politics and returned to Philadelphia to serve as President of Pennsylvania from 1782-1785. Dickinson was a delegate to the U.S. Constitutional Convention in 1787 where he was a signer of the United States Constitution. Robert Morris formed a partnership in 1757 with Thomas Willing called Willing, Morris & Company which grew to become one of the most prosperous merchant firms in Pennsylvania with interests in shipping, real estate, and other lines of business. The first ship purchased by Congress for the Continental Navy at the outset of the Revolutionary War was The Black Prince, the finest merchant ship in the service of Willing, Morris & Co. This sleek 200-ton ship had just returned from a record breaking voyage from England under the command of Captain John Barry traveling 237 miles by dead reckoning in a 24 hour period – the fastest day of sailing recorded in the 18th century. Morris became chairman of the Secret Committee authorized by Congress to engage in foreign trade ventures at a time when such trade was not allowed by the continental embargo. This high-risk mission of the Secret Committee generated a clandestine trade exporting produce and importing weapons, gunpowder, lead for bullets, and supplies desperately needed by the army. It was a cargo of these important military supplies which arrived in the port of Philadelphia on board the Andrew Doria a few days before Christmas and was transported to General Washington’s army by wagons secured by Morris that allowed the daring raid across the Delaware against the Hessian soldiers garrisoned at Trenton. Morris also raised funds backed by his personal guarantee to pay the troops and keep them fighting with the Continental Army in the successful battle of Princeton. Known as the “Financier of the Revolution”, Robert Morris was appointed by the unanimous vote of Congress to be Superintendent of Finance of the United States, and he served in that position from 1781 to 1784. Morris proposed the establishment of a national bank, which became the Bank of North America founded in 1782. The bank’s initial role was to finance the war against Britain and a large portion of the funding of the bank came from a loan Morris had obtained from France. He was a signer of the Articles of Confederation, the Declaration of Independence, and the United States Constitution. 

Commodore John Barry became a member of the Society in 1779. He emigrated from County Wexford, Ireland to Philadelphia, working his way up from a cabin boy to become a leading captain of merchant ships for Robert Morris’ shipping company. At the start of the American Revolution, Captain John Barry offered his services to George Washington and Congress in the cause of American Liberty. During the course of the American Revolution, Barry was the commander of three ships, was seriously wounded, and captured 20 British ships. On February 22, 1797, President Washington called Barry to the President’s Mansion at 190 High (Market) Street, to receive Commission Number One in the Navy. It was backdated to June 7, 1794, the date of his original appointment. Barry outfitted and supervised the construction of the first frigates built under the Naval Act of March 27, 1794, including his own 44 gun frigate, the USS United States, which was to serve as his flagship. Commodore John Barry remained the commanding officer of the U.S. Navy under President John Adams and President Thomas Jefferson. 

Russell W. Wylie is the secretary and a past president of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick.
This article was first published in the Irish Edition in December 2015.