The Captain and Mrs. Irish

Susan Irish Loewen

From “The Castle Genie,”
Newsletter of The Passaic County Historical Society
Genealogy Club
Vol. 10 No. 1

Hugh C. IRISH was born in Victory Township, Cayuga County, New York, August 10, 1832. His parentage was humble but from a good and pious mother, he received the training that formed those correct principles for which he was noted and which governed every act of his life.

When sixteen years of age, he left his native place and came to Paterson, New Jersey, where his brother had secured him a place with Mr. L.R. STEELE in The Guardian newspaper office. From office boy and paper-carrier, he worked his way up to the position of foremen in the office and became an adept in the business. He left Paterson when his apprenticeship expired with the characteristic migrating disposition of the journeyman printer. After an experience of some years in New York and elsewhere, with that love of home which impels every man to return to the scenes of his boyhood, he went back to his native Cayuga County, New York and started a printing office in the town of Auburn.

He married Betsy Ann HAIGHT of Victory, New York on April 23, 1854. A little incident connected with it is of interest. This marriage was the fruition of an early love, the young couple having been school children together and constant companions until Irish left home “to go to his trade and always love Betty.”

Said he (Irish), in referring to his early courtship,

“…but I never had any encouragement from her till I was nearly sixteen, when with others of our age we were engaged in some play, and Betty struck me with a stick on the knuckle, with considerable force. I retired in grief from the group, with a wounded hand and aching heart, and stood by myself looking with vexation on my swelling fingers, when directly someone tapped me on the shoulder and turning I saw Betty, with a woeful smile on her face as she said, “I did not mean to hurt you–besides, Hugh, you know it was only a love-tap.” That was the moment I had ever dared to hope for the love of Betty Haight, and from that time our hearts were sacred to each other.”

During his apprenticeship, and subsequently until his marriage, his correspondence was uninterrupted, and his domestic happiness was completed upon his union with this excellent woman.

After some time spent in an effort to establish himself in Auburn, Mr. Irish returned to Paterson and became co-proprietor with Orin VAN DERHOVEN in The Guardian newspaper establishment in May 1856. Shortly afterward, he assisted first in starting a tri-weekly in place of the weekly which theretofore alone existed and subsequently established the first successful daily paper in Paterson. He sold out his interest in the newspaper establishment in 1862 and carried on a grocery store for a few weeks.

Imbued with a sense of duty to his country, Irish insisted on entering the army as a private to assist in preserving our country from threatened destruction. His friends, Henry M. LOW, Darius WELLS, and O. VAN DERHOVEN, visited Trenton and Newark several times, endeavoring to get him a commission (he would do nothing in the matter himself), and finally succeeded in obtaining a promise of a command when his company was full. On August 27th, 1862, he went with Company “K” Thirteenth New Jersey Volunteers and within three weeks of leaving Paterson, he met his death on September 17th at the Battle of Antietam. The Regiment had marched through a wood till it came to a fenced open field, beyond which the rebels had a masked battery. As the Jerseymen reached the open field and saw the enemy beyond, Captain Irish impetuously leaped the fence and called on his company to follow. They did follow their gallant young leader; the rebel battery being unmasked on the crown of the hill at the other side of the field. The Regiment was mowed down and forced back by a resistless volley of grape and canister, one of the first to fall being the impetuous Irish, shot through the heart.

Irish’s body was subsequently recovered and sent on to Paterson where it was received with a great popular demonstration of honor to the fallen brave. The remains were interred in the Baptist cemetery at Sandy Hill and subsequently, on November 25th, 1870 removed to Cedar Lawn.

In a letter from Paterson shortly after her husbands death, a heartbroken Mrs. Irish writes to Mr. Heber Welles, the soldier who had recovered the personal belongings from Irish’s body at Antietam,

Mr. Welles, Dear Friend.

“I have long wished to send you a few lines to tell you and thank you for what you did for my Dear Husband in his last moments. You must have been very much exposed while taking the things from his person. Oh you cant’ tell how thankful I feel to you for getting his watch. There was nothing that he carried that looks as natural as that. – How many times he has given it to me when he came in tired to go to bed and would say Oh Betty, just wind my watch I am so tired.

“But- Oh Heber is he surely dead can’t I never never see my dear husband again. Never what a long long time. How many times I have wished that -I laid by his side. I can’t feel that I have much to live for (page two) though my friends tell me I have. That I must live for my little boys. But all looks dark to me my hopes are all blasted in a moment when I least expected it. But I try and not murmur for that would be wrong. Here I sit in my chair from morning till night and try to be patient. But how long the time seems praying what will I do all this bleak winter shut-up in the house without ever once seeing Hugh. Oh I am sure my heart will break I think of him all the time how can I help it. I have a great many kind friends but they will soon forget my boys. Sarah comes to see me often and How I like to see her come she is so kind to us all. The children are so fond of Heber’s wife as they still persist in calling her I can’t seem to learn them to say Mrs. Wells. (page 3) How I would like to see you there are so many things I wish to ask you. I hope and pray that you will be spared to return to your nice little family. I think of the hardships you have to endure every day and feel very sorry for you. I think you must miss poor Hugh so much. Now except of any heartfelt thanks for all you have done and believe me your well wishes and true friend.”

Mrs. H. C. Irish

“p.s. We are having a severe snow storm of three days cold bleak weather and I don’t know how much longer. I hope you will not see any such severe weather where you are. I am sure you would suffer very much if there should be. I hope I have not weared your patience in writing so long. B. A. I.”

Mrs. Irish survived her gallant husband only until February 25, 1863 and was buried beside him. She left her two children, boys, one of whom is now (February, 1875) living with his uncle, Mr. Lewis Irish, at Hackensack while the other, Stelle, is a printer living at Le Roy, New York.

(All the foregoing particulars down to August 1862, are from a MS sketch furnished by Mr. O. VanDerhoven.)

(Editor’s note: Susan IRISH LOEWEN is the great-great granddaughter of Captain and Mrs. Irish and is currently working on a WebPage to celebrate Captain Irish’s life. She bases her account of Hugh and Betsy Irish from a collection of original letters, scrapbooks, and newspaper articles passed down to her and her sister through Irish’s descendents. Susan is interested in sharing her Irish genealogy with other Irish descendents: Susan Irish Loewen, 9814 Shadow Wood Drive, Houston, Texas 77080. We look forward to additional articles on the life and times of Captain and Mrs. Irish in future issues of “The Castle Genie.”)

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