One of the really unique celebrations that is going to take place here in less than a month will be the 15th annual St. Patrick’s Day parade and celebration on Saturday, March 15th. The official St. Patrick’s Day is March 17th, but Mondays aren’t ordinarily considered good days for a parade and party, at least in Rushville.
Of course, we’re not the only community that has a special celebration in observance of St. Patrick’s Day. Other celebrations that come to mind are held in places like Indianapolis, Chicago, and New York; but, next to Indianapolis, our St. Patrick’s Day parade is purported to be the second largest in the state. Not many communities our size – anywhere – hold such a large celebration, which is a unique tribute to the diversity of our cultural heritage. Not only that, but thanks to the Rushville St. Patrick’s Day Committee whose members include Dan Shanahan, Brian Sheehan, and John McCane, we have a great celebration!
Most of Rush County’s Irish population came to this country as a result of the Great Irish Famine of the 1840s, although some of the earliest settlers here were from Ireland – some 40 years earlier. The period of greatest Irish immigration to the United States came between 1841 and 1860. During those brief twenty years nearly 1.7 million people from Ireland came to this country. Many immigrants found work helping build the nation’s rail system. Tradition holds that the majority of Rushville’s Irish population arrived here when the community was becoming a rail hub in Southeastern Indiana.
Among the people who settled this community and county, the Irish make up one of the largest groups, along with those from Germany, England and Scotland. There has also been a sprinkling of other ethnic groups that have made, and continue to make, life in Rush County more diverse. Some will remember Louie Poulos who originally came here via Ellis Island, from Greece. I have always suspected that he shortened his name when he came to this country. It seems to me that his full name was Nickolapoulos, but I could be wrong about that. Many will also remember Madeline Bonnie who was the Belgian war bride of an American GI. Of course, there has also been an African-American community here since well before the Civil War.