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Irish Catholics in Dorset, Vermont

Updated December 2, 2003

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This page contains information on the genealogy of some of the Irish Catholics of Dorset, Vermont, who came to work in the marble quarries as a result of hardship and famine in Ireland. A few also farmed. There weren't that many Catholic families to marry into, so these Irish families quickly became entwined.

Some Dorset family names in the late 1800s include: McDevitt, McGuigan, Gallagher, McNamara, McBride, Daily, Kelleher, Cosgrove, McPhilomy, Tully, Burns, Carney, Bowen, Sullivan, McCormack, Hill, Molloy, O'Connor, Hagen, Stuart, Sheridan, Tuohy, McDonald, McLaughlin, Casey, Leary, Regan, Callahan, Cunningham, Condon, Flynn, Cooney, Dun, Leary, O'Leary, Gormley, Whalon and O'Neal (various spellings).

Dorset is an old Puritan town located in the Vermont Valley, just north of Manchester, in Bennington County. It is spectacularly beautiful, nestled between the Green Mountains and the Taconic Mountains. It is unusual in that it has a big marble mountain right in the center of it, and so is divided into villages of Dorset, South Dorset, East Dorset, and North Dorset, which ring the mountain. In the 1800s many Irish arrived to work at the quarries, and they settled mostly in East and South Dorset, which became the "lower" ends of town. Many bought or rented farms along the lower slopes of Green Peak ("The Marble Mountain"), also known as Mt. Aeolus. These farms were often for sale because the Puritan descendents went west in search of better land. Marble activity peaked around 1870 and then crashed, and many, perhaps most, Irish descendents also moved away, often to more industrialized places like Connecticut in search of jobs. By 1900 the population was about half of what it was in 1870.

The Irish in America were held together as a community by their connections with their Church parish. In East Dorset, the first Catholic Mass was held in 1838 in the home of Michael McGuigan, and then in other homes, until an old cheese factory was converted into a simple church. In 1874, St. Jerome's Roman Catholic Church was opened in East Dorset and it is still in use today.

A Catholic cemetery sits next to the church and most Irish Catholics were (and are) buried there. An older cemetery is located on the slopes of Green Peak, and there are a few old family cemeteries sprinkled around the area.

As part of my family research, I have been referring to primary sources like vital records at the Dorset Town Hall, cemetery inscriptions, census records, the book "Dorset: In the Shadow f the Marble Mountain", and well as whatever I can get out of the people who live or once lived there. Our family still has property in Dorset and we occasionally stay there a few days, during which I can collect more data.

I am looking for more information on the early McDevitts in Dorset. Several young male McDevitts settled during the 1800's, and I believe they are all related, but so far have not been able to connect them. One McDevitt tombstone cites Ardstra Parish, County Tyrone, and a place of birth. I would like to know if they all came from that locality.

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