History & Mission

Read the presentation from Dr. Tim McMahon, Assistant Professor of Modern Irish and British History at Marquette University, made to the Division.

Brother Steve Michaels has prepared this history of Milwaukee's
Early Hibernians:

According to the Milwaukee Sentinel, the Hibernians held their 4th annual St. Patrick's Day Festival in 1852. This indicates the society organized in the city sometime before 1848. The Hibernians held several picnics and balls during these early years, with the proceeds benefiting benevolent causes. This first Hibernian organization lasted until about 1856.

The Fenian Brotherhood, or Irish Revolutionary Brotherhood, was organized in 1857 and rose from the ranks of Hibernianism. This group and the preoccupation with the American Civil War (1861-1865) retarded the growth of the Hibernian organization over the next decade.

On February 14, 1866, the Hibernians submitted an incorporation bill to the State Senate. The bill passed two weeks later, on February 28th. On April 12, 1866, a meeting was held in Milwaukee, at the residence of E.H. Monohan. In attendance were: Rev. Stanislaus P. Lalumiere, John O'Sullivan, Edward Mellon, John J. Daley. J.B. McManus, Michael O'Connor, Thomas Murray, Edward McDonough, John Daley and Patrick Mellon. They formed an association for the purpose of affording help and relief to their members, contributions to the expense of burying their dead and other benevolent purposes. They declared and constituted themselves a body corporate and politic, by the name of “ The Hibernian Benevolent Society." The first officers were: Rev. S.P. Lalumiere, President; Edward Mellon, the 4th Ward constable, Secretary; and Thomas Costello, a bridge tender, Treasurer. At this time there were 12 members. Rev. S.P. Lalumiere consented to let them use the old school room in St. Gaul’s. This room was used as a place of meeting until St. Gaul’s Hall was built, when they moved into and occupied the hall.

Rev. Lalumiere became pastor of St. Gaul’s in 1868 and soon became the most popular clergyman in the city. He was elected the society’s president again in 1874, 1875, and in 1885. He was one of Marquette University’s founders and served as the university’s fourth president before being transferred to Cincinnati in November 1889. Edward Mellon was a career law enforcement officer and was again elected society secretary in 1872 and 1875, and vice president in 1885. Thomas Costello was elected society steward in 1885.

In a time before health and death benefits and government programs, the society provided a needed service. In cases of sickness, $6 per week was allowed. When there was a death, a fund of $200 was given to the family of the deceased. The Treasurer’s report for 1879 showed there was $3,097.37 expended: $300 given to Ireland; $50 to the yellow-fever sufferers at Memphis; $600 to families of members who had died; $1,199.95 to those who were sick, with $3,500 remaining in the Treasury.

The society was united with the I.C.B.U. (Irish Catholic Benevolent Union). A monthly journal, the I.C.B.U., was sent to members throughout the United States and Canada. By 1880, the membership numbered 200. The officers were: Rev. S.P. Lalumiere, President; P.J. Somers, Vice President; M.J. Dullea, 2nd Vice President; Michael Carpenter, Treasurer; E.J. Kelley, Recording Secretary; and Lawrence Keogh, Corresponding Secretary. The standing committee met on the last Monday of each month. Regular meetings were held on the first Monday of each month.

The 1890s were a decade of growth for fraternal organizations. By 1895, Milwaukee boasted four lodges of Hibernians, and by 1898, there were five divisions: Division 1 met at Immaculate Conception Hall on Russell Avenue in Bay View; Divisions 2 and 5 met downtown on Grand Avenue, west of the river; Division 3 met at Bishop’s Hall on Van Buren, on the east end of downtown; and Division 4 met on the east side, on Oakland Avenue. The Ladies Auxiliary also boasted a Division, which met monthly.

Only a few years later, in 1901, Milwaukee’s Hibernians had consolidated into one division, which met at Fraternity Hall on the city’s Grand Avenue. This Division continued to be active into the 1940s.

Sources for this history include:
From History of the AOH and Ladies Auxiliary by John O’Dea; Univ. of Notre Dame Press 1923, reprinted 1995. History of Milwaukee, published by the Western Historical Company, Chicago 1881. History of Milwaukee From Its Settlement to the Year 1895 published by American Biographical Publishing Co., Chicago & New York 1895. Marquette College, A Quarter Century 1881-1906; Marquette Univ., Milwaukee 1906. Milwaukee City Directories. Milwaukee Sentinel.

Today's Gaelic Lesson! We all know that "Céad Mile Fáilte! " means "A Hundred Thousand Welcomes," but how else might one say hello? Common Gaelic greetings are "Dia dhuit," which is pronounced "Jee-Ya Gw-Itch!" and means "God be with you," and "Dia ia Muire dhuit," which is pronounced "Jee-Ya iss Mwir-a Gw-Itch!" and means "God and Mary be with you. "

The Ancient Order of Hibernians in America was founded in at St. James Church, New York City, in 1836. The original Ancient Order of Hibernians can trace its roots to, and evolved from, a secret society in Ireland first formed in 1565 to protect Catholic priests and to keep the Catholic faith alive in occupied Ireland. Similarly, the Ancient Order of Hibernians in America was originally founded to protect the clergy and church property. When the great influx of Irish immigrants began soon thereafter, the AOH served to aid newly arrived Irish and, today, to promote charitable activities and to foster and preserve Irish culture and issues of political concern. The AOH motto of “Friendship, Unity, and Christian Charity” defines how the members treat one another as well as all men and women of good will.

The current AOH Milwaukee Division was formed on August 16, 1986. The missions of the AOH Milwaukee Division are to promote friendship, unity, and Christian charity among the membership; uphold and sustain loyalty to the United States of America by members of the AOH; aid and advance by all legitimate means the aspirations and endeavors of the Irish people of complete and absolute independence, promoting peace with justice and unity for all of Ireland; foster the ideals and perpetuate the history, traditions, and culture of the Irish people; encourage an equitable United States immigration law with respect to Ireland and to cooperate with all groups for a fair American immigration policy; and accept and support, without prejudice, the concept of freedom of religious practice for all people.

The AOH Milwaukee Division participates in numerous activities, including contributions to Irish and Irish American culture and tradition through major sponsorship of the internationally recognized Irish Genealogy Room of the Irish Cultural and Heritage Center in Milwaukee; fundraising through the William Drew Scholarship Dinner, providing thousands of dollars each year for the St. Rose Urban Academy, Notre Dame Middle School, and Nativity Jesuit Middle School; participation in Milwaukee's St. Patrick's Mass and two St. Patrick's Day Parades; and partnership with Irish Fest in the Cultural Area, participation in the Irish Fest Mass, and payment of expenses for the Irish Fest Mass celebrant. The AOH Milwaukee Division also pays the expenses of the AOH hospitality area at Irish Fest for the benefit of current and prospective AOH members from throughout the country.

The Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians (LOAH) is also looking for new members who are Roman Catholic women that are Irish by birth or descent. Interested women should contact Mary Russell at (414) 476-5907 for more information. The LAOH is involved with the package booth at Milwaukee's Irish Fest and participates in the Irish Fest Mass for Peace and Justice and the St. Patrick's Day Parade. The LAOH holds its meetings at Burke's Irish Castle, 5326 West Bluemound Road, Milwaukee.