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Windham County Connecticut
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"Windham’s Bi-Centennial 1692-1892; A Memorial Volume of the Bi-Centennial Celebration of the Town of Windham, Connecticut, containing the historical addresses, poems, and a description of events connected with the observance of the two hundreth anniversary of the incorporation of the town, as held in the year 1892." Published by the Committee, Hartford, CT, 1893

Windham’s Second Century ­ Our Present Population:

A word about our present population will be timely. Of the 10,000 in the town (8,600 being in the borough) not far from 2,300 are of Irish
extraction, about 1,800 of French Canadian extraction, and nearly all the remainder of English origin. There are about 300 Swedes and 50
colored persons. Of the first named, only about 600 were born in Ireland, the rest are native Americans. The Canadians have not been as
long among us, but they are a rapidly growing people, and the proportion of foreign born among them is fast decreasing. Irishmen first appeared in Willimantic in considerable numbers about 1840 to work for Jillson and Capen. They were as much of a curiosity to our people, as we to them, and at least as awkward as we should be in Ireland. Irish blunders, coupled with native Irish wit, supplied the almanacs with jokes for a generation. They came in large numbers to help build the railroads, and then to enter the mills. From the first they have come to stay, practically an English speaking people, or at least with no adherence to their native tongue, for I have yet to learn of an Irish immigrant parent who has transmitted his language to his American-born children. The Irish came here, driven from oppression to freedom, to find a home, and to become Americans. They have never shown any tendency to return. They are intelligent and thrifty, as modern Willimantic is showing. To-day their share of the taxable grand list is over $300,000; they are building many homes, and they are as much attached to this country as any of its inhabitants. Thirty graves of sacred memory in the Catholic cemetery testify to their loyalty to the old flag in 1861. To show how rapidly they are becoming indigenous to our soil, we have only to recall that the census of 1860 showed 490 born in Ireland, while to-day with our population tripled, the Irish born scarcely exceed 600. I saw a photograph group of young Irish-Americans of Willimantic, a few days ago, and they looked more American than Irish. With the Canadians it was different at the outset. They came here about 1852 to work in the Smithville mills and they had no purpose to stay, but thought to accumulate wages and return to Canada. Their national ties were much stronger than those of the Irish and they took care to preserve their language and teach it to their children. But the public schools and the American ideas are doing their inevitable work. The Frenchmen, too, are learning to love Willimantic, and in later years have been less and less inclined to leave it. Their little self-owned homes are scattered here and there, and the tax-list now rates their taxable property at $60,000, almost entirely in little buildings which bespeak volumes of interest in the new and with many of them native land. Irish immigration has practically ceased, but the Canadians are still coming. Both classes multiply more rapidly than does the older native stock. Together they make up to-day nearly half of our population. They have as much right here as any one, and they are as well disposed. We welcome them. The historic ties of Ireland, France and America are peculiarly kindred in the struggle for liberty.

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