ENCLAVES OF IRISH scatter throughout Minnesota from unincorporated settlements to small towns to big cities.
In my wanderings through southern Minnesota, I’ve discovered Irish pockets, including in nearby Kilkenny. The Le Sueur County community of just over 100 residents traces its name to Kilkenny County, Ireland, birthplace of early immigrant settler Dennis Doyle.
Kilkenny, proud of its Irish heritage, maintains a twinship with Kilkenny County in the Old Country. And each September, the community celebrates St. Patrick’s Day with Half-Way to St. Paddy’s Day complete with parade and, in the past, toilet bowl races. I’ve never attended, but need to and document this event.
Three years ago while out and about on one of those rural drives I so enjoy, Randy and I passed through Kilkenny, marked by a signature silo style light green water tower decorated with a shamrock. There was no doubt we were in an Irish proud small town.
At the time, Murphy’s Pub centered the core of Kilkenny, which, as I recall, is about a handful of businesses. Today that Irish-tagged pub with the memorable ale drinking leprechaun signage is closed, replaced by The Toy Box Saloon. That doesn’t quite hold the same Irish appeal as the name Murphy’s Pub. But you will still find Irish brew, like Finnegan’s Irish Amber.
In Scott County to the north, in unincorporated St. Patrick, I discovered a strong Irish enclave centered around a church, cemetery, ballpark and tavern. St. Patrick of Cedar Lake Township Catholic Church and its surrounding cemetery sit high atop a hill across from St. Patrick’s Tavern and next to the ball field. The ballpark, St. Patrick’s Bonin Field, is named after Father Leon Bonin, a strong supporter of local baseball.
That this rural place is proud of its Irish heritage is clear. I need to return to St Patrick, perhaps pop into the bar for a brew. Make that an Irish stout.
During my one and only visit in the summer of 2015, I mostly wandered the cemetery. I find cemeteries historically and artistically interesting.
Back in Le Sueur County, I meandered through the St. Thomas Church Cemetery in the unincorporated settlement of St. Thomas. During my March 2018 visit, I found plenty of Irish buried here.
Down the road a bit, I spotted an apparently abandoned Callahan’s Bar.
And then I saw Derrynane Town Hall, Derrynane being a small village in County Kerry, Ireland. Ah, yes, Irish roots run deep in pockets of rural Minnesota.
This St. Patrick’s Day I celebrate Kilkenny, St. Thomas and St. Patrick. What a delight to have found these backroad places of Irish heritage in rural southern Minnesota.
© Copyright 2023 Audrey Kletscher Helbling