The town of Butte credits itself with holding the largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the Rockies. The mining town located in Montana, also the hometown to the late daredevil Evel Knievel, is nestled high in the Rocky Mountains.
In the 19th century the town initially was a gold and silver mining town before the advent of electricity transformed it into the world’s largest copper mining town by the early 20th century.
As a result of the ample mines emigrants flocked from around the world, from areas such as Ireland, Wales, Lebanon and even China to name a few.
Irish emigration to Butte can first be traced back as far as 1882. Less than two decades later, a quarter of the town’s residents were Irish. A Cavan man by the name of Marcus Daly was one of three men named as the copper kings who made fortunes.
Daly had left Cavan for New York at the age of 15 and made his fortune at the Anaconda mine close to Butte, which he purchased in 1880. He announced that any Irishman could have job in his mine which resulted in a huge wave of immigration, primarily from the Beara Peninsula in Co. Cork.
Butte’s present day population is made up of mainly descendants of people from counties Cork, Kerry, Donegal, Mayo, Cavan and Wexford.
The Irish community set among the 40,000 or so residents are proud of their heritage. Many Irish dignitaries have visited the town including Eamon de Valera on his tours of the U.S., as did Douglas Hyde. President Mary McAleese took in the sights in 2006.
For those who want to learn about Ireland there are Irish-language classes, and Irish-studies programs at the nearby University of Montana.
Butte also hosts several Irish festivals throughout the year, from the coming St. Patrick’s day parade to An Rí Rá, which is a summer music celebration that attracts a host of traditional Irish musicians each year.