Flushing Division Celebrates 100 Years

In 1909 the AOH National Board received an application to form a new Division in Flushing, New York.  Queens County President Peter McSarry told State President S.W. Brown there was great interest for the new Division. At the time, Flushing had a growing Irish population and was changing from farming to a residential community. The application was reviewed and approved by the National Board in January 1910.

The next month, on February 10, 1910, Division 9 was founded in Flushing at Saint Michael’s Church. The founding officers were M.J. Connor – President, James Tracy -Vice-President, James Hayes – Recording Secretary, John J. Mayer – Finical Secretary and Patrick Sellers -Treasurer. The Charter reflected the times in that Ireland was not an independent country and the flag was the traditional 1798 rising banner.

In its early years Division 9 was a source of comfort to the growing Irish immigrant population of Flushing and western Queens. Members of the Division actively supported the WWI war effort and sent care packages to the solders in France.  During the 1920s the Division was involved in transforming Main Street Flushing into one of the biggest commercial areas of New York City.  The 1930s were a very difficult time for the Division.  The economic depression inspired members to provide food packages to Brother Hibernians throughout Queens County who were in need. During WWII the Division participated in war bond drives and they again sent care packages to soldiers fighting overseas.

The greatest growth and activity of Division 9 came after WWII.  That’s when Flushing saw a population boom due to the construction of new single family and attached homes, along with new apartments. Division 9 held events at the Flushing Armory with crowds of more than 300 people. Members of the Division were involved in civic, commerce and industry in the Flushing community.

Division 9 was the first division in eastern Queens. Members assisted in the creation of Divisions in Whitestone, Woodhaven, Rockaway Beach, Bayside and Bellerose. Many of the people who were involved in Division 9 activities went on to form Divisions in Nassau and Suffolk counties; and in other states across the country.

In 1993, the Division responded to the changing Irish population by moving from Saint Michael’s Church in downtown Flushing to Saint Andrew Avellino Church in east Flushing. In 1997, the Division was named in honor of Patrick J. Curran – a 67 year member of the Division 9, a National Life Member, County officer, Division President and Treasurer of the Division for more than 30 years.

Members of the Division have been actively involved on the AOH Queens County Board. The County Men of the Year were Patrick J. Curran in 1991, his son Joseph Curran in 2000 and John Mahoney in 2007.  Division member Joseph Curran was also Freedom of All Ireland Chairman from 1988 to 2009, while John Mahoney was County Treasurer from 1989 to 1991; Thomas Friel was County Treasurer form 1999 to 2001 and A. Warren Scullin was County President from 2003 to 2005. Division members have also served on the Queens County Degree Team.  The current Queens County Board members are Gregory Farren – County Finical Secretary and Owen Kelly – Organizer.

Division 9 has always had an active participating role in the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City.  The Aides to the Grand Marshall were Patrick J. Curran in 1970 and his son Joseph Curran in 1997.

Throughout the years the Division has been an active in the cause of a United Ireland. Members of the Division have written to government officials, participated in AOH National and State Freedom for All Ireland events and supported programs of economic development and social justice causes in Northern Ireland. Joseph Curran was an inspiration to all of the members for such a just cause. His passing in 2009 was a time of great sadness for all of the members of the Division, yet his memory lives on and it inspires the members to work harder for peace and justice for all the people of Ireland.

Over the past few years the Division has been involved with working with the New York State AOH for the growth of the order.  Current Division President A. Warren Scullin was State Deputy Finance Chairman from 2003 to 2005, State Deputy Organizer from 2007 to 2009 and is presently a State Director.

Most recently, the Division has hosted Andy Cooney and Tony Kenny concerts, sponsored sporting events, donated to Saint Andrew Avellino Church, participated in AOH National and State Conventions and helped to form a Division in Woodside.

Today Division 9 still plays an active role in the Flushing community. It is a networking environment where people of a common background and faith can share their love of Irish heritage. Times change, yet the members still keep the faith of the founding officers and live by the Hibernian motto of Friendship, Unity and Christian Charity.

Members of Monsignor McLaughlin Division 7 in Wantagh, NY pose with Town of Hempstead Executive Kate Murray after marching in the Wantagh 4th of July Parade this past Independence Day.

New AOH Hall at Hudson Valley’s Historic Verplanck

New Peekskill AOH Hall

On August 1, 2010 the Red School House (circa July 1876) in historic Verplanck in the town of Cortlandt in Westchester County became the Hudson Valley Irish Center, home of Ancient Order of Hibernians, Division 18, Peekskill Hibernian Hall thanks to generosity of the Verplanck Volunteer Fire Department.

The solid red brick building was built by the Irish immigrants who mined and made the bricks that built NYC. Their names are etched in the bricks over the entrance along with the date in early July, 1876. Many of those family names can still be found in the Town of Cortlandt where the Hibernian Hall is located, the neighboring City of Peekskill and amongst the roster of our members.

Dan Dennehy, AOH National & NYS Board Immigration Chair and Chairman of the Hudson Valley Irish Fest Inc. stated, “We are excited to see our organizations grow in our new home, a place built by our ancestors and an appropriate place to display and promote our rich Irish American heritage. I look forward to the local schools of music and dance, pipe bands and traditional musicians, along with our families, sharing this facility and its grounds, which overlook the majestic Hudson River.”

Last year, the Hudson Valley Irish Fest at Peekskill’s Riverfront Green was founded by AOH members Dan Dennehy and Ray Bermingham and fellow Peekskill St. Patrick’s Parade Committee member Scott Mettey. Their purpose was to promote the idea of a much needed home for Irish American heritage. At that time, the active local Irish American community was reeling from the loss of Jimmy Guinan’s and PJ Kelly’s, two local establishments that were centers of Irish music and dance. The Hudson Valley Irish Fest, a not for profit charitable corporation and educational trust was established and contributed to by the combined efforts of  AOH Division 18 and the Peekskill St. Patrick’s Parade Committee. They recruited members of the community to their Fest Committee and raised funds with a series of successful Pub Quizzes.

The result of the extremely dedicated Committee work saw 3,000 guests at the beautiful riverfront on Fest day. Also many new friendships were made and membership and interest in the local Irish organizations blossomed. The committee compensated the two organizations for their initial outlay and further unexpected dividends of this effort became apparent.

AOH Division 18 more than doubled its membership and the Peekskill St. Patrick’s Parade Committee welcomed many new participants. The Hudson Valley Irish Fest Inc. and Peekskill St. Patrick’s Parade Committee established the John McGurty Sr. Library, a multimedia section of Irish & Irish-American literature and history at the Field Library in Peekskill.