Hibernians Honor Forefathers At Oakland Cemetery
Published: December 20, 2007
ATLANTA—Historic Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta marks its founding annually with a weekend when people are especially encouraged to visit and learn about the historic past of Atlanta.
The Hibernian Benevolent Society of Atlanta during this weekend holds a ceremony in which the Hibernian colors are posted and a wreath is placed in the society’s section of the historic cemetery. This year approximately 300 people came to the event, where the society’s chaplain, Msgr. James Fennessy, pastor of St. Jude Church, Atlanta, offered a prayer for those interred.
The presence of an Hibernian section in the old cemetery is linked to the contribution of the Irish to the defense of Atlanta. In 1854 the Irish formed a military guard for defense of the city. When the Civil War began in 1861, this guard was assimilated into the regular army. In 1858, the Hibernian Benevolent Society was formed. Father Thomas O’Reilly, pastor of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Atlanta, was chaplain for the Hibernian Society, which was founded to aid Irish immigrants when they came to Atlanta with jobs, housing and passing on survival skills in a new land. Because of the contribution of the Irish in the war and the work of Father O’Reilly in saving municipal buildings and churches from the destruction of Sherman’s March to the Sea, the city rewarded the society by giving them 80 gravesites at Oakland.
One of the oldest organizations in Atlanta, the Hibernian Benevolent Society will mark 150 years of history in 2008. The Society is open to all who are Irish by birth or by descent.