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Irish Fleeing Famine Settle in Lake County, Ore.

Irish settlers came to Lake County, Ore., in the second half of the 1800’s, many fleeing the great potato famine that over 50 years drained Ireland of half its population.  It wasn’t long until Lake County became known regionally as “Little Ireland.”

Many of the immigrants, mainly from Newmarket, County Cork, began raising sheep, at one time herding more than 200,000 head of the wooly ruminants.  

Disputes over grazing rights led to violent attacks by masked cattlemen known as the “sheepshooters,” who killed sheep in the northern part of the county, 2,300 in a single night in April 1904.

One organization that followed the Irish to Lake County was the Ancient Order of Hibernians, known by its initials as the A-O-H.  The organization’s roots were in Ireland and only Roman Catholics of Irish descent could be members.  In the United States, the AOH mainly protected Catholic churches and assisted Irish immigrants.  For a period of 50 years, the AOH’s only location in Oregon was Lakeview. It disbanded in 1950.

Some immigrants returned to their homeland, but many descendants still live in Lake County today.


Sources:  Shaw, Leslie. "Many Irish Leaders Boost County Growth." Lake County Examiner 10 Mar. 2015. Web. 19 Feb. 2016. http://www.lakecountyexam.com/lifestyles;  "Ancient Order of Hibernians." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. 1 Feb. 2016. Web. 19 Feb. 2016. "Lake County Oregon." Wikipedia. Web. 20 Feb. 2016. .

Luana (Loffer) Corbin graduated from Southern Oregon College, majoring in Elementary Education.  The summer after graduation she was hired to teach at Ruch Elementary, where she taught for 32 years. After retiring, Corbin worked for Lifetouch School Photography and then returned to Ruch as an aide helping with reading instruction and at the library.  More recently, she has volunteered at South Medford High.