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Ulster American Folk Park

Hughes House

Old World, building 15

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From Augher to Archbishop

This small stone building was the boyhood home of a man who became the first Catholic Archbishop of New York and started work on St. Patrick’s cathedral in the city.

John Joseph Hughes was born in 1797 on a small farm near the village of Augher in County Tyrone. A few years later the family moved to this house which was on a nearby farm in the townland of Dernaved, County Monaghan.

The Hughes family were small farmers, adding to their income by weaving linen cloth and growing flax which the females in the house used a spinning wheel to spin into linen thread. They rented extra land at high prices during the Napoleonic Wars when linen was also at a high price. But after the wars although linen prices fell rents remained high and the father and one son left. In 1817 they sent back money for John Joseph to follow them to America.

He had some education but had to take labouring jobs in America and although he wanted to train as a Catholic priest he was rejected at first. However, a nun saw talent within him and he eventually started his training in 1820.

The Church ordained him in 1826 and rose to be a bishop by 1838.

John Joseph’s rise coincided with a great increase in Catholic Irish immigration to the USA and he was known as someone who would fight for their rights.

Look at the jamb wall the single brick structure between the front door and the hearth of the kitchen. It is there to prevent draughts. The occupants have privacy and can see through the small opening in the wall. The house is typical of dwellings in South Ulster at that time.