Ireland:  Shades of Green
With the exception of one image at the bottom of the page, all of these photos were
taken in the beautiful country of Ireland -- home of my
Baldridge and Cain ancestors.
In 1830, American business interests in New Orleans decided to build a shipping channel from Lake
Pontchartrain to the American sector of the city, to compete with the established Carondelet Canal in
the French section.  Construction of the New Basin Canal began in 1832, with a work force
consisting almost entirely of Irish immigrants.  (Newly arrived and desperate for jobs, these
were the men who would work for the least amount of pay.)
The work was back-breaking, the hours long and, because of the canal's path through undeveloped
swampland, yellow fever, cholera, malaria and other diseases were rampant among the laborers.  The
pay was one dollar a day.  By the time the canal was finished six years later, between 8,000 - 20,000 Irish
immigrants had died in the effort.   The exact figure will never be known, because no records were kept,
but some have estimated the toll may have even been as high as 30,000.
The men worked when they were sick, fearing the loss of the job if they missed a day.  For this reason, many
of the deaths occurred at the work site.  They fell where they worked and, usually, the bodies were left there
-- just pushed to the side and buried in the canal's levee or in the roadway fill next to it:  no family to whisper
goodbyes, no priest to offer comforting words and no marker to indicate that a life had ever been lived.
The canal was a success for the business interests who invested in it.  It was used until the 1940's,
when shipping methods had changed and it was no longer needed.  It was filled in and now serves
as the neutral ground (median) situated between Pontchartrain and West End Boulevards.
In 1990, a memorial in the form of a Celtic cross carved in Ireland was dedicated to the memory of the
workers.  The Irish Ambassador to the U.S. attended the ceremony.  The cross, pictured above, stands
at the end of West End Boulevard -- a memorial to the thousands of men who perished in the 1830's.
It reads:  "In memory of the Irish immigrants who dug the New Basin Canal, 1832-1838, this Celtic
cross, carved in Ireland, has been erected by the Irish Cultural Society of New Orleans."
This page is dedicated to the memory of the Irish laborers who dug the New Basin Canal.
Their names are unknown, but their sacrifices are remembered.   -- Nancy
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