Irish Sheepherders of Lake County Oregon

The Irish Room

Published March 12, 2004 By

It's Oregon's largest Irish museum.

It's also the smallest in the state.


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In other words, The Irish Room, a compact room in the Lake County Museum, is the only Irish museum in Oregon.

Oregon's only Irish museum is a celebration of things Irish. Its walls are filled with photos of early Irish immigrants, the Irish football team of 1950, a mob of members of the O'Leary clan during a family gathering in 1946. There are copies of stories about Irish settlers, an old saddle used by sheepherders and, ringing the walls just below the ceiling, a display of 76 sheep brands.

With Irish Days being celebrated in Lakeview Friday and Saturday, it's expected the Irish Room will be easily filled by visitors celebrating their heritage.

The room opened for last year's Irish Days, a project of the Emerald League, a group of Lake County people proud of their heritage.

"To save the history of the Irish," explains Fields Flynn, who helped push for the room. "Look what the Irish did for Lake County. It'd be a shame for what they did for this history to not be known."

"We did it 20 years too late," laments Mary Fitzgerald.

Along with helping create the museum, Fitzgerald was the force behind the "Barry Family Tree," a book published for a 2000 family reunion that carefully outlines the history of the eight Barry brothers - Philip, James, Jack, William, Nicholas, Michael, Jeremiah and Robert, all with the middle name of Kane - who began moving to Lake County from the Rockchapel area of County Cork, Ireland, in 1877.

Fitzgerald, Fields Flynn and Nora Flynn, who are all related, believe the museum is a way to preserve some of the fading history. They also helped found the Emerald League, which claims about 70 members and meets the third Thursday of each month at various locations.

They and others have rummaged through attics, barns and chests to provide items for the room, which has few bare spots. Among the curiosities are sheep brands. Unlike iron brands used on cattle, sheep brands were carved from wood and soaked in paint.

Other items include a folding camp stove, palm fronds used as rattles to help induce sheep to load into pens or cattle cars, and hurling sticks, which are shaped like hockey sticks but were used on grass surfaces. There's also a bench that belonged to Dr. Bernard Daly, one of Lake County's most revered men.

Among the framed wall hangings is a letter from the Ancient Order of the Hibernians in America recognizing the room as the only permanent Irish museum in Oregon.

Planning for the room began in late 2002. It's located in the Lake County Museum, 118 S. E St., just a short walk from the Lake County Courthouse. The museum is open Thursday and Friday afternoons with extended days and hours during the summer.

As Fields Flynn explains, "We're proud of our heritage and we want to share it with others."