Plenty of people in Nebraska and Iowa trace their heritage to Ireland, even if their name isn’t Sullivan, Ryan or Fitzpatrick. So with St. Patrick’s Day arriving on Saturday, here are some fun facts about Irish ties in Omaha and the region.
1. Green neighborhood: Omaha’s Morton Meadows-Holy Cross neighborhood is one of the most Irish in the city. U.S. Census figures from a few years ago show that one in four residents claims Irish heritage — higher than the citywide rate. It’s a central Omaha neighborhood bounded by Saddle Creek Road and 42nd, Leavenworth and Center Streets.
2. Shamrock states: More than one out of 10 residents in Nebraska and Iowa claims at least some Irish ancestry, according to U.S. Census figures.
3. Famous folks with regional ties and Irish roots: Father Edward J. Flanagan, founder of Boys Town in Omaha; Bob Devaney, former Husker football coach; Marlon Brando, actor who lived in Omaha as a boy; John Wayne, actor who was born in Winterset, Iowa.
4. Nebraska’s “Irish Capital:” That’s how O’Neill, in northeast Nebraska, bills itself. There’s no doubt it has deep Irish roots. Gen. John O’Neill, a native of Ireland and U.S. Civil War veteran, founded the town in the 1870s. He drew fellow Irish immigrants to the town, knowing they would feel at home surrounded by fertile farmland. Census figures show that more than 20 percent of O’Neill’s roughly 3,500 residents claim Irish ancestry. The town’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade is Saturday.
5. Really big shamrock: Omaha’s Marylebone Tavern has painted a big shamrock in front of the bar at 37th and Leavenworth Streets since the early 1970s. This thing stretches across Leavenworth Street nearly curb to curb. It was just repainted Sunday.