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Matamoras Minute: Irish immigration

Photo provided by John Miller. The picture shows the downriver house of the two brick homes built in 1834 by the Collins and Ewarts below Matamoras on State Route 7. Descendants of the families still live there.

Attention will turn to the topic of the history of the Irish in the Matamoras area. That group of immigrants brought with them a colorful culture combined with a religious strength and the skill of storytelling. They often took farms near to town which were along the river or high on the hillsides with a panoramic view.

An extremely early family name from Ireland was Collins. John Collins and his son, Henry, arrived in 1803. This was the year of Ohio’s addition as a state and about the time Grandview Township was founded. They arrived by way of Pennsylvania and the two were soon active as township officers.

The Collins were closely tied with the Ewart family from the old country. There were four brothers who were natives of Dublin. They sailed to America from the north of Ireland. Robert Kells Ewart, a son of one of the brothers, had a daughter, Frances, who married Henry Collins.

There presently are two brick homes just south of Matamoras along State Route 7 that were built in 1834. One was erected by the Collins family and the other by the Ewarts. Home to earlier generations they are still occupied today.

Further downriver at Leith and Wade Runs, several early families were Irish as well. These included Dr. William Little who came from County Down in northern Ireland. He and his wife, Mary McKee, along with three children were first located for a short time at Steubenville. Having made arrangements to travel further along the Ohio River they purchased apple trees. Once arriving at what would be their home at Leith Run, they performed their first act of ownership by establishing an orchard. According to “Williams’ History of Washington County,” the last of the trees were not cut until winter of 1880-81.

William and Nancy Martin Rea, along with their two children, had accompanied the Little family on the entire trip from Ireland. The Reas opened a tavern for travelers in the area and grew their family to seven children. Eventually the tavern was moved further downriver to where a small stream emptied into the Ohio River. The family christened the stream Rea’s Run and the tavern Travelers’ Rest.

William Rea had a brother, John, who came from Ireland in 1820. He eventually would be involved with operating the old Rinard Mill up the Little Muskingum River in southern Monroe County.

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