Augusta celebrates St. Pat's

If you look through issues of this newspaper over the past two centuries, you begin to suspect Augusta has traditionally celebrated two holidays longer than any other.


One, the Fourth of July, should be no surprise. Two-thirds of Georgia's Declaration of Independence signers are buried here.

The other is St. Patrick's Day.

In those early editions of The Chronicle , Christmas is hardly mentioned.

Get to March 1799 and there -- lodged between an advertisement for oxen and the posted sale of a cotton gin -- is this notice, easy to spot because there is a tiny symbol of a hand pointing to it: "The SONS of St. Patrick, and the other citizen subscribers to the Festival, are informed that dinner will be on the table THIS DAY at half past three o'clock, at Mr. McLaws's."

That might have been this newspaper's first notice of the popular March holiday, but it was hardly the last. In fact, the celebration appears to take off.

Two years later, an 1801 account of the event recorded an elaborate celebration.

"The festival of St. Patrick was celebrated in this place with wonted cheerfulness and conviviality. Much like modern times, there was a chance for many to be Irish for the day. Besides the natives of Ireland, a number of inhabitants and strangers joined the entertainment," The Chronicle reported.

The account also includes a description of the 16 toasts offered for the occasion. Those mentioned included St. Patrick, Ireland, the United States, womanhood, the Constitution, Jefferson, Washington, Adams, Georgia, the rights of man, literature and peace.

City leaders joined in, including Judge Glascock, who suggested a vision of the Middle East unchanged by almost 200 years.

"May distress fix her permanent abode," he toasted, "in the deserts of Arabia."

By 1823, St. Patrick's celebrations appear to have become expected events in Augusta.

That year, The Chronicle reported, "copious libations had been poured to Bacchus. ... There were some Irishmen, if they may be allowed the honor of being termed such, who did not deign to hoist the shamrock on their hats, or to do honor to the Saint by any mark of recognizance. If they did not partake of the festivity of the day, they at least were compelled to share in that of the night, by listening to the music."

And they must have had a good time.

"To conclude, the party broke up with the utmost harmony, every man at a late, or rather, an early hour, retiring to his home."

A few years later, in 1826, it went this way:

"A sumptuous dinner was prepared for them at the Planters Hotel, where the national characteristics -- wit, mirth and good humour -- shone in all their native vivacity and brilliancy."

So it goes. Other cities might claim larger parades or bigger Irish neighborhoods, but Augusta can put its green tradition up against any of them.