The Ancient Order of Hibernians in Pennsylvania
The first AOH in Pennsylvania in Pennsylvania was formed in Pottsville in 1836. The greatest number of divisions in Pennsylvania was 328 in 1904 to 1906. The Order was hurt and lost thousands of its members in the 1870’s when the Diocese of Philadelphia, through its bishop, directed the full power of his office against the Order because of the Molly Maguires.
The Division’s persecution reached its peak when 21 innocent men were sent to the gallows. The National Convention in New York in 1877 was forced to cut off the counties of Schuylkill, Carbon, Cloumbia and Northumberland. Fortunately, not all of the bishops were as narrow minded as those in Philadelphia. The Diocese of Pittsburgh and Scranton sided with the AOH and the chief supporter in the press for the AOH was Pittsburgh’s Catholic Journal.
The 1880 National Convention in Philadelphia became almost like a meeting of gypsies; delegates moves from place to place as one hall after another closed its doors on the Order through the bishop’s intervention. When the dust settled in 1884, the state still had 69 divisions including the 25 divisions in 10,000. In 1882, there were 185 divisions with 22,054 men in the state, making it the largest state by more than 10,000 over its closest rival Massachusetts.
In 1908, Pennsylvania had 328 divisions with a membership of 27,321 which is a record which may never be broken. It was not until 1939 that New York overtook the Keystone State. In 1904, Philadelphia had 88 divisions; today Philadelphia has seven divisions. The Depression, war and immigration difficulties were the main reason for the decline; but in the last few years a rebirth has taken place and we are now in second place next to New York.
The four counties cut-off from National were not forgotten; an assessment was made on all divisions throughout the state to pay for the cost of the defense of the accused A.O.H. men. These divisions were reinstated in the early 1880’s.