Sacred Heart Church, Notre Dame and the Evolving Irish Community

Up and until the early 1840's, The Jesuit Mission of St Joseph Missionary Priests served the Catholic Population of South Bend and a large area stretching from as far away as Michigan City, Indiana to Kalamazoo, Michigan (the Towns of Logansport, Goshen, Kalamazoo and Niles were the main ones covered). (St. Joseph Parish, 1901. p. 7).There are a significant number of Irish families documented in Sacred Heart Church Records from these early years by the Missionary Priests, and many Irish families from Bertrand (Niles) Michigan appeared in the Sacred Heart Church records up through about 1844. Father Edward Sorin who founded Notre Dame arrived around 1842. (St. Joseph Parish, 1901. p. 14). Sacred Heart Church at the time was just a small log chapel. A few years after his arrival, the northern border for Sacred Heart Parish was established at the Michigan border. In the 1850's Sacred Heart's Southern border was set at what is now known as Napoleon Street.

Father Sorin sold land in what was referred to as "Sorin's Tract" to numerous Irish immigrants like my Great Grandfather Martin. Martin and many of his Irish immigrant friends were laborers that helped build the University of Notre Dame. They lived on Notre Dame Avenue and others streets in this immediate area and attended Sacred Heart Church until the early 1870's. Many of the Potawatami Indians attended this church as well. This is where my first Great Grandfather William H Brennan developed a relationship with his Potawatami Indian friends. The marriages and baptisms of many Irish immigrants and their children are present in the Sacred Heart records, and many Irish ancestors like mine were buried in Cedar Grove Cemetery, a stone's throw from the future site of the Golden Dome on the University of Notre Dame Campus.

In the following section I will try to document Irish families from South Bend that I identified in the Sacred Heart Parish Records on microfilm.