Irish Travellers in the USA / Murphy Village & White Settlement { 71 images } Created 3 Feb 2018

Murphy Village, North Augusta, South Carolina is a community of around 2,000 Irish Travellers who settled on Edgefield Road in the late 50s-60s.

They originally come from Ireland. One of the first Irish Travellers who came to the USA is Tom Carroll. He arrived in New York in the middle of the 19th Century to escape from misery and financial distress created by the Potato Famine in Ireland (1845-1852). He then went to Boston where there was a large community of Irish settlers in Boston. He quickly found work in a tannery. After working for several months, Tom Carroll was able to get his brother Patrick to the US, who also brought his other brothers Jimmy and John. Very soon many of their relatives migrated to the US. Just before the Civil War (1861-1865) the Travellers slowly moved to the South, living in Georgia ,South Carolina, and Tennessee.

There, they began to travel throughout the South buying mules and horses to trade and sell them among the farming communities. As the town of North Augusta began to grow, many Catholics relocated there from the Northeast. Father Murphy, an Irish immigrant himself, was made its Pastor. He encouraged the travellers to buy land a few miles north of the town. Murphy Village was born.

The main family names are Carroll, Sherlock, O’Hara, Gorman and only a few others. While men mainly work asphalting roads and driveways, painting barns in states as far as Ohio and Michigan, or selling machines. Women stay at home and raise the children. They still speak Cant, an old form of Gaelic and most of them are practising Catholics.

The community is very reclusive. On one side of Edgefield Road, where St Edward Church was built which is the original Murphy Village, people still live in trailers and mobile homes, although, on the other side of the road, Travellers live in huge brand new mansions which can only raise suspicion in every outsider’s mind. How can people who live from asphalting, trading machines and painting barns afford to build such houses? Irish Travellers from Murphy Village are regularly accused of different scams. Several court cases have been occuring for life insurance fraud, racketeering, scams. About 50 Irish Travellers are now in Custody. In 2016, the DSS (Department of Social Services) took six girls, as young as six years old, from Murphy Village under allegations of sexual abuse. Arranged marriages have been part of the village tradition for decades and the Irish Travellers were accused of under-age marriages. After 3 months, all the girls were brought back to their families after staying in foster care. “We don’t marry them under-age, we get them engaged very young and wait for the legal age to marry them”, explains Tammy, an Irish Traveller from Murphy Village. In such a tense situation, it is not surprising that Murphy Village residents are not very keen to talk to strangers and hide from cameras.
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