Irish Presbyterians and the Shaping of Western Pennsylvania, 1770-1830

Peter E. Gilmore has written a finely-textured book that shatters myths as it reconstructs a community that we thought we had known. This first-rate study uncovers the fascinating story of how an elusive group of Irish migrants, in a dynamic period of American history, defined themselves as a people and recast their faith lives. In doing so, they shaped the world around them.
Patrick Griffin

Irish Presbyterians and the Shaping of Western Pennsylvania, 1770–1830 is a historical study examining the religious culture of Irish immigrants in the early years of America. Despite fractious relations among competing sects, many immigrants shared a vision of a renewed Ireland in which their versions of Presbyterianism could flourish free from the domination of landlords and established church. In the process, they created the institutional foundations for western Pennsylvanian Presbyterian churches.
Rural Presbyterian Irish church elders emphasized community and ethnoreligious group solidarity in supervising congregants’ morality. Improved transportation and the greater reach of the market eliminated near-subsistence local economies and hastened the demise of religious traditions brought from Ireland. Gilmore contends that ritual and daily religious practice, as understood and carried out by migrant generations, were abandoned or altered by American-born generations in the context of major economic change.

about the author

Peter E. Gilmore is a ruling elder at Sixth Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, and serves on the Commission for Preparation of Ministry of the Pittsburgh Presbytery. He has taught at several Pittsburgh universities, and previously served as staff writer and editor for UE News, the official publication of the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America. He teaches history at Carlow University, Carnegie Mellon University, and the University of Pittsburgh.

learn more
Peter E. Gilmore