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It was 6 o'clock on a Friday and the day could not have finished any sooner for Samuel Rolston. He stood patiently at the end of a long line of men; faces and hands blackened with soot and filth. Irish men of all ages, ending their tireless week in the iron mill , with only a few pounds for a week's wage.

As Sam waited, he noticed a man in a suit speaking with a few of the older gents at the front of the line. The clean, well-dressed American stood out from within a crowd of men drenched in black dust. But the well-dressed American was attracting the worker's interests, and the men began to crowd toward him, entranced with his words.

At first more interested in snatching his wages and heading to McCrary's Pub for a pint, young Sam moved closer to catch a glimspe of this most intriguing American who was recruiting skilled iron workers from Ireland.

It was the 1820's and the Morris Canal in New Jersey had just been completed. The waterway would open doors to the rising industrial revolution in America and the antiquated ironworks in Morris County were being rejuvenated along the newly built canal. A group of New York businessmen had developed the New Jersey Iron Company, bringing the best of the iron industry to Morris County: Iron mill equipment and skilled workers from Great Britian and Ireland.

The man spoke a good game; an opportunity for better wages than the measly coins Sam Rolston just dropped in his pocket. Stories of wealth and riches in America had reached Ireland, already peaking the imagination of young Sam; and this man, this well-dressed American, appeared to provide the golden key to Sam's dream.

As the men drifted in to McCrary's Pub, talk of the American's offer seeped through their conversations. Some were curious, a few were doubtful, but others such as Sam could not turn away from opportunities promised; and so they signed. The iron men in McCrary's Pub, overcome with a feeling of instilled hope, signed their names to the papers handed by the well-dressed American. A turning point in the lives of Irish iron workers, looking for their promised "pot o' gold".

My ancestor Samuel C. Rolston immigrated to America in the late 1820's, forging and rolling iron for the Boonton Ironworks of Morris County, New Jersey. Were young Sam Rolston's dreams answered? Was a "pot o' gold" waiting for him in America? Research in genealogy reveals many unknowns, but intrinsic questions such as these: our ancestor's happiness; fulfillment of dreams, will most likely go unanswered. Finding Sam Rolston's records of his family provide insight that a life was built, but certainly not a life of wealth.

But yet I wonder.

Did my ancestor, the Irish iron man of Boonton, New Jersey, feel satisfaction that his dreams in America were fulfilled? His voice will never be heard, yet his words will be remembered:

"That once loved form now cold and dead,
  Each mournful thought employs,
  And nature weeps her comforts fled,
  And withered all her joy."

An Irish poem on an Irish iron man's tombstone: A young man's dream of a "pot o' gold" melded into a real life; most likely a hard life, but one well lived.

Keep searching for answers,

Cheryl
(Source: Boonton.org)


 


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