By Paula Redmond
Many of the Irish who fled the potato Famine of the 1800s settled along the waterfront in Brooklyn, New York. They chose this area as the many piers and docks offered employment. Many found work in the ship building yards of the local Brooklyn Navy Yard and gas work companies. The area became known as Irishtown.
In the late eighteenth century businessmen and developers Joshua Sands and John Jackson bought lands in the area. Sands manufactured ropes for merchant rigging and Jackson opened a shipbuilding company. In the hope of attracting Irish immigrants to the district, Jackson named his area after the site of the famous 1798 battle at Vinegar Hill in Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford.
Irishtown resembled a commune and it was policed by the various gangs that existed within it. Although similar to the other notorious Irish district in New York, the Five Points, Irishtown was known for having a code of secrecy like no other. It was infamous for its illegal whiskey distilleries and the many wars that were waged to defend them.