Irish Folk Dance

Irish Folk Dance

Emigrant Ship

Emigrant Ship

The Ulster American Folk Park is an open-air museum just outside Omagh, in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. With more than 30 exhibit buildings to explore, the museum tells the story of three centuries of Irish emigration. Using costumed guides and displays of traditional crafts, the museum focuses on those who left Ulster for America in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. The museum is part of National Museums Northern Ireland.

Within the museum there are many restored, original buildings with connections to local families. The park was developed around the Mellon House, the birthplace of Irish-American banker and lawyer Thomas Mellon, founding father of the Mellon banking dynasty. This house and its outbuildings remain in their original location. Visitors can taste samples of traditional Irish and pioneer American foods including freshly baked soda bread and pumpkin pie all made on the hearths and griddles of the exhibit buildings. The museum also includes agricultural displays and an array of farm animals.


Mellon was born to farmers Andrew Mellon and Rebecca Wauchob on February 3, 1813, at Camp Hill Cottage, Lower Castletown, parish of Cappagh, County Tyrone, Ireland now Northern Ireland. The original family house now forms the centrepiece of the Ulster American Folk Park Museum. His family had come into Ireland from Scotland around the middle of the seventeenth century. In 1816, his grandfather, Archibald Mellon, emigrated to the United States, settling in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. Andrew and his family followed two years later.

Mellon wrote in his autobiography that at the age of ten, he had been struck by "wealth and magnificence I had before no conception of" upon viewing the mansion of prominent landowners Jacob Negley and Barbara Ann Negley. At fourteen, he read the The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin and became inspired by Franklin's rags-to-riches tale. Deciding he would not be a farmer, he enrolled at the Western University of Pennsylvania, now known as the University of Pittsburgh in October 1834, graduating in 1837.

After graduation, he obtained work in a Pittsburgh law office, and became clerk for the Allegheny County prothonotary. He was himself admitted to the bar on December 15, 1838, and opened his own law firm, focusing on civil cases. On August 22, 1843, he married Sarah Jane Negley, daughter of Jacob and Barbara and aunt of James S. Negley, after a long—and frustrating—courtship. Soon thereafter, he embarked on a long and successful legal career in Pittsburgh. In 1859, he was elected assistant judge of the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas and on December 1 began a ten-year judicial career.

Mellon invested the proceeds from his legal work shrewdly, buying up large portions of downtown Pittsburgh real estate. In late 1869, he decided to retire from the bench, and rather than return to the legal profession, "concluded to open a banking house." On January 2, 1870, he opened the T. Mellon & Sons' Bank with his sons Andrew W. and Richard B. Above the cast iron door of the original bank building at 145 Smithfield Street was placed a near life-sized statue of his inspiration, Benjamin Franklin. He nearly lost his estate in the Panic of 1873—an economic depression in which half of Pittsburgh's ninety organized banks and twelve private banks failed — but prevailed, and was well placed to prosper when the economy again began to expand. Shrewd investments included real estate holdings in downtown Pittsburgh, coal fields, and a $10,000 loan to Henry Clay Frick in 1871, which would provide the coke for Andrew Carnegie's steel mills.

In 1877, Mellon was approached to finance the Ligonier Valley Railroad. In 1878 he acquired land around the railroad just west of Ligonier, Pennsylvania where he began a picnic park, Idlewild. Additional land in the Ligonier Valley which he once owned is now the Rolling Rock Club. On January 5, 1882, he retired from day-to-day management of the bank's affairs, handing it to his 26-year-old son, Andrew. Under A.W. and R.B.'s management, Mellon Bank was by the end of the century the largest banking institution in the country outside of New York. He divested himself of most of the rest of his property on February 3, 1890, leaving it in the hands of his sons. Mellon died on his 95th birthday, February 3, 1908 at his home in East Liberty.


The entrance section to the museum includes a restaurant, a visitors' information centre and the Centre for Migration Studies (CMS). The CMS has an attached library and offers, in conjunction with the University of Ulster and Queen's University of Belfast, postgraduate and undergraduate courses, as well as tailored and shorter courses; all of the courses concern the study of Irish migration from 1600 to the present day. The specialist research library contains some 10,000 volumes, over 50 periodicals, maps, audio-visual material, and a collection of primary source documents (the Irish Emigration Database) which is searchable on computer. The centre is open to visitors during basic office hours, and closed during public holidays.

The Old World region includes whole streets of original houses, an original printing press, a bank, an old police barracks, the old Castletown National School, and two churches. Central to this region is the boyhood home of Thomas Mellon, judge and founder of the Pittsburgh banking dynasty. Some of the two-up, two-down houses in one of the reconstructed streets in the park were transported, in their entirety, from Sandy Row, off the Donegall Road in Belfast, and other buildings have been transported from elsewhere in the province.

Linking the Old and New World sections of the park is the Ship and Dockside gallery, which includes the Brig Union, a full-size replica of an immigrant sailing ship. The historic atmosphere continues in the New World area, which features a recreated old American street with a tinsmith display and the original interior of a Virginia general store. Beyond the street, the frontier journey begins with a stop at the 1720s Fulton stone house, painstakingly dismantled in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and rebuilt here. Other original frontier houses in the park include an Appalachian log house from Washington county, Pennsylvania, the 1830 West Virginia home of Richard McCallister, removed from Cabell county, and a, soon to be opened, brick plantation house built by Francis Rogan in the early 19th century near Nashville, Tennessee.


Agriculture in Ulster during the 1700s and early 1800s set the pattern for much of today’s rural landscape. The maze of roads and small fields that we see today developed from the small farms created by the cottage industry of linen manufacture. People survived on small patches of land and they added value to their flax crop grown by spinning and weaving it into linen cloth. Lowland areas of Ireland were worked very intensively. The main crops were flax, oats and potatoes. Flax was used in the cottage linen industry, oats were sold in the marketplace and potatoes were a food crop. Growing and harvesting these crops required much labour. Farmers usually paid their workers by allowing them to have a small plot of land for a house and to grow potatoes. In return they gave the farmer a number of days’ work.

The fibre contained in flax is used to produce linen, so flax was an important cash crop in Ireland. It was produced as follows. After flowering and ripening in July, the flax was pulled by hand and soaked in a water-filled dam for one to two weeks to ret (break down the outer coating). It was then spread on a field to dry. The tough outer coating was separated from the linen fibres by scutching. One basic method involved beating the flax over a stone with a club. A more refined method was to process the flax in a water-powered scutching mill. Finally, the naked fibres were hackled (combed to clean and straighten the lint).

After the fibres were spun, some farmers sold the resulting linen thread to weavers. Others used family labour to weave linen cloth. The cash generated was used to buy essentials. Some weavers grew also flax but they tried to avoid involvement in the early processing of the crop as it made their hands coarse and unsuitable for fine weaving. There is a fine example of a flax hackle with the name ‘John Weir’ stamped on one side. ‘Strabane 1808’ is stamped on the other side. It is made from wood with rows of metal spikes.

The plough section traces developments in the use of ploughs in Ireland. It notes how the Great Famine of 1845 -1851 impacted on the availability of labour and the changing nature of agricultural production. Before 1800, Irish ploughs were usually made of wood, and only an iron cutting edge. They were ineffective at turning over ground, so fields had to be ploughed more than once, across, as well as up and down. Forged iron swing ploughs were introduced from Scotland after 1800. These were much better at turning over the soil, requiring fewer men to guide them and less horse power to pull them. However in certain conditions the old Irish plough still performed better.

At around the same time, wheel ploughs were introduced from England. They were initially unpopular, as unlike the swing plough, the depth and width of the wheel plough’s furrow could not be adjusted on the move. However, on even ground they proved their worth, requiring less skill to produce good results. So, as land was improved from 1850 to 1900, they became more widely used. Many people used spades to prepare ground for crops, both on their own small holdings and when working for larger farmers. The spade was inexpensive, it generated higher yields, and as wages were low, it was as cheap as using a horse and plough. However, the Great Famine of 1845 to 1851removed many of Ireland’s poor, through both death and migration. This meant that after the famine there were fewer people left to work the land. Agricultural production slowly changed from crop growing to cattle production, and the horse and plough gradually replaced man and spade.

Farm animals were not a common sight in Ulster during the 1700s and early 1800s. Sheep and cattle were only reared on high or very wet ground, or land not fit for crop production. Milk cows had been more common in earlier times, but as crops such as potatoes were more valuable and yielded more food per acre, the gradually replaced dairy cattle on the land. A fall in grain and flax prices after the mid 1800s caused this to change. In addition, emigration meant that there were fewer people to work the land and grow crops; whereas livestock farming needed less labour. Amongst other exhibits are a pair of spring-tined sheep shears. The blades are connected by a loop of metal. ‘W & P Ward, England’ stamped on the blade. From Strabane, County Tyrone.

A fleam was used to puncture the skin in bloodletting or phlebotomy. Until the late 1800s this process was thought to cure many illnesses in animals as well as humans. On show is a veterinary fleam, length 9cm when closed, which has three blades which fold into a brass case, lined with bone. Each blade is triangular in shape, and graduated in size according to the size of cut to be made. The fleam was usually placed over the jugular vein and inserted using a fleam stick, a heavy wooden club used to drive the blade in with a quick motion. This fleam was made in the 1800s by Abram Brooksbank of Sheffield, England.

Turf has been used as a fuel in Ireland for at least 1300 years. However, by 1700, most of Ireland’s forests had been cut down, so from then on, turf became the most important fuel. Turf is dried, partially rotted plant material that is laid down in boggy, waterlogged conditions. Turf banks build up over hundreds of years and can be many metres thick. To cut a turf bank, it is first prepared by paring off the top sod of living vegetation. Usually one person cuts the turf using a spade with an ‘L’ shaped cutting edge and two others load it onto wheelbarrows which they empty onto a dry area of the bog. After seven to ten days, depending on weather, the wet turf develops a dry skin. Each wheelbarrow load is then spread over the ground and turned over to dry on all sides. As the drying process continues the turf are “footed”. This means they are stood on their end making small “stooks” of ten to twelve turf. These are gradually gathered into larger and larger piles, as they get drier and drier.

The turf are finally “won” when they are dry enough to be taken from the bog by baskets carried either on a person’s back, by a donkey, by a simple slipe or on a small cart pulled by a horse. The winning process sees the peat dried from 90% water to 25% water. Peat bogs were an important source of timber for roofs. Old wood preserved in the peat was very hard. Butter was also preserved in bogs in wooden cups called methers for use in the winter. Wet bog land was very important in Celtic mythology, as shown by the many preserved sacrificed victims that have been found in bogs throughout Western Europe. Exhibits include a wooden wheelbarrow for carrying turf, from Ederney, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland; a wooden mether containing bog butter, from Legatonegan, Castlederg, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland; a brooch carved from bog oak, with name the ‘Agnes’ surrounded by shamrocks on front and a metal pin at the back, from County Tyrone, Northern Ireland.


One of first things the early European settlers did was to clear the forests for agriculture. They found that maize, or Indian corn, grew well and they copied the native American’s production methods. This involved planting maize on small mounds called ‘hills’. Maize was used on the farm in the early years but a market developed for it during the 1700s. By the 1800s, most maize was planted in flat rows and by 1820, it was being exported to Ireland in times of food shortage. The crop was harvested by cutting the plant at ground level and tying it up in a bunch called a shock. These were left standing in the field like many tepees until they were ready to be brought to the farmyard. The ears were cut off and the leaves surrounding the dry cob had to be torn off with a short wooden peg. This was called husking. The grain could then be rubbed off the cob in a process known as shelling.

Exhibits include a corn crib located near the Pennsylvania House at the Ulster American Folk Park as well as a Seed packet for ‘Black Mexican Corn’, printed for the Card Seed Company, Fredonia, New York by Stecher Lithographic Company, Rochester, New York, copyright 1908. Instructions on back of packet read, ‘One qt. for 200 hills. One peck for acre in hills. All varieties may either be sown in rows 3 1/2 feet apart, placing the kernels one foot apart in the row, or planted in hills at a distance of 3 to 4 feet each way. The richer the soil and the taller the variety, the greater should be the distance between hills. The first planting should be made after all danger of frost is over. For succession, plant every two weeks until late summer.

There is also a seed packet for 'Pop corn, white rice', printed for the Card Seed Company, Fredonia, New York by Dunston of Dunkirk, New York. Instructions on the back of the packet read, ‘Suitable for the middle and late crop. Ears very large - fourteen to sixteen rowed. Deep kernelled; tender and sweet; remaining a long time in fit condition for the table. A standing and superior variety. Corn is a tender annual and should not be planted before warm weather, in May or early in June. Plant in deep, rich soil, in hills four feet apart, three to four seeds in the hill. Hoe frequently to destroy the weeds; and keep the soil mellow. Earth up the plants when sufficiently large for the purpose.’ There is a corn dryer, made from wrought iron, from Crumpton, Maryland. There are ten spikes along the length of the dryer, cut from the main vertical strip of iron and bent outwards into a fishbone shape. There is a hole for hanging at the top end, and a hook at the lower end for hanging several dryers in succession. There are traces of black paint on the surface.

In addition there is a Corn shelling tub from North America. This is made from a hollowed out tree trunk. It is open at both ends, with a grating of shaved rods inserted through bored holes near the base to allow kernels to fall through. The tub was filled with ears of corn, and a heavy pestle or stick used to pound the kernels off the cobs. There are also a label for a tin of 'L.J. Callanan's 43 Brand Sweet Corn', with a picture of corn cob, with text reading, ‘ Packed for L.J. Callanan, Oneida, New York. Label printed by Price Brothers and Company, New York, between 1890 and 1930; a label for tin of 'Golden Grain Sugar Corn' packed at Rome, Oneida county, New York state for C. Burkhalter and Company, 121-123 Hudson Street, New York printed on label with a picture of corn cob on the label; a label for tin of 'Olney and Floyd Cloth of Gold, The Finest Succotash'. Yellow label printed in gilt, dated about 1890. This product was packed by Olney and Floyd at Westernville, Oneida county, New York. Succotash is a stew consisting of kernels of corn, lima beans and tomatoes.

As the great forests were being cleared to make farmland, their timber was put to many practical uses, one of which was fencing. The split chestnut fence, adjacent to the Fulton House at the Ulster American Folk Park, was originally from Virginia. It was commonplace during the 1700s and early 1800s in Pennsylvania and Virginia. The fence was made stable by laying it in a zigzag pattern. When a man was in liquor he was said to be ‘walking like a Virginian fence’. The loss of land occupied by the fence was offset by avoiding the need to dig holes for upright posts that could quickly rot in the ground.

At this time land was inexpensive and plentiful, while labour was expensive and scarce. The fence was made stronger by adding two crossed stakes at each corner. These were wedged into the ground to cradle a top rail. This was known as a stake and rider fence. To make the rails, a tall straight hardwood tree was felled. The trunk was sawn into ten or twelve foot lengths. This timber was split into rails using a maul (wooden sledgehammer) to drive a wedge along the grain of the wood. One tree could yield up to 200 heavy rails. This was considered to be a good day’s work for one man. Similarly, one man could erect 200 yards of snake fencing in a day. As the value of land increased, fences were straightened to reduce wastage. Post and rail fences, as seen further round this path, or stonewalls or hedges, were used as time progressed. Pictured here is a post and rail fence, adjacent to the Pennsylvania House at the Ulster American Folk Park. American chestnut was more durable than other hardwoods. However American chestnut trees are now rare in the Eastern United States, having been almost eliminated by blight in the 1930s.


Buildings at the Outdoor Museum tell the story of emigration from Ulster to America in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. They provide visitors with a "living history" experience. Costumed demonstrators go about their everyday tasks in the traditional manner, in authentically furnished Old and New World buildings.

The Devine family’s one room cabin was moved to the Ulster American Folk Park from Altahoney townland in the Sperrin Mountains near Park. Dating from the late eighteenth century, it is an excellent example of the type of dwelling occupied by many poor tenant farmers in the decades leading up to the outbreak of the Great Famine in 1845. A particularly significant feature of the cabin is the bed outshot - an alcove with a built-in bed extending into the back wall of the house, beside the fireplace. Apart from a crude table and a few 'creepies' or small stools, this would have been the cabin’s only fixed furniture. A family of twelve is believed to have lived in this dwelling. Potatoes grown in the ‘lazy beds’ in front of the house would have been the principal source of food for the occupants. In good times, the small building at the side of the house would have housed some pigs.

The country blacksmith was of vital importance to the agricultural community, both as a farrier who shod and cared for horses and as a manufacturer and repairer of agricultural implements. The forge reproduced in the Folk Park is typical of those which were once found throughout rural Ulster. The layout of the forge is fairly simple. The hearth stands against the gable wall away from the door and the draught for the fire is provided by large hand-operated bellows. The blacksmith hammers the red hot metal into shape on the anvil, which is mounted on a wooden block to absorb the impact. Under the hearth is a water trough in which the smith cools his irons - the water in the trough was said to be a cure for warts.

The Presbyterian Church or “Meeting House” was the focal point of the Ulster Presbyterian community. The building at the Folk Park is a replica of the thatched crossroads Meeting House at Mountjoy in which Thomas Mellon worshipped as a boy. He described it in his autobiography as “The venerable old structure built in the shape of a T and roofed with straw thatch”. He remembered a visit with his father and referred to the pew where he had sat and the little round pulpit from which Mr. McClintock delivered his lengthy sermons. ‘There it was, a square box with a hinged door, a narrow board seat and very high back. I well remembered that the backs of the pews were so much higher than my head that I could not see over. And there too about half way up on the opposite wall still remained the little round pulpit with a sounding board some six or eight feet above it. Eight extremely narrow winding steps led up to this sacred desk of a place. The floor was flagstone and the pews and pulpit of hand worked deal boards, a species of yellow pine’.

Mellon House. Thomas Mellon was born in this cottage in February 1813. It was built by his father Andrew and his brother Archy, 'chiefly by the labour of their own hands', shortly before Thomas was born. Thomas spent the first five years of his life here, before he and his family emigrated to America. The cottage and its outbuildings are typical of the farmsteads which so many Irish people left behind as they looked for a new life in America. The farmhouse was originally a two-room house with two detached outhouses. The original bedroom was to the left of the kitchen. This is now a parlour and a small back room. The second bedroom, to the right of the kitchen, was added at a later date.

The Campbell House, or Aghalane House to give it its formal title, was built by Hugh Campbell in 1786, on a farm near Plumbridge in County Tyrone. Hugh placed two stone plaques above the front door, one bearing his name and the date of construction, and the other inscribed with an armorial of the Dukes of Argyle. In this way he was indicating that the Campbells of Aghalane, who had arrived from Scotland some generations earlier, claimed kinship with the Campbells of Argyle. In 1818, one of Hugh’s sons, also named Hugh, emigrated to New York aboard the Phoenix. The journal he kept of his voyage sheds much light not only on his character, but also on the nature and organisation of the early nineteenth-century emigrant trade. Hugh went on to become one of Philadelphia's most prominent merchants. He eventually settled in St Louis and went into partnership with his brother Robert.

Robert Campbell, who went on to become a fur-trapper and builder of Fort Laramie, was born in this house in 1804. He emigrated to America in the early 1820s to join his older brother Hugh, who had emigrated two years before. Robert moved west for health reasons and became involved in the fur trade. By 1836 Robert had left his active life in the mountains and settled in St Louis, where he continued to supply expeditions of trappers and pioneer settlers as they set out on the Oregon Trail. In the course of his long career, Robert was a trapper, storekeeper, bank president, honorary colonel in the United States Army and a Native American Commissioner. In the latter capacity, he helped to draw up the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie with all the Native American tribes east of the Rocky Mountains, south of the Missouri River and north of Texas and New Mexico. In 1876, on the death of Hugh and Robert’s unmarried sister Ann, Aghalane House passed from the Campbell family to the Dunn family. Some alterations were made to it over the years, including an extension to the rear and a slated roof which replaced the original thatch. In 1976 the property was inherited by the Reaney family, who lived in an adjacent house, leaving Aghalane House unoccupied. In 1985 the house, which had been derelict for a number of years and was scheduled for demolition, was acquired by the Ulster American Folk Park, both because of its related stories of emigration and for its architectural importance. It has been re-erected in its original 1786 thatched form.

Tullyallen Mass House from Tullyallen, near Dungannon, County Tyrone, was the place of worship of the parishioners of Killeeshill Parish. It was built in 1768 on land leased from the Earl of Charlemont, a well-known liberal Irish landlord. Contrary to popular belief (and unlike the Cromwellian era of the previous century), the building of Roman Catholic mass houses was not specifically forbidden by the Penal Laws, although these laws did affect greatly the lives of the Catholic and Dissenter population of Ireland in other ways. What usually determined whether they worshipped at a Mass Rock or in a mass house was likely to be the attitude of the landowners of the parish, the degree of wealth of the parishioners, and in the early part of the 18th century, whether or not the local priest was officially registered. As the century progressed and Catholic confidence and prosperity grew, an increasing number of mass houses were built throughout the Irish countryside. The population of Ireland grew fast in the late 18th and 19th centuries and that of Killeshill parish where the church was situated, had trebled in size by the 1830s. In 1830 this building was extended to cope with this greatly increased congregation. The building has been carefully recorded and re-erected here in its pre-1830 form with plain sash windows, whitewashed walls, thatched roof and the annexe at the rear which was used as the priest's accommodation. The presence of the hearth in the west gable points to the building being used as a school during the week. This practice was occasionally found in mass houses of that early period.

Hughes House

Hughes House

Castletown National School

Castletown National School

John Joseph Hughes, the first Catholic Archbishop of New York, was born in 1797 on a small farm near the village of Augher in County Tyrone. Several years later his family moved to a nearby farm in the townland of Dernaved, County Monaghan. It was from this farmhouse, now rebuilt in the Ulster American Folk Park, that 20 year old John Joseph left for America in 1817. As with many other small farmers at this time, the Hughes family were also weavers. A large proportion of the farm was given over to the cultivation of flax, and the long winter evenings were devoted to the domestic manufacture of linen cloth. The Hughes house is typical of houses in south Ulster at that time. Its principal feature, the jamb wall, is a single brick wall between the front door and the hearth area of the kitchen, built to prevent draughts and give the occupants a measure of privacy.

Castletown National School was moved to the Ulster American Folk Park from the nearby townland of Castletown. The building is dated 1845, although records reveal that there was a school on the original site from the 1790s. In 1845 the 'Master' at Castletown School was Patrick Mulligan. He taught the older pupils while his daughter Mary helped out with the infants and with the girls' needlework lessons. The school committee included the local Presbyterian minister, the Catholic parish priest and the Church of Ireland rector, together with representatives from their parishes and congregations. A detailed picture of schooling in this part of County Tyrone is given in an application submitted to the Commissioners of Education for assistance towards the payment of teachers' salaries and for the supply of books, equipment and other materials. The application, dated April 1845, states that the school building measured 34 feet by 20 feet (10.4 metres by 6.1 metres) and contained a single classroom erected through locally raised funds. The average attendance was seventy. The applicants stated that the inscription 'National School' would be prominently displayed in the schoolhouse. The school was open to children of all denominations. It was in schools similar to the Castletown National School that children learned to read, write and do simple arithmetic. Most of the pupils' first steps in reading, and in a wide variety of subjects, including geography, science and history, would have been taken from the series of National School readers.

Mountjoy Post Office was moved to the Ulster American Folk Park from nearby Mountjoy village, where it had served as a Post Office and dwelling house from 1861 until the early 1900s. In 1862, the house was listed under the Post Towns in Ireland as Mountjoy Post Office, ninety-nine miles from Dublin. Like many existing sub-post offices today, it functioned in the converted parlour of a private dwelling house, occupied at that time by Nathaniel Maginnis and his family. Nathaniel was the first postmaster of Mountjoy. His children all worked for the Post Office – Andrew was a Superintendant of Posts in Belfast, Alexander was a letter carrier at Mountjoy then postman in Belfast, and Rebecca became sub-postmistress of Mountjoy after Nathaniel’s death in 1887. When Rebecca married in 1907, she gave up her job as postmistress, and the Post Office at Mountjoy moved to its present premises on the main Omagh to Derry road.

Initially, the activities of a rural post office were quite limited and confined to dealing in postage stamps, money orders and services such as book post and pattern post. By 1861 the services had diversified considerably to include the Post Office Savings Bank. Other new services included the telegraph – telegraph companies were nationalised in 1870 and subsequently brought under Post Office control. Dog licences were introduced in 1871; ten years later postal orders were first issued; and in 1883 parcel post started. A rural post office such as Mountjoy would also have displayed notices giving details of the departure dates of mail ships to America. Between the years 1851 and 1901, when Nathaniel Maginnis and his family ran Mountjoy Post office, almost 135,500 people emigrated from Tyrone. Their letters home were a vital link between families and loved ones.

The Wilson House, near Strabane, County Tyrone, is claimed to be the ancestral homestead of James Wilson, grandfather of President Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President of the United States of America. This house, owned by the Ulster American Folk Park, is maintained in its original setting in the townland of Dergalt, two miles out of Strabane on the Plumbridge Road. It is open to the public from 2pm to 5pm, Tuesday to Sunday inclusive, during July, August and the beginning of September. James Wilson was a printer by trade. He emigrated to America in 1807. In time he became a prominent newspaperman, working on the Democratic newspaper the ‘Aurora’, the ‘Western Herald and Steubenville Gazette’, before founding the ‘Pennsylvania Advocate’. By 1816, James was involved in politics and served in the Ohio Legislature from 1816 to 1817. Although not a lawyer, he was a judge of the Court of Common Pleas, and because of this, he was known in later life as ‘Judge Wilson’. James Wilson married Ann Adams in Philadelphia in 1808. They had ten children, the youngest of whom, Joseph Ruggles, was born in Steubenville in 1822. He became a Presbyterian minister and married Jessie Woodrow from Carlisle, England. Their third child grew up to become President Woodrow Wilson. The Wilson house at Dergalt was one of a cluster of farmhouses. It was extended in the 1800s with the addition of a byre to the lower part of the house, and a separate stable. The central upper storey with a slate roof was probably added at the end of the 19th century. Access to the upper level is by fixed wooden steps leading though the half loft floor at one end of the kitchen. There is a bed outshot or alcove on the back wall of the kitchen, close to the hearth. The room to the left of the house is furnished as a bedroom and parlour. Two beds are placed end to end against the back wall, allowing them to be curtained off from each other and the rest of the room.

The McKinley House is the ancestral house of William McKinley, American President 1897 – 1901. The house was substantial for its time, measuring 52ft by 20ft, with five rooms downstairs and at least two in a full loft upstairs, reached by a small permanent staircase in the kitchen. President McKinley’s great-great-grandfather James McKinley emigrated from Conagher, Ballymoney to America around 1743. William McKinley fought in the American Civil War and was the last Civil War veteran to become President. He was assassinated in the first year of his second term in office. He was shot and fatally wounded at Buffalo's Pan-American exposition, and died eight days later. In the early 1900s, American souvenir hunters would buy objects from the house to take back to America. Robert Welch (who was later commissioned to take the official pictures of the construction of Titanic) photographed it around 1902. He noted on the back of one print ‘A model of this house was erected at the St. Louis Exhibition, and I helped our Railway Engineer to buy its entire contents - even the tiles of the floor, doors, panels, turf grate, etc. etc., which we sent out to the St. Louis house.’ These were sent to St Louis where a replica of the house featured in the 1904 World Fair. Then in 1908 the house was stripped again of any remaining wooden fittings including the rafters and floor boards. They were taken to London to recreate the McKinley house as part of an exhibit village, ‘Ballymaclinton’, reconstructed as part of the Franco-British Exhibition of 1908. The house at that point was substantially reconstructed and newspaper reports of the time state that the occupants were living in a much improved dwelling for which they were grateful to the organisers of the London exhibition. This dwelling subsequently fell into disrepair and was reused as an agricultural store with window and door openings substantially modified. By the time the National Trust put a plaque on the wall of this farm store to mark it as a presidential homestead in 1963 it was not recognisable as the house photographed by Robert Welch in the early 1900s.

The manufacture of linen cloth from locally grown flax was well established in the north of Ireland by the mid eighteenth century. It operated as a domestic industry, which meant that much of the spinning and most of the weaving was done in the homes of the cottiers and small farmers. Linen manufacture often supplemented agriculture and made the growing population less dependent on land. In some areas there was an over-dependence on the income from linen sales and fluctuation in the prices of the woven cloth sometimes increased the flow of emigrants to the New World. Many homes throughout the Ulster countryside were therefore dual-purpose dwellings. In such homes a room was laid aside for the handloom on which to weave linen. It was here that the man of the house would spend the long evenings weaving, while his wife spun the flax fibres into yarn and his children carded and combed the flax in preparation for the spinning wheel. Weavers’ cottages had to be clean and well lit because linen was easily spoiled by soot. This particular cottage, a replica of a weaver’s house, has three rooms. The middle room houses the handloom. There is only one bedroom hence the need for the settle bed in the kitchen for children or an elderly relative to sleep in. At present, wool spinning and weaving are demonstrated in this house.


Audio Part 2

Old shopfronts, and the contents of shops themselves, give a fascinating glimpse into what people bought, where they were employed, how businesses were run and who was who in society. These beautifully restored shopfronts, from locations throughout Ulster, recreate the commercial and social life of a typical Ulster town in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In so doing, they capture a time and a way of life that has largely gone. This recreated street, Ulster Street, features a unique collection of original wooden Victorian shop fronts, which were replaced during a phase of modernisation of various towns and villages in Ulster in the 1980s. The shopfronts have been gathered from five of Ulster’s nine counties: Antrim, Cavan, Fermanagh, Londonderry and Tyrone.

The bookseller, stationer and printer, R J Blair, opened this printing establishment in the late 1870s. It stood in Strabane, across the street from Gray’s printing shop. By 1892, R J Blair’s boasted a wide variety of retail interests. As well as operating as a printer, stationer, newsagent, and bookseller, the shop sold toys and fancy ware, birthday cards, toilet soap, perfumes, dyes, melodians and concertinas, walking sticks, photo and scrap albums and religious books. Blair’s was also the sole outlet in Strabane for the regional newspaper, the Derry Sentinel. A decade earlier, however, Blair’s business had been less diversified and much more closely associated with printing activities alone, as described in the 1883 Derry Almanac: ‘Every description of printing executed with neatness and despatch, and at the lowest remunerative cost. Photo albums, scrap albums, purses and pocket books, oleographs, Marcus Ward & Co.’s birthday cards, in all the latest designs; chromo views of English, Irish and Scotch scenery; grotesque, old-fashioned, Royal Academy of Arts, Aesthetic, and Royal Irish Linen stationery; date racks, menu tablets, inkstands, photo frames, oleographs, pens, pencils, rulers, copy books, slates, writing ink, marking ink, ledgers.’

Hill's Chemist was established in Castle Street, Strabane between 1870 and 1885, the business of J Hill and Co. was listed under “Apothecaries and Druggists” and continued to operate as a chemist shop until the late 1980's. As well as the shopfront, the shop’s original fittings and furnishings were preserved intact. They have been used to reinstate the interior of J Hill & Co. as it was around 1900. Hill’s Chemist at the Ulster American Folk Park offers an insight into the day-to-day life of an Ulster pharmacist of the 1900s. With no health service, this important establishment was sometimes the only accessible and affordable source of healthcare for many as doctors cost money! James Hill lived and worked in his chemist shop in Strabane, from where he provided much needed advice to customers on their ailments and complaints. Like other chemists at this time, he made his own pills using a mahogany and brass pill-making machine and cutter. Medicinal powders had the disadvantage that many of them had an unpleasant taste. So the ingredients were mixed in a pill mortar with liquorice powder and some liquid glucose to form a firm but pliable mass. This was then rolled into lengths and placed on the lower brass grooves of the pill machine. The two-handled cutter was then pushed to and fro making spherical pills. The final shape of the pill was achieved by rolling them on a tile under a boxwood rounder. As a young child Anna Holden, James Hill’s granddaughter, remembers how the trainee chemists in her grandfather’s shop would tell her that they were making ‘hobgoblins’ possibly to stop her thinking the pills they were making were sweets! Some of the cures these pills claimed to treat might be based more often on luck than science, as many of the ingredients found on a Victorian chemist’s shelf would not be prescribed today but looked upon with horror.

The green fluted ‘shop round’ was important, these elegantly designed bottles had a functional purpose. They were displayed for all to see on the shelves of the chemist shop and were used to store ingredients. Green glass bottles with moulded vertical lines were used for poisons; the ribbing was a warning that it contained liquid not to be taken orally. In an era of softer lighting this made these fluted bottles a lot easier to identify at a touch. If the pharmacist or his assistant was in a hurry they were less likely to make a mistake! By 1900 larger sheets of plate window glass were available enabling James Hill to make an attractive window display. His shop window was greatly admired, ‘...brilliantly illuminated at night by gaslight’, the shop window display of bottles were ‘placed there regardless of cost’. Contemporary Strabane newspaper. When literacy levels were low the distinct shape of the pear shaped carboy helped people to come to the right place in an emergency. The carboys in the window of Hill’s chemist were probably originally used to store wine or rosewater for medicinal purposes. By the 1900s they were filled with coloured water and used as purely decorative items. The elegant shape of the carboy even today is a recognised symbol of the chemist. Some historians believe that they became more important during outbreaks of the plague in the 1600s. People needed to reach pharmacists quickly and literacy levels were low, the carboys were used as a guide.

Hill's Chemist Shop

Hill's Chemist Shop

Murray's Drapery Shop

Murray's Drapery Shop

The Ulster American Folk Park’s pawnbroker shopfront came from Toberwine Street, Glenarm, County Antrim. This attractive little shopfront was typical of small provincial shops in Ulster in the late 1800s. The style is repeated time after time in town scenes captured by the Lawrence photographic collection. His late 19th century photograph of lower Toberwine Street in Glenarm includes this shopfront. Now restored as a pawnbrokers, it has wood-block letters bearing the name J. Devlin, a Belfast pawnbroker of the mid-1800s.

Saddler's, Co Cavan. This original shopfront was acquired from Stonewall between Bailieboro and Virginia, near the Cavan-Longford border in south county Cavan. It had been run as a general store by the Weir family from 1930. Before that it was a grocery store run by a Mrs Cruickshank (nee Gray) of Lisball, Bailieboro. The property was also a forge at one time. The shop is typical of many in the Bailieboro area and reflects a style popular throughout Ulster in the late 1800s. Its interior fittings were the contents of a complete saddlery, once the workplace of Joe McMaster, Saddler, Newtownstewart, County Tyrone.

The old grocery/tavern from Main Street, Newtownbutler, County Fermanagh, was built in 1820 by John Reilly, a stonemason from nearby Ballyconnell in County Cavan. John Reilly also built the Lanesborough Arms Hotel adjoining the tavern, and Newtownbutler’s courthouse and markethouse. The tavern was subsequently owned by John Reilly’s sons, John and Philip. In 1856, Philip Reilly was listed in trades directories as a grocer, wine and spirit dealer and hotel proprietor. He died at an early age and the property eventually passed to Rose Reilly, who managed both the tavern and the adjoining hotel until about 1956, when the hotel became a private dwelling. The last owner of the building, Mr McCormack, is a great grandson of the builder, John Reilly. He was able to supply the grocery/tavern’s original account books dating from the 1860s to the early 1900s. Several of these are displayed in the museum’s pub/grocery exhibition. These ledgers offer a unique insight into the daily routine of a grocery shop in this part of Ulster from the post famine period through to the advent of the motor car.

W.G. O'Doherty's Shop, City of Derry. Once a famous landmark in Derry, these Bishop Street premises were opened in 1871 as a grocery and public house. Although known for a period as the ‘China Tea Shop’, the premises were recognised by the local population simply as ‘W.G.’s’, after the owner, W.G. O’Doherty. William George O’Doherty was born in 1840. His family lived at Ballymagroarty just two miles outside Derry. His father must have been fairly well off. He was able to give each of his sons a good education and send his son John Keys O’Doherty into the priesthood. John later became the bishop of Derry. James was trained up to be a solicitor. William George (W.G.) was educated at Samuel MacQuilken’s Classical and Commercial Academy at the Mall Wall in Derry. He went to work for the firm of O’Neill and McHenry in Derry before starting his own business around the age of thirty. W.G. took over the premises at Bishop Street in 1871. The original shop front now forms part of the Ulster American Folk Park Ulster Street. The sign over the shop claims that it was established in 1869, but it was occupied by a Joseph Monteith at that point. The shop was leased from James Sherrad who had run it as an agricultural machinery supplier prior to Joseph Monteith. The Derry Almanac of 1873 lists the shop as a grocer’s, guano merchant and publican run by W.G. O’Doherty. Imported from South America, guano is seabird excrement used as fertilizer. By 1883 the guano side of the business had been dropped and the business is described as a grocer’s, wine and spirit merchant and publican. By 1887, W.G. is also listed as a wholesale grocer. By 1893 he has added the bottling of ale to his business interests. All of these businesses were carried out at the same location on Bishop Street/Society Street. The premises ran for some way behind the grocer’s shop. The public house was directly behind the grocer’s. There was a yard for storage and the bottling of the ale. W.G. married Ellen around 1873 and they had 11 children of which 10 were still living in 1911. The family lived over the premises. W.G. died in 1895 aged 55. He left an estate worth in total £10,000 but it is not known how much debt was also there. Ellen, his widow, was still living over the shop in 1901 but had moved to another house close by before 1911. She died in 1925. Edward Henry was W.G. and Ellen’s eldest son and seems to have run the business along with his younger brother, named John Keys after his uncle, and their mother. The Will of the father suggests that the executors should keep a close eye on how Edward ran the business as he was only 20 at the time. W.G.’s seems to have expanded under Edward and his brother as they took on another premises in the Strand Road by 1905.

In 1920 they set up a limited company but it folded in 1924 seeming to have lost money. Edward died in 1935 by which time the business was being managed by Joseph Toland. He eventually bought out the business but continued to trade under the name of W.G. O’Doherty. The site has been rebuilt and turned back into a public house which still bears the name of W.G. John Keys, W.G. and Ellen’s second son, was born in 1880. He married Mary around 1910, and worked alongside Edward in the family business. He became involved in the Irish Volunteers who along with the Irish Citizens Army and Cumann na mBan staged the Easter Rebellion in Dublin.There was supposed to be a similar uprising in Derry. Volunteers were to be mobilised in the early hours of Easter Sunday. At 6.00am they got an order from Belfast to stand down and await further orders. John Keys was eventually arrested and tried in 1921 for the possession of banned speeches. He was released in 1924. He left the country and went to Canada where he opened a grocer’s shop but he eventually settled in New York. Across the street from WG O’Doherty’s is Murray’s Drapery Shop, another new addition to Ulster Street where visitors can now browse it’s beautiful textile collections.

During the 1830s and 1840s, Richard Murray had a rope and twine making business in Irish Street, Dungannon. It was difficult to find premises for this activity, because it required a weatherproof building with one open side and at least one hundred yards of open ground along which the lengthening manufactured rope could be laid out. In expanding towns, the ropemaker’s property would gradually become enclosed by development. This meant that on maps, the businesses would be clearly identifiable by a long undeveloped garden or strip of open ground, generally as narrow as the associated dwelling or shop which fronted the town street, and in some cases 300 yards long. Richard Murray’s business in Irish Street, Dungannon, was taken over between 1846 and 1856 by David Reynolds. It would appear from trades directories that there was a break in production around the early 1850s – the period during which Richard Murray closed down and David Reynolds reopened the business. Reynolds continued to manufacture rope throughout the 1860s and into the 1870s. The remains of this very old shopfront were restored and rebuilt for inclusion in the museum's Ulster Street. The original rope-making machinery associated with Dungannon rope works is displayed in the ropemaker’s shop.

Doctor's Surgery, Enniskillen. The original Georgian doorway and fanlight of this building came from Darling Street, Enniskillen. In the 1840s, this was the Harley Street of Enniskillen, where nine of the town’s eleven practicing doctors and surgeons were located. It has the appearance of a typical late Georgian provincial town house, with Victorian alterations to the windows and is typical of the premises in which a doctor, architect or solicitor would have practiced in the nineteenth century. The interior of this building is currently being used as a workshop area by their historic costume maker and is accessible to staff only.

William Murray, a farmer’s son, was born in 1857 in County Armagh. In 1883 he married Louisa McKee from Banbridge. William and Louisa had nine children, eight survived to adulthood. William, a draper by trade, opened a shop in Moy County Tyrone. Two downstairs rooms in the Murray family home in Killyman Street were made into one with an iron column added where the supporting wall was removed. Large plate glass windows with an entrance ‘foyer’ were also added allowing plenty of space for drapery display. By 1910, William was selling groceries along with drapery goods, and through the lifetime of the shop, the family continued to sell this mixture of goods. An inventory of the contents of the shop in 1925 reveals a wide and varied collection of drapery goods and fabric; tweeds, suiting, flannel, corduroy, serge, costume and blouse cloth. William also stocked a good supply of undergarments for men, women and children and did a busy trade in boots, shoes and corsets. The grocery end was basic; sugar, tea, flour and sundries. The late 1800s/ early 1900s was a period of transition in retail. Beforehand, customers would have gone to a shoemaker for shoes, hatmaker for hats and so on. Now, shopkeepers were beginning to buy in ready-made goods to sell. William traded with a variety of manufactures and merchants in Belfast and England and when he died in 1920s he had considerable debt outstanding to these suppliers.

William’s last will and testament of 1923 appointed his wife Louisa and his daughters Emily and Florence (Florrie) as his Executors. His son Henry in New York received the sum of £100 and his daughter Mary Sarah, who trained as a teacher and emigrated to Canada, the sum of £50. Another son, Joseph who had also emigrated to Canada was left the sum of £300. Joseph served for Canada in WW1, was gassed and returned to Ireland to be cared for by his parents. He worked as a milk inspector in the Moy area. In September 1912 William and Louisa were also part of the huge public movement in defiance of the British government, which wished to impose Home Rule. Their signatures can be found on the Ulster Covenant, signed by William and Louisa. After William’s death his wife Louisa took over the running of the shop and was followed by daughters Emily and Florrie.The shop remained open until 1979. Murray’s original shopfront was taken into UAFP in 1985, and a copy rebuilt on the original site in Moy. The shop in Moy opened again in 1990, trading as Field and Stream, and is still open today now trading as ‘Nutmeg Treasures’, a gift shop.


The Dockside Gallery is where the journey to America begins. Here you can imagine what it must have been like for Irish immigrants as they boarded the ship to the New World. The life size scaled ship gives a grim interpretation of the conditions aboard the ship. Lying in the dock is a reconstruction of an early nineteenth century ‘brig’ modelled on the Brig Union which carried older members of the Mellon family to Baltimore in 1816, two years before Thomas Mellon and his parents emigrated. The brig was a two-masted square-rigged sailing vessel measuring approximately 100 feet (30.5 metres) long. Always at the mercy of winds and weather, she could take anything from six to twelve weeks to reach the east coast of North America.

Fares varied, usually about £4 in the early - mid 19th century, although there are references to fares of £10 and over. Conditions on board were far from comfortable. As many as 200 people and their belongings could be squeezed as steerage passengers into the “tween decks’ area. Much of the atmosphere of the ship’s interior has been re-created - the sounds of creaking timbers, the foul smells of the emigrants’ living quarters, the roughly-constructed berths, and the sparse cooking facilities. After a short time below, the fresh air of the upper deck is very welcome. Here can be seen the ‘galley’ or ‘caboose’ where the main meals were cooked; the ship’s wheel on the ‘poop’ deck; and the windlass for winding in the anchor.

Bridge Street, Londonderry. This building from the 1700s was originally situated in Bridge Street, Londonderry, on the west bank of the River Foyle. It was dismantled, transported and re-erected in the dockside gallery at the Ulster American Folk Park in 1988. Great Georges St, Belfast. This building from the early 1800s originally stood in Great Georges Street, Belfast, adjacent to Ritchie’s dock, which is now Corporation Square. It was dismantled, transported and re-erected in the dockside gallery at the Ulster American Folk Park in 1988.


After spending up to twelve weeks crammed in the "tween decks" of the emigrant ship such as the brig Union, emigrants would have finally found themselves at one of America's busy ports. The American street recreated at the Ulster American Folk Park is typical of what the emigrants would have discovered.

The American general store was a basic part of the economy of the early community. As emigrants flocked to the New World, the store provided a source of goods to isolated settlements. The general store was much more than that - it provided a market for local farm surplus which was used to barter for items sold in the store. It was also a source of long-term credit with most accounts only being paid once a year when the harvest was over. The general store was the centre of the town’s social life and was a feature of American life for over two centuries. The variety of merchandise was tremendous: dry goods, grocery, general hardware. Bacon, eggs, chickens, tallow, flaxseed, dried apples and buckwheat flour are just a sample of items taken in trade. Items for sale included ploughs, coffee, molasses, shoe strings, maple sugar, tobacco, tinware, axes and cradle scythes. The dry goods counter of the general store would have been heaped with yard goods, shirting, ticking, ribbons, buttons, thread, pins, needles and tape. In addition to hardware, dry goods and food there were numerous miscellaneous items in stock: books, stationery, postcards, pens, pencils, candles, mirrors, scissors, gunpowder, lanterns and splint baskets which hung on the walls or from the ceiling.

The Pattison family, from County Tyrone, emigrated to Connecticut about 1740. According to family tradition Edward Pattison’s father had wanted to move his family to America but became ill and died. Their mother had presumably died earlier for she is not mentioned in any family document. Edward Pattison appears to have emigrated first in the 1730’s and then returned to Ireland about 1740 to bring the rest of his family to America, including his brother William and sister Anna. It is likely that Edward had some training in Ireland or England, perhaps as a pewterer’s apprentice. He established a small business in tin manufacture in Berlin, Connecticut. At first, the Pattisons travelled throughout the countryside selling their tinware as peddlers. Edward Pattison died in 1787 and the business was taken over by his sons Edward Junior and Shubael. Edward Junior died in 1809 and Shubael continued in the business until his death in 1828. Tin was imported from England and South Wales in the early years. In fact very little tinplate was produced in America until the early 1900’s. Pattisons contains an exhibition showing examples of tinware from the museum’s collection and a display of tinsmithing equipment.

Audio Part 3

One of the buildings on the 'American Street' is a replica of the first Mellon Bank. Thomas Mellon established his bank on January 1st, 1870, at Smithfield Street in Pittsburgh. The style of this building is earlier than this date, thus indicating that it was not purpose-built to house the bank. The frontage of the building is based on an artist’s impression painted 40 years later in 1910. This bank was only occupied for 1 1/2 years. It then moved to downtown Pittsburgh.


Many of the Ulster folk who emigrated to America in the 17th and 18th centuries brought building skills and ideas with them from Ireland. They also adapted their ideas to meet the demands of their new environments and to utilise the building resources at hand. These influences and adaptations are reflected in the houses which have been carefully brought back from America and rebuilt at the Ulster American Folk Park.

The Tennessee Plantation House was the home of Francis Rogan. His father Hugh was born on 15 September 1747 in the Parish of Urney, close to the town of Strabane in County Tyrone. In 1773, he married local girl Ann ‘Nancy’ Duffy and they had a son Bernard. In 1775 Hugh left Nancy and his son in Ireland and went to America. Hugh was a weaver by trade. After working at various jobs he joined an expedition down the Cumberland River to identify new lands in the unknown western region which later became Tennessee. Unfortunately he got caught up in the American War of Independence and was unable to return to Ulster for some considerable time. Eventually he brought his wife Nancy and his now 22 year old son, Bernard, back to his Sumner County farm in Tennessee. On 14 September 1798, Nancy gave birth to Hugh’s second son Francis. Around 1825, Francis built this brick plantation house. Francis married Martha Read in 1831 and went on to have about nine children. On the death of his mother in 1838, Francis assumed full control of the property. In 1860 the value of his real estate was calculated for tax purposes at $46,660. His personal property, including 71 slaves, was valued at a further $46,030.

The Fulton Stone House was the home of Samuel Fulton who emigrated from County Donegal in Ireland in the early 1700s to settle in the township of Donegal Springs in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. At that time Donegal Springs was a remote frontier outpost inhabited mainly by settlers from west Ulster. Between 1725 and 1750, Samuel Fulton built this one and half storey stone house, using the field stones he found on his land, a method of building with which he had been familiar in Ireland. The Fulton family, like many others, owned livestock and grew a variety of crops such as wheat, flax and rye. Their diet would also have included wild game and native fruits and vegetables, which were plentiful in the area. Samuel Fulton's holding of 309 acres, known as Fulton's Pleasure, passed to his son James after his death in 1760. The Fulton family continued to occupy the land at East Donegal until 1778, when it was sold to David Cooke. The Folk Park acquired the Fulton Stone House in 1997. It was dismantled, stone by stone, before being shipped to the museum, where it has since been re-erected and furnished with artifacts appropriate to its period.

Fulton Stone House

Fulton Stone House

Log Cabin

Log Cabin

In April 1819 the Mellons purchased their first farm ‘in a remote and unfrequented part of the country”. The only building on the property was a small log cabin in which the family lived until such times as they had cleared their mortgage. Building a good log cabin took weeks of hard labour since it involved felling the trees, clearing away the brush and preparing the site. Once this was accomplished however, a cabin could be erected in a day with the help of neighbours ‘cabin raising’. The cabins were constructed of logs cut to the appropriate length and notched so that they fitted into each other at the corners. The crevices between the logs were filled in [chinked] with clay or mud mixed with stones and animal hair and sometimes this filling was coated with lime mortar. The doors were of hewn wooden planks pegged together and hung on wooden or leather hinges.

The log cabin reproduced in the Folk Park is similar to that in which the Mellons made their first home in America. Consisting of two rooms with one outside door and two windows, it had an upper floor or loft and a roof of wooden shingles. The fireplace was stone lined with a wooden chimney in the middle of the house plastered over with clay mortar. The floor was of logs split in two and planed on the flat side with an adze. For many settlers such log cabins became life-long homes but for the more ambitious they were only intended as temporary dwellings for as long as it would have taken them to accumulate the money and tools to construct a more permanent home. The cabins were often extremely cramped, housing all the furniture and cooking equipment that whole families had brought from the East.

The Pennsylvania Farmhouse is an exact replica of the six-room dwelling lived in by Thomas Mellon and his family.The original house still stands to this day in the town of Export, Pennsylvania. This log farmhouse is typical of those constructed by permanent settlers in the New World. The technique of log construction used in the log cabin is repeated but here the logs are completely hewn or 'squared' and are more tightly fitted to prevent rain from seeping in. The greater size and more finished appearance of the Pennsylvania farmhouse in comparison to the log cabin were not the only indications of the increasing prosperity of the Mellon family. The contents of the house offered further proof that the primitive lifestyle of the cabin was giving way to something more civilised.

Abraham and Nancy (née Glasgow) Cunningham emigrated from Ireland and in 1810 arrived near Bakerstown in West Deer Township, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, where they purchased 200 acres of land. Like many other Irish settlers, they were attracted to the area by its low taxes and large tracts of farmland. This one-and-half story Spring house was part of the Cunningham Farmstead. It has an overshot roof and dates from approximately 1840. It was constructed of poplar, pine and oak hand-hewn logs. A spring flowed through a sandstone arch adjacent to the springhouse and into the headwaters of Deer Creek. Marie Alexandrunas and the Donald Dillner family donated the house to the Ulster American Folk Park in December, 1999.

The Western Pennsylvania Log House has a well-documented history that reflects the experiences of a pioneer family in the early American frontier. Between 1766 and 1769, Everhart Hupp settled in the north side of Tenmile Creek, not far from the Monongahela River in south-western Pennsylvania. According to family tradition, Everhart and his brothers were of German descent and his wife, Margaret Thomas, was reputedly the first white woman to settle west of the Monongahela River. A grandson, Uriah, married Marinda Cox in 1851 and lived with their twelve children in this log house, which was built on land belonging to Marinda's father. One son, Benjamin Franklin Hupp, married Clara D. Kelley, whose family had emigrated from Armagh in 1719. The museum has four patchwork quilts in its collection that belonged to Marinda's granddaughter, Anna, the last owner of the house

Richard McCallister, a farmer, built his house in 1827 in Cabell County, West Virginia, to house his growing family. Richard was born about 1792 in Bath County, Virginia. His grandfather James was born between 1725 and 1730 in Pennsylvania or Ulster. ‘McCallister’ is a distinctly Ulster name, mostly found in County Antrim. Richard’s father acquired land in Cabell County in 1804, and in 1805-1806 moved with his family from Bath County to Cabell County. Richard married his first wife, Sarah Nickell, a cousin, in February 1814 in Monroe County, West Virginia. The marriage was performed by Reverend William Adair. Their first child who survived to adulthood, Isaac Preston McCallister, was born in February 1816 in Cabell County. Richard and Sarah built their house in 1827 in the hills along Tyler Creek using materials that were to hand – pine trees and local sandstone. Tyler Creek is near the town of Salt Rock, Cabell County, in the westernmost reaches of West Virginia close to the Ohio border. Richard was a farmer. The forested hills around the house and pockets of cleared, cultivated land provided food for the family and their livestock. They may have grown corn and flax, and tended cattle, sheep, and hogs. The house was doubled in size soon after 1827 and better accommodated the growing McCallister family.

In 1830, the McCallisters lived in the house with eight children - three under five, two aged between five and ten, and three between ten and fifteen. Other surnames recorded amongst neighbours in the area in the 1830 Census include McComas, McClasky, Miller, Moore, Morrison, Moses and Murrey. In 1853, about 25 years after the house was built the County purchased the McCallister property for use as the Cabell County Poor Farm. According to tradition, after they sold their farm Richard and several of his grown up children and their families moved westwards to Arkansas. Richard returned to Tyler Creek. Richard married his second wife Cynthia McCallister, a daughter of a cousin, in February 1857. They had at least five children. According to the 1860 US Census, Richard could read and write, owned land and property to the value of $1,000, and personal belongings to the value of $200. Richard died in June 1867 aged 75. He was buried in Enon Cemetery, a quarter of a mile from the house he built in 1827. The house on the poor farm was extended in the early 1900s. One of the pens of Richard’s house was removed. The other – the part now reconstructed at the museum – was incorporated into the north end of the new structure and preserved. Cabell County Poor Farm remained open at Tyler Creek until 1929. Clenon Ray describes his great-great-grandfather Richard’s legacy, ‘Richard McCallister’s contribution to the area is leaving a large trace of blood relatives.’ Lambert describes the people of the Tyler Creek area, ‘It is not necessary to lock smokehouses there. Honesty, fearlessness and godliness reign supreme. Few communities in this whole country can boast of so many men and women of strong outstanding character’.


In the pre-industrial Ireland of the 1700s and 1800s, most Irish society was largely made up of farmers and local trades-people, living together in small towns and villages. Local crafts and tradespeople played a vital part in manufacturing and delivering the goods and services that folks required.

Blacksmithing was a skilled occupation. As well as shoeing horses, making tools and equipment was an important aspect of the trade. As with other crafts, the number of blacksmiths peaked in the 1800s. Population and industry were rising and most products were locally made. However, as mass produced iron goods displaced local products, and the combustion engine replaced the horse, the blacksmith’s business steadily declined. When you visit the Ulster American Folk Park you may see a costumed guide demonstrating this lost skill in the forge.

Coopering is the art of making barrels. There were dry or wet coopers. Wet coopering required more skill as the barrels had to be water tight. The craft employed many people in the 1700s and 1800s as all liquids were moved in barrels, along with many dry agricultural products. The trade declined in the 1900s with mass production of cheaper vessels. Each branch of industry had its own standard measure of barrels. For example, a hogshead of whiskey held 55 gallons, while a hogshead of brandy held 60 gallons. A croze was a tool used to cut a groove, also known as the croze, around the inside of the staves of a barrel, to take the head pieces. On display is a croze stem or post, length 28cm, which would have fitted into a large semicircular piece of wood called the fence. The cutting iron, contained within a brass guard, is saw-tooth shaped with a hooked hawksbill-shaped router tooth at one end to tidy up the cut.

In the 1800s, as road transport links were improved and horse traffic increased, saddle and harness making in Ireland reached a peak of production. But increasing use of cars and tractors steadily reduced demand for this craft. There were two parallel traditions of harness making, a quality approach for the gentry which survives today, and a more rustic approach for small farmers which died out. The small farmer would have used harness made from twisted straw and bits of wood.

Poor children commonly had no shoes, but labourers needed shoes to perform manual work, so the art of making shoes was a local trade until the early 1800s. But from the 1830s, mass produced shoes from English factories started to dominate the market. Cobblers could not compete with the imports and had either to make high quality shoes for a limited market or offer repairs for the mass produced shoes.

As with other trades, the wheelwright’s business expanded to meet increasing transport demands of the early 1800s, only then to be faced with competition of mass production as the century progressed. The wheel took much skill to produce. It is not a simple flat circle of wood but a complex dished shape, designed to allow the stresses and pressure put upon its shape by uneven road surfaces to be absorbed by its structure. Each element of the wheel requires a different wood; elm for the hub, oak for the spokes and ash for the felloes (outside of the wheel). The whole structure is held together by an iron tyre.

Clay pipes for smoking tobacco are among the most common objects to be found in archaeological digs and ploughed fields. Clay pipes have been manufactured for over four hundred years. A clay-pipe works is recorded as being in Belfast’s Winetavern Street (then called Pipe Lane), in 1812. The white clay used to make these pipes came from Devonshire. It was kneaded and rolled roughly into the size and shape of a pipe. An iron needle was then inserted into the stem and the bowl end roughly bent into position. The clay was then pressed into an iron mould and the whole lot passed through a press. The bowl of the pipe was hollowed out using a 'stopper'. The rough upper part of the bowl was cut off clean while still in the mould. The pipe was then removed from the mould and any roughness trimmed off by girls using a knife. In good weather, the pipes were laid out in the sun for partial drying, after which they were carefully packed in 'saggers', the stems pointing towards the centre and inclined downwards. The 'saggers' were placed in a kiln and heated for hours.

Pipes from the Belfast works were sent to all parts of Ulster. They were easily broken, so demand for them enormous. An average smoker may have used four pipes a week. Women pipe-smokers were common in Ireland and the fumigatory effects of tobacco were believed to be valuable. It was thought that sick animals could be cured by having tobacco smoke blown up their nostrils. The conflict between smokers and non-smokers developed early. The anti-smoking lobby had influential leaders, including two Popes, Urban VII and Innocent XII, who were prepared to excommunicate smokers. In the 1600s, some countries forbade smoking under pain of death. However, these extreme methods of discouragement had little effect. The introduction of the briar pipe in the late nineteenth century sounded the death knell for pipes made from clay. The industry declined further as cigarettes became more popular.


So often it is the mundane bric-a-brac of everyday life that reveals much about how people actually lived their daily lives. The chairs they sat in, the lamps they used to light their homes, the wardrobes they hung their clothes in – all these items have a human resonance with the individuals and families who used them. What’s more, today we live in an age of disposable consumerism. But the fact that these items have survived intact for 100 years or more is a testament to the skill and craftsmanship of the people who made them.

The Ulster American Folk Park’s furniture collection consists of pieces typically found in rural areas in Ulster and the eastern coast of the United States of America from the late 1700s to the 1920s. Ranging from large dressers and presses to fine chairs and work tables, roughly hewn benches to exquisitely painted blanket chests, the collection represents the work of local craftspeople in predominantly rural areas. Amongst manyexhibits is a dry sink made from wood and decorated with a stencilled design. There is one dovetailed drawer with an ornate metal pull handle to the left of the unit. The drawer is divided into two compartments. The measurements of the dry sink are: length 115cm, breadth 51cm, height 79cm. It came from Adamstown, Pennsylvania and was probably made between 1880 to 1890. This dry sink is on display in the kitchen of the Western Pennsylvania House.

Whaling was a major source of income in north eastern America from the late 1700s to the 1860s, and whale oil lamps were widely produced from the early 1800s. Whale oil was usually obtained from the blubber of the Greenland right whale. The more expensive sperm oil, used mostly in public halls and on naval vessels, was extracted from the head of the sperm whale. Crude oil, found in sedimentary rocks, was discovered in large quantities in Pennsylvania in the late 1850s. Separated from crude oil by distillation, paraffin, also known as kerosene, became the favoured fuel for lighting.


Emigration means leaving one's native country or region in order to settle in another. So while much of the Folk Park’s collections reflect factors that influenced people to emigrate from Ireland, the museum also has a growing collection of material directly related to the process of emigration. Amongst these exhibits is a passage receipt, the booking receipt for James Dougherty and wife and three children for passage ‘on the first of September next’ on board the Chance bound to Quebec on paying the sum of seven pounds and ten shillings to David Grainger, 16 Donegall Quay, Belfast, August 4th 1837, per Thomas Danaghy. The small type at the bottom of the document reads ‘Passengers will be particular in observing, that unless they attend in Belfast, on the day notice is given by public advertisement to be on board, their places may be filled, their deposits become forfeited, and they are held liable for the full sum of passage money entered in their tickets per agreement.’


Emigrant letters home to Ireland from America tell us that friends and family exchanged fashion ideas and even sent each other fabric samples. In 1814 Mary Cumming, originally from Lisburn, County Down wrote to her sister Margaret Craig back home in Ulster: 'There is a beautiful kind of silk to be got in this country called the French Levantine as soon as I have the opportunity I will send you and Rachel frocks of it for it is not to had with you'.

Men's Hobnail Boots

Men's Hobnail Boots

Women's Corset

Women's Corset

Examples from the comprehensive collection of women's clothing include a Quilted petticoat, from America, about 1850. This hand-stitched quilted silk petticoat was made for warmth. There is a thick layer of cotton wadding sandwiched between the green silk fabric and its brown checked silk lining. Heavier skirts such as this were pleated at the front and sides and gathered at the centre back. The petticoat hem is faced with tape to protect it from wear. A white printed cotton dress with leg of mutton sleeves from America 1830s, part of Ulster American Folk Park collection.Cotton dress, from United States of America, about 1830. This day dress is made from cotton printed with a delicate floral leaf pattern. This home-made dress followed the style of the time, combining large ‘leg-of-mutton’ sleeves, a dainty bodice pleated in a V-shape and high waistline. The large sleeves and wide skirt make the waist appear smaller. The dress would have been worn with a chemise, corset, petticoats and large sleeve pads filled with down.

Cotton dress, United States of America, about 1860. This dress is made from printed cotton and is hand-stitched. It has dropped shoulders, wide bishop sleeves and a full gathered skirt. The light brown colour on the dress would have originally been purple. Purple dyes used at this time were often ‘fugitive’, meaning they changed colour or faded quickly. The dress has been patched in numerous places to mend small tears and holes, evidence that it was much loved by the owner and saw many years of regular wear. Edwardian period dress, dating 1900 to 1905. Pouched front to bodice. Dress is in two pieces, with a separate bodice and skirt. Made from cotton muslin with lace yoke on bodice. Found in a roofspace in Dungannon, County Tyrone. Black woollen shawl, worn by Mrs. Elizabeth Sewell (Lizzie) from Tullynacross, Lisburn, County Antrim. The donor recalls visiting Lizzie in the 1940s, and remembers her sitting by the fire wearing this shawl and a tweed cap. Lizzie would have been in her late sixties at the time.

The Men's Clothing selection includes handknitted semmit and leggings. These came from a cottage on a smallholding in Doaghcrabbin townland, Fanad, County Donegal. They were found in a bag with 'cimet' written on the outside. They were made by Giley (Julia) McCarron, for her brother Eddie, from wool from their own sheep, which she spun herself. He was to be seen wearing this gear all his life, the long sleeves down below his shortsleeved shirt on warm days. A Man's single-breasted waistcoat. This is a beige cotton waistcoat with pink and maroon leaf print. Rolled collar. Two pockets at front. Five buttons at front to close. Back of waistcoat and lining made from plain white cotton. From Lifford, County Donegal.

The pair of hobnail boots belonged to George Walker. George worked on the Paget-Tomlinson estate in southern Cumbria, England. He was hired out at the age of fourteen. George was responsible for all the maintenance - buildings, dry stone walls, drains and offering advice to farmers. George was originally from the Lake District. He was one of 12 children, and the neighbouring farm belonged to Beatrix Potter. The original price of the boots was 39 shillings and 11 pence. George’s daughter, from Ballyclare, County Antrim, donated these boots to the museum collection.

The Children's Clothing collection includes a child's bodice, black satin with fringed half peplum. Boned centre front. Three tucks either side of centre. Nine hooks and eyes. From Lifford, County Donegal. 1835 - 1840's . A Child's cape, white cotton. White broderie anglaise fabric pleated into neckband. Broderie anglaise collar and white cotton tape ties. From County Tyrone. A child's overall or pinafore, white net. Lace trim around edge of large collar. Pintucks and lace at hem. Fastens with hooks and thread loops at back. From Fintona, County Tyrone. A child's overall or pinafore, Ulster American Folk Park collectionChild's overall or pinafore, white cotton. Insert lace with ring design on bodice and down front of skirt. Yellow ribbon insert on bodice. Broderie anglaise ruffles at armholes and pintucks at hem. Fastens with drawstring at back of neck. From Sion Mills, County Tyrone.

A baby's cap, cream satin with lace inserts and lace trim around edges. Cream satin ribbon tie at neck. An Infant's cap, cream satin with cream embroidery. and pintucks. Newspaper cutting accompanying cap reads 'Late on Monday night a sad burning fatality occurred at Leckpatrick, near Strabane, the victim being a child named McCorkell. It appears that the mother, the wife of a landsteward, was engaged in preparing food for calves, and the child, playing about, fell into a pail of boiling water. A doctor was sent for, and everything possible was done for the little sufferer, but death resulted yesterday morning. Much sympathy is felt for the parents, who are much respected in the district.' Newspaper cutting dates from early June 1917. This cap, and a coat, also in the museum collection, belonged to the child.


Moving from A to B hasn’t always been as simple as getting into a car and turning a key. For centuries, the main form of transportation was Shank’s Pony, ie the human foot. And while the wheel has been with us for some 5,550 years, it isn’t always best suited to the terrain of Ireland. That is why we see the development of such primitive but effective modes of transport as the slide car – an ideal solution for the movement of goods and people over wet, boggy ground.

American Civil War Buggy. This American Civil War buggy belonged to a priest from County Armagh. Father Arthur Michael McGinnis, born in 1835, was from Dorsey, County Armagh. He left Ireland in 1856 for Philadelphia, was ordained a Roman Catholic priest and sent to the small town of Gettysburg in 1861. Oral family history has it that Father McGinnis was called upon to give the last rites to a dying soldier in the Confederate camp outside Gettysburg. By the time he returned, the Battle of Gettysburg, which was to define the American Civil War, was about to start. Father McGinnis was the first to open his church to receive the dying and wounded from both sides in the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. Father McGinnis was transferred from Gettysburg in 1864 to Columbia, Pennsylvania, then to Danville, Pennsylvania, where he died in 1873 aged 38 from ‘apoplexy’ or stroke. The buggy, which pre-dates the American Civil War, was likely to have come into Father McGinnis’ ownership in his first parish.

Since Father McGinnis owned the buggy, it has moved down the generations through the family maternal line. Father McGinnis’ younger brother James also emigrated to America. He set up a funeral business. On his brother’s death, James inherited the buggy. James paid for passage to America for his nephews Arthur and James Mallie, sons of his sister. He brought them into his undertaking business. The two brothers inherited the business from their uncle James when he died in 1899. Arthur Mallie met his future wife, Ellen McKee, on a visit back to Newtownhamilton, County Armagh. They married and went back to Philadelphia but often returned to Ireland. When Arthur retired, around 1922, they returned to live in Armagh. He brought Father McGinnis’ buggy with him. Arthur never drove a motor car in Ireland and often was to be seen out in his buggy with his black horse called Beauty. After Arthur died in 1925, Ellen kept the buggy in a coach house. Ellen died in 1954 and her daughter Agnes O’Tierney (nee Mallie) and son Dr James Mallie donated the buggy to the Ulster Museum.

American Civil War Buggy

American Civil War Buggy

Irish Donkey Cart

Irish Donkey Cart

Conestoga wagons were the heavy lorries of their day, transporting people and goods across the face of America, and opening up its interior to trade and the modern world. The Conestoga type wagon was first built by German settlers in the Conestoga river valley region of Lancaster County, Eastern Pennsylvania, in the 1730s. German immigrants in the same area also gave us the Pennsylvanian long rifle and large wooden farm barns. The first Conestoga wagons, also known as Dutch wagons, were modified versions of English and German wagons. They differed from European wagons in that the wagon body was longer and deeper; the floor had a crosswise and lengthways sag in the middle, and both the front panel and rear door were slanted - a very useful feature on steep inclines. This slope was carried on into the supports for the cover. They developed initially as farm wagons for carrying loads of up to one ton. After 1750 they had become larger freight type wagons, and by 1830 they were capable of carrying up to 6 tons.

Unlike English farm wagons, Conestoga wagons took on a standard shape very early. English wagons showed great variety of forms, while in Ireland around 1750, the most usual form of distance transport was the block wheeled car. Conestoga wagons were first used by the army in Braddock's military campaign against the French in 1755 and later during the rest of the French and Indian War of 1755-61. They carried much equipment through the Appalachian hills to Fort Pitt which eventually became the town of Pittsburgh and saw considerable use during the War of Independence.

Conestoga wagons were well engineered. Every point of strain was reinforced by iron, and all rubbing parts were given iron plates. The frame and the floor beams were of white oak and the boards were of poplar. The hoops were made of hickory. At first the cover was made from hemp cloth, later flax tow cloth, and finally canvas, bound on the inside with iron strips riveted through the boards to the outside. The bed of the wagon was attached to the running gear at only three points - one over the centre of the front axle where the axle swivelled, and at two places over the back axle. Rather than being a simple box, the bed was a very flexible basket and was able to take the strains imposed on it by rough roads. Its curves may have been exaggerated to reflect the perception of beauty at the time. Similarly, much of the ironwork found on the wagons was decorated with various motifs. Pennsylvanian Dutch tulip, heart and birds-head designs were frequently used. The floorboards ran lengthways and the beams under the wagon bed extended beyond the side of the floor, with iron braces resting on them to prevent the sides bursting under load. Three pairs of chains, fastened in the middle by hooks, acted to stop the sides from being pushed out by the load. The front and rear overhang not only increased the carrying capacity without increasing the distance between the front and rear wheels, but also kept out the dust and rain and brought the load closer to the horses. The wheels were 12 feet apart - any wider and the wagons would have been very hard to turn. Smaller front wheels also made for easier turning.

Wheel hubs were made from the black gum or sour gum tree, as the interwoven grain of these trees does not split. Straight white oak was used for the spokes, and the felloes, which form the outer ring of the wheel, were also made from oak. In cross section the wheels were triangular, the strongest structural shape, and dished, so that pressure from the side would not cause them to buckle. A wagon on a rough road, with one side lifted higher than the other, would develop a huge sideways thrust on its lower wheels. The spokes on a dished wheel would press downwards against the heavy iron tyre, rather than buckle outwards. The wheels were mounted on a carefully shaped axle. It had a slight downward dip and was conical, but horizontal at the end to ensure that the hub did not rub against the lynch pin holding the wheel on the axle. This had the effect of slightly inclining the dished wheel away from the wagon, so that the spoke meeting the ground would be vertical, and transferring the weight of the wagon directly down the length of the spoke. Early wheels had iron tyres of several pieces, each the size of individual felloes. These were fitted to the wheels with spikes so that they overlapped the felloes. Later they were made with a single piece of iron heated and then cooled as it was fitted to the wheel. The end of the wooden axle was fitted with iron on the top and bottom where it fitted into the hub, but it was not encased in iron. The axle and axletree were made of white oak or hickory. The iron rubbing plate on the front axle, used to allow it to turn, was constantly greased.

Because the pull required to haul the wagon decreased as the size of the rear wheel increased, wheels were usually six feet wide for roadwork with a three-inch tread, and five feet wide with a five-inch tread for farm work. The front and rear axles were fitted to two triangular frameworks. The rear axle framework was joined to the front by a short coupling pole like the tongue that extended from the front axle that the horses pull on. This was a very strong but flexible assembly. The brake was operated by a large lever on the left. This operated a rocker bar which pulled a break beam that made contact with the tyres. This was a classic feature of later Conestoga wagons. Before this, wagoners relied on chopping down a heavy tree and tying it to the back of the wagon. All the running gear was painted red by the wagon makers, in common with other farm equipment. The bodies were normally painted blue. Iron work was painted black. The tar box was black, the feed box was blue, the bucket was red or unpainted with the owner's name, and the jack was marked with the maker's initials and date of manufacture. The wagon beds were stored at the end of the wagoning season by tying them to the roof of the barn. The running gear could then be used for other farm work.

A number of accessories were carried as a matter of routine on the wagon, and each was attached at a special place. An axe was always carried. It was used to cut firewood in the evenings and cut down trees to be tied to the back of the wagon to act as brakes on early types. It was also used to make running repairs to the wagon on the road. The axe was stored in a sheath on the left front hound, connecting the front axle to the wagon tongue. The axe holders were often very decorative. A bucket for water was usually carried under the back axle. The horses’ feed trough was five feet long, made of poplar wood and had a light metal strap on its top edge to stop the horses from eating it. It was attached to the back of the wagon by two chains and rested against the back door. When feeding the horses, it was positioned on the wagon tongue and kept in place by an iron lug at one end and a pin at the other. The horses were usually tied to rings on either side of the wagon tongue. Every wagon carried a tar pot suspended from a leather thong just above the rear axle. They were generally turned from poplar logs and had a very characteristic shape. Their lids had a hole in the middle through which stuck a wooden paddle used to apply the tar, a mixture of pine tar and lard. This lubricant was applied directly to the axle.

The wagon jack, pictured left, was used to take off wheels to allow them to be greased. These rugged devices usually outlasted the wagons for which they were made. Many carry date marks ranging from 1729-1889, and some have manufacturer's initials. The wagon jack was stored inside the wagon near the back door. Larger jacks date from 1805, corresponding to improvements in the roads and the increase in size of freight wagons. The toolbox was positioned on the left hand side of the wagon. It was a simple wooden box bound with iron with a sloping lid. It was often on the toolbox that the most ornate ironwork was to be found.

The Conestoga draft horse was descended from Flemish stallions crossed with Virginian mares. Careful breeding by farmers in the Conestoga region was probably the foundation of the breed; the same farmers were also noted for feeding their horses very well. However, it was a breed of mixed stock and additional mixing of stock was used as better horses came into the country, so it was never a breed in the true sense of the term. The Conestoga draft horse started off as a dual-purpose horse for pulling and for riding. In time it developed into more of a true draft horse but it was still capable of travelling 100 miles over poor roads in mountainous terrain. In the 1850s, draft horses were used to pull very heavy loads over short distances on paved roads. Theses horses had strong bodies, long striding legs, a steady active movement, weighed 700kg and stood sixteen to seventeen hands high. Their body colour was solid, either bay or black. The breed died out in the early 20th century. These heavy horses needed careful attention to keep them in health. Mules, on the other hand, needed practically no doctoring, and hardy western horses were cheaper to buy, did not eat as much as Conestoga horses and were strong enough for farm work.

The pulling force of the horses was exerted on the wagon by means of the traces - chains fastened to the singletree. The singletree was a piece of wood about 32 inches long, with a hook at either end for the trace chain to fit on to. A hook in the centre fastened it to the double tree by means of another chain. The double tree was either attached directly to the wagon, or transmitted the horses' power to the wagon by two spreader chains. The spreader chains at each end of the double tree attached directly to the wagon tongue, or indirectly to it by means of another chain, the fifth chain. The pair of traces for each horse ran along the side of the horse and were fastened to the hames, two curved pieces of wood linked at top and bottom. These fitted against the outside of the collar. The collar was a large pad which fitted around the neck so the horse could pull against the hames without discomfort. The housing was a large piece of leather attached to the top of the collar over the hames. It kept the neck and shoulders dry. The bridle was usually made out of a single piece of leather with wide nose and forehead pieces. The blinkers were very big. The leather parts and bridle were elaborately decorated in the 19th century. The fifth chain carrier, used to keep the middle horses from straying to either side, was attached from one collar to the other. As the name suggests, it also lifted the fifth chain off the ground. Similarly chains attached the wheel horse's collar to the wagon pole or tongue. The jockey stick did the same for the leader horses. The stay chain between the double tree and the wagon only tightened if one of the wheel horses moved faster than the other one, and so kept both going at the same pace.

Bells were a common adornment to the harness of the horse. They were held in an arch attached to the collar of the horse, containing three, four, five or six bells. They warned of the approach of the wagon and were also for decoration and allowed the horses to be found in the morning after being freed at night time. There were usually no bells on the saddle horse as they would have interfered with the jerk line and would also been ringing under the driver’s nose. Normally the leader horses had the five lighter bells, the middle the four-bell arch and the wheel horse the 3 heavy bells. If a wagon needed assistance from another wagoner it was common to hand over the bells in thanks for the assistance. It was a matter of some shame to arrive at your destination without your bells. This was the origin of the saying "I'll be there with bells on." Some wagoners would refuse help so as not to lose face, even to the extent of breaking the wagon tongue to free the horses.


The cart, in its various forms, was a key component in moving people and goods across the bogs, lanes, field and streets of Ireland. The sledge - this simple form of transport was very useful for moving heavy stones off the land, as the stone did not have to be lifted too high. It was also used for taking manure to the fields. Without sides, it was used for transporting turf across wet bogs.

Block wheeled cars were a step up the evolutionary ladder from the slide car. Their wheels were made from three pieces of wood dowelled together and hooped with an iron tyre. The tyre consisted of two parts and was nailed onto the wheel, although later they were sometimes sweated onto the wheel, as with spoked wheels. The square axle shaft was passed through the centre of the wheel and wedged in with wood. The rounded ends of the axle fitted into supports under the shaft. In this way, the wheels were both under and inside the body of the cart, and the whole unit of axle and two wheels revolved together. This was an inefficient system compared to a freely revolving wheel, but on steep slopes one wheel acted as a brake on the other. The load was carried in a creel mounted on the cart, or in a box body made as part of the cart. The platform of the cart could be covered by a straw mat to become a passenger vehicle, and passengers travelled with their legs dangling over the sides. This idea was further developed into the jaunting car. Unlike the later Scotch cart which was always painted, the wheeled car was rarely painted. The wheeled car was a common means of transport around Dublin in the 1650s. Due to the poor state of the roads wheeled vehicles were less common through the rest of the country. The linen trade saw these carts become more common as the 1700s progressed. They were used to convey linen from Ulster to the linen markets of Dublin. By the 1780s, they had become a common feature of the Tyrone countryside, as before that date, wheeled vehicles were reported as rare. To have one was a mark of social distinction. Until the middle 1800s it was considered respectable to go to the Meeting house in North Antrim in such vehicles.

The early 1800s saw the introduction of the Scotch cart into the north east of Ireland, around counties Antrim and Down (at the same time as the Scottish plough, improved horse harness and drill culture filtered into Ulster from Scotland). Until then, spoked wheels had been reserved for the carriages of the rich. The large spoked wheels, iron axle and shafts that ran parallel to the ground made the Scotch cart easier to pull, but at 12 pounds, it was much more expensive than earlier carts and skilled craftsmen were required to make it. The cart was made popular by linen traders taking cloth from Ulster to Dublin, as it was very adaptable and could carry 2 or 3 times as much as a block wheeled car, which it soon replaced. While early carts had no sides, high sides were attached to the cart to transport turf. The body could be extended to carry light loads such as hay. They were usually painted blue and orange and later carts had the spectacle design of linked circles on their front.

The donkey cart was a small version of the Scotch cart. Donkeys were only introduced to Ireland during the Napoleonic Wars around 1800. Many horses in Ireland were bought up to be used in the war, and were replaced by donkeys brought in from Spain. Donkeys were to be found all over Ireland for the next 150 years but they were most common and best suited to the drier parts of the South and West of the country

The hay cart or ruck shifter came into Ireland in the late 1800s. The cart was reversed to the edge of a ruck of hay, and a pin holding the front of the platform to the shafts was pulled out, allowing the back to tip up. Heavy ropes were pulled out and hooked behind the ruck and it was pulled up onto the trailer by means of levers and a gearing mechanism. Once on the cart, the platform fell back down onto the shafts, the pin was replaced and the ruck could be taken off elsewhere to form part of a large haystack.

The pony trap was also known as a tub cart or a governess's cart. Pony traps were introduced at the end of the 1890s and their quality varied, depending on skills of the builder. Entrance was from the back by a low step. Being totally enclosed, they provided a very safe means of transport.

The jaunting car. In Ulster this was commonly called a sidecar. It is one of very few typically Irish vehicles. Its form is similar to that of the wheeled car, with the wheels under the body. It was commonly used as the taxi of its day. Bianconi used them as the basis of his transport network that served all of Ireland in the mid 1800s. He also used a long car, which was like the jaunting car, but elongated with four wheels, and capable of carrying up to eight people on each side.


Immerse yourself in the world famous story of Irish emigration at the museum that brings it to life. Follow the emigrant trail as you journey from the thatched cottages of Ulster, on board a full scale emigrant sailing ship leading to the log cabins of the American Frontier. Meet an array of costumed characters on your way with traditional crafts to show, tales to tell and food to share. The Ulster American Folk Park is spread over 40 acres. Download Museum Map. A designated picnic area is provided adjacent to the car park. Food and drinks are not permitted on the museum site. Located in the visitor centre, the cafe provides a range of hot and cold meals, including tea/coffee and scones, soup, freshly made sandwiches and confectionery. There is free parking for 350 cars.

They have a number of domestic birds including hens, geese and ducks as well as a horse and donkey located on the museum grounds therefore in order to minimise stress on these birds and animals they currently only admit ‘Assistance Dogs’ onto the site with their owner/user. The majority of the museum buildings are accessible to wheelchair users, in most cases without assistance. They regret that it is not possible at present to provide physical access to the upper floors of some buildings without compromising the accuracy of the historical experience. In such cases, visitors should ask to be provided with an alternative form of access, such as photographs. A limited number of wheelchairs are available in the reception area for use in the museum. The museum experience for all visitors to the Ulster American Folk Park places a major emphasis on the sensory experiences of touch, smell, sight and hearing. Persons with sensory impairment will find much that is appropriate to their particular needs. Guide Dogs are welcome.


Location : Ulster American Folk Park, 2 Mellon Road, Castletown, Omagh, Co Tyrone BT78 5QU

Transport: Derry (NI Rail) then bus (273 or 273X). Bus Routes : Goldliner Express Bus 273 from Belfast to Derry stops outside.

Opening Times, March - June, September: Tuesday to Sunday 10:00 to 17:00

Opening Times, July, August: Daily 10:00 to 17:00

Opening Times, October - February: Tuesday to Friday 10:00 to 16:00; Weekends 11:00 to 16:00

Tickets : Adults £9.00;  Concessions £7.00;  Children (5 - 18) £5.50

Tel: 028 8224 3292