“A Wee Bit of Ireland”

We have a very faded newspaper article that we thought was fitting for St. Patrick’s Day!  This story, we believe, was originally published in Kent’s “Daily Record Chronicle” in 1978. We retyped it so it was legible.


“A wee bit of Ireland”

by Deeann Glanser

When the 32-year-old native of Ireland first saw the Valley in 1861, he fell in love with it.

Dennis Mullen had left his homeland when he was 16, stayed two years in Boston, then journeyed to Australia where he spent the next 14 years raising cattle.

But once he saw the Green River Valley, he stayed. The Irish immigrants were among the first settlers here.

‘He was awed by the beauty of the scene and his mind reached out to the future, visioning this region when it would be transformed by the hand of man, when these solitudes would be broken and forests swept aside,’ wrote Clarence Bagley in his 1929 history.

Mullen and many other Irish pioneers are buried in St. Patrick’s Cemetery, a hillside with aging stone markers where the solitude is broken by the drone of nearby rush-hour traffic. About six new graves a year are dug here.

A circular drive through the two-acres is overgrown with grass and clover. The cemetery overlooks the Boeing Space Center, the place where once was the town of O’Brien.

Most of the names on the weathered stones are Irish, with many of them proclaiming the Irish county from which the pioneer came- Limrick, Galway, Donegail.

The largest monument there was erected by Patrick Hayes, who was born in County Limrick in 1833. Twenty-four years later he leased two acres in the Valley to grown onions. Then, like Mullan, her bought land, raised hops and other crops, and prospered.

Hayes reportedly spent $9,500 for the granite markers in 1909. The statue was made in Italy, and the 12-foot monument was shipped here, in pieces, by railroad, then hauled by horses to the site. A three-foot cross which topped the monument has been gone about 10 years.

Next to the Hayes plot is a Celtic cross and a row of plain stones marking the graves of the Catholic brothers who ran the Biscoe school for orphans.

The Hayes farm was once acclaimed as the showplace of O’Brien. But nothing now remains at 212th & 68th streets of the predominately Irish community.

“There was a post office, a railroad depot, two groceries, a pickle and a cheese factory, two saloons and a school,” recalls Clara Yambra, granddaughter of Terence O’Brien for whom the town was named.

The town’s business area collapsed when the Interurban [train] between Seattle and Tacoma folded and supermarkets opened in Kent.

Although the Irish had a close-knit community, the early day observances of St. Patrick’s Day were quiet- at least during the day, said John Mullen, nephew of pioneer Dennis Mullen.

“But we wore green neckties or shamrocks to go out to town or to work.”

And why do so many non-Irish people try to mask their nationalities in green today?

“They like to join the people that are celebrating and have a good time, too,” Mullen added.

And as for the second-generation Mullen, his celebration will be wearing a green necktie.

St. Patrick’s Cemetery