Fleeing famine and brutal oppression, more than a million Irish refugees flocked to the United States between 1846-1855. It's been estimated 44 percent of immigrants to the U.S. in that period were Irish.
They couldn't have picked a worse time to come. The nation was coming up of one economic downturn and about to enter another. The majority of the immigrants were Roman Catholic and anti-Papist sentiments boiled up in tandem with the economic panic. Newspapers of the period are full of examples of anti-Catholic/Irish sentiment, including cartoons depicting them as savages and animals.
Many of the Irish found their way to Pennsylvania's anthracite coal region where they encountered some of the worst exploitation and hatred. Wayne Broehl in his excellent "The Molly Maguires" says, "All the past hatreds and slights came welling up again, and the mining patches were quickly divided, physically and socially, along ethnic lines. Soon the Irish turned to protective societies."
The subject of the Molly Maguires is controversial today with many refusing to believe there was such an organization or that its members were guilty of the crimes of which they stood accused. There is a possibility many more attrocities were attributed to them than did exist. But the organization's existence is documented and people do have a tendency to strike back at oppression.
It's against this backdrop I've set my novel "Watch The Hour." Benjamin Franklin Yeager is a coal company police officer who does his best to follow orders while trying to be fair to the workers whose lot he sees as little different from his own. Despite his efforts at fairness, Yeager's job makes him the enemy of the Irish. And that's the crux of his troubles. For Ben is in love with an Irish girl.
You can read an excerpt from the novel here http://www.whiskeycreekpress.com/chapters/WatchTheHour_JRLindermuth.shtml