The Famine Irish in Boston: The Story of the Famine Irish in Boston and establishment of the quarantine station and burial ground at Deer Island, where 860 Famine emigrants lie buried, is recounted by John McColgan, archivist of the city of Boston in this video.

In 1847, so many Famine Irish emigrants came in to Boston. The numbers were enormous and unprecedented. The condition of the people was just appalling in the spring of 1847. There was so much disease. Typhus was rife on these ships. They overran the city institutions – in particular, the House of Industry in south Boston. The disease was spreading and an epidemic was threatening. The House of Industry staff was coming down with typhus. The head of the House of Industry, Captain Daniel Chandler, perished in June 1847 from typhus, but not before converting to Catholicism on his deathbed, to the great delight of Bishop Fitzpatrick. The city, in order to address the threat of an epidemic, knew that they had to do something, because the House of Industry was unable to cope with the numbers. So they decided to create their own hospital. They decided that Deer Island was the best place to create a quarantine hospital. They hired doctors. The chief physician was a man named Moriarty. Moriarty is, of course, an Irish name, but this was not an Irish immigrant by any means. He was descended from a merchant from Kerry from the late eighteenth century who became a privateer in Washington’s navy during the Revolutionary war. He had a staff of about 50, half of whom were Irish. They chose where the burial ground would be. There was a law on the books that anybody who came in who was a pauper, they had to be supported with a bond charge to the master of the ship. They set up a system whereby at the southern end of the island all ships that came in would have to stop at Deer Island Point. The hospital was built on the northern part of the island. When a ship came in, two city officials boarded it. One was the superintendant of alien passengers. His job was to examine the passengers on the ship and to determine if anybody was a pauper. If anybody was a pauper, he could not get in unless the ship master put up a bond worth one thousand dollars against any public expenses on that pauper for ten years. The other city official was a port physician who would board the ship and inspect if anybody was sick with malignant diseases: typhus, dysentery, and a horrible form of diarrhea that killed an awful lot of people. Anybody sick like that would be sent immediately across the island to Dr Moriarty. The biggest population at the hospital occurred in July, 1847. There were almost seven hundred people there. It began to taper off after that. Hundreds died. The typhus subsided by the end of 1848. The Irish emigrants were not the only ones who suffered. The Famine came to Boston. Public officials, city officials, died. Dr. Moriarty in December, 1847, perished from typhus that he caught from the Irish emigrants he was trying to cure, trying to save. He was thirty four years old. He had a wife, and three or four children. He was succeeded by his brother. Joseph Moriarty was succeeded by his brother John Moriarty who held the position for quite some time.