Ulster American Folk Park

Telling the story of emigration

The Ulster American Folk Park in Omagh is an outdoor museum that tells the story of emigration from Ulster to North America during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Visits begin at the Matthew T Mellon visitor centre and exhibition gallery. ‘Emigrants’ is a major exhibition about over 200 years of emigration, including stories of individual emigrants, the history of emigration, details of routes, ports and ships, and an insight into life in the new world.

The tour begins in the ‘old world’ section. Costumed guides and craftsmen provide information on the buildings, and demonstrate some of the crafts and skills from Ulster and early America.

The single room cabin with bed outshot featured in the folk park is typical of dwellings from this period. This building, which originally came from the Sperrin Mountains, dates from the late eighteenth century and is an excellent example of the type of dwelling occupied by many of the landless poor before 1845. There is also a typical blacksmith’s forge from the nineteenth century where visitors can see demonstrations of the blacksmith’s craft.

The meetinghouse is a replica from the Presbyterian church at Mountjoy in which Thomas Mellon worshipped as a boy. A button on the pulpit provides a taped commentary on the building.

The Mellon Homestead was the birthplace of judge Thomas Mellon, who emigrated with his parents to Pennsylvania in 1818 at the age of five. The house still stands on its original site, and from the yard views can be seen over the River Strule and the Sperrin Mountains.

Campbell House was the home of the Campbell brothers of Aghalane, Plumbridge, Co Tyrone, who emigrated to America in the early nineteenth century. Robert Campbell became a fur trader in the Rocky Mountains, and later a successful merchant in St Louis, Missouri, where he was joined by his older brother Hugh.

Tullyallen Mass House was built in 1768 and extended in 1830 after Catholic emancipation. It has been reconstructed in its 1768 form with plain sash windows, whitewashed walls and a thatched roof.

Hughes House was the boyhood home of John Joseph Hughes, the first Roman Catholic Archbishop of New York. This building comes from the townland of Dernaved in Co Monaghan.

Castletown National School, built in 1845, was moved from its original site nearby and re-erected in the Ulster American Folk Park.Mountjoy post office was moved to the folk park from nearby Mountjoy village, where it was used as a post office from 1861 until the early years of the twentieth century. It is complete with a Victorian letterbox.

Ulster Street is a reconstruction of nineteenth century shops using restored Victorian storefronts, which were brought in from local towns and villages. The shops include Hill’s Chemist and Blair’s Printers, originally from Strabane, and the newest exhibit, Reilly’s Spirit Grocers from Newtownbutler. The street also includes a saddler’s and ropeworks.

The ship and dockside gallery represents a typical emigrant dockside. Here visitors board the Brig Union, a reconstruction of an early nineteenth century sailing ship which carried emigrants to the new world.

The dockside buildings, still retaining their original features, were transported brick by brick and rebuilt. A dockside building from Great George’s Street in Belfast has been furnished as a merchant’s office. An eighteenth century house from Bridge Street in Derry represents the type of boarding house accommodation which many emigrants would have used prior to setting sail.

In the new world section, ‘American Street’ is an area based on a nineteenth century American streetscape, representative of ports such as Baltimore and Boston. It features a general store, tinsmith’s exhibition, a replica of the First Mellon Bank, and a wheelwright’s shop. After leaving American Street, you will set out on the ‘Frontier Trail’ and discover the houses of early Pennsylvania settlers.

Samuel Fulton Stone House is a stone building from Lancaster County, and was the home of Samuel Fulton. Fulton emigrated from Donegal and settled in Pennsylvania in 1724. He was one of the first Ulster emigrants in this area.

The log cabin represents the type of dwelling built or occupied by early emigrants, such as the young Thomas Mellon and his family when they first arrived in America. The Pennsylvanian log barn would have been the main outbuilding on frontier farms, used for housing animals and storing fodder crops. The corncrib was a small storehouse used for storing maize, known as ‘Indian corn’.  The smoke house was used for smoking meat and fish. The springhouse was used for keeping dairy produce fresh. The herb garden supplied the farmhouse kitchen with vegetables and herbs.

The western Pennsylvania log house is a nineteenth century dwelling originally built on the Cox family farm in Greene County, Pennsylvania, by Uriah Hupp. The three room log house is a beautifully preserved example of American vernacular log housing.

The Centre for Migration Studies and Library supports the park’s main activities by providing reference resources for the study of the history of both the United States and Ulster in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Material available in the centre includes books, journals, maps, microforms, audiovisual material and the emigration database. One particular strength of the library is the on-going collection of American books, both old and new.

© Omagh District Council

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