There is nothing quite so grand as a fine Irish name. America's history and culture is full of them, and they have made a difference.
What would the U.S. have been without the likes of Eugene O'Neill, Grace Kelly, John F. Kennedy and Ed Sullivan? And don't forget Conan O'Brien.
By 1840, the Irish, fleeing poverty and overpopulation, accounted for nearly half of all immigrants entering the U.S. That's before the great potato famine touched off a mass migration in 1845. In 2011, 34.5 million U.S. residents claimed Irish ancestry, more than seven times the population of Ireland itself (4.68 million).
According to census figures for 1870 and 1880, the Irish were the largest single immigrant group in Sonoma County at the time. As of last year, there were more than 63,000 people in the county who reported Irish ancestry, according to a U.S. Census estimate.
Many of those immigrants and their descendants left their mark on Sonoma County. They also left their names on landmarks and buildings scattered around the county.
Sometimes the Irish influence is obvious, as with Doyle Park in Santa Rosa, and other examples are more subtle, like Analy High School in Sebastopol. Some of the names sound more English or Scottish, as in Reed Elementary School in Rohnert Park and the town of Duncans Mills, but those namesakes had Irish backgrounds and ancestry, too.
Here are the stories behind some of the proud Irish of Sonoma County history, just in time for St. Patrick's Day:
Frank P. Doyle has left an indelible mark on Santa Rosa. His name appears from Doyle Park and Doyle Elementary School to the Doyle Library building on the Santa Rosa Junior College campus.
Doyle was born in 1863 in Petaluma, but his family eventually moved to Santa Rosa. In 1890, he and his father Manville co-founded the Exchange Bank, and in 1916, Doyle succeeded his father as bank president.
Doyle was president of the bank when the earthquake of 1906 hit and leveled much of Santa Rosa. The banker was instrumental in getting area leaders to create the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce to help rebuild the city.
But Doyle's reach went beyond the city limits. He was instrumental in mustering interest for the creation of the Golden Gate Bridge. His interest was twofold. He wanted to help farmers sell their goods to a bigger market and he also wanted to bolster tourist traffic. Because of his efforts, he became known as "The Father of the Golden Gate Bridge."
Doyle was the first civilian to drive across the bridge by car when it opened in 1937, and he participated on the ribbon-cutting ceremony that day. To honor Doyle for helping make the bridge a reality, the Golden Gate Bridge and Highway District named the access road on the San Francisco side of the bridge Doyle Drive.
Doyle is one of the 20 most common surnames in Ireland, and because of his deeds, the ambitious, civic-minded banker has also made the Irish name quite familiar in Northern California.
— Peg Melnik
Jasper O'Farrell, born in Ireland's County Wexford and educated as a civil engineer, left his native land in 1841 on a surveying expedition to the Pacific coast of South America.
Fundraising Pancake Breakfast
When: Sunday, March 25, 8-11:30 p.m.
Where: Wilmar Volunteer Firehouse, 3825 Bodega Avenue, Petaluma
Cost: $10 adults, $5 children