For my final Master’s project, I was tasked with creating an entire museum exhibit. It could be about any subject, but I had to bring something new and fresh – and I had to be able to prove my theory.

The exhibit begins with the Irish immigrants’ journey to America. The Irish have migrated to several countries since colonial times. It was not until a potato famine struck Ireland in 1845 that a mass exodus commenced. The railroad companies thrived on cheap, unskilled labor, which the Irish provided. The exhibit would show how the determination of the Irish helped transcontinental railroads lay track all across America. Many of these same Irish settled along the track, bringing their culture and religion with them. Atoka, Oklahoma is one such place. Irish Catholics abounded in this area, catching the notice of the Catholic Church, who sent priests to tend the new flock. The patron will be able to see the progression of events that led the Irish and the Catholic Church to Oklahoma. I believe that without the Irish Catholics, it might have been years before the Catholic Church moved so deep into Indian Territory, ultimately pushing into what eventually became Oklahoma.

I spent months completing this project and it took me all over Oklahoma and Kansas. I even went to the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City (and met the Archbishop!). You may be wondering why I am including this in my book review section. Well, I believe in sharing research with others. It took a considerable amount of time compiling the necessary primary, secondary, and museum administration texts and articles for the project. So I figured if there was someone out there interested in railroad history, Irish immigration to America, or the spread of Catholicism then I just made their life a lot easier😊 Plus, I’ve made this an annotated bib, so the brief descriptions of each book and article should help you decide if you’d like to read it.

**** If you are interested in any of the book titles below, available through, please help support my site and click on the provided links. Thank you!


Primary Sources


Choctaw Nation Blue County Records, marriage certificate, October 24, 1875, box 24, Father Michael Smyth,
Oklahoma Historical Society Historical Indian Archives Index, 1856-1933, Oklahoma City, OK.

Handwritten account of a marriage Father Michael Smyth performed.


Dallas Morning News.  Dallas, TX.  June 8, 1900.

Father Michael Smyth’s Obituary.


 Indian Advocate.  Shawnee, OK.  September 1, 1901 – July 1, 1904.

This newspaper was published at the Sacred Heart Abbey by the Benedictine monks.  There are four articles that pertain to my research:  Father Michael Smyth at St. Patrick’s of Atoka, the fire at Sacred Heart Mission, the beginning of Father Michael Smyth’s journey as a missionary into Indian Territory, and the last is written by Bishop Fitzgerald of the Diocese of Little Rock.  He writes that there were too few brothers to send out on mission trips to Indian Territory but that Father Michael Smyth was able to visit there for several years with little backup.


Morning Star and Catholic Messenger.  New Orleans, LA.  September 19, 1869.

An article discussing the congregation Father Michael Smyth served and the converts he had made.


St. Benedict’s School, Sacred Heart Mission, quarterly report of Indian school, January 1, 1888- November 10, 1922,      Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City, OK.

Quarterly reports of Indian school. Some of these children would have been the children of Indian and Irish marriages.


Wichita Daily Eagle.  Wichita, KS.  February 17, 1901.

Discusses the new Sacred Heart Mission site.

Secondary Sources


Ambrose, Stephen E. Nothing Like It in the World: The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad 1863-1869.              New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2000.

     This book is not specific to the KATY, but it does focus on other transcontinental railroads and, more importantly, the people who helped build the railways.

Atoka County Historical Society. Tales of Atoka County Heritage. Mt. Vernon, IN: Windmill Publications, 1983.
     This book is located in the genealogy department of the Hardesty Library, Tulsa, Oklahoma. There are several sections of interest for the museum project; Catholic Cemetery was originally located on East “B” Street pg. 60; picture of St. Patrick’s 1872 pg. 62, history of St. Patrick’s, which mentions MK&T, Irish Catholic railroaders, and Father Smyth pg. 64-66.


Bishop, Patrick. The Irish Empire: The Story of the Irish Abroad. New York, NY: Thomas Dunne Books, 1999.

     This book briefly describes the struggles of oppression in Ireland, which forced many abroad. Bishop’s focus is on the exploitation of Irish immigrants, their religion, and eventual political activism.

Blessing, Patrick J. The British and Irish in Oklahoma. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1980.

     A brief, but well-written volume dealing with the immigrants’ impact on Oklahoma. Father Michael Smyth, Atoka, and Irish railroad gangs on the Katy are mentioned. There is no traditional bibliography, but Blessing’s bibliographic essay has a vast amount of source material and insight that will help in continued research.

Brown, Thomas Elton. Bible Belt Catholicism: A History of the Roman Catholic Church in Oklahoma, 1905-1945.            New York, NY: United States Catholic Historical Society, 1977.
     Catholicism persevered in a rural setting that was predominately Protestant. This book begins in 1905 after the establishment of the diocese. Irish coal miners and Irish railroad workers are discussed.

Dinnerstein, Leonard, Roger L. Nichols, and David M. Reimers. Natives and Strangers: A History of Ethnic                      Americans. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2014.
     The focus of this text is what impact America had on minorities. A chapter of particular interest is Chapter 4, “Slavery, Civil War, and Immigration 1840s-1880s.”

Dunn, John E. Memorial to Very Rev. Laurence Smyth. Fort Smith, AR: Elevator Press, 1900.

Copies were made of the original book courtesy of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City. This is a biography of Reverend Laurence Smyth. It includes references to his brother Michael. Most important pages for research are from pg. 59-62. Atoka, Oklahoma, the site of the first Catholic Church in Oklahoma is mentioned in Michael’s chapter.

Emmons, David M. Beyond the American Pale: The Irish in the West, 1845-1910. Norman, OK: University of                      Oklahoma Press, 2010.     This work delves into Irish Catholic immigrants’ westward drive. Their religion often ostracized the group, but the author shows that the Irish helped build the railroads, man army posts, and labored under every difficult and dirty job. This is a story of the Irish pioneers.

Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. Oklahoma Historical Society. Last modified 2009. Accessed
January 14, 2016.

I used four articles from this site. “Atoka County,” “Catholic Church,” “Irish,” and “Land Run of 1889.” The Oklahoma Historical Society gives the history of Atoka County, including the railway terminal switch from Boggy Depot to Atoka because of the Katy line running through Indian Territory. Father Michael Smyth, the first Catholic priest to have a permanent church in Atoka is discussed. The Catholic Church article runs from 1541 through 2000. It has great information specifically on the first Catholic church in Atoka, Oklahoma and the Irish railroad workers. The Irish in Oklahoma article details when they settled there, why, and what jobs they filled. The last article has a picture that will work for the PowerPoint slideshow. It was this land run that allowed Catholicism to be propelled much faster throughout the territory.

Gaffey, James P. Francis Clement Kelley & the American Catholic Dream. Bensenville, IL: The Heritage
Foundation, Inc., 1980.

     This is a complete biography of Bishop Francis Clement Kelley, the second Roman Catholic Bishop of Oklahoma City. A chronology of events is included. FCK founded the Catholic Church Extension Society in 1905. Its primary focus was to promote Catholicism to rural areas of the United States.

Gallman, J. Mathew. Receiving Erin’s Children: Philadelphia, Liverpool, and the Irish Famine Migration, 1845-              1855. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 2000.     This book begins with the Irish Famine and the subsequent immigration. Chapter three focuses on the extreme poverty and relief aid for the poor. The best feature is the chapter by chapter Notes section.

Goble, Danney. Progressive Oklahoma: The Making of a New Kind of State. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma          Press, 1980.     This book shows the growth of Oklahoma’s pioneer territory to a progressive statehood. The territory was past being settled, it was a time for commercial businesses, trade unions, and corporate powers. Bibliographical essay is very helpful.

Harder, Henry L. Saint William Church, Durant: A Centennial History. Bloomington, IN: Author House, 2012.     The preface and first four chapters deal with the entry of a Catholic presence into Oklahoma, specifically Durant, from 1866 to 1910. Saint Catherine’s Mission and Reverends Laurence ad Michael Smyth are mentioned. The history of the development of Durant next to the Katy railroad tracks is included.

Hofsommer, Donovan L. Railroads in Oklahoma. Oklahoma City, OK: Oklahoma Historical Society, 1982.
     This book shows how the railroads were essential to economic development. This is a compilation of articles, and a part of a series on Oklahoma. The first four articles consider the railway companies attempts at right-of-way, and how these opened up the west to white settlers.

Hogan, John Joseph. On the Mission in Missouri, 1857-1868. Kansas City, MO: John A. Hillman, 1892.
     In this autobiography, Hogan, in a series of diary-style entries, describes his trials, tribulations, and triumphs while setting up the Ozark colony from 1857-1868. His words confirm that the railroad was the great transporter of Irish westward.

Kelly, John. The Graves are Walking: The Great Famine and the Saga of the Irish People. New York, NY: Henry              Holt and Company, 2012.
     This book provides the background to the Great Famine in Ireland, the British policies that allowed it, like the Poor Law Extension Act, and the religious intolerance that provoked its continuation. Kelly follows the over one million immigrants to America where they found similar treatment. The Notes section is well done and could lead to numerous sources.

Masterson, V.V. The Katy Railroad and the Last Frontier. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1952.
     This book gives evidence that the KATY railroad brought civilization along with its westward expansion. The research done for this work is meticulous and the bibliography is extensive with company records, newspapers and magazines, and books. The pictures, original ads, and letters make this book a valuable resource.

McMahon, Cian T. The Global Dimensions of Irish Identity: Race, Nation, and the Popular Press, 1840-1880.                    Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 2015.     The author believes that because the Irish immigrants held so tightly to their roots no matter if they left Ireland as a child, that it actually increased the strictures of identity. Millions of people all over the world claim Irish ancestry, and for a small island north of the Atlantic, that is quite something. Of particular interest are pages 145-183 that deal with Irish citizenship following the American Civil War, 1865-1880.

Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad. The Opening of the Great Southwest: A Brief History of the Origin and                            Development of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad Better Known as the Katy, 1870-1970. Dallas, TX: M-K-T          R. R. Co., 1970.     This is a small book printed by the MK&T, but holds an extraordinary amount of information taken directly from the source. Invaluable. Excellent photos and drawings are throughout, as well as numerous maps of where tracks were laid.

Monahan, David. One Family, One Century: A Photographic History of the Catholic Church in Oklahoma, 1875-              1975. Oklahoma City, OK: Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, 1977.     The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City gave me this copy. It is a story told through old photographs with a great amount of information throughout. The sources that are used will be helpful to further research.

Murphy, Joseph F. Tenacious Monks: The Oklahoma Benedictines, 1875-1975: Indian Missionaries, Catholic                   Founders, Educators, Agriculturists. Shawnee, OK: Benedictine Color Press, 1974.     This work details the Benedictines’ move into Indian territory. French priest Isadore Robot and Dominic Lambert began a foundation for the Catholic movement.

Payton, Leland and Crystal Payton. Mystery of the Irish Wilderness: Land and Legend of Father John Joseph                    Hogan’s Lost Irish Colony in the Ozark Wilderness. Springfield, MO: Lens & Pen Press, 2008.

     This book describes Father John Joseph Hogan’s colony in the Ozark wilderness for Irish immigrants. There was a large number of Irish because of the St. Louis and Iron Mountain Railroad work gangs. Father Hogan began by visiting the railroad work camps.

Peters, Virginia L. The Centennial History of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church and Cemetery
     Lockridge, Oklahoma 1891-1991. Edmond, OK: self-published, 1991.

This is a self-published work created for the church. It gives the history of St. Patrick’s, a list of the priests who served the community from 1889-1959, as well as numerous photographs. A full list of those buried in the cemetery are included. The bibliography and source page are well put together. This book was given to me by the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City.

Thomas, Sister M. Ursula. “Sources for the Study of Oklahoma Catholic Missions: A Critical Biography.” Chronicles          of Oklahoma 16, no. 3 (September 1938): 346-57.

Sister Ursula wrote her dissertation on the Catholic Church in the Oklahoma frontier. This article pulls from several of her sources and has a wealth of information on the Church’s movements through the state.

Washington Post. “Bones found on Canadian beach likely from ‘coffin ship’ from Ireland’s
Great Famine.” Morning Mix. Last modified December 3, 2014. Accessed September
9, 2016.                 beach-likely-from-coffin-ship-from-irelands-great-famine/.

This website article has a lot of great information on Irish immigrants’ journey to America on coffin ships.

Watson, Harry L., and Jocelyn Neal. Southern Cultures: The Irish Issue. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North             Carolina Press, 2011.     This is a compilation of articles. Watson writes that the authors’ articles cohesively show that the Irish left such an impression on the South that there has been a lasting kinship between the two.

White, James D. Tulsa Catholics. New York, NY: Carlton Press, 1978.     White is the former archivist and historian for the Diocese of Tulsa. This book covers the history of the Holy Family Cathedral in Tulsa. The lack of a bibliography is disappointing, but in text notes are throughout.

Museum Administration

Alexander, Edward P., and Mary Alexander. Museums in Motion: An Introduction to the History
     and Functions of Museums. Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press, 2008.     This book explores several types of museums, but for my research, chapter five on history museums is most pertinent to my museum project. Chapters 8-13, to collect, to conserve, to exhibit, to interpret, to serve, and the museum profession are what helped me write the mission statement and a curator’s job description.

Burcaw, G. Ellis. Introduction to Museum Work. Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press, 1997.     This work is the source I used the most for how to set up an exhibit. Burcaw, in Part III Museums and Society, has done the best job of the three museum books at outlining practical and useful information on preservation, the law, and trends and tomorrow. It was the last section on trends that helped me the most in ways to include, excite, and bring visitors in to see the new exhibit.

Genoways, Hugh H., and Lynne M. Ireland. Museum Administration: An Introduction.
Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press, 2003.     I utilized this book for ways to make the museum run smoothly by having strong leadership. I also used Genoway’s book to help write the museum’s code of ethics. There is quite a bit of information regarding the American’s with Disabilities Act. I was able to use this as a starting point to further research the subject.

Gordon, Tammy S. “Heritage, Commerce, and Museal Display: Toward a New Typology of
Historical Exhibition in the United States.” The Public Historian 30, no. 3
(Summer 2006): 27-50.

This article explains that there is not one best way to exhibit history. Being creative and thinking outside the box will give patrons a better experience. The author also discusses how to be creative when setting up an exhibit for patrons with disabilities.

Kudlick, Catherine. “The Local History Museum, So Near and Yet So Far.” The Public
     Historian 27, no. 2 (Spring 2005): 75-81.

This is the article that fueled my desire to make not only the museum, but the new exhibit completely accessible to those with visual impairments. This article describes good and bad experiences and clearly shows that training, not special gadgets will make all the difference.