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Happy 200th birthday Thomas Francis Meagher

Happy 200th Birthday Thomas Meagher
Posted at 3:45 PM, Aug 03, 2023

HELENA — We have a very special birthday to celebrate Thursday for one of the most well-known Montanans in the state. Happy 200th birthday Thomas Francis Meagher!

Meagher’s statue at the Capitol was dressed for the occasion and the Irish tricolor was raised as well.

The Irishman was born on August 3, 1823, in Waterford City, Ireland to Thomas Meagher and Alicia Quan. His father was a wealthy merchant and mayor of the city.

Meagher had four siblings, a brother and three sisters. Only Thomas and his older sister Christine lived past childhood. Their mother died when Meagher was three years old.

Raised Roman Catholic, Meagher was a prominent Irish political figure with the Young Irelanders who spoke out against English influence in the country. In 1847, Meagher helped lead an Irish independence movement in the country called the “Irish Confedration.” During this time, he was given a tricolor of green, white and orange by French women sympathetic to the Irish cause. That flag would later become the official flag of Ireland.

The Young Irelander Rebellion of 1848 ended when Meagher and his compatriots were arrested, tried and convicted of sedition. He was exiled to Tasmania, but later immigrated to the U.S. and served as a general in the Civil War before making his way to Big Sky Country.

Meagher was appointed Secretary of the Territory of Montana, but soon after arriving, he was designated acting Governor. Ever the politician, Meagher tried to create a working relationship between the territory’s Republican executive and judicial branches and the Democrat-led legislature. Those attempts failed and Meagher ended up making enemies in both camps.

Meagher died mysteriously near Fort Benton in 1867. Sometime in the early evening of July 1, 1867, Meagher is said to have gone overboard a steamboat into the Missouri River. There is still much debate about whether his death was an accident or foul play. His body was never recovered.