b"By KIMBERLY LANGSTONOREGON COUNTY, Mo.The story of the Irish Wilderness is a story about the attempt by immi-grants to settle on land they could call their own, the interruption and eventual destruction of that settle-ment by guerrilla warfare during the Civil War, and the rehabilitation of native forests were decimated by log-ging at the start of the 20th century.The area, 16,500 acres of forested hills, is in the northeastern corner of Oregon County, Missouri, and stretches east nearly to neighboring Ripley County.Ronald Wihebrink, U.S. ForestThe Irish Wilderness is named for a Service Forest Historian and authorgroup of 1850s immigrants who at-of History of the Irish Wildernesstempted to settle the rough, undevel-Country, says that when the areaoped area in favor of the poverty and discrimination they faced in St. Louis, was surveyed the year of Missouri'sled by Father John Hogan. The settle-statehood, 1821, little of value wasment lasted only about four years be-found in the way of natural resourcesfore disappearing during and after the or the fertile soil needed for largeturmoil of the Civil War.scale agricultural operations. TheMost of them Catholic, many of few people living there were largelythe Irish faced religious or cultural self-sufficient and didn't have muchdiscrimination, and the employment interest in what was going on beyondthat could be found often separated their isolated corner of the world. spouses from each other and parents By the 1850s, America saw anfrom their children.influx of Irish immigrants due theMen who took work with the rail-Irish Potato Famine, and with little toroad might be away from their wives no financial resources, many of thoseand family for weeks at a time, living families ended up in large citiesin work camps. Women who took like New York, Boston, Chicagowork as domestic servants, usually and St. Louis where work couldthe only option available or offered, be found, albeit under very poorwere often expected to live in the circumstances. households of their employers, www.OzarksMag.com Spring 2021 | Ozarks Magazine | 43"