As I have noted, one of the many terms applied to Irish Travellers in America is “Irish horse traders,” and the earliest use of this I find is from the Semi-weekly south Kentuckian., April 20, 1886. It is a brief item, so I shall reproduce it in entirety:
They go unmentioned, as far as I can tell, for another 12 years; their next mention is in the Macon Telegraph on April 2, 1908, and the article mentions they are “often confounded with Gypsies.” The purpose for this article: A funeral, which the author assures us is an annual event. occurring on April 1 of each year and always in Nashville or Atlanta. “Every available hack and carriage has been hired for the procession, and the visitors have organized a big camp at the corner of Bellwood and Asby avenues.”
In April of 1911, just two years later, another O’Hara funeral story went national, this time claiming the family had 500 members. The story not only more than doubled the number of O’Hara’s, but added greatly to their legend, pointing out that four large wagons were required to haul all the flowers for the funerals, and that many of the Travellers are very wealthy, including “at least two [that] are rated as millionaires.”
There was another story in May. This one was longer and fascinated by the exoticism of the Travellers, starting “Beyond the ourskirts of the city where the Fortified Hills look down upon the Chattahoochee, a magic city has risen, a city of tents and wagon tops.” The author describes the gathering as looking like a combination military encampment and circus gathering, and identifies the funerary custom as being at least 20 years old, of not older.
The author describes the funeral procession:
The women wore “[j]eweled crucifixes and rosaries” when the men wore diamond rings. “They are not poor,” the author states, but own large tracts of land. Twelve had died in the previous year, and all were named and mourned at the church. “It has always been the warm brown earth for the O’Haras,” the author states, “out under the open sky, with the spring grass for a coverlet; the mating birds for choirsters. There they sleep — a long line of several generations now, and there will their brothers and their sons finally come to join them.”