Patrick Kennedy, the third son of a farmer from County Wexford, was born in Dugganstown, Ireland, in 1823. The eighty acre farm grew barley and raised beef and was unaffected by the Irish Famine. However, in 1849 Kennedy decided to leave his parents to seek his fortune in the United States.
On board ship Kennedy met Bridget Murphy, who was also from County Wexford and the couple married when they arrived in Boston. At first Kennedy found it difficult to find work but eventually was employed as a copper making yokes and staves for wagons heading west as part of the Californian Gold Rush.