|Detail of section of the Acre, Map of Lowell, 1850|
Lowell Historical Society
The Acre is often listed as the original settlement of the first Irish in Lowell. Well, where was that first settlement? There are a few sources of that first settlement. One says there was a camp of Irish behind where the Pollard Library is today about 1822. The settlement is mentioned as having tents and crude shelters. Another writer mentions that there were 40 Irish here who walked from the camp to the falls each day carrying the tools of their trade, while the citizens stared on. These Irish workers would walk by Kirk Boott’s home (where the former St Joseph Hospital stands) and the gentleman himself would often oversee the work of the laborers as they widened and deepened the canals. Was this the Acre?
We also know that there was a settlement around the area of Market St. (then called Lowell St.) and Lewis Street. There is little proof today that this was an Irish settlement, and its consistent use over the decades, along with the building of the Housing, probably obliterated any artifacts that could have been uncovered. The people who settled here were from the west of Ireland, Connaught. Though in the beginning their numbers were not large, the Irish often settled with people from their own province or county. This section was actually referred to as the Half Acre. So this wasn’t the Acre either.
There was yet another section, and this one was referred to as the Acre. It was the area around Cork and Dublin Streets (formerly Marion and Lagrange Streets). Those from the southwest of Ireland settled here. It was a larger settlement first described in the Niles Register of 1831, which our Parish Archives owns an original copy. The description reads:
But say you, what of the story my father told me? The one where Kirk Boott asks his Irish maid, Mrs. Winters, how to control her fellow countrymen? Her response is to get a priest to which Mr. Boot befriends Bishop Fenwick. The two decide this is a good move, and the Corporation donates an acre of land. What of this story? It’s got some truth in there. The story was passed down and not recorded for many years after the event supposedly took place, so we’re not sure of the details. But the facts need some work. Benedict did pay for the land. The cost was $1. There wasn’t an acre of land; the deed called for 8140 feet.
|Paddy Camp Deed, Archives of St Patrick Parish|
The next part of the story has to do with the placement of the church. The story goes on to say that the decision was made to put the church between the two groups that often broke out into fists to cuffs. That’s probably based in fact since both parties were aware of the problems the Irish were causing for themselves and the new mill town, and a solution had to be sought. And that’s why Saint Patrick’s Church is located where it is today.
Over the years the Irish population grew, the separate sections melded into each other. The area becomes known as the Paddy Camps and evolves into the Acre. The Acre today is still evolving. The names and faces have changed, but the stories continue.