Friday, July 27, 2012

Bring Out Your Dead



Source: St Patrick Cemetery (c1920s)
I’ve always had the sneaking suspicion that Walter was reincarnated from the 19th century.  For one, he just knows too much first-hand information about that period.  He is able to quote people who have been dead for 150 years.  He knows intimate facts about people that no one else knows, unless you were there.  And then there is that odd 19th century wit when you aren’t sure if you should smile or take the person seriously.  That’s some pretty strong evidence.  Then you read today’s piece written by Walter and it pretty much closes the case.  One must question where on earth he gets these great stories.

Some visitors to St Patrick’s are savvy enough to question why there were two catholic churches within yards of each other. Fr. McDermott was pastor of St. Pat’s, but then buys a church and opens St. Mary’s, just a few doors down in the 1840s.  One might say the reason was that the old, wooden St. Pat’s could no longer accommodate the growing numbers of Irish Catholics streaming into the Acre especially at the height of the potato famine.  There’s some truth in this, but the story goes much deeper.  Read on. 


In the 1850's undertakers were appointed by the Mayor and Board of Alderman. This was an official city position.

My original intent was a brief write-up on Terrence Hanavor.  Thanks to the on line availability and indexing of the DAILY CITIZEN, I stumbled across another story.  As to Terrence Hanavor, well known to most of our ancestors, he will have to wait for another day. 

Our cast:
Michael Roach – undertaker and sexton of St. Patrick's Church
Rev. John O'Brien -- Pastor of St. Patrick's Church; in charge of St. Patrick's Cemetery
Rev. James T. McDermott –  Pastor of St. Mary's Church
James Farley (Farrelly) –  Sexton of St. Mary's Church
  Note: His real name is Farley, but he is more often cited as Farrelly in various accounts.  Farrelly will be used throughout.
John McEvoy    Attorney and Organist at St. Patrick's Church

 The story begins with a petition presented to the City Council on March 24, 1857 requesting the appointment of James Farrelly as undertaker.  The following week the Mayor and Alderman voted to remove Michael Roach from the office of undertaker and appointed James Farrelly in his place.  Farrelly's appointed was backed by Father James T. McDermott, pastor of St. Mary's Church.   This set the stage for some fireworks as Roach was Father John O'Brien's man, and it was understood that he would not allow any undertaker into the Catholic burying ground except Roach.  Father O'Brien was pastor of St. Patrick's Church and in charge of the cemetery more often referred to as the Catholic Burying Ground..

 Although officially removed from office, Roach did not go quietly, probably with encouragement from Rev. O'Brien.  On April 13, he was arraigned in the Lowell Police Court for continuing to act as undertaker after he had been removed from office.  The case was continued to May 4th for examination.    More than a week after his removal, he made returns of five burials to the Superintendent of Burials.  Michael seems to entertain an equal contempt for the city fathers and the English language.  He puts down the various diseases of those he attended as “Water on the brean,” “consomtion,” “hooping coff” and “yellow ganders.”  As a result, Michael was arrested by the police on April 27 on a charge of officiating without authority.  In early May, the City Solicitor was directed to apply to the Supreme Judicial Court for an injunction to restrain Michael Roach from serving as undertaker. 

 After several continuances, his trial was to be in early July.  However, that was not to be.  According to the Daily Citizen and News of July 7, 1857 “The contest whether Michel Roach shall act as undertaker or not, without consent or appointment of the city authorities, has been finally settled.  An injunction has been served on Roach from a higher power than earthly courts, and another has done the job for him that he had done for so many others.  Michael died on Saturday last, of dysentery at the age of sixty-five.  Death has ended the controversy; and as he was superseded in office by one of his own blood and race, we suppose there will be no further endeavor on the part of his friends to keep up an ill feeling.”  
                                                        That was wishful thinking!

 Following the death of Roach, Rev. O'Brien and others petitioned for the appointment of one Patrick Smith as undertaker.  Smith was appointed but Farrelly retained his position.  As a result, there were now two undertakers to tend to the Catholic burials: McDermott's man, Farrelly, and O'Brien's man, Smith. 

 McDermott's congregation numbered about 800 while O'Brien's was about 5000.  The two priests had a long-standing bitter personal feud which was amplified by the preference of the Catholic population for burial by Farrelly!  O'Brien was incensed and in March 1858,  he denounced from the pulpit all who would employ Farrelly as being unworthy of the name of Christians and further declared that he would deny 'christian burial' to any corpse whom Farrelly would carry to the grave. By August, 1858, Catholics continued to prefer Farrelly over Smith despite the denunciation and threats from O'Brien.  As Rev. O'Brien was the Bishop's agent for the sale of cemetery lots, he refused to sell lots to any who employed Farrelly as  undertaker, and he filed suit against Farrelly for trespass in burying the dead in the lots they had purchased.

 On October 5, 1858, the CITIZEN reported that the court decided against Father O'Brien, and “the waters of bitterness closed over the head of his reverence.”  However, this is not quite the end of the story.....

 Farrelly was defended by John McEvoy, an attorney who coincidentally just happened to be the organist at St. Patrick's church!  Father O'Brien summarily discharged him from his position in the church!  He was FIRED!!

 Postscript
On November 5, 1858, the Daily Citizen and News reported the appointment of McEvoy as a Justice of the Peace, with the comment, “All Right, saving the presence of his reverence who shut the doors of the organ against the new “Squire”. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

To everything there is a season…

Ami, Harry, Emily, Brian, Colm, Katie, Marcelle
I think it’s Ecclesiastes that says “To everything there is a season and a time and purpose under heaven.  A time to dig and a time to fill in.”  Okay, maybe that last part isn’t quite right, but it was the theme for the day.   The team take time to take the 2012 official team photo.  I say it each and every year, but what an amazing group of people.  The Partnership Program from UMass and Queen’s must be commended for this sharing that goes on.  The great part is that we shall meet again in Belfast in about a month.  Readers will remember that Hugh Cummiskey’s homestead (Lowell’s first memorable Irishman from the 1820s) was located in Crossan, County Tyrone.  The excavation that was started last summer in N. Ireland will continue again this year.  We’ll keep daily updates going once we build our wee currach and sail our way over, much like Brendan the Navigator did in 9th century.  To be able to make that physical and spiritual connection between Crossan and Lowell is a story waiting to be told.  We know so much more about Hugh than just three years ago when this project began.

My day began with leading a group of teachers from the Tsongas Industrial History Center to the dig site.  Director Sheila Kirschbaum, Ellen and Shelley host teachers from all over the country each summer, telling them the story of Lowell.  Historian Gray Fitzsimons and I gave the Acre walking tour to show the working people’s perspective, focusing on the role immigrants played in the city.  Dr. Colm Donnelly and the team gave the teachers a first-hand account of the work being done on site and what archaeologists do.
Well, well, well.  For the past week I’ve been mentioning, no, consistently dwelling on making guesses as to what could be under that big stone cap discovered last year after ground penetrating radar (GPR) detected an anomaly.  Hearth?  No sign of burn material.  Latrine?  Possibly, but unlikely.  Cistern?  Could be.  Well?  Could be.  And the winner is-----  a well.  Brian removed the small stones.  I asked in anticipation, “What do you see?”   And in the words of the finder of King Tut’s tomb, Lord Carnarvon, he replied, “I see wonderful things!”  And people say archaeologists have no sense of humor.
As usual with archaeologists you can’t get a straight answer as to dates and names, but you can make a few guesses.  The cap on the well is reminiscent to older street caps seen around Lowell.  This well might have been capped when the city was transferring over from wells to public water.  The well itself is lined with stone and brick and no perceivable mortar.  So our good Father McDermott had a well just outside his house.  Seeing that McDermott’s house was moved to this spot in 1840s, it’s possible that this well site predates that.  This could have been the well that supplied water to the shanties in the Paddy Camps.  How many women stood around here and shared the day’s gossip?  How many kids played on this lawn and lost the clay marbles we found?  Maybe some of that redware was from pottery that was dropped when a child was sent to get water for Da after a day’s digging. 
Then the shovels were broken out.  Each of us took our turn to fill in the holes that were opened just days ago.  The well was fitted with a heavy metal cap to ensure safety for many years to come.  But before it was closed, Colm had each of us sign a paper that will last for many years.  It detailed who was there and the years of our dig.  It was enclosed under the cap and the closing began in earnest.  This is the third season, and I always get a sense of a funeral.  This is not an end though.  There is so much work to be done.  Those bags of earth have to be analyzed.  The hundreds of artifacts are measured, recorded, and studied as to their place in the story of the Irish camps.  Friends like Walter, Karen, Grey, and Dick have spent the last year doing research in their areas of expertise.  Now we have a new series of questions to answer.  So it’s not an end, but a beginning.  We say sl├ín abhaile (safe home) to our Irish partners.  See you next month in Crossan.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Dig 2012- Day 5:

I’m starting to get the hang of it.  Archaeology is a science.  Now I knew that was a fact, but I didn’t understand it.  Every person who walks by yells out, “Did you find any gold yet?”  “Let me know if you find any coins.” The team sort of takes it on as their responsibility to stop and acknowledge everyone’s questions.  What most folks know about archaeology comes from Indiana Jones and the History Channel.  Stoppers-by will say what they saw on a TV program of a tomb in Egypt being excavated, or some sunken treasure trove being found off the reef of Florida.  I often have my classroom students read an interview with an archaeologist.  He shares that he would rather find a trash heap than a pharaoh’s tomb.  Why is that you say?  The tomb will tell you of the life of one man, the trash heap will tell you about the people living there. Though I have been waiting days, weeks, months to find out what is under that stone, every little piece of pottery, bone shard, or glassbeing excavated right around the stone is telling the bigger story. 

Science is a process.  Skipping steps will lead to false results.  My idea of bringing in a backhoe and lifting one big load of dirt may have revealed some artifacts, but think what might have been lost.  Just the placement of the artifacts can reveal when they were placed there.  Merely picking up a cattle bone says little.  They ate beef.  But examining that bone to see if there are butcher marks by a hand saw says even more.   I’ve picked up dozens of tiny pieces of glass fragments this week without giving them a second thought.  It was only today I discovered how slowing down and following procedure let’s you see bubbles and waves in the glass which determine date and purpose.  It’s all in the details.

The place was crawling with archaeologists today.  Ed and Vic from the state examined the pieces found this week.  I wish I had more time.  Fascinating!  They could identify a small yellow piece of pottery as being from Vermont and its purpose.  A plain old red brick (to me) could be identified by its texture as to age and what it might be used for.  A piece of sheep bone now told us if it was lamb (a better cut of meat) or mutton.  Sueanna, a geo-archaeologist also spent part of the day.  She studies dirt, yes dirt.  Where I saw some colored dirt, she saw a plow trough.  That means they were down to the level maybe predating the Irish when this area was part of Fletcher’s farm.  The analysis of the pollen and seeds in the soil will tell more of what was being grown and eaten in this period.  There were also visitors who stopped by who shared their family stories.  Priscilla’s family were the McOskers from Dromore, N. Ireland, so close to Hugh’s home.  The Doherty family from Charelstown may have been part of Hugh’s work crew.  

Towards the close of the day, Brian’s pit found a partial clay pipe bowl with an image of what looks to be a church.  Quite a unique find and needs to be investigated more. 
Tomorrow the well cap come off?  Or does it?  And tomorrow the dig on this side of the Atlantic ends.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Dig 2012-Day 4: Rain, rain, go away. Archaeologists want to play

Look familiar?










I couldn’t help seeing the resemblance here. 
As the storm clouds moved in and lightning flashed above the steeple of St Patrick’s, it looked like relief was on the way.  It also meant that the torrents filled in the pits and had to be bailed out with sponges.  The dry dust became mud, which raised its own challenges.  But that did not stop our hearty souls from continuing their quest.  The rains came, but the heat and humidity remained. 
UMass Chancellor Meehan paid a visit today and visited the site.  The part the University is playing in the program is essential to its continuance.  The students who have been able to participate here and at Crossan get a unique perspective on history and immigration.  Just as important is the global connection of seeing beyond place and time.

I have been waiting for a year to see what is under that stone sitting in Trench 3.  When this dig started on Monday, I thought that was the day.  Then Tuesday came, and then the big day today.  If it’s one thing I’ve learned about archaeologist, it’s that they are methodical.  Today was another day of scraping, sifting, measuring, and drawing.  Patience is a virtue I sorely lack.  The story of the stone remains a mystery for another day.
There were some great finds though.  Larger pieces of redware and crockery came out of the pits today, along with some much larger cattle and sheep bones. In Harry’s trench, the soil was brought to another level, once again revealing an even earlier layer.  The deeper you go, the more likely the older the artifacts.  In just a few minutes, a metal thimble and large pipe stem were found.  Being found so far under the surface, one must ask, who used these items?  Did the woman search far and wide for her precious sewing item?  Did the man sit by the side of the Western canal after a day’s work to enjoy his smoke before heading home?
Do you have a question for the archaeologists?  Send a comment along.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Dig2012- Day 3: Things Are Heating Up

“The job of an archaeologist is to dig a hole just to fill it in again.”  With temps reaching just about 100 degrees, the quote from Dr. Harry Welsh sounds rather dismal.  But the work continued nonstop today.  The team from Queens may be wishing for a little bit of “soft” weather.  Ami, Katie, and Marcelle, from UMass, will find today’s weather quite different when they have to bundle up and put on their rain gear when they get to Crossan in August.  Sarah, from last year’s Irish team, informs us it rained all day today in Tyrone. 

To an outsider,  two open pits may not be very exciting.  A closer observer would see things were moving along.  Harry, Katie, and Ami worked on the “trash heap” pit.  The area that was uncovered in 2010 was thought to be a yard where debris was deposited.   That team brought part of the pit down to another level.  There’s more to be done, but the evidence possibly shows this was an earlier layer than the McDermott house.  Could this be the actual yard that Hugh himself tread upon? 
In Trench 3, Brian Sloan, Emily Murray, and Marcelle spent the entire day uncovering the cistern.  In doing so each shovel full of soil had to be sifted.  The results were not surprising, a lot of redware, transferware, and coal.  Not exciting, but think what it says about the residents of our house.  We get a better idea of how they were heating or cooking, and what they were eating off of.  With the cistern being cleaned off, there’s excitement in the air.  Will the cap be off tomorrow?

Emily Murray was able to take a closer look at the bones and shells discovered in 2010.  Emily is an expert in those fields.  Many of the oyster shells are cracked and broken, possibly signs of being broken open.  There is an Oyster House listed in the early City Directories.  Could this be where they were from?  You can imagine after a backbreaking day of digging, our Irish pioneers would enjoy a plate of oysters and a beer.  Beer was often sold out of people’s houses, not necessarily a bar.  You would bring your bucket to whoever sold the beer and carry it home.  There is a newspaper article accusing one house of selling beer to women.  Massachusetts went through several period of who could buy or sell beer.  Emily also examined the animal bones found in Year 1.  We knew of the cattle bones, but she also identified sheep and a few pig.  This is interesting since we have 2 accounts of pigs running wild in the Acre and people being told to bring them inside.  One might consider there would be more pig bones.
Who know what tomorrow will bring?  Cool breezes?  Open cisterns?  A stoneware jug with Hugh Cummiskey's name on it?

Ask the archaeologists a question?  Send along a comment.  Let us know your interests.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Dig 2012- Day 2: Let the Digging Begin

I think this picture says it all.  The heat was in the mid 90s (That’s 35 C for European readers.)  Humidity was 63%, in the danger zone according to Nat’l Weather Bureau.  That set the heat index at 110 degrees.  The seven diggers went through almost 40 bottles of water.  And tomorrow predicts higher temps.  With the summer heat baking the ground hard, cutting through the sod took a good part of the day.  I’m not sure if Dr. Emily Murray knew what summer in Lowell could encompass, but she quickly found out. 

The team of four archaeologists from Queen’s University, Belfast, N. Ireland and three students from UMass Lowell put their shovels in the ground at 9 am.  Dr. Colm Donnelly decided to reopen Trench 3 from 2011.  Readers may recall this is the pit with the potential cistern stone.  The pit is being widened to uncover more of the stone and to get a better idea of the cistern’s placement.  They are looking at data from the soil to see if it would have been located inside or outside Fr. McDermott’s house (called a “shanty” in the period newspapers).   By day’s end, the diggers were anxious to get to the next step of opening the cistern.  Small artifacts such as redware pottery shards, oyster shells, and pipe stems were uncovered.
Pit 2 from 2010 was reopened.  This was the pit that was described as the garbage heap two years ago.  Soil tests from last year suggest that there may be something under this layer.  Considering that written evidence exists that this area was once quite crowded in the early Irish immigration period of the 1820s and 30s, the soil tests could be pointing the way to some of the earliest dwellings of Irish pioneers in Lowell. 
I suggested that a backhoe would have done in minutes what took the entire day.  But these are professionals and recognize that every stone, every layer of soil, every piece of slag, pipe stem, or bit of coal tells a part of the story.  Each find dictates careful recording of location and type of material.
While I sat in the shade, Brian Sloan from Queens was singing Wild Colonial Boy as he widened Trench 3.  The sound of shovel after shovel hitting rock filled the summer air.  If you closed your eyes you could almost be taken back to 1831 when the Western canal, which runs along Suffolk Street, was being dug by the first Irish to meet up with the earlier Merrimack Canal.  You could see them bent over their shovels and hear their tunes as the workers labored on.  Perhaps our foundation stone was part of that debris dug out at that time? 

Have a question for the archaeologists?  Send them along and we'll find an answer for you. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Dig 2012- Day 1: Questions and More Questions


Colm, Brian, Harry, Emily
What greater way to start a week in New England than a trip to Parker’s Maple Barn in Mason, NH.  The team (Colm, Harry, Emily, and Brian) probably had more than their fill of maple syrup and pumpkin pancakes.  So it was off to work to find out more about our “shanty” by taking a trip to Old Sturbridge Village.  We were fortunate to have OSV Curator, Tom Kelleher, as our guide.  Our first stop was the “small house.”  Tom was involved with the research and building of the house.  This type of house was quite popular in the early 1800s.  It was a working class home, often used for renters.  The basic design is almost square with a single fireplace for cooking and heating.  Some of these houses might have a room partitioned on the main floor to be used as a bedroom.  If there was a second floor, it was most often used as the children’s bedroom.
Tom Kelleher, OSV & Colm Donnelly
Tom knew every plank and nail of the building and could fascinate you with details such as the octagonal, wooden pegs used to hold the frame together.  The shape is such that it can grasp the wood and keep the building standing strong.  It was not uncommon for entire buildings to be lifted off of foundations to be relocated to another piece of land.  The building was so well made such an act could be done more than once without weakening the building.  But the foundation is what interested the team the most.

Inside the Small House at OSV
In 2010 and 2011, the general outline of our house at St. Patrick Church was somewhat identified.  But a clearer definition of how and on what our house stood still needs to be investigated.  Here in New England a wooden house will not last very long if allowed to lie directly on the ground.  Wood plus damp soil equals rot.  Any builder will tell you the wooden house should rest on a stone foundation.  The OSV house’s stone foundation uses dry wall construction, no mortar.  Each stone was taken from the field and laid one on top of the other so they fit together.  Was this how our house’s foundation was made?
Inside the shoeshop at OSV
Well, Tom brought us to another building, the shoemaker’s shop.  This too resembled our house.  This too had a stone foundation, but of a different type.  The building was lifted off the ground by piles of stones, not the solid dry wall that was found previously- one which fully encompassed the square of the foundation.  Was this the foundation of our house?  Again, using a block and tackle and a couple of team of oxen the house can be lifted from its foundation and moved to a new spot.  We know this was regularly done in Lowell.  There is a possibility that our house had been moved there. 
Oxen at OSV
The folks at OSV also spoke about the use of the term 10-footer.  I assumed it meant a 10 by 10 foot house.  The term can be more generic than that and is more aptly applied to be a small, simple, home.
Tomorrow, the pit that was closed up last July will be opened once again.  What will a clearer definition of the foundation tell us about Father McDermott’s shanty?  What about the cistern discovered last year?  If it can be opened, what might be inside?

Sunday, July 8, 2012

A Memory & Some Notes


A MEMORY…….

One of the goals of this blog is to hear from you, whether you are an “Acre”-ite or just someone passing by on the web highway.  The counter shows over 12,000 viewer;, we sure would like to get your input.  We know there are stories out there, and it’s time they get recorded.  Just yesterday a  friend  mentioned he had graduated from Keith.  I knew that part, but did not know how often he had been “disciplined” while attending the school.  Yet today he is a respected teacher.  (I withhold his name to save his reputation.) 

After we researched the Boys School entry, Walter was able to add a personal note.

My interest in St. Patrick's Boys' School was heightened when I came across some photos my father had taken just before it was demolished.  Attached is a view of the Suffolk street facade.

He also took a picture of the rear of the building.
In the course of researching the school, I found a Lowell SUN article dated May 18, 1900 about the re-opening of the school scheduled for September.


“The younger pupils who always make up such a large number of the scholars will be under the charge of the Sisters of Notre Dame and teachers from the academy will be assigned to look after the young folks.  It is proposed to make a slight change in the school because of this arrangement.  A new entrance will be made at the rear of the school building and this will be accessible from Fenwick street.”

  The picture to the left shows the rear of the school with the aforementioned entrance, and I do believe the figures in black entering are indeed some of the Sisters.








AND SOME NOTES

A few weeks ago I met Eric at Open Doors.  We had quite a few visitors that day, but I noticed the detail with which he was viewing the art and architecture of St. Patrick’s.  We chatted for a while and found out he has a particular goal of creating a photographic survey of the city.  Please take a look at this herculean task he has taken upon himself.  Not only do I commend his efforts for helping St Pat’s and other places to record our stories, but notice the art he creates with his camera.  Many thanks, Eric.  You use your talents well.  Here is where you can see Eric’s work at St Pat’s http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Saint_Patrick_Church_%28Lowell,_Massachusetts%29, and the wider city http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Emw/gallery


The photo below is a detail of the window of St Patrick teaching the Chieftains at Tara taken by Eric.


Dig-2011
            I have been waiting 12 months for this.  My little countdown clock has been ticking away second by second.  No, it’s not Santa’s arrival at Christmas.  It’s better than that!  THE BIG DIG III is one week away.  The four Irish archaeologists will be arriving Saturday.  On Sunday will be a field trip to see a 10-footer, a house somewhat typical of the 19th century and reminiscent of what our shanty might have looked like.  Then the fun begins!  The Dig will commence on Monday and finish up on Friday.  What will be found this year?  What new secrets will be revealed?  What will our old house tell us about those Irish pioneers?

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

So, where is the Acre?


Detail of section of the Acre, Map of Lowell, 1850
Lowell Historical Society
You don’t know how many times I’ve been asked that question.    I’ve been fortunate to work with the Tsongas Industrial History Center and their summer programs for teachers from across the US.  Each year the Center, under Director Sheila Kirschbaum, invites teachers from across the US to come and learn about the Lowell story, share their teaching expertise, and return to their school districts perhaps with a new sense of understanding history.  Historian Gray Fitzimons and I lead the participants on a walking tour of the Acre neighborhood.  On the previous days the teachers are brought to museums, boat tours, and hands-on workshops.  On their final day we show them the working people’s story.  It’s often mentioned that this is a highlight of the trip.  Why?  If you have walked through the Acre you might be able to answer the question yourself.  It’s alive!  There’s history there in between the traffic and Acre residents.  But time and time again, the question is asked, “Where is the Acre?”
There’s the political Acre.  The historical Acre.  The cultural Acre.  Ask a half dozen people for boundary lines; you’ll get half a dozen different answers.  Just try looking up maps produced by the city and organizations throughout the decades.  The Acre is more a state of mind than a political division.

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:

In the suburbs of Lowell, within a few rods of the canals, is a settlement, called by some, New Dublin, which occupies rather more than an acre of ground.  It contains a population of not far from 500 Irish, who dwell in about 100 cabins, from 7 to 10 feet in height, built of slabs and rough boards; a fire-place made of stone, in one end, topped out with two or three flour barrels or lime casks.  In a central situation, is the school house, built in the same style of the dwelling-houses, turfed up to the eaves with a window in one end, and small holes in two sides for the admission of air and light.  In this room are collected together perhaps 150 children.
So there is our Acre, or is it?

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.