Thursday, February 27, 2014

Mr, Boott's Gardener

Kirk Boott's Home (Mill and Mansion)
When Kirk Boot was given the task of managing the new mill town being built on the Merrimack, he was leaving behind the family mansion in Boston and the life of the socially elite to which he was accustomed.  Back in Boston, the Boot’s were well known for their mansion on Bowdoin Street and its fine art and architecture.  The family was also known for its beautiful gardens, greenhouses, and especially for their roses.  So it was providential in 1822 that when Mr. Boott was building his Greek-Revival mansion in East Chelmsford, soon to be Lowell, he would include space for the cultivated lawns and landscaping to which he was accustomed.  His blueprint for the construction of the Merrimack Manufacturing Company would include a landscaped entrance area to the mill along with plants and flowers placed between the different buildings.
 To achieve that end Mr. Boott brought John Green up from Boston to serve as his gardener and steward.  History does not tell us how the two men met.  Perhaps he worked for the Boott family in Boston?  John Green was born in Aughavading, Co. Leitrim in 1798.  He arrived in Boston in 1823 living there for a short time before settling in Lowell.  Green’s name appears in several histories of Lowell being listed as one of the prominent Irishmen of the period.  His first mention in Lowell was paying the poll tax in 1826.  His occupation was regularly listed in the Town/City Directories as gardener working at Boott’s.  After his death his son, John J Green, reminisced about his father being the superintendent of landscaping at the Merrimack and being part of the planning of the North Common.
When Mr. Boott died unexpectedly in 1837, Green continued working as a gardener at the 
Lowell Map, 1850
 “Company farm.”   In Boott’s will, he bequeathed Green $72 in wages, a very hefty sum for a gardener.  Later Green was listed as “botanic physician.”  He became a US citizen and started acquiring property.  He moved into a new home on the corner of Willie and Cross Streets where he lived for the remainder of his days.  The 1850 census showed he owned $10,000 in real estate.  Few Irishmen of this period had such holdings.  By the time he reached the age of 60, John Green considered himself a “gentleman.”  One can imagine him in his garden on Willie Street, pruning and weeding.  Then he would stroll through the North Common making his way to Saint Patrick’s Church for Mass.  His niece, Anne Flynn, moved into the home to act as his nurse.  Upon his death he recognized her help by granting her a small stipend.  His will divided his properties among his survivors, but his final hope was that the family would remain together and share the holdings.  In 1866 he joined his fellow Irish pioneers in Yard One of St. Patrick Cemetery.  His brief obituary, obituaries not even being common practice at the time, testified to his fine character and reiterated the bond he had with Mr. Boott almost 30 years previous.   He left Ireland a poor man, but died wealthy in more ways than one.

His son, John J Green, was a member of the Lowell chapter of the Irish American Historical Society, which attempted to preserve the Irish history of Lowell.  Unfortunately none of the minutes of the group survive today that recorded the actual recollections of those early Irish pioneers.  In 1921 John J Green tried to persuade the city to memorialize the walk of Hugh Cummiskey and the first Irish laborers with parades, lectures, church services, and the erection of a suitable monument on the North Common. 
Like John J Green, George O’Dwyer (author of Irish Catholic Genesis of Lowell), and others, the Irish Cultural Committee of St. Patrick Parish tries to preserve Lowell’s Irish past.  Please join us this March as we present the 31st annual Irish Cultural Week.!/LowellIrish

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Four Hundred from the Grove

Garrett Sheehan from the St. Pat's Irish Cultural Committee sent along this great article which originally appeared in the Lowell Sun in 1988.  Thomas the fiddler, referred to in the article, was his grandfather.
'The Four Hundred' Irish from the Grove     By THOMAS M. SHEEHAN

Postcard image
LOWELL - It is a known fact that the original Irish immigrants to Lowell settled in what is known as "The Acre," where they built St. Patrick's Church and School.  Less recognized have been the efforts of "a third wave" of Irish immigrants who arrived in Lowell in the late 1800's.  This "third wave" of Irish came to make their homes in a neighborhood situated on a wooded hillside which had become known as the "The Grove.”  "My own Irish heritage is founded in this area of the city which surrounds Sacred Heart Church on Moore Street.”  These Irish settlers put the same energy into the building of a parish as their predecessors in "The Acre."  It was a very close knit neighborhood where people stuck together during good times and bad, weddings and funerals, births and deaths, sickness and health, through peace and war.  There was once a time when just about everybody in "The Grove" was related in one way or another.  From it's beginning in the 1880's, a family would come to Lowell from Ireland and secure a place to live, and be a base of support for brothers and sisters, as well as cousins when they arrived - to get jobs and establish a home of their own after marrying.  In many cases, single persons were married off within a year of their arrival.  There was lots of matchmaking going on.

Many of the relations of the first settling families married each other's cousins, sons and daughters, forming a clan.  This became a tradition as these families - referred to as "The Four Hundred" - banded together and built Sacred Heart Church, and later, a school for their children, while establishing a wholesome neighborhood environment.  Here, they found the opportunity to make a good life for them self’s, prosper, and provide the necessary opportunities for their children.  Many of the Irish who were living in the "Flats" (back Central, Newhall and Lawrence Streets) moved to new homes being built in "The Grove."  The foundation of Sacred Heart Church had been built, and was dedicated on Aug, 10, 1884.  With the help of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate Missonary Fathers, a parish was formed.  Parish members put their hearts and souls into church bazaars, raffles and other fund-raisers, and on Sunday, Sept. 29, 1901, Rev. Fallon of Buffalo delivered an impressive sermon at the church's grand dedication ceremony.  The ceremony was conducted by Lowell-born Bishop O'Connell, then Bishop of Portland, Me. and later to become Cardinal of the Archdiocese of Boston.  The parish pastor, Rev. J. P. Reynolds, proclaimed that the church wouldn't have come to fruition if it hadn't been for the "Four Hundred."

The principal families of the "Four Hundred" were considered to be the Lynchs, Murphys, Sheehans and Finnegans.  Checking the city directory, it was quite surprising to find just how many families with these last names lived in "The Grove" well into the 1900's.  Several Lynch families were listed on Andrews, Crowley, Agawam, and South Whipple Streets.  A number of Murphy families could be found on Andrews, Otis, Agawam and South Whipple.  Numerous Sheehan families made their abode on Agawam, St. James, South Whipple, Andrews, Bourne and Bleachery Streets.  The Finnegan families tended to reside along Lawrence Street, where several operated small shops.  To the descendants of these hard working Irish Families, the area is not Spaghettiville as it says on the Lawrence Street RR Bridge and it was never Bleacheryville, but “The Grove.”  The Murphys have been involved and intertwined with the Sheehans and Lynchs for about 200 years, going back to Ireland.  So it is no accident that they settled in the same neighborhood.  These first two families came from the farmland between Castleisland and Brosna in County Kerry, across the Feale River from Mt. Collins in County Limerick.  This is an area of rolling hills and lush fertile valley called Coom.  From the top of Castlehill, you can see the shimmering waters of Tralee Bay.  My great-great-grandmother was Mary Murphy, who married Tom Sheehan.  Their sons were Daniel (my great-grandfather), James, Mortimer, Tom (the soldier), Jeremiah (the tailor).  All except Daniel came to Lowell, but his granddaughter, Joan (Sullivan) McCarthy will arrive here next month with her adult children.There was a Thomas J. Murphy who married Josephine Sheehan (my grandfathers' sister) at Sacred Heart in 1898.  Should I trace my own roots back to the 12th century in Ireland, I just might find our ancestry stemming from Murchadh (Murphy), father of Sidechan (Sheehan), who were the 5th and 6th generation descending from Cenneitig (Kennedy), kind of Thamond; by his son Mathgamhain (Mahon), kind of Munster (Brother of Brian Boru kind of Ireland until 1014 A.D.)

The Lynchs and Finnegans came from a farmland called Garravane, outside Mt. Collins in County Limerick, a beautiful and peaceful place which I visited two years ago - in search of relatives.

My great-great-grandfather, John Lynch, a stonecutter, was married to Mary Finnegan on Feb. 6, 1842 and came to Lowell in 1883 with his six children - Timothy (my great-grandfather), Michael, Daniel, Thomas John, Mary Jane, and Catherine. 

John the stonecutter's granddaughter, Mary, was the wife of former State Rep. Connie Desmond.  Longtime Dracut High School football coach Ed Murphy was a descendant of the Grove's Murphy and Finnegan families.  The wife of State Rep. Edward LeLacheur (the former Eileen Mahoney) is a descendant of Jeremiah Sheehan the tailor, who had a shop at 20 Central Street.  Another Sheehan, nicknamed "Tom the Fiddler," was the son of Martin and Johanna, who had emigrated from Brosna.  Tom's son, John "Dukey" Sheehan, was the father of Lowell Chief of Police Jack Sheehan.  Marathoner Bob Hodge, who holds the record for running up the Mount Washington auto road, is married to Eileen (Hodge) Kempton, a Sheehan relation.  Many "grove" children, whose parents stressed respect for the law and service to community, grew up to become members of the city's Police and Fire Departments.

Edited from The Lowell Sun,  Sunday, April 17, 1988

Thursday, February 13, 2014

St Peter's Cemetery Part 2: The Little Black Book

This concludes the story of St. Peter's Cemetery as researched by Walter and Karen Hickey.
There is such a book entitled “St. Peter's Cemetery”, and we thought this would provide the answer to the locations of the graves. That expectation was relatively short-lived. The book is a record of lot owners.  In addition to the name of the purchaser, it provides the date of purchase, location of the lot, price paid, and sometimes the name or relation of the deceased.  All too often, the name of the decedent is not listed.  Instead, there is simply a notation “Opening grave” and the charge for that.  We are not told for whom the grave was opened.

 In the spreadsheet compiled from this book, there are 365 entries.  Of these only 165 have any notation of who is buried in that grave.  The remaining 200 have no decedent listed.

 Another problem is that the book seems to have been compiled after the fact as the purchases are not in chronological order.  The first burial was that of Edward Connor on 11 Dec 1900.  One would expect that this purchase would be the first listed in the book.  Instead it is listed on page 147 (of 176)

 From his obituary we know that the lot was purchased by his brother-in-law, Charles S. Little, and that this was the first plot sold.


Edward C. Connor at rest in St. Peter's Cemetery

 The first man to buy a lot in the new St. Peter's Cemetery was Charles S. Little of 59 Boynton street.  The lot he bought was one of the most desirable in the cemetery, 10 feet square, with room for eight graves, and the price was $25.  The first body interred in the new cemetery was buried in this lot on Tuesday.” 11 Dec.]  (SUNDAY TELEGRAM, 12 December 1900; 5:2)

 If it were not for that obituary providing the name of his brother-in-law, Charles S. Little, we would have no way of knowing where Mr. Connor was buried.  The purchase record indicates the lot was purchased on 10 December and opened for Edward C. Connor, the lot being at Section “D”.  #1.

 The first purchaser listed is Mrs. Bridget Murphy. Who bought the lot on 20 October 1902.  The first, and only, interment was on 5 March 1907.  There is no name of the decedent.  A check of all Lowell deaths, 1-10 March 1907, showed no one by the name of Murphy.  There were interments in St. Peter's cemetery but there was nothing in the obituary or funeral notices to indicate any relation to Mrs. Murphy.  It is also quite possible that the person did not die in Lowell.

 Also on Page 2, listed below Mrs., Bridget Murphy:

James Devaney purchased Lot 24, Sec “B” on St. Cecelia's Walk on 25 April 1903.

 Like the Murphy record, the record does not tell us for whom the grave was opened.  In this case, however, by looking at the record deaths in Lowell ca. 25 April 1903, we learn that the deceased was Bridget Devaney, nee Morris, daughter of Lawrence Morris and Margaret Carey, who died 24 April and was buried by undertaker Rogers in St. Peter's Cemetery.
 The next challenge in the tale of this little cemetery will be to determine if we can match those coordinates with existing graves and locations in the present yards.  We can wait for the snow to melt!

 The information contained in the purchase book has been entered into a spreadsheet.  There are two printings.  The first is in alphabetical order and the send in page order.  These, as well as the burial spreadsheets are in the office of St. Patrick's Cemetery.