Thursday, August 2, 2012


The weather that Lowell experienced in January of 1835 was “unprecedented.”  The low temperature recorded that month was 24 degrees below zero.  The freeze was up and down the east coast, closing ports as far as New York because of the ice.  People were found frozen to death in their homes.  One poor soul went out to the stable to check on his horse and froze to death there.  Fires were breaking out with people trying to keep warm and becoming careless with their stoves.  Some hardy souls were foolish enough to throw ice parties out on the frozen rivers.  It was well known that many used it as an excuse to imbibe strong spirits. 

Maybe the cold was what drove 6 year old Michael Mangin over to Goodhues and Brooks on Hurd Street.  Artemas Brooks operated a small shop where he employed a few workers shaping wood to be used as molding and other uses.  The sharp planes were dangerous, but living in an industrial city like Lowell, one was constantly surrounded by such potential hazards.  Michael possibly lived about one block away on Green Street where many other Irish found housing.    He was actually a familiar figure in the shop.  He often came here to pick up wood chips to bring home to be burnt.  There are a number of accounts of Irish gathering wood pieces to be used for fuel or for building their shanties. 
Source: Old Sturbridge Village
It was just before sunset on this particular day when Michael appeared with his little collecting basket.  He and two friends went about the shop gathering scraps.  Surely his mother sent him out to the shop before it closed and before father came home, possibly from the nearby Hamilton mill.  With the extreme cold she wanted to be sure she had enough to keep the fire going on this cold winter night.  It took one second for the accident to happen.  Michael lifted his head into the turning blade.  The sad details were listed in the paper as 19th century writers loved to narrate.  He took but a single breath and expired.
One can only imagine Artemas Brooks carrying Michael home.  The cries of the mother.  The family gathered at the Catholic Burial Ground.
The 1835 Directory lists no Mangin family in Lowell at this time.  There is a Mongan family on Green Street and coincidentally Mr. Brookes owned that house.  There was a Michael Mongan, the potential father, who worked at the Hamilton.  Names were often misspelled or mispronounced.  Few Irish could sign their name, never mind spell it out.  In the 1500 names we recorded for the oldest stones at St Patrick Cemetery, there is no Mangin or Mongan, or anything close to it.  No surprise.  In this period a stone would cost a week’s wages.  Simple wooden crosses were the norm.  A slate stone probably would have been far more than our family could afford.  It is a fact that there are many more burials in Yard One than anyone knows.  I have taken the liberty to use the Mongan family for Michael Mangin’s family.  The details of the story are as they were reported in the paper.  Finding such stories however are not rare.  A quick look at the Lowell Patriot lists “accident” over 130 times.  The number of deaths by drowning, machines breaking, rail cars crushing limbs, goes on and on.  It’s the stuff that sold papers.  Readers of this period would take in every detail, thanking God it wasn’t their name appearing on the page.  The term “Irish laborer” or “Irish youth” appears too frequently associated with the headline- accident.  Michael’s story came to us through blog reader, Rosemary, who was moved by the idea of a young life ended too soon.
We remember them.

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