Thursday, October 11, 2012

Cummiskey's Brewery

Charlestown, MA 1820
Needless to say Mary Shaw must have regretted the day the new owner of the brewery, a fellow by the name of Hugh Cummiskey, took over the place from Peter Finegan.  Mr. Finegan had offered his brewery for rent or sale. It had a prime location right across the street from the Navy Yard in Charlestown.  The year was 1822 and a very busy time for Cummiskey.  In April he had struck up a deal with Kirk Boot to supply workers for the widening and deepening canals in Lowell.  About this same time he bought the brewery and began offering, “porter, ale, and table beer of superior quality suitable for either draught or bottling.”  He also offered his customers to leave their orders at the Exchange Coffee House and they, “will be immediately attended to.”   He was a busy guy making his way between Charlestown and Lowell keeping tabs on all his projects. 
Brewery Ad, Boston paper, 1824
Let’s get back to Mary.  She owned a couple of acres directly across the street from the brewery.  She allowed a certain John Corey to dig clay on her property to be used for manufacturing bricks.  That is until Hugh Cummiskey dug a trench that would allow waste water from his beer making business to gather in a pit on the Shaw property.  The offensive discharge, which according to Mrs. Shaw was about 90 barrels a week, would become stagnant and permeate the neighborhood.  It became so bad that the board of health ordered her to fill in the area.  It cost her $83 to have the work done. Mary became the plaintiff in a case against Hugh that went all the way to the Massachusetts Supreme Court.  The jury ordered Hugh to pay $100 to Mrs. Shaw to pay her back for filling in the drainage pit and money lost. 
By 1825 Hugh signed a contract to help level the hills of Boston and do some digging along Causeway Street.  The group of 20 laborers that walked with him to Lowell in 1822 now was part of the growing Paddy Camps of that city, and Hugh was considered a labor and social leader of the group.  He put the brewery up for sale in 1831 and turned his attentions to the place he would call home until his final days.  There, he takes on another task of opening a West Indies Dry Goods Store on Merrimack Street (today a street sign (Cummiskey Alley) still bears his name where the store was) where he sells spirits; that is until he takes the pledge and becomes a temperance man. 

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