Thursday, November 29, 2012

Lowell's "Holy War" of 1837-1838

For the past few years much new material regarding Lowell'd early Irish past has been uncovered.  Through the work of UMass Lowell, Queen's University and contributors to LowellIrish the story of the deeds and trials of our Irish pioneers are being recorded for the next generation.  This entry is one of the most important as to its future repercussions as its results could be seen for decades.  Many thanks to Walter for gathering this material and authoring the work.
The history of St. Patrick's parish, and the Irish community in Lowell, ca. 1830-ca. 1868, was not always calm and peaceful.  Disagreement and argument were rampant.  There were conflicts among the Irish laity: “Corkonians versus Far Downers”.  Something favoured by one group was automatically opposed by the other.  There were  also 'differences of opinion' between priests and laity, between priests and Bishop Fenwick, and between priests.  One result was that there was a fairly frequent turnover of priests.  Indeed, it seems that one or two could not wait to ”get out of Dodge”. Histories of the church sometimes hint at disagreement, but that's as far as it goes.  As a result of research in newspapers, court records, and the Journals of Bishop Fenwick, we are beginning to gain new insights into those sometimes turbulent years.  Indeed, it might not be too extreme to call the period 1830-ca. 1868, the “Holy Wars”.  This is the tale of one episode.

Some months ago, while examining Record Books of the Middlesex Court of Common Pleas,  I noticed the notation: “McCool vs. McDermott”.  I was immediately intrigued and turned to the cited page.  WOW !!!  The case indeed was [Reverend] Edward J. McCool versus [Reverend] James T. McDermott.  What could this possibly involve?  

The Reverend Edward J. McCool was assigned to St. Patrick's Church by Bishop Fenwick in 1836.   Sixteen carpet weavers (Lowell Manufacturing Company) took up a collection and presented him a carpet and rug for his residence.  Fr. McCool, however, had 'problems' including an apparent over-fondness for alcohol, to the point that the Mayor advised Fenwick that he would do well to remove McCool from Lowell and assign him elsewhere. McCool was recalled in the summer of 1837 and Rev. James T. McDermott was assigned as the new pastor of St. Patrick's Church.

  Our story begins with the gift of a carpet and rug in 1836.
 “To the Revd. Mr. McCool      We the carpet weavers of Lowell Make you a present of this Carpet & rug for your Exclusive Right (?) While you Stop in Lowell.”            Note accompanying the carpet and rug gifts to McCool from the carpet weavers, presented as evidence by McCool.

In November 1837, McCool demanded that McDermott give him the carpet, which McDermott  refused to do. McCool then sought the assistance of Joseph Parker, Constable, whose deposition reads:

“I Joseph Parker of Lowell in the County of Middlesex, of lawful age depose and say, that on or about the twenty-eighth day of November 1837, I was requested to go to the house of the Reverend Edward J. McCool, the Catholic minister of Lowell, the house was then or soon afterward, occupied by the Rev. Mr. McDermott.  I went in company with an Irishman who name was Gallson or Gholson [most likely Thomas Galston] he shewed me the carpet which belonged to Mr. McCool, as he said.  I was ordered to take away the carpet by Edward Short or Gholson [Galston], and to deliver the same to Mr. McCool.

Mr. McDermott came in shortly after & I told him I came to get Mr. McCool's carpet.  He forbid my taking it and said it belonged to the house.  I came away without it.  Soon after I went to the same house with Mr. McCool and saw Mr. McDermott there.  McCool told him he had come to get his carpet.  This was in the house.  He refused to let McCool have it & then after demanding of it we came away.  I was then requested to go to Mr. Fuller's by Mr. McCool.  Mr. Fuller [Elisha Fuller, Justice of the Peace] gave me a writ and I served it the same day on Mr. McDermott.”

Inter. By A. Locke, Esq., Counsel for Deft.

Did Mr. McDermott occupy that house at that time?
            Ans.  That I don't know.
2nd Int.  Was the carpet on the floor?
            Ans.  It was.
3 Int.   Did McDermott appear to be at home in the house?
            Ans. I think he did.
4th Int.            Did McCool live in that house at that time?
            Ans. I dont know.
5th Int.            Did he appear to live there?
            Ans. He did not.
6th Int.            Did you find him elsewhere and leave him elsewhere?
            Ans. I did.
7th Int.            Where is McCool now?
            Ans. I don't know except by hearsay.
8th Int.  Was he at that time the officiating Catholic priest in Lowell?
            Ans. I can't say.
9th Int.            Did you ever see Mr. McCool drunk in the streets about that time?
            (Objected to by Ptff as improper and irrelevant to the case.)
            Ans. I never did.
10th Int.  Who was present at the time the demand was made before specified?
            Ans. There were two or three Irish men Caskin, Gholm, Short  whose names I do not know.
11th Int.  Did Mr. McDermott demand of Mr. McCool to shew his right to have or take the carpet?
            Ans. I cant recollect.  They had sharp words but I dont remember the [word not clear].

Middlesex Ss. Dec 21, 1838

Subscribed and sworn to & agreed to be admitted in evidence in case of McCool vs McDermott.

In rebuttal, Rev. McDermott presented the deposition of Alexander Wright, Superintendent of the Lowell Manufacturing Company (the Carpet Mill).

“I, Alex Wright of Lowell in the county of Middlesex on oath I depose and say as follows.  I was a subscriber to the carpet procured by certain carpet weavers in the carpet factory in 1836.  It was procured for the purpose of fitting up the house occupied by the Catholic priest Edward McCool in Lowell.  I subscribed on that ground I should not have subscribed for the purpose of giving to an individual.  There had been difficulty with the incumbent priest just before that time about a rug, and it was talked of when I subscribed.  I never was notified of any meeting of the subscribers in the cloth room of the carpet factory to determine about the destination of the carpet and rug.  If I had been, should have noted against giving it to any individual.  What I gave, I gave with a view to having the house furnished and not to the individual that occupied it, for I knew that he might be removed at any moment by the order of their Bishop.

I am superintendent of the Lowell Manufr. Co. Mills”

1.      Int by  Ptff.   What do you mean by saying you were a subscriber?  Did you subscribe your name to any paper on this occasion?
Answer- There was a paper with names penciled on it shown me.  I told them they might put me down two or three dollars I forget which.

2.        Who requested you to give any thing towards a carpet?
Answer- Stephen Lanigan and Patrick Sherridan.

                                                                        Alex Wright (signature)

3rd.  Do you know of any person, who gave anything toward the carpet except yourself who was not a carpet weaver?  If so who was it?

Middlesex Ss Dec 20, 1838

                                                                                    Sworn to before me
                                                                                    Elisha Fuller { Justice of the Peace

McCool's argument was based on the note signed by the carpet weavers which accompanied the carpet as well as the deposition of Constable Parker.  McDermott's defence rested solely on the deposition of Wright who clearly intended the carpet for the residence, not the individual.

The Jury found “that the Deft. is guilty in manner & form as the Ptff has alleged and assess damages at Seven dollars and eighty cents.”  McDermott lost.  In his financial report of St. Patrick's Church for 1838-1839, there is charge of $87.50 for “expenses on Carpet Law-Suit.”

This case was first filed in the March Term, 1838 of the Middlesex Court of Common Pleas and after continuances decided in the December Term of 1838.

Rev. McCool was involved in another incident early in 1838 in which others were criminally charged in the Police Court and the Criminal session of the Court of Common Pleas, but that is a tale for another day.

No comments:

Post a Comment