Friday, November 29, 2013

Relics of Baltimore

Photo taken by Walter's Dad
Where’s Walter?  Since his becoming a man of leisure, one might assume Walter has been sitting on some recliner watching reruns of Hogan’s Heroes.  Not so.  Walter has collected a lifetime of stories and leads.  Instead of resting on his laurels, he has been out and about following up on tips that only someone of his caliber could follow.  After years working in Special Collection at the Pollard Library and even more years at the National Archives, Walter is one of the most well versed Lowell historians around today.

His most recent finds have to do with the Baltimore Riot of 1861.  We all know of Ladd & Whitney, but what of the others in the 6th Mass.?  Earlier blog entries have mentioned Timothy Crowley, the Lowell native who carried the colors that day in April.  It was noted because he led troops through the city never dropping the flag, that many were saved.  (Hey, this is LowellIrish, I had to include an Irishman somewhere!). 

Here’s the latest from Walter-

The Drum
On a recent visit to the Massachusetts State Archives, while researching the Baltimore riot of 19 April 1861, an archivist mentioned that the Archives had the drum of the 6th Regiment.  When I expressed interest, she kindly provided me a photocopy of the artifact Description.

The drum was presented to Governor Andrew on 17 November 1882 by Henry J. White who was the drummer of Co. “I”, Lawrence Light Artillery, 6th Regiment. The Boston Journal of 17 November reported that the drum White carried was the only State drum in the regiment, all other drums being the personal property of the individual drummers.  When it came into his possession the heads were broken in, but General Schouler supplied new ones.  On arrival at Baltimore the members of the regiment were assaulted by the mob and White was knocked down with blows from two brickbats.  He was picked up and sent back with other members of the band to Boston, the drum being subsequently restored to him.  The Governor stated that the drum would be placed on the wall of the Executive Chamber over the flag of the Old Sixth.

The Musket
Moments later the archivist informed me that the musket of Charles Taylor was also held by the Archives and asked if I would like to see the donation record sheet.  Of course I said yes!

Four members of the 6th were killed at Baltimore, and a fifth died several months later from wounds received that day.  The four were Luther Ladd, Addison O. Whitney, and Charles A. Taylor, all of Lowell companies, and Sumner H. Needham of Lawrence.  Sergeant John E. Ames would also succumb to his wounds in 1862.  It was the death of Sgt. Ames which sparked my interest in this event.  Being a Lowellian I was of course familiar with the story of Ladd, Whitney and Taylor, but was not familiar with Corporal Needham.  Also unknown to me was the story of Sgt. Ames and the other forty-four men wounded at Baltimore and the actions of both the Massachusetts and Maryland legislatures.

Charles Taylor was and remains a mystery.  He joined the regiment in Boston as it was about to entrain for Washington.  His residence and birthplace are unknown, as is his place of burial in Baltimore.

The musket, manufactured by Eli Whitney,  was picked up after the riot in a house adjacent to the riot (presumably the house wherein Taylor died) and later held by  Wilson Post No. 1 GAR in Baltimore.  On 19 April 1881, the Post presented the musket to the Sixth Regiment Association, which in turn presented it to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to be hung in the State House. In 1994  the musket was examined by a Military Appraiser and doubts were raised as to whether it was actually Taylor's.  The Sixth Regiment was equipped with muskets manufactured at the Springfield and Harper's ferry armories – not those manufactured by Whitney.

 The Mystery......
The Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Edson Cemetery was dedicated September 1905 in memory of the veterans of the Civil and Spanish Wars.  Today, only the base stands.  What happened to the Soldier?  He has been 'missing' for at least the past thirty years.  WHERE IS HE??

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

An Acre Memory - the Day JFK Was Shot

If my memory is correct it was one of those grey days of November.  Our teacher was Mrs. Dalton, the sole lay teacher for many years at St. Patrick’s School.  Mrs. Dalton’s daughter came driving up through the school yard honking the car horn.  She drove passed the steps of the school right under our classroom window.  Mrs. Dalton bolted to the window and opened it.  “He’s been shot.  The President’s been shot!”  The date was Friday, November 22nd 1963.  The classroom had just had a large black and white TV installed in the class.  Mrs. Dalton turned it on to see the grainy pictures coming in from Dallas.  The TV anchormen were getting mixed reports from their sources.  Mrs. Dalton left the class, probably to tell the nuns in the other classrooms.  Finally, the moment we all remember, Walter Cronkite made the announcement that JFK was dead.  Within minutes the bell of the church began to toll and kept up until it was time to go home.
I ran into the house expecting to break the news to my mother.  She was standing at the ironing board in the kitchen positioned so she could see the TV in the living room.  She was openly weeping.  I don’t think the television was off over the next 4 days.  Our usual Friday night trip to one of my aunt’s for the weekly card game was cancelled and replaced with my mother announcing we should all say the rosary for the repose of President Kennedy’s soul.  With the TV still on, we knelt by the couch and said our Hail Marys.   Instead of ending each decade with the Glory be, it was replaced with, “Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord.”
This all was happening while my dad was wallpapering the TV room.  We watched while Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested.  We watched while the crowds lined up for the viewing in Washington.  We watched while Jackie made her visit to the coffin.  On Sunday the wallpapering was nearing completion.  My folks had set up a card table in the living room, and we were given a rare opportunity to eat in front of the television.  The spaghetti was just served when my mother gave out a scream as we saw Jack Ruby shooting Oswald live on television.    No rosary was said for him.
One sound I and others will never forget would be the roll of the drums during the funeral cortege.  Catholic churches around the country had funeral Masses said for JFK on the Monday that he was to be buried.  St. Patrick’s was draped in black.  Six tall candles surrounded a coffin meant to represent the dead President’s.  The priest processed out clothed in their black chasubles.  We rushed home to follow what was going on in D.C..  There was Richard Cardinal Cushing with black cope incensing the remains.  Again the roll of the drums.  The salute of the young son.  The lighting of the flame.
The following day Sister Clair Cecilia announced the all the children would write letters to Mrs. Kennedy to express our sadness.  I remember telling her how proud we were to have a Catholic president and that we would pray for her and her family.  I ended by asking her to send me a pair of his rosary beads and I would keep them safe.  She didn’t answer.
Tucked away in a box in the cellar is a copy of the newspaper of the day he was shot.  There’s also a prayer card with a black border and a book called Four Days.  My mother said to hold onto them.  You will want to remember what happened.  Fifty years later I still remember.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Day the Irish President Visited Lowell - 2013

Ireland has long been known as the home of saints and scholars.  While Dr. Mary McAleese may not be canonized, she certainly embodies the qualities of both.  Dr. Bob O'Neil and Michaelene O'Neil, alumni of St Patrick School, extended the invitation to the former Irish president to visit the parish.  Her presence was genuine and warm; she put all at ease.  This woman, who was twice the president of Ireland, led the peace process, stands as a model for women leadership, and a devout Catholic made all her met her feel as if she had known them for many years.  Fr. Dan and Fr. Paul along with a group of other OMI priests welcomed her to the rectory where she took time for home made cookies and chat with the staff.  She then was taken on a tour of the Acre where she made connections with her own birthplace in Belfast and the mills of that city. 
After being introduced by Mayor Murphy, Dr. McAleese then addressed those who came to hear her.  She spoke of Patrick, peace, reconciliation, and Pope Francis.  The children of St. Patrick School joined her to light a peace candle in the church where it will be kept burning.  A small plaque next to it says, "So that justice and mercy may prevail in our world."  This is a quote that Dr. McAleese shared after the attack on September 11th.  It was a moving sight to see a former President with children lighting a candle in a church that has been home to so many immigrants. 

This entire evening was made possible by cooperation between so many groups; the Irish Cultural Committee, UMass Lowell, AOH, and the Ladies Sodality of St Patrick Parish.  The culmination was conferring of an honorary doctorate degree by Chancellor Marty Meehan at the UMass Lowell's Inn and Conference Center.  We cannot close without saying our most sincere thanks to all involved.  This is a fine example of how Irish culture lives on in Lowell.

As we walked the grounds of the church it occurred to me that a former President of Ireland was standing on the same ground that her fellow countrymen and women built their shanties nearly two hundred years ago.  We were honored to have her as our guest, and pray that her words will remain with us. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Day the Irish President Visited Lowell - 1920

Eamon de Velara
With the upcoming visit of Dr. Mary McAleese this Friday, it occurred to me that this is not the first time that a President of Ireland has come to St. Patrick Church.  The planning for her visit has been going on for weeks with agendas being confirmed, and protocols being checked.  This week’s visit is being co-sponsored by the Irish Cultural Committee of St Patrick Parish and UMass Lowell.  It has been a whirlwind of meetings and emails.  Things haven’t changed much from a similar event in 1920.
As the provisional president of Ireland, Eamon de Valera was on vigorous 19 month-long tour of the US seeking recognition of the Irish Republic. The purpose of his visit was to acquire a loan to help secure finances for the newly formed country and to seek the help of the American public in accomplishing these goals.  At times his itinerary had him visiting several cities in one day, making speeches to groups both small and large, and moving from one train station to another.  A committee of Lowell citizens wrote a letter in September of 1919 to de Valera petitioning him to visit the city.  A response came committing that he would arrive on Sunday, February 8, 1920.  Once word got out, it seems that every Catholic church, city dignitary and politician, every social group and fraternity and marching band wanted to join in.  The Lowell Sun tracked the President’s whereabouts day by day.  As the day of the visit drew closer, the city prepared itself.  Notices were posted about different Holy Name Societies preparing their marching orders.  Receptions were planned around the city.  A parade route was formed with each organization vying for its place to greet the President.
We are told that the skies shown bright blue on the day of the visit.  But February in New England is known for its frigid temperatures and winds, and that was what nature sent that day.  A corps of uniformed soldiers made their way to the train station on Middlesex Street.  They formed an honor guard for the motorcar that would carry him through the city.  He was set to arrive at about two in the afternoon.  Though a full agenda was planned, he was set to leave for Lawrence by 6 pm.  The crowd was estimated to be over 10 thousand that lined the route.  Many businesses had donned bunting and the Irish colors over the doorways and window fronts. 
As the fates would have it, his train had a series of delays.  There was no way to let the crowds know of the length of time they would have to wait in the cold.  Many tried making their way into the train station to get warm.  Others hid in the doorway along Merrimack Street.  The reporter of the day said few would leave their post.  Finally at 5 pm a cheer went up announcing his arrival.  The excitement passed along the parade route down Middlesex, to Central, to Merrimack, to City Hall, where a private reception was planned with speeches by a long list of politicians.  He was given the seat of the Mayor while the politicians spoke on. De Velara made his apologies and everything was cut short due to time.
Msgr. William O'Brien
There was one item on the list that was not deleted.  De Valera got in a car and was driven over to St. Patrick Parish where he had a private audience with Msgr. William O’Brien.  We have no idea what was said between the two men, but we do know that he was invited into the rectory for a small reception.  From there, he went to the main reception of the visit at Associates Hall.  It was now 7 pm.  The room could not hold another person.  Many stayed out in the cold just to hear his voice.  Mayor Thompson and Fr. McDermott of Sacred Heart introduced the President.  His speech came from the heart.  He spoke of freedom, the right to choose, and the right of a people to for their own government.  The speech was as American asyou could get, but tugged at the hearts of those who knew the Irish plight.  It was 9:15 pm by the time speeches were done and he was on his way to the next city, always working for the cause.
Please join us as we welcome President Mary McAleese on her visit to St. Patrick Church and Lowell on Friday, November 8th at 4pm.  Dr. McAleese will speak on the peace process and light a peace candle to be kept burning at the church. 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Keely Society's - Ted Furey

Today's talk, Glorious Gems of Lowell: Patrick Keely's Legacy, which was part of the Parker Lecture series, brought an interested crowd to St. Patrick Church.  Founder and president of the Keely Society, Ted Furey, is a bit of a gem himself.  Ted is a treasure trove of information on the life of one of America's most famous immigrant-architects, Patrick Keely.  Ted is an artist and educator and has personally visited many of the remaining Keely buildings.  Thanks to Ted, an archive of photos is being built to record the remaining churches that were designed by Keely until his death in 1896, and later taken over by his son-in-law.  Because of age and neglect, many Keely churches have fallen into disrepair and have been razed.  Ted also is the director of the museum that tells the story of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, another Keely gem.  Ted, who lives in Connecticut, is no stranger to Lowell and has photos of other local Keely churches, such as Immaculate Conception and St Jean Baptiste.  Keely also designed the chapel of the Sisters of Notre Dame at St. Patrick's, and after the 1904 fire it was his

firm that did the reconstruction.  Ted casually looked around the church and quoted who did the carpentry; what firm made the windows; and even the style number of the stations of the cross.  Looking up at the side altars, Ted shared how difficult it was for the sculptor, Sibbel, to create the angel figures with the upright wings.  His passion and respect for Keely's work is obvious.  I wish we had a few more hours with him.