Sunday, March 23, 2014

A Tale of Two Daniels

One of the goals of this blog is to collect stories of Lowell's Irish past.  It's one thing for me to write little vignettes of happenings from generations past or my own Acre memories, but it is far more important we collect yours.  There have been folks who have shared their own stories, or stories from their families, but they are not as many as I hoped.  Everyone says they'll get to it at some point, but rarely does that happen.  Soon there stories will slip away and will be lost to the next generation.  We have a duty to preserve them.  Our recent documentary, shown during Irish Cultural Week, was made up of several folks who just shared a few moments of their time, yet added to our Lowell Irish history.

I'm reminded of Jack Flood, recently deceased.  He called me to sit with him so some of his stories could be preserved.  Smart man.  How about you?  Drop me an email.  I'd be glad to sit down and chat with you.  I'll do all the work, you do the talking.  If that's too much, send me your story.  It doesn't have to be long.  If you like we'll publish it.  If you don't we'll just put it in the archives.

This week's entry is one sent in by a reader, Rosemary K. Nunnally.
Google image

Young Daniel Lawn, Jr. left County Donegal with his mother Mary and siblings Elizabeth, Michael, Mary Ann, Sarah and James.  They arrived in New York on October 11, 1880.   They traveled on to Lowell, MA to join the head of the family, Daniel Lawn Sr., who was working as a laborer.  The family settled on Summer St. with other Irish immigrant families.

During the cold winter months, the children of the city entertained themselves with coasting, sledding on the South Common and on the streets of Lowell. The sleds they used were referred to as double runners. They were heavy and held several people. The sled could be difficult to steer with riders dragging their feet or jerking the sled sideways. Stopping the sled happened when it had played out its run at the bottom of the hill.
Ten year old Daniel enjoyed coasting. He left his home on a Friday afternoon in January of 1884 and made his way over to the South Common.  He probably went down the hill several times, walking back up to the top to start over again.
As the afternoon darkened into night, a terrible accident occurred. Daniel was hit by a sled. He suffered injuries which ultimately ended his life the next morning, January 26, 1884.
The Lowell Sun reported on the accident on the front page of the newspaper with the heading “Boy Killed By A Sled”.  The article went on to state “Daniel Lawn, residing at 25 Summer St., was run into by a "double-runner" sled on which boys were coasting on the South Common at 6 o'clock last evening, and died shortly before 6 o'clock this morning, notwithstanding the almost constant efforts of Dr. Phelan.”  Dr. Arthur Q. Phelan had his home and office at 4 Summer St. not far from where Daniel lived.

Daniel’s accident was also reported in the Boston Journal and Boston Daily Globe.  Both newspapers had a brief sentence explaining that Daniel had died from the effects of injuries from a coasting accident on the South Common.  Though there is no record of it, Daniel was most likely buried in St. Patrick’s Cemetery.  Daniel’s father, Daniel Lawn Sr., was buried there in yard 5F in 1902 and his mother Mary in 1912.

One hundred twenty-four years later in 2008, Daniel Lawn Jr.’s great great grandnephew, Daniel, went out sledding in a friend’s yard in the Belvidere section of Lowell. This Daniel also had a sledding accident.  Thankfully, due to improved medical care, the outcome of his accident was different. Though he had serious injuries to his face and mouth, Danny made a complete recovery. Separated by over one hundred years in Lowell, two young Daniels, two sledding accidents, and two stories to tell.


  1. Thank you for this interesting story, Rosemary. I remember my grandmother (and yours) talking about the double runners. Kathy H.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this story, though sad. I just came to Lowell last week via Bus from Chelmsford. I walked through the South Common to and from downtown Lowell. Walking through the South Common I tried to imagine all those through history that had used the park. From what I read parades used to start at the North Commons and end at the South Commons I think. I also believe that two Presidents gave speaches at the South Common. Cheers, Craig J Dougherty