Monday, August 11, 2014

Lives of Service- the Plunkett Family of Lowell

The Plunkett Family
County Mayo, Ireland to Lowell, MA
Rosemary K. Nunnally
Many are aware of the large, high cross on the path to the chapel of St.Patrick Cemetery.  Each marker tells a story of someone's life, their times of joy and sadness, beginnings and ends.  The Plunkett family of Lowell represent a life of serving their community and honoring their heritage.  This week's blog is another story of a life to be remebered by guest blogger, Rosemary Nunnally.

Remains of Castlemore House, Co. Mayo
The Plunkett family has a very, very long history in Ireland.  The family has been documented back hundreds of years in the book Irish Pedigrees by John O’Hart.

 In about 1825 in County Mayo, Joseph Plunkett of Castlemore House, Ballaghaderreen married Frances French, the daughter of Edward French, Esq., of Bella, near Frenchpark, County Roscommon.  Joseph Plunkett was a Justice of the Peace and proprietor of Castlemore House.  During the 1830’s and 1840’s the Plunketts had several children: Walter, Joseph Jr., Francis Charles, Arabella, Frances, Ann and Mary.  It appears they led a comfortable life.

As with many Irish families, some event prompted several members of the Plunkett family to leave their home and come to the United States.  Perhaps it was the death of Joseph Sr.  Between 1855 and 1865, Mrs. Plunkett and her children Fanny (Frances), Mary, Joseph, and Ann Cavendish along with granddaughter Agnes Cavendish were living in Blackstone, MA.  Joseph and Ann worked in the mills there.  Daughter Arabella remained in County Mayo, married to Dr. A. Dillon.  Francis Charles also stayed behind attending medical school.

The Plunkett family had relocated to Lowell, MA by 1865.  Joseph and his sister Ann again worked in the mills while 65 year old Mrs. Plunkett stayed home with grandchildren Agnes Cavendish and
Joseph McGinnis. 
Several members of the Plunkett family chose a medical profession.  Francis Charles Plunkett, born 1844, studied at The Schools of Surgery, Royal College of Physicians in Dublin for medical training.  Francis apprenticed with his sister’s husband, Dr. Andrew Dillon.  When Francis completed his medical training, he came to the United States.  From 1859 to 1862 he was an apothecary while he was a private with Co. A, 2nd Battalion, NY Volunteer Infantry.  In 1862 he opened an account with the Emigrant Savings Bank in New York.   Francis worked in Washington D.C. as an acting hospital steward and apothecary at Camps Barry, Duncan and Meagher.  He became involved in the fighting of the Civil War in November of 1864 and was an Assistant Surgeon with the 183rd Ohio Volunteers.   After a year of service, Dr. Plunkett went to a hospital in North Carolina and then the Invalid Corps in Washington, D.C.   In 1866 he came to Lowell to join his family members.

Dr. Francis C. Plunkett started as an apothecary and quickly built up a medical practice.   He was on the original staff of St. John’s Hospital in Lowell.  He married Alice Martin in 1869.  She died a few years later.  Francis remarried Mary Ann McDuff in Nova Scotia in 1876.  They had a son Harry and two daughters Frances and Florence. In most newspaper accounts and records he is referred to as “Dr. F. C. Plunkett.”

Along with his steady work as a physician, Francis was involved with the Lowell community.   He was active in public and charitable affairs.  He was a member of the Board of Aldermen, president of the North District Medical Society and a member of the City Hall commission.   When Charles Stewart Parnell, President of the Irish National Land League, came to Lowell in 1880 he stayed at the home of Dr. Plunkett.
Chief Marshal of the Columbus Day Parade
Joseph Plunkett first worked in the mills of Lowell as a wool sorter. When Dr. F.C. Plunkett came to Lowell, he was an apothecary (druggist). However within a few years, Joseph was now the apothecary in the family.  Maybe Francis turned this business over to Joseph as he became a leading doctor in Lowell.  Joseph was a well-known druggist for over twenty years.  His shop was on Dutton Street at the corner with Market Street.  Joseph did not marry and lived with his mother and later with his brother on Worthen Street.

As opposed to his civic minded brother, Joseph did not participate in that aspect of life in Lowell.  His obituary in the Lowell Sun on May 18, 1897 said “He was not identified with any societies and considerable of his time was spent in travel.”  Joseph’s funeral at St. Patrick’s Church was largely attended.  He was buried in the family grave at St. Patrick’s Cemetery.  He was 62 years old.

 Francis Plunkett suffered a stroke in 1894.  Though he could no longer go out to make house calls, he kept part time hours with patients coming to see him at his home and office at the corner of Worthen Street and Broadway.

In August of 1899, Dr. Plunkett put a new monument on the family grave in St. Patrick’s Cemetery. The Lowell Sun put a drawing of the stone on the front page of the newspaper.  The Sun commented that it was “a very handsome monument …. The Celtic cross is very pretty and the workmanship perfect”.  Sadly in just three months, Dr. F.C. Plunkett passed away and was buried under this cross.
Lowell Sun Sept. 2, 1899                      
Dr. F.C. Plunkett’s funeral was held at St. Patrick’s Church on December 1, 1899. The Lowell Sun reported the following – “All day yesterday and last evening people from all parts of the city visited the house of mourning at the corner of Broadway and Worthen streets to look for the last time on the face of the deceased, for whom they held the highest respect…. The funeral was very largely attended by sorrowing relatives and friends of the deceased.”  The Journal of the American Medical Association, Volume 33, 1899 reported “With the death of Dr. Plunkett there passes out of view one of the most remarkable physicians ever known in Massachusetts. Though not known as a writer, on account of the demands of an enormous practice, he was a man of deep culture and versatile accomplishments.”

Dr. Plunkett’s son, Harry B., was born in Lowell on September 3, 1877.  He followed in the footsteps of his father and uncle and chose medicine as his profession.  Harry attended Fordham University and graduated in the class of 1906 from Kentucky University School of Medicine. He was a staff member of the hospitals in Lowell.  Later he was a doctor at the Tewksbury State Hospital specializing in tuberculosis and psychiatry.  Dr. Harry B. Plunkett died on February 10, 1950 and is buried in the family plot at St. Patrick’s Cemetery. 



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