Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Lowell Irish - A Family Album

As usual I was looking through some early newspapers and there was an entry that there were plans being made to mark the centennial of the arrival of Hugh Cummiskey and his band of workers walking from Charlestown to Lowell in 1822.  The date was sometime around 1916.  One of the voices to plead for marking the centenary was none other than George O'Dwyer, who would later author The Irish Catholic Genesis of Lowell.  There were plans for a grand parade, a ball, some sort of permanent memorial, and monthly events with speakers from across the country.  They thought it was essential that planning begin that soon so everything would be ready for the date.  Well, sadly, little was done to make that milestone. 

At first I thought that planning so early was a bit over the top.  Then I began to think it over.  What a shame we don't have a record of what could have happened that year.  Imagine the stories and photos that would have been passed on to us!  What did Lowell's Irish community look like back then?  What would they have wanted to leave us?  All lost now.  Gone.  And then I had an idea, a crazy one I admit, but hear me out.

I think we're the generation that sort of breeches the old timers and that next generation. While Lowell's story partly started with the Irish, we haven't done a great job of recording our own past. Sure O'Dwyer and Mitchell did their part, but there is much more. Cummiskey's bicentennial will be coming in a few years. Only the Almighty knows if I'll be around. My thought is to start collecting pictures from any families who would like their names to be recorded for future generations, a kind of giant Lowell Irish family album. What form it could take I haven't gotten to yet, possibly as a virtual album kept on the LowellIrish website, or Center for Lowell History.
Many of you know I'm searching for photos to be in our next publication that will be out in March of 2016.  We've gotten some great photos.  The decision is going to be tough as to which to include.  (We're not even close to the number required by the editor, so look in those old albums and contact me)   There has been a request that we host an exhibit next year as well.  My thinking was wouldn't it be great to have the walls covered with all the old antique photos we've collected, but even greater to have another wall covered with the faces of today's Lowell Irish?
So here's my crazy idea.  I'd like to get pictures from the 1800s to the present. Family has always been at the core of being Irish and I want to show all the events of being in a family (church, politics, education, sports, social organizations). Folks can honor their first generation ancestors right down to their own grandkids. I want to collect hundreds, no hundreds of hundreds.  Just send along the photo with a family name, possible date, and maybe a note about the event. Your photo could end up in the book, the wall of the exhibit, or in the permanent archive to celebrate Cummiskey's bicentennial.  It will honor the past and be a gift to the future. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Dunnigan Family

Rosemary K. Nunnally writes about her family, the Dunnigans and their Lowell Irish story.  What's your story?  Be a guest blogger as Rosemary has. Keep your family's story alive!


According to Lewis's Topographical Directory of Ireland, from 1837, Balbriggan was    “a sea-port, market, and post-village, and a chapelry, in the county of Dublin, containing 3,016 inhabitants. The inhabitants are partly employed in the fishery, but principally in the manufacture of cotton; there are two large factories.”

Perhaps it was the connection with cotton mills that brought the Dunnigan family from famine stricken Ballbriggan, Ireland to Lowell, MA.  Teenagers Margaret and Alisa Dunnigan came to Lowell and worked in the mills.  Their mother Margaret Dunnigan, age 38, along with her children Mary age 12, Philip 9, John 7, Jane 4 and Stephen 3 arrived in Boston on the ship Macedonia on September 20, 1848 and joined the elder girls. Though Philip Dunnigan is listed on the death and marriage records of the children, I did not find reference to him in Lowell and Margaret did not have more children. Perhaps he died in Ireland prompting the family’s emigration.  

The family settled on Market Street and a few years later moved to Salem Street. They lived as the other Irish immigrants of the time.  They worked as mill hands and in the leather industry as curriers.  Eleven year old Philip died of cholera in 1849.  Young Jane died from typhoid fever in 1855.   

As the children got older they married at St. Patrick’s Church.  Fr. John O’Brien married John Dunnigan to Jane F. Jewett in February of 1864. He also married Margaret Dunnigan to William Sullivan, a baker, in December of 1865. Mary Dunnigan wed Michael Garrity and Alisa married Frank Kelly.
USS Albatross
The Civil War began and called many Lowell men to war.  John Dunnigan was 20 years old and working as a currier. The naval ship USS Albatross came to the port of Boston for repairs in 1862.  John enlisted for one year as a landsman on July 24 aboard the Albatross.  He was described as 5 feet, 7 inches tall with a fair complexion, hazel eyes and brown hair. He was discharged the following July 1863 as an ordinary seaman.

Stephen Dunnigan left his job as an operative in the mill and enlisted in the army on April 18, 1864. He was nineteen years old. He was in Company A of the 6th Regiment of Massachusetts Infantry.  Records show he was promoted to corporal on July 1, 1865.  He served another year and mustered out on July 6, 1866 in Charleston, South Carolina.

Following their service in the War of the Rebellion, the brothers returned to Lowell. Stephen continued to live with his mother on the corner of Salem and Clark Streets.  He worked at the Merrimack Print Works.  At age 25, Stephen died on the 27th of August in 1873.  His death record listed the cause of death as an accident.  An article in the Lowell Daily Citizen and News on August 28th reported on the tragic circumstances of his death.  Stephen was at home sick with a cough. His mother brought him the bottle of cough balm from the closet.  Stephen drank a heavy dose and immediately felt a burning sensation and exclaimed to his mother that he was poisoned.  In her haste, his mother had grabbed the wrong bottle from the closet and that bottle contained bug poison.  A doctor was called but Stephen lingered for an hour and died.  The newspaper reported that young Dunnigan had served acceptably in the 6th and 30th Mass. Regiments during the rebellion, after which he entered the naval service, in which he continued for some time. Among his companions, he was greatly esteemed.  Stephen was buried in the “Catholic Ground’, St. Patrick’s, in Yard 1 and later in 1879 had a headstone provided for deceased Civil War Veterans.  In 1886 Stephen’s mother was receiving his Civil War pension.

After his war service, John became a naturalized citizen in Superior Court in Lowell on October 30, 1864.  The Lowell City Directories in 1868 and 1870 show John Dunnigan worked as a currier at the corner of Willie and Broadway.  His house was diagonally across the North Common at 34 Common Ave.  He may have walked across the Common on his way back and forth to work.  In the latter 1870’s John moved his family to Salem, MA for a few years. By 1880 he was back in Lowell living on Hancock Ave.  John died from consumption in June of 1882.  His obituary in the Lowell Weekly Sun stated he was a respected citizen.  “He was in the navy under Farragut in the late war and was on the Albatross when she ran by Port Hudson, lashed to the Hartford, and always exhibited great bravery while in the service.”  His funeral was attended by members of Post 42, G.A.R. and six fellow veterans were the bearers.  John was buried in the Catholic cemetery, presumably in the family plot.

St Patrick Cemetery
Following John’s death, his widow Jane Dunnigan was to receive his pension as a Navy Widow by the Act of June 27, 1890.  Jane would receive $8.00 a month and an additional $2.00 a month for each child under the age of sixteen.  She filed a lot of paperwork to explain how she used the name Jane F. when she was christened “Philomene Jane Jewett” and also had to prove that her daughter was Alicia and not “Eliza”.  She had to show that her husband’s middle name was Thomas though he did not use it and he died of consumption caused by disease contracted in the Naval Service and not resulting from bad habits.  One of her witnesses was her brother-in-law Michael Garrity.  Jane died in 1904 and is buried in the family grave at St. Patrick’s, though her name is not on the headstone.

The matriarch of the family, Margaret Dunnigan, lived to a fine old age of 86. She died in Woburn at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Frank Kelly, in May of 1893.  She was interred in the Catholic cemetery, St. Patrick’s in Lowell.  Margaret’s death record revealed her Irish parents were Joseph Fadigan and Eliza Hay.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Lowell Irish- Coming to a bookstore near you!

St. Patrick Choir, 1899
As announced a few weeks ago we will be publishing a book on Lowell’s Irish community in March of 2016.  Rather than an academic history it will be more of a collection of short stories and events from the time Hugh Cummiskey walked his way from Charlestown to the banks of the Pawtucket canal.
I’ve been collecting articles from old newspapers, anecdotes from senior members, and entries from diaries and reminiscences for decades.  Some have yellowed with age and some are actually negative photocopies (I’m dating myself).  If you are of my generation you might understand this next statement. 
Irish culture in Lowell has made some great strides.  In the last few years more research and understanding of our part of the Lowell story has been uncovered with the help of new technology, and teams of volunteers who have worked on the archaeological dig, cemetery work, and hours in libraries. 
Now it is time to collect and record our visual history.  Our purpose is twofold.  Our archives has many photos that can be used in the book.  They only tell one small part of the story of the Irish in Lowell.  Our search now is on collecting family photos of all types.  We’re looking for early photos from the late nineteenth century all the way to today.  Each photo will become part of the archive’s permanent collection and may be part of our Lowell Irish book.
What kind of photos are we looking for?  School photos (parochial or public).  Religious events (First Communions, Confirmations, weddings, May processions).  Family events (birthdays, reunions, outings, formal and informal portraits).  Especially good are outdoor and neighborhood scenes.
You can choose to donate the original, or we can scan it for you.  Older photos will not be damaged by the process.  We will be setting up dates where we can meet and make a copy of your photo or you can contact me directly to set up a time.  dadumc@comcast.net
Unfortunately timing is important.  Though the book is coming out in March of 2016, submissions must be made to the publisher by late Spring of 2015.
This is a sure way to preserve you family’s heritage and for our Lowell Irish story to be preserved for the next generation.