Sunday, April 13, 2014

Holy Week at St. Pat's - 1890

Interior, St Patrick Church, c. 1900
Included in the parish archives are a few issues of a small magazine printed monthly by the parish called The Calendar. It gives interesting insight to the workings of the community and the way people worshipped at the turn of the century. Reading through the journal reminds one how little and how much things have changed in the last century.
The April 1900 issue focused on the rites and rituals of Holy Week. It was assumed every adult would show up for each of the liturgies. It began with the procession of palms around the church on Palm Sunday, continued with daily Mass and Tenebrae on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and the Triddum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday services. If one attended each of the expected liturgies it could amount to 10 or more hours in church. A special note was made to the male parishioners. The parish priests had addressed certain male congregants about not fully participating in the ceremonies. They often stood down the back of the church or even outside the doors. The writer advised that males show follow the good example of the women by being more active participants. He continued that men should be taking the leadership role here and to not allow the women to outdo the men in piety. Warning was also given to some of the faithful who were arriving late and leaving early. Their comings and goings had been duly noted by the priests.
The Catholic bookstores were well stocked with small prayer books that contained all the prayers for each of the services. The price was a mere 50 cents and each parishioner was encouraged to bring his/her copy to church each day. Parishioners were also encouraged to bring their Protestant friends to services, but wait to answer their questions until later. The writer knew with certainty that many Protestants were just waiting for a personal invite to attend one of the services. It was the Catholic’s duty to remind their Protestant friends to keep silence and to forego answering questions until they are outside.
The tradition of visiting 7 churches on Holy Thursday was expected of Catholics. Each church would decorate an altar of repose where the Blessed Sacrament would remain overnight. Men from the Holy Name Society would keep vigil until dawn when the Good Friday prayers would begin. It became an unspoken tradition that each church would try to outdo the other with a bit of extravagance. The faithful were reminded when visiting not to just look at the flowers and candles, but remember that this was an opportunity for prayer. The writer also noted that some had begun taking carriages form church to church and that walking was the preferred way of traveling on such a sacred night. And not to forget that visitors should always approach the altar on 2 knees on such an occasion.
A last entry reminded parishioners that they were honored to have a piece of the True Cross imbedded in the altar stone of the main altar. It was an honor not given to many churches and was installed with other relics when the altar was dedicated in 1854. Its presence made being at St Patrick’s during the Triduum take on a special meaning. (Note: the altar of which the writer speaks is the altar presently located in the lower church. It once was in the upper church, but relocated after the fire of 1904.)

Sunday, April 6, 2014

April 6, 1822- Our Story Begins

SPECIAL EDITION!-  Over the last 2 weeks I've had a flood of emails from folks willing to share their stories or asking for a little guidance.  Bob Rafferty, creator of the video Made in Lowell, wished to mark this day, the anniversary of Hugh Cummiskey's arrival in Lowell with a speacial posting.

What is the most important day of the year to an Irishman from Lowell? No, there isn’t a punch line… unless you answered St. Patrick’s Day? If you did, then the joke is on you. Today, April 6th is the most important day in the history of the Irish of Lowell for it is the day that the first Irish set foot here. 

            Lowell was a much different place in 1822. For a start, it was named East Chelmsford. Most of the town was still covered by woods, swamp, and farmland. The Chelmsford Historical Commission has a lovely compendium of maps on their website (http://www.chelmsfordgov.com/CHCwebsite/Maps.htm) and this one from 1821 paints a clear picture of the land that Hugh Cummiskey and his thirty men arrived at on April 6th, one hundred and ninety two years ago today: http://www.chelmsfordgov.com/CHCwebsite/CHC_files/Map1821NorthEast.jpg



Hugh Cummiskey was a man’s man. In his early 20’s he departed his home in County Tyrone, Northern Island to come to America. He made his home in Boston where he met his wife Rose, and ran work crews on jobs that changed the face of Boston. Early records show him working on a project to help flatten Beacon Hill for the construction on the State House; a project that employed a horse drawn railroad to take the debris removed from the hill and use it to backfill a swamp and create Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood. In 1822, Cummiskey and 30 Irish laborers walked from Charlestown, MA to East Chelmsford, where they arrived on April 6th and were met by Mr. Kirk Boott, agent to the Merrimack Manufacturing Company. Boott and Cummiskey drafted a deal to widen and modify the canals that powered the Company’s mills. Take a moment and go back to that map. How many roads do you see? How many homes?  Buildings?  Establishments? You’ll observe mainly open farmland along a bend in the Merrimack River, and the 27 miles between Charlestown and Lowell was much the same. So imagine the walk that those 31 Irishmen took that day. They walked the edge of the Old Middlesex Canal, which had been built to move goods from the East Chelmsford (now Lowell) area to the seaport of Boston. The walk would have been dusty, and the men would have to be completely equipped with their own provisions. However, none of them were daunted by this.

            As a teen, a few friends and I got the bright idea that we were going to walk to Boston. Having ridden the commuter rail line to North Station, we considered the train tracks to be the most direct root so we filled our backpacks with bottled water and sandwiches and set out in early morning for a fun filled day in Boston. We hopped on to the train tracks at Red Bridge, behind E. A. Wilson’s workyard on Broadway, and off we went.  About 7 or 8 hours later we found ourselves at North Station…EXHAUSTED. We immediately bought train tickets home to Lowell, and slept the entire ride. We weren’t nearly the men that Hugh and his workers were.

Upon arrival in Lowell after their 27 mile trip (a marathon is only 26.2 miles) over rough terrain, Hugh and his men went immediately to work on the canals which would power the mills that made Lowell become the second largest city in Massachusetts. Employing the methods he had gained experience on in Boston, Hugh would lead his men to use the fill from the Suffolk canal to backfill swampland in Lowell… and if you’re reading this from an apartment in the Market Mills… that swampland was where your apartment building stands today…thanks to Hugh.   

Hugh brought water to the water powered mills of the American Industrial Revolution. He brought land were there was once swamp. His sweat anointed the land beneath the State’s Capitol building. And he was instrumental in bringing about the infrastructure of early Irish community in Lowell. So today, as you go about your day, lift a glass to those early Irish pioneers, and the man that led them here: Mr. Hugh Cummiskey.

Slainte!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Mrs. Castle & the Know-Nothings


The Philadelphia Know Nothing Riot, 1848
“I know nothing.”  When a member of the Native American Party was asked about this semi-secret political group that was based on American nativism and anti-Catholic bigotry, that was to be his response.  “I know nothing.”  New England in the 1850s was fertile ground for such a group.  Too many immigrants.  Too many Catholics.  They infiltrated every level of government and Lowell was no exception.  Members of the Know-Nothings felt it their duty to purge America of foreign, especially Catholic, influence. 
Reading through the few accounts of life that exist of life in this period there is a story that keeps popping up.  It tells of when the Know-Nothings were in power and made themselves known in Lowell.  The year was 1854 and tensions were tight.  The Know-Nothings were known to make visits to convents and demand entry to see what atrocities they could find.  The Sisters of Notre Dame spent the nights in vigil waiting for the alarm to be sounded.  Men spent the night in the church tower keeping their eyes on Lowell Street for the mobs to be crossing the bridge which would lead them to the church and the convent.
It was a June night when their fears became reality.  According to one account that has been passed down to us, the crowd with guns and bayonets advanced upon the convent in martial order, followed by the mob yelling, shrieking and brandishing clubs and road tools.
On came the frenzied force, their shouts filling the air and penetrating the convent walls to the great terror of the sisters. The roar of the mob signified no mercy to the noble women whose lives were dedicated to mercy, and there seemed to be no hope. But in the meantime the news had reached a Catholic woman whose life was of less value lo her than her religion.
The woman in question was Mrs. Julia Castle (Cassell), wife of Henry Castles.  Putting a large rock in an apron, she called upon the neighboring wives, mothers, and sisters to follow her example, and soon full fifty women were massed in front of the convent gate, led by the dauntless Mrs. Castle. There they stood, shoulder to shoulder, right in the teeth of the advancing horde, each one firmly resolved lo let the infuriated Know-Nothings trample over her body ere the gates should be forced and the sacrilege consummated.
Leading the military company was a burly policeman, whose sworn duty was to preserve peace and order. He was some thirty yards in advance of the rest, his zeal in the cause having quickened his steps. When he pompously ordered the woman to make off and clear the way, instead of being obeyed as he expected, he found himself in the grasp of a pair of stout Irish arms, and felt himself lifted bodily ore the ground. The canal was nearby, but before the approaching mob could come up he was seized by the scruff of the neck and the seat of his trousers, and was flung into the slimy depths. The crowd halted in amazement at the audacity of the thing, and then, by one of those instantaneous impulses which sometimes turn the current of events and shapes history, the mind of the mob was diverted from its infamous purpose.  The sight of the half drowned wretch as he floundered and splashed in the reeking water ere he crawled up the banks, changed the yells of rage to shrieks of laughter, and gave men time to take a second thought of what they were contemplating. When old Mrs. Castle, her straggling grey locks unconfined, bade them come on and get treated to more drinks of the same tap, they turned about and slunk home. Had the convent been burned there would have been a bloody retaliation that night, and many who participated would have never seen the light of another day.
Stories tend to snowball.  They grow with each telling.  The above narrative was part of Mrs. Castle’s death notice when she passed away in 1887.  So did it happen?  There is an eyewitness who swears to her account.  There are other accounts; one written by a Sister of Notre Dame, and then the actual newspaper account from the period.  One can imagine Mrs. Castle telling her story year after year; her grandchildren sitting on her lap.  And with each telling, the story grows.
So what’s your story?

Friday, March 28, 2014

Benjamin Day's Workshop



Map- Lowell, 1850
Lowell Street (now Market Street) was a busy place in 1830s Lowell.  The arrival of the first Irish in the 1820s spurred a commercial boom in the area.  It wasn’t long before the tents and shacks of the first arrivals were being replaced by the shanties and ten-footers of the ever growing Irish population.  Soon alleys and makeshift walkways began defining the Acre neighborhood.  Lowell Street was at the heart of the hustle and bustle.  More and more hopefuls were arriving from all over and even across the sea in need of work.  With those increasing numbers, came the need for good and supplies. 

Lowell Mercury, 1830
Right on Lowell Street was Stephen Gale who sold stoves.  And there was Willard’s West Indies Dry Goods Store specializing in “pure and choice wines.”  You could have your clothes made at Hobb’s Clothes Ware-House.  Bethuel Cross sold crockery and China ware on Lowell Street.   The Exchange Coffee House, owned by Owen Donohoe, was a busy place for Irish and Yankee alike.  Mrs. Rice had a cottage just off of Lowell St. where she offered her nursing services.  Richard Walsh had his Catholic bookstore right across the street from the Rev. Mr. Blanchard’s house.  (Was it intentional that Walsh made it a point to advertise his Catholic business was located across the street from a Protestant minister’s home?)  There were a myriad of livery stables and harness shops as well.  Hugh Cummiskey, in partnership with Samuel Murray, had a West Indies Dry Goods Story on the corner of Lowell Street and Cummiskey Alley.  Almost all were Yankee businesses in these early days, but the Irish did have a sort of monopoly on one certain business.  Grog shops abounded in every basement along Lowell Street and all the little alleys in between.  On the weekends it was known that local living rooms transformed into saloons. At least that was the opinion of the local constabulary. 
If you kept walking down Lowell Street the shanties became fewer and father apart.  Heading towards the river, you might have heard the sound of stone being cut and carved.  You would have come across the workshop of Benjamin Day, stone carver.   Day had probably arrived in Lowell to set up shop as early as 1830 and started advertising his trade in the Lowell Mercury.  Previous to Lowell he established himself in Salem, MA.  His work could be found throughout Essex and Merrimack Counties.  Day’s workshop would have been on the corner of the present Salem and Decatur Streets.  Grieving families, looking to purchase a grave stone, would have gone to his shop and seen stacks of slates that had been precut, many with the iconic willow and urn pattern of Yankee New England, already carved.  The stones lay there awaiting the names and dates of the deceased to be added.  Day’s price also included delivery and setup at the cemetery.  With his shop within the Irish district, it’s not surprising a number of his stones can be found at St. Patrick’s Cemetery.  One can imagine families walking by his workshop day after day going to work or to shop.  At the time of a loss they might find a familiar face with Mr. Day, their neighbor. 
John Bork's stone w/ Day signature
Each carver had his particular style that he would call his own.  Stones can be identified by certain borders, finials, and stippling.  The earliest stone in Saint Patrick Cemetery is that of young John Bork carved by none other than B. Day.  Bork’s simple, small, slate stone with willow and urn design is typical of Day’s carving style.  A number of stones, slate and marble, have the name Benjamin Day name carved at the base, as was typical of his style.  The sad part is that most of the early slates have been snapped to lay flat in the ground and the signature of the carver is missing.  Even sadder is that the many shamrock slate stones in the cemetery, show great similarities to Day’s style, but cannot be proven to be his work. 
As the city grew other carvers such as David Nichols and Theodore Warren joined in to fill the need.  Benjamin Day kept his shop going for many years.  As historian, Marilyn Day states, Benjamin Day bought a lot at the Lowell Cemetery, but ironically no stone marks his grave.
For a great read on a history of Benjamin Day read Ms Day’s account http://www.pelhamnhhistory.org/library/pdffiles/day/benjaminday.pdf . 
I must add here that like many of you I walked Market and Salem Streets (Lowell Street) many times in my youth.  I was always struck by the old store fronts with the large glass windows.  They reminded me of a time past, and I wondered what shops had first sold their goods here.  Many of these businesses still retained the old entry to cellar ways in the middle of the sidewalk that were used to bring goods into storage.  A misstep could send you flying.  .  The storefronts had advertisements for fresh black olives and windows filled with pyramids of cans of olive oil from Greece.  Tournas’ had their trays of baklava and barrels of peanuts.  The neighborhood Hugh Cummiskey had known was transformed to one that represented those that came after him, and would change hands yet again.  When I got to the corner of Salem and Decatur there was an empty lot.  I often wondered about that lot.  After doing research for this article I found this was the site of Benjamin Day’s workshop.  I remember an old garage being in the rear.  Was this part of Benjamin’s shop?  Was the lot empty because of the stones left behind by Benjamin?  It’s nice to think so.

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.  dadumc@comcast.net  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.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Acre Forum & Anam Cara Awards

Made in Lowell, a film
by Bob Rafferty & Dave McKean
A new film, Made in Lowell, produced by Bob Rafferty made its debut last night at the Lowell National Park Visitor Center last  to a standing room only crowd.  Bob has helped the Parish archives by digitizing dozens of oral histories on cassette tapes and films on VHS tape to have a permanent record for future generations.  Bob combined these with films taken by Fr. Supple in the 1920s and current footage that Bob took to tell the story of the growth of the Irish community in Lowell's Acre. Plans will now have to be made to see how the film can be distributed for  a wider audience distribution. 

The 2nd annual Anam Cara (Soul Friend) awards were presented to 5 honorees.  The awards are meant to recognize those in the Lowell community who foster and promote Irish culture through their sharing of time, treasures, and talents.  This year's honorees were: Dr. Molly Sheehy for her 20 years working with Wider Horizons, a group that brought Catholic and Protestant students from Ireland to Lowell to work together.  Bob Rafferty for his work with preserving audio and visual archival materials and producing his new documentary, Made in Lowell.  Dr. Robert O'Neill, former head librarian of the Burns Library at Boston College, for his ongoing support and presentations of the library's resources such as the facsimile of the Book of Kells.  Also Dr. O'Neill was responsible for bringing President Mary McAleese to St. Patrick's this past fall.  And to Angus MacDonald and Jim Campbell who kept Irish culture alive in Lowell through their 20 years of the Sounds of Ireland radio program on WLLH and WCAP and reorganizing the local chapter of the AOH. 


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

"Happy Days" Casey & the St. Patrick's Day Parade


THOMAS “HAPPY DAYS' CASEY
CA. 1850 6 July 1942
 
"TO HAPPY DAYS THAT WERE, TO HAPPY DAYS THAT ARE,
TO HAPPY DAYS THAT ARE TO COME"
 
Lowell Sun image, 1928
Thomas Casey was born in Ireland – date unknown – place unknown.  He kept that information to himself. He came to Lowell in the 1860's and worked as an expressman. He acquired his nickname at a picnic in the 1890's when he offered that toast. That was the end of Thomas – now he was “Happy Days”.
 With his horse and wagon, for 30 years Irish laborers, mill workers, teamsters and their children contacted “Happy Days” when there was a chest or trunk to be moved.  When one disputed his Irish birth, he would invariably tell that person something of his or her family back in Ireland, which would leave that individual dumbfounded – HOW could he know that!?” –  and never again doubt Casey's Irish origin.  He was known for his long white hair and full white beard. 


There was one day of the year, however, when he put on a quite distinctive appearance.  That day of course was St. Patrick's Day.  He would don his best cutaway coat and top hat with of course a touch of green in his lapel.  That took care of his attire and appearance.  He would then go to the stable and properly adorn his horse.   After saddling his horse, “...with affectionate hands he would further embellish the silvered trappings with everything green that he had laid his hands on over a period of months – green and gold.  Across the horse's long nose would be found the Harp of Erin, rescued from a Hibernian's discarded sash.  The animal's mane would be trimmed carefully in braids of green silk.  There's even a large bow of silk on the flowing tail.” (SUN 7 July 1942)  Thus equipped and adorned, he was off to join the parade leading such groups as the Meagher, Wolf Tome and Sheridan Guards through Lowell.  St. Patrick's day did not end for Happy Days when the parade was over.  He, and his horse, then went on a 'tour' of several drinking establishments.  When he entered, he was mounted on his horse, and fittingly asked for a beer for his horse as well.
Casey' Grave, St. Pat's Cemetery

During one St Patrick Day parade, Mary O'Malley described him thusly to a group of boys, ''There's Happy Days Casey, he's St. Patrick when you look at him in summer, and Santa Claus when you look  at him in the winter. Wouldn't you wonder, now, whether the man was ever born, but just came here from nowheres?'' (SU N 7 July 1942)   Happy Days was a beloved character such as we shall not see again.  He was struck by a bus on 6 July 1942 and died that day.

I am indebted to two articles which appeared in the Lowell SUN: 14 July 1928, and 7 July 1942.  Both have a photo of Happy Days with his wagon and horse. Submitted by Walter H.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Irish Cultural Week Mass and Parade

 
Jimmy Latham sings "Galway Bay"
Maybe it was the weather, or maybe the spirit of the day, folks showed up and showed their pride.  The LowellIrish Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/LowellIrish  has lots of pics, but I had to add my own.  Don't forget to check out the week's events!
Fr. Terry O'Connell OMI






Seamus joins the parade!
 

Sean's family has been at St. Pat's for decades




Friday, March 7, 2014

"The Day We Celebrate" - Saint Patrick's Day in Lowell, 1833

St Patrick Church, 1880s
So begins the opening line of the first recorded celebration of St Patrick’s Day in Lowell. The Lowell Mercury of 1833 gives us a picture into the past. They were all there at the Mansion House. Mr. Blanchard, the owner of the establishment, served a fine supper. He was known for his oysters and setting a fine table. They were a close-knit group, a tight band of“native sons” who were making new lives for themselves. Of course there was Hugh and Eugene Cummiskey. Hugh’s close friend and business partner, Samuel Murray, was also there. At the head table would be Charles Short. He seemed to be involved in everything in the Paddy Camps, land dealings, business arrangements, and even causing the Bishop some grief with choosing a new Pastor. But that won’t be for a few months. The Campbells came in, one a tailor and the other a laborer for the Corporation. They were among the growing number of businesses in the Acre. Most of the crowd, being solely men, made their way over from Lowell (Market) Street and Fenwick Street. Most were part of Lowell’s growing Irish middle class. There were teamsters, carpenters, real estate agents, stable owners. They were here to show their fellow Irish countrymen that America had much to offer.

Lowell Directory, 1833

After the table cloth was removed the musicians, and they were a fine group by all accounts, started up their tunes. Of course the first was St. Patrick’s Day. They slapped their hands on the tables and prepared the first round of toasts. “The day we celebrate- may its memory be celebrated in the breast of every Irishman.” The glasses were lifted, another jig was played and the sentiments continued. They remembered their homeland and those left behind. They remembered their heroes and cursed their oppressors. They lifted their glasses to O’Connell and the Irish harp. Over and over again they remembered their new home: President Jackson, Democracy, the Constitution, the Merrimac River and to the owners of the loom. They sang Adeste Fideles when they recalled Bishop Fenwick and sang Yankee Doodle. Music and poetry filled the room. As the night drew late someone reminded the crowd that it was a Saturday and the next day was Mass. And so some made their way to their hacks and others bundled up and walked out into the March night to return to their homes.
In the words of James Campbell, “May the Sons of Old Hibernia celebrate the festival of their Patron Saint, with mirth, cheerfulness and convivia."

CHECK OUT THE LOWELLIRISH FACEBOOK PAGE FOR THIS YEAR'S EVENTS.  IT ALL STARTS THIS WEEKEND WITH OUR CONCERT AND MASS (WITH IRISH READINGS).  THEN WE'RE OFF TO CITY HALL FOR A GRAND PARADE WITH A PIPER AND FLAGS, FOLLOWED BY AN IRISH BRUNCH. 

CELEBRATE YOUR CULTURE.  KEEP IT ALIVE!!!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Mr, Boott's Gardener



Kirk Boott's Home (Mill and Mansion)
When Kirk Boot was given the task of managing the new mill town being built on the Merrimack, he was leaving behind the family mansion in Boston and the life of the socially elite to which he was accustomed.  Back in Boston, the Boot’s were well known for their mansion on Bowdoin Street and its fine art and architecture.  The family was also known for its beautiful gardens, greenhouses, and especially for their roses.  So it was providential in 1822 that when Mr. Boott was building his Greek-Revival mansion in East Chelmsford, soon to be Lowell, he would include space for the cultivated lawns and landscaping to which he was accustomed.  His blueprint for the construction of the Merrimack Manufacturing Company would include a landscaped entrance area to the mill along with plants and flowers placed between the different buildings.
 To achieve that end Mr. Boott brought John Green up from Boston to serve as his gardener and steward.  History does not tell us how the two men met.  Perhaps he worked for the Boott family in Boston?  John Green was born in Aughavading, Co. Leitrim in 1798.  He arrived in Boston in 1823 living there for a short time before settling in Lowell.  Green’s name appears in several histories of Lowell being listed as one of the prominent Irishmen of the period.  His first mention in Lowell was paying the poll tax in 1826.  His occupation was regularly listed in the Town/City Directories as gardener working at Boott’s.  After his death his son, John J Green, reminisced about his father being the superintendent of landscaping at the Merrimack and being part of the planning of the North Common.
When Mr. Boott died unexpectedly in 1837, Green continued working as a gardener at the 
Lowell Map, 1850
 “Company farm.”   In Boott’s will, he bequeathed Green $72 in wages, a very hefty sum for a gardener.  Later Green was listed as “botanic physician.”  He became a US citizen and started acquiring property.  He moved into a new home on the corner of Willie and Cross Streets where he lived for the remainder of his days.  The 1850 census showed he owned $10,000 in real estate.  Few Irishmen of this period had such holdings.  By the time he reached the age of 60, John Green considered himself a “gentleman.”  One can imagine him in his garden on Willie Street, pruning and weeding.  Then he would stroll through the North Common making his way to Saint Patrick’s Church for Mass.  His niece, Anne Flynn, moved into the home to act as his nurse.  Upon his death he recognized her help by granting her a small stipend.  His will divided his properties among his survivors, but his final hope was that the family would remain together and share the holdings.  In 1866 he joined his fellow Irish pioneers in Yard One of St. Patrick Cemetery.  His brief obituary, obituaries not even being common practice at the time, testified to his fine character and reiterated the bond he had with Mr. Boott almost 30 years previous.   He left Ireland a poor man, but died wealthy in more ways than one.


His son, John J Green, was a member of the Lowell chapter of the Irish American Historical Society, which attempted to preserve the Irish history of Lowell.  Unfortunately none of the minutes of the group survive today that recorded the actual recollections of those early Irish pioneers.  In 1921 John J Green tried to persuade the city to memorialize the walk of Hugh Cummiskey and the first Irish laborers with parades, lectures, church services, and the erection of a suitable monument on the North Common. 
Like John J Green, George O’Dwyer (author of Irish Catholic Genesis of Lowell), and others, the Irish Cultural Committee of St. Patrick Parish tries to preserve Lowell’s Irish past.  Please join us this March as we present the 31st annual Irish Cultural Week. https://www.facebook.com/#!/LowellIrish