Bring Out Your Dead ~ Walter Hickey Writes in “LowellIrish”

Lowell historian and Lowell Historical Society genealogist Walter Hickey is not only an avid and meticulous researcher, he is a great story teller. Check out this cross post from Dave McKean’s LowellIrish blog:

Friday, July 27, 2012

Bring Out Your Dead

Source: St Patrick Cemetery (c1920s)
I’ve always had the sneaking suspicion that Walter was reincarnated from the 19th century.  For one, he just knows too much first-hand information about that period.  He is able to quote people who have been dead for 150 years.  He knows intimate facts about people that no one else knows, unless you were there.  And then there is that odd 19th century wit when you aren’t sure if you should smile or take the person seriously.  That’s some pretty strong evidence.  Then you read today’s piece written by Walter and it pretty much closes the case.  One must question where on earth he gets these great stories.
Some visitors to St Patrick’s are savvy enough to question why there were two catholic churches within yards of each other. Fr. McDermott was pastor of St. Pat’s, but then buys a church and opens St. Mary’s, just a few doors down in the 1840s.  One might say the reason was that the old, wooden St. Pat’s could no longer accommodate the growing numbers of Irish Catholics streaming into the Acre especially at the height of the potato famine.  There’s some truth in this, but the story goes much deeper.  Read on.  (D. McKean)
In the 1850’s undertakers were appointed by the Mayor and Board of Alderman. This was an official city position.My original intent was a brief write-up on Terrence Hanavor.  Thanks to the on line availability and indexing of the DAILY CITIZEN, I stumbled across another story.  As to Terrence Hanavor, well known to most of our ancestors, he will have to wait for another day.
Our cast:
Michael Roach – undertaker and sexton of St. Patrick’s Church
Rev. John O’Brien — Pastor of St. Patrick’s Church; in charge of St. Patrick’s Cemetery
Rev. James T. McDermott –  Pastor of St. Mary’s Church
James Farley (Farrelly) –  Sexton of St. Mary’s Church
  Note: His real name is Farley, but he is more often cited as Farrelly in various accounts.  Farrelly will be used throughout.
John McEvoy  –  Attorney and Organist at St. Patrick’s Church
The story begins with a petition presented to the City Council on March 24, 1857 requesting the appointment of James Farrelly as undertaker.  The following week the Mayor and Alderman voted to remove Michael Roach from the office of undertaker and appointed James Farrelly in his place.  Farrelly’s appointed was backed by Father James T. McDermott, pastor of St. Mary’s Church.   This set the stage for some fireworks as Roach was Father John O’Brien’s man, and it was understood that he would not allow any undertaker into the Catholic burying ground except Roach.  Father O’Brien was pastor of St. Patrick’s Church and in charge of the cemetery more often referred to as the Catholic Burying Ground..
Although officially removed from office, Roach did not go quietly, probably with encouragement from Rev. O’Brien.  On April 13, he was arraigned in the Lowell Police Court for continuing to act as undertaker after he had been removed from office.  The case was continued to May 4th for examination.    More than a week after his removal, he made returns of five burials to the Superintendent of Burials.  Michael seems to entertain an equal contempt for the city fathers and the English language.  He puts down the various diseases of those he attended as “Water on the brean,” “consomtion,” “hooping coff” and “yellow ganders.”  As a result, Michael was arrested by the police on April 27 on a charge of officiating without authority. In early May, the City Solicitor was directed to apply to the Supreme Judicial Court for an injunction to restrain Michael Roach from serving as undertaker.
After several continuances, his trial was to be in early July.  However, that was not to be.  According to the Daily Citizen and News of July 7, 1857 “The contest whether Michel Roach shall act as undertaker or not, without consent or appointment of the city authorities, has been finally settled.  An injunction has been served on Roach from a higher power than earthly courts, and another has done the job for him that he had done for so many others.  Michael died on Saturday last, of dysentery at the age of sixty-five.  Death has ended the controversy; and as he was superseded in office by one of his own blood and race, we suppose there will be no further endeavor on the part of his friends to keep up an ill feeling.”
That was wishful thinking!
Following the death of Roach, Rev. O’Brien and others petitioned for the appointment of one Patrick Smith as undertaker.  Smith was appointed but Farrelly retained his position.  As a result, there were now two undertakers to tend to the Catholic burials: McDermott’s man, Farrelly, and O’Brien’s man, Smith.
McDermott’s congregation numbered about 800 while O’Brien’s was about 5000.  The two priests had a long-standing bitter personal feud which was amplified by the preference of the Catholic population for burial by Farrelly!  O’Brien was incensed and in March 1858,  he denounced from the pulpit all who would employ Farrelly as being unworthy of the name of Christians and further declared that he would deny ‘christian burial’ to any corpse whom Farrelly would carry to the grave. By August, 1858, Catholics continued to prefer Farrelly over Smith despite the denunciation and threats from O’Brien.  As Rev. O’Brien was the Bishop’s agent for the sale of cemetery lots, he refused to sell lots to any who employed Farrelly as  undertaker, and he filed suit against Farrelly for trespass in burying the dead in the lots they had purchased.
On October 5, 1858, the CITIZEN reported that the court decided against Father O’Brien, and “the waters of bitterness closed over the head of his reverence.”  However, this is not quite the end of the story….. Farrelly was defended by John McEvoy, an attorney who coincidentally just happened to be the organist at St. Patrick’s church!  Father O’Brien summarily discharged him from his position in the church!  He was FIRED!!

On November 5, 1858, the Daily Citizen and News reported the appointment of McEvoy as a Justice of the Peace, with the comment, “All Right, saving the presence of his reverence who shut the doors of the organ against the new “Squire”.

Lowell’s Rogers Hall School for Girls

This entry is a cross post from “Forgotten New England” – the blog site of Lowell Historical Society board member Ryan Owen.

Note: In 1975, The Rogers Hall School for Girls closed. The trustees donated school yearbooks, journals, bulletins, registers, scrapbooks and a large quantity of photographs to the Lowell Historical Society.  These materials are housed at the UMass Lowell/Center for Lowell History.

The Story of Lowell’s Rogers Hall

Rogers Street,today, is one of Lowell‘s main gateways into the city, providing access from Tewksbury, the city’s southern neighbor.  Known by many outside Lowell simply as Route 38, the road has a long past that is deeply connected to Lowell’s history, and to the history of its Belvidere neighborhood especially.

Rogers Street gets its name from the Rogers family, who were early landowners in the area during Lowell’s first years.  Members of the Rogers family later went on to found the Rogers Hall School for Girls, a prestigious school that remained in operation for over 80 years before it closed in 1973.  Though its white-columned facade is its most familiar characteristic to Lowell residents, the school actually consisted of four buildings:  Rogers Hall, Rogers House, Rogers Cottage, and the Gymnasium.   The gymnasium was famous in its own right for its pool.  Built in 1922 in the basement of the gym, it was the first of its kind for a private girls’ secondary school in the country. 

Rogers Hall, circa 1919 – (Credit: History of Lowell and its People: Vol 2, Page 460: Frederick William Coburn, 1920)

The private girls’ high school accepted both day and boarding students, with the day students sharing in all of the privileges of boarders.  Boarders lived in the “Hall”, the original school building, or “the house”, a nearby Victorian mansion.  Girls participated in activities like hockey, basketball, swimming, glee club, and drama.  And they attended dances and proms at other schools and then invited the male students of other schools back to similar events at Rogers Hall.  An account linked below recalls a 1950 prom, told from the perspective of a visiting male student . . . who tells a rather truthful account that reminds us that alcohol use among prom-goers didn’t really emerge with ‘today’s kids’.

As the 1970s progressed, it became clear that Rogers Hall was fading from the scene.  Even though the administration was tight-lipped about the conditions leading to the school’s imminent closure, it was obvious that its financial health had suffered for several years before its closure was announced.  Enrollment had fallen to 47 girls by 1973, less than half of its 100+ peak enrollment reached just 18 years before.

At the time of the 1860 US Census, the Rogers Family had lost its patriarch, Zadock Rogers, Sr. Emily and Elizabeth were among the youngest siblings.

The history of the school’s majestic buildings stretched back beyond the school’s 1892 founding.  Its main building, the Zadock Rogers House, dated to the 1830s when it began as part of a vast farm of almost 250 acres.   By 1880, Zadock Rogers and all but two of his children had died, leaving his considerable holdings to his two surviving daughters, Emily and Elizabeth Rogers.  Emily, who had attended the famous Miss Grant’s Girls’ School in Ipswich for two years during her youth, conceived of the idea to convert the Rogers home into a school after both sisters had died.  She died of pneumonia in 1884.  Carrying on the plans she had discussed with her sister, Elizabeth lived to realize their plan.  In 1892, just a few years before she died, Elizabeth donated her own home to the future school.

The sisters’ original plan had called for the donation of their estate to charity after both had died, but Elizabeth had a change of heart after meeting Mrs. Underhill, who had opened a girls’ school in Belvidere in 1891.  That school, lacking appropriate facilities to board students, was failing when Elizabeth began to look into founding Rogers Hall, while she was still alive.  She approached Mrs. Underhill, asking her to run the new school if Rogers were to provide the appropriate grounds.  Mrs. Underhill agreed, and remained the school’s first principal for its first 18 years.

By the time of the 1880 US Census, Emily and Elizabeth Rogers were the sole remaining members of the Rogers family. They began to discuss the future of their estate once they were gone.

The school was situated on about five acres of the original Rogers property.  In her last years, Elizabeth donated another 30 acres of land across the street from their farmhouse to the City in 1886; this later became Rogers Fort Hill Park.  The rest, over 200 acres, was sold for development and today forms the neighborhood surrounding the park and former school.  Elizabeth died in 1898 of pneumonia, just five months shy of her 80th birthday.

Rev. John M. Greene, pastor at the Eliot Church in Lowell, helped Elizabeth Rogers found the school.  He had also helped found Smith College.  In 1892, the school opened with 11 faculty and 50 students.  All but nine were day students.  The Rogers sisters lived a strict, austere life governed by Christian ideals, which they incorporated into the education provided to the students attending Rogers Hall.  Students lived by a rigid schedule, which left ample time for studying as well as rest.  Lights had to be put out by 9:30 each night.  Appearances were considered very important too.  Nightly, before formal dinners, staff would check the seams of students’ stockings for straightness.  Once dinner began, table manners were carefully monitored and evaluated.

In its earlier years, Rogers Hall was known for enforcing a strict, orderly lifestyle. Prior to admission into formal dinner each night, girls were inspected to ensure that they exhibited proper posture as well as straight seams on their stockings.

English: Collection of U.S. House of Represent...Edith Nourse Rogers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rogers Hall produced many distinguished alumnae.  Among them, Anne Harvey Sexton, a 1947 graduate, was later awarded the Pulitzer price for poetry.  Dr. Mona Meehan went on to become the first female chief of staff appointed to a US hospital at St. John’s Hospital, now part of Saints Medical Center.  And, Edith Nourse Rogers, no relation to the founding Rogers family, served the Massachusetts Fifth District as a congresswoman for 35 years after her husband died in office in 1925.

At its peak enrollment in 1955, Rogers Hall had more than 100 students.  In its waning years, the percentage of day students soared, from 10% in 1968 to 50% in 1970, and 75% by 1973, when it closed.  Rising tuition prices and the advent of co-educational schools were both blamed for the school’s declining enrollment.  Today, Rogers Hall still sits on Lowell’s Rogers Street and serves as elderly housing.

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John A. Goodwin in LTI’s “The Pickout” Yearbook

Many volumes of the Lowell Technological Institute’s yearbook “The Pickout” have been digitized. Check out former LHS President and former LTI professor John Goodwin’s photo with the Textile Manufacturing faculty. This article is a crosspost from Dick Howe’s blog.

July 20th, 2012

LTI’s “The Pickout” Now Digitized

by Marie

A page from the 1956 Edition of “The Pickout” – the Yearbook for the Lowell Technological Institute.

Please note the late Professor John A. Goodwin seated to the far left in the first row of the Textile Manufacturing faculty group photo. John died last month at the age of 95 – ever loyal to the “Institute.”

Many editions of  “The Pickout” have been digitized and are available here: As noted by UML/Center for Lowell History director Martha Mayo “soon all the University-related yearbooks will be available and searchable through”

Lowell’s Shedd Park from “Forgotten New England”

Here’s the latest “Forgotten New England” column from Lowell Historical Society Board member Ryan Owens.

July 9, 2012

The Story of Lowell’s Shedd Park

The gates are familiar to all who pass Lowell’s Shedd Park at the intersection of Rogers Street (Route 38) and Knapp Avenue in the city’s Belvidere section.  And they tell a story of some of the greatest generosity ever experienced by the city of Lowell.

The Shedd Park Gateway, as it was envisioned in 1910. (Source: Lowell Sun: 7/16/1910)

Today, Lowell’s Shedd Park is home to fifty acres of  tennis courts, baseball diamonds, picnic areas, and a water spray park.  Its pavilion is often used as a stage for public events and concerts.  In the years surrounding the turn of the twentieth century, however, the land that eventually became the park was a combination of open fields and dense forests, and it was privately owned.

Field and forest covered the land that would become Shedd Park in 1910.  (Source: 1910-11 Lowell City Documents)

The land wasn’t always destined to become Shedd Park.  As late as 1896, it was considered for subdivision and development into housing lots.

An 1896 plan showed a subdivision consisting of Hoyt, Belrose, and McAlvin Avenues traversing the core of what later became park grounds.  (Source:  1896 Lowell City Atlas)

But, in the end, Freeman B. Shedd, the owner of the land, gave it as a gift to the City of Lowell, with no strings attached.  On July 14, 1910, Freeman B. Shedd sent a letter to Lowell’s mayor at the time, John F. Meehan.

Freeman B Shedd, (Source: 1910-11 Lowell City Documents)

He said:

“I have acquired title to a tract of land containing fifty acres, more or less, which is situated south of Knapp Avenue and adjoining Fort Hill park, that I offer to the City of Lowell for its acceptance under the following conditions:

“First:  That it shall forever be used as a park and recreation or playground for the citizens and children of the City of Lowell, and for no other purpose.

“Second:  That no building or structure shall be erected on the land except such as is adapted and required for use in connection with said park and playground.

“Third:  That the city will, within a reasonable time, proceed to develop and prepare the ground for such uses on the lines indicated by accompanying plan furnished by E.W.Bowditch, civil engineer of Boston.

“Fourth:  That I shall have the right to erect, subject to the approval of the park commission, a suitable gateway and entrance, with a tablet or tablets thereon with the following transcription:  ”Shedd Playground.  A gift to the City of Lowell by Freeman Ballard Shedd, A.D. 1910.”

And, with that he closed the letter, and awaited the city’s response to his offer.  Real estate experts of the day valued the land at $50,000.  There were really no strings attached.  Freeman Shedd, a lifelong resident of Lowell, and was simply and in the words of the day, an ‘ardent lover’ of his city.

The vote to accept Shedd’s park was unanimous, and a rising vote of thanks was offered to Freeman Shedd.  An appropriation of $10,000 was voted by the City Council on November 4, 1910 to clear the land and build a roadway to the entrance.  Work commenced quickly.  A roadway was built to grant better access to the future park.  Ground was cleared;  trees were felled.  The skating rink was created.   The Council intended, within 10 years to make the park one of the best outside Boston.  Freeman Shedd again stepped forward to make that happen.  Shedd’s will left $100,000 to the city for the development of the park, provided that his daughter, Mary Belle, left  no descendants when she herself died.  Mary Belle Shedd did, indeed, died childless in 1921, but was survived by Freeman Shedd’s wife, Amy.  When Amy Shedd died in 1924, the $100,000 reverted to the City of Lowell and Shedd Park was further developed.

The original Bowditch plan for Shedd Park called for an open air theater, roughly where the little league baseball diamonds sit now along Knapp Avenue, a pond with a beach roughly where the Senior League baseball diamond sits now, and gender-specific gyms and tennis courts.  A field designated for baseball and football was to reside further down Boylston Street, where the current picnic area is.  Original plans also called for an underground tunnel to pass under the B&M railroad to connect the park with Wigginville, now better known as South Lowell.

The original Bowditch plan for Shedd Park – 1910 – Lowell Sun, 7/16/1910

In the last days of November and into early December 1910, a 6″ inch service pipe was laid into the park, and from it approximately four million gallons of water were let onto the land to flood about five acres of land for a skating rink.  City residents loved it.  The Water Department wasn’t so thrilled.  Although the Park Department paid for the pipe and its installation, they refused to pay the water bill.

The skating pond at Shedd Park in 1910.  (Source: 1910-11 Lowell City Documents)

Outside downtown Lowell, there are few Lowell landmarks as universally well-known as Belvidere’s Shedd Park.  At over 50 acres, the park is among the largest in the city.  Its story, enhanced by generations of memories among Lowell residents, traces its origins to one of Lowell’s most generous sons, who grew up to leave Lowell’s one of its greatest gifts ever.

John A. Goodwin ~ Rest in Peace

Our dear friend and past President of the Lowell Historical Society and the Lowell Museum – John Goodwin died last month at the age of 95 nearly a year to the day that his beloved Cassie died. John and Catherine were local treasures always to be remembered by those of us who called them friends and colleagues. This obituary appeared in yesterday’s Lowell SUN:

John A. Goodwin Active in Lowell, MA historical community; 95
LOWELL/CHELMSFORD, MA — John A. Goodwin, 95, longtime resident of Lowell and Chelmsford, MA, and summers in Ogunquit, ME, died June 14, 2012 in Dover, NH.
He was preceded in death by his wife of 68 years, Catherine (Hill) Goodwin, one year earlier.
Born in Lowell, MA to William B. Goodwin and Elizabeth Abbott Goodwin, John married his “Cassie” in 1943. He was a WWII veteran. After receiving degrees in Textile Engineering at Lowell Textile Institute, he taught there (now UMass, Lowell) until his retirement as Professor in 1980.
He was a lifelong member of St. Anne’s Episcopal Church and, since 1960, summers at St. Peters by-the-Sea near his Ogunquit cottage-serving both churches in many capacities, including many years as Treasurer. Until very old age, he was an active Mason (32nd degree, Kilwinning Lodge Past Master, Joseph Warren Medal). A Boy Scout “for life,” he served Lowell Council of Boy Scouts 60+ years (Silver Beaver Award, Old Scouts).
John had many interests — history, pipe organs and music, textiles, railroads, photography — and participated in many related activities. He served on boards, committees, and as president of many local organizations: Lowell Art Association, Lowell Historical Society, Lowell Museum, Boston & Maine RR Historical Society, among them. He (sometimes with wife, Catherine) gave slide-show lectures on historical topics. His photos were used in Catherine’s book about Lowell Cemetery. He was an advisor to the American Textile History Museum. Having learned how to tune organs at the side of his pipe organ-designer father, John played/tuned over 20 pipe organs in Lowell’s different churches. He served as National Secretary to the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society for 20 years.
Survivors are three children: Elizabeth Long (Robert) of Lisle, IL, William Goodwin (Meredith) of Whitehouse Station, NJ, and Jean Demetracopoulos (John) of S. Berwick, ME; seven grandchildren and one great-granddaughter. He was preceded in death by daughter, Catherine Ruth Goodwin.
GOODWIN — Funeral will be Friday, July 27 at 2:00 pm at St. Peter’s by-the-Sea, 535 Shore Road (Bald Head), Cape Neddick, ME, with light refreshments following at the nearby rectory. Interment of ashes for both John and Catherine will be Monday, July 30 at 11:00 am in Lowell Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to: Lowell Historical Society, P.O. Box 1826, Lowell, MA 01853.