St Peter’s Cemetery Part 2: The Little Black Book

This is a cross-post from LowellIrish researched by the Lowell Historical Society’s Genealogist Walter Hickey and Karen Hickey. More of Walter’s sleuthing will be presented on Saturday March 29, 2014 with his program on “Crime and Punishment in 19th Century Lowell”. More details coming.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

St Peter’s Cemetery Part 2: The Little Black Book

This concludes the story of St. Peter’s Cemetery as researched by Walter and Karen Hickey.

There is such a book entitled “St. Peter’s Cemetery”, and we thought this would provide the answer to the locations of the graves. That expectation was relatively short-lived. The book is a record of lot owners.  In addition to the name of the purchaser, it provides the date of purchase, location of the lot, price paid, and sometimes the name or relation of the deceased.  All too often, the name of the decedent is not listed.  Instead, there is simply a notation “Opening grave” and the charge for that.  We are not told for whom the grave was opened.
 In the spreadsheet compiled from this book, there are 365 entries.  Of these only 165 have any notation of who is buried in that grave.  The remaining 200 have no decedent listed.
 Another problem is that the book seems to have been compiled after the fact as the purchases are not in chronological order.  The first burial was that of Edward Connor on 11 Dec 1900.  One would expect that this purchase would be the first listed in the book.  Instead it is listed on page 147 (of 176)
 From his obituary we know that the lot was purchased by his brother-in-law, Charles S. Little, and that this was the first plot sold.
Edward C. Connor at rest in St. Peter’s Cemetery
 The first man to buy a lot in the new St. Peter’s Cemetery was Charles S. Little of 59 Boynton street.  The lot he bought was one of the most desirable in the cemetery, 10 feet square, with room for eight graves, and the price was $25.  The first body interred in the new cemetery was buried in this lot on Tuesday.” 11 Dec.]  (SUNDAY TELEGRAM, 12 December 1900; 5:2)
 If it were not for that obituary providing the name of his brother-in-law, Charles S. Little, we would have no way of knowing where Mr. Connor was buried.  The purchase record indicates the lot was purchased on 10 December and opened for Edward C. Connor, the lot being at Section “D”.  #1.
 The first purchaser listed is Mrs. Bridget Murphy. Who bought the lot on 20 October 1902.  The first, and only, interment was on 5 March 1907.  There is no name of the decedent.  A check of all Lowell deaths, 1-10 March 1907, showed no one by the name of Murphy.  There were interments in St. Peter’s cemetery but there was nothing in the obituary or funeral notices to indicate any relation to Mrs. Murphy.  It is also quite possible that the person did not die in Lowell.
 Also on Page 2, listed below Mrs., Bridget Murphy:
James Devaney purchased Lot 24, Sec “B” on St. Cecelia’s Walk on 25 April 1903.
 Like the Murphy record, the record does not tell us for whom the grave was opened.  In this case, however, by looking at the record deaths in Lowell ca. 25 April 1903, we learn that the deceased was Bridget Devaney, nee Morris, daughter of Lawrence Morris and Margaret Carey, who died 24 April and was buried by undertaker Rogers in St. Peter’s Cemetery.
 The next challenge in the tale of this little cemetery will be to determine if we can match those coordinates with existing graves and locations in the present yards.  We can wait for the snow to melt!
 The information contained in the purchase book has been entered into a spreadsheet.  There are two printings.  The first is in alphabetical order and the send in page order.  These, as well as the burial spreadsheets are in the office of St. Patrick’s Cemetery.

St. Patrick Cemetery Stewards at Work

This is a cross-post from our friend Dave McKean over at LowellIrish. Dave and other St. Patrick Cemetery stewards are cleaning up and documenting important and historic slate grave stones and markers.

A Word of Thanks

The slate stones in Yard One are a treasure to the early history of the Irish in Lowell.  Time is beginning to have its effect on them.  Some stones which were pristine a decade ago are beginning to chip, break, and shatter.  The carvings on these stones tell us of the happenings of the first arrivals.  They are the men who walked with Hugh Cummiskey from Charlestown.  They are the women who went to the well that once stood in the front yard of the church.  They are the children, so many children, whose short lives would only be remembered in stone. 

For these reasons, and maybe some of their own, a great group of folks gathered to help prepare the stones for photographing and our October 12th tour.  The weather was perfect.  We cleaned every shamrock stone that has been discovered so far, all 20 of them.  I lost count of how many pails of brush and dirt we hauled away.  By the end of the 2 hours folks were a little sore, a little dirty, and completely exhausted.  I do not have the words to say an appropriate thank you. 

For those of you who missed out on the fun next Saturday we will be working on some other stones.  We’ll meet in Yard 1 from 9-11.  

Old English Cemetery Part 2

For those who were unable to attend the recent tour of the Old English Cemetery down on Gorham Street, tour guide and Lowell Historical Society board member Kim Zunino has kindly provided her notes. Thanks to all those who did attend, the turnout was fantastic!

Notes are after the jump Continue reading “Old English Cemetery Part 2”

Lowell Historical Society Research Collection

Original Old Residents' Association Book Cabinet

Original Old Residents’ Association Book Cabinet

The Lowell Historical Society maintains numerous collections of writings, documents and photographs which are open for public research. The collections are comprised of the Society’s original archives as well as those of the Lowell Museum. The holdings of the Society, which differ in size and scope, are located at two neighboring facilities and use of the collections should be coordinated in advance of visitation. Most of the books, photographs, maps and documents are housed the UMass Lowell / Center for Lowell History while the remainder of the collection is in the Society rooms at the Boott Mill site.

Here are two collections that might interest a researcher – one recalls an well-known entertainment venue and the other an effort to preserve the information on very old local grave stones.

Commodore Ballroom Collection

Originally built as the Kasino, the Commodore Ballroom opened in 1924 to become the preeminent Lowell dance club under the ownership of Carl Braun and his family. This collection includes business records from 1936 to 1950 as well as tax filings and payroll information from 1937 to 1945. Also in the collection are song books, sheet music and over 200 autographed photos of musicians including Ray Anthony, Les Brown, Clooney Sisters, Duke Ellington, Fletcher Henderson, Sammy Kaye, Vaughn Monroe, Artie Shaw and Jack Teagarden.

Cemetery Gravestone Rubbings

A project financed by the Lowell Historical Society, Lowell State College ( now the University of Massachusetts Lowell) undertook to document and preserve pre-1850 slate stones. The project was directed by Dr. Mary Blewett and involved the work of her students. The collection of imprint rubbings are from many of the oldest graveyards in the city including the Clark, Edson, Hildreth, Lowell, Mammoth Road, Old English, Pawtucket, Saint Patrick’s, School Street and Woodbine Cemeteries.

More collections will highlights will be over the coming weeks.

Lowell Historic Board Publishes 2011 Fall Newsletter

The Lowell Historic Board has resumed publication of a quarterly newsletter –  “Presence from the Past” – with its just issued 2011 Fall Edition. News from the commission is always of interest to Lowell Historical Society members and those interested in preservation. The Society does have a member-seat on the Commission currently filled by LHS board member and Director of the UML/Center for Lowell History Martha Mayo and Commission Assistant Director Kim Zunino is also on the board.

While many topics are covered in this newsletter scholars and interested buffs of the many Lowell cemeteries should check out Kim’s article: The Value of Historic Cemeteries and  information on a November 20 tour she’ll conduct on the Old English Cemetery on Gorham Street.

The Newsletter is chock full of interesting article and suggestion of how to research the history of your house, the newly designated historic neighborhood – the Livingston-Harvard Neighborhood District – in the Highlands, how historic buildings in Lowell are going solar… and much more. There is a calendar of events too!

 77 Livingston Avenue in the new historic district

If you aren’t on the LHB Newlettter list, check it out by posting this link information in your browser :

Cemetery Tours Great Success

For my first post here on the Lowell Historical Society’s new blog, I thought I’d begin with a note on a longtime seasonal tradition in two of Lowell’s best known cemeteries.

The Lowell Cemetery’s iconic Ayer Lion after a much-needed renovation this summer.

This past weekend many people took advantage of the cemetery tours conducted at both the Lowell Cemetery and St. Patrick Cemetery. Historian Dick Howe – Lowell Register of Deeds – has been guiding seasonal and special tours at the Lowell Cemetery for the last three years having worked with mentor the late Catherine Goodwin. Catherine began these tours with her husband John many years ago.  Local historian and teacher David McKean developed the tours in St. Patrick Cemetery that now include an annual dedication of stones of forgotten Irish immigrants as part of the Mercy Drive program of the Ladies AOH (Ancient Order of Hibernians). This year in a special ceremony a stone from the ancestral home of Hugh Cummisky was buried at his grave site. Look for more information about the tours and ceremonies here at LowellIrish and here and here at

Lowell Historical Society Genealogist Walter Hickey and St. Patrick Church and Lowell Irish David McKean  bury the stone.