Gorham Street Cemeteries - Spring 2008
A while ago, we went to the Lowell Cemetery and took pictures there. However, the majority of burials in this city take place along the western side of Gorham Street, in a series of cemeteries. A look at a map shows a nearly neighborhood-sized green area. The number of dead people in Lowell exceeds the number of people living here, but this is also true of Troy, New York and probably most older cities.
The two cemeteries I visited were Saint Patrick's Catholic Cemetery and the Edson City Cemetery.
Saint Patrick's cemetery dates to 1832 and was set aside so the Irish constructing the new town of Lowell would have consecrated ground to be buried in, without being shipped all the way back to Boston. Through a series of additions, by the cemetery's hundredth birthday, over 60,000 people were buried there. Today, it is essentially fully sold off, with a successor cemetery in North Tewksbury. This cemetery is very important to me, as every gravesite of any ancestor my family visits, on both sides of the family, is located here. I remember being very young and visiting gravesites, then going to the long-gone Dairy Queen across the street (It's Pizza Hazel today...).
This picture is a view from one of the gates to the Chapel.
A closer picture of the chapel. Saint Patrick's has an excellent website, and aside from using it to find the locations of long-dead ancestor's graves (including someone born in 1864 who's first name was Patrick for some reason... :-) ), I learned that the nearby Administration Building was made from stone that was formerly gravesite curbing. The cemetery removed the lot-marking curbings in the 1930s, which is prominent today still in the Lowell Cemetery.
I believe this Celtic Cross belonged to a doctor and his family. The Celtic Cross is a very common symbol in this cemetery.
This stone is in Gaelic. I don't speak a word of it, but trying to Google it I got "God be with ..". The stones here are in pretty dense.
Claddagh Heart in the front, Celtic cross to the left, and a cop on the right. Yup - Irish cemetery alright. I don't explicitly remember seeing any shamrocks (and I have no pictures of any), but a guide says there's a large variety here. I do recall at some point going to a cemetery somewhere and seeing very poorly carved shamrocks, and the explaination was the carvers, not being familiar with Irish culture, had no idea what they looked like.
An unusually personal marker for this day and age. Proof that this is Massachusetts. This guy made it his entire life, never seeing a Sox World Series win. He obviously liked the team enough to have their victory carved in stone on his grave. This name is clearly not Irish in origin - the Cemetery is Catholic, not just Irish. That's why my father's Portagee family is here as well as my mom's County Cork ancestors.
Many of the old, stand-up stones were laid flat at some point. I'm not sure if it was strictly about making sure they don't break, or aesthetic reasons. Either way, this was one of the older ones (1839) I happened by.
Some other scenery from around the Cemetry. I wonder if the Costello Mausoleum is the family that owned the Lowell Sun?
In the back corner is the St. Vincent de Paul section, here, are buried the very poor and infants under small numbered round stones. Somebody in the second picture knows one of the unnamed people obviously...
The cemetery runs right up on the Ayer's City section of Lowell, which is partially why this cemetery is getting no larger. This is Manchester Street, backing the St. Vincent de Paul section.
Edson is owned by the city, and I can't find much information on it. What I do know I got from one of the Lowell Historical Society postcard books. It dates to the 1840s and is named after an early reverend from Saint Anne's. There are some extremely old stones in it, older than the cemetery's incorporation, and is one cemetery further from downtown Lowell up Gorham Street than Saint Patrick's is. The layout is very regular, with numbered Avenues crossed by Avenues named after Presidents. The most famous person buried here, and what must be the number one pilgrimage site in any Lowell burial ground, is Jack Kerouac. I went on a day that looked like there was going to be an awful storm. Made it out just in time, too!
The main gate, on Gorham Street
One of the "Avenues."
Ti Jean himself - He Honored Life. By dying an alcoholic before he was 50. There are always little trinkets left here I guess. I'd never seen the stone before, but it's very easy to find and the grass in front of it is completely worn off.
This section, surprisingly enough, belongs to the Elks.
Compared to Saint Patrick's, this cemetery is pretty WASPy. That's a Masonic symbol on the top. I also saw a bunch with three interconnected rings, had no idea what it meant. I was correct that it was another fraternal organization - the Odd Fellows. I know virtually nothing about them.
The cemetery may seem WASPy, but not only was Kerouac French Canadian, but this guy looks pretty Armenian.
Some of these stones off to the side pre-date the incorporation of Lowell as a seperate town from Chelmsford...
A pleasant surprise for me here was this war memorial. It has cannons, anchors, and small markers facing the flag and central monument. Again, thanks to the Historical Society's postcard books, I found out that this is the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, and is for homeless veterans of the Civil and Spanish American wars, and the central monument used to have a statue of a soldier on it.
Curious what was in the cannons, I put my camera in. Found all this garbage and a bee's nest.
Clearly, kids come here to party at night, but one of the greatest indignities in this cemetery is to a monument of one of the greatest men the Lowell area ever saw. This is the great Indian chief Passaconaway. He likely lived to be over 100, and was believed to be a giant and a great sorcerer. He never lead his Penacook tribesmen against the invading white men, yet he was treated very poorly by us anyhow, moved from one place to another, his family captured and ransomed... His monument has been treated with equal indignity - it has had its headdress feathers cut off, his hatchet removed, his bow stolen, and a whole hand with a huge spear removed.
Corey Sciuto (e-mail)