CENTER FOR LOWELL HISTORY UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS LOWELL LIBRARIES

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FROM ERIN TO THE ACRE
 
also maintained a certain hold on the community by making sure that matters between the Yankees and the Irish were smooth.  Cummiskey himself petitioned the city for a patrol through the Acre to keep the peace.  He was also a source for possible employment in the work gangs.  His influence can be evidenced by the number of times he is mentioned in the local newspapers as being present at meetings and events.  Upon his death, the local papers ran lengthy tributes to his memory, something not done for other Irishmen during this period.

     Father John O'Brien, though definitely a strong religious leader, was also very much aware of the place of the Irish within the city.  Through his efforts, a school was formed.  He was also looked upon by his parishioners for advice during the flare ups of violence between the Yankee and Irish communities.  He single handily turned away the "Smelling Committee" that came to investigate St. Patrick's Convent.  Under his auspices, St. John's Hospital was formed to help those who were unable to use the Corporation Hospital.  He was truly a man of vision for his people.  His name today is mostly remembered for his connection with Father John's Medicine.

Irish Prejudice
The support systems that were in place could not prepare the Acre for the events of the 1850s.  A wave of nationalism crossed America and a political group called the Know-Nothings, who were anti-immigration and anti-Catholic, gained power during this period.  In the journals of the Sisters of Notre Dame, we read of visits made by these groups to the schools in search of some evidence to close them down.  One Sister writes of the church bell ringing to warn of the mob approaching.  The story ends with an Irish woman throwing one of the Yankee invaders into the canal.  It was the Irish community's way of showing it was here to stay.

Into the 20th Century

Even though local papers continued to print bias articles and editorials about the Irish, acceptance was slowly gained.  Soon other groups began coming to Lowell seeking employment, and many of those immigrants settled in the Acre, redefining the character of the Acre.  There were tensions between recent and former residents, but there were also many friendships and marriages among cultures.  Less than a generation ago, a walk down Broadway Street would make a litany of Irish names and businesses.  There was McCarthy's Market and Kiernan's Drugstore.  If you wanted to borrow a book, there was Jackie ONeill's place and O'Connell's for a neighborhood stopover on your way home.

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