Sunday, January 8, 2017

Early Lowell and the Civil War

I was looking something up in Charles Cowley's "Illustrated History of Lowell" and I read something that interested me.

Who was Robert E.K. Whiting and how did end up a Major-General in the Confederate Army in the Civil War?
Robert Edward Kerr Whiting

Robert's grandfather and great grandfather served in the American Revolution. Timothy Whiting Sr. and Timothy Whiting Jr. from Billerica. After winning America's independence, Timothy Jr. moved to Lancaster, Massachusetts and settled there. He had thirteen children with two wives. Levi Whiting was born to Timothy and his first wife Abigail Kidder on January 27, 1790.

Levi Whiting was a career Army man in the 1st Artillery and he fought in the War of 1812. He served in the U.S. Army for forty years until his death in 1852. He married Mary Ann Cushing of Maine in 1823 in Biloxi, Mississippi.  They had seven children all born around the United States during Levi's assignments.

St. Anne's Church in Lowell was built in 1825. Levi Whiting and his wife had all their sons baptized at St. Anne's while they were residing in New York:
  • William Henry Chase Whiting - baptism July 13, 1828 - born in Biloxi, Mississippi
  • John McMahon Whiting - baptism July 13, 1828 - born in Houlton, Maine
  • Jasper Strong Whiting - baptism July 13, 1828 - born in Louisiana
  • Frederick Underhill Whiting - baptism August 28, 1831 - born in New York
  • Robert Edward Kerr Whiting - baptism October 28, 1832 - born on Governor's Island, NY
I  tried to determine why would this family come to newly created Lowell for their son's baptisms? They came three different times.

Lowell connections:
  1. Robert's grandfather, Timothy Whiting Jr. of Lancaster was a Mason and on December 10, 1809 he went to Whiting's Hall in Chelmsford (now Lowell) at the site of the Franco American School and installed the Pentucket Lodge of Mason's. He did this as the District Deputy Grand Master. 
  2. Jessee Phelps of Lancaster was the first overseer of Merrimack Manufacturing Company. Jessee was also a Mason and the Deacon at St. Anne's Church. Timothy Whiting's second wife's maiden name was Lydia Phelps.
John and Frederick do not live to see the Civil War.  His two surviving brothers were William Henry Chase Whiting and Jasper Strong Whiting. They would not survive the American Civil War.

William was a West Point graduate class of 1845 who was number one in his class. Supposedly he had the highest class rank that stood until General Douglas MacArthur graduated.  He served in the United States Army Engineers and surveyed many areas of the country. Jasper Strong Whiting graduated from Bowdoin College and was also a Civil Engineer doing surveying work for the U.S. Army.  It looks like Robert was employed as a surveyor as a private citizen. During the time of the civil war he was the superintendent of Green-wood Cemetery in the Bronx. I can find no record of Robert E.K. Whiting serving in either the United States or Confederate army.

Jasper Strong Whiting enlisted in the Confederate Army with the rank of Major. He died of Scarlet Fever on Christmas Day in 1862 in Richmond, Virginia. He left a wife and infant son.

William Henry Chase Whiting resigned from the U.S. Army in February 1862 and offered his services to the Governor of Georgia. He ended up a Major General defending Fort Fisher at the end the war. He participated in the first battle of Fort Fisher that repelled Benjamin Butler's army. During the second battle of Fort Fisher he was shot two times and was taken a prison of war to Fort Columbus on Governor's Island in New York. He died March 10, 1865 on Governor's Island of dystentry. His funeral was held in New York City and he was buried at Green-wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, NY. His mother, brother and two sisters attended his funeral. His wife had him reburied in 1900 in North Carolina. He left no children.

Robert E.K. Whiting died at Lake George, New York in 1871 and is buried in the Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx that he designed and managed. He left a wife, an infant son & daughter. Here is his grave:
courtesy of
The Confederate General that was baptised in Lowell is Robert's brother William Henry Chase Whiting. Because Robert's brothers married Southern ladies and spent such a large portion of their lives in the South their allegiance to the South is not that surprising. There are a few more Lowell connections that I will share in a future post about Major General William Henry Chase Whiting. Stay tuned!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Lowell's Last World War One Veteran - Joseph Leo Rivet

The last Lowell World War One veteran to die was Joseph Leo Rivet. He was born June 16, 1902 in Lowell and he died in Tewksbury at Blaire House September 9, 1996 at the age of 94 of pneumonia.

He was born in Lowell June 16, 1902 to Adelard and Marie Louise Rivet. His father died when he was only six years old. His widowed mother was left to raise eleven children alone.

Joseph Leo enlisted in the US Navy during the Great War. I haven't been able to find his service record but he would not have received the McCormick medal if it was not verified. He re-enlisted in the Navy on January 28, 1926. He served with his brother Joseph Viateur on the USS Oglala for four years.

He served during World War I and World War II. He had a thirty year US Navy career. He was a Chief Warrant Officer on minesweepers.  He was a school watchman after his service at the Middlesex Training School in Chelmsford.

He married Alice Perras January 8, 1938 and had a son Bernard. We remember him on this Veteran's Day and every year thereafter. Thank you for your service.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Alphonse Brule - Music in France

Alphonse Brule was the third of the four McCormick Tribune Medal holders from Lowell to die. He was born December 16, 1897 and he died March 5, 1996. He was 98 years old.
Here is a letter that he sent to his mother during the war that was published in the Lowell Sun, November 8, 1918:
"Dear Mother,

Just a few lines to let you know that I am well and hope you are the same. I had a chance to have my   picture taken while in a rest camp and so am sending one to each of you. I just went through one of the biggest American drives ever made by an American division in France. We have taken German positions that have been occupied by the Huns since the beginning of the war and we are now sleeping in dugouts and billets that were made by the Germans and we are having things very comfortable.
As we advanced during the drive we went through towns that were set apart by the boche as they tried to burn everything they had to leave behind. We also captured quite a few prisoners. I am now at brigade headquarters and consider it a very good rest camp compared to what I had. I will stay here as long as I can for I like it very much. My duties consist of carrying the message from one headquarters to another and for the time being I will not have to go "over the top." I have a horse and as I do most of my work during the night. I have some difficulties finding my way as I have to go through forests and can hardly see two feet in front of me half the time. I have as bunk mates a few military policemen who are from my old regiment and also from Lowell. As they are good fellows we have a very good time.
A short time ago, we captured a piano from the Germans and as one of my mates is an accomplished musician we have a concert most every night. Piano selections in the trenches are a very pleasing novelty and the music serves as an accompaniment to the sizzling of the bullets aimed at the Huns. Moving picture shows or anything like that are out of the question in this part of the world. Then again our duties keep us away from social gatherings.
I received a letter from Henry Berard recently but have not found time to answer it. He says  he is in good health and thinks we will all be home very shortly. Tell all my friends that as soon as I get back to a rest camp I will write to them all. I hope that everything is going along fine at home and that you are in the best of health. Let me know all about the folks in Lowell. Hoping to hear from you in the near future. I remain,
Your affectionate son, ALPHONSE"

Private Brule was a member of the 102nd Infantry, 26th Division Company K. The famed Yankee Division. He married Alice E. Charron and had two daughters Lorraine and Doris. He was an active member of the Notre Dame de Lourdes Church and served as Captain of the Garde Sacre Coeur for 33 years. He was the last active World War One veteran on the Lowell Veteran's Council.

Thank you for your service to our country and the community.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Demetrios "Jimmy" Banacos

Demetrios Banacos was the second of the last four remaining World War One Veterans of Lowell to pass away after receiving the Robert McCormick Tribune Medal in 1993.

Demetrios "Jimmy" Banacos was born December 6, 1893, the oldest son of Harry and Stamatico Banacos. He emigrated from Greece with his parents. His parents then had eleven more children all born in Lowell. They leased farmland on Varnum Avenue.

He graduated from Lowell High School Class of 1912. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in July of 1917. He left behind his brothers and sisters to take care of the farm and to fight for his new country.

Jimmy Banacos was injured by mustard gas during the war. However the injury was much deeper than burning of his lungs. He suffered from shell shock, now commonly referred to as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He returned from war another man. He could no longer could speak.

Back then the effects of war were poorly understood. Treatments and therapies that we have today were undiscovered. Could they have helped Jimmy? Who knows?

According to a November 11th, 1993 Lowell Sun article, the family tried to get him help. Even sending him back to Greece to try some treatment. Jimmy came back to the United States, after some trouble proving he was a U.S. citizen. His family received help from Congresswoman Edith Nourse Rogers to prove he was an American citizen.

He would live the rest of his life in Veteran's Administration hospitals. Originally he was in Boston and when the Bedford VA Hospital opened in October of 1928 he was sent there. Ironically, the Bedford VA Hospital was named the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Hospital in 1970.

He lived in silence for 77 years. His mother visited him every Sunday for 45 years until her death in 1969. He never spoke a word to her. He died at the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Hospital on September 18, 1995 at the age of 101.

He is buried in the Westlawn Cemetery in Lowell with his mom and dad. God bless you Jimmy Banacos and the extreme sacrifice that you made for your new country. Thank you is not enough.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Merle L. Hamilton

Of the four greater Lowell WW1 veterans to receive the Robert C. McCormick Tribune Medal commemorating the 75 anniversary of WW1, Merle L. Hamilton was the first one to pass away. Here is some of his story.

He was born November 23, 1894 in Deerfield, Massachusetts to William and Lura Day Hamilton. His family moved to Lowell and eventually bought a home at 100 Stedman Street in Lowell. The family kept this home in the family for a long time.

 The Hamiltons of Waterborough, York Maine Genealogy

Merle was a chef before, during and after his service. He served with the 317th Field Signal Battalion of the Fifth Army. He had three uncles that served during the Civil War. He received a gun shot wound in the hand when he went looking for war souvenirs in "no man's land" and received the purple heart according to the Lowell Sun.
 Lowell Sun - January 30, 1994

He first married Hazel Fay Hamilton and had four children. Next he married Agnes who passed away in 1984. He lived in different parts of the United States over the course of his career. His service is credited to Bridgeport, Connecticut. He returned to the greater Lowell area after his retirement around 1960. He lived at 62 Flower Lane in Dracut when he received the McCormick medal. He died on March 12, 1995 at the age of 100 of congestive heart failure at the Fairhaven Nursing Home.

We thank Merle L. Hamilton for his service and feeding the troops. We are glad his little adventure to the front did not get him killed.

Monday, May 23, 2016

The last of the World War One Veteran's in Greater Lowell

I've been researching World War One and Greater Lowell for quite a few years now. In 2011 Frank Buckles passed away and he was noted as being the last U.S. veteran of World War One. With the 100th anniversary coming up, I'm trying to determine who were the last surviving veterans of WW1 from Greater Lowell.

In 1993 the U.S. Veteran's Administration funded by the Robert R. McCormick Tribune Foundation awarded 75th anniversary medals to surviving veterans of World War One. It was estimated that only 1 percent of the veterans of this war were still alive. Nine thousand medals were awarded in total.

Photo credit:

Robert R. McCormick was the editor and the publisher of the Chicago Tribune. Col. McCormick was the Commander of 1st Battalion of the 5th Field Artillery of First Division in the U.S. Army during World War One. Colonel McCormick died in 1955 and his will funded the Tribune Foundation.

Photo credit:

Veteran's or their families had to prove their military service during World War One to the Veteran's Administration. The awards were presented to the following Greater Lowell veterans:

Demetrios "Jimmy" Banacos
Alphonse Brule
Merle Hamilton
Joseph Leo Rivet

If anyone knows of any other Greater Lowell veteran that was awarded this medal please let me know. Over the course of the week I will be giving information on each veteran about their life and their service.

We thank them and remember them.

History of American Legion Post 87

Most people in Lowell are familiar with the American Legion Post 87 at 684 Westford Street near Tyler Park. Let's talk a little history.

The American Legion was formed in 1919 right after World War One. American Legion Post 87 was formed on July 25, 1919 in the Community Hall located at the current site of the Club Diner on Dutton Street. It's first officers were: Walter Scannel, Commander; John O'Rourke, Sr. Vice Commander; Joseph T. Sullivan, Jr. Vice Commander; Eli B. Hart, Quartermaster; James F. McCready, Adjutant; Winifred C. MacBrayre, Historian; John Graves, Officer of the Guard; John King, Sentinel; James Brown, Insurance Officer. At first I thought the Historian was a female but it's a male.

In 1922, Post 87 had their quarters in the newly completed Lowell Memorial Auditorium. They became the largest Post in Massachusetts. Dues were three dollars a year. In June 1950 they purchased the Harry A. Thompson Estate, located at 684 Westford Street near Tyler Park in the Highlands section of Lowell. Harry Thompson was the treasurer of the Moxie Corporation for 40 years and the son of Augustus Thompson the inventor of MOXIE. Arthur Thompson sold all of his stock in 1943 thereby severing the Thompson family connection and the Lowell connection with MOXIE.
Massachusetts Cultural Heritage Inventory - Carriage House at 684 Westford Street

The post renovated the house and carriage house for their purposes until the house was destroyed by fire in 1963. At that time the post raised money and built the current facility that stands today. Not only does the American Legion support veterans it also supports the community in many ways. Please remember all the current and deceased members of American Legion Post 87 this upcoming Memorial Day weekend.

Google street view image captured 5/22/2016

I wonder if the bar serves Moxie?