Friday, October 31, 2014

McErlane Brothers

Peter J. McErlane and Paul M. McErlane were born in Lowell to Irish born Peter and Elizabeth (Kane) McErlane along with six sisters. The family lived in the Pawtucketville section of Lowell at 53 Third Avenue and were founding members of St. Rita's parish.

Peter was the oldest and graduated from the Bartlett, Lowell High School class of 1935 and the evening division of Lowell Textile class of 1940. He enlisted in the army ten months before Pearl Harbor. He was a member of the famed Yankee Division 101st Infantry 26th Division Company K.

First Sergeant Peter J. McErlane

His younger and only brother Paul graduated from the Bartlett and Lowell High School class of 1940. He also was an excellent golfer, winning the Lowell City Caddy Championship in 1940. He joined the Air Force and was a radio gunner of a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress.
Sergeant Paul M. McErlane

On April 25th 1944 the McErlane family got news that their youngest son was Missing in Action. On his second combat mission his plane had to ditch over Germany. Three of the flight members ended up being Prisoners of War and six were lost. They were shot down on Easter Sunday. Right before Paul left for his ill fated mission he sent flowers to his mother for Mother's Day. They held out hope that he had survived but at the end of the war he was declared dead. A mother's heartache.

On December 10th 1944 the McErlane family was notified by the War Department that their other son, Peter was killed in action on November 28th 1944 in Vibersviller near Metz, France. He was part of the Lorraine offensive that was so deadly. He really didn't have a chance. Lots of hand to hand fighting as the Americans marched towards Germany. Trying to clear the towns to get the tanks through. Patton's tanks. It was a deadly affair.

Peter and Paul's sister Rita was serving as a Lieutenant in the US Army Nurse Corps in Italy. On the front line. She survived the war and married in Milan, Italy.

After the war the McErlanes were popular members of St. Rita's and the Pawtucketville neighborhood. The square across the street from the Joseph A. McAvinnue Elementary School is named in their honor. It's at the intersection of Mammoth, 4th Avenue and Woodward Avenue.

Paul never came home. He is memorilized on the Tablet of the Missing at Netherlands American Cemetery in Margaraten, Netherlands and on the family stone at St. Patrick's Cemetery.

Peter's body came home in 1948 and he had a funeral at St. Rita's and burial at St. Patrick's Cemetery. They were both survived by their parents and sisters Joan Donaghey, Anna Monnahan, Frances Fadden, Rita Miller, Eleanor Sullivan and Patricia Bartlett. Thank you McErlane family.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Our Friends to the North - World War One

The National War Memorial in Ottawa was dedicated May 21st 1939 in honor of all the Canadians that fought in the Great War. Over the years it has been updated to include all the wars the Canadians have participated in. Last week Corporal Nathan Cirillo was shot and killed by a terrorist on sacred ground. Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family.

In researching World War One and remembering those who paid the ultimate sacrifice, I knew that we had several servicemen who served for the Canadian Expeditionary Forces from greater Lowell. Because the United States tried to stay out of the war for as long as we could, many men went north to Canada to get in on the action.

In greater Lowell there total of 174 war time deaths for those fighting for the allies. Some were accidents, illness or killed in action.  Looking closer at who they were fighting for we have a total of 21 servicemen who died fighting under the Canadian flag.

Please remember the ultimate sacrifice they made.

Aubrey Bearisto 5th Canadian Battalion September 28, 1918
Harry Burke Canadian Black Watch October 1, 1918
Mederic Champagne Canadian Expeditionary Force August 18, 1918
Gavin Caldwell Royal Air Force mechanic October 13, 1918
Narcisse Desrosiers Canadian Expeditionary Force August 27, 1918
Phillip Doyon 22d Canadians August 27, 1918
Eldon Elston Canadian Black Watch October 16, 1918
Thomas Fennelly Canadian Expeditionary Force November 7, 1918
Anthony Gray Canadian Expeditionary Force September 20, 1918
Thomas Hamblett Canadian Infantry August 27, 1918
Bertrand Lamarre Canadian Expeditionary Force August 19, 1917
Lee MacKenzie 4th DT Mortar Battery September 28, 1918
Stewart Maclean 42nd Canadian Kilties August 12, 1918
James McClennan 42d Bn. Canadian Infantry April 7, 1916
Edmond  McNamara American Legion of Canadian Army April 12, 1918
Harry Miller Canadian Expeditionary Force December 6, 1918
Joseph Paquin Canadian Expeditionary Force October 26, 1917
John Regan Canadian Expeditionary Force October 11, 1918
Edward Rowe 224th Canada. August 28, 1918
William Swift Canadian Expeditionary Force October 1, 1918
Ray Turner Canadian Expeditionary Force January 5, 1918

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Benjamin Franklin Butler

Lawyer - Civil War General
Governor - Congressman
Industrialist - Yachtsman

Photo credit: Library of Congress

Love him or hate him he knew how to use his power and influence. After the Civil War Major General Butler returned to Lowell to practice law. He was very active in the affairs of the textile mills both for and against the owners.

The General had a house in Lowell at 133 Andover Street. The house (mansion) was torn down in the 1970s and was located on the land of Mansion Drive, Carriage Drive and Butler Drive off Andover Street.

He also had a summer residence in Gloucester called Bay View that he built in 1866. Still owned by his descendents it is available for rent today if you are interested.

General Butler invested in the Pentucket Navigation Company in 1867. The steamer Merrimac brought vacationers from Lawrence and Haverhill to the Black Rocks at Salisbury Beach for summer recreation. He also brought coal up the river to sell in Lowell. He made a lot of money. General Butler also purchased the yacht "America" from the U.S. Navy in 1873. He was an excellent yachtsman. The trip from Lowell to Gloucester is 40 miles so you have to wonder how many times he made the trip by water.

The mouth of the Merrimack River is one of the most dangerous on the east coast. Boats coming out of the river have Black Rocks and Badger Rocks on the Salisbury side to navigate. A light house was positioned on the Plum Island side. Along with a life saving station. The jetties that are on each side of the entrance to the Atlantic Ocean did not exist.

Benjamin Butler himself picked out the spot for the navigation aid we know as Butler's Toothpick in 1873. It's officially known as Coast Guard Black Rock Day Beacon #10 (Light List #9040). It is owned by the Coast Guard but sits adjacent to Salisbury Beach Reservation. It is forty feet tall and sits on a granite base 24 feet tall. The General also owned Cape Ann Granite so I wonder if he supplied the granite as well.

In 1947 the high tide swept out the wooden structure. It was rebuilt. It has had several updates over the years. It is a highly prized landmark today. We love visiting it when we camp at Salisbury Beach Reservation.
Thanks Ben!