The McDermotts after the Civil War – the Next Generation


     When James McDermott passed away on November 6 of 1863  he and Ann  had been living on the small farmstead in Saugus that he had purchased two years earlier. It seems that after James’ death Ann decided to continue  living there. The 1865 Essex County Census lists her living in the same domicile as an Irish widow, Margaret Charlton, and her seven children. But whether Ann had rented out the farmhouse to them, or she herself had moved into another house in town, cannot be determined.

     When James McDermott died he had not filed a will, which meant that any estate would have to be divided between his widow and his children. But on December 31 of 1863  his children filed a document selling their inherited interest in the Saugus property to their mother for the sum of one dollar. The signers included Thomas and Bridget McDermott of Barnstable, John and Bridget Cuddy and John and Catherine O’Neal, both of Cambridge, and William and Ann Storey, Patrick and Elizabeth Driscoll, and James McDermott (Jr.), all of South Boston. Absent from this coterie was Patrick McDermott – the second son. The 1863 Cambridge Directory has Patrick, glass maker, listed as living on Webster Ave. near Sommerville., but the 1865 census lists his wife Bridget (Hayden) as a widower. So it is probable that Patrick died earlier in 1863 – before the signing of the land transfer.  

     Though Ann was now the sole owner of the farm, it was still subject to a mortgage of $300 given by Charles Sweetser when he had sold them the land. That mortgage came due six years after the sale, in October of 1867. Land records show that the $300 mortgage was duly paid off by Ann, but only through the means of mortgaging the property again, this time to her son-in-law John Cuddy. By that time Ann was back living in Cambridge.

         In 1870 Ann, who by then was into her seventies, decided to sell the Saugus property. I believe her intention was to convey the proceeds of the sale to all of her minor grandchildren (under 21 years of age) who had been orphaned. Providing a clear title, however, meant addressing all of the legal claims on the property from each of the descendants of James McDermott. As we have already seen, the claims of her living children had been taken care of in 1863, but two of her children had predeceased James – Mary, the wife of Matthew Keenan in 1853, and Patrick McDermott in 1863. Their interests still had to be addressed.

         Patrick’s interest would have been transferred to his wife Bridget (Hayden) and her seven  children. They were still living in Cambridge in 1870 and almost all of them were involved in the family trade. James, the oldest at 27, was a glass blower. Three of his siblings, Ann (23 yrs.), Mary (20 yrs.) and Thomas (18 yrs.) all worked in a Glass House. Elizabeth (16 yrs.) was not yet working and Maggie (14 yrs.) was still in school. The second eldest, Catherine, had married William O’Connell, a rope maker from Cork, Ireland, on May 27 of 1870 , just before the birth of their baby, Charles, on June 5.

    In the 1870 Census, recorded on July 6 (but which tabulated all occupants of the dwelling as of June 1), we find out that Catherine had been living with her mother. She was probably there to have her baby. Unfortunately her mother Bridget was ill, and subsequently  died between June 1 and June 4. Catherine had her child on the 5th. Then in an almost unbelievable sequence Catherine succumbed to “inflamation of the bowels” on June 29 (probably an infection following her childbirth). And on July 17th little Charles died of infantile cholera. Meanwhile her brother James had applied for (June 4) and was granted (June 7) guardianship of his four siblings under the age of 21. With that authority James could address  the legal claims of the remaining of Patrick’s children, so that Ann could sell the land.

     And what of the potential claims of Mary (McDermott) Keenan’s children? James Nicholas had been killed in the Civil War, Sarah Ann had died of consumption in 1867, which left  Matthew T.J. and his sisters Elizabeth, Catherine and Bridget. However Bridget, born in 1851, was the only sibling not of full age. As you might recall by 1870 Matthew T.J. had married Julia Furlong and moved up to the Boston area, working as a glass cutter. At that time he was living on Dorcester Ave. in South Boston, and so was no doubt in touch with his McDermott cousins and aware of the developing legal situation.

     On July 29th Matthew, accompanied by his wife and his sister Elizabeth, together with James  Mcdermott and his sisters Ann and Mary (Mary had just turned 21 on July 25) sold any legal interest  they had  in the Saugus farm to their grandmother Ann McDermott for one dollar. We know that Bridget Keenan had been appointed a guardian in 1858 after her mother’s death, but since that guardian was likely James McDermott or James N. Keenan, both of whom were no longer living, Bridget would have had to be reassigned a new Guardian.  Earlier, on June 23, Matthew T.J., accompanied by Bridget, had appeared  before the Probate Court in Essex County and petitioned to be appointed her legal guardian so that he could represent her interests in the real estate matter. Those guardianship petitions, both that of James  Mcdermott and Matthew  Keenan, had to be accompanied by a $500 bond. That surety was provided in both instances by Thomas McDermott, who was living in Cambridge at the time, and John O’Neal (husband of Catherine McDermott) of South Boston. Matthew was eventually granted Guardianship of Bridget in September. 

     On Oct 18, 1870 there appeared the following in the Lynn Transcript newspaper:

    The auction was held, and the interested buyer, one Michael Hall, a printer,  purchased the farm. Presumably the proceeds of the sale were managed and distributed by the appointed Guardians as the Court had stipulated.

    Several things can be gleaned from this rather convoluted estate distribution.

    We now now know something of the fate of Matthew Keenan’s daughters, whom we lost track of after 1860. As revealed in the legal records, Bridget, age 19, was alive and well in Brooklyn and  Elizabeth, now 26, was apparently living in New York City. Bridget did not show up in the 1870 Census rolls, probably because she was visiting in Massachusetts with Matthew TJ. However, there was an Elizabeth Keenan (age 30) cited in the 1870 Census in New York City working as a domestic in the household of a lawyer named Charles Rusten. And what about Catherine Keenan? The Guardianship papers clearly state that Matthew T.J. and Elizabeth were the only remaining siblings of Bridget. Catherine must have died sometime between 1860 and 1870, although I can find no record of her death.  

      One  thing that becomes quite clear is how this family, the McDermotts, and the extended family of the Keenans, kept in touch and worked together to take care of their own. Ann McDermott plainly cared about the least fortunate of her grandchildren, and both families made a concerted effort to honor her wishes to provide for them.

    After the sale of the Saugus property Ann and her son James moved back to Brooklyn to the property at 58 Underhill Ave. The 1875 Census finds them living in the rear building (the converted carriage house?) with the Reynolds family, while also renting out the main house to two other families. Apparently James, who was working as a glassblower, also became involved in local democratic politics. This notice designating Democratic polling places appeared in the Brooklyn Eagle, on October 14, 1872 :

 James retained this position for the next several years. Apparently politics was a good entré into Brooklyn social connections as evidenced by this story in the Eagle dated Jan. 28, 1880:

    The article goes on to describe a ball hosted by this group at the Brooklyn Institute. The hall was decorated with flags and streamers, and music supplied for dancing till five o’clock in the morning. Among those attending was “J. McDermott and ladies” as well as J.F. Keenan (who had been elected recording secretary of the club) and members of the  Floor Commitee, M.T. Keenan, and J.N. Keenan. So apparently these relatives remained connected in Brooklyn just as they had in Boston. (This assumes the J. McDermott cited is our relative. There was another James who had a liquor store on Bergen St. near Underhill Ave. – that could be him as well.)

     But Ann, who was now 82 years old, probably longed to be closer to her other children in Boston. In September of 1880 she sold the Underhill property to Margaret Murphey for thirteen hundred dollars. The house that Matthew Keenan had built in 1850 now passed out of the family forever.

    Ann, of course, moved back to Cambridge and I believe James accompanied her. In the 1883 Cambridge Directory there is a James McDermott, glassblower, living at 331 Main, corner of Portland St., in a section known as Cambridgeport. After that he disappears until 1887 – showing up on Gustin St. back in South Boston.  I have found no subsequent death record of our James McDermott, in Massachusetts.

The Family of Bridget (McDermott) Cuddy

     It is quite possible that Ann McDermott ended up living with one of her children in Cambridge after 1880. Unfortunately the 1890 Federal Census was destroyed in a fire, so we have no way of confirming this. A likely candidate, however, would be with Bridget Cuddy.  John Cuddy, who as you might recall had a successful Glass Cutting business in Boston, died in 1880. They had been living on Columbia St. in Cambridgeport for over a decade. During their 28 years of marriage they had raised twelve children, ten of whom were still living at home.

The Cuddy Family


     With so many children you might expect a enormous number of descendants. But in fact the Cuddy family was plagued with misfortune. Three of them, Alice, James and Julia died of consumption before they reached 30. And it appears there was also a genetic weakness from the Cuddy side. Four of the siblings died of heart failure (Phithisis Pulmonalis) –  Catherine at 16, George at 33, William at 36,  and John at 58. Only four of the Cuddy children married – John, Emma, Edward and William, but together they produced only eight children. Three of the others never married. Thomas, Mary and Catherine F,  lived together on Columbia street in Cambridge into the second decade of the twentieth century. Their mother Bridget lived till 1908, dying at a respectable 75 years of age.  Remarkably, her youngest, Catherine F., born in 1878 (and named after her sister who succumbed to consumption two years earlier) lived to the age of 92, and died in Newport, Rhode Island in 1970!

The Family of Patrick McDermott

         Another possibility for the location of Ann would be with her grandchildren – the orphaned children of Patrick McDermott and Bridget Hayden whom she had provided for in 1870 after the sale of the Saugus farm. As you will recall James H. had become guardian to his younger siblings Thomas, Elizabeth and Margaret. They, together with sisters Ann and Mary all lived at 139 Elm St. in Cambridge  only a few blocks from their Aunt Bridget Cuddy and her family.

     Mary died of consumption in 1875. Then in 1877 James married Johanna O’Hearn 1879 after which they had moved into their own place on nearby Columbia St.  That same year Margaret married Henry J. Lyons, a clerk, born in Dorchester but living nearby in Cambridge. In 1880 James and Johanna shared the same house as the Lyons family on Cambridge Street. Margaret and Henry, however moved back to Dorchester, where their son Henry Thomas, was born in 1883.

     That left Thomas, Elizabeth and Ann living together on Elm Street. But in 1885 Thomas married Catherine Callahan, and that same year James and his wife moved back into the household. Thomas and his wife who subsequently had a son Joseph in 1886 (and later four other children) moved just down the street to 146 Elm. That left James and his wife living with his sisters Ann and Elizabeth at 139 Elm St. Perhaps there was room there for their grandmother, Ann McDermott, as well.

The family of Patrick McDermott


     We don’t know for sure where Ann was living, but we do know that on September 8, 1892  Ann Maliff McDermott passed away, at home, of “natural causes”  She was around 94 years of age.

     I will now briefly outline the stories of Ann’s other children that I have not yet updated.

The Family of Thomas McDermott

    Thomas was James and Ann McDermott’s  eldest child. As you will recall he had married Mary Ann Byrnes in Brooklyn and then moved back to Sandwich, Ma. in 1839. Together they had three children – William Thomas in 1840, a daughter Ann Frances in 1843 (who died young), and another son, John, born in 1846. Unfortunately Mary Ann died a year later, on August 9 of 1847. Her death record states she died of cachexy  – general ill health and malnutrition, marked by weakness and emaciation, usually associated with severe disease, such as tuberculosis or cancer.

      She was buried in Mount Hope Cemetary in Sandwich.

     Meanwhile with three young children to care for Thomas quickly remarried to an Irish woman named Bridget Derwin.

    According to the Sandwich tax rolls Thomas had purchased a house and some property in 1842  in the Glass Factory Village that had been established by Deming Jarves, ( I have not been able to locate those  records in Land Conveyance documents, however). Then in 1846 he and a fellow glassblower, Edward Ball bought another lot with a house (which they shared) from Jarves for $520. Thomas was to  purchase several other houses and lots over the years before finally selling them in 1855  prior to relocating to Cambridge. But despite the presence of the many other members of his family in Cambridge, Thomas and Bridget were back in Sandwich the following year, and there they remained. After Bridget died in 1878 Thomas once again married.

     In May of 1880 Thomas, age 63, married Josephine S. Williams who was about 35 years old. Josephine was the daughter of Joseph and Louisa Williams of Nantucket, and was a Native American, probably of the Mashpee-Wampanoag tribe. It was Thomas’ third marriage, and remarkably, Josephine’s third as well. Her most recent husband, John Dyer, had died of poisoning in June of 1879. In 1880 Thomas was living with his son William and his wife Mary Elizabeth (McHugh), and their five children. In the 1880 Census Thomas’s occupation was listed as “saloon keeper”.

    Thereafter began a series of run-ins with the law over liquor, as reported in the Barnstable Patriot.

Dec. 9, 1884

On Tuesday last Thomas McDermott and Mrs. Mary Lynch were brought before E. S. Whittimore. Esq., on the charge of keeping a liquor nuisance.— The case of Mrs. Lynch was bound over for action by the grand jury at the April term of the Superior Court and Mr. McDermott was  discharged for insufficiency of evidence. Judge Harriman appeared for the Commonwealth.

 April 14, 1885

    Com. vs. Richard O Donovan , Thos. McDermot,  Susan McParlin, Mary Lynch and Martin Carroll—Violations of the liquor law. Plead guilty, and the cases remain on file. April 14, 1885

     And apparently the May to December marriage was not going that smoothly either. In May of 1887 Thomas McDermott brought suit in the Massachusetts Superior Court against his wife, who was by then living in Boston. On July 12 the Boston Herald reported that Josephine McDermott and Danial Dacoy (Dacey?) were convicted of “fornicatin” and sentenced to 30 days each in the House of Industry.

  Justice, it seems, however, was bittersweet. Again from the Barnstable Patriot –

Oct 11, 1887

As a result of liquor raid in Sandwich a week ago, Thomas McDermott of that town was brought before Trial Justice Whittemore Saturday, when he retracted his plea of not guilty and pleaded guilty to the charge of keeping intoxicating liquors with intent to sell, and fined 850 and cost. H. P. Harriman for government, T. C. Day for defendant.

April 22, 1890

On Tuesday Judge Mason imposed the following  sentences: Thomas McDermott, of Sandwich, liquor nuisance, $50 and 90 days House of Correction

July 26, 1892

Thomas McDermott,  of Sandwich was  fined  $100 and costs, 18th, for maintaining a liquor nuisance.

April 17, 1894

Albert E. Johnson Falmouth, for mixing poison with drink, three years in the House of Correction; Thomas McDermott of  Sandwich, for keeping liquor with intent to sell. House of Correction in Barnstable for three months and to pay a fine of fifty dollars.   

   Apparently periodic crackdowns by the local law enforcement were not enough to hamper Thomas’s enterprises, and he remained  a confirmed reprobate to the end, dying in Sandwich in April of 1895. The Sandwich Independant newspaper reported :

     “Thomas McDermott died at his home on Monday after a brief illness, at the age of 79. Mr. McDermott was a glassmaker about fifty years and is said to have been one of the oldest in the country. Funeral services were held Wednesday, Rev. Thos. F. Clinton officiating.”

     Boston and Sandwich Glass factory records show that Thomas was employed there from 1839-1868, starting out in 1839 at a wage of $7-$11 per week.

     William McDermott, Thomas’s eldest, had been raised in Sandwich , and when the War between the States started in 1861  he enlisted in the Sandwich 29th Infantry Regiment. He served for over 4 years, returning in November of 1865, having suffered only the loss of his right thumb. He married Mary McHugh in 1869 while working as a glass cutter for his uncle John Cuddy,  while boarding on A Street in South Boston. They had five children there, before returning to Sandwich by 1880. In Sandwich they had another five children. After the Boston and Sandwich Glassworks folded in 1888 William relocated his family to Brockton and started working in the restaurant business.  His wife Mary died of cancer in Brockton in 1915 and William remained there till his death in 1925, at the age of 85 years. Together they had raised eleven children.

    The fate of his younger brother John, however, was not so fulfilling. John apparently never married – living in Sandwich on and off for the rest of his life. Towards the end of the Civil War, in February of 1865, however, we find him in Buxton Maine. There he signed a contract with Henry H. Berry (age 29), who had been drafted, to enlist in the army as a substitute for him for “sufficient consideration paid”. This was not entirely unusual at the time.

         As the Civil War dragged on and enthusiasm for volunteer enlistments lagged, both sides resorted to conscription to fill their ranks. When the draft laws – known as the Enrollment Act – were first placed on the books in the United States in 1863, they allowed for two methods for avoiding the draft – substitution or commutation. A man who found his name called in the draft lotteries for mandatory service could either pay a commutation fee of $300, which exempted him from service during that draft lottery ( but not necessarily for future draft lotteries), or he could provide a substitute, which would exempt him from service throughout the duration of the war.

     With the Enrollment Act, the Civil War truly began to be known as ” a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight” throughout the entire nation. The $300 commutation fee was an enormous sum of money for most city laborers or rural farmers, and the cost of hiring a substitute was even higher, often reaching $1000 or more. Many soldiers earning scanty military pay simmered with anger over serving with the richly rewarded substitutes, whom they considered little better than mercenaries.

    Sometimesif a town’s quota wasn’t filled by men joining of their own volition, bounties (bonuses) were introduced: the government, the local municipality, or private citizens offered money to entice recruits. There were also many private draft agents who were unscrupulous, reaping small fortunes by charging high fees for recruitment of replacement soldiers. Those who weren’t poor willingly parted with substantial cash to avoid joining the battle.    

     John McDermott was 19 years old when entered the 15th Maine Infantry, Co. K. He is described as light complexioned, with blue eyes and brown hair, and standing only 5′ 2 1/2 inches in height. It is noted that he was born in Massachusetts and worked as a glassblower. Fortunately for John the war was soon to be ended. The surrender at Appamatox occurred in April of 1865, and John was mustered out in November of 1865 in New York City .     

After that we lose track of John. The McDermotts were somehow overlooked in the 1870 Census and John was certainly not living with his father and brother in 1880. The final notice we have of him is his death record on August 2, 1896. He died in Massachusetts General Hospital. He was listed as living in Sandwich, but the cause of death is given as a railroad accident. The circumstances surrounding the “accident” were later revealed in an annual report put out by the Railroad:


August 2 1896 John McDermont trespasser crawled under a freight car was crushed by the truck while asleep and killed

     We don’t know what John was doing in Boston, or what state he was in. But he seems to have been a bit of a wandering soul, which is often the case for those who lose their mother in infancy.

The Family of Ann (McDermott) Story

          Ann McDermott, Mary Mcdermott’s younger sister, born in Nova Scotia in 1821, had married William Story in 1845 and they had resided in South Boston while raising their family of eight children. But in 1880 they decided to move to Saugus. No doubt they had visited the farm that her parents, James and Ann, had bought there in 1861, and apparently had liked the more rural nature of the town. It is also possible they moved to Saugus in hopes of providing a better environment for their youngest daughter Emily (age 20), who, despite the move, succumbed to consumption in August of that year.  William and Ann had already lived through the death of two of their daughters, Harriet (age 11) in 1867 and Ann (age 29) in 1876. And they were to lose another, Ellen (age 31) a few years later.

     Although their only son William never married, the other girls did. Margaret married a man from New Brunswick named John Haggerty while in South Boston in 1873. And in 1883 Jane wed John Gorman, followed in 1887 by Mary Catherine who married a local Saugus man, William Wallace Williams.  Interestingly, after Margaret died in 1891 and then John Gorman died, Jane married her brother-in-law, John Haggerty (Margaret’s husband), and together they had two children.

     William Story died in Saugus  in 1895, and his wife Ann survived him for another fourteen years, dying in 1909 at the age of 85 years. She is buried in Calvary Cemetery in Boston.

The Family of William Story and Ann McDermott


The Family of Catherine (McDermott) O’Neill

     As you might recall Catherine married a man named Patrick Clarke in 1846 and they had had a daughter Mary Ann, before Patrick passed away the following year. Catherine then met and married John O’Neill in 1850 and they subsequently had five children. They had bought James McDermott’s  house on A St. in South Boston in 1859 and they lived in Southie for the rest of their time. Apparently John went on to buy other property, because you might recall he was renting out the A Street house to Matthew T.J Keenan in 1866.

     Both John and Catherine passed away in 1879, she of heart disease, he of kidney disease. Their son Benjamin, now 28 years old, became the head of the household, supporting his siblings  through his trade as a glass dealer. Benjamin married Catherine Balfe in January of 1883 and they had a son Henry in 1884, who unfortunately died of cholera at 3 months of age. They eventually moved out of South Boston and bought a residence in Fields Corner in Dorchester . Benjamin died there in 1925.


          Benjamin’s sister Elizabeth was the next to marry. She wed Henry A. Smith, an Englishman,  in January of 1885. They had three daughters – Catherine in 1885, Alice in 1888, and Ellen in 1889. The other O’Neill sister, Catherine, married late, in 1897 when she was 32 years old. Her husband was Edward Kelly,  son of Hugh Kelly, a successful Dry Goods Retailer in Boston. Edward was working as a bartender in Weymouth at the time and the two were  married in Biddeford, Maine in the end of August. Their daughter Mary was born six weeks later on October 17. Henry A. Smith had died just a few months before, so Elizabeth and her one surviving daughter, Ellen, moved in with the Kellys shortly thereafter. Edward had by then purchased a bowling alley in South Boston and was living on “N” St. In 1920 they relocated to Dorchester, where Edward was proprietor of a barroom

The Family of John O’Neill and Catherine McDermott


The Family of Elizabeth (McDermott) Driscoll

     The remaining child of James and Ann McDermott whom I have not yet discussed is Elizabeth. She had married Patrick Driscoll in February of 1850 in South Boston and they had lived with her parents for a short while till they found their own place.  Patrick was a laborer and a sawyer, and eventually started working as a machinist (1870). The Driscolls, for the most part, lived in South Boston. They raised the typical eight children – three girls, then five boys. In the 1880 Census it is noted that Patrick was consumptive. Inevitably the disease took its toll, and he died in May of 1883, with the boys still living at home. Elizabeth continued on until she died in Cambridge in 1889 at the age of 59 years, another victim of consumption.

The Family of Matthew T.J Keenan

     Matthew T.J. Keenan, son of Matthew Keenan and Mary McDermott, was allied more with the McDermotts than the Keenans, so I will include his history here. As you will recall, Matthew initially moved to Boston in 1865 to work in the glasscutting trade (probably with John Cuddy).  He then accompanied his sister Sarah Ann back to Brooklyn, where she passed away of consumption. Shortly thereafter he married Julia Furlong and once again  returned to Boston in 1870.

   Their first child, John Joseph, was born in November of 1870. They had their second child, Matthew Thomas, two years later in 1872. The Keenans never bought any property, but relocated every couple of years in and around Boston, where Matthew plied his trade as a glass cutter. Fourteen years later, in 1886 there was a third child, Josephine Francis. Matthew stated in his Civil War Veteran pension application that Josephine was adopted. No birth records have been found for her.

     Matthew’s wife Julia died in December of 1898. In 1900 Matthew retired from the glass industry, and, like his nephew and namesake in Brooklyn, he became a florist, opening up a shop in Jamaica Plain for five or six years. Eventually he retired, living  in Roxbury and collecting a small pension as a Civil War veteran. He died on July 15, 1909 at the age of 68, and was buried in Calvary cemetery. (I have found no memorial).

     Both of his sons ended up working as clerks in the Boston Public Library. John married in 1905, to Ellen Katherine Murray, a woman nearly a decade older than him. What happened after that is unclear. But in the 1930 Census we find him at age 60, still claiming to be married, but renting a room on Durham St. in Boston. He died in Cambridge, Ma. on Feb. 18, 1941.

     Matthew T., the younger son, is recorded in the 1910 Census as lodging on Columbus Ave. and working as a florist ( It seems to go with the name). In 1920 he was renting on Huntington Ave. and working as a financial broker. That same year he married Katherine May Ricker who was from Falmouth, Maine. Katherine apparently was a somewhat renowned vocalist in both Church and public concerts. In 1922 the Keenans moved to Falmouth where Matthew eventually worked in a Booking office  (as well as the enumerator for the 1930 Census). Katherine’s obituary was printed in the Boston Globe on  June 4, 1933.

     Matthew  himself did not die until 1945 .

     Finally we come to  Josephine Francis, who was fourteen years younger than Matthew, but who, as it turned out, was to predecease both of her brothers. Josephine moved to Brooklyn sometime around the death of her father and was living on Sydney Place in Brooklyn Heights in 1910. Like her brothers she worked as a clerk in a library. It was there she met Charles W. Turner, a salesman, who she subsequently married in November of 1910.

     They ended up living in 1915 with his widowed mother (Lucille) and two nephews on 141st St. in New York City where Charles had found work as a superintendent. In 1916 they were back in Brooklyn, in Coney Island.  Charles had previously enlisted as a sergeant in the 14th Armory Regiment but when the United States joined the World War I in 1917 he was called to active duty.  In 1918 Charles was sent overseas. He participated in the Argonne Forest campaign, which effectively brought and end to the war.  The Meuse-Argonne battle was the largest front line commitment of troops by the U.S. Army in World War I, and also its deadliest. The battle cost 28,000 German lives and 26,277 American lives. Charles was killed in October near the town of  Binarville France.

     The Brooklyn Eagle published an account of his military service on Feb. 19, 1919.

                     Brooklyn Officer Held Position Till Command Was Wiped Out

    Lt. C.W. Turner of the 308th Inf. 27th Div., has been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for refusing to surrender, although completely surrounded by enemy machine guns and snipers near Binarville, in the Argonne Forest, on October 6. “He held his position with extraordinary heroism and total disregard for his own life until he and his detachment were killed.” The cross will be forwarded to his widow,  Mrs. Josephine Turner of 2837 W. 16th St. Lt. Turner was 31 years old, and had been a member of the 14th Regt. for ten years before the war, having served on the Mexican border. He went to the First Officers Training Camp at Plattsburg, in 1917, and won a commission as second lieutenant. He received his promotion to first lieutenant at Camp Upton, where he was first assigned. He went to France last April, and was last heard from about a week before his death. He was born in Brooklyn and graduated from Erasmus Hall High School. He leaves, besides his widow, Josephine, his mother, Lucille.  

     Within the year, however, Josephine had met another man. In June of 1919  she married George Lawrence Taylor, an electrician. They lived on Elmwood Ave. in Flatbush, south of Prospect Park.

     Unfortunately Josephine died in 1925 under some rather suspicious circumstances. Her death was investigated, and the police released the following  report –

Case report #1346

Josephine Taylor was released from Kings County Hospital on April 29, 1925;                                        diagnosis: alcoholism. Josephine was visiting her friend, Emeline Schomaker at 134 Flatbush avenue from April 29 – May 9 when she died. She arrived at Emeline’s apartment with a black eye, the same day she was released from Kings County Hospital. Josephine claimed she had fallen over a carpet at her home. While at Emeline’s apartment, she was visited three times by Dr. P. J. Kennedy and treated for a sore throat. On the afternoon of May 8, Dr. Kennedy lanced her throat. After the operation, Josephine had difficulty breathing. She died the next day; she was pronounced dead by Dr. James Allen Cooley, who lived in the neighborhood just around the corner at 46 4th avenue.

     There is certainly cause to question the circumstances of Josephine’s death. She had been injured on the face, and apparently more severely around the throat. When released from the hospital she did not go home, but rather hastened to a friend’s apartment. It appears that she might have been subject to violence during a bought of drinking. This might be considered  pure speculation were it not for the fact  that five years later the Brooklyn Eagle published the following account.


     George L. Taylor, wealthy widower, an electrical expert, this morning signed a confession that he had stabbed Mrs. Edna Howe, widow of a lawyer, in her home at 4302 Flatlands Ave. When he signed, according to the police, he did not know that Mrs. Howe had died from the  wounds she had received, and that he would be charged with murder.

   Taylor was arraigned in Homicide Court this afternoon on a charge of murder and held without bail. Dr. M. E. Martin, Medical Examiner, disclosed that the wound that caused Mrs. Howe’s death reached several Inches from the upper part of her neck to her chest, and said the woman probably bled to death.  Detectives, following a search of the slain woman’s home, had not found the kitchen knife that caused the wound this afternoon.

    Taylor was found in his home at 2303 Clarendon Rd.. and according to the detectives who located him, was in a drunken stupor. He was taken back to the Howe home, where, after questioning, Commissioner Whalen ordered his arrest. Taylor’s only comment last night was “you’d be surprised”, when he was asked about the stabbing.

   This morning, however, after the effects of the liquor had worn off to some extent, Taylor freely admitted,  the detectives say, that he had stabbed the woman after quarreling with her. They had been out during the evening, and returned to the house just before midnight. The argument started there.

      Taylor was grilled for nearly four hours before he admitted he stabbed the woman. According to the detectives who obtained the confession, Taylor had been quarreling with Mrs. Howe over a telephone conversation. Then he rushed into the kitchen and grabbed some knives, among them a long potato knife. After that Taylor said, he went back and made a lunge at the widow. Then, he asserted, his mind went blank, and he asserted, too, that he did not know Mrs. Howe had been seriously hurt until today. He had been drinking steadily all the afternoon, he said.

     Taylor told detectives he met Mrs. Howe at Flatbush Ave. and Fulton St. yesterday afternoon and that she went with him to an office in the Williamsburg Trust Company. After that, he said, he went with her to her home. They went out for a walk for a little while and then returned. Taylor admitted calling a bootlegger and asking that liquor be delivered at Mrs. Howe’s home,  the police said.

     The electrical expert also told the police he had known Mrs. Howe when she was Edna Turner, before her marriage, and that he had married himself shortly after he heard of her wedding. His own wife died four years ago.

      Commissioner Whalen, who had come over from Manhattan to take charge of the investigation after Mrs. Howe’s death in her home was reported, said that in the short but thorough and fast-moving inquiry it had been established that Mrs. Howe’s death was “a clear case of premeditated murder,” and it was Whalen who ordered the arrest of Taylor.

     Mrs. Howe was 34 years old and the mother of three children. Her husband, Charles Edward Howe, died Jan. 29 last. He was a corporation lawyer and the police say had left her about $50,000 and some real estate of value. Detectives also said that before his death Taylor and Mrs. Howe  had been friendly. They had, still according to the police, resumed that friendship after Howe’s death. They picture Taylor, going out with Mrs. Howe frequently, and often visiting at her home.

     They have not yet been able to find out, however, just what caused the quarrel which preceded her death. Just before midnight last night Harry Lukey, who had been a clerk for the dead lawyer, and who lived in Mrs. Howe’s home since Howe’s death, was sitting in the kitchen. Lukey often sat up rather late, he said, because he had been active in his business life and didn’t find sleep easy if he went to bed early.

   Lukey’s story of what happened after that was, of course, the best available for the police. He said that Mrs. Howe and Taylor went into the sun parlor and that they were quarreling. The argument got more heated, and Lukey says that Taylor staggered out of the parlor and picked up a long knife which was lying on the table. Then he went back. After that, Lukey has told the police, he heard Mrs. Howe’s voice pleading: “Don’t stab me, George!”

   And then, his story goes on, Mrs. Howe staggered out of the sun parlor, blood dripping from her body, and collapsed in the kitrhen. Lukey called Dr. Frank B. Ring of 3944 Flatlands Ave.. the family physician, and then notified the police.

     Inspector John J. Sullivan, Capt. John McCloskey and Detective McCarthy came over to take charge. Commissioner Whalen followed, but he was delayed in getting to the scene by a flat tire, he said. By the time he arrived Sullivan had ordered  detectives to get Taylor.

      They brought the electrical expert, still apparently stupefied by liquor, to the house. They questioned him at great length and when Whalen got there, he joined in the activity. Taylor, so the police said, admitted the quarreling readily enough but blinked wisely when they asked him if he had killed the widow. It was then that he said “You’d be surprised.”

     While the questioning was going on, Clifford Howe, the nephew, returned to the house. He had gone to the movies, he said, but without Mrs. Howe. He didn’t know where she had gone. But when he saw Taylor he leaped at him and the police had to pull them apart. Taylor made no effort to defend himself from Clifford’s rushes.

    Mrs. Howe lived in the house, which was part of the estate left by her husband, with her mother and the three children. The youngsters slept through all the excitement last night. Mrs. Howe’s mother had left to open her Lake Hopatcong summer residence only yesterday morning. Another nephew, Horace Howe also lived in the house, but he was not there last evening.

    A followup story was printed the next day in The Brooklyn Eagle.

                    Prosecutor Says Liquor Dazed Him Indictment May Not Be Pressed

     Although Assltant District Attorney Gallagher was planning today to have the Grand Jury hear the case against George L. Taylor, the electrician who is said by the police to have admitted stabbing Mrs, Edna Howe to death. It seemed highly probable that no homicide indictment would be asked. Gallagher said he thought the killing one of the saddest cases he had ever encountered. He thought Taylor was a victim of amnesia brought on by heavy drinking, and declared that nowhere in the relations between Mrs. Howe and Taylor could he find any possible motive for the killing which Police Commissioner Whalen has called a clear case of premeditated murder.

     “I am genuinely sorry for Taylor,” Gallagher said. “This man had no reason to kill Mrs. Howe or to harm her in any way. He said they were to have been married in February. Because Mrs. Howe wanted to wait a year after her husband’s death before remarrying.

   “There is nothing in his record or in his relations with Mrs. Howe which would provide the faintest suspicion of a motive for the killing. I am genuinely sorry for this man. but, of course. I will take the case to the Grand Jury.”

     Taylor and Mrs. Howe had been sweethearts 18 years ago, before either was married. Then she married Charles E. Howe, a corporation lawyer, and Taylor married another woman. The death of Howe, last January, brought the two together again

    That they had planned to marry was Taylor’s story, and it was corroborated by Harold Lukey, formerly a clerk for Howe, who has been living in Mrs. Howe’s Flatlands Ave. home since the death of the lawyer. Clifford and Horace Edwards, nephews of Mrs. Howe, also said that the forthcoming marriage was understood.  Although Taylor has signed a confession, according to the police, Gallagher believes that he does not remember going to the kitchen to get a knife or quarreling with the woman over a telephone call.

      Detectives in the Vanderveer Park station said that Taylor, in signing his confession yesterday, did so voluntarily. He had been questioned for something like four hours, they said, and had then told Inspector John J. Sullivan he would talk to him and Sergeant Rayfield. A stenographer was brought in and Taylor talked freely, according to the detectives.

    Taylor told Gallagher that he signed the confession because detectives advised him it was “all right” to do so. He insisted, however, that he couldn’t remember what happened after the drink began to dull his mind. The blade of the potato knife with which Mrs. Howe was stabbed was found today under a couch in the room in which she died. It evidently had pulled from the handle and fallen as the woman dropped to the floor. Taylor has been held with out bail for further investigation.  

        One thing that was entirely overlooked in both the police investigation and the Brooklyn Eagle article was George Taylor’s past. Any thorough investigation would have revealed that Edna Howe (nee Turner) was the sister-in-law of George’s first wife – our Josephine (Keenan) Turner, who had also died under highly suspicious circumstances.

     If, as he stated , George Taylor knew Edna Turner eighteen years previous (1911), before she married Charles Howe in 1914 , he would have also met Josephine, who had married Edna’s brother in 1910.  He was in a position to take advantage  of that acquaintance when Josephine was widowed – a scenario that was played out again when Edna lost her husband.   

  George Taylor, “the wealthy widower” was never convicted of  murder or even manslaughter. Six months later he married  again, and lived happily, no doubt,  until his death in 1956. 

    [Thanks to Barbara P_____ for researching this sad story of the fate of Josephine Keenan]


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