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  • Bonnie Croteau

John Power, the Irish Immigrant Ancestor, 1882-1949

Updated: Mar 27, 2021

John Power left Ireland from Queenstown, Co. Cork, the Port of Cobh, on March 25, 1903 at the age of 21. He was with his sister Marian, 17. They left behind their parents, Thomas Power and Mary Foristal, and 7 brothers and sisters living in Mullinavat, Co. Kilkenny, southern Ireland. They bought third-class tickets and they each carried $3.50, about $100.00 in today’s value.

Thomas and Marian boarded the R.M.S. Saxonia, which had sailed from Liverpool, England and joined about 2,000 other passengers to complete the 9-day voyage to America.

They were separated into their below deck dormitories by gender and slept on metal bunks with all their belongings. During the day, they could sit in a below-deck lounge with wooden benches and take their meals in the third-class dining room.

John and Marian reached the port of Boston on April 3, 1903. They would have disembarked, been “inspected” for quarantinable diseases, interviewed, issued an Immigrant Inspection Card and sent on to a waiting room. During this process, their required information was recorded on a large form, the “Manifest of Alien Passengers”. On this document, John is listed as 21 years old and a laborer. Marian is recorded as Mary Anne Power, age 17, a servant. They are said to be joining Kate Sheehy, listed as a cousin, at 170 Harrison Ave. in Boston. They both would have left after this process in search of Kate Sheehy who may have been waiting on the dock.

It’s unsure whether John and Mary would have gone to live, at least initially, on Harrison Avenue in Boston with Kate. I do believe that wherever they went it was a significant change from the laborer's cottage they shared with 9 other family members and no running water..

No records can be found as of yet on John’s life between 1903 and 1906.

John married Bridget Butler on April 22, 1906 in Boston. On the Boston marriage registration, they each list their address at the time of marriage as 54 Moulton Street, Boston. The building at that address appears to be an apartment building, which makes it likely that that is where they met. John lists his occupation as a freight handler and Bridget as a domestic. They were married at St. Francis de Sales Parish at 303 Bunker Hill Street, Boston. Both their home and the church, although listed under Boston records, are in Charlestown, near the Bunker Hill Monument.

When John and Bridget's first child Thomas was born in Boston on January 2, 1907 his father John was 24 and his mother Bridget was 22. The couple was still living on Moulton Street in Boston, as listed on Thomas' birth registration. He was the first of their American-born Powers family and would become the oldest of 9 children. Thomas’ surname is documented on his birth records as Powers, with this being the first time that I see an “s” being added to the Power surname, which is still present today. From this point on, all surname references including census documents, naturalization records, birth records and draft registrations note the family surname as Powers.

John was born in 1908, and his birth record states the family is living at 47 Tufts Street in Boston.

In 1911 at Walter's birth their residence is listed as renting at 9 Palmer Avenue in Somerville. Four years later, in 1915, at James birth, they are residing at 23 ½ Linden Avenue in Somerville, a rental in a charming three-story duplex near Porter Square.

The Powers family is pictured above, left to right, John Jr., John Sr., Thomas, Bridget, James, and Walter. The picture appears to be at James' christening. so was likely taken in 1914.

In September of 1915, twelve years after arriving in the United States, John submitted a Declaration of Intention to become a Utnited States citizen. He lists his occupation as a freight handler and describes himself as being 5 foot 8 inches tall with brown eyes and brown hair. On February 16, 1920 he was granted United States citizenship. On his naturalization documents he lists his occupation as a bottle labeler which I believe to be at the Castle Rock bottling company in Saugus, MA due to other records at the time.

In the past five years, they have grown to a family of eight, with the births of twins Mary and Joseph in 1916 and William in 1918. They have moved again but stayed in Somerville renting half of a two-family home at 28 Charlestown Street. This is where they are living in January, 1920, when Johanna “Judy” is born, making them a family of 9.

On June 6, 1921, John purchased 9 adjoining lots of land on Essex St. in Saugus, from the Suburban Land Co., a total of 23,767 square feet, for the price of one dollar. The land was part of a plan for the "Greenwood Park Extension" made in 1914. The Suburban Land Co. had previously paid $1 for 315 lots in 1914, which included the 9 John purchased. Prior to that, the land was owned by Joseph Perkins who had acquired the land through numerous transactions between 1893 and 1904, each purchase for multiple lots were at $1 as well.

The lots John purchased were numbered 125 through133, and are located at the end of Essex St. on the right. On February 13, 1926, John was granted a mortgage for $600.00, payments of $5.75 per month, from the Wakefield Co-operative Bank. The mortgage was likely to begin building. One home was built on lots 130-132 and another on lots 125-129, 49 and 53 Essex St., respectively today. The timing of each of the houses has yet to be proven with house numbering changes on the street adding to that challenge. In 1929, John and Bridget sell lot 133 to the Lynn Gas and Electric Co.

In January, 1922, at the age of 5, Joseph, Mary’s twin brother, died of Diphtheria. The infection was prevalent in Massachusetts at the time, with antibiotics not yet discovered. On January 14, 1922, John purchased 2 graves at the Holy Cross Cemetery in Malden, where Joseph was laid to rest.

When their last child, Bridget, was born in 1923, her birth registration states the family was living in Wakefield. At the time of the 1930 Census, their address was 40 Essex St. in Saugus. Essex St. is on the border of Wakefield and Saugus, and it appears town lines changed in the 1920's and 1930's. The Massachusetts Acts and Resolves of 1933 made Essex St. part of Wakefield permanently, an area still known as Greenwood. Members of the Powers family continue to live on Essex Street in Wakefield for what is now nearly100 years, with the fifth generation in the family recently buying a home on the street.

In 1930, John was working as a carpenter at a tonic factory, which is likely the old Castle Rock bottling company in Saugus. John and Bridget built and own their home on Essex Street, which was valued at $2,000.00. The three sons, Thomas, John and Walter, ages 23, 22 and 20 are all single and were employed by the railroad as inspectors. At that time, railroad inspectors were responsible for examining the locomotive cars that came into the shop and servicing necessary repairs.

In 1941, John's son Thomas purchased a house at 15 Winthrop St. in Melrose. John and Bridget lived with him there until at least 1945.

In 1942, at the age of 61, John registered for the draft in accordance with the draft registration regulations.

In 1948,John and Bridget lived with their daughter Johanna, who purchased the home at 16 Emerson Place in Melrose. John died on January 3, 1949 at the age of 66 at this home.

His funeral service was held at his home on January 6, 1949 and a solemn high mass of requiem was held at St. Mary's Church in Melrose. A delegation of Boston and Maine Railroad employees attended the services. The Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, along with several Sisters of Providence attended and formed a guard of honor. John's daughters Margaret, Sister Margaret Eleanor, and Bridget, Sister Immaculata Marie, were part of the guard. His bearers were four nephews, William Powers, Robert Powers, Cornelius Powers and Walter Murphy along with Robert Hurley and George Paiza. He was buried in the family lot at Holy Cross Cemetery in Malden with his son Joseph.

Bridget continued to live with Johanna at Emerson Place in Melrose until at least 1955. She moved with her to Malden, and they both moved back to 122 Essex St. in Wakefield in Bridget's last years. Bridget died at Melrose Wakefield Hospital on July 24, 1965 at the age of 79. She was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Malden with her husband John, son Joseph, and her sister Margaret Butler.

Information on the location of the grave can be found at

Of note, the birth years on the gravestone for John Powers, Bridget Powers and Joseph Powers and Margaret Butler are all incorrect by one year from their birth records.

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