Cultural Displays - Current Display - Irish History in Brookline

Photo Gallery of Town Hall Display Case

Irish History in Brookline

An estimated 70 million people world-wide can claim Irish heritage. Over a million-and d-half people had come to the United States from Ireland in the three decades between 1820 and 1850.

A substantial percentage of Irish Immigrants landed in Boston. In short time they began to move from the city to nearby towns. Among them were the Irish people who settled in the Village area of Brookline.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Born: May 29, 1917 at 83 Beals Street Brookline Massachusetts.

Commonly known as Jack Kennedy who served as the 35th President of the United States from January 1961 until his assassination in November 1963.

United States Firefighters History

Among the earliest fire brigades were those in Boston and Philadelphia. These cities were the first to purchase actual fire engines to facilitate movement to and from fires. Boston acquired its vehicle in 1653 and Philadelphia followed in 1719. Of course, in this early period the engines were actually horse or man powered vehicles with hand-pumps for helping stream water at the flames. Most early hand-pumps were constructed in England and shipped to the American colonies. This made it difficult to acquire many of the pumps. Additionally, it took a lot of effort to work these devices, and the tubs needed to be frequently refilled. However, they were ultimately far more effective than standard bucket brigades.

It did not take long for America's first colonists to recognize the problem of fire. In January 1608, raging flames destroyed a good part of the settlement. This forced colonists to come up with a plan for dealing with fires. They started using "bucket brigades" to help quash flames. When a fire was reported, all available people would form two lines near the flames. Buckets of water would be passed down one line, tossed onto the fire, and then return the other way to get refilled. As for fire warnings, early colonists used their voices in addition to rattles, gongs, and other easily crafted noisemakers to spread word of the flames.

Despite early efforts from colonists, it was not until 1648 that an organized fire corps was developed. In this year, the government of New Amsterdam, now known as New York, created four fire warden positions. A law was also created banning wooden chimneys and thatched roofs. These building components were two of the major fire hazards in early American cities. Although the first firefighting systems in America were run by volunteers, many of these eventually gave way to professional leagues.

In the early 1800s, inventors in England designed a steam-powered water pump. Coal was used to power the steam pump, which could then stream water into hoses. The additional force made all the difference when fighting difficult fires. Plus, these new devices required less manpower to use. Steam pumps made their way into the American firefighting system.

The first paid firefighting company in the United States was located in Cincinnati, Ohio. It was founded in 1853 and soon followed by counterparts in New York and Philadelphia. By using paid departments cities were guaranteed a consistent group of individuals available to fight fires. Additionally, career firefighters were held to higher standards of training and efficiency. This meant they were better-equipped to perform their duties and less likely to be injured on the job.

Brookline Fire Department History

During the 17th and 18th centuries the only means of combating fires was by had buckets supplied with water from a well. In the course of events or history of the Brookline fire Department its history reaching back two centuries.

The Fire Engine in use in 1787 was essentially a hand tub, filled by bucket, with water. Fire hose had not been invented. Brookline first firefighters were, of course residents of the town. The first Fire steam engine was known as the “Vigilant” was situated on Walnut Street was purchased in 1873. The Brookline Fire Department of 1977 from the old Vigilant to present one thing that has not changed is the essential spirit of the firelighters themselves these nearly 200 years.

“The formation of the Fire Department in 1785 is alive and well in Brookline today”

“The Hughes Family History”

In the photo are John Hughes (1870-1943) and Catherine McNicholas Hughes (1872-1953). They arrived in the United States about 1890. Both were from County Mayo, Ireland. Catherine was from the village of Ballyhaunis, and John was from Claremorris.

According to family lore, they were married on Thanksgiving Day, most likely here in Brookline. In those days the poorer immigrant women wore their best dress on their wedding day. She was 18. They went on to have 8 children. The parish of St. Mary of the Assumption, which was the family's parish, was built by the funds of the working poor Irish. They were cleaning women and laborers, as was typical of the time. Joseph, also continued to work for the Town, in the DPW. He lived his whole life here, attending the Lincoln School and Brookline High. For a short while, in his youth he ran a concession stand at the Putterham Golf Course with his brother Andrew. Of the eight children, three continued to live in Brookline. Joseph, his brother Michael, and his sister Catherine. Michael was a Brookline firefighter and served in World War I. served in WWII, as did several of his brothers.