Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Michael Harney, Civil War Veteran

Three years after David S. Greenough laid out Keyes (McBride), Lee, and part of Call streets and began selling small lots to mostly Irish buyers (read about it here), Michael Harney bought lot 5 for two hundred and sixty-five dollars. Harney was seventh to buy a lot, one of eighty in the development, and he would live on the same street for the rest of his life. While many Irish show up in the 1850 Federal Census, they are mostly domestics, laborers and gardeners living in the houses of Yankee natives. Keyes street was the original low income district of Jamaica Plain, with house lots fronting with 50 feet, rather than the more standard 90 feet at a minimum. Since there was little multi-family housing in Jamaica Plain at the time, these small lots allowed Irish working men the opportunity to buy and build houses in the community for the first time.

I've often wondered who was the last surviving Jamaica Plain Civil War veteran. While the country's last Civil War vets lived into the 1950s, at age 86 in 1925 Harney is a good candidate to start with.

Boston Daily Globe May 2, 1925.

Military Funeral Of Michael Harney

Jamaica Plain Services for Civil War Vet

Michael Harney, 86, Civil War veteran, a native of Jamaica Plain, was buried with military honors this morning. A requiem mass was celebrated in the Church of St Thomas Aquinas, South st, by Rev William P. McNamara.

The flag-draped casket was borne by Deputy Sheriff Thomas F. Lally, Martin Godvin, Anthony Monahan and Thomas McLaughlin. Four members of the G.A.R. were honorary bearers. The Grand Army ritual was read at the house and at the grave in Calvary Cemetery.

There were delegations from St Thomas Aquinas Holy Name Society and Erin Court, M.C.O.F.*

Mr Harney resided on McBride st, formerly Keyes st, for 70 years. He was on the flagship under Farragut at the capture of Mobile, and was one of four volunteers who rowed Farragut in a boat while he inspected the works. He also served in the army during the Civil War. He was present at the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse.

*Note: the M.C.O.F. was the Massachusetts Catholic Order of Forresters, which was a life insurance group for Irish immigrants. At a time before life insurance was available to the working man, many such groups arose to provide for the families of breadwinners who had passed away. Many were more pass-the-hat organizations than proper insurers, but at a time when there was no government-provided social net, such groups were often all that stood between a widow and her children and the streets.

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