This is a serialization of the new book written by Carl Flowers, owner of Silveus Plantation, the subject of "Groton's Anonymous Mistress." The 300-year-old home is accessed by Kemp Street near the boundary of Groton and Dunstable.
By Carl Flowers
The distance from the center of Dunstable to Lowell Street where the Fitzpatricks lived was less than maybe ten or twelve miles. Joel Gilson could travel the distance with a team of horses one way in approximately two hours, depending on the condition of the roads. When conditions were extreme, spending the night in Lowell wasn't outside the realm of convenience and possibility. When James, Nicholas's oldest son, moved to Groton and began living in the Mistress, business transactions continued with Gilson. Cows were purchased and bred. Plowing was done as well as making repairs on reins and harnesses.
Undoubtedly, other tasks were performed until James Fitzpatrick was able to get the farm up and running to a functional state. The whole reason for Nicholas purchasing the Mistress was to help his son become a farmer rather than working in Lowell's mills. James knew the atmosphere around the looms was horrendous. As a child, he had to stand on a box to complete certain required tasks. In time he became a machinist and handled the frequent breakdowns that occurred to the looms. Stale air, the deafening sound of the looms banging away as they made cloth, and the constant vibration of the building for 12 and 13 hours a day would drive all but the desperate away.
James had to make the connection with being cooped up in the mill all day and being sick. The culprit was tuberculosis. Obviously, the Fitzpatricks weren't desperate. They didn't have to labor in the mills as many others did. The 1843 deed giving Nicholas Fitzpatrick ownership of the Mistress referenced him as a gentleman. Earlier Lowell deeds referred to him as a dyer.
Nicholas Fitzpatrick's skill as a dyer rather than him having a strong back is what brought him and his family to the United States. He was born in Danesfort in the County of Kilkenny in Ireland, and arrived in the United States on or about May 1, 1827. His intention was to live in Lowell. What's so interesting about Fitzpatrick's arrival date is its proximity to the April 30, 1827, arrival of His Majesty's Ship, the Emerald, from England.
Kirk Boot was one of the passengers on the Emerald. He played a major roll in Lowell's development. It makes one wonder if Fitzpatrick had been recruited by Kirk Boot, but we'll never know for sure. Another unsolved mystery is not knowing where the Fitzpatrick family lived during the five-year period between coming to Lowell and purchasing the Lowell Street property. Whatever the location, it appears Nicholas built a house on land he didn't own and was the second person in Lowell to paint his house white. In time, white became common place.
In 1831, things began to change for the family. In October of that year, Nicholas Fitzpatrick declared his intention to become a citizen of the United States. That same month, Nicholas started looking at the property on Lowell Street.
The property of interest became available in 1831 when Charles Francomb sold it to Nicholas Fitzpatrick and James R. Stewart for $2,166.65. The parcel contained a wooden building that stood on a 3,780-square-foot lot. A number of straw deeds were passed in rapid succession between Fitzpatrick and Stewart. These deeds involved agreements between the two men that concerned pending events with the real estate. With these kinds of deeds, the document is usually of short duration ranging from a day or two to maybe several months. Several of the deeds between Stewart and Fitzpatrick were signed on the same day.
More straw deeds were exchanged in 1832, but this time they were with Jonathan Morse when he settled up with Nicholas for $1,247.00. The purpose of so many deeds being passed in such a short period of time was to give Fitzpatrick time to accumulate enough money to get the price of the property down to a level that would allow him to be the sole owner. That happened early in 1833, the same year that he, along with his wife and three children, became citizens of the United States. Minor children at the time automatically become citizens when their father was naturalized. This derivative citizenship also included Nicholas' wife.
As soon as Nicholas was the sole owner of the Lowell Street homestead, he resorted to some entrepreneurial activities to supplement his income as a dyer, which wasn't a paltry amount in comparison to the average mill worker. One of the things that sticks out about Nicholas Fitzpatrick is the way he signed his name. It's always Nicholas X Fitzpatrick. The word his is written above the X and the word mark is under the X, followed by the signatures of two witnesses. It makes you believe Nicholas Fitzpatrick was illiterate, but this is absolutely not possible. As a dyer, Nicholas had to be able to read and write formulas for making dye to color cloth. Being a dyer was a skilled occupation. No matter how Nicholas signed his name, it had to be witnessed by two individuals, so what difference did it make how Nicholas signed his name?
Beginning in 1832 the Fitzpatricks began taking in male boarders who made more money than female workers and could afford to pay more for boarding. The most boarders the Fitzpatricks seem to have had at any one time was five. Their meals and laundry services came with their living quarters. More than likely, these duties were all taken care of by Nancy Fitzpatrick, Nicholas' wife. By 1834 Nicholas sectioned off a part of his house so that he could deal in West Indian Goods. He sold just about everything anyone could imagine.