Sunday, October 7, 2012

Good neighhors: The Tierney family and St. John the Baptist Parish, Quincy, Mass.

St. John the Baptist Church on a beautiful day in 2008
(Photo thanks to "Slim" at Quincy Daily Photo)
It was in 1909 that my great-great-grandmother Catherine Tierney and her family moved to Gay Street from another home in Quincy (pronounced Quin-zee), Massachusetts. They resided at 52 Gay Street for several years, then moved to 32 Gay Street in 1912: just one house down and across the street from the rectory of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church. The church and the Tierney family would be good neighbors for many decades.

The location of St. John the Baptist Church and rectory in relation
to the Tierney family residences at 52 and 32 Gay Street, Quincy
(Click to enlarge)

The family had moved to Quincy from Boston's North End a few years before Catherine's husband Patrick's death in 1900. They were probably already well-acquainted with the parish around the time of this 1890s era photograph below.

St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in 1893

Over the years the Tierney family would form many connections to the church and many family milestones would be passed within its care. Catherine's daughter Margaret (my great-grandmother) married George William McCue within St. John's rectory on October 11, 1911.

This announcement appeared in the Quincy Patriot Ledger
after my great-grandparents' wedding in the parochial residence of
St. John the Baptist Catholic Church on October 11, 1911

Catherine Tierney was able to purchase her home at 32 Gay Street in 1923. The matriarch of the family known as "Gran" to her family passed away in 1934.

The obituaries of two of her daughters, my great-grandmother Margaret (Tierney) McCue and her sister Elizabeth "Betty" Tierney, tell of their involvement within St. John's Blessed Virgin Mary Ladies' Sodality. A cousin who visited them often as a child (and enjoyed milk and cookies at their home while his father visited with his older sisters) remembers that "both ladies were very active in all facets of the church activities".  Each of their requiem funeral Masses, held in the early 1960s, had at least three priests in attendance. This may be a testament to their long involvement with the church.


St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, its rectory and also the Tierney home at 32 Gay Street each have historical and architectural significance.

St. John the Baptist, built in 1853 to serve the many Catholic families who had arrived in the area to work in the granite quarries, was the second Catholic church in Quincy. The church was expanded in 1873.

The church backs up to the rectory,
but is located at 44 School Street
Its rectory is located just behind the church on Gay Street. According to the Quincy, Massachusetts Historical and Architectural Survey: "This large house has been the rectory for St. John's Church since at least 1876 and may have been originally built for that purpose." The survey continues:
"When this residence was built in the 1860s it was considered very modern for it imitated the latest French building fashions. It was concomitant with the Italianate and the Gothic Revival Styles which were part of the Picturesque movement. The distinctive roof (which could be convex, concave or straight as in this house) was named for a 17th century French architect, Francois Mansart. In the 1850s, the style was revived in France by Napoleon III, hence the term 'Second Empire' or 'mansardic' for modest structures." 
The porch and a series of additional rooms were added to the rectory during the 1920s. Unfortunately, during the siding of the building with aluminum most of the original exterior features of architectural significance were removed.

The priests' residence at 21 Gay Street
Unlike the priests' residence, the long-term residence of Catherine Tierney and her children at 32 Gay Street has kept its architectural integrity. According to the Quincy survey:
"This residence is one of the fine Greek Revival cottages in Quincy which has retained most of its architectural integrity. Built in the 1850s as gable-end-to-street one and one half story cottage with the typical cornice board around the house and under the eaves and a recessed side entrance, it had added to it during the Italianate period two one-story angular, bracketed bay windows. The windows have stylized pediments atop them; the entrance is framed with pilasters and on top is the same type of lintel as the windows; the door has sidelight to floor level. The house rests on a granite foundation. Unlike the other Greek Revival property listed in the South Quincy inventory list which has been resided with vinyl to its detriment, this cottage has retained its wood clapboards and its architectural integrity. It is a fine component of the Gay Street streetscape."
The Tierney family resided at 32 Gay Street from 1912
until the latter part of the 20th century

This article is part of the "Doors of Faith" series on our ancestors' Catholic parishes. Visit The Catholic Gene to learn how you can share photos and stories of your family's "Doors of Faith" in honor of the upcoming Year of Faith 2012-2013.


JJT said...

Great post! Always interesting to hear of people's connection to their neighborhood and parish.

And of course I'm partial to Tierney stories. ;)

Betty Taylor said...

You have such beautiful pictures of the church. It makes me want to go and look at things. Some of my family lived in Massachusetts in the 1600's. I really would like to visit on a genealogy tour.

Betty Taylor

Lisa / Smallest Leaf said...

I hope you get a chance to do it, Betty! If not, search for photos on the web. I've taken many "tours" that way.


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