Here's an image from the Sanborn Maps of 1890, when the neighborhood included a Methodist Church, coalyard, drug store, tin shop and a bakery!
Our Museum is located on the modern-day 900 block of Lemmon Street in Baltimore, along the northern side of the block (pictured above, circa 1905; colored just recently!). Ten modest rowhouses were built in 1848 by Charles Shipley, a contractor who understood how to build solid structures that could be sold for $400-600 to an established middle class. Many purchasers became landlords who rented to the massive influx of Irish who had escaped the horrors of the Great Hunger.
The Snyder family owned 10/910 Lemmon Street in its earliest days, and during its first 50 years. The men of the family were not among the simple laborers who had recently arrived in America. They rented out this modest rowhouse, located close to employers such as the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad’s Mount Clare shops. City Directories listed the Snyders, who lived elsewhere, as paper hangers, venetian blind makers and policemen. Of particular interest to us is Justus Snyder, who worked for the railroad as a baggage handler and conductor, making a considerable daily wage in comparison to the Irish laborers who rented from him and others along the block.
Renters were typically recent immigrants who came to America just to survive, and certainly did not have money in their pockets to buy a house. What they did have were strong backs and a desire to succeed, and the railroad and other employers hired them as laborers for $1.00 a day, while working a five-and-a-half-day week. Landlords such as the Snyders, and blacksmith Odes Boland just a few doors down, charged those families $6.00 a month rent: a week’s wage that left the rest of the month’s income for the other necessities of life.
Residents of 10/910 Lemmon Street during its first fifty years included railroad engineers Charles E. Merlon (wife Mary) and Marshall L. Buzzard, with his wife Catherine and several children. Fireman James McCubbin lived there as well, as did wagon painter Michael O’Leary.
The O’Leary family was typical of many who lived in the modest neighborhood. They lived in several addresses along the block at one time or another, as did the Feeley and Crehan families. Relatives relied on the emotional support that family could provide within the neighborhood, and Irish families, used to such arrangements in the old country, made the modest block a center of extended family life.
Cecilia Wright, our Museum’s Board President, has done important work on researching the O’Learys who lived at 10/910 Lemmon Street,and along the block. Part of her research is included here:
“One day in July, 1851, in a cottage in County Cork, the O’Leary family said goodbye to their extended family and friends, many of whom they would never see again. They left their cottage for a final time, heading to Liverpool to board the Bark Repeater and sail westward towards a new life and abundant opportunities in America. The family included father John (56), mother Mary (42), and children Peirce (19), Michael (5), Julia (13), Francis (3) and William (9 months). They boarded ship on July 17 and finally arrived in Baltimore on September 21, 1851, after a two-month journey. They must have felt a great sense of relief when they spotted the Lazzaretto Point Lighthouse, Baltimore’s quarantine and immigration station in South Canton. They had made it!
Finally, they could leave the cramped, dirty, dark, and thankfully strong little ship that had safely carried them across the Atlantic for so many weeks. The Repeater’s human cargo arrived safely alongside a significant amount of #1 Scotch whiskey and pig iron.
John O’Leary and his family quickly settled in an Irish neighborhood in West Baltimore known as the 18th Ward, possibly with friends or family from the old country living close by. John found work as a laborer. Mary discovered an amazing variety of food for her family at Hollins Market, and the family attended Mass at St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church.
Son Michael married Anne McIntyre of County Down, and they eventually established a home at 5/905 Lemmon Street, where little Helen was born on June 11, 1875. Daughter Margaret followed soon after, and the family moved across the street to 10/910 Lemmon St., where they lived from 1878-1881. They had a son named Joseph in 1885, but it seems likely that his life was a short one. They named another son Joseph as well, born on February 28, 1890. They had several children who were baptized at St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church (pictured below), and lost some to early childhood deaths: common in the era.
The O’Leary family daughters Margaret and Helen were about the same age as Cornelius Feeley, whose family lived four doors down at 18/918 Lemmon St. Perhaps the children of those families enjoyed a game of jacks, tag or hide and seek, and walked the same path to school each morning to St.Peter’s Male and Female Schools. Children had fun with the horses that traveled up their narrow street, driven by cart men with various wares for sale. Mothers Annie O’Leary and Sarah Feeley both had homes to keep tidy, and meals to prepare. One wonders whether they shopped together, or cared for the neighbor’s children while the other did her outings.
The O’Leary men did well in America, and some of those who arrived in 1851 continued their work as laborers. Michael established himself as a coach painter. He and Michael Jr. shared a profession and a larger home at 1118 W. Pratt St. by 1890, and eventually moved to 104 S. Carlton St., formerly known as Dewberry Alley. This nearby block was committed to supporting the horse-and-cart men of the day, with several stables (one still exists today). Joseph O’Leary joined him in his trade by 1900, working as a coach builder. He lived a few blocks away, at 408 S. Poppleton, and shared a home with his parents and siblings, including brother John, a bricklayer, and William O’Leary, a carpenter. Male descendants worked in other hard trades of their time, as foundry workers and rivet heaters. Such men built a city, and the railroads that connected it to a nation”.
Many others rented the modest 910 house during the next few decades. The Crehan family, who had lived on nearby Ramsay and Parkin Streets, made their way onto the block by 1906, living at 906 and 912 Lemmon Street in early years. They were settled into 910 Lemmon Street by 1924, and their family life and successes might well be considered a case study of the possibilities for modest laboring class families with ambition and drive.
The Crehan family had come to America at the height of the Great Hunger, escaping the horrors of Ireland’s County Clare by 1851. Their home county had high fever mortality and deaths from cholera. The nearby workhouse had high death rates as well, while public work schemes, such as the building of roads, employed many…but of no avail. Many thousands left the far-western county to begin lives in America.
They first settled in Washington D.C., where Thomas worked as a laborer and provided for his wife Bridget, and America-born children Patrick and Honora. Thomas passed away at 56 years old, and was buried in D.C.’s Mount Olivet Cemetery, among many of his fellow expatriates, in 1878. Honora became a nurse and had a career serving others. She was buried with her father on November 5, 1926. Her brother Patrick moved to West Baltimore, where he met and married Catherine DeGraff. Her family was active in the historic St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church, a home for many Irish railroading families.
Patrick and Catherine had many children, but mom sadly died in 1905, leaving their father to raise many on the modest pay of a streetsweeper. They struggled along in their home at 906 Lemmon Street, while son Charles struck out a bit, making his home at 927 Lemmon Street by 1920. Other Crehan children established a new home at 910 Lemmon Street by 1924, where George and his wife Jennie raised several children into adulthood.
Among them was Bernard Melvin Earl Crehan, born on November 11, 1931. He was baptized at St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church, as his grandmother was almost 65 years earlier. He was known as “Earl” among both family and friends, and his family was active in the church and its Male and Female Schools. His birth brought the number of residents in their tiny rowhouse to eleven!
Education had always been a vital element of parish life since its beginning in 1842. Early years included male education by the LaSalle Christian Brothers, while the female school was led by Sisters of Charity initially. The Dublin based Sisters of Mercy arrived in 1855 and taught thousands, including the boys, once the new and final school building,dedicated in 1917, became co-ed (see photo below, circa 1922).
The school thrived, despite a good bit of competition with nearby Public School #10. Other Catholic parishes established their own schools as well, but St. Peter parish schools served the community for over 120 years.
Earl Crehan was a student there, and graduated with several others who found considerable success in future years. His graduating class in 1947 (photo below) included 22 scholars, including close friend John Ogaitis (middle row, 2nd from left) and a stylish friend named Ron Smith (center, with bowtie). Earl is shown on the top row, third from left.
Others in the graduating class continued on an academic path: Catholic High School and College for some, while others entered the military or St.Peter Commercial School (young ladies). Each benefitted from the academic and spiritual instruction of Sister Josephine, shown in the above photo.
Earl spent four years in the Navy, working as a machinist. Hebwas stationed at Charleston, South Carolina, where he met and married Jowina Croghan. They moved back to the Baltimore area, where Earl became a machinist,and then supervisor for Westinghouse, a firm that did extensive work for the military in the area of defense and electronic systems. He pursued further education at the University of Baltimore (picture below) and advanced at work, becoming a Vice President with the prestigious firm. His success was of great benefit to his wife and their several children.
Earl’s friend and classmate, John Ogaitis, joined him at Westinghouse in a few years, after stints in the military and graduating college from the University of Maryland. John spent a bit of time with the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, joining their Management Training program, but it wasn’t a good fit. He moved to Westinghouse and worked as an industrial engineer for 38 years.
These young men grew up in the rowhouses of West Baltimore, but were challenged and inspired by those around them. Church and school leaders insisted on excellence, and Earl found a good bit of inspiration right at home. He was raised with half-brother Milton L. Quick, who received the Bronze Star for his heroism at Normandy on D-Day: June 6, 1944.
A friendship that began along South Poppleton Street in Baltimore, among the modest rowhouses that served as a home base for ourbimmigrant ancestors and descendants, continued for Earl Crehan and John Ogaitis for many years. They are shown in the image below with their wives Jowina and Anne.
We hope you find inspiration in these stories of those who owned and lived, during various eras, in the modest dwelling at 910 Lemmon St. Their lives are ones to be remembered and celebrated as we restore our modest rowhouses along the block, and particularly our planned Visitor Center. The photograph below is how we found it just a few years ago, in its glorious yellow!
The financial support of Museum friends is helping us towards new possibilities. We’d love to have your participation in our Capital Campaign as we turn four additional rowhouses into Museum space and continue to develop our presentation of our Irish and immigrant ancestors. Send us an email at email@example.com and we'll begin a conversation on how you might help.
Census of the Unted States, various
Mary Ellen Hayward, Ph.D., founding Museum Curator (in loving memory).
Kanely, Edna A. Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Employees 1842 and 1852, 1855 and 1857. Berwyn Heights, Maryland: Heritage Books, 2008.
Kennedy, Liam and Paul S. Ell. Mapping the Great Irish Famine. Portland: Four Courts Press, 1999.
King, Kay R. Saint Peter the Apostle Catholic Church Baptismal Records, 1842-1939. Harbeson, Delaware: Colonial Roots, 2013.
Maryland Center of History and Culture
John Milleker, photographer
Damian O’Connor, colorist
John and Anne Ogaitis
Woods, Robert A. and Albert J. Kennedy, editors. Handbook of Settlements. New York:Arno Press, 1970 c1911.
Virginia Tech University