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Unfortunately, this week I had to attend the funeral of Elizabeth McKeon, my Aunt Betty. She was in her 90s and was the last child of eleven children: John, James, Gertrude, Walter, Sweet, Bernie, Margret, Dot, Tom, and Billy. I missed one and had to look it up; sorry, Jimmy. It’s sad that she passed but she lived a long life. The world is better for it and it’s time she moved on.
Four of my dad’s sisters would come over after church on Sunday for coffee and talk. Emphasis on talk. Each of my aunts would be carrying on a different conversation at the same time and my dad never really got in on any of them.
What bothered me most is that it’s the end of a generation. My siblings and I are the old people now.
Although there weren’t a lot of people there, it was great to catch up with many of my cousins. We only get together on occasions like this, and oh boy are they getting old. Funny, two said the same about me. I don’t see it.
The McKeons covered south Worcester (MA) when I was young. I was five when my dad bought a farm in the country, but I still remember going to Carl’s for penny candy and climbing the stacks of lumber at the lumber yard, and jumping from pile to pile. Yes, by myself. And yes, I lived.
Why is it all these family stories come out after everyone dies and you can’t cross-examine anyone? I was speaking with Missy and my other cousins about the old days. One time when I was about twelve, my dad brought me to his parent’s farm in Charlton. All that’s left is a bubbly stone foundation and the Mass pike rest area where the fields used to be. He never went there again and never really spoke about it.
During the great potato famine, my great-grandfather left Ireland with his parents and settled in Quincy for a new life. He grew up in Quincy then married Ellen and bought a farm in Charlton. I can imagine how hard it must have been to raise enough money to not only feed yourself but to also purchase a farm to build a better life. I never made the connection why the farm didn’t amount to anything. No family to inherit it, no relatives in the area. I suppose I never really thought about it because it was never discussed other than that one time.
Missy dropped a bombshell on me that they were driven out of Charlton by the KKK when they burnt every building down on the farm. I said, “oh” (silence). All the pieces fit. It’s like getting hit with a ton of bricks. I guess being Irish Catholic in the 1920s was a double whammy.
Most people think about the KKK’s treatment of black people in the south, myself included. But no, their hate goes far beyond that. They settled in the neighborhood near Holy Cross College. He became a stone mason and life moved on.
The Klan in New England to this day is never talked about. During my entire education, I was never presented with any of these facts, and in my own backyard! I googled it and an introduction to this book came up from Westfield State. It does seem biased against Republicans but hey, it’s promoted from a Massachusetts college in 2019. That’s a prerequisite. I immediately see a contradiction in the fact that only a small amount of Republicans ever owned slaves in 1860 according to Dinesh D’Souza. I will have to buy the book and come to my own conclusions.
Fewer still would have anticipated the KKK’s astounding rise in New England in the years to follow. According to the Washington Post, from the Klan’s formation in each individual state until it peaked in 1925, it admitted 21,321 members in Rhode Island, 65,590 in Connecticut, 75,000 in New Hampshire, 80,301 in Vermont, 130,780 in Massachusetts, and 150,141 in Maine.2 KKK membership remains difficult to determine with precision, but even if the actual numbers in the New England states were a fraction— say, one-tenth—of the Washington Post’s reported figures, they would nonetheless be phenomenal for the region.
This news really doesn’t change anything. It’s sad that they went through that. Actually, if that never happened I would never have been born. Why was it such a secret? Shame? Embarrassment? I guess millennials weren’t the first ones to delete history. Reparation$ baby!!Published in