The Plunkett Family

Photo Credit: Adams Historical Society

The Plunketts were an immigrant family from Ireland.  Patrick Plunkett  and his wife, May Robinson, were both born in Ireland, Plunkett was specifically from County Wicklow. The family left Ireland just before the Irish Rebellion of 1798 and they settled in Lennox, Massachusetts.  They had three sons, William C., Charles H., and Thomas F. .  William C. was born in 1799. His wife’s name was Achsal Brown. William C. came to Adams in 1830 and bought the Berkshire Cotton Manufacturing Company in 1832. After the original mill  burnt down, his sons William and Charles built Berkshire Mill Number One. By 1870, William C.  had an estimated personal estate value of $50,000, which would equate to almost $1,00,000 in today’s dollars. He was instrumental in making North Adams an industrial rail road hub. He was also a former General. He died after a lingering illness January 21st, 1884.

Michael Ryan

One of the first Irish Catholics recorded in the area was Michael Ryan. Ryan left Kildare, Ireland  due to some monetary issues and sailed to Quebec. He then traveled south and stayed briefly in Troy, NY before arriving in the North Adams area in 1830. He worked at the Hoosac Worsted Company and the Johnson Mill. He built his cottage just outside of town, where there is now a large cemetery. His was the first Catholic home recorded by the local church. It was also where prayer meetings were held among the other Catholic community members before the Catholic Church was established in North Adam

Michael Dougherty

Michael Dougherty was born in 1870 in Ireland. He immigrated in 1885, at the age of 15, with his parents. In 1890  he had married and owned his own home and radio. He was a laborer in one of the local textiles mills.

The Fitzgeralds

A man named Thomas Fitzgerald, born 1823, from  the village of Bruff in County Limerick left Ireland during the Potato Famine somewhere between 1846 and 1855. Rose Anna Cox, born in County Cavan in 1835, married Thomas. They had a son named John Francis Fitzgerald who was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on February 11, 1863.  In 1889 John Fitzgerald married  Mary Josephine Hannon of Acton, Massachusetts, whose parents were Michael Hannon and Mary Ann Fitzgerald, both of Ireland. John and Mary had a daughter, Rose Elizabeth Fitzgerald, born on July 22, 1890 in Boston.

Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, London, circa 1939.

Rose Elizabeth Fitzgerald

The Kennedy Family

Around the same time Patrick Kennedy, a cooper from Dunganstown in County Wexford, also fled the Potato Famine. In 1849, he married Bridget Murphy, who was born about 1827 in Owenduff, County Wexford. Bridget and Patrick’s youngest child was Patrick Joseph Kennedy. In 1887, Patrick Joseph “P.J.” Kennedy married Mary Augusta Hickey, daughter of James Hickey of Cork, Ireland, and Margaret M. Field, also of Ireland. Their son, Joseph Patrick Kennedy, was born in 1888 in Boston.

So how are these two Irish American immigrant families related? Why is their story important? Rose Elizabeth Fitzgerald and Joseph Patrick Kennedy married and their son’s name was John F. Kennedy, future president of the United States.

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Although none of the Kennedy ancestors ever lived in North Adams, many of them did come over from Ireland around the same time as the less well documented Irish people mentioned on this site, and they lived in Boston with many other Irish immigrants. It felt relevant to include them here because they do demonstrate how immigrants add to American culture and history, even if the Kennedy’s themselves did not end up in North Adams, MA. 

The stories on this page show that immigrants make up the fabric of the United States, and similar stories continue in the US today with people of many countries and religions. Many of these people’s stories are lost to time, as most of the Irish immigrants left behind little documentation, with only those who rose to wealth and prominence being recorded. Though little may be known, their stories are still important; even the poorest immigrant and their descendants may leave lasting marks upon history.

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Joseph C. Day,  Dew upon the mountains: a history of St. Francis of Assisi Parish, North Adams, Massachusetts … in the Berkshires. 1st ed. North Adams, MA: St. Francis of Assisi Parish, 1989.

HeritageQuest. Accessed November 23, 2017.

“John F. Kennedy and Ireland.” John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. Accessed November 26, 2017.

Phil Pugliese, “Irish Fled Famine in Old Country for New World and Hope.” The North Adams Transcript, March 17, 1987.