Patrick Joseph Kennedy

Patrick Joseph Kennedy


Read about the life of JFK's grandfather.

Stories about Patrick Joseph Kennedy

Patrick Joseph Kennedy

  • Boston, MA

While doing some cursory research on the Kennedy family, I found an interesting line in the Wikipedia entry for P. J. Kennedy, and that was, "As the only surviving male, P. J. was the first Kennedy to receive a formal education."

I first found the family of Patrick and Bridget Murphy Kennedy, the poor Irish immigrants who escaped from the Potato Famine in 1848-49, in the 1860 census of East Boston. Bridget appears with their daughters Mary (8), Joanna (7), Margaret (6) and Patrick (or P. J.) (2), and 2 other young Irish people. The father, Patrick, had died by this time of cholera, as had their first son, John. Bridget and the two oldest daughters are still in East Boston in the 1870 census, but P.J. is noticeably absent. As a youngster of only 12 or 13 years of age, it was unlikely that he would have been living on his own. Nevertheless, I started searching for him - and found him attending school in the House of Reformation on Deer Island! This is where he received his "formal education"!

The House of Reformation was founded on Deer Island, in Boston Harbor, in 1858 and was turned into a prison in 1896. As a prison, it housed tens of thousands of prisoners until it was closed down and recently demolished. In 1889, the city built a sewage pumping station next to the prison/House of Reformation. Today, Deer Island is mainly devoted to the treatment of waste water.

By 1880, he had apparently been "reformed" as he was living with his mother (who owned or managed a bakery), his sister Mary, and 3 boarders in Boston. His occupation was a brass finisher, and he had been unemployed 6 of the past 12 months. According to other sources, P. J. worked his way up on the docks, then became the owner of a gradually increasing number of saloons. He was a ward boss, helping other Irish immigrants adjust to life in the new world. In 1887 he married Mary Augusta Hickey and was becoming influential in Boston politics. The following year he bought a whisky-importing business which he named P. J. Kennedy and Company.  By the time he was elected to the Massachusetts senate in 1892, he and Mary had had two children -Joseph P. (born 1888) and Francis Benedict (born 1891 and died 1892). Mary Loretta was born in 1892, and Margaret Louise in 1898. By the time he died in May 1929, P. J. also owned an interest in a coal company and had become a bank president. Patrick Joseph Kennedy, born the son of Irish immigrants, is buried in Brookline, MA. He was the only surviving son of an only surviving son, and the grandfather of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, this nation's 35th President.

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