The Gibson Staff
During its almost 100-year history, the home at 137 Beacon Street housed dozens of employees to the Gibson family. These individuals stayed for a few months or many years, depending on their circumstances. Typically, they did not leave written accounts of their time at the house, so often what we know of them is drawn from vital records and family stories passed down through the generations. The biographical sketches below represent only a fraction of the people who worked at 137 Beacon Street.
Want to learn more? Take our Upstairs Downstairs tour!
MARY MCDONNALD (1854-?)
Mary McDonnald was born in Inverness, Nova Scotia, in March of 1854. Her father, Charles, was a farmer and storekeeper; he and his wife Mary were both Scottish. In 1872, at the age of eighteen, Mary arrived in Boston from Prince Edward Island, Canada.
By 1880, Mary was living at 137 Beacon Street, working as a nurse for the three young Gibson children. Known as “Nan,” she lived with the Gibson family for eighteen years, first as a nurse and later as a laundress. In 1891, Mary married Albert Crocker, a German “lineman” (a worker on electric lines) in Boston. Charlie Gibson, who was only about seventeen at the time, gave her away. In a photo album, Rosamond Gibson preserved a carte-de-visite, or photograph, of Mary in her wedding finery.
By 1900, Mary was a widow, working as a washerwoman to support the two young sons she had with Albert, Charles and Albert junior.
PATRICK DOOLEY (1875-1943)
Patrick Dooley was born in County Galway, Ireland in 1875, one of eight children. In 1907, he left Ireland for the United States, intending to stay with his sister, Mary Dooley, in Lynn (just north of Boston). Patrick’s older brother, Thomas, worked in Nahant as a gardener, and it is possible Patrick began working for the Gibson family through Thomas’s connections in Nahant.
In 1910, Patrick is listed in the U.S. census as a “general man” for a “private family.” He served as the Gibson family chauffeur in Boston, and as a gardener in Nahant. He was a long-time employee, initially hired by Charles, Sr. and later working for both Rosamond and Charles, Jr. He never lived with the family, but likely took rented rooms in a lodging house or stayed with his brother. In 1915, he became a naturalized citizen and in 1918 registered for the draft.
In 1923, Patrick married Elizabeth Healy, a chambermaid for the Goodrich family living just a few doors down at 145 Beacon Street. Elizabeth was also an immigrant from Ireland; she arrived in the United States in 1916 and was twenty years' Patrick’s junior. After their marriage, the couple moved to Gordon Street in the Boston neighborhood of Allston.
The 1940 census, taken when Patrick was sixty-five, lists him as a homeowner and janitor working in a private home forty-eight hours a week and earning $1,000 a year. Patrick died in 1943 and is buried next to his wife in St. Joseph Cemetery in West Roxbury, Mass.
NORA REDICAN (1880-?)
Nora Redican was born in County Sligo, Ireland in 1880 to Thomas and Catherine McGrath Redican. In 1899, at the age of nineteen, Nora left Ireland for the United States to stay with her aunt, Mary McGrath, at 27 Parkman Street in Boston.
She was hired by the Gibson family as a chambermaid and moved to 137 Beacon Street, where she was living in 1910 with four other female servants.
In June of 1910, Nora married Bartholomew Coen. He was also from County Sligo and had been working in Boston as a plumber. They made their life together in Philadelphia, where Bartholomew eventually joined the police force after some years working as a bartender in his brother’s saloon. By 1920, Nora and Bartholomew had two children, Catherine and Nora. (Another daughter died tragically in 1918, after being hit by a truck in front of their home.) They later had a fourth daughter, Eleanor.
In 1922, Bartholomew died in the line of duty, and Nora was left to raise three young girls on her own, which she did by cleaning offices and cooking for the Philadelphia School District.