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When MSMS had real horsepower

It’s 1912 and you’re about to move from Ireland to the USA. You’ve got two choices of vessel. Which do you choose?

  1. The SS California
  2. A heavily-hyped but unproven engineering marvel called the Titanic

William Kerrigan and his brother Arthur chose the California,* so this story can continue. Upon arrival in the US, the brothers worked on some Woburn farms before starting their own Kerrigan Farm in 1930. Here’s a section of it. Recognize the area? It’s the front yard of Marshall Simonds Middle School. That’s Winn Street on the right. Most of the background buildings are still there today, including the house on the south corner of Peach Orchard and Winn.

Kerrigan Farm, Burlington MA
Long before Abati and Connors, the head honcho was Dick, the workhorse on Kerrigan Farm. Photo credit: Bill Kerrigan

After that photo was taken, Kerrigan built a house for his son, William Jr., on the north corner. You’ll recognize it as the office of Dr. Robert E. Segool, optometrist:

Dr. Robert E. Segool

Here are William Jr. and family, the original occupants:

Kerrigan Farm family, Burlington MA
William Kerrigan Jr., wife Dorothy, son Bill and daughter Joyce. They’re the original occupants of the white house at the corner of Winn St. and Peach Orchard Road, now an optometrist’s office. Bill vividly remembers Dick, the white horse in the first photo. “He was a huge animal. I was afraid to ride him.”

Meanwhile, William Sr., the Irish immigrant who created the farm, lived next to the farm at 128 Winn St. — the big, white estate that’s still there today, and whose history stretches back to the 1800s, decades before he arrived.

William Kerrigan Sr.'s home from 1930 to 1958.

Kerrigan Bros. farm truck Burlington MA. Photo credit: Joyce Kerrigan

Some spots in the world might carry special, even sentimental, significance for you while meaning precisely nothing to anyone else. One particular fire hydrant at Faneuil Hall carries unique significance for Bill, the youngest Kerrigan in this story. It’s where he sat while his father, William Jr., unloaded the celery, spinach, lettuce, carrots and squash grown on Kerrigan Farm.

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Bill attended the brand new (original) Memorial School across the street for a couple of years. When he turned seven, the town bought Kerrigan Farm and built the high school, now the middle school. The family moved the farm operation to Hudson, N.H.


Here’s a good aerial shot of the whole area in 1954. You can see the brand new Memorial School and . . . not much else. There was no school across the street. No St. Margaret’s next door (it’s on the fork of Center and Winn Streets instead). No neighborhood behind Memorial. Peach Orchard Road seems to continue right past Winn Street and into the distance. That’s actually the long-abandoned Salem Turnpike.

1954 Memorial School aerial, Burlington, MA

*Their immigration paperwork reads “California,” but it might be a typo for the SS Californian.

7 thoughts on “When MSMS had real horsepower Leave a comment

  1. Great story about the Kerrigan farm. Peach Orchard one time did continue past Winn St. and connected to Cambridge St approximately where the new Mercedes dealership is now. It is called both ‘Walker Lane’ and ‘Wood Rd’ on the old map.

  2. That extension of Peach Orchard Road was still around as a dirt road when I grew up on Rita Ave in the 1960s and 70s. The road ran through where the Maple Ridge condos are now and ended at the parking lot of Spray Engineering Company where 10 Corporate Drive is now. The area had other winding dirt and gravel roads up and down various hills and even some ruins of a house or barn. There was a legend about a homeless guy who lived in a shack there in the 1950s and early 60s. At the top of a hill now flattened and where 35 Corporate Drive is now was a huge granite boulder. We would climb to the top of the rock and be able to see the Boston skyline. Back then only the Pru and a few other buildings were tall enough to be seen from Burlington. The kids called it “Chicken Rock” and I’m not sure why. The area was always littered with beer cans and bottles so it may have been a teenage drinking hangout.

  3. We lived on Burton Road. I remember when the big St. Margaret’s was built – went to the little on at corner of Winn and Center street. Had religious training in the old barn up on the hill across from Peach orchard rd-behind the now gone huge tree! Wow- when the brain is tickled it is amazing what you remember!😃

  4. My dad worked on the Kerrigan farm as a small kid for 10 cents a day. Our family was on Locust St. I remember them building MSMS.

    • Related to the police chief? Any old Burlington pictures to add to this site? If so, call me 781-718-9872 Robert Fahey, editor.

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