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?

Kerrigan Farm, Burlington MA

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

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. 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 horse. “He was a huge animal. I was afraid to ride him.”

Meanwhile, William Sr., the Irish immigrant who created the farm, lived across 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.

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.

Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 6.35.41 AM.png

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.

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