Thomas Dowd in Orange, Death of Ann Dowd (1881-1885)

In 1881, the gas works in Orange were shut down, perhaps due to the advent of electric lighting perfected by Thomas Edison in his Menlo Park, New Jersey laboratory in 1879. Thomas was next employed by the McKim Brothers, Builders in New York City where he oversaw the construction of household gas works. [to include history of the McKim Brothers business] His association with McKim Brothers brought him to Massachusets, Connecticut and New York. Thomas would have traveled by train to these places. Trains ran from Orange to New York City regularly throughout the day. Further still, according to his obituary, Thomas was sent to London, England to negotiate a contract on behalf of the company. He must have felt some nostalgia traveling back across the Atlantic as an American. This trip was surely more comfortable and pleasurable than his first trip across the Atlantic thirty-five years earlier. The family was obviously proud of this achievement and made sure it was mentioned in his obituary.

In January 1884 the construction of the water works in Orange was completed. Previous to this, residents drew water from wells and cisterns. Earlier proposals for a modern water supply and sewage system had been opposed by tax payers because of the expense. But by 1882 the population of Orange was approaching 18,000 and more buildings were being constructed. More importantly, the fire department complained that water flow from cisterns often gave out, hindering their ability to fight fire. In 1882, in the interest of public health and safety, lands were purchased and a large reservoir built just South of Northfield Avenue, West Orange. Two hundred fire hydrants were placed throughout the city. At a total cost of $425,000, the works were completed by private engineers in 1884 then handed over to the city.

Unlike the gas works, which had been run as a private enterprise, the water works was operated as a public utility and a branch of the Orange city government. The water committee hired Thomas Dowd as superintendent. As head of this department of the city government, Thomas was now a city official. Thomas' son Henry Dowd was later hired as the water clerk.

Throughout all, Ann Martin Dowd was a supportive partner to Thomas. A picture of Ann taken probably in the early 1880s, shows very kind, gentle eyes. Although black and white, the picture shows her fair complexion and hints of light eyebrows and red hair. She was likely a capable housewife and mother, raising her children close to the Catholic church and as prominent members of their community.

In 1878 Ann's older brother John Martin, sick with cancer, came to live with her. Through the years Ann must have been maintaining contact with her family back in Ireland. Her father Edward Martin was living as late as 1859 and is recorded in a tax list taken that year of land leasers in Scrabby Township. John Martin's death certificate states that John had lived in New Jersey only since 1878, so it is likely that he arrived from Ireland about that time. John's occupation was carriage maker. He was listed in Thomas and Ann's household in the 1880 census but died only a few months later on August 10th at the age of sixty-five. Ann buried her brother in the Dowd family plot at Holy Seplechure Cemetery.

Ann became ill herself with breast cancer late in 1884. Aware of her illness, she wrote out a will on January 4th, 1885. She died three months later on March 11th at the age of fifty-five. She left her White Street property to her husband but stipulated that if Thomas remarried, the property was to go directly to their six children. A brief notice appeared in the paper marking Ann's death:

Orange Chronicle, 14 March 1885 - Died at Orange, NJ on Wednesday Mach 11 Ann Martin Dowd age 52 years old - Funeral will be held from residence on White Street, Saturday at 9:00 a.m. relatives and friends respectively invited to come.

*Age should be fifty-five, not fifty-two

Coincidently, exactly one week following Ann's death, on March 18th , Thomas' brother Patrick Dowd died back in Princeton. A cousin in Princeton recounted that as a girl she had seen two old telegraphs that had been sent from Thomas Dowd to Peter Dowd in March 1885, the first with the message, "My wife is dying, how is your father?" A second telegraph two days later stated "My wife is dead, Father John will do the mass". The two families obviously stayed in touch. Cousins in Princeton were aware of the Orange Dowds and proudly announced to friends that their cousin, Father John Francis Dowd, was the "president" of Seton Hall University.




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