Death of John Francis Dowd, Thomas Dowd (1892-1895)

In 1892 Father John Dowd died of pneumonia in Newark. His death notice appeared in newspapers across the state. Known as "black John" because of his dark black hair and "black" eyes, Father John was a respected figure in Orange and Newark as is evident in his obituary in the Orange newspaper:

Orange Journal - November 31, 1892 - Father John F. Dowd, son of Thomas Dowd of this city and one of the best known and most popular Catholic priests in the diocese died at St. Michael's hospital, Newark, of which institution he was chaplain on Sunday. His death was caused by a complication of diseases. Father Dowd was born in this city forty years ago. He attended St. John's parochial and afterwards St. Benedict's College, Newark. From there he went to St. Mary's of Baltimore, finally completing his theological education at Seton Hall Seminary, South Orange. He was ordained there in 1877, was shortly afterwards appointed Vice President of the college but failing health compelled him to resign the position after a few years. He was then transferred to St. Jame's church, Newark, and later to the chaplaincy of St. Michael's Hospital. The funeral service was held at St. Patrick's cathedral, Newark yesterday and in the large congregation were many friends of the dead priest from this city. The Rev. H.P. Fleming of this city celebrated the mass of requiem assisted by the Rev. Father Kelly and the Rev. father Ali. The Rev. Father Wallace was master of ceremonies and the sermon was preached by Rev. William B. Callan of the Church of Our Lady of the Valley. The body lay in state in the cathedral from early yesterday morning. The interment was in the cemetery of the Holy Seplechure.

Black John's work and reputation had helped establish the Dowd family in Orange. The book, History of the Mother Church (St. John's) refers to the family and to Father John directly:

Another priest of an old family of faithful parishioners was the Rev. John F. Dowd, who was ordained at Seton Hall in March 1878. Father Dowd was for several years a capable and energetic Vice-President of Seton Hall College and died in 1892.

Another example of the social position attained by the family is seen in the obituary of Henry Dowd's six year old son in 1895:

Orange Chronicle, 2 March 1895 - Thomas Dowd, 6 year old son of Henry M. Dowd (ex water clerk) from several day illness. Died Tuesday, funeral Thursday was largely attended. Floral tributes were numerous and very handsome. A feature of the funeral procession was that all but three of the twenty or more coaches were drawn by white horses. The internment was made in the cemetery of the Holy Seplechure.

Following his wife's death in 1885, Thomas Dowd retained his residence at #38 White Street continuing his work as the superintendent of the Water Department. His office was at #18 Canfield Road and was later moved to the corner of William Street and North Center. He worked each day in the office with his son Henry who had been hired in 1888 as the water clerk. Henry, had lived home with Thomas all along until 1889 when he moved with his new wife to #136 Day Street. Edward and Eliza Dowd also lived on White Street. In 1893 Thomas moved into Henry's house and Edward and Eliza with their three daughters moved into the old family home. Thomas' obituary states that he was a man of domestic tastes, so he must have spent much of his free time during these years with his children and many grandchildren. Besides his sons Edward and Henry, his daughter Catherine Garrett was close by at #160 day Street and son Thomas M.'s family at #19 Day Street. The Harff family were close by as well, at #148 Main Street.

In late February of 1894 Thomas came down with pneumonia. In his son Henry's home, he lay ill "recognizing the children occasionally but not being able to speak". He died after eight days on March 2nd. He was sixty-six years old. As he lay in bed, Thomas must have felt some sense of contentment. By most standards his life had been an impressive climb. From famine immigrant to city official, Thomas was a self-made man and an example of the realization of the American dream. The esteem and prominence he had achieved in his community is suggested by his obituary:


Orange Chronicle 3 March 1994 -

Thomas Dowd superintendent of the Orange water works died at the residence of his son Henry M. Dowd, 136 Day St., yesterday afternoon at 5:30 of pneumonia. He had been ill since Washington's birthday and conscious recognizing the children occasionally but not being able to speak. Mr. Dowd was a native of Ireland and was born in County Cavan. He was about 60 years old. When 21 he came to this country and went to Princeton, NJ. Where he was employed in the gas works there. He was promoted from time to time till he became superintendent of Trenton gas works. In 1864 he came to Orange as the superintendent of the old gas works on White Street, continuing in that position until the works were abandoned. He then entered the employ of the McKim Brothers of N.Y. as superintendent of the construction of the household gas works, and during this connection with them he built works at Arlingotn, NJ; Garnerville, N.Y.; Rhinebeck-on the Hudson, North Hampton, Mass; and a number of similar places. Finally he was sent to London, England where he successfully negotiated the sale of the right to an English syndicate. In May 1884 he was appointed superintendent of the Orange water works and he has filled the position since.

Mr. Dowd was married just before coming to this country to Miss Ann Martin of County Cavan,. She died in 1885. They had the following children; Mrs. Frank R. Harff, Mrs. Thomas F. Garrett, Father John F. Dowd, the young priest who died about a year ago, Thomas M. Dowd, Edward J. Dowd, and Henry M. Dowd, the present clerk of the water department. Mr. Dowd was a man of domestic tastes and belonged to no societies or lodges. The only political ambition that he had was to run for alderman in the second ward some time ago. He was defeated by Charles E. Metcalf. The funeral services will be held at St. John's church 10:00 Monday morning when a solemn high mass of requiem will be sung for the repose of his soul. The interment will be in the family plot in the cemetery of Holy Seplechure.

Orange Chronicle, 10 March 1894- The funeral of the late Thomas Dowd, superintendent of the water department took place on Monday morning and was largely attended. A solemn high mass of requiem was celebrated at St. John' church 9:00. Father Fleming was celebrant. Father McDonnel sub deacon. A boy choir of 30 voices took part in the services. Mrs. E. S. Maher sang "O Salutaris" and Alderman John Walsh sang "Ave Veru". The pall bearers were Mayor L. Fell, Judge Michael Davis. Excise Commissioner T.S. Brennan, Alderman at Large, John Seymour, and John Casey. He was buried at Holy Seplechure.

It goes without saying that Thomas Dowd was admired and respected by his own children and grandchildren. Although the details of his life may have been forgotten over the years, the spirit of his accomplishments was still passed on. Of his grandfather, Thomas A. Dowd would tell his own children simply, "he came over from Ireland and did very well for himself."

Following Thomas' death, his children agreed on the following division of his property as recorded in Essex County Deed Books of July 1895:

table of lots in division of Thomas Dowd's estate

1 Lot on the south side of White Street -
#38 White Street
to Edward and Eliza Dowd
2 Lot on the south side of White St,
227 feet from the corner of White St. and Jefferson St.
to Edward and Eliza Dowd
3 Lot on south side of Elizabeth Street to Henry and Catherine Dowd
4 Lot on Elizabeth St to Thomas and Cath. Garrett
5 Lot at the corner of Watchung Ave and Alden - #281 Watchung to Thomas and Sarah Dowd
6 Lot on Watchung Ave. 86 feet from the corner of
Watchung and Alden (next to lot above), - #271 Watchung
to Frank and Rose Harff

Edward and Eliza were already living at the old family home at #38 White Street when Thomas died so it was agreed that they would keep that part of the estate along with the other small lot on White Street. They later sold the property and purchased lot #6 on Watchung, West Orange from Frank and Rose Harff.




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