Maine Irish Heritage Trail
South Portland Site Number 1
by Matthew Jude Barker
South Portland, Maine
Located at the end of the Casco Bay Bridge, Knightville is a commercial and municipal center of the City of South Portland. Named for Thomas E. Knight, a prominent shipbuilder of the mid-19th Century, Knightville is home to numerous shops, restaurants, businesses, homes, the South Portland Post Office, Thomas Knight Park, and City Hall. The village's northern section includes Mill Creek Park and Mill Creek Shopping Center. As early as the 1850s, Irish immigrants settled here, especially on the little side streets off Ocean Street, near the old Portland-South Portland bridge. It became a pleasant routine to walk across the bridge and attend church services at St. Dominic Catholic Church on State Street in Portland. Later, Holy Cross Church parish would be formed to attend to the needs of the growing Catholic population (1911).
Some of the prominent Irish families in the area included the John Bradley, Hugh Lappin, Daniel E. McCann, Edmund D. Walsh, Hugh F. Flynn, and Thomas F. O'Neil families. John Bradley, a native of County Derry, was a brewery owner with his brothers-in-law James and Patrick McGlinchy. They operated a brewery at the intersection of what is now Ocean Street and Highland Avenue from 1858 until the 1880s. Bradley resided on Ocean Street (Ocean House Road) across the street from modern-day Mahoney Middle School. He was a grocer for many years in Portland in the vicinity of Gorham's Corner and later operated a brickyard in South Portland, where he retired to in the 1870s.
Hugh Lappin (1827-1907), a native of County Cavan, Ireland, and his Irish-born wife Rose Hargrave, raised eight children in Portland and South Portland. Hugh, who had operated mills in India, England, and Egypt, ran flour and grain mills in Ligonia, Knightville, Stroudwater, and Portland. His eldest son John J. opened his own flour and grain business in Portland in the mid-1880s (see "Hugh Lappin, Irish Merchant, Engineer, Millwright," The Western Cemetery Project, 1997-2001).
Daniel E. McCann, a son of Limerick natives, and his wife Annie Flanagan raised a large, impressive family in Knightville. Daniel was a prosperous blacksmith and carriage maker. His sons entered the business and Daniel E. McCann & Sons would later build fire engines (one of their trucks is on display at the Portland Fire Museum, Spring Street). The McCanns made their home at what would become 295 Ocean Street. Daniel's daughter Josephine A. became a teacher at the primary school in Ligonia, South Portland. His son Daniel E. (1874-1954) was a truck manufacturer and later advertising manager for newspapers in New York, Boston, and Philadelphia. Son Cornelius J. was a pioneer in the Florida insurance business.
Edmund D. Walsh, who was raised in Portland the son of Irish natives, operated a popular wood and coal business on Pleasant Street in the 1880s-1890s. His long time business partner was Peter V. McCue. Walsh and his wife purchased a house on Summer Street (now Broadway) just down the road from the Bradley family. Edmund's son John Randall Walsh and his wife Agnes Annie, a former teacher, later resided in the home and their daughter Agnes A. lived in the house until it was sold about 2000. The old Walsh homestead (with surrounding acres) was then demolished and a housing complex put in.
Hugh F. Flynn, born in Portland in 1861 of Irish parents, ran a successful sign making business in Portland and South Portland, advertising for years as "Flynn the Painter." He resided on Brown Street (now a part of Broadway). His wife, the former Flora Small, operated a coal and wood business with their son Ingomar F. Flynn at the turn of the century on Brown Street. Another son, Edward W., helped his father in the sign business. Hugh F. Flynn became the first police chief of South Portland in 1897. His grandson, Hugh F., a 1938 graduate of SPHS, was chairman of the South Portland City Council in the early 1960s. He served three terms on the city council, was vice president of the SP Board of Industry and Commerce, and a senior member of the SP Housing Authority. Flynn, who held various positions of authority with Maine Central Railroad/Portland Terminal Company, died at his residence in 1996.
Thomas F. O'Neil (1852-1922) was a well-known Portland mechanic and steamfitter. He also became "one of the best known artists in this vicinity," according to a 1920 newspaper. Tom joined a locally famous sketching club named the "Brushians." He studied under well-known local artists Charles L. Fox and Charles F. Kimball and joined the Portland Society of Art. At one time he was one of the curators of the society's Sweat Memorial Art Museum (now the Portland Museum of Art). He moved to 91 Summer Street (now Broadway) in the 1890s with his family, including his mother Mary Jane Deehan O'Neil, a native of Cumber, Co. Derry, and daughter of local contractor Patrick Deehan. Tom and his wife Mary had twelve children, eight of whom lived to maturity, including Joseph C., a coach and teacher at both Portland and South Portland High Schools, James A., a compositor for the Portland Press, Robert, another printer, and Margaret L. O'Neil, teacher at Evans Street School in South Portland. The old O'Neil home was located near Anthoine Street.
RELATED SITES: Holy Cross Church, Ligonia, McGlinchy Brewery
Acknowledgements by Matthew Jude Barker
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