Charles Russell Cavanagh

Charles Russell Cavanagh

Cavanagh has an entry among index cards kept by Nathaniel R. Perkins, MD, who examined thousands of men who were going into the war, 1914-1918. Given by Mrs N. R. Perkins in accordance with instructions from her late husband, Dr. Nathaniel P. Perkins of 1122 Adams St, Dorchester.

Russell C. Cavanagh  19 Richmond St.  Enlisted May 1917 at Commonwealth Armory. Sent to Boxford July 25, 1917. Saied for France Sept. 7, 1917. 101st Regt Field Artillery 26th Division A.E.F.

Charles Russell Cavanagh by Camille Arbogast

Charles Russell Cavanagh, known as Russell, was born on January 2, 1899, at 13 River Street in Lower Mills, to Charles R. and Elizabeth G. (Herman) Cavanagh. Both parents were born in Boston. Charles’s family came to Dorchester in 1883, when they moved from the South End to Lower Mills. Elizabeth and Charles were married in 1897 in Dorchester.  Russell had an older sister, Gertrude, born in 1897, and a younger brother, Lewis, born in 1900.

Charles, a doctor, probably delivered Russell, as he signed the birth record. A graduate of Harvard Medical School, he performed residencies at Boston City Hospital and Carney Hospital before going into general practice in Dorchester. Charles’s father, George H. Cavanagh, as well as his grandfather William, had been in the pile driving business; his father’s company worked on the Boston Art Museum, the Boston Public Library, the Youths Companion building, and New Old South Church, among other projects. George Cavanagh also served in the Civil War, first with the Boston Light Artillery, then with the First Massachusetts Cavalry and finally with the 6th New York Horse Battery.

Elizabeth’s father, Conrad J. Herman, was born in France to Bavarian German parents and immigrated to the United States in 1848. In 1900, he was employed as a fireman at a mill. That year, Conrad, along with his wife, Frances, who was from Maine, and their son, Frederick, a commission clerk, lived at 13 River Street with Charles, Elizabeth, and their children. By 1910, Russell’s immediate family had moved to another house in Lower Mills at 19 Richmond Street, which they had purchased. Russell attended the Gilbert Stuart School and two years of high school.

In 1917, Russell enlisted in the National Guard at the Commonwealth Armory, joining the 1st Regiment Field Artillery. He reported for duty on July 25, and was sent to Boxford for training. In August, the 1st Regiment Field Artillery was drafted into federal service and became the 101st Field Artillery, 51st Field Artillery Brigade, which was part of the 26th Division, or Yankee Division. It appears Russell initially served in Battery C, but by the time the 101st left Boxford on September 7, he had transferred to the Supply Company and was a Private First Class. On September 9, 1917, he sailed from New York City on the SS Adriatic. The 101st arrived in England on September 23, and two days later were in France. After receiving further training, the 26th Division spent the spring of 1918 in Woevre, north of Toul. In July they were part of the Chateau Thierry offensive; in September the Saint-Mihiel offensive. They were then sent to the front north of Verdun. In October they were involved in action east of Meuse. When the Armistice was declared on November 11, they were near Damvillers. In April 1919, Russell, along with the 101st Field Artillery, returned to the United States, sailing from Brest on the transport ship USS Mongolia. By that time, he had been promoted to Sergeant.

Two thousand people met the USS Mongolia when it docked in Boston on April 10. The Boston Globe headline declared “Had to Drive Relatives of Heroes Off Pier with Bayonets.” Due to the size of the ship, it had to dock at high tide, which was early in the morning. “The army and navy officials in charge … would have been glad to … delay the docking of the ship until 9 a.m., in order to accommodate the thousands who desired to welcome the home-coming brigade, but neither the army nor the navy has yet been able to regulate the tide,” the paper reported. As the ship approached Commonwealth Pier, it “was literally covered with olive drab coated soldier boys, who clung like swarming bees to every strand of the big ship’s rigging and gear.” After the ship had docked, hot doughnuts, oranges, bananas, cigarettes, and newspapers were hurled at the ship for the men to catch. Massachusetts Governor Calvin Coolidge went aboard to welcome the men back to New England. According to the Globe coverage, family members and friends swarmed the pier, broke through ropes, and mobbed the gangplank, delaying debarkation for two hours. Finally, after 10 a.m., the men were taken by train to Camp Devens in Ayer to be demobilized. Russell was discharged on April 29, 1919.

In 1920, Russell was living at 19 Richmond Street and working as a leather sorter. His father had recently passed away, dying suddenly on Christmas Day in 1919. His siblings were still living in the family home: Gertrude was a teacher and Lewis was a student. Russell’s mother, and his grandparents, Conrad and Frances, were also part of the household. Conrad continued to work as a fireman, now with the railroad.

On March 13, 1922, Russell married stenographer Florence M. Matz of 2038 Dorchester Avenue. They were married by Reverend Francis X. Dolan at Saint Gregory’s Church. In 1929, Russell’s sister, Gertrude, married Edward B. Matz, Florence’s older brother.

Russell and Florence had five children: Charles Russell, Edward, Robert, Ann, and Elizabeth. Edward died on Christmas Eve in 1930, at six years old. During World War II, Charles served in the Naval Reserve and Robert was in the Army.

Russell and Florence initially lived in Quincy at 48 Whiton Avenue. By 1925, they had moved to Weymouth, living first at 70 Evans Street, then, by 1940, at 158 Park Avenue. They were reported residents of Milton and Chilmark in 1958. At the end of Russell’s life, they lived at 30 Longwood Road, Milton.

Russell spent his career in the leather industry, working as a salesman after his marriage. In 1940, the census reported he earned $5,000 a year. In the 1950s, Russell was employed by F. C. Donovan, Inc., of Boston. He served as president of his professional organization, the Boot and Shoe Club.

Russell died in Milton on May 26, 1962. A Solemn High Mass of Requiem was held for him at Saint

Mary of the Hills Church in Milton.


Birth Record, “Massachusetts Births and Christenings, 1639-1915” database;

Family Tree;

Gillespie, C. Bancroft, ed. Illustrated History of South Boston. South Boston, MA: Inquirer Publishing Company, 1900;

US Federal Census, 1900- 1940;

“Boston Public School Graduates Number 8769,” Boston Globe, 19 June 1913: 6;

Lists of Outgoing Passengers, 1917-1938. Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, 1774-1985, The National Archives at College Park, Maryland;

“United States, Veterans Administration Master Index, 1917-1940” database,

A Short History and Photographic Record of the 101st U.S. Field Artillery 1917. Cambridge, MA: The University Press, 1918;

“Names of New England Heroes Who Came on Transport Mongolia,” Boston Globe, 10 April 1919: 10;

Hennessy, M.E. “Had to Drive Relatives of Heroes Off Pier with Bayonets,” Boston Globe, 10 April 1919: 1;

“Debarkation Delayed Hours,” Boston Globe, 10 April 1919: 1;

“Funeral in Dorchester of Dr. Charles R. Cavanagh,” Boston Globe, 28 Dec 1919: 17;

Marriage Record, “Massachusetts Marriages, 1841-1915″ database;

Death Notices, Boston Globe, 25 Dec 1930: 30;

Sherman, Marjorie W. “Society,” Boston Globe, 3 April 1958: 5;

Deaths, Boston Globe, 28 May 1962; 18;

“Boot and Shoe Club Memorial,” Boston Globe, 15 November 1962: 8;



Posted on

March 28, 2022

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