Francis Aloysius McDermott

No. 13145 Francs Aloyosius McDermott

Photo of Francis A McDermott Contained in an album at the Dorchester Historical Society of about 150 photos 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. Index catalog has entries for the individuals.

Francis A McDermott 55 River St Dorchester Enlisted March, 1918 37th Regt Engineers Company E. Sailed overseas June 3d. Landed at Liverpool, soon crossed to France. Picture taken in France

Francis Aloysius McDermott.  Written by Camille Arbogast.

Francis Aloysius McDermott, known as Frank, was born June 20, 1888, in Mattapan at 10 Eagle Mill Place (today’s Riverway shopping center). His father, James F., born in Dorchester to Irish parents, was a blacksmith. His mother, Frances (Kelty), known as Fannie, was born in Boston and also had Irish ancestry; she worked a domestic before her marriage. Married in 1887 in Hyde Park, they had nine other children: James born in 1890, John in 1891, Arthur in 1894, Clement in 1896, Mary in 1897, Frances in 1899, George in 1903, Raymond in 1905, and Alice in 1906. Two of the children died in childhood: Clement died suddenly in 1905 of intestinal indigestion, and Raymond in 1906 of pneumonia, a complication of measles.

In 1900, the family lived at 28 Mount Hope Street. By 1910, Frank, his father, and his brother Arthur were living at 55 River Street, the home of Frank’s grandfather Bryan McDermott and aunt Mary McDermott. Frank’s mother died in 1916.

Frank was still living at 55 River Street in 1917 when he registered for the draft. By then, he was a wire expert working for the wholesale electrical supply house Pettingill-Andrews Company at 489 Atlantic Avenue in Boston. He was drafted and inducted into the National Army on March 26, 1918 and assigned to E Company, 37th Engineers, who specialized in electrical and mechanical work. The 37th Engineers trained at Fort Myer, outside of Washington, D.C. On June 1, 1918, Frank was made a Corporal.

On June 30, after enjoying coffee, cake, and cigarettes dispensed by the Red Cross, the 37th Engineers boarded the HMS Mauretania in New York City, headed for Europe. The ship carried them to Liverpool, England, where they took a train to Southampton, then boarded the very small, very crowded channel boat Antrim to Cherbourg, France. Taking a train to their ultimate destination, they passed through Paris. Seeing the Eiffel Tower was so exciting, one man fell out of the open car while looking at it. This first journey ended in Neufchateau where, according to the company history, the men mainly did “stevedore work.”

In late July, during the Chateau Thierry engagement, E Company was attached to the Chief Engineers office and handled the electrical and mechanical requirements of the First Army. Their projects included overhauling a chateau to be used as headquarters, constructing a pier on the river for the evacuation of wounded by boat, repairing power lines damaged by shell fire, and installing electric plants. On August 16, a German bombing squadron attack dropped 19 bombs amongst their pup tents. Most of the bombs were “troop bombs” which exploded before hitting the ground, spraying shrapnel. Four men were killed and 12 seriously wounded.

On August 30, 1918, Frank was promoted to Sergeant. During the St-Mihiel engagement, his platoon was sent to Dieulouard, where Frank was put in charge of the company’s tool storeroom. In Dieulouard, the Platoon was constantly under heavy shell fire, and airplanes battled overhead daily. As the company history described it, “Shells had made living above ground almost unbearable, & the men were forced to seek shelter in dugouts, not particularly conducive to machine shop work.”

In mid-September the company moved to Clermont-en-Argonne in the Meuse-Argonne sector to prepare for the next major engagement. After the main drive was over, E Company followed in the battle’s wake, installing and operating pumps and electrical stations, and salvaging electrical and mechanical items abandoned by the retreating Germans. On October 1, Frank was promoted to Supply Sergeant.

After the Armistice, most of the company moved to Verdun, working as an advanced unit for railroad construction, preparing the right of way for track laying, inspecting track and structures, and making temporary repairs. At the end of November, E Company drove a train to Coblenz, Germany, performing reconnaissance ahead of the arrival of the Third Army into Germany. In December, they were called back to France, to serve guard duty in Lorraine. Finally, in March, E Company sailed for the United States, leaving from St-Nazaire, sailing on the USS Princess Matoika. They reached the United States on March 20. Frank was discharged on April 4, 1919.

On July 16, 1919, Frank married Julia Sarah Lewis, a school teacher from Newton. Frank and Julia were married at St. Patrick’s Church in Watertown by Father Richard Splaine. They moved in with Julia’s family at 173 California Street in Newton. Julia’s father, George, a British immigrant, worked as a dyer at the Lewando’s French Dying and Cleansing plant in Watertown. Frank continued with his pre-war career, as a wire expert. Their son, Francis G., was born in 1920.

Frank and Julia bought their own house in Watertown, at 18 California Park. Frank was involved with the Watertown American Legion and served as Post Commander in 1938. In the early 1930s, Frank was a travelling salesman, selling electrical items. In January 1936, he was in the running for a Civil Service job as a storekeeper at the Worcester State Hospital. By 1940, he was the Storekeeper at the State Prison Colony, in Norfolk, Massachusetts, making $2,500 a year. By that time, he and his family were again residing at 173 California Street in Newton. Julia’s widowed father lived with them until his death in 1941. During World War II, his son Francis piloted a dive bomber in the Solomon Islands in the Pacific, for which he was awarded an Air Medal.

Frank died on September 23, 1952. A funeral was held at his home on California Street and a Solemn High Mass of Requiem was celebrated at St. Patrick’s Church in Watertown. Frank was buried in St. Patrick’s cemetery in Watertown.


Birth Record, Massachusetts Vital Records, 1840–1911. New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, Massachusetts;

Eagle Place: Atlas of Dorchester, West Roxbury and Brighton, City of Boston, 1899, Leventhal Map Collection, Boston Public Library;

Family Trees,

Federal Census 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, 1940;

Deaths, Boston Post, 26 April 1916, 22;

United States, Selective Service System. World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration;

Military, Compiled Service Records. World War I. Carded Records. Records of the Military Division of the Adjutant General’s Office, Massachusetts National Guard.

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

Brown, H.C. History of E Company, 37th U.S. Engineers. Boston: George H. Ellis Co, 1919;

“McDermott-Lewis,” Boston Globe, 17 July 1919, 6;

“Watertown A.L. to Hear Defense Address,” Boston Globe, 14 March 1938, 4;

“17 on Civil Service Have Job Prospects,” Boston Globe, 1 Jan 1936, 9;

Selective Service Registration Cards, World War II: Fourth Registration. Records of the Selective Service System, National Archives and Records Administration;

“Newton Marine Corps Flyer is Awarded Air Medal,” Boston Globe, 10 Nov1943, 36;

“Deaths,” Newton Graphic, 2 Oct 1952, 8;



Posted on

April 7, 2022

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