Friday, April 18, 2014


I have mentioned previously that when I am in Rosehill Cemetery I like to look around for unusual or historically significant tombstones.  On a recent summer Sunday I found the following unusual monument:

It is the tombstone for Thomas F. Dowd and his wife Mary.  The monument says:

Erected by the
Marine Engineers Beneficial Assn. USA
in Memory of
Thomas F. Dowd
National Secretary

I thought perhaps with a little "digging" I could find an interesting story, and maybe also find out what that is supposed to be on top of the tombstone.

Thomas F. Dowd was born on Christmas Day, 1857 in Manchester, Lancashire, England to Owen and Bridget Dowd.  He was their first child, but would be followed by a sister Ellen (b. 1859) and a brother James (b. 1861).  At some point in his life to make him appear older, Thomas started using 1853 as his birth date, but the English BMD records and the 1861 English Census show that he was actually born in 1857. Both Owen and Bridget had been born in Ireland; Owen listed his occupation on the census as "Hawker," and the census spelled their surname as "Doud".

By the time of the 1870 US Census, sixteen year-old Tom had come to America.  He was living on a farm in Hamilton, Illinois as a "Farm Laborer" with the Peter Egbers family. 

On January 9, 1879, Thomas Dowd married Mary Hall (1855-1925) in Red Wing, Minnesota.  The bride was twenty-three; the groom was twenty-one.  Mary was the daughter of Samuel Hall (1828-1901) and Betsy, nee Marshall (1825-1897),  both of who were born in Ireland.  Samuel and Betsey had eight children:  Jane, Mary, William, Robert, Sarah, George, Fred, and Frank.  Samuel Hall listed his occupation as "Farmer". 

The 1880 U.S. Census shows the Dowds living at 189 Milwaukee Avenue (now 483 N. Milwaukee Avenue):

483-85 N. Milwaukee Avenue

Thomas listed his occupation as "Engineer Tug Boat."   Thomas and Mary were blessed with two daughters:  Dora M. (1880-????) and Edna G. (1885-????).

The Chicago Daily Tribune of May 20, 1898 carried the shocking news: 


Thomas F. Dowd, National Secretary of the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association, died yesterday at his residence, 982 Francisco street, of pneumonia.  He was 43 years old and had been secretary of the organization for many years.

Here is his death certificate:

His death certificate shows him living at 1073 (now 1938) N. Francisco Avenue in Chicago.

1938 N. Francisco, Chicago
Marine Engineering Magazine from June, 1898 carried the following:

An official announcement of the death of Thomas F. Dowd, National Secretary of the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association has been made by George Uhler, the national president under date Chicago, May 21 in these words:

To the order wherever found, greeting: With a feeling of profound sorrow I announce the death from pneumonia after an illness of only six days of Brother Thomas F. Dowd national secretary at his home in this city at 9:30 AM Thursday the 19th instant.  It is not my desire at this time to enter into any detailed eulogy of the official life and services of our deceased brother but with a sincere appreciation of his untiring zeal and interest in the affairs of the organization with which he has been officially connected for so many years I simply make this brief announcement.  The national president will be in Chicago for some days in connection with the office made vacant by the demise of our brother. Any important communications can be addressed to the Sherman House, Chicago.  To fill out the unexpired term of our late Brother Dowd I have this day appointed as National Secretary Brother George A Grubb of M.E.B.A. No. 4, whose address will be No 1537 George street, Station B Chicago, to whom all communications should be addressed and to whom all remittances should be forwarded.

Marine Engineering Magazine carried the following in their May, 1901 issue:


The Marine Engineers ' Beneficial Association has just performed a most graceful act, and one which is worthy of emulation by every fraternal order. For many years Thomas F. Dowd of Chicago was national secretary of the association, which, as is well known, involved a large amount of work which, all too often, is thanklessly received.

Mr. Dowd died in 1898, still holding the office of secretary and the association, acting under the auspices of No. 4 of Chicago, immediately set about to provide some suitable memorial for their late brother.

It was decided that it should be a memorial tablet in Rose Hill cemetery, his last resting place, and contributions poured in from every section of the country until the shaft was erected and dedicated upon Sunday, March 31st, with appropriate ceremonies.

The dedicatory speech upon that occasion was made by James Henry Harris, well known in N. A. S. E. circles, and will certainly be read with interest by all association members. It is as follows:

Memory is a mirror in which we see reflected the scenes of the past. The green fields of youthful sports and joys, the hardships and misery of other days are pictured there.

In the mirror of memory we see the sunlit hills of hope painted by the inexperienced hand of youth. We behold the crags and breakers over which our impetuous feet were eager to walk, and we are charmed by the picture of youthful exultation when the lowering clouds of adversity had been burned away, and we had tasted the first sweets of success.

In this beautiful looking-glass—memory—we look upon the face, the form, the smile and the frown of those we love. In its magic depths we can hear the merry rippling laughter that thrilled our souls with delight, and we listen again to the words that pointed out the way that our feet should trod.

To prevent the accumulating dust of time from dimming the mirror of memory and in order that we may perpetuate a recollection of the dead we build monuments upon which we inscribe the names of those we would honor and we chisel words that shall tell future generations of their good deeds.
"When a great man dies the angels weep," the poet has said. Greatness is, however, measured by no definite standard.

The soldier who upon the field of battle yields up his life in defense of his country, the statesman who in the forensic arena defends the rights of the people, the scholar who from the caverns of learning brings light to the mind, the actor who snatches from the grave of tradition visions of the dead and rehabilitates them in the garb of living beings, the painter who fills the galleries of the mind with the beautiful creations of his genius or the musician who floods the corridors of the soul with the sweet melodies of song are great only as we are influenced by their deeds.

Someone has said that true greatness consists in fulfilling well life’s mission, in doing our duty as it is pointed out to us. We are here today, brothers and friends, to unveil a monument erected to the memory of one who fulfilled, to the fullest measure, the mission of his life so far as opportunity offered.

We have two classes of men. One class asserts their personality in every act, while the other shrink from public gaze. Of the latter class Brother Dowd was a faithful example, for he was modest though determined, enthusiastic and yet unobtrusive. His nature was sunny and bright, and he carried into the midst of his associates happiness and joy.

He who inspires laughter is a public benefactor, for from out of the gloom and blackness of sorrow he brings happiness and comfort, he illuminates the dungeon of despair with the holy light of hope.
No man could long associate with Thomas F. Dowd and not be influenced by the subtle magic of his laughter the potency of his good nature. A man of rare humor who found in the most trivial circumstance the foundation for merriment, and as the sunlight warms the budding verdure into blossom so did the exuberance of his nature better fit him to face the serious side of life by enabling him to cope with its exigencies with a warmth and geniality that was wonderful.

We who have gathered here today to pay a tribute to the memory of our late brother need no words of mine to bring back to our hearts remembrances of his kindly deeds, his determination and his zeal in the promotion of the principals that as a member of the Marine Engineers ' Beneficial Association he espoused.

Let the monument be unveiled. A magnificent tribute of a fraternal brotherhood. However, Thomas F. Dowd, whose mortal remains are resting in tranquil peace beneath this canopy of roses, does not require this shaft of stone to remind us of his worth nor must we gaze upon the inscription, that is carved upon it, to keep aglow the sacred fire of fraternal love upon the altar of our hearts, for that will die out only when we rest with him in the tomb.

And with that, they unveiled the stunning monument that still marks the grave of Thomas Dowd.

It is obvious that Thomas Dowd was beloved by all in the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association.

Thomas F. Dowd - May he rest in peace.

PS - I never did find out what that is at the top of his monument.


  1. The small copper marker (green due to patina) at the bottom of the upright marker - is that a U.S. veteran grave marker stuck into the ground?

  2. No, it says "Perpetual Care" and it means that when they bought the plot they paid extra to have the plot maintained in perpetuity. Other graves at Rosehill are marked with a marker that says "Cut Only".

  3. There are various references to a "shaft of stone" in the 1901 article - maybe that's supposed to be a propeller shaft at the top of his monument?