Manchester NH’s First Casualty of WW1: Pvt. Henry John Sweeney (1897-1918)

Henry J. Sweeney is a name fairly well known to many of the citizens of Manchester,

Bust of Pvt. Henry J. Sweeney in Manchester NH's Sweeney Park

Bust of Pvt. Henry J. Sweeney in Manchester NH’s Sweeney Park

New Hampshire.  The Henry J. Sweeney Post (American Legion) is active in the city, and the park of the same name on Manchester’s west side (South Main Street) is well kept and popular.

What most people don’t realize is that Henry John Sweeney grew up very close to the park the bears his name–first at 89 Fourth  Street (1902-1907) and then in the large tenement building at 74 Clinton Street.  (1908-1911).  The family did not move to the Douglas Street address until 1914.

Henry John Sweeney was born on 12 September 1897 in Manchester, NH to a large Irish family.  His father Jeremiah was from County Cork, Ireland and his mother Kate had been born in London, England–the couple  had met and married in Manchester.  They were members of St. Raphael’s Parish which was also near their home, and Henry attended St. Raphael’s Parochial School, in a building on Third Street at the corner of Ferry.

Life changed drastically for the Sweeney family in 1905 when Henry’s mother Kate died following the birth of her youngest child, James–Henry was only 8 years old.  His oldest sister also nicknamed Kate or “Kitty” took on the responsibility of acting the “mother” of the large household.  By July 1917 when Henry married Winifred Mildred Grant, his occupation was that of a tinsmith.  In this time period that title encompassed working with sheet metal in various forms–roofing, pipe fitting, metal roofing or even the production of tin sheets in manufacturing.

In 1912 Charles Kimball Walker of Manchester died., and his wife followed within a few years.  Charles had been superintendent of Manchester’s Water Works Department.  They left their property and house at 68 South Main Street to their two children: Mrs. Ellen P. (Walker) Howe, now a widow, and Henrietta C. Walker.  These sisters sold at least some of that property to the City of Manchester in February 1917 to be used as a park, and was called “Walker Park” in the City of Manchester yearly reports.

On 1 May, 1917 Henry J. Sweeney entered service with what was formerly Co. B, 1st Regiment N.H. N.G. [Sheridan Guard].  That regiment had, like other National Guard regiments, been absorbed into other regiments–in this case the 103rd Regiment.

Activated for service in World War I on April 13, 1917, they assembled at Westfield, Massachusetts as part of the 52nd Brigade, 26th Division (the 1st New Hampshire Infantry was consolidated with them) later to be re-designated the 103rd on August 22nd, 1917. The regiment entered the front lines on February 8, 1918 and until the Armistice on November 11, 1918 they were constantly at the front. During World War I the regiment served overseas and participated in the following battles: Champagne-Marne, Aisne-Marne, St. Mihel, Meuse-Argonne Ile de France 1918, Lorraine 1918.

On February 18, 1918, ten days after his regiment was placed at the front lines, according to the Henry J. Sweeney Post web site, “a bursting shell landed beside him at Soisson France in the Chemin-des-Dames sector.”    On 11 March 1918, the Lowell Sun newspaper shows Henry J. Sweeney among a list of Americans, noting that he had died from wounds.

On 17 March 1918, page 10 of the The Boston Daily Globe reported: Private Henry J.

The Boston Daily Globe of March 17 1918, page 10 with letter home from Pvt. Henry J. Sweeney

The Boston Daily Globe of March 17 1918, page 10 with letter home from Private Henry J. Sweeney to his sister Kitty Sweeney.

Sweeney of what was formerly Co. B, 1st Regiment N.H. N.G., the first soldier from Manchester to be killed in the present war, announcement of which was received by his wife this week, only a few days before his death wrote to his sister, Mrs. Kitty Sweeney, under the date of January 27 1918, in which he said: “This is a cruel war, but no one is getting slim on it. So why worry? We have a lot of fun here. We have boxing, dancing, entertainment, band concerts and everything else to please the boys. I went to confession a few weeks ago. You can never tell when your turn comes and I want to be prepared if mine should come. We have a priest supplied by the Knights of Columbus and a lot of the boys go to confession regularly. Don’t think that I am downheated [sic] because the job isn’t all milk and honey. The life is just as we make it. If you try and buck, they have it all over you, but be half decent and you will get along fine. Cheer up, we will do our bit for democracy in the Spring. So look on the bright side of it.Troops are still pouring into France. And no transport has been hit yet, so why should we worry over submarines. We are just as confident of lacing the Huns as ever.”

The Henry J. Sweeney Post states that Henry J. Sweeney was first buried in France, and that the family had his body brought back and reburied with full military honors in the old St. Joseph Cemetery on Donald Street. This action of waiting was typical, as most remains were not returned to the United States until after hostilities ceased.

On 15 March 1918 residents of the neighborhood requested that the City Council change the name of Walker Park to Sweeney Park. Famed sculptor, Lucien Hippolyte Gosselin was living in the city at the time, and was commissioned to create the monument to Henry J. Sweeney.  A suitable memorial was created and placed within the park with speeches and celebration. The plaque reads as follows:
Private Henry John Sweeney
First Manchester Soldier to Fall in the World War
Killed in action, February 18, 1918
At Soissons, France, Chemin Des Dames Sector
Erected by a Grateful City

In 1919 the American Legion was being formed, with the first New Hampshire Legion meeting on 5 May 1919 at Manchester, New Hampshire. The Henry J. Sweeney Post of Manchester was the second formed, just shortly after Laconia organized. Originally the Post building was located at 52 Concord Street in a building built in 1910 by Club Jolliet.  They removed in 1954 to Middle Street, and even later in 1975 to the current facility at 251 Maple Street.

NOTE: I would be deeply grateful if any relatives who have more information and/or additional photographs of Henry J. Sweeney and family would contact me through this blog.

[Editor’s Note: This article is one of several I have written at the request of Don Pinard, Department of Public Works, Chief of Parks, Recreation and Cemetery Division, City of Manchester, New Hampshire.  It is a volunteer project (on my part) to better record and share the stories of the men memorialized by the city’s “Military Squares.”  All the information specifically within the body of this project is shared copyright free with the City of Manchester and its representatives, with the exception of photographs provided by family or friends who still retain whatever rights conveyed to them by law.]

 =====PARTIAL GENEALOGY of Pvt Henry John Sweeney======

John Sweeney,  b. abt 1840 in Ireland, d. prob Manchester NH; m. Johanna ?; She b. Ireland. Papermaker by occupation.
Children of John & Johannah (?) Sweeney:
1. Nellie Sweeney b abt 1865 Ireland; m. 21 April 1896 in Manchester NH to Samuel C. Mogridge, son of William H. & Mary (?) Mogridge. He was b. abt 1865 in England, occupation, wool puller.
2. Catherine “Katie” Sweeney, b abt 1866 in Ireland; m. 20 Oct 1886 in Manchester NH to Thomas J. Clancy, son of John & Margaret Mary (Harrington) Clancy. He was b abt 1860 in Manchester NH, and died 4 July 1900 in Manchester NH, age 39 of pneumonia.  He was a merchant.
2. Margaret Sweeney, b. abt 1867 Ireland; m. 13 November 1888 in Manchester NH to John H. Adrian, son of Alexander & Johanna (Carney) Sweeney. He was b. in Taunton MA, occupation beamer.  In 1920 they were living in Lincoln, Providence Co. RI with son Frank Adrian (age 30 b Maine), and daughters J. Grace (age 27 b MA), Mary (age 22 b RI) and Isabel (21 b RI).
3. +Jeremiah Sweeney, b. abt 1868 Ireland
4. Mary Sweeney, b. — Ireland.

Jeremiah Sweeney, son of John & Johanna Sweeney, b. abt 1868 Ireland, died 7 Apri 1941 in Manchester NH, age 73; m. 6 Dec 1887 in Manchester NH to Catherine “Kate” O’Dowd/Dowd, daughter of Henry/Harry & Catherine “Kate” (Clancy) Dowd/O’Dowd. She b. 26 March 1868 in London, England and d. 29 Dec 1905 in Manchester NH, shortly after the birth of her last child. He immigrated in 1878 to the US from Ireland. Laborer, City Worker [1902 city directory shows MPW-Manchester Public Works], Cloth Inspector. She is buried in St. Joseph Cemetery. Please Note: his death record states parents as John & Catherine O’Donnell) Sweeney. His marriage record (where he would have been alive to state it) shows his parents names were John & Johanna. 1886 at 127 Cedar St., 1888 at 161 Cedar; 1902-1907 at 89 Fourth Street; 1908-11 at 74 Clinton Street; 1912 74 Clinton; 1913 109 Goffe St; In 1914-1927 living at 356 Douglas Street.
1886 Manchester City Directory
Sweeney, Jeremiah, at Olzendam’s, boards 127 Cedar
Sweeney, John, papermaker, house 127 Cedar
Sweeney, Margaret Miss, boards 127 Cedar
Sweeney, Mary Miss, boards 127 Cedar
1888 Manchester City Directory
Sweeney, Jeremiah, papermaker, boards 161 Cedar
Sweeney, John, papermaker, house 161 Cedar
Sweeney, Margaret Miss, Amoskeag, boards 161 Cedar
Sweeney, Hannah, widow, house 14 Cedar
1910 US Census > NH > Hillsborough > Manchester > 74 Clinton Street*
Head Jeremiah Sweeney M 41 Ireland Widow inspector woolen mill
Daughter Catharine M. Sweeney 21 NH NH England
Daughter Helen V. Sweeney 18 NH NH England stitcher shoe shop
son John J. Sweeney M 14 NH NH England brander cigar factory
son Henry J. Sweeney M 12 NH NH England
son Thomas Sweeney M 10 NH NH England
dau Josephine Sweeney F 9 NH NH England
dau Elizabeth Sweeney F 7 NH NH England
dau Agnes Sweeney F 6 NH NH England
son Frank Sweeney M 4 NH NH England
Children of Jeremiah & Catherine (O’Dowd) Sweeney:
1. Catherine M. “Kitty” Sweeney, b. abt 1889 Manchester NH; in 1940 living with father in Manchester NH
2. Helen V. Sweeney, b abt 1892 Manchester NH; m. 17 August 1914 in Manchester NH to Miles Leon Ruiter, son of George & Mary (Carr) Ruiter. She was living at 356 Douglas St at time of marriage, groom is shoemaker, b. Farnham PQ.
3. Jeremiah C. Sweeney, b. 25 December 1893 Manchester NH; died 26 February 1894 age 2 months 1 day in Manchester NH of bronchitis
4. John J. Sweeney, b. 25 Apr 1895 in Manchester NH; m. 14 April 1923 in Manchester NH to Ellen Anderson, dau of Amandus & Carolina (Carlton) Anderson [Her parents were born in Sweden, living Goffstown NH]. She was b. in Manchester NH. At time of marriage he was a cigar packer.
5. **Henry John Sweeney, b 12 Sep 1897 Manchester NH; he married 9 July 1917 in Manchester NH to Winifred Mildred Grant, dau of Lester & Helen (McGuire) Grant. She was b. in Lowell MA. At the time of their marriage, his occupation was tinsmith. He died  18 February 1918 in France. Buried at St. Joseph Cemetery, Delaney 2388 on 7 Aug 1921.
6. Thomas F. Sweeney, b 3 Aug 1899 Manchester NH; d. 6 March 1939 in Manchester NH; married 23 June 1920 in Manchester NH to Alice Isabelle Butler, dau of Richard & Sarah (Heathcote) Butler. At the time of their marriage he was living in Portsmouth NH, a ship-fitter by profession.
7. Mary Sweeney, b abt January 1890, died 13 July 1890, age 5 months 26 days of cholera
8. Johanna Sweeney, b. 23 Aug 1900 Manchester NH.
9. Josephine Sweeney, b abt 1901 Manchester NH; she m. 14 April 1925 in Manchester NH to Bernard F. Gillespie, son of Edward & Grace (Walsh) Gillespie. He was born in Lancaster NH. His occupation, electrical engineer.
10. Elizabeth Sweeney, b abt 1903 Manchester NH; In 1930 living with her father and siblings Catherine and Frank in Manchester NH
11. Agnes Mary Sweeney, b 3 Sep 1903 in Manchester NH, died 23 Sep 1937 in Manchester NH; m. 9 Aug 1926 in Manchester NH to Lawrence A. Hickey, son of Lawrence J. & Margaret (Ronan) Hickey. He was b in Manchester NH, both occupations: bookkeeper ; resided 544 Granite Street at her death; buried St. Joseph Cemetery. Her son Robert Hickey, b abt 1930 is show living with his grandfather Jeremiah in the 1930 US census of Manchester NH
12. Francis Henry “Frank” Sweeney, b 20 November 1905 Manchester NH, died 23 June 1977 in Manchester NH; m. 21 June 1935 in Manchester NH to Dorothy Lee Fischer, dau of Martin H.  & Nancy C. (Lynan/Lynam) Fischer. She was. b. 1 Nov 1910 in East Point, Georgia, and died 31 July 1984 in Manchester NH.  They are both buried at St. Joseph Cemetery, Manchester NH [see grave and known descendants buried with them].


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