New Hampshire in WWI: The Phelan Sisters of Milford

Upper Row, Left to Right — Maurice Phelan, John Phelan, William Phelan, All in the United States Navy. Below–Katherine Phelan and Mrs. Alice Keefe.


This is a short story about the Phelan Family of Cambridge MA who spent summers on their Milford, New Hampshire farm.  The men mentioned served from Cambridge MA not Milford NH.  One of the women in the story, Katherine Phelan, married a Milford man, Leo D. Flanagan and lived in the town for many years.  My interest started with this newspaper story and photograph demonstrating how women often had the “men’s tasks” during wartime.

Boston Sunday Globe 22 September 1918, page 140
Special Dispatch to the Globe. MILFORD, N.H. Sept 21–One of the notable war families in this section is William Phelan’s at Jones Crossing. All three sons are in service. All are Harvard men. William Phelan Jr. is at Princeton University in the paymasters’ school. He was formerly a teacher at that university. Maurice Phelan is a paymaster at the Charlestown Navy Yard and John Phelan is at the Naval Reserves stationed at Harvard. The brothers have been in the service since the start of the war. Their two sisters, Mrs. Alice Keefe and Miss Katherine Phelan, run the the large farm. Mrs. Keefe’s husband, Richard Keefe Jr. of Washington is a lieutenant in the Quartermaster’s department.

The two sisters planted and cared for a large garden and will look after the picking of several hundred barrels of apples in the orchard this Fall. Recently, following the cutting of their five-acre rye field, they piled grain and carried it to the barn for threshing, using a hand cart.  The family lives in the winter in Cambridge, Mass. where the father is in business. During the summer the girls were assisted by an aunt, Miss Nora Byard, a teacher in the Boston public schools.  [end]

=== Partial Genealogy of the PHELAN Family of Cambridge MA and Milford NH===

John T. Phelan, son of William & Bridget Phelan, b abt 1856 Cambridge MA and d. 1931 in Cambridge MA In 1928 living in Cambridge MA, a plumber. He married 15 Nov 1885 in Cambridge MA to Katherine/Catherine Byard/Bayard, daughter of Morris/Maurice & Hannah (?) Bayard. She b. abt 7 May 1862 in Somerville MA.
1860 US Census > MA > Middlesex > Somerville
Morris Byard M 35 Ireland
Hannah Bayard F 33 Ireland
Ellen M Bayard F 4 Massachusetts
Hannah Bayard F 0 Massachusetts
1920 U.S. Census > MA > Middlesex > Cambridge > 20 Saville Street
John T Phelan 64
Catherine Phelan 51
William B Phelan 31
Maurice E Phelan 29
John A Phelan 24
Catherine F Phelan 20
Children of John T. & Katherine (Byard) Phelan:
1. William B. Phelan, b. 18 July 1887 Cambridge MA, d. 21 Dec 1928 Presbyterian Hospital, Philadelphia PA, teacher. Buried Cambridge MA.
2. Maurice Edward Phelan, b 4 Nov 1888 Cambridge MA. In 1930 living in Cambridge MA a teacher in a public school. In 1940 living on Neck Road in Milford NH, single, a mathematics teacher in a private school, 4 years of college.
3. Alice Mary Phelan, b 8 Feb 1890 Cambridge MA. In 1913 she was a stenographer in Cambridge MA. She married 2 Feb 1913 in Cambridge MA to Richard Aloysius Keefe Jr., son of Patrick J. & Caroline J. (Doren) Keefe. Richard A. Keefe was inspector for the U.S. Customs Service at Boston MA for 27 years. They lived at 161 Butler Road. He was a member of Quincy Lodge of Elks and the Boston Customes Inspectors’ Association They had children: 1) Richard B. Keefe of Norwell MA who m. Alberta M. Ellis and had ch Richard William and Dennis Joseph. Richard B. Keefe was associated with the Edison Company in 1939. 2) William D. Keefe, associated with Supreme Markets in 1939, and of South Weymouth in 1969.
4. John Aloysius Phelan was b 3 April 1893, WWI Draft Registration from Cambridge MA. He m. 27 July 1933 in Exeter NH to Meredythe W. Jones, daughter of Charles H. & Florence (Sampson) Jones. In 1940 they were living in Cambridge MA where John was a “plumbing boss” and they had daughter Meredith Jacquelyn (b 1933). His brother Maurice was living with them.
5. Katherine F. “Catherine” Phelan, b. 20 Oct 1897 in Cambridge MA, and died before 1955 in Milford NH She married 3 April 1928 in Wilton NH (Catholic) to Leo D. Flanagan, son of John W. & Margaret (Gainey) Flanagan. He was b. 30 Nov 1901 in Milford NH, and d. 21 March 1968 in Phoenix Arizona. He lived most of his life in Milford NH, occupation mason, retiring in 1961. They had children: 1) Maurice P. Flanagan who lived in Boulder CO, and Leo William Flanagan who graduated from St. Anselm College and m. 1955 to Marion Louise O’Neil, daughter of Robert O’Neil of Norwood MA. In 1968 they lived in Twentynine Palms, California.


Milford in the Great War. Memorial Book, by Milford N.H. Memorial Book Committee. 1922

Editor’s Note: this story is part of an on-going series about heroic New Hampshire men and women of World War I.  Look here for the entire listing].

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4 Responses to New Hampshire in WWI: The Phelan Sisters of Milford

  1. Amy says:

    It’s sad that it took war for men to realize how competent women really are!

    • Janice Brown says:

      It was more than the war though that was a factor. I give credit to all the women who fought within the political systems to get the legislation passed. We read about the most famous, but there were so many more unsung heroes, women who suffered to get us the right to vote.

  2. Pingback: New Hampshire World War I Military: Heroes of The Great War | Cow Hampshire

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