Almost all were native born young men between the ages of 25 and 35. Most were married (or soon to be) and most had started or were soon to start a family. Many owned their own homes but a few of the single members resided in the homes of their widowed mothers, others rented, were boarders, or obtained housing provided by their employment. They lived throughout the town, although a cluster of members lived downtown in the “tree streets”, Maple, Linden, Walnut etc. There was also a small contingent that lived in Newton Upper Falls. They pursued a wide variety of occupations, including: plumber, machinist, doctor, lawyer, druggist, store clerk, electrician, insurance agent, sewing machine and piano dealer, college freshman, chauffeur, dry goods salesman,
mason, railroad brakeman, special policeman, bookkeeper, carpenter, and mill worker. Of those married I found no record of any of their wives working outside the home. A dozen names of the charter members also appear on the Council’s Roll of Honor. It is believed that this list credits those who served in WWI but inclusion on the list does not mean actual service overseas as Needham had a significant Home Guard.
Once formed, the Council got right to work. They met on the first and third Tuesdays of each month at Kingsbury Hall on Great Plain Ave and meetings which began at 8PM would often adjourn after 10 or 11. The formation meeting’s first order of business was the election of officers and the second item was fundraising. The next meeting featured the installation of officers by Natick Council # 79 and then moved to the banquet hall for refreshments, music, and speaking. For many meetings to come the focus was on reports from the by-laws committee as they drafted by-laws and thrashed over the issue of dues. But it was not all work and no play for in an early meeting they voted to organize a baseball team and also to hold a Ladies Night “in the near future.” There was also charity to consider and in its first year there were donations made to Catholic University and the “Flood Sufferers” (the Mississippi had devastating floods in 1912).
They also purchased 50 hymn books. The only contribution to the local parish was the purchase of a half page ad in the parish’s Lawn Party program. Interestingly the legality of this motion was questioned at the next meeting but the motion to reconsider failed. In addition it was pointed out that Lawn Party volunteers from the Knights had to be approved by the pastor. Also in this first year a letter was sent to the chaplain requesting his attendance at meetings. All this suggests a degree of uneasiness between the pastor and the KofC. At this time St. Joseph’s was a mission of St. Mary’s in Newton Upper Falls (St. Joseph’s did not gain parochial status until 1917). Rev. Lapomarda S.J. in his history of the Massachusetts KofC says that Archbishop O’Connell has reportedly told his priests that “These Knights will lead you, but you cannot lead them. They are not susceptible of management.” Any disagreements were set aside in Feb. 1913 when an electrical fire caused the wooden St. Joseph’s church to burn to its foundation. At its next meeting the council expressed their sympathy to the pastor and subscribed $50 (most of its treasury) to the rebuilding effort.
Other programs mentioned in the minutes were a smoker ($7.00 spent on cigars), a presentation on the lives of Pope Pius X and Cardinal O’Connell, a talk by a Somerville brother about “our Great Concern”(?), a story featuring Water, Whiskey, and Worms, and a piano and music program. Singing was a regular feature of council meetings as the open and closing odes were sung by all. Despite their singing ability they decided not to put on a minstrel show that year.
As for outside activities it was reported that first, second, and third degrees were held at Dedham Council #234. As for outside presence the District Deputy was recorded as attending two meetings, while the State Deputy was at one.
The only other visitor of note was Massachusetts Secretary of State, Frank A. Donahue, a brother Knight from a Boston council and, I believe, a cousin of a Needham council member. Donahue, a Democrat, was elected Secretary in 1912 when the Republican vote was split due to the presidential contest between Taft and T. Roosevelt. (Of interest to some 4th Degrees the same election saw the election of Lt. Governor David I. Walsh.) As for politics all of our Needham members were listed as paying their $2 poll taxes and were qualified to vote. Only one, our Recorder, held town-wide elected officer as Assessor. It can be assumed that as Irish Catholics most of our members voted Democrat. Six of the founders were elected to the Democratic Town Committee, one was appointed the Democrat Registrar of Voters, and three were designated as Democrat tellers in the primary election. One member was elected to the Republican Town Committee in 1919, interestingly he had previously been on the Dem. T.C.
In October 1912 the council had a second election and the DGK was elected GK while most of the other offices remained the same (the first GK became Trustee). One of the last actions of this first year was the establishment of a building committee. Although a building wasn’t completed until the 1950’s we should still be very thankful for all that these 58 Catholic gentlemen accomplished. They laid the foundation for a council that a hundred years later is one of the best in the state and one that has outlived 30 of the 117 Massachusetts councils founded before it..
FR. DANIEL KENNEDY COUNCIL
The following is an excerpt from the 100th Anniversary Program for “Father Daniel J. Kennedy Needham Knights of Columbus Council #1611”, in 2012. It is a studied account of the Council’s early history. More information on the Council and its history can be found by clicking on the full Program which is in PDF Document form here.
Our Founding Brothers
On Saturday April 27, 1912, the Needham Chronicle published an unprecedented supplement complete with photographs reporting on a recent tragedy - the sinking of the Titanic. In that same issue under the Needham Notes section was this two sentence entry: ”Needham Council. Knights of Columbus, met last night in G.A.R. Hall. Much interest is being shown in this latest of Needham societies.” At this meeting with the assistance of Newton Council # 167 and Waltham Council #147 a Needham Council, soon designated #1611, was formed. Fifty-eight names are listed on the framed charter prominently displayed in the Council office; but a reading of these names tells us little about these pioneers.
It’s obvious from the surnames that they were overwhelmingly of Irish descent (further research would show that even those with non-Irish names most often had a mother who was Irish.) In that none of these original 58 are around to interview (I did speak to the 88-year-old son of the youngest charter member), Needham Town Reports, Federal Census Records, Draft Records, and other sources available at the Needham Library were researched to obtain a profile of these founders; the neat but sparse minutes of the meetings of the Council’s first year in the Council’s archives were also consulted.