Saturday, June 12, 2010

In Memoriam: Francis H. Duffy & Bridget Ann Loftus Duffy

The June 2010 GYR “scavenger hunt” blog carnival prompted me to start my own scavenger hunt for information about the people who lay beneath some of my favorite gravestones. My interest in grave stone research began with the question of how individual identity is depicted in a public space through grave stones and memorials but until now, I hadn’t sprung the cash necessary to access some of the more extensive online archives in a search for answers.

My birthday gift to myself this year was membership in© which has given me access to volumes of information including census information, city directories, military records and digitized microfilm of the Bangor Daily Whig & Courier newspaper. This has afforded me an opportunity to conduct primary research from the comfort of my home office during hours that the physical archives of the Bangor Public Library, University of Maine Special Collections, Maine Historical Society, Maine State Archives, and the Bangor Museum and History Center are not available.

In this “In Memoriam” series of blogs, I will start with only photographs of grave stones I find interesting or attractive—owing exclusively to my own personal taste—and do my best to search out information about the identity of the individual or individuals memorialized in a quest to answer how individual identity is depicted in the public space of a cemetery.

Francis H. Duffy and his wife Bridget A. Duffy

This white marble grave marker, located in Mt. Pleasant Catholic Cemetery, Bangor, Maine, depicts a combination of architectural features from the Gothic revival movement that started in the 18th and culminated in the 19th Century in America. The impact of Gothic revival in Bangor can still be seen in the architecture of buildings surviving from the mid-19th Century. As lumber barons and merchants cultivated their wealth, elaborate homes built in the latest architectural styles became a means of telegraphing business success, affluence and social standing. So the question becomes, does this broadcasting of success through architecture translate to gravestones that feature popular architectural styles of the era?

The well-carved Duffy stone depicts an unusual combination of Carpenter Gothic-style wings framing a lancet (blind) arch, supported by Byzantine-style Corinthian columns with acanthus leaf capitals. The apex of the arch is ornamented with a trefoil, theoretically symbolic of the Holy Trinity. The names of the dead are located within an arched door that features bilateral notches appearing mid-way in the doorjamb.

Above the arched door, the stone features an intricately carved floral arrangement that includes not only a sheaf of wheat—symbolic of full harvest and resurrection—and a fern frond—symbolic of sincerity—but also two delicately executed Iris blooms. The Iris blooms, if interpreted as fleur-de-lis can represent love and passion. As Iris, the flowers are symbolic of protection. While I have seen many similar stones depicting either ferns or wheat, this is the only stone I’ve found to date that combines these three symbols in such a fresh, energetic and flowing, almost living, artistic arrangement. Certainly execution of the carving itself is owed to the craftsman who wielded the chisel, but what does the stone communicate about the individuals interred below?

Who were Francis H. and Bridget A. Duffy?
As any genealogist can tell you, learning details about the lives of women in the printed record is difficult as emphasis in the earliest centuries of American history was placed on men and men’s activities. As a result, the information I cite here about Bridget Ann Loftus Duffy is in relation only to her marriage to Francis H. Duffy.

Francis H. Duffy was born in 1828 in Ireland, the son of Patrick Duffy and his wife, Bridget A. Francis’ father, Patrick, was born in County Monaghan, Ireland. His mother, Bridget, was born in County Mayo, Ireland. The small family of three immigrated to the United States, arriving July 7, 1835 in Passamoquoddy, ME when Francis was age 12. In 1835, the route for Irish immigrating to Bangor was by foot along the Airline Road, now known as Route 9.1 On April 23, 1868, Francis became a Naturalized American citizen.

On August 3, 1846 at the age of 18, Francis married Bridget Ann Loftus, also age 18, in Bangor. Bridget Ann Loftus was born in Ireland and immigrated to the United States. Three years later, the couple gave birth to their first child, Mary Ann Duffy, on September 10, 1849. The child died on February 10, 1885, during a trip to Ohio. A complete list of the Duffy children follows:

Mary Ann Duffy, born Sept. 10, 1849; died Feb. 10, 1885 in Ohio
Thomas Duffy,
born 1851, Bangor
Edward A. Duffy,
born Feb. 28, 1855, Bangor; died Aug. 12, 1890, in Seattle Washington
William Duffy,
born 1857, Bangor, died Aug. 12, 1890
Margaret Duffy,
born 1859, Bangor
Isabella Duffy,
born 1859, Bangor
George F. Duffy,
born Mar. 16, 1866, Bangor
Charles Duffy,
born April 6, 1868, Bangor
Frank Duffy,
born August 1878, Bangor

According to the 1850 United States Federal Census, Francis Duffey [sic] was then age 22, living in Bangor with wife Bridget Duffey [sic], age 21, Mary A. Duffey [sic], age 2, born 1848 in Maine and Ellie O’Hara, age 17, born about 1833 in Ireland. Duffy’s occupation was listed as “gardener” in 1850 census and all subsequent years of the United States Federal Census in which his name appears. In 1850, his holdings were valued at $400, and both Duffy and Bridget were identified as being able to read and write. By 1870, Duffy’s holdings increased to $2000 and his household retained Isabella Morrissey, age 14, as a domestic servant, while the Duffy children Edward, William, Isabella and Ellen all attended school.

Exploration of the Bangor Daily Whig & Courier quickly revealed that Francis Duffy was not simply a gardener, but was a horticulturalist and founding member, officer and executive committee member of the Bangor Horticultural Society. Duffy’s gardening business was, in reality, a profitable greenhouse located on Court Street in Bangor. Duffy advertised his greenhouse with prominent listings appearing annually in the Whig and Courier during the late winter, early spring months.

The advertisements appear nearly identical year after year, with line art illustration of a pedestal garden urn and the headline: MAY DAY At Court Street Green House. F. H. Duffy will hold a Ticket Sale of Choice and Valuable Plants, on May 1st. Tickets shall be numbered so as to correspond with the numbers on the pots, which will give every one a fair chance to draw one plant, but in addition to that I shall put up three large Prizes. The first shall consist of eight plants, the second six and the third four. The plants, which I shall offer, will consist of Azalea indicas, Cinerarias, Fuchsias, Geraniums, Heliotropes, Moss Roses, many varieties, Salvias, Antirrhinums, Bengal, Tea, and many other very choice Roses. Also, fifty choice Prairie Roses, with many other fine plants. No Verbenas, Pansies, Daisies or Cheap Plants, will be offered in this sale. Tickets 25 cents. Green House open at 5 o clock and will keep open all day. Francis H. Duffy, Florist.

As a member of the Bangor Horticultural Society, in September 26, 1861, Duffy exhibited his skills as a gardener and florist, winning in contests for the best and largest display of first premium vegetables, $5.00 prize; best two nectarines, $2.00 prize; largest squash, .50 prize.

By 1900, the Duffy children were marrying and moving on. Oldest son Thomas gained early work as a joiner while daughter Elizabeth married Thomas F. Conners, born in New Brunswick, who worked as a moulder and founder. In the 1900 census, the Duffy household included only Francis and Bridget, both recorded as age 72, and bachelor son Frank whose occupation was listed as “gardener.” As Frank took over the Court Street Green House, Francis retired, being listed as “unemployed” for three months at the time of the census.

Two years later, Bridget would die in March 1902. As Bridget preceded him in death, one can speculate that it was in fact, Francis who selected the white marble gravestone that now stands in Mount Pleasant Cemetery. Would it then be Francis who identified with the luxuriant style of the Gothic revival stone or did he choose the style to reflect Bridget’s own taste? Almost certainly, Francis, a knowledgeable horticulturalist, can be credited with the choice of the elegant, eternal floral arrangement and the symbolism of wheat, ferns and Iris. On December 24, 1908, Francis followed his Bridget to the grave and the stone he selected to memorialize both their lives, thankfully free from vandalism, still serves its quiet duty 102 years later.

1Mundy, James H. 1990. Hard Times, Hard Men: Maine and the Irish 1830-1860. Scarborough, ME: Harp Publications.


  1. Kimberly,

    My name is Sheri Fenley and I have the "Meet A Rabbit" column over at the Graveyard Rabbits. I would love to feature you and your blog. Please contact me at:

  2. Kimberly,

    While researching my family history I came across your blog. I believe Francis H. Duffy & Bridget A.Duffy to be my maternal great x3 grandparents. This is amazing information. I had come across the May Day ad and just today I came across the article on the Horticultural Society. Your blog has provided me with his parents names among other areas of information that I otherwise may not have discovered. My many thanks for this amazing information. If you wish to contact me, I can be reached at

    My sincerest appreciation,

    Carolynn Hartman

  3. I believe Ellen was my maternal Great Grandmother. She may have been married to a Penney. My name is Gary Just.