left to right: Arthur, Gregory and William Desmond
At the Dorchester Historical Society, we are in the process of a year-long project to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of World War I. Using a collection of photographs we have of World War I Dorchester residents, we will be featuring soldiers in a number of short biographies throughout the year. At the culmination of the project, we hope to produce an online exhibit which highlights these men and their service to our country.
Our next biography features three brothers: William, Arthur, and Gregory Desmond
William, Arthur, and Gregory were three of 10 children born to John and Annie (Quinn) Desmond. John was born in Dorchester but Annie was a Canadian immigrant, from New Brunswick. William John was born on October 6, 1893, Arthur Francis was born on November 27, 1894, and Gregory Timothy was born on January 8, 1900. William was born in East Boston, but by the time Arthur was born, the Desmond family was living on Sturbridge Street in the Lower Mills neighborhood of Dorchester, now known as Mattapan. John was working as a butcher and Annie stayed at home with the children.
William registered for the draft on June 5, 1917 when he was 24 years old. His draft card lists him as a ship carpenter at George Lawley & Sons in Neponset and is described as a tall, stout man with dark hair and blue eyes. He had already served as a private in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. According to his service record, William enlisted in the National Guard on April 10, 1917 and deployed to Europe on September 26, 1917. While in Europe, he participated in a number of engagements: Champagne-Marne, Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne, Chemin des Dames, Toul-Boucq, Pas Fini, Rupt, and Troyon. He was honorably discharged in April of 1919.
Arthur also registered for the draft on June 5, 1917. He was 22 years old and his occupation is listed as “plumber;” working on Washington Street in Boston for a V.A. Bolger. He is described as a tall, slender, young man with brown eyes and black hair. According to his service record, he enlisted at the Boston Navy Yard on June 29, 1917. He served on the U.S.S. Charleston as a plumber for almost a year, he was then transferred to a receiving ship at Norfolk, Virginia where he stayed until November 11, 1918. He was honorably discharged at the end of his enrollment period on June 28, 1921.
Gregory enlisted in the United State Navy at the Navy Recruiting Station in Charlestown on January 25, 1918. He was 18 years and one month old and entered as an Apprentice Seaman. His service record indicates that he was home awaiting orders for one month until he was sent to the Naval Training Station in Newport, Rhode Island during February of 1918. From there, he was sent to serve on the U.S.S. Arkansas from March 1918 until the end of the war in November of 1918. When the United States entered World War I in April 1917, the U.S.S. Arkansas was assigned to Battleship Division 7 stationed in Virginia; it’s primary responsibility was to patrol the East Coast and train gun crews. However, in July 1918, the Arkansas was sent to England and joined the Grand Fleet – the main fleet of the British Royal Navy. He was discharged as a Second Class Seaman from the Boston Receiving Ship on May 21, 1919.
After the war, William returned to Boston and is found living with his parents until his marriage to Esther Gray in 1920. William and Esther moved only two houses down to number 20 Sturbridge Street and had two children – William, born in 1923, and Virginia, born in 1926. According to United States Census records and Boston City Directories, William worked as a carpenter. William died on January 20, 1976 at the age of 82. His obituary indicates he was a veteran of World War I and had five grandchildren and three great grandchildren at the time of his passing.
Arthur had already been married a year by the time he was discharged from the Navy. He married Catherine Burke on November 11, 1917 and she appears to lived with her parents while Arthur was in the service. When Arthur returned from the war, he moved in with his in-laws on River Street in Mattapan. Arthur and Catherine welcomed their first child, a daughter named Josephine, in 1921, and Arthur Jr. was born in 1926. According to the 1930 census records, Arthur and Catherine have moved to nearby Duxbury Street and are living there with their two children. Arthur is working as a plumber for the City of Boston’s Public Works Department. Arthur died suddenly on August 28, 1959 at the age of 64. His obituary lists him as being a loving husband, father, and sibling. He was the late past president of the Saint Gregory’s Holy Name Society and a Past Grand Knight of the Dorchester Lower Mills Knights of Columbus Council #180.
Gregory went on to marry and start his own family as well. He married Louise Noonan in 1924 and went on to have seven children together. Like many other men in the Lower Mills neighborhood, Gregory was employed by the Walter Baker Company where he worked as a millwright. Gregory and his family remained in Dorchester and were parishioners of Saint Gregory’s Church until their deaths. Louise died in 1962 and Gregory passed away on October 29, 1969 at the age of 69. His obituary indicates he was a late member of the Lower Mills V.F.W. #8699.
Do you know more about the Desmond brothers? We would love to hear from you! All material has been researched by volunteers at the Dorchester Historical Society, so please let us know if we got something wrong or you think a piece of the story is missing!
Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2010.
Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2002.
Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2012.
Ancestry.com. Massachusetts Birth Records, 1840-1915 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA:
Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2013.
Ancestry.com. Massachusetts, Death Index, 1901-1980 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA:
Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2013.
Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2011.
“Desmond” obituary, Boston Globe, 30 Aug 1959.
“Desmond” obituary, Boston Globe, 31 Oct 1969.
“Desmond” obituary, Boston Globe, 22 Jan 1976.
Military, Compiled Service Records. World War I. Carded Records. Records of the Military Division of the Adjutant General’s Office, Massachusetts National Guard.