A fresh look at Linden Street

A view of Linden Street, in front of Sacred Heart Church, looking north; virtually all of the houses were multiple-family dwellings. 143 Linden Street is the second building past, and beside, the church.

The slides my father took on my First Communion Sunday, 15 May 1966, in Fall River, Massachusetts, serve as a colorful time capsule of a bygone era. Sacred Heart Church, now closed, once covered the largest geographical parish in the center of the city. On that morning, more than 60 children, girls in white and boys in black, having fasted for twelve hours in preparation for communion, processed into church with disciplined precision. We returned to church in the afternoon to receive scapulars, prayer books, and rosaries, and then processed out of the church east along Pine Street for the May crowning.

I am the third boy from the left. Not long after the occasion, my mother stopped wearing church hats!

From first through fourth grade, as part of “Patrol Three Linden,” I walked four times a day to and from Sacred Heart School along five blocks of Linden Street. I knew almost everyone on that street, including three-generation families. As a six-year-old, I gave little thought as to who lived in these houses at the turn-of-the-twentieth century.

Fast forward to the present. Unresolved genealogical questions always simmer on the back burner. A missing death record remains a puzzle to solve. Consider the case of my Vermont-born father-in-law’s great-grandmother, Flavie Coté. In 1843, she married widower Michel Marquis in L’isle Verte, Québec, 286 miles northeast from Montréal. Flavie bore thirteen children over the next two decades. By the mid- 1860s, farm families like the Marquises could no longer wrest a living from exhausted soil, and they moved into the Eastern Townships, where in the 1871 Canada census Michel, Flavie, and several of their children were counted in the town of Durham, Québec. Michel Marquis died in 1882; his children widely scattered, often finding seasonal work in New England’s mill cities. Flavie has not been found in Canada’s 1891 census, a likely indication she was then living with one of her children in the United States.

Much to my surprise in 1900, I found “Fivali” Marquis living at 143 Linden Street in Fall River[1] — a house I had passed hundreds of times!

Flavie’s eldest daughter, thrice-widowed Melvina Adam, headed the household which included four daughters who worked in the mills. Mistakes abound in “Fivoli’s“ census line, including her age, off by four years; the number of years married; and the number of living and deceased children. Although Flavie and family lived a stone’s throw from Sacred Heart Church, they would have walked another mile to attend Mass at Notre Dame Church, the French-speaking parish in Fall River’s Flint Section.

Flavie and family moved again with the next year. She died on 15 March 1901 at 78 North Eighth Street, Fall River; her death certificate is notable in recording correctly her age, husband’s name, and parents Jacob Cote and Angelique Colombe.[2]

Flavie’s obituary, however, has a number of curious anomalies:[3]

Mrs. Flavie Cote, widow of Michael Moquin [sic], died at her residence, 78 North Eighth Street, at the advanced age of 84 years. She was one of the oldest residents of this city. She leaves a grown-up family most of whom are living out West. The funeral will take place tomorrow.

I don’t know of anyone in her family who went “out west,” but what a delightful discovery to have made that my French-Canadian Vermont family touched down in my old neighborhood.


[1] 1900 U.S. Census, Fall River, Bristol, Mass., E.D. 155, p. 5. At least four other families lived in the house.

[2] Mass. VRs, 1841–1910, 516:191. She is buried in Notre Dame Cemetery, Fall River.

[3] Fall River Daily Herald, 15 March 1901, 8.

About Michael Dwyer

Michael F. Dwyer first joined NEHGS on a student membership. A Fellow of the American Society of Genealogists, he is a contributing editor of The Maine Genealogist and The American Genealogist. His articles have been published in the Register, American Ancestors, and Rhode Island Roots, among others. The Vermont Department of Education's 2004 Teacher of the Year, Michael retired in June 2018 after 35 years of teaching subjects he loves—English and history.

10 thoughts on “A fresh look at Linden Street

  1. What an astonishing coincidence; and what incredible luck (skill?) you had in being to find and decipher the record. Congratulations on another interesting and insightful article!~

  2. This is so interesting to me as i have a number of ancestors from Fall River, down from Canada.

    1. Until the early 1960s, the predominant ethnic group in Fall River were French-Canadians. When I was a kid, the greatest number of last name entries in the phone book was Levesque.

      1. And that number did not include all the Levesques who anglicized their names. My (Welsh immigrant to Windsor, Vermont) 2d great aunt Elizabeth Beynon married William Bishop, son of Octave Levesque and Elizabeth Paradis of Stanstead, Quebec.

        William changed his name, but not his heritage. In one census, Elizabeth’s daughter by a previous relationship, Frances, is enumerated as Françoise.

        1. With a heavily French-Catholic presence in Fall River and parish schools at that time, few Levesques living there would have changed their names. While many families kept the original spelling, they adopted a more anglicized pronunciation.

  3. Lovely reading this entry for Vita Brevis. I, too, grew up in a Catholic Church with hats, First communion dresses, and even Latin masses for a little bit in the 60’s. And my mother’s maiden name was LeFrancois. Her grandparents had moved to VT in late 1800’s from Quebec. Her mother worked in one of the textile mills as well. Thanks again,

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