The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Tales of Calvary

with 14 comments

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hallowmas, or All Saints Day, is coincident with the running of the NYC Marathon’s tumult laden course. The secular spectacular merely whets the appetite of your humble narrator for the open skies and sacred vantages found along those unhallowed backwaters of an urban catastrophe called the Newtown Creek. Calvary Cemetery– dripping in centuried glory- sits incongruously in an industrial moonscape stained with a queer and iridescent colour. It’s marble obelisks and acid rain etched markers landmark it as a necropolis of some forgotten civilization.

Today, I determined to ignore the psychic effects of the graveyard, which are both palpable and remarkable. Resolving to climb to the highest point on this Hill of Laurels, my aim was to discover whose grave would occupy such a socially prominent spot. Secretly, I hoped to discover some celebrity or famous mobster’s resting place. Instead I found the O’Brien’s.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Let me mention, before I begin this vulgar display of information gathering and dissemination, that this was hard won knowledge. If anyone has additional info they’d like to share, please contact me.

The difficulties one encounters when using modern search services to inventory a common personal or place name, especially ones that might overlap a mediacentric figure or location whose modern incarnation has obliterated all other definitions, are numerous. In the case of one William O’Brien, a VERY common name, narrowing things down is a daunting task. O’Brien died in New York City, apparently, as He’s buried in Calvary. O’Brien is an odd spelling of a common hibernian nomen, and indicates a certain direction to look toward. Still, finding an Irishman who died in 1846 New York wouldn’t be easy. I kept looking, slavishly.

Who was William O’Brien?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I went down the list of names, searched with quotations, ampersands, and “or”s. Tacked on the “died xx, xxxx”. Nothing. “Disappeared from history”, thought your humble narrator, “Balderdash!”.

A couple of leads on the O’Brien patriarch William seemed to point to a career in finance and politics, but the O’Brien in those stories was some kind of Irish nobility, and that just couldn’t be right. These people were buried at the top of the hill in Calvary, but there’s no way that an Irish noble was going to be buried in Queens. My searching did turn up a potential address for the O’Brien clan, in Manhattan at 19 Washington Square North, via this link to an obituary page for Robert, from 1902 at Concurrence found.

– photo by Mitch Waxman


In the 1840s, New York’s elite established Washington Square, far from the increasingly commercial environment of downtown, as the address of choice. Anchored by the mansion of William C. Rhinelander at the center of Washington Square North, “the Row” of Greek Revival town houses on either side of Fifth Avenue presented the unified and dignified appearance of privilege. When the epicenter of New York society moved north after the Civil War, the houses on the square came to represent the gentility of a bygone age. Henry James, whose grandmother lived at 18 Washington Square North, brilliantly depictedly this nostalgic view in his 1881 novel, Washington Square.

By the time Abbott photographed the venerable houses at the northwest corner of the Square, Old New York’s foothold was slipping. Although not built until 1952, an apartment house was planned in 1929 for the Rhinelander properties, east of nos. 21-26, and shortly after Abbott’s photograph, nos. 7-13 were gutted and renovated as apartments. The photograph documented the beauty of the old facades but also revealed incipient change. Nos. 22 and 23 (center) were shuttered with “for sale” signs affixed to them. At the west end of the block (left) was the 16-story Richmond Hill Apartments. The leaves of a tree in Washington Square Park, softly framing the left and top edges of the photograph, give a romantic air to this otherwise sharp-focused view of fading elegance.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When searching for the combined term William O’Brien and Robert Pardow, this 1901 pdf at the Library of Congress turned up. William O’Brien Pardow? Who was Robert Pardow, and again- who was William O’Brien?

William O’Brien Pardow was the key to this conundrum… and away we go…


THOUSAND MOURN FOR FATHER PARDOW; Women and Children Weep During Funeral Services for the Noted Jesuit Priest. ALL SEVERELY SIMPLE Poverty and Humility, to Which the Order Is Pledged, the Keynote — Four Bishops Present.

When Archbishop Farley began the low mass for the repose of the soul of Father William O’Brien Pardow in the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola, in East Eighty-fourth Street, yesterday, every seat in the edifice was filled, the aisles were crowded, and thousands stood for hours outside the church to see the coffin bearing the beloved rector of the Jesuit Church borne to the hearse…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The name Pardow is an anglicized version of a family name that indicates both a Norman heritage, and long service to the French as part of the Irish Brigades. The original family name is reported as either “De Par Dieu” or “De La Pore”. The first Robert Pardow arrived in New York City in 1772 with his wife and six children. Her name was Elizabeth Seaton, and the family business they started would be the first Catholic newspaper published in the City, called the Truth Teller. He had two sons, Gregory and Robert. Both studied with the Jesuits in England. Gregory became a member of the Society of Jesus, and Robert returned to New York’s social elites and died in 1882.

Robert was married to Augusta O’Brien, daughter of William O’Brien. And, it was “that William O’Brien”, as it turns out. The kings of Ireland, it seems, lie in Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is actually where everything goes off on a crazy train.

The O’Briens of County Clare are a troublesome lot, given to displays of heaven shaking martial prowess, if the mood suits them.

Legendary foemen of the English Crown, they have gathered unto themselves vast power and influence which continues to the present day. The hereditary title of the Chief of the Name is “the O’Brien, Marquess of Thomond and Baron Inchiquin”. They’re also the direct descendents and heirs of Brian Boru, the semi legendary King of Ireland.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

William O’Brien, 2nd Marquess of Thomond and the Baron Inchiquin, forfeited his title and came to New York around 1800 for political reasons. He started a banking house, supposedly located at no. 58 Wall Street (modern no. 33), with his brother John. He married Eliza(beth) and had an undetermined number of children. Augusta was his eldest daughter, and the family story follows her union with a young and recently returned to New York Robert Pardow- on its unyielding journey toward the emerald devastation of Calvary Cemetery, here alongside the noisome Newtown Creek.

from wikipedia

In 1847, faced with cholera epidemics and a shortage of burial grounds in Manhattan, the New York State Legislature passed the Rural Cemetery Act authorizing nonprofit corporations to operate commercial cemeteries. Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral trustees had purchased land in Maspeth in 1846, and the first burial in Calvary Cemetery there was in 1848. By 1852 there were 50 burials a day, half of them the Irish poor under seven years of age. By the 1990s there were nearly 3 million burials in Calvary Cemetery, the cemetery was also used for the film The Godfather for the funeral of Don Corleone.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Pardow’s had two boys and three girls- William, Robert, Julia, Pauline, and Augusta.

The matriarch of the clan, Eliza, survived her husband William by 36 years and died in 1882. She even survived her daughter Augusta, who died in 1870.

Click here for a description of Eliza’s funeral in 1882 at the NYTimes. The Mass was led by her grandson- William O’Brien Pardow, S.J.- now a firebrand Jesuit orator- and was attended by one archbishop, 2 bishops, and Mayor Grace– amongst others.

from wikipedia

Opposing the famous Tammany Hall, Grace was elected as the first Irish American Catholic mayor of New York City in 1880. He conducted a reform administration attacking police scandals, patronage and organized vice; reduced the tax rate and broke up the Louisiana Lottery. Defeated the following year, he was re-elected in 1884 on an Independent ticket but lost again the following year. During his second term, Grace received the Statue of Liberty as a gift from France.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Of the five children, 4 joined the Roman Catholic clergy, and all attained high office in their various devotions. Robert and William joined the Jesuits, sisters Pauline and Augusta (junior) joined the Society of the Sacred Heart. Both sisters became Mother Superiors, and William became an ecclesiastic rock star in the days of the Third Great Awakening. His sister Julia remained “in the world”.

That Julia had children, or that this branch of the O’Brien clan persists, I cannot confirm.

As a note, their uncle- Gregory Pardow– who had become a Jesuit whilst his brother Robert was courting Augusta O’Brien- was the founding Rector of the first Catholic Church in Newark N.J. – St. John’s.

from wikipedia

The number of Roman Catholics in Continental United States increased almost overnight with the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, the Adams-Onís Treaty (purchasing Florida) in 1819, and in 1847 with the incorporation of the northern territories of Mexico into the United States (Mexican Cession) at the end of the Mexican American War. Catholics formed the majority in these continental areas and had been there for centuries. Most were descendants of the original settlers, dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries, benefiting in the Southwest, for example, from the livestock industry introduced by Jesuit priest Eusebio Kino in 1687. However, U.S. Catholics increased most dramatically and significantly in the latter half of the 19th century and the early 20th century due to a massive influx of European immigrants from Ireland, Italy, Germany (especially the south and west), Austria-Hungary, and the Russian Empire (largely Poles). Substantial numbers of Catholics also came from French Canada during the mid-19th century and settled in New England. Although these ethnic groups tended to live and worship apart initially, over time they intermarried so that, in modern times, many Catholics are descended from more than one ethnicity.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The grandson of a great man, William O’Brien Pardow distinguished himself in his vocations. He offered spiritual retreats to clergy and commoner alike, and attendants often remarked on the priest’s incisive intuition and razor sharp rhetorical skills which made him the center and arbiter of conversation. He made the rounds of polite society, and often spoke at parlour meetings of  the social elite. Many of the references I found about him were on Society pages, located a blurb or two below discussion of Mrs. Vanderbilt’s latest scandals or gossip about the scandalous meetings of Dutch Cotillion Societies.

Quoting freely from the 1879 edition of a Justine Bayard Cutting Ward biography of William O’Brien Pardow, grandson of William O’Brien found at

“The lives of men are written,” said Father Pardow, “their biographies press down the shelves of our libraries, yet when you have read the biography of the greatest of men, what do you know of the man himself? You know what this, that, or the other man thinks about him, but you know nothing of the real life of that man, nothing of his interior life which the eyes of God alone can penetrate. About that life you know absolutely nothing.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pardow had an interesting mind, and focused on education in many of his sermons. He preached an eleventh commandment “Thou shalt learn to read and write” as the cure for society’s ills.

Again, quoting freely from the 1879 edition of a Justine Bayard Cutting Ward biography of William O’Brien Pardow, grandson of William O’Brien found at

William Pardow came of a race of warriors, the O Briens of County Clare. Many an ancestor had fought and died for a principle, and from Brian Boru, the warrior king, down through the centuries, the military tradition keeps recurring in almost every generation. Among the officers of the Irish Regiments in the French army we find the names of many an O Brien, bearing the proud titles of Marquis of Thomond, Earls of Inchiquin, and Barons Burren. When in 1800, William O Brien sought the New World, he did so as the result of an unselfish struggle for a principle. Pure patriotism had led him to identify himself with the cause of the United Irishmen; as a result he for feited his title of Inchiquin, sold his property, and set sail for New York. There he established a successful banking house, but though the ocean lay between him and his beloved country, he never  wavered in his loyalty to his own people and their cause, and it is characteristic of the man that when, many years later, he was offered the agency of the Bank of England, the loyal Irishman would have none of it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The family business was finance- and as I’ve mentioned earlier in this post- references to no. 58 Wall Street as the address for it, which- I am told- would correspond to the modern numbering n0.33. That would put it on or near the site of the modern New York Stock exchange. If anyone reading this has any information on the O’Brien banking operation that they can share, please contact me, as it’s a missing piece of this particular pie.

And again, quoting freely from the 1879 edition of a Justine Bayard Cutting Ward biography of William O’Brien Pardow, grandson of William O’Brien found at

Many a man or woman is defeated by ease who would have flashed forth under persecution with the heroism of the martyr. In the more complex struggle against the imperceptible encroachment of a lax moral code, Augusta Pardow stood firm. She brought up her children with almost military discipline, grounding them firmly in the nobler qualities which such training brings out, courage, obedience, and devotion to a cause outside of self. She needed no punishments, it would appear, to enforce her will, for her children realized from the first the principle of authority and its source. It was a point of honor to obey.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The world of the O’Brien’s was sketched out by novelist and next door neighbor Henry James, check out ephemeralnewyork’s post on James here.

And one last time- quoting freely from the 1879 edition of a Justine Bayard Cutting Ward biography of William O’Brien Pardow, grandson of William O’Brien found at

The framework of his active life may be outlined with a stroke of the pen. It has but slight signif icance. The scene of his early experience and early mistakes was the Church of St. Francis Xavier, where he was appointed on his return from Europe. In 1884 he was made socius, or secretary to the provincial; in 1888, instructor of tertians at Frederick, Maryland; in 1891, rector of St. Francis Xavier s College in New York City; in 1893 he was appointed provincial of the Maryland- New York Province and held the position until 1897, when he was attached to Gonzaga College in Washington as professor of philosophy and preacher in the church, going from there to St. Ignatius Church in New York. In 1903 he was once more appointed instructor of the tertians, this time at St. Andrew-on-Hudson near Poughkeepsie. In July, 1906, he was elected delegate from the province to the general congregation at Rome, which met to elect a new General for the Company of Jesus. While in Rome, he fell ill, but recovered sufficiently to take his place in the congress. Upon his return to the United States a few months later, he was attached to the Church of the Gesu in Philadelphia; in the autumn of 1907, was made rector of the Church of St. Ignatius in New York City, where a little over a year later he died.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hey, you never know what you’re going to find out here, at Calvary Cemetery.

Who can guess all there might be, buried down there, in that poison loam which is the heart of the Newtown Pentacle?

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 9, 2009 at 2:08 pm

14 Responses

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  1. […] storage and processing, illegal and legal dumping, sewer plants, waste and recycling facilities, cemeteries. The borders of the Newtown Pentacle’s left ventricle are festooned with heavy industry and […]

  2. […] dick)- just know that the shot was chosen for either its odd qualities or historical significance (like the O’Brien monument in Old Calvary), or because it’s a beautiful piece of sculpture that was chosen to illustrate the esthetic […]

  3. […] Tales of Calvary 1 – The O’Briens […]

  4. […] and seem to be weathering well, but discovery of iconic and unique statuary in the tradition of the O’Brien or Doherty monuments at First Calvary eludes me in […]

  5. […] won’t find the grandiose tombs or obsequious monuments to the famous on this side of First Calvary. This is where the “regular people” are […]

  6. […] storage and processing, illegal and legal dumping, sewer plants, waste and recycling facilities, cemeteries. The borders of the Newtown Pentacle’s left ventricle are festooned with heavy industry and the […]

  7. […] to in the past. St. Michael’s needs to be checked in on, as a full moon has just passed. Calvary demands inspection, as well as the distaff hinterlands of that lugubrious waterway called the […]

  8. […] storage and processing, illegal and legal dumping, sewer plants, waste and recycling facilities, cemeteries. The borders of the Newtown Pentacle’s left ventricle are festooned with heavy industry and the […]

  9. […] 19th century New York. Here lies the Newsboy Governor, the “Original Gangster“, and the rightful heirs to the throne of Ireland rest within the ground consecrated by the legendary prelate called “Dagger John” […]

  10. […] Atop Calvary Cemetery’s tallest hill is the O’Brien- Pardow Memorial. Patriarch William O’Brien, an Irish immigrant in the Revolutionary era, was a prominent financier, and his grandson, William O’Brien Pardow, was a prominent Jesuit NYC churchman. Let the Newtown Penticleer fill in the minute details. […]

  11. […] lie kings, gangsters, soldiers, governors, and the huddled masses whose yearnings carried them to this […]

  12. […] never know who you might run across at Calvary Cemetery. The Original Gangster, a King of Ireland, the Abbot, or even the Newsboy Governor. This is where Tammany Hall lies, dreaming but not dead, […]

    • A John and a Joseph O’Brien are listed both as “Banker and Broker” at 58 Wall Street in the Biographical Directory of the State of New York 1900 Pages 343,344 – related?

      There is a disposition of Robert O’Brien’s estate (Died May 17, 1902) leaving money to Father Tom Ducey of St. Leo’s and Father William O’Brien Pardow S.J. in the NY Tribune 25 May 1902.

      Thank you for Robert’s NYT Obit lead, different than another I found, yours has more detail.

      Am interested in these interconnections – of this upper tier of gilded age Micks whose families got in on the ground floor of NYC long before the Irish Famine and ruled through Tammany for nearly a century.

      Thanks for your info above. Very interesting stuff.


      October 25, 2014 at 5:39 pm

  13. It is possible that the same name William and the same date of death is pure numbers – coincidence. The Peers of Ireland I believe would have had to be Protestant and would not be buried in Calvary. Second Marquess line lost title to next male in family line, his uncle – 2nd Marquess had no sons just daughters. FYI:


    October 25, 2014 at 7:41 pm

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