John McCullough is one of New Bedford’s native sons who exemplify the best in her citizenship, the foremost in her business and social life, a type of the intelligent and progressive element which has contributed so largely toward making New Bedford what it is today. He was born in that city July 9, 1858.
The McCullough family is of Irish extraction. Patrick McCullough, grandfather of John McCullough, was a native of the parish of Altacamicussey, County Tyrone, Ireland, where he lived and died. He followed farming. He married Mary Conway, who was a native of the same county, and their son, John McCullough, was born on a farm in Altacamicussey, County Tyrone, June 15, 1821. There he grew to manhood, and what little education he received was obtained in the local school. Meantime he worked at farm labor and also obtained some knowledge of the mason’s trade. He there married about 1845 Alice Devlin, who was a native of the parish of Pallough, County Tyrone, and daughter of Michael and Annie Devlin. In the spring of 1847, with his wife and an infant son, he sailed for the New World, making the trip on a sailing vessel bound for New York. After a passage of six weeks they landed at that port, where they remained three months, during which time they lost their first-born, the infant son mentioned. Mrs. McCullough having a brother, John Devlin, in New Bedford, the young couple came on to visit him and it was in New Bedford they spent the rest of their days. Here Mr. McCullough took hold of the first thing that came along to make a living, finding work on the construction of one of the first cotton mills in New Bedford. He continued at that kind of work until 1855, when he branched out in other lines, starting first in the junk business at No. 24 Center street, later removing to Nos. 19-20 North Front street. It was there he established himself permanently and continued to do business the rest of his life, in time assisted by his sons Michael (who later died) and John, the latter becoming his successor. Mr. McCullough, by his keen foresight, his honesty of purpose and square dealing, made a success of his enterprise and built up a very large and comprehensive business. Besides his original line, the junk business, he was also largely interested in the whaling industry, and was the first of his nationality in New Bedford to engage in that line. He was the agent and part owner of seven whaling ships, the bark “Peru,” brigs “Varnham H. Hill” and “E. P. Phillips,” bark “Minerva,” schooner “Charles W. Morse,” ship “Emma C. Jones” and bark “Sea Queen.” He continued to follow the business all through his active life and made a success of his ventures. He found time to interest himself in the public affairs of New Bedford and was first among the men of his nationality and religion that held office in New Bedford under the old system. As a member of the board of over-peers of the poor, member of the council, and alderman, he gave highly efficient service to the community. He was first elected a member of the common council in 1870, in Ward Two, was reelected in 1873 and 1874, and in 1880 was elected alderman from the same ward and re-elected in 1882. Public affairs received the same attention he gave to his business, and the city had the benefit of the best that was in him. When he undertook to do anything it was natural for him to give his best energies to its accomplishment, and he usually found a way to carry whatever he began to successful completion. He made his home on Purchase street, where he died Dec. 9, 1893, at the ripe age of seventy-two years. He was laid to rest in St. Mary’s Catholic cemetery. Politically Mr. McCullough was Democrat of the old school and lived up to the principles of his party. He was not only a man of sterling worth, honest and honorable in all his dealings, but he had a kindly and sympathetic nature which won him many sincere friends. He was one of the pioneer Irishmen and Catholics in New Bedford. When he first came to the city there was no church of his faith there, mass being said in a private house on Allen street. He was among the first to start the movement to form St. Mary’s parish, which is now St. Lawrence parish, and was a liberal contributor to all religious and charitable objects. He was one of the first organizers of the St. Lawrence Total Abstinence Society of New Bedford and filled the office of president. For the most part self-educated, and self-made in the best sense of the word, he started life poor, among strangers, and by his industry and strict honesty won his way to the front, so living that he retained the respect and esteem of everyone who knew him. He had intelligent views on the real value of the best things in life, and he lived up faithfully to his obligations and principles. Mrs. McCullough died Aug. 31, 1893. After nearly a half century of wedded life they were not long parted in death – less than four months. She was a devoted wife and mother, a consistent member of the Catholic Church. They were the parents of children as follows:
- Patrick McCullough, who died young, in New York
- Mary A. McCullough, who married Daniel Kelleher, of New Bedford
- Michael F. McCullough, who died at the age of twenty-eight years (he married Mary Maxfield)
- Sarah McCullough, unmarried and residing in New Bedford
- Eliza McCullough, who is now the widow of Thomas Forrester and resides in Boston
- John McCullough, Jr.
- Alice McCullough, deceased, who married Jeremiah R. Kelley
- Annie McCullough, who died at the age of twenty-two
- Emma B. McCullough, wife of John J. Sullivan, residing in Boston
- Helena G. McCullough, living at borne.
John McCullough, Jr., son of John and Alice (Devlin) McCullough, received his early education in the public schools of New Bedford, principally the old Griffin, Maxfield and Parker street schools. Later he went to the New Bedford high school, St. Laurent College, at Montreal, and Holy Cross College, Worcester, Mass., where he won several gold medals. Returning to New Bedford he went into business with his father, learning all the details of his affairs. He continued with his father until the latter’s death, when he bought the business from the estate. It has since been carried on under his exclusive management, with increasing success, at the same old stand, and to the original lines followed by his father Mr. McCullough has added scrap iron and metals, cotton and cotton waste, being today the largest dealer in his line in New England. He is largely interested in several enterprises outside of the State, being agent and part owner of the Crefeld Waste & Batting Company, of Saylesville, R. I.; is interested in and agent in New Bedford for the South Atlantic Waste Company, of Charlotte, N. C.; and is also interested in and agent in New Bedford for the L. A. Lockwood Company, Phillipsdale, R. I., converters of cotton goods. Like his father he is heavily interested in the whaling industry, as ship agent and owner and agent of the bark “President” and schooner “Charles W. Morse,” named after the well-known banker and ice king of New York. Mr. McCullough handles a million dollars and more annually in his business transactions, which he conducts, however, in a quiet way, without any ostentation or pretensions whatever. He is a keen business man, a judge of men and a reader of character, straightforward in all his dealings, and has shown his aptitude for commercial life from an early age. He had the advantage of excellent training under his father. The late Jonathan Bourne (who was one of New Bedford’s successful business men) said one time in referring to John McCullough: “This young man will be one of the most successful business men and some day will forge to the head of the city.” A man of enterprise and progressive ideas, Mr. McCullough is untiring in his efforts to carry out plans he has formed, and has a capacity for accomplishing much without making any display.
Politically Mr. McCullough is a staunch Republican, a strong supporter of the principles of the party as laid down by McKinley, Roosevelt and Taft. In 1896, when William McKinley received the nomination for the presidency, Mr. McCullough was grand marshal of the New England delegates that went to Canton, Ohio, to notify him of his nomination. He has also been the orator of the day on two or three occasions at Fourth of July celebrations in New Bedford. In 1905 he received the nomination of his party for chief executive of New Bedford, which he modestly accepted, and he made a clean fight against his opponents, but was defeated by the People’s ticket. In a speech at the meeting ratifying Mr. McCullough’s nomination one of the speakers said in part:
“We have named for our standard bearer a man who is a link between the old and the new industrial growth; wide-awake, successful to a marked degree, combining business and executive ability, qualities that will insure to our city an administration of its affairs second to none in its history, an amiable, honest and faithful man, a true American – John McCullough.”
Mr. McCullough is a member of the Plymouth Club, Dartmouth and Wamsutta Clubs, of New Bedford, the New Bedford Yacht Club and the New Bedford Country Club; of the Alumni of Holy Cross College; of the New England Cotton Manufacturers’ Association, and of the American Irish Historical Society. He is the loyal son of a loyal Irishman. Personally he is a man possessed of many attractive qualities, being affable and having a kindly disposition and sympathetic nature, which have gained him a high place in the estimation of his fellow men of all classes and creeds. It is in his home that his true nature is best reflected. He has given his children many nice advantages. The beautiful home of the family, on South Sixth street, was originally the Kilburn homestead. He is a consistent member of the Catholic Church.
On Nov. 22, 1884, Mr. McCullough married in New Bedford Annie Jane Laurentia Briggs, who was born at Dighton, Mass., Jan. 21, 1862, daughter of Oliver H. and Jane Maria (Borden) Briggs, and died at her home Jan. 5, 1902. She was a convert member of St. Lawrence Catholic Church, and was laid to rest in St. Mary’s cemetery, New Bedford. Mrs. Mc Cullough was a woman of artistic temperament and cultivated taste, fond of music and works of art, and a great lover of nature. Her devotion to her home, her husband and her children was pronounced. To them she devoted her best thought and energies, and her life was an ideal one. Mr. and Mrs. McCullough became the parents of the following named children:
- Alice Anthony McCullough, born Sept. 23, 1885, was educated in the public schools of New Bedford, Friends’ Academy, New Bedford, and Sacred Heart Convent, Elmhurst, Providence, R. I.; she is a pianist of ability.
- Annie Beatrice McCullough, born July 29, 1887, has received similar educational advantages, and like her sister is an accomplished young lady.
- John McCullough, born Dec. 30, 1889, attended the elementary and high schools of New Bedford and Holy Cross College, at Worcester, Mass., and is now associated with his father in the business.
- Bertha Brady McCullough, born Jan. 21, 1891, died in July, 1891.
- Gertrude Kent McCullough, born May 6, 1892, attended the public schools of New Bedford, Friends’ Academy, New Bedford, Sacred Heart Convent at Elmhurst, Providence, R. I., and St. Leonard’s Convent, Philadelphia.
- Byron Hayes McCullough, born Sept. 26, 1897, is a student in the high school.
Mrs. McCullough was descended from some of the oldest and most notable New England families, among them the Briggses, Goffs and Bordens. The Briggs family can be traced back as far as 1637.
(I) John Briggs, of Sandwich, Mass., was the first known representative. He died there in 1641. He had a wife, Katherine, and two children
- Samuel Briggs
- Sarah Briggs
(II) Samuel Briggs, son of John, married, and had children:
- Elizabeth Briggs, born in 1665
- Ruth Briggs, in 1667
- Ebenezer Briggs, in 1671 (died in 1727)
- Samuel Briggs, in 1673
- Hannah Briggs, in 1675
(III) Ebenezer Briggs, born in 1671, son of Samuel, married and settled at Dighton, Mass. His death occurred in 1727. His children were:
- John Briggs, born in 1720
- Samuel Briggs, born in 1721, who died in 1807
- Ebenezer Briggs, born in 1722
- Mary Briggs, born in 1724
(IV) Samuel Briggs, born in 1721, son of Ebenezer, married Mary Pitchley (born in 1721, died Oct. 9, 1823, aged 102 years), and had children:
- Samuel Briggs, born July 29, 1745, who died in 1823
- Elizabeth Briggs, born Nov. 5, 1746
- Jemima Briggs, born March 14, 1750, who died in 1842
- Hannah Briggs, born Sept. 2, 1752
- Abiezer Briggs, born March 27, 1753, who died in 1849
- Abner Briggs, born Oct. 25, 1755, who died in 1841
- Ruth Briggs, born July 18, 1757
- Roby Briggs,born May 4, 1760, who died in 1829
- Zebedee Briggs, born in February, 1763, who died in 1833
- Eliakim Briggs, born Jan. 18, 1765, who died in 1852. Samuel Briggs, the father, died in 1807
(V) Zebedee Briggs, son of Samuel, born in February, 1763, died Feb. 23, 1835 (1833?), in the town of Dighton. We find in the record of soldiers and sailors who fought in the Revolutionary war that Zebedee Briggs, of Berkley, was a private in Lieut. Abiel Whitmarsh’s company, Col. Thomas Carpenter’s regiment, enlisted July 29, 1780, discharged July 31, 1780; service three days, at Tiverton, R. I., on an alarm; was also private, Capt. Elijah Walker’s (Seventh) company, Col. John Hathaway’s Bristol County regiment, Brig. Gen. Godfrey’s brigade, marched to Tiverton, R. I., on alarm of Aug. 2, 1780; service, seven day’s; also private Capt. Daniel Drake’s company, Col. Luke Drury’s (Bristol county) regiment, enlisted Sept. 3, 1781, arrived in camp Sept. 11, 1781, discharged Dec. 6, 1781, arrived home Dec. 16, 1781; service two months, fourteen days; marched to North River.
Zebedee Briggs married in Bridgewater, Mass., Prudence Hill, of Bridgewater (intentions of marriage published at Dighton, Mass., Oct. 30, 1790). Children:
- Joseph Davis Briggs, born June 30, 1791
- Lydia Briggs, June 21, 1793
- Rocksolane Briggs, March 8, 1796 (died Sept. 7, 1800)
- Darius Briggs, April 24, 1798 (died Sept. 15, 1800)
- Alice Briggs, March 24, 1800
- Ebenezer Briggs, July 4, 1801
- Roxalena Briggs, April 5, 1803
(VI) Ebenezer Briggs, son of Zebedee and Prudence (Hill) Briggs, born in the town of Dighton July 4, 1801, married Nancy Goff, of Rehoboth, a descendant of one of the oldest families of that ancient town. They had a large family, among whom was Oliver H.
(VII) Oliver Hill Briggs, son of Ebenezer and Nancy (Goff) Briggs, born in West Dighton June 4, 1834, was a ship carpenter by occupation and worked for some time in the navy yard at Charlestown. He made his home in Dighton for some time and later moved to Taunton, where he had charge of the cattle show grounds for ten years. Later he was engaged in New Bedford at his trade a 5; ship carpenter for a number of years, subsequently worked at his trade in East Providence, R. I., and from there went to the Pacific coast, locating at Ballard, in the State of Washington. There, too, he followed ship work, and spent the remainder of his life at that place, passing away in March, 1907; he is buried there. During the Civil war Mr. Briggs enlisted and did service as a volunteer. On Nov. 24, 1860, he married Jane Maria Borden, born Aug. 26, 1842, at Barrington, R. I., daughter of Thomas Borden and a descendant of one of the prominent families of Rhode island and southeastern Massachusetts. Mrs. Briggs died Dec. 18, 1880, and is buried at Dighton. Children:
- Annie Jane (Laurentia) Briggs, born Jan. 21, 1862, married John McCullough
- Victoria A. Briggs, born March 7, 1861, died Oct. 7, 1864
- Bertha A. Briggs, born Feb. 21, 1871, is mentioned below
- Charles P. Briggs, born June 1, 1877, died aged six years, ten months, one day
Miss Bertha A. Briggs, the only living member of the family of Oliver H. Briggs, after the death of her mother made her home with her sister, Mrs. John McCullough, who reared and educated her, and in whose family she has since remained.