History & Descendants of Maurice & Mary Keif Summers
of Fall River, Bristol, Massachusetts
Submitted by Vincent E. Summers
I am a Summers descendant through John Summers, who married Ellen C. Kelly, in 1876 in a Catholic Cemetery in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. John, I was much surprised to find, had been born in Massachusetts. After much struggle, I was able to learn that Johnís parents were Maurice and Mary Summers of Fall River, Massachusetts. This partly matched family tradition in the name of the town, but not the state. This was no great surprise, as John Summers, I had been told, was from Wilkesboro, NJ, whereas he was really from the area near Wilkes Barre, PA! Incidentally, the surname has been changed in actuality, and probably by transcribers from time-to-time, back-and-forth, from Summers to Sommers to Somers, and once, even Simmers. For simplicity, I will use Summers.
I found, eventually, a number of census entries, with a lot of help from courteous volunteers. I list some of this information below:
1850 Fall River Massachusetts Census page 45 Family #707 [August]
Morris Summers 23 Laborer Ireland
Mary 26 Ireland
Michael 8/12 Massachusetts
1860 Schuylkill County PA
Morris Simmers 31 IRE miner
Mary 36 IRE
Michael 11 MA
John 8 MA
Catharine 3 PA
Bridget 1 PA
Schuylkill Township, North Pennsylvania 1870 Census page 448 PO Middleport, PA Family #49
Somers, Maurice 45 Miner IRE cannot read or write
Mary 45 Keeping house IRE cannot read or write
Michael 18 Underground Laborer PA
John 17 Above Ground Laborer PA
Catherine 15 PA
Bridget 13 PA
Mary Ann [age uncertain] PA
Martin [age uncertain] Above Ground Laborer PA
1880 LDS Transcribed Online:
Morris SUMMERS Self W Male W 53 IRE Laborer IRE IRE
Schuylkill, Schuylkill, PA
I was fortunate enough to stumble upon this website and information:
Book 1 Section 1
Fall River, Mass. Marriage Intentions
Book 1 - May 1843 to January 1850
Morris Summers & Mary Keif, both of Fall River, Feby 5
Now all of the above information is quite dry and unentertaining! But there are some interesting facts that may change all of that a bitÖ
I found my great-grandfather Johnís drowning death, quite abruptly and shockingly, in a Wilkes Barre newspaper. Newspapers of that time were quite dramatic and graphic. I post it, here:
Wilkes-Barre Record, Friday, 24 Jul 1885, p.  copied by professional genealogist, Norman Douglas Nicol, PhD.
ďDROWNED IN THE RIVER.
A Capsizing Boat at Plymouth Causes the Death of Two Men.
A sad drowning accident happened at Plymouth last evening by which two men lost their lives and two families were left in entire destitution.
The facts of the case as learned by telephone are about as follows:
About six o'clock a party of four men, all somewhat under the influence of liquor, started to row across the river from a point just above the steamboat landing. They had with them a keg of beer and it is presumed were going to have a little picnic of their own on the other side. All four resided in Plymouth. Their names were William Sanders, aged about 40, married with three sons: John Summers, aged about 34, married with four children: Brave Hanlon, aged 22, single and a man that goes by the name of Megdec, also unmarried.
How it happened is not known but when the boat was about half way across it was seen to capsize and the men were plunged into the water. There were only a few persons on the bank but the alarm was at once raised. The struggles of the drowning men could be plainly seen from the banks, and their agonized cries for help were born loudly to the shore. Several boats were at once put out to their assistance, but before help could reach them Sanders and Summers had sunk to rise no more. Hanlon and Megdec were good swimmers and managed to reach the shore in safety.
Sanders' body was recovered at once, but it was two hours before the body of Summers was recovered. It had gone to the bottom but was raised by the wash of a passing steamer. Sanders was a carpenter by trade, while Summers worked as a laborer in the Washington colliery. The Coroner was notified by telephone, and gave permission for the bodies to be taken to their homes in the lower part of town. He will go down and hold an inquest to-day.
Another account states that the names of the drowned were William Sanders and William Keefe, instead of John Summers as given above.Ē
Now you will notice one curious fact. John Summers was mis-identified as William Keefe. Or was this a mis-identification? In fact, no, as attested to by Johnís motherís maiden name, Keif! He was using an alias. His wife, too, Ellen, went along with the alias, she calling herself Ellen Keefe! Why?
Donít know. Perhaps to avoid the payment of certain bills or taxes? Perhaps because of Johnís occupation? I think it is at least possible, in view of the geography, the occupation of Anthracite-coal miner, and the exact timing, that John took an alias because of the Molly Maguires. Possibly. Or for some unknown reason altogether.
Whatever became of Johnís siblings? Why was Maurice ďabandonedĒ by 1880 by all his children? The girls I cannot say with finality. Perhaps one or more had wed and were still living in Schuylkill, but maybe, like John, the children had entirely left the county.
John had managed to have some five children before he drowned. One of them he named John J. That fellow moved to New Jersey, and took up working for the Shipyard. He died in 1953, when I was not yet five. John J. always went by Sommers, all his life. I include, below, a photograph of John J., so one can get a glimpse of the Summers stock. My father, the son of John J., looked quite like John J.