Revere is home to Horatio Alger, noted author of books that tell of the rise of people from rags to riches in fiction. However, for a local family the storyline is just as true.
It all started when James McChristal, the patriach of a promient family arrived in Revere in the middle of the 19th century after being orphaned in Ireland. One of his descendants then rose to the top public service office in Revere City government. TheMcChristal family is a true bootstraps story that played out in Revere – with a strong push to success from the Revere Police Department.
Recently, to honor that piece of Revere family history, the son of late City Clerk Joe McChristal presented the Revere Police Department with a historic plaque in honor of family friend and fallen Revere Police Officer Joseph ‘Teddy’ Moretti – who was killed in the line of duty 40 years ago on Sept. 24th.
Last week, Jim W. McChristal – who is a National Park Service Enforcement Ranger in Utah – was in town to make the official presentation to Chief Joe Cafarelli in honor of the McChristal family and Moretti. The plaque displays pictures, a family history and actual RPD badges from McChristal family members going back to 1903.
“This was just a real nice story and there is some incredible history here regarding the Revere Police Department and my family’s role in it,” said Jim McChristal. “We wanted to share it and make sure it was in a place where everyone could see it. We also wanted to dedicate it to Joe Moretti, who was my Dad’s best friend. When he was shot, it was just such a tragedy for their family and for ours. We thought making the presentation on the 40th Anniversary of his shooting was appropriate.”
Coming From Nothing
James McChristal was a 15-year-old orphan living in Dungannon, County Tyrone, Ireland when he decided to flee his home sod and sail to Boston to start his life anew.
In 1863, he landed in Boston as the Civil War raged through the country. Being unemployed and needing a job, he lied about his age and was able to enlist and get a foothold in the new country. In the 20th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry of the Union Army, he saw actions in historic battles such as The Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, Petersburg and Appomattox.
When he was mustered out in 1865, he landed at the Navy Yard in Charlestown.
“He ended up being a blacksmith there at the Navy Yard, welding anchor chain all day long in the worst of conditions,” McChristal said of his great grandfather. “My dad told me he was a bear of a man, just huge from working so hard for so long with tongs and a hammer. He was living in Chelsea at the time, and I guess an opening came up on the Revere Police, and he joined in 1903. I’m sure it was also hard work, but I’m also sure he was relieved to not be working in the Navy Yard anymore.”
He served on the Revere Police from 1903 until 1916, dying soon after his retirement.
While James McChristal was on the department, the family moved to Beachmont – Crescent Avenue – and McChristal’s son, James M., also joined the force after working briefly as a printer.
He served on the department from 1911 to 1933, giving birth to future City Clerk Joseph F. McChristal while working on the RPD and living in Beachmont.
Incidentally, James M.’s sister – Mary (McChristal) Mayo – was perhaps the first uniformed female officer in the City, serving on the department in the 1920s.
On the other side of the family, James M.’s wife had come from Buchanan, New York (the two having met in New Jersey during World War I). In that little town, James M.’s wife had a father, William Gilman, who was the police chief there from 1929 to 1965.
William Gilman’s son – William Jr. – also maintained a strong connection to Revere, having been a teacher at Revere High School and Garfield School from 1964 to 1999.
From the Station to the Hall
After the family pulled itself up from nothing via the Revere Police, the third generation saw Joseph F. McChristal graduate from Bentley School of Business and work at the First National Bank of Boston for some time. In 1938, though, Joseph F. returned to Revere City Government after being elected to the position of City Clerk by the City Council.
He held court there for decades, taking some time off to serve in World War II, before finally passing the torch to former Clerk John Henry in 1977.
During that time, the family moved to the Point of Pines, where they met Moretti and became very close to him.
“Moretti would come over in the summer and sit out on the lawn with us,” said James W. McChristal. “He’d tell the funniest stories about things that happened to him on the beat. He never told stories about the bad stuff, but only the funny stuff. Apparently, he had rescued a baby from ice-cold waters during a flood at Roughan’s Point in 1972, but he never told us about that. That was the kind of guy he was, just a wonderful, wonderful guy. He was my Dad’s best friend, and we all took it very hard when he got shot.”
Moretti had been responding to a call for a possible break at the Esquire Club on Lee Burbank Highway on Sept. 24, 1973. When he entered the establishment, which was closed, he was greeted with a shotgun blast to his head.
He entered into a coma and would never recover.
“It was just so devastating for Moretti’s family and his kids,” said Jim McChristal. “Teddy was a close friend of mine and my family. I wanted this unique piece of history to be dedicated in his name since we were all so close to him.”
Chief Cafarelli indicated that the department would shortly be putting the framed plaque in the lobby of the station for all to view.