O'Brien Pictures
Shared by Michael W.

From Michael:
My family began in Louisiana when Dennis and new wife Ellen Kanaley O'Brien landed at Louisiana riverfront in 1852 on way to St. Louis. John Allen saw great-great grandfather O'Brien wearing white overalls and assumed he was a stone mason and offered him work.  He, wife and friends the Kanaley's disembarked and made Louisiana home forever more.  At one time, Dennis' son, Dennis Jr., bought large home just outside Louisiana on Frankford Road, shown in 1875 Pike County Atlas as "home of ....Sharpe" for a time before moving back to 620 N. 7th Street.
My great grandfather O'Brien had blacksmith shop at one time and other relatives also ran such shops.   [Below you will find] a document which is a transcript of an article written by a Louisiana Press Journal reporter in 1911 upon interviewing my great-great grandfather O'Brien, the oldest man in town at that time.  I believe his story, now almost 100 years old itself, is quite interesting.

Louisiana Press-Journal, Louisiana, Missouri
Thursday, November 23, 1911





He Furnishes the Press-Journal With
a Sketch of His Life

Passing up Seventh street on day last week a Press-Journal representative observed this gentleman walking briskly as is his custom without a cane, and as erect as most men at 50 going like he was sent on an errand. Presently he opened a gate and entered the home of a friend, Wm. Kling. We followed him into the house bent on getting “a bit of a sketch” as he afterwards called it -- a brief autobiography. And here it is:

I am the son of Thomas O’Brien and Mary Powers, the oldest of 10 children, 8 sons and 2 daughters. My parents lived in County Waterford in the southeastern part of Ireland where I was born, August 15, 1817. I grew up to manhood in my native country. When I was 29 years of age -- that is in 1846 -- I left Ireland for America. A great many people were coming over then with a view of bettering their condition in (life) and I thought from all I heard that America was a good country to come to and I haven’t changed my opinion on that subject yet. 
My father and one sister came with me. James Kanaley and one of his sisters came at the same time, but on a different ship. Kanaley and I landed in New York about the same time. The ship I came over on was a staunch vessel, the Mary McKendre, named for an English lady. It was a sailing vessel and we kept the sails up ready for every wind that blew, and sometimes we were carried along in the right direction and sometimes blown far out of our course. We were seven weeks and three days coming across the Atlantic. It was the ship’s second voyage and strange to relate, I never again heard of that ship although I lived in New York six years and was frequently at the docks. Whether she foundered at sea on her next trip or was transferred to some other line or trade I never could learn.
We landed in New York in August, 1846, father, sister and myself, and James Kanaley and his sister, all in good health and high spirits.
I worked at whatever my hands found to do. I found plenty of work in one of the suburbs of that city, called “Yonkers on the Hudson” for the next six years. Yonkers is now a part of Greater New York City and known as the wealthy and aristocratic part of that great metropolis. I dug wells in that suburb and Captain Jeans, a real estate owner, offered me two lots if I would dig a well for him. I didn’t dig the well. I didn’t think the lots were worth that much labor. Had I done so, however, and held on to my lots in that famous suburb, “Yonkers on the Hudson,” I should have been a wealthy man 40 years ago. Such is life in this western world that we never know what is in store for us.
At the end of six years, I determined to try my fortune still farther west. But before starting from New York I got married. We had a sort of double wedding -- I married James Kanaley’s sister, Miss Ellen Kanaley, and he married my sister, so you see we were double brothers-in-law.
Well, we four started west in company, first up the Hudson to Albany, from there by rail to Buffalo, thence across Lake Erie to Detroit and from there by rail to Chicago. This was in 1852, and Chicago was not much of a place then. It was no place for a laboring man. We stayed there one day and a night, and then left on a canal boat for LaSalle, Ill., and from there to Rock Island by wagons. It was a slow and tedious trip, but we were full of hope that something better would turn up when we reached our destination, which was to be somewhere or in some town on the Mississippi. From Rock Island we came by boat to Quincy and after one week spent there without finding employment we took a boat for St. Louis intending to make that our final stopping place.
While our boat was at the levee here at Louisiana, John W. Allen saw me in my white overalls and supposed me to be a stone mason came on board and offered me one dollar and fifty cents a day and steady employment. That was good wages in those days and I agreed to work for him. And so we all left the boat Kanaley and I and our wives and came ashore to find our permanent homes for all time. I became a citizen of Louisiana in the fall of 1852 and have been here ever since, 59 years ago last October. I have seen many and wonderful improvements in this town since that day I landed here.
I worked for John Allen several years and then with Thos. Griffin and Wm. Kling. I think they were the best stone masons that ever worked in this town. Then I worked for Daniel Draper in the pork packing business, and never worked for a better man. Then with Squire Bill English in the brick laying business, and he built many of the brick houses that you see in this town. Then for 14 years I worked at the tobacco business for Cash, Henderson and Strange and for Thurmond too. I always tried to render full value in all my labor, whether at the stone work, brick work, in the packing house or in the tobacco factory. I gave my employer honest labor and full time.
Every man I suppose, at least every one that I ever talked with on the subject, would like to live to be old; and yet no man likes to be called old, even at the age of 90. I like to think that I am 94 years young. It makes a man feel better and enjoy it.
You ask me what I think of Tom Moore’s words: “O, would I were a boy again”. Well, I’ll tell you, Tom Moore was a countryman of mine, and I believe he was right, the sentiment is a good one. I wish I were a boy again. If I had my life to live over I would live differently from what I have lived. I’d save more money. I would learn a trade and save up for rainy days and for the evening of life. Every man needs money and needs it bad when he is no longer able to work and earn it. I would take better care of my health, too. I have exposed myself to bad weather and as a result have had pneumonia fever eleven times in my life. Drs. Bell and Pearson saved my life more than once. If I had not had an iron constitution, as they said, I should have died 20 years ago.
I have tried to be a good citizen all my life, and observe the law. I have been a man of peace, never in favor of war. I am a member of the Catholic church and have been for 90 years -- in fact all my life and expect to die in that church.
I am the father of 7 living children, 4 sons and 3 daughters. Two sons, as you know, Dee and John, live here; one in Jackson, Miss., and one near St. Louis. My oldest daughter is the wife of Michael Cramer, who lives on Bishop’s branch and whose farm joins that of the late Wm. A. McQuie. My daughter, Mrs. Cramer, is a grandmother and I am a great grandfather. My two youngest children, unmarried daughters, live with me, or rather I live with them at my home on the corner of Fourteenth and Kentucky street, this city.
I enjoy very good health for a man my age. My sight is tolerably good -- I recognized you when you entered the door. My hearing is not as good as it was, but I hear and enjoy your conversation very well. I am happy to say that I have no reason to complain. I am down town almost every day, unless the pavement is too slick and I rarely think to take my cane. I have a great faith in the future of Louisiana and her people.
May the old veteran’s kindly face be seen and his cheerful voice be heard among us for years to come.

Notes from Michael W., great-great grandson of Dennis O’Brien, Sr.:

1) This article is a critical source document for information regarding the history of the O’Brien family, both in Louisiana, Missouri and their previous residences in New York and Ireland.

2) The Wm. A. McQuie, mentioned by Dennis O’Brien, above, is a grand-uncle of M.F.S.*, currently (4/6/01) still living in Louisiana, Missouri. M.F.S.* is a first cousin of Rosella Mills O’Brien, wife of Dennis O’Brien, Jr., son of Dennis O’Brien, Sr., subject of the autobiography above.

3) As of 4/6/01, I cannot find reference to the ship, Mary McKendre, on which Dennis O’Brien, Sr., stated he immigrated to America. My research is continuing.

4) Dennis O’Brien, Sr,. lived in Dungarvan Parish, County Waterford, Ireland, before immigrating to America. It is not currently known if he was born in that parish. Dennis’ wife, Ellen Kanaley, came from Aglish Parish, County Waterford, Ireland, before emigrating to America. It is not currently known if she was born in that parish.

5) Dennis O’Brien states he came to America with one sister. That sister is unnamed and remains unknown, Honora O’Brien as well as her life after arriving in New York. Apparently, she did not migrate west with her brother. There could be another line of relatives originating from this sister. who married fellow immigrant and friend James Kanaley, becoming Honora Kanaley and migrating to Louisiana, Missouri, with Dennis and Ellen and who is buried in Catholic Cemetery, LA MO.

6) Dennis O’Brien stated he came to America with his father, Thomas O’Brien. No further mention of Thomas is made and details of his life, after arriving in New York, are unknown. Apparently, he did not migrate west with his son and daughter-in-law. Research on the fate of Thomas would be interesting.

7) Dennis O’Brien states he was one of 8 sons and 2 daughters of Thomas O’Brien and Mary Powers. No information is currently known on any of these siblings. Further research in Ireland is planned.

8) It should be noted that the O’Briens immigrated to America at what was probably the height of the historic Irish Potato Famine of 1846 and 1847. Dennis makes no mention of the famine or any specific reasons for emigration from Ireland other than to “better their condition”. Additional research in Ireland may provide interesting insight into the family and how they were affected by the famine as well as the fate of the eight siblings who did not emigrate, at least at the same time which Dennis O’Brien did.

9) Photographs of Dennis O’Brien, Sr., exist in the files of Michael K. W. Photographs also exist of the “original” O’Brien home on Fourteenth and Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, as stated by Dennis O’Brien, above. It is not known at what point this became the home of Dennis O’Brien, Sr., or any previous residences, if any.

10) The correct spelling of the name “Cramer”, as referenced above, is “Creamer”.

*Note: The complete name was replaced with initials to preserve the privacy of a living person.

I have obviously not updated those notes for several years.  Since then, I have found the following:

Per New York City Fed Census of 1850, Honora O'Brien did indeed marry James Kanaley in New York and actually gave birth to baby girl Mary shortly before Kanaley's and O'Brien's moved west to La Mo.  James Kanaley married my gggrandfather Dennis O'Brien Sr.'s sister, Honora, and Dennis O'Brien married James' sister, Ellen Kanaley.  The New York Fed Census document shows James and Honora Kanaley (Cannaly) having just married and living in a boarding house with as yet unmarried Dennis, Sr.  I can't find similar reference to Ellen Kanaley (O'Brien to be) at this time - she may have lived in another house.    All are buried in Catholic Cemetery out on Georgia.  Again, sorry for the old notes.

As Dennis O'Brien, Sr. states in the article, he and his sister, Honora, immigrated to New York, 1847, being the two eldest children, and their father, Thomas O'Brien, Sr., came with them.  I have found no records of Thomas Sr., ever leaving New York so we assume he died there before the two families migrated to La Mo.

At some point before 1860, Thomas Sr.'s wife (mother to Dennis and Honora) Mary Power O'Brien, immigrated to US and came to Louisiana to join her children.  Mary proudly states her full name on her monument in the Catholic Cemetery.  Again, Thomas the husband seems not to have been around any more.  We assume additional children joined Mary in Louisiana, Mo.    We have information that these additional children included:
Thomas, Jr., who is buried with his MOTHER, Mary Power O'Brien, in the Catholic Cemetery.  In Louisiana, he married a Johanna Minahan, who moved to St. Louis after Thomas' death in 1888.  There are plenty of Minahan/Minihans in Louisiana - working on them.
Laurence/Lawrence - who we believe is the Lawrence also buried in Catholic Cemetery with wife, Alice unknown.
Patrick - again, who we believe is the Patrick also buried in Catholic Cemetery with wife Bridget Doyle.
John - only the baptism record from Ireland - John O'Briens buried in Louisiana are related descendants.
Mary - same as above.  Don't know if she came to Louisiana and if so, what is married name.
Timothy - same as above.  No US records.

So, adding back Dennis, Sr. and Honora to the above, that gives us eight of the ten children of Thomas and Mary Power O'Brien.  We have no information on the other two.

You may want to note that one of Dennis Sr.'s children, Mary Ellen, married a Michael Bernard Creamer, another Irish immigrant, in Louisiana.  The Creamer family was also quite large.

obrien_3222.jpg (50020 bytes)

...two young men standing in front of their home originally built by C W Sharpe, Frankford Road, Louisiana, Missouri - this photo circa 1915 shows Harry and George Randall O'Brien (sons of Dennis O'Brien, Jr., owner of home in photo).  Lady in doorway of home is their grandmother Catherine Spalding Mills (in-law of owner Dennis O'Brien, Jr.)  See Pike County Atlas 1875 for lithograph of this home.  This home is literally within shouting distance of North 7th Street.  

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I have enclosed a MapQuest screenprint of the approximate location of the Sharpe (1875)/ OBrien (1900-1920) home, ARROW below.  The RED STAR is 620 N 7th Street to where Dennis OBrien, Jr., moved his family and the home which I purchased in 1983 upon the death of his daughter, Catherine OBrien, sister of two men in photo, but gave up in 1993.

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...from almost the same location (known as "Fernwood Farm") as #3222 but looking away and northeast at the drive that leads to the OBrien home.  It is an a tranquil, near utopian place, then and even to this very day.

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...of same Dennis OBrien, Jr., standing in doorway of his blacksmith shop (he called it "horse shoeing) somewhere in downtown Louisiana, circa 1919.  We do not know the exact location of this shop but Dennis is listed in 1900 and 1910 Federal Census (Louisiana, Mo) as "blacksmith" and I possess a few relics of his shop.

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Dennis O'Brien, Sr., the immigrant and man who started the O'Briens in Louisiana.

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Scans of actual LPJournal article from 1911 giving biographical account of and from interview with Dennis O'Brien, Sr.


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Recent photo of tombstone of Dennis O'Brien, Sr.. as it looks today in Catholic Cemetery, Louisiana, Missouri. Son Dennis, Jr., is buried a few feet away.




© 2000 Rhonda Stolte Darnell