Cornelius M. O’Brien

CORNELIUS O’BRIEN, farmer, Sec. 27; P.O. Oregon; born in Plymouth, Luzerne Co., Penn., March 15, 1839. His father, Michael O’Brien, was educated in one of the Dublin universities, married and came to New York City, where he engaged in business; from New York he went to Caracas, S.A. (see sketch of John O’Brien); Cornelius O’Brien attended school in his native county, and in 1853 came to Wisconsin; attended a select school in Brooklyn, and in 1861 bought 80 acres of his present farm; broke 30 acres and the next year 20 acres; bought 95 acres more in 1864, and settled on his farm in April, 1865.In 1868, the small grubs covering 25 acres of his land were cleared and the land broken up to 1875, Mr. O’Brien resided in what is now his granary, he that year building one of the largest and best farmhouses in his town, making a close examination of a number of recent build; he combined the best points of each in his own; the house is an upright and eighteen feet high, 18×28 and 16×26 respectively; the kitchen in 14x16x20; the whole painted, blinded and finished in the best manner; two carpenters worked fifty days on the inside finish.

Mr. O’Brien married Abigail, daughter of Michael and Mary Barry; she is a native of St. Lawrence Co., N.Y.; they have two children-Emmet S. and Emma F. Mr. O’Brien is a Democrat and a Catholics, as is his wife.

Ref. 1880 History of Dane County, Wisconsin, p. 1246.

Cornelius M. O’Brien is one of the pre-eminently successful farmers of the town of Oregon, a statement that becomes the more important when coupled with the fact that his success has been due to his own efforts aided by the good counsel and encouragement of a faithful helpmate.

Mr. O’Brien was born in Plymouth, Luzerne county, Pa., March 15, 1839, and his parents—Michael and Catherine (Murphy) O’Brien—were natives of Cork, Ireland, where the former was born in 1806 and the latter in 1808. The father was educated in one of the Dublin universities, then married and came to New York city, where he engaged in business. After some time spent in the American metropolis they decided upon a visit to Caracas, Venezuela, where an uncle of the mother lived, and they remained in the South American city a number of years, the father engaging in business there.

While they prospered in Caracas, the climate had a very deleterious effect upon the health of the wife and mother, and this caused them to return to New York where the father re-entered the mercantile business. The family fortunes were wrecked in the panic of 1837, and in 1838, a removal was made to a farm in Luzerne county, Pa., where the parents spent the remainder of their lives, the father being the first to pass away.

After his death the mother built a canal boat for her sons, and in its operation an income was received which supported the family, but in 1848 the home was again darkened by the death of the mother.

An elder daughter then took charge of the household and kept he family together, but in a few years she died and the home was broken up, an aunt taking the younger children.

The subject of this review attended school in his native county, and in 1853 came to Wisconsin with his elder brother, John O’Brien, with whom he had made his home after the marriage of the latter in 1851. They settled in the town of Oregon, Dane county.

Cornelius attended a select school in Brooklyn for a time, and in 1861 bought eighty acres of his present farm, breaking thirty acres for the plow that year and twenty acres more the year following. In 1864 he added ninety-five acres to his landed possessions and established his home on his farm in April, 1865, residing in a building which he afterward used as a granary.

In 1868, the small grubs covering twenty-five acres of his land were removed and the land broken, and in 1875 Mr. O’Brien built one of the largest and best farm houses in that locality. His next addition to his homestead was in 1895, when he purchased one hundred and five acres adjoining, but previous to this, in 1884, he purchased sixty acres in the town of Fitchburg, on section 8, and later, in 1889, he bought one hundred and forty-three adjoining, which makes his total landed possessions at the present time four hundred eighty-three acres.

This success has been achieved by giving his undivided attention and the employment of his unusual natural ability entirely to agricultural pursuits, and now in his declining years he looks back upon a well spent life, while the fruits of his early industry render him comfort and ease.

Mr. O’Brien relates that he was driving mules on a canal in Pennsylvania when he first saw a railroad train, hauled by the original engines of the Pennsylvania system, then operating only between Harrisburg and Philadelphia. These same primitive engines were exhibits at the Columbian Exposition at Chicago, in 1893, and Mr. O’Brien again had the pleasure of gazing upon them, but with different emotions, we dare say, than when they attracted his attention in his old Pennsylvania home.

In the O’Brien family there were ten children, and all but three of them are living, the exceptions being Margaret, Ellen and James, an infant. John resides in the town of Oregon; James resides in Wilkesbarre Pa., Joseph in Spencer, Clay county, Ia., the subject of this sketch is fifth in order of birth; Catherine is unmarried and resides in Dane county; Daniel resides in Lamars, Plymouth county, Ia.; Michael lives in the same place. Mr. O’Brien was married on January 4, 1876, to Miss Abigail Berry, daughter of Michael and Mary Berry, of St. Lawrence county, N.Y., and to this union there have been born four children. Emmet S. resides in the town of Fitchburg, and of the others, Philip G. and Louis R. reside at home and Emma T. is deceased.

Mr. O’Brien is a Democrat and he and his wife are members of the Catholic church.

Ref. 1906 History of Dane County, Wisconsin

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