John Edmund O'Brien
L- John E. and Decorah (Grattan) O'Brien & son
R- Henry G. and John G. O'Brien
John Edmund O'Brien, controlling an important and
representative business as a dealer in real estate in Waukon, was
born in Oneida county, New York, in 1860,and was one of nine
children born to Michael Smith O'Brien and Henrietta Alice
Jenkins, who emigrated from Ireland in the early '50s and were
married in Oneida county. They afterwards came to Iowa, settling
in Ludlow township, Allamakee county, where the father still
resides upon his farm.
John Edmund O'Brien was ten years of age when his parents came to Iowa. He worked on farms in this vicinity for several years and then engaged in carpenter work in various parts of the state, being employed in the construction of the buildings on the Illinois Central Railway between Onawa and Sioux Falls. Afterwards he spent two years working at his trade in Birmingham, Alabama, and Jackson, Mississippi, going from the latter city to Chicago, Illinois, where he assisted in the erection of the exhibition buildings at the World's Columbian Exposition and served for six months in the Columbian Guards. In the winter of 1893 he went to California and put up the Canadian exhibits at the Midwinter Exposition in San Francisco. Returning to Iowa, he established himself in the building business at Waukon and his ability becoming widely recognized, he soon secured a large and representative patronage.
Mr. O'Brien served in Company I, the Waukon company, Iowa National Guards, under Captain Gibbs, Nichols and Stewart. In 1898, a few days after the declaration of war with Spain, he went to Pensacola, Florida, and with Paul D. May, enlisted in the United States Navy for one year as carpenter's mate, first class. He served on the United States ships Tacoma, Lancaster and Cassius, under commanders Sutherland, Very-Perry, and Lieutenant Waters of Commodore Remy's fleet. At his own request and through Senator Allison's influence he received his honorable discharge at Norfolk, Virginia, at the close of the Spanish-American war. Returning home he studied law first at the Iowa State University and then at Drake University at Des Moines and was admitted to practice before the state and federal courts in 1900. In the following year however he turned his attention to the real-estate business and in this he has since continued, his patronage in Waukon being today profitable and important. He is known as an expert judge of land values and his opinion has come to be regarded as an authority on matters of this character. He is resourceful, far-sighted, capable and energetic and his sagacity is far-reaching and his integrity beyond question.
At Medord, Oklahoma, March 19, 1903, Mr. O'Brien was united in marriage to Miss Decorah Grattan, a daughter of Henry G. Grattan, a pioneer in Allamakee county and for many years one of the most prominent citizens in this part of Iowa. He was born at New Haven, Oswego county, New York, June 28, 1826, and was of English descent, a son of Amos and Abigail (Guyant) Grattan. The former, a blacksmith by trade, was born in Berkshire county, Massachusetts in 1797 and died in Ludlow township, Allamakee county, Iowa, June 2, 1889. In 1835 he took up a claim and built the first log cabin where Kenosha, Wisconsin, now stands. He was for fifty years a member of the Baptist church and voted with the first organization of the old abolitionist party. He fought in the War of 1812. His wife, who was in her maidenhood Abigail Guyant, was born September 8, 1794, in Caterbury, Connecticut, and died in Ludlow township, Allamakee county in 1886. She was for a time the only white woman in Kenosha, Wisconsin. One child was born to the union of Mr. and Mrs. Amos Grattan-Henry Guyant.
Henry Guyant Grattan was for many years well known in agricultural and journalistic circles of the middle west and as a leader in many public movements of a progressive and constructive character. He founded and published the Janesville (Wis.) Gazette, the Mt. Carroll (Ill.) Mirror and the Sterling (Ill.) Gazette. He also did considerable literary work after coming to Iowa, but in this state was chiefly interested in scientific agriculture, in the promotion of which he was one of the greatest individual forces of his time. He was a member of the board of trustees of Iowa Agricultural College and took a great interest in the work of that institution, organizing several new departments, among which may be mentioned that of domestic science. His own farm in Ludlow township was a practical exemplification of his theories and was one of the best equipped and most scientifically managed in the township.
Henry Grattan was married three times, first to Jane Trask who died in 1849, then to Phoebe Jane Tisdel, who died in 1865, and to Rosanna Russell who survives him. She was born in Shefford, Canada, and is of French and English parentage, the daughter of Francis and Susannah (Griggs) Bryant. Previous to her first marriage which united her with Franklin Russell who was killed in the Civil war, Mrs. Grattan engaged in teaching. She was married to Henry Grattan on the 9th of December, 1865. Henry Grattan's children are as follows: Marvin Trask, born in Janesville, Wisconsin, in 1848; Jane, who was born in Freeport, Illinois, in 1851; Orlando Tisdel, born in Mt. Carroll, Illinois, in 1855; Bertha, born in Ludlow township, in 1868; John ,born in Ludlow township, in 1869; and Decorah, the wife of the subject of this review. The last named was born at Waukon, Iowa, December 20, 1871, and acquired her education in the public schools of the city, in the South Dakota Agricultural College and at Drexel Institute, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was a teacher of Domestic Science for several years at Toronto, Canada, in St. Thomas Alma College and at Buffalo, New York. Mr and Mrs John E. O'Brien have two children: Henry Grattan, born April 2, 1904;and John Gordon, born January 23, 1908.
Mr. O'Brien is today one of the well known business men of Waukon, for he possesses as salient elements in his character, the energy, resourcefulness and sound judgment necessary to business success. His associates respect his integrity and honor and his straightforward dealings and his many sterling traits of mind and character have gained for him the esteem and confidence of a wide circle of friends.
-transcribed by Cathy Joynt-Labath
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