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Rose Divider Bar

The manufacture of jewelry has in all ages been regarded as one of the fine arts, appealing, as it does, strongly to the artistic sense, and cultivating while it gratifies the taste for the beautiful. For a period of thirty years the late P. F. O'Connell, whose death occurred at the home of his brother at Audubon, while on a visit there, on July 15, 1903, at the early age of forty-seven, devoted himself to this art with industry and enterprise, and the city of Atlantic was the scene of all the labors of his mature life and his creditable public services. In that long period he saw great changes in the locality of his home and in his business. Atlantic grew from a village into a city, exchanged the dim lights of other days for electric brilliancy, and passed from the pastoral sounds of rural life to the hum of busy industries. A thousand styles in jewelry and plate came and went; but with all the mutations of taste and fashion he kept pace, and met the new demands with new designs. He was a native of Marion county, Ohio, born on March 9, 1856. His parents, John and Margaret (Doyle) O'Connell, first saw the light in County Clare, Ireland, and came to the United States in 1849. The father was a coal operator and followed the industry for a number of years, then turned his attention to trade and opened a grocery in Des Moines, which he conducted until his death in that city in 1863. His family comprised three sons and one daughter. Two of the sons and the daughter are living.

P. F. O'Connell came overland to Iowa with his parents when he was but two years old. He grew to manhood in Des Moines and was educated there. At the age of sixteen he was apprenticed to a jeweler, and after learning his trade worked at it in Des Moines until 1877, when he came to Atlantic and entered the employ of A. D. Hill, doing journey work for him until August, 1881, when he became a partner in the establishment. In 1889 he became sole owner of the business, which he continued to conduct until his death. He was prominent in local public affairs, serving as a member of the School Board for six years, four of them as its chairman, and for some years before his death was a member of the City Council, dying while in this position. He prospered in business, and in 1898 showed his faith in the future of Atlantic by erecting the O'Connell block, which is one of the imposing business structures of the city.

On November 2, 1882, the deceased was united in marriage with Mary E. Fox, a native of Winterset, Iowa, whose parents were very early settlers in Cass county. Mr. and Mrs. O'Connell were the parents of four children, one of whom died in infancy andn three are living -- John F., Florence M. and Edith F. The father was a member of the Masonic fraternity, in which he attained to the Mystic Shrine, and also belonged to the Order of the Elks and the Modern Woodmen of America. His religious affiliation was with the Catholic Church, and in politics he supported the Republican party during the closing years of his life. After his death his widow and son, John F., reorganized the business under the firm name of the P. F. O'Connell Co., in which it is still carried on by them.

John F. O'Connell was born in Atlantic on March 13, 1884. He obtained his education in the public schools and at the State University. He also pursued a course of special training in watchmaking at the Horological School, in Peoria, Ill. He is a skillful mechanic, a young gentleman of fine artistic taste, and an excellent business man, and it is therefore not to be doubted that the establishment he has in charge will continue on the same high plane of progressiveness and merit it has hitherto occupied. In addition, as he is agreeable and popular socially, and exhibits an earnest interest in the welfare of the city and county, his father's example of elevated and patriotic citizenship will be fruitful in his own life.

From "Compendium and History of Cass County, Iowa." Chicago: Henry and Taylor & Co., 1906, pp. 456-458.

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