Tama County Iowa Biographies

James O'Neill

From A History of Tama County, Iowa Vol II; Chicago: Lewis Pub. Co., 1910.

James O'Neill has long been numbered among Tama county's agriculturists and leading citizens, and although practically retired from an active business life, he yet resides on his valuable estate of one hundred and twenty acres in section 5, Carroll township. He arrived in Tama county on the 27th of February, 1865, and after spending the first year with Robert Blake in Howard township he bought eighty acres of land there, the west half of the northeast quarter of section 2. He improved his land and built what was known as the "Half Way House" between old Buckingham and Toledo, one of the historic places of Tama county. There he entertained over night many of the county's early settlers, particularly during the severe storms of those winters. That historic old place continued as his home until 1872, and two years later he sold the farm and came to Carroll township and to his present home.

Mr. O'Neill was born in Canada East on the 27th of July, 1832, a son of William and Abigail (Sherman) O'Neill. James O'Neill, his paternal grandfather, was born in the north of Ireland, but reared in the Protestant faith, and he came as a British soldier to Canada during his young manhood, and the land there which he secured from the crown was the home of both him and his sons. James O'Neill served his full time in the British army. During the early years of his residence in Canada he had to go to Lake Champlain to mill, a distance of twenty-four miles from his home and through the dense timber of those early days. He resided on that farm until his death, and there also the father and two aunts of the James O'Neill of this review passed away. But the land has since been sold. William O'Neill was born and reared on that Canada farm, and there he resided until his death in 1890, more than eighty years of age. He was a prominent farmer and a much respected citizen. Abigail Sherman, his wife, was born in Connecticut, probably of English descent, and she was reared in that state and lived there until her marriage, but she died at the old O'Neill homestead in Canada East. Both she and her husband were members of the Methodist Episcopal church. James was one of three children born to William and Abigail O'Neill and he is the only one living, Henry having died in Montreal and Selina died in Clinton county, New York.

James O'Neill spent the first twenty years of his live at his birthplace in Canada, receiving in the meantime but limited school advantages, and coming then to DeKalb county, Illinois, he worked on farms and at other labor for several years. He was married there in 1860 to Miss Sarah Smith, born in northern Ohio, to Enoch Smith, of English descent and who died in Tama county, which had been his home during the later years of his life. Mrs. O'Neill died in 1872, leaving four children, as follows: William Enoch, living at College View, near Lincoln, Nebraska, and a painter by trade; Asa David, engaged in the mercantile business in the town of Dickey, North Dakota; Sidney, operating the O'Neill homestead in Carroll township, and he has recently taken up a half section of government land in Oregon county, Colorado; and Sarah died in infancy. Mr. O'Neill married for his second wife Mrs. Catherine Carr, born in Carroll county, Illinois, in 1848, a daughter of Conrad and Regina (Blouch) Hild, early residents of the Prairie state, but both born in Germany. They came to the United States in their youth, and they lived and died as farmers in Carroll county, Illinois. Mrs. O'Neill was reared there, and there she married David Carr, a farmer in Carroll township, Tama county, Iowa, where he died on the 10th of November 1871, when but thirty-two years of age. A daughter, Davina Estella, has been born to Mr and Mrs O'Neill, and she is now the wife of Lewis Henigar, another Carroll township agriculturist.

Mr. O'Neill owns one of the well improved farms of his community, and he was engaged in general farming there until his retirement. During about fourteen years he was the secretary of the Tama County Mutual Insurance Company, proving an efficient officer, and he was also for a time agent for the Town Mutual Insurance Company of Des Moines. He has always been a Republican in his political affiliations, and he served eight years in the office of assessor and has also held other local offices. Since 1875 he has been identified with the Odd Fellows lodge at Traer, and his son is also a member of the fraternity. Mr. O'Neill is one of the representative citizens of Tama county.

Cathy Joynt Labath
The Irish in Iowa

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