O’Leary Family Collection

This collection is not the O’Leary family of the 1871 Chicago fire.

1885 A Pioneer Gone

Another long and useful life has ended. Another pioneer has departed. John O’Leary has gone. John O’Leary was born in the City of Cork, Ireland on the twentieth of November, 1805. In his sixteenth year his family moved to London, where he remained until 1834. During the period of his residence in London he married Miss Margaret T. Masterson, who still survives him. In 1834 he came to this country and after a two years’ residence in New York moved to Chicago and three years later to Ridgeville or what is now known as Evanston. Here he bought a large farm, which he worked until 1851, when, having his family here, he went to California and engaged in mining, at which he was remarkably successful. He returned to Evanston in 1853, having made the trips both to and from California overland in wagons. Since 1853, his residence in Evanston has been continuous. From the time of his return from California until 1870 he was actively engaged in farming and since that time has been in the real estate business. In politics, while he took no active part, he was a democrat, and his religion was that of a devout Catholic. Mr. O’Leary was probably the oldest pioneer of Evanston and one of the oldest in Illinois. It will be remembered that at the business men’s picnic two years ago he and his wife were presented with handsome gifts in honor of the fact that they were the oldest married couple in Cook County. Mr. O’Leary was the father of nine children, of whom seven are left to comfort the bereaved wife and mother. They are: Mrs. Brennan (Mrs. Gerhard Brienen), Mrs. Ellen Lynch, Miss Maggie O’Leary, Messrs. David P. O’Leary and William O’Leary, all of Evanston; Arthur C. (A.C.) O’Leary of Denver and Daniel O’Leary, who is at present in Oklahoma.

Contributed 1997 by Maryl


09 Jul 1900

Mrs. Margaret O’Leary, who died early on Saturday morning at the age of 90 years, was the first woman to live in Evanston.

Mrs. O’Leary was perhaps better posted on the history of the city than any one now living, and her reminiscences and memoirs contributed to the Evanston Historical Society will be of great value.

Her life was bound up in that of the city in whose progress she was intensely interested. Her public spirit and zeal for the prosperity of the city made her respected by all. When she came to what is now known as Evanston in 1840 there were only seven or eight inhabitants, and the place was without a name. It was simply known as the northern district of Peoria County. A few years later it was called Ridgeville, being named from the ridge in the western part of the City of Evanston, which is still the highest point for miles around. It was in the (eighteen) fifties, after becoming a part of Cook County, that the present city was named Evanston.

Contributed 1997 by Maryl
Source: Chicago Tribune


30 Sep 1900 David Philip O’Leary interview

John O’Leary came to Chicago in 1836. Soon after he bought a farm of 40 acres at Sunnyside and lived there from 1837 to 1840. While living here many of thos who settled at Evanston passed their house in teams. They stopped and made their acquaintances and when the O’Learys themselves moved to Evanston they found them settled on their various farms. Among them were Edward Murphy, John Carney, Hathaway and others. In 1837 John O’Leary bought 160 acres in Ridgeville (situated in part where Calvary Cemetery now is) and in partsouth of the Cemetery and north of the present Chicago city limits. In 1840 he moved to Ridgeville. In 1859 he sold 40 acreas to Calvary Cemetery, this being the year the Cemetery was established.

David Philip O’Leary, one of John O’Leary’s sons, was born in Evanston. His middle name was given him for Philip Rogers, a neighbor (Note from Maryl: Philip Rogers was also his uncle, being married to David Philip O’Leary’s mother Margaret Maserson O’Leary’s sister (Mary Ward Masterson Hickey Rogers)). John O’Leary took up his first piece of land from the government. Later he bought other land of Wm B Ogden and Edward Devlin. The latter was a brother of John Devlin, the first sheriff in Chicago. David P O’Leary was born June 26, 1853. Oct. 24, 1900, D. P. O’Leary says that his father John O’Leary started for California in November 1850. He thinks he did not go with the party made up of the Crains and others. He returned Aug 22, 1852 having been fairly successful in gold mining. While he was there he sent home $1,000 and brought $1,600 with him.

Contributed 1997 by Maryla

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