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                                       JOHN O’LEARY
                                         Biography
                                    Cook County, Illinois

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Information contributed for use in Cook County ILGenWeb by
        Sherri Hessick, added May 2001.



JOHN O’LEARY

Source: Album of Genealogy and Biography, Cook County,
Illinois with Portraits 3rd ed. revised and extended
(Chicago: Calumet Book & Engraving Co., 1895), pp. 109-110.

JOHN O’LEARY was for more than half a century one of the
most popular and progressive citizens of South Evanston.  He
was born in Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland, in 1803.  His
father, Capt. John O’Leary, commanded a vessel engaged in
the East India trade, and died at sea, of a fever contracted
in the tropics.  This occurred during the early childhood of
the son, who soon after had the misfortune to lose his
mother, and at the age of ten years became the protege of an
uncle named Breen, in London.  There he grew up, and at the
age of twenty came to New York City, where he became a
paving contractor.

In 1836 he became a resident of Chicago, and was engaged in
paving that city for two years.  In 1838 he went to
Ravenswood, then called Belle Plain, and bought forty acres
in the subdivision since known as Sunnyside, which he sold
two years later.

In 1840 he bought half a section of land in South Evanston
and settled there, engaging in farming.  When the town began
to grow he subdivided and sold much of his farm.  He also
did an extensive real-estate business, dealing in lake-shore
property at Wilmette and other points.  Many people were
distrustful of the lake shore, fearing that much of the land
would be washed away, but he foresaw that it would
eventually be the most desirable and valuable property
contiguous to the city, and invested largely therein.  Of
his original farm he sold eighty acres for Calvary Cemetery.
In 1851 he went overland to California, where he remained
two years, being more successful than the average miner, and
clearing over $3,000.  News was not in those days as readily
communicated as now, and he returned home on account of a
report which reached him that his wife was dead.  His joy
can easily be imagined on finding the rumor a false one on
his return.

Mr. O’Leary was one of the original stockholders of the
Chicago, Evanston & Green Bay Road Company, which maintained
a paved roadway from 1860 to 1884 as a toll-road. He was a
member of the Roman Catholic Church from boyhood, and a
life-long Democrat in political sentiment.  He took a keen
interest in public affairs, serving, though unwillingly, as
Highway Commissioner and County Supervisor.

While a resident of New York City, Mr. O’Leary married Miss
Margaret Matteson, who was born in Ireland and reared in
England, and still survives, at the age of eighty-eight
years.  Of their ten children, one died in childhood.  John,
the second, enlisted in 1861 in Company C, Twenty-second
Illinois Volunteer Infantry, and died while in the service,
in August, 1864.  Daniel, the third, is now a resident of
Oklahoma.  The others are residents of Evanston, and are
named as follows:  Mary (Mrs. Gerherd Brienen); Ellen, widow
of Michael Lynch; William, Margaret, David P. and Arthur,
the sons being engaged in business at Evanston.

After a long and useful career Mr. O’Leary passed away at
his home in South Evanston, March 23, 1892.  He was a man of
remarkable loquacity, good humor and kindness of heart, who
could not fail to become popular with every one whom he met.





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