A native of County Tipperary, Ireland, Mr. O'Donnell was born March 17, 1836, and is the son of Patrick O'Donnell, Sr., a native of the same county as his son and who spent his entire life in Erin's Green Isle, dying when middle aged. Our subject, in 1848, after the death of his father, came with his widowed mother, to the United States, and the family settled in New Jersey where Patrick, Jr., commenced working on a farm at the munificent wages of $5 per month. Shortly afterward, however, he changed his occupation to that of clerk on the steamer "Ocean Wave," plying the Shrewsbury river. Later he officiated as fireman on the same boat and in due time, having made good use of his opportunities for learning the art, was promoted to assistant engineer.
Our subject was thus occupied three years, then changing his employment, engaged in gardening with his brother, Dennis, for the New York market. He followed this two years, then in 1856, set his face westward and coming to Winchester, this county, had charge of an engine in the Harlan Mill three years and the latter part of the time was both miller and overseer of the establishment. In the meantime he purchased 120 acres of land three miles south of Winchester upon which he placed his brother, Dennis, who worked it for him one year then Patrick took it in charge himself. He soon purchased additional land and the brothers farmed in partnership four years. Dennis subsequently began buying land for himself and is now the owner of 700 acres, while Patrick holds the warrantee deeds to 637 acres.
Mr. O'Donnell commenced his stock operations about 1861. His favorites are the Norman horses, both draft and roadsters, among them "Flying Dutchman,: who has attained to great popularity in this part of the county. Mr. O'Donnell has one pony which paces a mile in a little over three minutes. In the cattle line he operates mostly with Short-horns. Our subject while in New Jersey was the chief support of his mother and educated his sisters. The mother came to the West with her children and died at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Stephen Moore, in Alsey in 1883.
The 31st of March, 1862, witnessed the marriage of our subject with Miss Mary, daughter of Jesse and Lizzie Young, who were among the earliest pioneers of this county and a sketch of whom appears elsewhere in this volume. Mr. Young dug the first well upon the present site of Winchester. He was mostly engaged as a farmer and departed this life at his home in Scott county, April, 1889. The mother of Mrs. O'Donnell is still living. To Mr. and Mrs. O'Donnell there were born eleven children, nine of whom are living. The eldest son, John, married Miss Emma Roberts, is the father of two children - Lena and an infant named Gracie - and lives on a farm near the old homestead. Lizzie B. became wife of Lincoln McLaughlin of Cerre Gordo, Piatt County, this State, and is the mother of one child, Jesse. Olive, Mrs. James Doyle, lives in township 14 and has no children; Charles, Mary Nannie, Nellie, Thomas, Lilly and Susie, remain under the home roof.
Our subject is regarded as one of the most extensive stock-raisers in Scott County. During the Civil War he purchased horses for the Union Army, his transactions in this line yielding him handsome profits. He also during those days accumulated a snug sum of money in buying cattle and selling to the farmers of this region. He is a democrat politically and has officiated as road supervisor and school director but prefers to be relieved from the responsibilities of office. He and his children are members of the Catholic Church.
In the fall of 1888 Mr. O'Donnell returned to the Atlantic coast, visiting his old haunts in New Jersey and finding things greatly changed. He also visited Long Branch and the National race course at Monmouth Park. The farm whereon he first labored after coming to America is now a beautiful park, upon which the owner spent $250,000 in beautifying of the ground alone, before erecting any buildings. Mr. O'Donnell crossed the famous Brooklyn bridge and saw the great St. Patrick's cathedral on Fifth Avenue, opposite the mansion of William H. Vanderbilt in New York city. He also looked upon the statue of "Liberty enlightening the World," on Bedloe Island. He crossed the Suspension Bridge to Sandy Hook and other points, which with all these other wonderful structures had been brought into existence since he left there in 1856. He had a pleasant interview with his old boat-captain, Henry Parker, formerly of the "Ocean Wave", and who now commands the steamer "Sea Bird" plying between Shrewsbury and New York city. He wisely considers the time and money employed on that trip well spent. He also visited Niagara Falls and had a very fine time.