James O'Neill


Men of Progress. Wisconsin. (pages 17-49) A selected list ofbiographical sketches and portraits of the leaders in business,professional and official life. Together with short notes on thehistory and character of Wisconsin.

O'NEILL, James, a resident of Neillsville and judge-elect of theSeventeenth Judicial circuit, was born at Lisbon, St. Lawrence county,N. Y., Sept 3d, 1847. His father, Andrew O'Neill, a farmer byoccupation, is also a native of Lisbon, and resides there still. Hisgrandfather, also Andrew O'Neill, the first settler in the town ofLisbon, was born in Shanes Castle on the banks of Lake Neag, in thenorth of Ireland. Andrew O'Neill, the father of the Judge, is aRepublican, was collector of customs in Lisbon for sixteen years, is amember of the Protestant Episcopal Church, and has a most honorablerecord as a good man and a public-spirited citizen. Judge O'Neill'smother, Mary Holliston, was born near Ogdensburg, N. Y., and died inCleveland, Ohio, in 1852.. Her parents were both from Berwickshire,Scotland. His paternal grandfather's maiden name was Armstrong, and hernationality English.

James O'Neill had his rudimentary education in the common schools ofhis native town, and began teaching a district school when fifteenyears of age and taught several terms. In 1863, at the age of sixteenyears, he entered St. Lawrence University, at Canton, N. Y., and was astudent therein for three years in all, dropping out occasionally toteach school and earn part of the money necessary to enable him topursue his studies. In 1868 he entered Cornell University as asophomore, andgraduated therefrom in June, 1871, in the full classical course. Whilein the university he was editor of the Cornell Era one year, and memberof the Delta Upsilon fraternity. From 1870 to 1871 he was principal ofthe Ogdensburg Academy.

Entering the Albany law school in 1872, he graduated in 1873, and cameto Wisconsin in September following, on a visit to his uncle, JamesO'Neill, at Neillsville, who was its first settler, he having locatedthere in 1844, represented the county in the state assembly in 1849 and1868, and died in 1880. At the earnest solicitation of his uncle, theyoung man concluded to make his home in Neillsville, opened an officethere from the practice of the law, and there he was remained since,steadily pursuing his professional work, first alone, then with H. W..Sheldon from 1877 to 1879, and again alone until 1890, when Spencer M.Marsh became his partner, under the firm name of O'Neill & Marsh.

Judge O'Neill's political record has been that of a consistent andearnest Republican, and an honorable worker for what he believes to bethe best public policy. He was a memberof the lower houses of the legislature in 1885, was appointed districtattorney of Clark county, by Gov. Rusk in 1887, and elected to the sameoffice in the following year by the largest majority received by anyoneon the ticket. In 1888 he was a delegate to the Republican nationalconvention, and was the Republican candidate for attorney-general in1890 and 1892, but the party was defeated in those years, and hesuffered de feat with it. He was a candidate for judge of theSeventeenth circuit in 1891, but was defeated by W. F. Bailey, who hada majority of 512. He was again a candidate for the same position inApril, 1897, and was elected by a plurality of 5412, one of hisopponents being Win. F. Bailey, who was successful four years before inthe contest for the same office. Judge O'Neil carried every county inthe circuit, and the endorsement by the press of his candidacy and ofhis eminent fitness for the office both as regarded character andability were unqualified and enthusiastic.

The Judge was baptized and brought up in the Episcopal church--thechurch of his father. He was married June 6th, 1876, to Marian Robinsonof Neillsville, and two children have been born to them--a son, Ernest,twenty years old, now in the state university, and a daughter, Marian,fourteen years of age.


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