"History of Lincoln, Oneida, and Vilas Counties Wisconsin"

Compiled by George O.Jones, Norman S. McVean and Others. Printed in 1924 by H.C.Cooper. Jr. & Co., Minneapoli-Winona MN. ill. 787 pages. The first two hundred pages are history of the three counties, the remainder of the book is biographies.


O'Connor, Geo. E. the subject of this sketch, is the son of John and Ann GOLDEN O'CONNOR and is a native of Wisconsin, born August 31, 1865, in Oconto, Wisconsin. John O'CONNOR, father of Geo. E. O'CONNOR, was a son of Edward O'CONNOR, who was born in Tipperary, Ireland and Catherine WELSH O'CONNOR, born near the City of New Castle, New Brunswick, Canada. There were seven children of this union named respectively: John, Timothy, Kate, Richard, Mary, Maurice and Alice. In the spring of 1845 this family moved from New Brunswick to Wisconsin and located in Milwaukee, where the father took up a government homestead about three-quarters of a mile north of where the present Milwaukee City Hall stands and there lived for three years, while the children, old enough to go to school, attended the public school, which at this time was located on the site of the present city hall. The school teacher was named Keough, who was the father of Edward KEOUGH, for many years prominent in the business and political affairs of Milwaukee and Wisconsin. After giving the children the advantages of this school for three years, Edward O'CONNOR and family abandoned this homestead and moved to a farm in Brown County, near the city of Kaukauna, and until his death was engaged as a contractor getting out square timber for the government use in the improvement of the Fox River. Edward O'CONNOR died at his farm home in 1859. Catherine WELSH O'CONNOR survived him until July, 1883, when she died at the old farm home. Edward O'CONNOR, while living in New Brunswick and after moving to Wisconsin, was a farmer and lumberman. The ancestors of Edward O'CONNOR and Catherine WELSH O'CONNOR in Ireland were well-to-do farmers. John O'CONNOR was 12 years old when the family took up their residence in Milwaukee and remained at home after his school days, until the age of 18, and assisted his father in his Government contracts. At the age of 18 years John O'CONNOR left home and commenced work in sawmills and at lumbering, and at 19 years of age was foreman of a sawmill at Stiles, Oconto County, Wisconsin; from that time until he moved to Eagle River he was engaged in lumbering operations. At Green Bay on the 27th day of November, 1854, John O'CONNOR was married to Ann GOLDEN, who was the daughter of William and Maria FLATLEY GOLDEN and who was born at Silgo, Ireland, Oct. 19, 1834, and who came with her parents to the United States when she was about four years old. The family of Ann GOLDEN first resided in New York, then in Rome, New York, and then moved in 1843 to Wisconsin and settled on a farm near Wrightstown, Brown County, Wisconsin, being the first settlers in that locality. There were ten children born of this union: Mary, Edward W., Ellen Isabelle, Anna, George E., Matilda, Henry C., Don J. and Walter F., twins, and Harriet. Of these children, Edward W., died at Ashland; Ellen Isabelle, widow of Dr. C. M. CALVERT of Eau Claire, Wis., died at Milwaukee; and Henry C. O'CONNOR, D. D. S., died at Rhinelander. Mary, widow of Adelbert MCARTHUR, lives in Elgin, Ill.; Anna, widow of D. H. DONNELLAN, lives in Eau Claire, Wis.; Harriet, wife of D. E. RIORDON, lives in Milwaukee, Wis.; Matilda, wife of A. H. HAYDEN, lives in Chicago, Ill.; Don J., physician and surgeon, lives in Appleton, Wis.; Walter F., physician and surgeon, lives in Ladysmith, Wis.; and George E. lives at Eagle River, Wis. In March, 1883, John O'CONNOR purchased of John PHELPS 1028 acres of land at the present site of the village of Eagle River, and in April, accompanied by his son, George E., came to Eagle River and established a home for the family and during the year 1883 founded the village of Eagle River and in that year and succeeding years John and Ann O'CONNOR made the first, second and third plats of the present village of Eagle River. During their lives John and Ann O'CONNOR took an active interest in all civic matters and were particularly interested in church and school matters and when the first church, a Congregational, was built in Eagle River, donated two lots for the site of the church, and when the first Catholic Church was built also donated two lots to that church. The first school in Eagle River was established in a log building, which had been erected by John O'CONNOR at his own expense. The first teacher in this school was Anna O'CONNOR, now Mrs. DONNELLAN, and the second teacher was Matilda O'CONNOR, now Mrs. HAYDEN. John O'CONNOR died at Eagle River on July 4, 1889, and was buried at the Eagle River cemetery. Ann GOLDEN O'CONNOR died at the home of her daughter, Mrs. D. H. DONNELLAN, at Eau Claire, Wis., on April 30, 1923, and was buried beside her husband in the Eagle River Cemetery. Geo. E. O'CONNOR, subject proper of this memoir, attended school in the city of Fort Howard, now part of the city of Green Bay, and in Eau Claire, Wis., until the age of 11 years, when he went to work in the office of the Eau Claire Free Press and continued to work for four years and there learned the printer's trade. He then returned to school and was a pupil in the Eau Claire West Side High School for two years, after which time he came with his father to Eagle River in April, 1883. After coming to Eagle River, George E. worked in the lumber woods and on the log drive and assisted his father in his real estate and mercantile business and was the manager of his father's store in the village of Eagle River from 1889 to 1891. During the winters of 1884-5 and 1885-6 George attended the Northwestern Academy at Madison, Wis. After arriving at maturity, George took an active interest in all political, business and civic matters and was and is an ardent Republican and took an active prt in local, state and national politics and at one time was a member of the Wisconsin State Republican Committee for the Eleventh Congressional District. In the spring of 1890 and again in 1891 George was elected town clerk for the town of Eagle River, which at that time comprised nearly all of the present county of Vilas. In 1890 he was secretary of the school board and through his activities at that time the old school house was rebuilt and made over into an up-to-date, six-room school building. In 1893 George spent the winter at Madison and through his efforts, probably more than through the efforts of any other person, Vilas County was created by the legislature, and, although offered an appointment to sheriff of the new county by Gov. George W. PECK, declined and urged the appointment of Max SELLS, now of Florence, Wis., who was appointed the first sheriff of Vilas County. In November, 1894, running on the Republican ticket, he was elected sheriff of Vilas County by the largest majority of any successful candidate and was the only Republican elected on the county ticket in Vilas County that fall, and was sheriff of Vilas County in the years 1895 and 1896 and during that time studied law in the office of D. E. RIORDON, Eagle River, Wis., and in January, 1897, entered the law school of the University of Wisconsin and continued in that school until April, 1898, when he passed the State Bar examination and was admitted to practice before the Supreme Court. He was elected district attorney in 1900 and re-elected in 1902, 1904 and 1906. In 1908 he was not a candidate and in April, 1909, was elected county judge of Vilas County, which office he held until 1911, when he resigned and was appointed by Gov. Francis E. MCGOVERN as district attorney, to which office he was again elected in 1912 and in 1916, 1918, 1920 and 1922 and is the present district attorney of Vilas County. In 1913 in recognition of his services to the state in exposing the so-called "Griffith Forestry Scheme" and the unlawful withdrawal of monies from the school trust funds used by Griffith as state forester, he was appointed by Gov. Francis E. MCGOVERN a member of the State Board of Forestry, which position he held until the Board of Forestry was reorganized into the present State Conservation Commission. During Mr. O'CONNORS incumbency of this office the State Board of Forestry was comprised of Charles R. VAN HISE, president of the University of Wisconsin; Dean RUSSELL, of the College of Argiculture of the State University; Dean E. A. BIRGE, of the State University and Hon. Walter C. OWEN, attorney general, who held their positions ex-officio, and one citizen of the state, Geo. E. O'CONNOR. Recognizing his valuable services in these "forestry matters," the Supreme Court of the State of Wisconsin appointed him a special referee to investigate and straighten out the "forestry lands" and taxation matters affecting such lands and the taxing units in Oneida, Vilas, Price, Iron and Forest counties. In this work he prepared a detailed and voluminous report covering the entire situation, copies of which were filed with the Supreme Court, Commissioners of Public Lands and the Legislature, and based on his findings contained in his report, he secured special legislation by which the state returned to Oneida County and the towns in said county about $19,000, and to Vilas County and the towns in Vilas County more than $21,000. The activities of the opposition to the so-called "Griffith's Forestry Scheme" was referred to locally as the "forestry war" and the County Board of Oneida County expended in the neighborhood of $9,000, the County Board of Vilas County $5,100, the County Board of Forest County $1,200 and other sums were spent by the County Boards of Iron and Price counties. This so-called "Griffith's Forestry Scheme" was a plan evolved by State Forester Griffith by which more than 1,500,000 acres of land, being all of Vilas County, except one and one-half townships, the north half of Forest and Oneida counties and parts of Iron and Price counties, was to be purchased by the state and reforested by the planting of seedling trees and contemplated the expenditure by the state of many millions of dollars. During the World War George was appointed secretary of the local draft board and served as such until April, 1917, until the board was disbanded in 1919. He also organized for Vilas County different war activities and collected the money for the Red Cross and assisted in collecting the money for the other war work organizations, as well as all of the war loans. For such services he refused to accept any compensation and in recognition of such refusal and of his work he received a letter of commendation from President Woodrow WILSON and from Gov. E. L. PHILIPP and the Federal Loan Organization of the Ninth Federal Reserve District, with headquarters in Minneapolis, acknowledged his service to his country by a personal letter of commendation and sent to him direct a German helmet as a souvenir. The Wisconsin Blue Book of 1919 contains a record of part of his activities in connection with the different war organizations, to which he devoted his entire time from his appointment as secretary of the local draft board in April, 1917, until after the armistice was signed at the end of the war and to enable him to do this he withdrew from his legal practice and all other connections and the fact that Vilas County responded so nobly and "went over the top" on every demand made on it was largely due to the time and effort he devoted to the service of his country. On June 24, 1903, Geo. E. O'CONNOR was united in marriage to his old schoolmate, Emma Louise Argard, at the home of her sister, Mrs. E. P. ELLENSON, at Chippewa Falls, Wis., and brought his bride to Eagle River, where they have since resided. Geo E. O'CONNOR, during the 40 years of his residence in Eagle River, gave of his time, energies and means to the advancement of all the interests to the community. He denoted to the German Lutheran Congregation two village lots for the site of the present Lutheran Church. He is a member of the American Bar Association and the Wisconsin State Bar Association. He is a life member of the Wisconsin State Historial Society and is affiliated fraternally with the Elks, Knights of Pythias, Odd Fellows and Modern Woodmen lodges. When George, with his father, came to Eagle River, the end of the Milwaukee, Lake Shore and Western Railroad was at Three Lakes and from there to Eagle river they walked and carried their "packs" to the site of the present village of Eagle River. when they arrived at Eagle River the only other white residents of the locality were Finn LAWLER, C. L. PERRY and Frank and Marilla TAMBLING.

Transcribed by Susan Swanson, from pages 396-398, History of Lincoln, Oneida and Vilas Counties Wisconsin; Compiled by George O. Jones, Norman S. McVean and Others 1924, H. C. Cooper, Jr. & Co

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