John Edmund O'Brien, controlling an important and representative business as a dealer in real estate in Waukon,
was born in Oneida county, New York, in 186o, and was one of nine children born to Michael Smith O'Brien and Henrietta
Alice Jenkins, who emigrated from Ireland in the early '50s and were married in Oneida county. They afterwards
came to Iowa, settling in Ludlow township, Allamakee county, where the father still resides upon his farm.
John Edmund O'Brien was ten years of age when his parents came to Iowa. He worked on farms in this vicinity for
several years and then engaged in carpenter work in various parts of the state, being employed in the construction
of the buildings on the Illinois Central Railway between Onawa and Sioux Falls. Afterwards he spent two years working
at his trade in Birmingham, Alabama, and Jackson, Mississippi. going from the latter city to Chicago, Illinois
where he assisted in the erection of the exhibition buildings at the World's Columbian Exposition and served for
six months in the Columbian Guards. In the winter of 1893 he went to California and put up the Canadian exhibits
at the Midwinter Exposition in San Francisco. Returning to Iowa, he established himself in the building business
at Waukon and his ability becoming widely recognized, he soon secured a large and representative patronage,
Mr. O'Brien served in Company I, the Waukon company, Iowa National Guards, under Captains Gibbs, Nichols and Stewart.
In 1898, a few days after the declaration of war with Spain, he went to Pensacola, Florida, and with Paul D. May,
enlisted in the United States Navy for one year as carpenter's mate, first class. He served on the United States
ships Tacoma, Lancaster and Cassius, under commanders Sutherland, Very Perry and Lieutenant Waters of Commodore
Remy's fleet. At his own request and through Senator Allison's influence he received his honorable discharge at
Norfolk, Virginia, at the close of the Spanish-American war. Returning home he studied law first at the Iowa State
University and then at Drake University at Des Moines and was admitted to practice before the state and federal
courts in 1900. In the following year however he turned his attention to the real estate business and in this he
has since continued, his patronage in Waukon being today profitable and important. He is known as an expert judge
of land values and his opinion has come to be regarded as an authority on matters of this character. He is resourceful,
far sighted, capable and energetic and his sagacity is far reaching and his integrity beyond question.
At Medford, Oklahoma, March 19, 1903, Mr. O'Brien was united in marriage to Miss Decorah Grattan, a daughter of
Henry G. Grattan, a pioneer in Allamakee county and for many years one of the most prominent citizens in this part
of Iowa. He was born at New Haven, Oswego county, New York, June 28, 1826, and was of English descent, a son of
Amos and Abigail (Guyant) Grattan. The former, a blacksmith by trade, was born in Berkshire county, Massachusetts
in 1797 and died in Ludlow township, Allamakee county, Iowa, June 2, 1889. In 1835 he took up a claim and built
the first log cabin where Kenosha, Wisconsin, now stands. He was for fifty years a member of the Baptist church
and voted with the first organization of the old abolitionist party. He fought in the War of 1812. His wife, who
was in her maidenhood Abigail Guyant, was born September 8, 1794, in Canterbury, Connecticut, and died in Ludlow
township, Allamakee county, in 1886. She was for a time the only white woman in Kenosha, Wisconsin. One child was
born to the union of Mr. and Mrs. Amos Grattan - Henry Guyant.
Henry Guyant Grattan was for many years well known in agricultural and journalistic circles of the middle west
and as a leader in many public movements of a progressive and constructive character. He founded and published
the Janesville (Wis.) Gazette, the Mt. Carroll (Ill.) Mirror and the Sterling (Ill.) Gazette. He also did considerable
literary work after coming to Iowa, but in this state was chiefly interested in scientific agriculture, in the
promotion of which he was one of the greatest individual forces of his time. He was a member of the board of trustees
of Iowa Agricultural College and took a great interest in the work of that institution, organizing several new
departments, among which may be mentioned that of domestic science. His own farm in Ludlow township was a practical
exemplification of his theories and was one of the best equipped and most scientifically managed in the township.
Henry Grattan was married three times, first to Jane Trask who died in 1849, then to Phoebe Jane Tisdel, who died
in 1865, and to Rosanna Russell who survives him. She was born in Shefford, Canada, and is of French and English
parentage, the daughter of Francis and Susannah (Griggs) Bryant. Previous to her first marriage which united her
with Franklin Russell who was killed in the Civil war, Mrs. Grattan engaged in teaching. She was married to Henry
Grattan on the 9th of December, 1855. Henry Grattan's children are as follows: Marvin Trask, born in Janesville,
Wisconsin, in 1848; Jane, who was born in Freeport, Illinois, in 1851; Orlando Tisdel, born in Mt. Carroll, Illinois,
in 1855; Bertha, born in Ludlow township, in 1868; John, born in Ludlow township, in 1869; and Decorah, the wife
of the subject of this review. The last named was born at Waukon, Iowa, December 20, 1871, and acquired her education
in the public schools of the city, in the South Dakota Agricultural College and at Drexel Institute, Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania. She was a teacher of Domestic Science for several years at Toronto, Canada, in St. Thomas Alma College
and at Buffalo, New York. Mr. and Mrs. John E. O'Brien have two children: Henry Grattan, born April 2, 1904; and
John Gordon, born January 23, 1908.
Mr. O'Brien is today one of the well known business men of Waukon, for he possesses as salient elements in his
character, the energy, resourcefulness and sound judgment necessary to business success. His associates respect
his integrity and honor and his straightforward dealings and his many sterling traits of mind and character have
gained for him the esteem and confidence of a wide circle of friends.
Past and Present of Allamakee County, Iowa
A Record of Settlement, Organization, Progress and Achievemant
By: Ellery M. Hancock
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co.
Allamakee County, IA
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