James O'Neill, who is the president of the Webb City water works, is one of the leading and influential men
of this part of Jasper county, and by his foresight and excellent business judgment has done much for the development
of its interests. The birth of Mr. O'Neill was in Onondaga county, New York, in the village of Liverpool, on October
31, 1836, and he was a son of Peter and Hannah (Walsh) O'Neill, both of whom were natives of Ireland. Peter O'Neill
emigrated to America in 1828, and both he and wife passed their whole lives in the state of New York.
The early education of James O'Neill was acquired in the common schools in Liverpool, but when only twelve years
old he determined upon a useful career, displaying at that age some of those characteristics which later in life
aided in making him the prominent business factor he has become. The Erie canal was the scene of his first business
venture, and as a driver along that waterway, at a salary of nine dollars per month, he worked for three years,
saving his money, and at the end of that time was given a position on a freight boat plying between Buffalo, Oswego
and New York, and here he remained and was a valued employe until 1865.
About this time came the excitement in the Pennsylvania oil regions, and Mr. O'Neill went thither and invested
in land which proved rich in petroleum, and for a long period he continued there, operating different wells. In
1879 he saw the wisdom of investing in the rich lands of Jasper county, Missouri, also bought large tracts in Kansas,
and became financially interested in the lead and zinc mines in the vicinity of Webb City, Missouri. His foresight
and judgment told him the right time to dispose of his property, but previous to that he had developed some of
the best mines in the Webb City and Carterville districts. At present Mr. O'Neill is the fortunate owner of one
thousand acres of fine coal land in eastern Kansas; which is being operated under lease, while he receives a royalty.
In Coffee and Cherokee counties in Kansas he owns one tract of fifteen hundred acres, and in Newton county, Missouri,
he has both mineral and farming land.
In 1890 Mr. O'Neill began the erection of the Webb City water works, at that time considered by his friends a hazardous
undertaking, involving a large outlay with only possible returns, but he was far sighted enough to anticipate the
time when Webb City would reach its present proportions and his enterprise would be rewarded. That time soon came
and his system of water works are now a necessity both in the city and for use in the mines in the separating of
the ores from the crushed rock. All of the machinery is of the best construction and there are twenty four miles
of water mains in use. The officers of the company are: James O'Neill, president and treasurer; George H. Bruen,
secretary; and Henry O'Neill, vice president, although our subject owns nineteen twentieths of the stock. Mr. O'Neill
is a half owner of the plant of the Webb City Ice & Storage Company.
In 1858 Mr. O'Neill was united in marriage with Miss Lucy Bachelder, who was born and reared in New York, and to
this union two children were born, namely: Grace, who is the wife of George R. Regdon, of Scranton, Pennsylvania;
and Jennie, who is the wife of George H. Bruen, of Webb City. The second marriage of Mr. O'Neill was to Miss Ora
Hubbell, who was born in Cedar county, Missouri, and one son has been born of this marriage, Robert Newland.
Mr. O'Neill is as prominent in Masonic as in business circles and belongs to Chapter and Commandery, in Jamestown,
New York, and is also connected with benevolent organizations in Webb City. Although he began life as a lad in
humble circumstances his success has not been meteoric, but has resulted from his close attention to business,
his uniform industry and the cultivation of his natural ability. Webb City has profited by his public spirit, as
he has been the organizer of some of its most important enterprises. The Webb City Ice & Storage Company is
one of the flourishing and indispensable lines of business, and the large and complete Newland Hotel was built
by him and is an ornament to the city. Few of the public improvements have been carried out without his advice
and assistance and his prominence is generally recognized. His own residence is one of the most elegant and attractive
in the city, and he is proud of the architectural improvement which is being displayed in the later buildings in
his chosen city. Mr. James O'Neill is justly regarded as a leading and representative citizen of Webb City.
The Biographical History of Jasper County, Missouri
By Hon. Malcolm G. McGregor
The Lewis Publishing Co.
Jasper County, MO
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