M.J. O'BRIEN, from Nova Scotia to Renfrew, Ontario, Canada
Michael John O'BRIEN (1851-1940) and Jane BARRY
Painting by Ruth McMillan in 1976
Shows the Head of the Rideau Canal Locks in Ottawa, Canada in 1893
May 8, 2012:
Source: The book O'BRIEN by Scott Young and Astrid Young, page 150
Michael John O'Brien came to Renfrew County, Ontario, from Nova Scotia as a teenager.
He decided to bid for the construction of the Kingston and Pembroke Railway (the K & P), also called the "Kick and Push".
By the time that M.J. entered upon the scene the first part of the track, from Kingston to Sharbot Lake, had already been
laid with financing by American investors. This was the easy part -- mostly farmland and gentle hills. Nothing like the
stretch between Sharbot Lake and Renfrew and Pembroke which is mostly hilly, Pre-Cambrian Shield country, with lots of
lakes and rivers to work around or over.
M.J. decided to walk the area from Sharbot Lake to the town of Renfrew to see what he was getting into.
When he reached the south shore of Calabogie Lake, he arrived at a clearing where the James Barry family had
built a farm out of the wilderness. He met Jane "Jenny" Barry, daughter of James Barry and before long they
were spending a lot of time together. You can guess the rest of the story ...
They were married and M.J. O'Brien began building the causeway on Calabogie Lake at Grassy Bay. On the east side
of the causeway he needed to cut through a long stretch of solid granite, which he used to backfill to create the
causeway so the soon-to-be railroad could cross Calabogie Lake.
This area became known as Barryvale, after the family of James Barry and a RR station (Barryvale Station) was built there.
About 70 years later, when I worked in the Department of Finance, we would make an annual fishing trip and would stay
at Barryvale Lodge. It had a bunkhouse which had previously been used to accomodate labourers and railway men.
M.J. O'Brien became involved in railway construction projects across Canada. He also was the sole owner of a very profitable
silver mine at Cobalt, Ontario.
He founded the hockey team, the Renfrew Millionaires and he and his son Ambrose were the original founders and financiers
for the Montreal Canadiens Hockey Club. M.J. and Ambrose were Irish and Catholic but their goal from the start was
to transfer the Canadiens ownership to French Canadian ownership from Montreal.
Most of this material is documented in the book O'BRIEN by Scott Young and Astrid Young.
Carol Bennett has written In Search of the K&P which describes the building of the Kingston and Pembroke Railway.
E-mail Allan Lewis
One of the villages on the K & P Line is Flower Station, named after a Mr. Flowers from the USA.
During the decade before the First World War, M.J. O'Brien became a powerful influence on the Liberal government.
He was good friends with Sir Wilfred Laurier and Sir Clifford Sifton in a huge effort to build the Transcontinental
Railway. His usual home was in the Town of Renfrew. While working in Ottawa he stayed at the Russell House Hotel or at the
He was appointed to the Senate of Canada in 1918, the same year in which his wife, Jennie Barry, died from the Spanish Flu Pandemic.
May 9, 2012:
Here is a photo taken at the marriage of Stella O'Brien and Joe Murray. Stella was M.J.'s daughter.
Joe Murray came from Pembroke where he had business interests of his own. He became a sort of general
manager for M.J. O'Brien's vast empire of national railroad building and mining interests in Northern Ontario.
The Murrays came to Pembroke from Richmond in Goulbourn Township
If I was a betting man, I'd put a dollar on Joe Murray as being descended from the early Murray family in Goulbourn Township.
This just in from Bob Bourke:
Hi Al and Sue
I do have a Joseph Murray, (1887-1937) who married a Stella O'Brien, ( 1890-1937). This Joseph Murray was a son of William Murray, (1839-1898)
and his second wife Elizabeth O'Meara, (1858-1938). Joseph and Stella had 6 children. My information comes from info provided
by a family member and researcher.
Thank you for forwarding this information.
Photo Source: The book O'BRIEN by Scott Young and Astrid Young, page photo insert, near page 150
The Causeway at Calabogie, Ontario, Canada, built by M. J. O'Brien