book O’Brien


From Water Boy to One Million a Year

An exceptional job of research into the life of a remarkable man has produced this story.
When Michael John O’Brien quit school to work at age fourteen, he was a gangling boy.
Wearing a wooden neckyoke to hold the pails, he carried water among the railroad builders
near his home, earning ten cents a pail. But before he was nineteen he was subcontracting
for railroad work himself, then following the railways across the nation.

Rawboned, six-feet-two, he was the kind of man who would say “Deal me in” whenever he
heard of an opportunity that interested him. He went broke. He bought mine claims
for $4,000 that returned him nearly $3,000,000 within a few years. When the forerunner
of the Canadian National Railways was being laid across Canada, he built more of it
than any other man. Few records of his financial transactions
remain, but in 1916 – before Canada had income tax – he made a net personal income,
take-home pay, of $1,606,233.86.

In one of his early railway jobs he met and married Jennie Barry. Their family was
raised in Renfrew, Ontario, because this was near Jennie’s home. Her husband, by then
known in the financial capitals as well as on the frontier as M.J., Uncle Imjay, or
just plain O’Brien, was seldom home.

But the fascinating family relationships that developed are fully explored by the
authors – including the part M.J. and his oldest son Ambrose played in founding hockey’s
Montreal Canadiens. The most famous hockey team of 1910, however, was the Renfrew
Millionaires: that was an O’Brien team, too. In fact, the O’Briens in 1910 owned four
of the five teams that formed the first National Hockey Association, forerunner of the
National Hockey League.

O’Brien is a valuable addition to Canadiana, especially in the fields of popular
financial and social history.


*Identifies companies owned, controlled or operated by M. J. O’Brien
or M. J. 0’Brien Limited.

Aird, Sir John
Allen, Sir Montague
Alminex, Limited
Angus, R. B.
Atlantic Coast Copper Corporation Limited
Baie des Chaleurs Railway
Barnet, Alexander
Barnet, George
Barnet, James G.
Barry, James
Barry James, Jr.
Barry, Patrick
Barry, Richard
Barry, William
Beatty, Sir Edward
Bell, George
Bertram, Colonel Alex
Bishop, William
Blair Engineering of Canada *
Boicey, Joe
Bonsall Mines Limited *
Boon, Richard R. (Dickie)
Booth, John R.
Borden, Sir Robert Laird
Boundary Investments Limited *
Brien, Joseph Benoit
Brillant, Jules A.
British America Nickel Corporation Ltd.
Burns, Ferrier
Burton, Fred
Buskard, Charles
Butler, Percy
Calabogie and Renfrew Telephone Association *
Calabogie Light and Power Company *
Campbell, Angus
Campbell, George A., K.C.
Canada and Gulf Terminal Railway*
Canada Atlantic Railway
Canada Central Railway
Canada Pebble Company *
Canadian Flint and Spar Limited *
Canadian Goldale Corporation Ltd.
Canadian Hockey Association
Canadian National Railways
Canadian Northern Railway Co.
Canadian Pacific Railway
North Shore Line
Canadian Paperboard Company *
Capital Trust Corporation *
Cartier, Georges Etienne
Cattarinich, Joseph
Central Counties Railway
Chambers, W. C.
Cliishogm, McDonald and O’Brien
Chisholm, William H.
Cleghorn, Odie
Cleghorn, Sprague
Cobalt Hockey Club
Cochrane, Hon. Francis
Cockshutt, Frank
Coleman, Charles L.
Confederation Construction
Connolly, Dr. B. J.
Connolly, Hon. John J.
Copperiields Mining Corporation
Courtois, Jacques
Cram, William C., Jr.
• children of: Robert & William C.
Culbert, P. M.
Dafoe, John W.
Daly, Harold Mayne
Dandurand, Joseph Viateur (Leo)
Davies, Robertson
Davis, Hon. E. J.
Davis, J. T.
Davis, M. P.
Davis, Mortimer
Deloro Smelting and Refining Company Limited *
Deloro Mining and Reduction Company Limited *
Deloro Mining and Smelting Company Limited *
Deloro Stellite Limited *
Deschenes Construction Limited *
Deschenes Structures Limited *
Devine and Legree *
Dibblee Construction Company Limited *
Dickenson, J. C.
Doheny, Dan
Doheny, Hugh
Doheny, Mike
Doheny, Quinlan and Robertson
Dominion Building Materials Limited *
Dominion House Hotel *
Doran, P. J.
Drummond, Huntley R.
Duggan, M. T.
Duke of Devonshire
Dumond, Austin E.
Dunlap, David A.
Dunn, Sir James, 178, 179
Eastern Canada Hockey Association
Eastern Securities Corporation *
Eaton, Sir John
Edwards, Senator W. C.
Energite Explosives Limited *
Eucharistic Congress (1910)
Federal Hockey League
Ferguson, Elmer
Ferland, Arthur
Fielding, W. S.
Finlay, Percy
Flavelle, Sir Joseph
Fleming, Sandford
Flower, R. F.
Folger, Ben W.
Fowler, Zaccheus John
Galbraith, R. A.
Galetta Electric Power and Milling Company Limited *
Gardner, James Henry (Jimmy)
Gibson, Thomas W.
Gildersleeve, Charles
Gillies Limits
Gilmour, Larry
Glenbow Foundation
Golden Lake Lumber Company *
Gorman, Thomas Patrick (Tommy)
Graham, General H. D.
Grand Trunk Pacitic Railway
Grand Trunk Railway Company
Gravelle, A.
Great Lakes Dredging and Contracting Company Limited
Green, H. A.
Gregory, George
Gutelius, F. P., C.E.
Haileybury Hockey Club
Hall, Joseph Henry (Bad Joe)
Hare, T. C.
Haynes, Elwood
Hebert, Thomas
Hermeston, W.
Hockey Hall of Fame
Hotfman, Arnold
Hogan and Macdonnell
Hollinger, Benny
Hollinger Mine
Holt, Herbert
Hotel Renfrew
Hudson’s Bay Railway
Hughes, Sir Sam
Imperial Munitions Board
lntercolonial Railway
Interprovincial Flour Mills Limited *
Inverness and Cape Breton Railway
Jenkins, Stuart
Jennings, Syd
Jordan, Herbert A.
Jordan, Stella Murray
Keevil, N. B.
Kelly, Elizabeth
Kelly, Evelyn
Kelly, Harry
Kendall, George
Kennedy, G.
Kennedy, George
Kennedy, H. G. (Mike)
Kerr, Albert
Kiloran, Ben
King, Neil
King, Rt. Hon. W. L. Mackenzie
Kingston and Pembroke Railway
Kirkegaard, P.
Kirkpatrick, Dr. S. F.
Kristianssands Nikkelratiineringsverk
Lake, Fred
Lalonde, Edouard Charles (Newsy)
Larochelle, Eugene
LaRoque, Laura
LaRose, Fred
LaRose Mine
Laurier, Sir Wilfrid
Laviolette, Jean Baptiste (Jack)
Lemieux, Rodolphe
Litliton, Ernie
Lindsay, Bert
Lindsay, Robert Blake Theodore (Ted)
Livesay, James
Low, Hon. Thomas A.
Lumsden, H. D.
Lynch-Staunton, George, K.C.
Mabee, S. P.
Macdonald, Alastair
Macdonald, Fergus
Macdonald, Rt. Hon. Sir John A.
Macdonell, Harry
Macdonnell, Angus R.
Mackenzie and Mann
Mackenzie, Sir William
Maloney, Dr. M. J.
Mann, Sir Donald
Martel, George
Martin, Lawrence T.
Martin, Hon. Paul
Mathews, W. O.
McArthur, J. D.
McCann, Dr. J. J.
McCoy, Frank
McDonald, Allan Ronald
McGee, D’Arcy
McKay, Senator Thomas
McKellar, Hon. Archibald
McLaughlin, Harry
McMartin, Duncan
McMartin, John
Meighen, Rt. Hon. Arthur
Middleton and Victoria Beach Railway
Midland Railway
Miller Lake O’Brien Mine *
Minns, Margaret
Missouri Cobalt Company *
Molson, Senator Hartland de M.
Montreal Canadiens
Montreal Nationals
Montreal, Ottawa and Occidental Railway
Montreal Shamrocks
Montreal Wanderers
Moran, John
Mullarkey, J. P.
Mulligan, Dave
Murphy, Hon. Charles
Murray, Joseph L.
Murray, Michael J.
Napanee and Tamworth Railway
National Hockey Association
National Hockey League
National Transcontinental Enquiry Commission
National Transcontinental Railway
Norcross, Joseph
North Pacific Junction Railway
O’Brian, James Brock
O’Brien and Fowler Limited *
O’Brien and Macdonnell
O’Brien and Martin
O’Brien and McDougall Bros.
O’Brien and Mullarkey
O’Brien, Bruce
O’Brien Cup
O’Brien, Doheny, Quinlan and Robertson
O’Brien, Fowler, McDougall and O’Gorman
O’Brien Gold Mines Limited *
O’Brien, John Ambrose
• married Mary Adele Gorman
• children: Brian A., Gerald P., J. Barry, Justin M., Lawrence F.
O’Brien, John B.
O’Brien Limited, M. J.
O’Brien, McDougall and O’Gorman
O’Brien, McDougall Bros. and Fowler
O’Brien, Michael John,
• Commissioner T. & N. O. Railway
• death and funeral
• early career
• litigations
• local politics
• marriage
• papal decorations
• personal financial statements
• politics
• remarriage
• Senate
• train wreck
• married Jane (Jennie) Barry
• children: John Ambrose, Mary Gertrude, Mary Grace, Mary Jamesina, Mary Stella, Michael J. (Jack), Patrick
• subsequently married, Grace Robertson
O’Brien Mine *, Cobalt
O’Brien Munitions Limited *
O’Brien Opera House *
O’Brien Park, M. J.
O’Brien Ranch *, Alberta
O’Brien, William
O’Gorman, S.
Osler, Edmund
Ottawa, Arnprior and Parry Sound Railway
Ottawa Hockey Club
Ottawa Valley Amusement Company Limited *
Papal Decorations
Parent, S. N.
Patrick, Frank
Patrick, Lester
Pedlow, Isaac E.
Peel-Elder Limited
Pitrie, Didier
Plaunt, Xavier
Prince of Wales Trophy
Prudential Finance Co. Ltd.
Quebec and Sagucnay Railway
Quebec Hockey Club
Quinlan and Robertson
Quinlan, Hugh
Rainboth, E. J.
Renfrew Dairy *
Renfrew Grain Growing Company Limited *
Renfrew Hockey Club (Creamery Kings; Millionaires)
Renfrew Knitting Company *
Renfrew Machinery Company Limited *
Renfrew Molybdenum *
Renfrew Planing Mill *
Renfrew Scale Company *
Renfrew Steam Laundry *
Renfrew, Town of:
• fall fair
• pig by-law
• street lighting
Renfrew Wood Products Limited *
Renfrew Woollen Mills *
Rhodes, Edgar
Riordan, Carl
Robarts, John
Roberts, Dr. K. A.
Robertson, Angus
Robertson, Don
Ross, Arthur Howie (Art)
Ross, George W.
Rougvie, J. Norman
Rowe, Bobby
Russell, R. K.
Russell, W. B.
Ryan, Bishop
St. Laurent, Rt. Hon. Louis
Schreiber, Collingwood
Scott, Annie Barry
Shaughnessy, Lord
Shawville and Renfrew Railway
Sifton, Sir Clifford
Sladen, St. Barbe
Smaill, Walter
Smallfield, William E.
Smith, Alfred E. (Al)
Smith, J. T.
Smith, Mary
Southworth, Thomas
Sparks, Harry
Spooner, A. E.
Stanford, Arthur
Stanley Cup
Stevens, G. R.
Strachan, James
Sumner and Sumner
Sutherland, J. L.
Sutherland, R. M.
Taylor, Fred (Cyclone)
Temiskaming and Northern Ontario Railway
Thunder Bay Contracting Company Ltd. *
Tilley, W. N.
Timmins and McMartin
Timmins, Henry
Timmins and Company, J. R.
Timmins, Jules
Timmins, McMartin and Dunlap
Timmins, Noah
Toronto Stock Exchange
Tupper, Sir Charles
Turnbull, Ed
Upper Ottawa Valley Hockey League
Walker, Harry J.
Walsh, Martin (Marty)
Wechter, Charles
Wechter, Vincent LaH.
Welland Canal
Western Canada Colonization Association
Whalen Land Corporation Ltd. *
White, Aubrey
Whitney, E. C.
Whitney, James Pliny
Whitton, Charlotte
Wright, A. A.
Young. A. J.
Young-O’Brien Mine