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The subject of this sketch is descended from two distinct families of the same name, of Kerry, Ireland; his parents being John and Mary O’Connor, though not related within known degrees of kinship. They immigrated to the United States in 1823, and settled in Boston, Mass., where our subject was born, January 21, 1824. When he was four years old the family removed to Upper Canada, settling in the County of Essex, in the extreme western part of what is now the Province of Ontario, where the son received his education in common, gram mar and private schools. He read law under W. D. Baby, of Sandwich, same county; attended several terms at the law school in Toronto: was sworn in as Attorney at law, in 1852; was called to the Bar, Hilary Term, in 1854, and practiced at Windsor and Sandwich, residing at the former place, till 1872, when he removed to Ottawa. Here he continues the practice of his profession, and as an advocate has no superior at the Ottawa Bar, and few equals in the eastern part of the Province.
Mr. O’Connor was created a Queen’s Counsel in 1872, and is a member of the Michigan Bar; was at one period Reeve of Windsor; was warden of Essex for three years, being elected twice by the unanimous vote of the County Council; was for twelve consecutive years chair man of the Board of Education of Windsor; was sworn of the Privy Council, and was its President from July 2, 1872, to March 4, 1873, when he was appointed Minister of Inland Revenue.
On the 1st of July, 1873, he was sworn in as Postmaster-General, and went out on the 5th of November following, when the Government resigned.
He was an unsuccessful candidate for a seat in the Canadian Assembly, in 1861, but two years later succeeded in unseating the sitting member, Arthur Rankin, and obtaining a new election, when Mr. O’Connor was returned, and sat until the dissolution of Parliament in May of that year. At the general election held a few months later in that year, he again contested that seat, when a special return was made to the House by the proper officer, and both candidates petitioned to be seated. Mr. O’Connor’s petition was thrown out by the Speaker upon preliminary objections, and Mr. Rankin was seated.
Mr. O’Connor was returned to the House of Commons at the general elections, in 1867, and 1872 for the same county; was defeated for the County of Essex in 1874, his opponent, Mr. McGregor, being declared elected, but Mr. O’Connor contested his seat on the ground of bribery and corruption, and unseated him, then declining to be a candidate again for Essex County. At the election held in 1878 he was a candidate for Russell, and was elected by a large majority over his competitor, Ira Morgan.
Mr. O’Connor was sworn into the new Cabinet of the Rt. Hon. Sir John A. Macdonald, on the 16th of October, 1878, and was President of the Privy Council until the 17th of January, 1880, when he again became Postmaster General, which position he now holds.
Mr. O’Connor is an able writer as well as speaker, and is the author of “Letters Addressed to the Governor General on the subject of Fenianism,” published in 1870.
In April, 1849, Mary, eldest daughter of Richard Barrett, Esq., formerly of Killarney, Ireland, became the wife of Mr. O’Connor, and they have had nine children, of whom five are living.