Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Sharing What We Have to Pass Along

Yesterday, I mentioned that I have come to the end of the collection of papers passed on by Agnes Tully Stevens. I also noted that I have no idea what the significance was of one particular company newsletter she saved. The Edison Round Table Weekly, published April 1, 1916, has remained in Agnes’ possession—for whatever reason—ever since.

I suspect that I’ll never know the reason. I’m tempted to toss it. But before I do, ever mindful that it may contain material that another family history researcher might find useful, I want to glean what tidbits I can.

Today, I’ve selected the main article on the front page of the newsletter to transcribe. All in one article, it gives the details of the passing of one young, up-and-coming career man, some aspects of his work environment, and continues the impression I’ve had that, even past that time span when the invincible tuberculosis reigned unchallenged, there were still a significant number of young people dying in the city of Chicago.

This particular gentleman, Thomas J. O’Brien, was by the time of his death a married man and father of two young boys. It appears his wife was the former Anna Dunbar, shown living as a widow with her two sons in her brother-in-law’s home in the 1920 census—and, not surprisingly, herself employed by an electric company as a stenographer.

Though born in Chicago himself, Thomas’ parents—Bartley and Mary O’Connor O’Brien—came there from Troy, New York. I suspect, though, that not much before that, they claimed roots in Ireland.

Despite the company’s detailed analysis of the cause of Thomas O’Brien’s death, the city’s death certificate listed lobar pneumonia as his affliction. For whatever reason, though, the suddenness of this turn of events must have had an impact felt across the workforce of the company.

Though no relation to any of Agnes Tully Stevens’ family—well, at least as far as I can determine at this point—perhaps this sad story was part of what prompted her to tuck this newsletter away among her special papers. I’ll never know, of course, but in the meantime, perhaps I can serve to pass along some details that may prove helpful to someone else.

Heart Failure the
Cause of Death of
Thomas J. O’Brien

Secretary to Mr. Junkersfeld
Dies Suddenly After Very
Short Illness

With Company Since a Boy

           Thomas J. O’Brien, Private Secretary to Mr. P. Junkersfeld, and having a record of seventeen years’ continuous service with the Company, although he was only thirty-three years old, died at 12:45 a.m., Saturday, March 25, from heart failure. He had not been in good health, but had only been away from his work five days when his illness very suddenly grew serious. He died within an hour and a quarter after this happened. Death was due to the rupture of an artery within the heart itself. This was entirely unexpected by his physician, and came as a great shock to his family and his many friends, particularly as it followed so closely the sudden death of Mr. Manley last week.

           Mr. O’Brien was born November 8, 1882. He came to the Chicago Edison Company in 1899, entering the service in the Purchasing and Stores Departments, where he remained for twelve years, advancing steadily until he became Secretary to the late Mr. R. C. P. Holmes. In October, 1910, he was transferred to Vice-President Ferguson’s office, where he remained until the time of his last illness.
            Thomas J. was a younger brother of Mr. John C. O’Brien, of the Contract Department, who has also been with the Company a great many years. He was married and is survived by his wife and two children, Harry aged 5, and Edward aged 3: also by his brother John C., four sisters and his father.

            The funeral was held Monday, March 27, at ten o’clock at St. Bernard’s Church, 66th Street and Stewart Avenue. The pallbearers were: A. E. Legge, Purchasing Department; M. J. Casey, Engineering Department; H. E. Wing and H. L. Strom, Vice-President Ferguson’s office, George Ashline, Public Service Company, and Phillip Allen, a personal friend.

            Interment was at Mount Olivet cemetery.


  1. Maybe an old flame of Agnes? Good looking dude... died way too young.

    1. Yes, way too young. I don't know why that always hits me. It seemed to be fairly a common occurrence in those times. But it still bothers me.

  2. She (Agnes) seems to have had an "in" at the electric company. I wonder what the connection was...


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