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Treasure Chest Thursday: Viola G. HELBLING and her Husband Charles CARRIGAN

Viola Gertrude Helbling and Charles M. Carrigan. This picture was likely taken in the 1940s.

HELBLING Family (Click for Family Tree)

Viola Gertrude HELBLING (1913-1971) and Charles M. CARRIGAN (1916-1989) of St. Louis, Missouri, married 27 November 1941, per one researcher, but we have not yet found a record to confirm that date. Perhaps this photo was their wedding photo?

Vi was the daughter of Gerard William “G.W.” Helbling and Anna May (Beerbower) Helbling.

had married previously, in secret, as she was working and helped support her family. (Women sometimes gave up their jobs when they married back then.) That husband passed away, and she later married Charlie. Sadly, they had no children, but they enriched the lives of their nieces and nephews immensely!

 

Notes, Sources, and References: 

  1. Family treasure chest of photos.

 

Click to enlarge any image. Please contact us if you would like an image in higher resolution.

We would love to read your thoughts and comments about this post (see form below), and thank you for your time! All comments are moderated, however, due to the high intelligence and persistence of spammers/hackers who really should be putting their smarts to use for the public good instead of spamming our little blog.
 

Original content copyright 2013-2017 by Heritage Ramblings Blog and pmm.

Family history is meant to be shared, but the original content of this site may NOT be used for any commercial purposes unless explicit written permission is received from both the blog owner and author. Blogs or websites with ads and/or any income-generating components are included under “commercial purposes,” as are the large genealogy database websites. Sites that republish original HeritageRamblings.net content as their own are in violation of copyright as well, and use of full content is not permitted. 
Descendants and researchers MAY download images and posts to share with their families, and use the information on their family trees or in family history books with a small number of reprints. Please make sure to credit and cite the information properly.
 Please contact us if you have any questions about copyright or use of our blog material.

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Treasure Chest Thursday: G.W. Helbling and Anna May Beerbower Art

Drawings done by Gerard William “G.W.” Helbling as frames for pictures of himself and the love of his life, Anna May (Beerbower) Helbling.

Helbling Family, Beerbower Family (Click for Family Tree)

This has been a challenging year and sadly the blog has been one of the (many) things pushed to the bottom of the list- so sorry. Hopefully now there will be some time for writing and posting, as there are so many stories and wonderful artifacts to share!

The above images are on dark gray cardstock, likely ink and paint for the backgrounds and the images cut from photographs. Gerard William, or “G.W.” Helbling, was an accomplished artist, silk screen sign painter, and even an undertaker (that takes artistic and esthetic skills).

G.W. was born in 1882 in St. Louis, Missouri, most likely, and Ann May Beerbower, the love of his life, was born in 1881 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Since we do not have the 1890 census, it is more challenging to determine when GW and May might have met. Anna’s mother (Anna Missouri (Springsteen) Beerbower) was listed in the 1897 Indianapolis City Directory with her sons Edgar and Robert, and possibly daughter Anna May lived there as well- she likely would not have been listed, as she was only 16 at the time. Anna Missouri was listed as a widow, however she was actually divorced from her husband Edgar Peter Beerbower. (They would later remarry.) By 1900 Anna (Missouri) was living in St. Louis, where she was enumerated as living with her 23 year-old son Edgar S., and 18 year-old daughter “May.”

G.W. Helbling was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and his parents resided there between 1890-1900 per city directories and censuses. It is likely that the two met in St. Louis, after Anna moved there sometime between 1897 and 1900. They married on 24 November 1904, when Anna was 23, G.W. 22.

Their daughter, Mary Theresa (Helbling) McMurray, thought that he had created this art sometime in their early years together. Using pictures from when they were young teens- or maybe younger?- he painted the backgrounds first, then cut out the photos and glued them on. He was the “wild man” and she his “queen.”

The couple had almost fifty years together of their love story, but Anna died on November 9, 1954; their 50th anniversary would have been on the 24th. Their love story lives on in the sweet artifacts they left behind, and in the legacy of their children.

Notes, Sources, and References: 

  1. Family treasure chest of photos and artifacts.
  2. City directories and censuses.

 

Click to enlarge any image. Please contact us if you would like an image in higher resolution.

We would love to read your thoughts and comments about this post (see form below), and thank you for your time! All comments are moderated, however, due to the high intelligence and persistence of spammers/hackers who really should be putting their smarts to use for the public good instead of spamming our little blog.
 

Original content copyright 2013-2017 by Heritage Ramblings Blog and pmm.

Family history is meant to be shared, but the original content of this site may NOT be used for any commercial purposes unless explicit written permission is received from both the blog owner and author. Blogs or websites with ads and/or any income-generating components are included under “commercial purposes,” as are the large genealogy database websites. Sites that republish original HeritageRamblings.net content as their own are in violation of copyright as well, and use of full content is not permitted. 
Descendants and researchers MAY download images and posts to share with their families, and use the information on their family trees or in family history books with a small number of reprints. Please make sure to credit and cite the information properly.
 Please contact us if you have any questions about copyright or use of our blog material.

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Those Places Thursday: Carrick-on-Suir, Ireland, Birthplace of Dr. John H. O’Brien

Old bridge at Carrick-on-Suir, via Wikimedia. (Click to enlarge.)
‘Old Bridge’ at Carrick-on-Suir, via Wikimedia. (Click to enlarge.)

Helbling Family (Click for Family Tree)

Finding the “Olde Country” home of one of our immigrant ancestors can be challenging, but thrilling when the tedious researching pans out.  That was the case with learning that Carrick-on-Suir, in County Tipperary, Ireland, was the home of one of our immigrant ancestors.

Dr. John H. O’Brien’s tombstone indicates that he was born in Carrick-on-Suir, Ireland, in June 1808. Learning a bit about the town is a way for us all to ‘visit’ our ancestral homeplace without leaving the comforts of our home. (Though a trip to Ireland would be delightful!)

The Irish name of Carraig na Siúire means “rock of the Suir.” The town was built on both sides of the River Suir, in County Tipperary, Ireland.

Map of Ireland showing Carrick-on-Suir in County Tipperary. Wikimedia. (Click to enlarge.)
Map of Ireland showing Carrick-on-Suir in County Tipperary. Wikimedia. (Click to enlarge.)

Located in the southeastern part of Ireland, the majority of the town is on the northern side of the river, and is known as Carrig Mór, or ‘Big Rock.’ A smaller section of the town, called Carrig Beg, for “Small Rock,”  is situated on the southern side of the river. Although in a river valley, the town nestles up to one mountain, and has a beautiful view of rolling hills and mountains in many directions. (See some of the Google Images linked below, since they are copyrighted.)

Rivers were primary means of transportation for both goods and people for centuries, and the River Suir was no different. A canal towpath ran along the river at one point, and today is used as a riverwalk for recreation. The Suir is a tidal river, which means that even though Carrick-on-Suir is about 50 miles from the coast, the tides raise and lower the waters considerably as the tides come in and go out. (Note high water levels on some of the bridge pictures.) Flooding of the river valley does occur on a regular basis, and probably did more often in the years that the O’Briens lived there, since there was less engineering done to waterways back then. The elevation is only 30 ft. above sea level, and the town has had to build quays to hold back the tidal surge during stormy periods; global warming is a concern with rising sea levels.

The 'Old Bridge' at Carraig na Siúire (Carrick-on-Suir). Wikimedia. (Click to enlarge.)
The ‘Old Bridge’ at Carraig na Siúire (Carrick-on-Suir), built in 1447. Wikimedia. (Click to enlarge.)

Actually, they did more engineering back in the day than one might think. The town was originally founded on an island, possibly before the year 1247. Sometime in the 1700s, as the town grew and needed more land, small rivers were diverted to add to the buildable land both west and north of the town.

Ormonde Castle, or Caisleán Urmhumhan, in Carrick-on-Suir, Co. Tipperary, Ireland. Wikimedia. (Click to enlarge.)
Ormonde Castle, or Caisleán Urmhumhan, in Carrick-on-Suir, Co. Tipperary, Ireland. Wikimedia. (Click to enlarge.)

Two castles were built in the town (one in 1315, the second around 1450), and about 100 years later a manor house that was built around two of the old towers. The Manor House and ruins, also known as Ormond Castle, have more recently been renovated and are open for tours. Our John O’Brien would have seen these buildings in a more rustic state, and maybe played among the ruins as a young boy.

Ormonde Castle, or Caisleán Urmhumhan, in Carrick-on-Suir, Co. Tipperary, Ireland. Wikimedia. (Click to enlarge.)
Ormonde Castle, or Caisleán Urmhumhan, from Manor House, in Carrick-on-Suir, Co. Tipperary, Ireland. Wikimedia. (Click to enlarge.)

As with many places in Ireland, Carrick-on-Suir was prohibited from freedom of religion during much of its more recent history. (“Recent history” to the Brits is after 1500 or so.) The British closed down a Franciscan friary that had been in existence since the 14th century, and persecuted Catholics after Henry VIII began the Church of England. About 80% of the Irish were Catholics in those days, thus for centuries they had been prohibited from education, from owning or renting land, from holding a number of professions, etc.  In 1829, ‘Catholic Emancipation’ allowed them freedoms again, but most still lived in poverty due to the laws imposed on their parents and grandparents. (John O’Brien would have been 21 years old then.) During John’s lifetime, the friary, a small church called St. Molleran’s Parish, which is even older, and a newer church, St. Nicholas’ Church, were all active Catholic churches, which was the religion we believe Dr. O’Brien practiced since he is buried in a Catholic cemetery.

The Carrick-on-Suir town clock was built in 1784. Since John was born in 1808, his parents likely were born circa 1780, so it would have kept the time for John and his family. Most of the residents back then were probably not wealthy enough to purchase their own timepiece.

A woollen industry had been developed in Carrick-on-Suir in 1670, and it drew in workers steadily. The wool industry, along with fishing and other river-related businesses that included basketweaving, helped the population to swell to about 11,000 by 1799, just 9 years before our ancestor John O’Brien was born. (Wonder if his father worked in one of these industries?) The British, however, did not want the Irish competing with their own wool industry, so high taxes and levies on wool and other products led to unemployment, poverty, and hunger. Emigration (often forced by the British, especially for those who were poor or convicted of crimes- even of stealing an apple!) to places such as the Americas, Australia, etc. was another result of British rule, and contributed to the depopulating of the area.

John H. O’Brien was one of those who left the town, but he migrated before the Great Famine, often known as “The Potato Famine.” County Tipperary lost 20-30% of its population due to death or emigration by the end of the famine, and in 2006 only had about 6,000 people.

We will detail more about the adult years of Dr. John O’Brien in a future post.

 

Notes, Sources, and References: 

  1. See “Tombstone Tuesday- Dr. John H. O’Brien” at http://heritageramblings.net/2014/01/14/tombstone-tuesday-dr-john-h-obrien/  for more about the family.
  2. Some wonderful images of Carrick-on-Suir and maps can be found on Google Maps: https://www.google.com/maps/dir/Waterford,+Ireland/Carrick-On-Suir,+Co.+Tipperary,+Ireland/@52.295537,-7.4067322,39038m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m14!4m13!1m5!1m1!1s0x4842c69c63d9e44d:0xc5bb81888b67b9fb!2m2!1d-7.1100703!2d52.2593197!1m5!1m1!1s0x4842d6fc9619051f:0xa00c7a99731e910!2m2!1d-7.4189708!2d52.3476495!4e1
  3. St. Mary’s Cemetery at Carrick-on-Suir- perhaps the parents or other ancestors of John H. O’Brien are buried here? That needs to be on the research checklist.
    https://www.google.com/maps/place/Carrick-On-Suir,+Co.+Tipperary,+Ireland/@52.3403584,-7.412284,3a,75y,34h,90t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m5!1sEdV89zUL6gtHa-769N8wJA!2e0!6s%2F%2Fgeo0.ggpht.com%2Fcbk%3Fpanoid%3DEdV89zUL6gtHa-769N8wJA%26output%3Dthumbnail%26cb_client%3Dmaps_sv.tactile.gps%26thumb%3D2%26w%3D203%26h%3D100%26yaw%3D34.386131%26pitch%3D0!7i13312!8i6656!4m2!3m1!1s0x4842d6fc9619051f:0xa00c7a99731e910!6m1!1e1
  4. Perhaps some of these downtown buildings existed in John O’Brien’s early years in Carrick-on-Suir?
    https://www.google.com/maps/place/Carrick-On-Suir,+Co.+Tipperary,+Ireland/@52.346063,-7.413304,3a,75y,78h,90t/data=!3m8!1e2!3m6!1s29970615!2e1!3e10!6s%2F%2Flh3.googleusercontent.com%2Fproxy%2FePLOCG1aGr4gdN7ituRTIPJUWxXlhCHwIz2r5qB_6ea3tQmQ4LrVxWIqFesVk7gs_FBgiDmtziUnxYn9hvDUPFT-rf08JQ%3Dw203-h152!7i2272!8i1704!4m2!3m1!1s0x4842d6fc9619051f:0xa00c7a99731e910!6m1!1e1
  5. How many sunsets did John O’Brien watch over Slievenamon?https://www.google.com/maps/place/Carrick-On-Suir,+Co.+Tipperary,+Ireland/@52.34326,-7.411873,3a,75y,48h,90t/data=!3m8!1e2!3m6!1s92541761!2e1!3e10!6s%2F%2Flh3.googleusercontent.com%2Fproxy%2Fht3DDdu7HPxx4C4ww2T6X1luaKDuJFtsC4DtMX_ZQ5HEgFlkofALRCe2n8luZY4nfMlQi8oR_0CNGo8foolarXOfxV5JgQ%3Dw203-h135!7i800!8i534!4m2!3m1!1s0x4842d6fc9619051f:0xa00c7a99731e910!6m1!1e1
  6. Wikipedia articles consulted:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carrick-on-Suir
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Famine_(Ireland)
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ormonde_Castle
  7. “Ormonde Castle – Caisleán Urmhumhan – geograph.org.uk – 924019” by James Yardley. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ormonde_Castle_-_Caisle%C3%A1n_Urmhumhan_-_geograph.org.uk_-_924019.jpg#/media/File:Ormonde_Castle_-_Caisle%C3%A1n_Urmhumhan_-_geograph.org.uk_-_924019.jpg
  8. Ormonde Castle, or Caisleán Urmhumhan, from Manor House:
    “Ormonde Castle – Carrick-on-Suir” by Humphrey Bolton. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ormonde_Castle_-_Carrick-on-Suir.jpg#/media/File:Ormonde_Castle_-_Carrick-on-Suir.jpg
  9. Carrick-On-Suir clock images can be found at https://www.flickr.com/search/?text=carrick%20on%20suir%20clock
  10. We have not yet been able to find records of John’s family actually in Carrick-on-Suir. There are quite a lot of John O’Briens listed as being born in County Tipperary, but since we do not know the names of his parents, it will be hard to determine exactly which records are for our John H. O’Brien. Perhaps he was born in a different town and then moved to Carrick-on-Suir when very young, so thought he was born there? More research needed.Please contact us if you would like higher resolution images. Click to enlarge images.
We would love to read your thoughts and comments about this post (see form below), and thank you for your time! All comments are moderated, however, due to the high intelligence and persistence of spammers/hackers who really should be putting their smarts to use for the public good instead of spamming our little blog.
 

Original content copyright 2013-2015 by Heritage Ramblings Blog and pmm.

Family history is meant to be shared, but the original content of this site may NOT be used for any commercial purposes unless explicit written permission is received from both the blog owner and author. Blogs or websites with ads and/or any income-generating components are included under “commercial purposes,” as are the large genealogy database websites. Sites that republish original HeritageRamblings.net content as their own are in violation of copyright as well, and use of full content is not permitted.
 
Descendants and researchers MAY download images and posts to share with their families, and use the information on their family trees or in family history books with a small number of reprints. Please make sure to credit and cite the information properly.
 
Please contact us if you have any questions about copyright of our blog material.

Tuesday’s Tip: Finding Information about Dr. John H. O’Brien of Pennsylvania

Carrick (in red), suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh is built around the confluence of three rivers- the Allegheny River in the northeast and the Monongahela River in the southeast flow to form the Ohio River in the northwest portion of this map. Via Wikipedia, courtesy Tom Murphy VII, public domain.

Helbling Family (Click for Family Tree)

Tuesday’s Tip: Follow your Genealogical Muse.

Today started with a genealogical plan to work on Ancestry.com to download GEDCOMs and upload the new Family Tree Software before tomorrow’s midnight deadline for changes in the sync process. One hour, then on to the real life things- that was the goal. Serendipitious things happened instead, however, and the urge to follow my Genealogical Muse took over. I am so glad I followed…

My computer breadcrumb trail has been lost now in all the items I have seen (I know, ‘History’ should show it but it does not always with some pay-wall and other sites), but I somehow ended up with a death certificate on my screen. Knowing that Dr. John H. O’Brien was born at Carrick-on-Suir in Tipperary, Ireland, made the new-to-me fact that his son Charles Anthony O’Brien, Sr. was born in Carrick, Pennsylvania a curious one. Was that a mistake? Charles A. O’Brien, Jr., his son, had completed the death certificate for his father- did he ‘misremember’ his father’s birthplace as his grandfather’s? But it did say “Carrick, Penna.” instead of Carrick, Ireland, and Charles Jr. did get other information correct about the parents of his father.

Hmmm, so of course the G. Muse required that I look up Carrick, PA.

Carrick, Pennsylvania. Wikimedia Commons, CC0-public domain. (Click to enlarge.)

And wow! There on the Wikipedia page was:

In 1853, Dr. John H. O’Brien received permission from the U. S. Postal Service to establish a post office in the area; for his hard work he was given the honor of naming it, and he chose “Carrick” after his home town, Carrick-on-Suir, Ireland.

Oh my, that would be OUR Dr. John H. O’Brien!

Of course, being Wikipedia, a check for accuracy was in order. But it checked out (or else has been copied to many other websites)- see links below. Since the Carrick-Overbrook Historical Society has the same story on their website, I tend to think it is most probably correct. (No success in following the USPS lead- seems there should be a record of a request somewhere.)

So they lived in Carrick, PA in 1853, since he named it and their son was born there that same year. Wanting a Post Office there would suggest that they had been there a while and planned to stay, since he went to all the trouble of an official paperwork request. We will need to focus on that area for further study, especially since we do not have details of the birthplaces of their other children beyond “Pennsylvania.”

1888 Wigman House in Carrick, Pennsylvania. Built the year after John O’Brien died, he may have lived in a similar house built earlier. Via Wikimedia Commons, public domain. (Click to enlarge.)

Dr. O’Brien must have longed for his home in Ireland even after being in the US for over 20 years. Pittsburgh did have a river like where he grew up- actually three of them. Carrick-on-Suir is only 10 feet above sea level, and Pittsburgh, being situated in a large river valley, would have had a similar topographic feel.  Both have mountains around, so the area in 1853 must have seemed a bit like home to John. Giving it the name of his home would have made it feel moreso.

The Genealogical Muse helped me strike gold today! It has been hard to find much information on John and Jane (Neel) O’Brien in the early years, and this was a surprising and great find. So remember our Tuesday Tip and follow the Genealogical Muse when you can. And make sure to check out children and siblings- what you find may be just as wonderful!

 

Notes, Sources, and References: 

  1. Death certificate of Charles A. O’Brien, Sr., Commonwealth of PA File No. 97596, Registered No. 546, Pennsylvania Death Certificates 1906-1964, (1928), Ancestry.com.
  2. Carrick Wikipedia article– https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carrick_(Pittsburgh)
  3. Carrick-Overbook Historical Society–http://www.carrick-overbrook.org/carrick
  4. “Pittsburgh Neighborhoods: Carrick” includes modern day photos– http://pittsburghbeautiful.com/2017/02/01/pittsburgh-neighborhoods-history-of-carrick/
  5. “How 65 Pittsburgh Neighborhoods Got Their Names”– see #11.
    http://mentalfloss.com/article/65575/how-65-pittsburgh-neighborhoods-got-their-names

 

Please contact us if you would like higher resolution images. Click to enlarge images.

We would love to read your thoughts and comments about this post (see form below), and thank you for your time! All comments are moderated, however, due to the high intelligence and persistence of spammers/hackers who really should be putting their smarts to use for the public good instead of spamming our little blog.
 

Original content copyright 2013-2016 by Heritage Ramblings Blog and pmm.

Family history is meant to be shared, but the original content of this site may NOT be used for any commercial purposes unless explicit written permission is received from both the blog owner and author. Blogs or websites with ads and/or any income-generating components are included under “commercial purposes,” as are the large genealogy database websites. Sites that republish original HeritageRamblings.net content as their own are in violation of copyright as well, and use of full content is not permitted.
 
Descendants and researchers MAY download images and posts to share with their families, and use the information on their family trees or in family history books with a small number of reprints. Please make sure to credit and cite the information properly.
 
Please contact us if you have any questions about copyright of our blog material.

National Doctor’s Day- Is there a Doctor in the House- er, Tree?

Dr. Edward A. McMurray, probably about 1925 after finishing college.
Dr. Edward A. McMurray, probably about 1925 after finishing college.  (Click to enlarge.)

 

McMurray Family, Helbling Family (Click for Family Tree)

Our Congress really does get important things done… and they really can work together if they try.  Think back to 1990 when, with overwhelming approval, both Congress and the House passed S.J. #366 to declare ‘National Doctor’s Day.’ The bill had just been introduced that year, and Pres. George H.W. Bush signed it in October- less than 10 months from start to finish! Public Law 101-473 thus took effect on March 30, 1991, proclaiming March 30 as a national day to celebrate the contributions of physicians throughout our history.

We do have at least two ancestors who were physicians, and one uncle.

Dr. Edward A. McMurray and his wife Elna Mae Kenner McMurray in the 1939 Newton, Iowa City Directory.
Dr. Edward A. McMurray and his wife Elna Mae Kenner McMurray in the 1939 Newton, Iowa City Directory. His office was in the bank building at that time, and his home was on S 8th Ave. W. (Click to enlarge.)

Dr. Edward A. McMurray

Both of the sons born to William Elmer McMurray and Lynette (Payne) McMurray, Edward A. McMurray (1900-1992) and his brother Herbert C. McMurray (1911-1989), became doctors.

Herbert McMurray, Newton (Iowa) High School Yearbook, 1929.
Herbert McMurray, Newton (Iowa) High School Yearbook, 1929. Herbert was one of only six young men at Newton High to be inducted into the National Athletic Honorary Society. The Society required high academic achievement as well as outstanding athletic work. (Click to enlarge.)

Within the family, Edward was lovingly called, “The Doctor.” He specialized in Ear, Eye, Nose, and Throat problems, after a residency in New York City around 1940. (His son Edward A. McMurray, Jr., remembered going to the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City with him one summer during that residency.) Back then, ‘The Doctor’s’ specialty was known as “EENT.” Now that specialty has split- we have opthamologists- doctors who specialize in eyes only, and other doctors called ‘otorhinolaryngologists’ or ENTs, who cover the ear, nose, and throat areas. But Dr. McMurray could do it all, and his out-of-state grandchildren got their annual eye (and ENT) check when visiting him in Iowa!

I have already written a detailed post about the medical career of Dr. E. A. McMurray (1900-1992) in Newton, Iowa- see “Workday Wednesday- Dr. Edward A. McMurray.” His brother Herbert C. McMurray (1911-1989) practiced in the Ballwin, Missouri area.

Dr. John H. O’Brien

If you are a descendant of Gerard William/William Gerard “G. W.” Helbling (1882-1971), then you are also descended from Dr. John H. O’Brien (1808-1887), who was G.W.’s maternal (mother’s) grandfather. Dr. O’Brien was born in Ireland and attended the University of Dublin. A letter to the University has not provided any specific information about him as a student, although there was a Dr. John O’Brien working there as the Librarian of the King and Queen’s College of Physicians in 1841. This cannot be the same Dr. John O’Brien, as our known ancestor had immigrated to America in 1831. (Perhaps it was his father or an uncle? O’Brien is a common name in Ireland though so the Librarian may not have been related at all.)

Dr. O’Brien immigrated in 1831, and was in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania by 1832. It was a tough time to be a doctor in western Pennsylvania- a cholera epidemic, spread by contaminated water, was taking place on the frontier.

The inscription on his headstone was very appropriate for a physician:

Blessed is he that understandeth concerning

the needy and the poor, the Lord will deliver

him in the evil day.       -XL Psalm 

Dr. John H. O’Brien- headstone detail (Click to enlarge.)

Dr. O’Brien and his wife Jane (Neel) O’Brien were early settlers of the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania suburbs, and he was a successful doctor in the Pittsburgh area. (He is often listed as “J. H. O’Brien” in directories.) A previous post tells a bit more about Dr. O’Brien and his family: “Tombstone Tuesday- Dr. John H. O’Brien.” We will tell more of the family story in upcoming posts.

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All of these doctors would be amazed at today’s healthcare. Dr. E. A. McMurray, who died in 1992 but had been retired for a number of years, saw the beginnings of this incredible age of medicine.  Dr. O’Brien, however, may have been paid in farm products, especially in his early years in America and while on the frontier, where hard cash was hard to come by. (If memory serves, Dr. McMurray was sometimes paid with goods as well, especially in his early years as a general practitioner in a small town with surrounding rural areas.) The ‘germ theory of disease’ was not fully understood or accepted until at least the 1850s, and really into the 1880s. John Snow wrote his theory of the transmission of cholera in 1849, and mapped cholera epidemics in London in the early 1850s. Not fully accepted even when he stopped the epidemic, it was too late for our Dr. O’Brien to use this information to help stem the disease in Western Pennsylvania. Viruses were discovered in the 1890s, after Dr. O’Brien’s death and just 10 years before Dr. E. A. McMurray was born. Some arsenic-based synthetic antibacterials had been used after 1907 for some diseases, but Dr. McMurray was already through medical school when penicillin was described in 1928; antibiotics were not widely available, however, until after World War II.

From using genetics to determine treatment, to the incredibly complex machines we have available for diagnosis and treatment, to how medical care is paid for (and how insurance companies think they know more about appropriate patient care than a personal doctor), today’s medicine would be astounding to all these learned doctors!

 

Notes, Sources, and References: 

  1. “Dublin Almanac and General Register of Ireland for the Year of Our Lord 1841,” p. 151, Ancestry.com.
  2. Tombstone Tuesday- Dr. John H. O’Brien” may be found at http://heritageramblings.net/2014/01/14/tombstone-tuesday-dr-john-h-obrien/
  3. More mentions of these men can be found on our blog by searching for the names “McMurray” or “O’Brien.”
  4. For our younger readers, a brief explanation of our title is probably warranted. In earlier times, if someone got sick in a theater or hotel, the cry, “Is there a doctor in the house??” would go through the audience and hallways in order to get fast medical assistance to the victim. (It became a great comedy routine, too.) There were no cell phones, and even no phones at all, of course, depending on how far back one goes. In fact, calling 9-1-1 for emergency assistance was not instituted in the United States until 1968, and many communities did not have this resource available for its citizens even into the 1980s. (Probably before you were born.)

 

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1) For a blast from the past, watch Schoolhouse Rock: America “I’m Just a Bill.”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FFroMQlKiag