Welcome to
St. Louis County
Missouri
Missouri Genealogy Trails

Biographies
" O "

The life record of Joseph O'Neil was one that was ever prompted by worthy purposes and high ideals and actuated by a most progressive spirit He left the impress of his individuality for good upon the progress of the city of St. Louis in many ways and by reason of what he accomplished and the sterling worth of his character he commanded the respect and honor of all who knew him. He was one of the early builders of the city and afterwards became identified with its financial interests and ultimately was a prominent factor in connection with the development of a railway system of the state. In the work of the Catholic church he was also a recognized leader and by reason of what he accomplished the world is better for his having lived.
Joseph O'Neil was born near Roecrae in County Tipperary, Ireland, on the 10th of May, 1817. His father died on the Emerald isle after which the widowed mother brought her family of several sons and two daughters to the new world, Joseph O'Neil at that time being a lad of twelve years. After a residence of eight years in Utica, New York, the family went to Dayton, Ohio, and in 1837 the elder sons and daughters of the family made their way to St. Louis, thus casting in their lot with those who were among the earliest in founding and developing the city.
It was in 1839 that Joseph O'Neil took up his abode in St Louis, then a young man of twenty-two years, and for more than a half century he was closely associated with much that made for the material and moral progress of the city. His financial resources were then very limited but he possessed energy, perseverance and ambition —substantial qualities on which to build success. He had practical and expert knowledge of house-building and he was naturally led to direct his efforts into that field of activity and there are not a few of the substantial structures which he erected still standing as a monument to his skill and enterprise. It was not long before he had gained recognition as a progressive and reliable business man and his interest in all that pertains to the welfare of the city also made him a leader in its political circles. A stanch supporter of the democracy he was elected on that ticket to the state senate and aided in guiding the early legislation of the state, being one of those who framed the bill that resulted in the extension of the Missouri Pacific Railroad. He was also Instrumental in causing a revision of the lien laws to the great advantage and protection of the mechanics of the state. That his course in the legislature was highly satisfactory to his constituency was manifest in his re-election for a second term, at the close of which he retired from the senate but was soon afterward made the democratic nominee for the office of mayor. On that occasion, however, he was defeated. In the early 70s he served as presiding Judge of the county court and remained throughout his entire life a stalwart champion of democratic principles, though he was never again a candidate for office. He made generous contributions of money for the benefit of the party in which he so firmly believed.
While he was not again active as an office holder Mr. O'Neil nevertheless did much in shaping the history of city and state. He became a prominent figure in banking circles which he entered in 1857 as a director of the State Savings Institution, John How at that time being the president About this time, having become attorney de' facto tor the Most Reverend Archbishop Kenrick and thereby placed in absolute control of his grace's material affairs, Mr. O'Neil undertook to augment his revenues, reduce the large real estate holdings and improve the affairs of the diocese in general. His plans culminated in the organization of the Central Savings Bank, which Under the careful direction of Mr. O'Neil proved successful from the beginning. Some time afterward, however, dissensions arose over the financial policy and not approving of certain methods of his associates Mr. O'Neil resigned. The later history and failure of the Central Bank proved the soundness of his views and the course which he had pursued. He later became one of the organisers of the Citisen's Savings Bank and placed it upon a very substantial foundation. The bank managed to weather the widespread financial panic of 1873 and continued upon an era of unbroken prosperity, Mr. O'Neil remaining active in the management until 1891 when because of advanced years he retired from the position of chief executive.
Mr. O'Neil was equally well known in railroad circles for be became one of the organizers and one of the first directors of the Kansas Pacific Railroad Company. His activities were manifold and resultant factors in the upbuilding and development of the city along many lines. While presiding Judge of the county court he compiled the data which led up to the Scheme and Charter which resulted in the separation of the city and county. At that time he also earnestly advocated the city's purchase of what is now Forest Park and was made chairman of the board that eventually made the purchase of the property. His public spirit was manifest in many helpful ways and his devotion to the general good was never called into question. His entire career was actuated by a spirit of progress that resulted most beneficially for the community at large. No good work done in the name of charity or religion appealed in vain to him for aid and as a member of the Catholic church he contributed most generously to its support. For a number of years he was president of the orphan board, which he assisted in organizing and in 1845 he attended the first local meeting of the St. Vincent de Paul Society as a charter member. For almost a half century he was connected with that organization in an official capacity, remaining for many years as its treasurer.
A love of poetry was one of the dominant characteristics in the life of Joseph O'Neil, who could repeat from memory the finest passages from Moore, Byron, Burns and Mrs. Hemans. His love of literature was one of the predominant traits of his life and kept him in touch with the master minds of all ages. Life was ever to him purposeful and resultant and through his entire career he eagerly and quickly improved an opportunity for the public good as for his individual advancement and success. On the 17th of March, 1893, his life labors were brought to a close in death, but his influence is still felt by those who knew him and his memory is honored and revered by all who met him in any relation of life. Well might his friends say of him:
"This was a man. Take him for all in all,
I shall not look upon his like again."
(Source: Centennial History of Missouri, One Hundred Years in the Union, 1820-1921, Vol. V, Published 1921)


Frank N. K. Orff, who has long been prominently known as a publisher and who makes his home in St. Louis, was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, March 17, 1869, a son of Christian and Martha E. Orff. The father was a banker and pioneer merchant of Fort Wayne, where he conducted business from 1837 until 1885. He it was who secured the right of way for the Pennsylvania Railroad from Fort Wayne, Indiana, to Chicago, and he drove the golden spike when the Wabash Railroad entered Fort Wayne. He also sold the first government bond sold west of Buffalo, New York, after the Civil war. He became a very successful merchant establishing a large store at Savannah, Georgia, where he formed a partnership with James F. Watkins and William R. Nelson of Kansas City, but formerly of Nelsonville, Indiana, the firm operating under the name of Orff, Watkins & Nelson, at Nos. 113 to 119 Congress street in Savannah, Georgia, and widely known. Mr. Orff wedded a daughter of Peter Heller, a prominent family in whose honor Hellers Corners, a post office of Indiana was named. Her father was a miller and merchant and owned a very large farm in that community. In Lincoln county, Maine, there was also a place called Orff's Post office, named in honor of the Orff family, this being the place of early settlement of the ancestors, who came from Germany and founded the family in the new world, Mr. Orff's father coming from Dusseldorf, Germany, in the early days of emigration to the new world.
Frank N. K. Orff was the only son in a family of three children. He was educated in the public schools of Fort Wayne, Indiana, and in the Germania College of that place, while still later he attended Charlier Institute at Fifty-ninth street In New York, a school for young men. After completing his preliminary training, he entered Cornell University from which he was graduated in 1887. He afterward pursued a law course with a view to practicing, but after acquiring a broad knowledge of the principles of Jurisprudence he decided that the newspaper field was more alluring. His first experience as a publisher began when he was in the public schools of Fort Wayne, at the early age of thirteen years, at which time he acted as editor of a funny paper, called the Neighborhood News. His experience and success in that enterprise was proof of his natural ability and tendency, and after his school days were over he became associated with Fred Wendell Publishing Company, handling patent insides for small town newspapers. The business was carried on at Fort Wayne, Indiana, and after some time Mr. Orff removed to Chicago, and became one of the active writers on the Times staff. He made a trip around the world for that paper and wrote articles, which were illustrated, concerning all of the important places which he visited in his travels. At a later date he settled in Omaha, Nebraska, where he established the Omaha Daily News, also the Topics Weekly, a society paper. He likewise organized the Frank Orff Directory Company, and engaged in the publication of city directories in Nebraska and low. On the expiration of that period he came to St Louis and was here married to Annie L. T. Swart, who was also well known in publishing circles, being engaged in the publication of The Little Red Book, a railway guide. Following their marriage they jointly published the Chaperone Magazine, the American Woman's Review and Orff's Farm Review. Mr. Orff afterward established the Sterling Magazine, which he later removed to New York city, and then purchased the Hampton Magazine, also the Columbia Magazine of New York, which he later consolidated under the name of the Hampton-Columbian Magazine, giving the world at that time the best and greatest monthly magazine, with a circulation of five hundred and fifty thousand copies. He was president and manager of the company and continued to reside in New York for a time, but like many of those who have lived in St Louis, he returned to the city, maintaining a branch office of his business here.
In 1914 Mr. Orff was called upon to mourn the loss of his wife, who was a daughter of Mrs. Mary Hart, the latter a sister of William and James Hart, the famous artist, and she, herself, possessed much artistic skill and ability, many of her fine paintings being still in existence.
Mr. Orff is a member of the Chamber of Commerce, also belongs to the Million Population Club of St. Louis, and is identified with other organizations which have to do with the upbuilding and progress of the city. His political belief is that of the republican party, and he was president of the Missouri League Republican Club, also president of the Republican Club of St. Louis. He assisted in the organization of the Rough Riders Club during Roosevelt's time and has been prominently connected with the republican party in many ways yet has never sought nor desired office. He is a member of the First Church of Christ, Scientist, of St. Louis. His life has ever displayed a spirit of devotion to those things which are of cultural value and tend to promote the uplift of the individual and advance the welfare of the community at large. Patriotism has ever been one of his marked characteristics, and he has never faltered in any opportunity to serve his city nor his country, his efforts at many times being resultant factors in promoting public progress.
(Source: Centennial History of Missouri, One Hundred Years in the Union, 1820-1921, Vol. V, Published 1921)



Return to

St. Louis County

Missouri

Genealogy Trails

Copyright © Genealogy Trails
All data on this website is Copyright by Genealogy Trails with full rights reserved for original submitters.