Anthony O’Donnell, born in 1815, left County Mayo, Ireland, during the Famine of 1849. In February of the following year, his wife Bridget, and baby daughter followed him to Wilmington, Ohio, where he found work with a Quaker farmer. Three boys were born in Ohio, James, John,andMichael Richard (still remembered by some old timers as Mike or M. R).
Because friends named Jerdon lived where Calvary Cemetery is now located, the O’Donnells came to Illinois by covered wagon in 1855. they settled on what was later called Alsager’s Hill in late October when Mike was six months old. the following autumn they moved to their own farm on the DeKalb-Lee County line (where Richard O’Donnell now lives).
A few years after Anthony broke the prairie with horses, he also used oxen named Buck and Bright. He put his cattle to graze on Hank Cobb’s slough at 25 cents a head for a seasons grazing privilege. He drove to Ross Grove in Paw Paw Township for firewood and to Ottawa or Geneva to have his wheat ground into flour. Until the Catholic church was built in Lee, he and his family drove to Rochelle for Sunday Mass. Apparently a man of strong convictions, Anthony met the surveyors for the Chicago and Iowa Railroad with a hatchet because the railroad would spoil his farm. (When his great-grandson, Richard, hauls corn across those tracks, he wishes Anthony had won the argument.)
Two children were born in Illinois completing the family of six – Bridget, James, John, Mike, Thomas, and Ann Elizabeth (Libbie).Three remained in the Lee area, John, Mike and Libbie. John , a bachelor, farmed a mile and a half northeast of Lee where Mrs. Harry O’Donnell now lives. That land Anthony bought from his daughter and her husband, John Minnihan, in 1874. Libbie married John Justice from England, and lived in Lee until her death in 1948.
Mike attended college in Dixon, taught in Toad Hollow School, and entered the law office of Roger and Barge in Dixon with the intention of becoming a lawyer. Before he could take his examination typhoid fever left him deaf so he returned to farming with his father.
After his parents died (Bridget in 1890 and Anthony in 1892. Mike married Ellen Marrin, daughter of Dominic and Bridget Marrin, January 18, 1893. They had six children, Agnes (Mrs. Fred Herrmann), Frank, Harry, Florence (who died in infancy), Edmund, and Eleanor. Ellen died when Eleanor was nine days old.
Mike remained on the farm until his death in 1930, with his sons Frank and Harry farming the land in Mike’s later years.
Harry’s son, Richard, now works the farm his great-grandfather bought over one hundred years ago. Richard’s children are the fifth generation of O’Donnells to live there.
Source: Lee Then and Now; Compiled by The Committee on History for the Lee Centennial Observance June 13 – 16, 1974.