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Anthony Patrick O'Dwyer
Anthony P O'Dwyer was the first direct O'Dwyer ancestor to immigrate to the United States. He was born in or near Baltinglass, Wicklow County, Ireland. He had a twin sister named Bridget. He immigrated in 1906 with Bridget and sister Mary Ann. He moved West, living possibly in Canada for a brief time, then settling in Oklahoma where he lived the life of a cowboy, married Frances Jane Crosley and started a family. He eventually moved to Colorado where he worked for the railroad the rest of his life.

Early Years 1889-1906

The following was recorded by Bill O'Dwyer, son of Anthony.

"In the late spring of 1889, on June 19, twin babies were born to Anthony Patrick and Anne O’Toole O’Dwyer. These were the sixth and seventh children born to this family. The births were accomplished at the small cottage on a hillside above the river Slaney in Ballinacor, Wicklow County in Southeast Ireland.

"Ireland at this time was in a great depression, experiencing a potato famine of many years. Potatoes were a main staple in their diets and when the blight came and overcame the crops, everyone, especially the poor suffered. Struggles for living include tending sheep, cattle, pigs, horses, and some garden crops.

"This narrative is being recorded by, William Gerald O’Dwyer, a grandson of Anthony Patrick and Anne O’Toole O’Dwyer. My wife Dorothy and I visited the cottage in 1995. Long deserted and fallen into bad disrepair, the cottage still stands. Now owned by others, the land is being used as pastureland for cattle and overlooks a beautiful green valley. The River Slaney is just a stream at this point but grows larger toward sea, not much future - not much education.

"On a hillside in Southeast Ireland (Wicklow County) lies a cottage called “The O’Dwyer’s Cottage.” Below in the valley, the Slaney River runs slowly towards the sea; across the valley is the hamlet of Stratford also on the Slaney river. The surrounding hills are as green as velvet and all is at peace in the valley.

"We found the cottage, now deserted, and no longer owned by the O’Dwyers. Considerable rehabilitation would be needed to bring it into habitable condition, and the present owners have chosen not to do that. As part of our trip, we wanted to find this cottage, do some family research, and related items.

"This is a story of one of those born there. My father, Anthony Patrick O’Dwyer and twin sister Bridget were born in the cottage on June 19, 1889 to father Anthony Patrick O’Dwyer and mother Anne O’Toole O’Dwyer. There were 11 children in the family, Anthony and Bridget were sixth and seventh respectively. Farming was the mode of living for them. Life was hard in Ireland those days; poor soil, no mechanized equipment, poor markets. The potato famine of 1840 had been in existence for many years. Potatoes were a staple food for the Irish and when the blight wiped out the crops, it was generations before they could grow potatoes again. Some cattle, sheep, pigs, and fish were the meat in very limited quantities. Many people died or immigrated to other lands.

"Anthony, Bridget, and their older sister Mary Ann decided to immigrate to the United States when ‘Att’ and Bridget were 16 years old (Mary was 22), and go to Kansas where Uncle Tom O’Toole was a successful farmer together with his sons."

Single Years 1906-1921

"March 1, 1906, they boarded the S.S. Compana from Queenstown bound for New York City and passed through the receiving station at Ellis Island. The story grows dim here. We assume they traveled by train to Kansas. However, one story that seems to persist is that Pat worked in a café or hotel as a cook’s helper in Chicago. They stayed in the Banner, Kansas area for sometime working on the dry land farm. Sometime about 1910 or 1911 Mary Ann married Gerald Cott, moved to Los Angeles California, and spent the rest of her life there. No children were born to this marriage. We assume Bridget moved to California also with them as she later became a Catholic nun assigned to Mercy Hospital in San Diego and died there in 1948.

"For several years, Pat’s life was around farming and rodeos. He worked with Arthur Finlay and family for several years, in eastern Colorado, Kansas, and Canada. We have some pictures of him riding in rodeos in Calgary Canada. He loved horses, dogs, and most other animals."

Family Life 1921-1948

"When the United States entered the World War I, Pat tried to enlist but a rupture of the lower body area (hernia) kept him unable to serve. He tried to have the rupture repaired but was not successful and had to wear an appliance for the rest of his life.

"About 1919, Pat was living around Iliff, Colorado and farming when he met Frances Jane Crosley, daughter of William T. Crosley and Ida May Ellis Crosley. She was born April 1, 1900 in West Plains, Missouri. They courted and dated for about 2 years before being married at Guthrie, Oklahoma on 23 Dec 1921. At the time of their marriage, Pat was working in an oil refinery close to Guthrie. He always had a natural mechanical ability and could repair almost any kind of machinery. No formal schooling in mechanics, but just natural ability.

"To this marriage was born two children, Anthony Patrick (Buddy) 13 March 1923 at Guthrie, Oklahoma and William G. O’Dwyer (Billy) born 14 July 1924 at Coffeeville, Kansas. Pat worked in oil fields and refineries in this area during these years.

"After Billy was born, the family moved to Tabernash, Colorado. Pat went to work at the Moffatt Tunnel for a short while. At that time, this was the longest Railroad tunnel in the world, some six and a half miles under the Continental Divide. Prior to this tunnel the trains would go over the top of the Rocky Mountains at elevations of some 11 or 12 thousand feet. Fierce snowstorms and wind kept the railroad closed for days and weeks sometimes.

"After a short while working on ‘the tunnel,’ Pat went to work at Tabernash for the Denver and Salt Lake (D&SL) Railroad Company. His first job, on the “Moffat line” was that of “carman.” Each car in a train is inspected periodically at the terminal stations to see if everything is all right. Specifically, the bearings of the wheels, the brake system and couplers are checked to see if it is all right to travel to the next terminal. If they are found faulty, they are removed from train and put on the repair tracks to be repaired before sending them on their way. Pat took Westinghouse Airbrakes home study course.

"From this job, Pat moved up to the mechanical department working on steam locomotives. These monster engines have many complicated parts and functions from the firebox and boiler to the steam pistons and sanders for traction on icy rails and compressing air for the braking system. He had to learn each of these functions and how to repair them. At that time, 1926 to 1936, Tabernash was a terminal station.

"There was a large building called a ‘round house,’ which held up to 8 engines at a time, where the engines could be rebuilt if necessary, with a machine shop where the individual machines ran from a central shaft powered by a belt to each machine. Noisy, dirty, and a mass of confusion, but necessary to run a railroad.

"Pat progressed to where he was chosen to run the “clam shell;” This was a machine where coal was unloaded from gondola cars and put in a large hopper, where the engines could come underneath it and fill their coal bins. Due to the number of trains and engines, the hopper had to be kept full everyday. A similar machine, ‘The Big Hook,’ was used whenever a train derailed or had a wreck. Pat learned how to run “The Big Hook” and was called on many times to pick up wrecks of one sort or another.

"One time while trying to pick up a wreck in Gore Canyon, an engine hit a rock and went into the river, Pat’s father-in-law, William T. Crosley, was directing the operation. Since Pat could not see everything from his place in the wrecker, someone had to use hand signals to convey the messages needed. As the pressure was applied to the pulling cable, an outrigger, stabilizer, gave away and the wrecker was beginning to tip over. However, Pat could not feel it, with all the noise and confusion, vibrating etc. He received the hand message to jump off and he did just in time. The wrecker went over the bank into the river. He borrowed another wrecker from a competing railroad to finish the job.

"Tabernash is a small town some 8500’ high nestled in Fraser River Valley, under the Continental Divide, some 90 miles west of Denver. The only industry at this time was the railroad - almost every family had some connection to the railroad. These years, late 1920’s, life was hard in Tabernash: short summers, beautiful falls, long, deep, cold winters, and muddy springs. If you owned an automobile, for about 6 months a year you couldn’t use it. No plowed roads, no antifreeze, no heaters or defrosters. All the roads were gravel or dirt - no pavement, everyone carried a shovel and chains and air pump for repairing flat tires.

"There was no electricity (even though cities had electricity for many years) to the houses. The “round house” had some electric lights but that was all. When Pat and Frances got their last Coleman gas pump-up light, they were the envy of many neighbors. Until that time, candles and coal oil lamps were it. No running water in homes, some homes had a well and hand pump, and these were shared with neighbors who didn’t have any. Come wash day (every Monday without fail) the water had to be carried, heated in a large tub (called a boiler) and then cloths were scrubbed on a rub board, hand wrung out, rinsed, wrung out, starched and hung out to dry. “Freeze dry wasn’t new to these people. Eventually Frances got a hand crank wringer and was in “hog heaven.”

"For most wives, Monday was laundry, Tuesday ironing, Wednesday mending, Thursday baking, Friday and Saturday clean house, top to bottom, etc.

"There was no TV, no radio for most folks, no telephone, no refrigerators, none of the things we consider necessary today. In 1932, so they could hear the President election results, everyone gathered at the general store, he had the only radio (battery operated) in town at the time. FDR won.

"Most folks would go to Denver by train one or two times a year for shopping, dentist, etc. Frances had an aunt and uncle living there, Ethel and Steve Crosley. We would get school clothes, see a movie or two, ride the streetcars, visit dentist, etc for a few days, then back to Tabernash.

"Recreation consisted of lodge meetings, ladies aid, bridge games, parties and dances about 3 or 4 times a year. The dances were held in a large hall upstairs over the post office, everyone brings sandwiches, or desserts and dance would stop about midnight for intermission, eating, then dance until about 2:00am. About once a year single men of a neighboring town would show up drunk. Fraser was 5 miles away and had a bunch of Swedes (timber workers). They would get drunk and a big fight ensued, railroaders vs. Swedes.

"Sometimes the children were invited and a place was made for them to bed down about 10pm, usually behind the piano on benches or floor. Sometimes Frances’ sister in law, Maude Crosley, single mother of 3 girls, would baby-sit many kids in Frances’ Home.

"The Great Depression also affected Tabernash. The use of coal was felt in the train movements, (janice?) coal was the main cargo on the Moffat railroad at that time. Fewer trains meant less men working and therefore many were out of work or only part time work. Our next door neighbors Bill, Iva Pitt, and sons were really hard up. There wasn’t much government welfare at that time and men did whatever they could for a few dollars. Because Pat worked on the railroad, we burned coal for heat and cooking (part of his wages was taken in coal), but the Pitt family burned wood since there was lots of forests around the town. Once in a while, the O’Dwyer kids would get into fights with the Pitt kids, they would throw sticks of wood at Billy and Buddy. In return, the O’Dwyer kids threw coal at them - helped both families.

"Pat had steady job with the railroad, but Billy’s health wasn’t good. Dr. Susie Anderson, the only doctor in our end of the county, suggested taking Billy to a lower elevation where the weather was not so harsh. Pat and Frances mulled this over for quite sometime and decided to take the advice. Bill Pitt had some family in Baldwin Park, California who told him there was work to do there. Boulder Dam was being built close to Las Vegas, Nevada and water was to be brought to Los Angeles Basin - lots of work. The O’Dwyers and Pitts decided to move. Iva Pitt’s brother had a truck and couldn’t keep it busy, O’Dwyers and Pitts had a car each, so, in 1934, like the Grapes of Wrath, moved to Southern California.

"They arrived in Baldwin Park in time for school to start. They only stayed a short while until Pat and Bill Pitt got jobs - about three months - then moved to Perris, California. Pat worked for Provo Construction Company on the canal and tunnels to bring the water to Los Angeles.

"Lived in Perris about one and a half years - Perris is at the edge of the Mojave Desert - Hot, Hot, Hot!!! At this time Pat and Frances were financially in good shape and sent for the Maude Crosley and her girls to come to California from Tabernash. Maude was a single mother, three girls and worked as a janitor at the Tabernash school and took in washing and ironing, whatever, to earn a meager living. When she arrived in California she found a job in a shirt manufacturing shop and things became better for her family.

"The work ended on that part of the water project, and Pat found himself out of work. He heard of a sawmill needing a mechanical man in Shingle Springs, California (east of Sacramento); got a job to work for about four months - big layoff - heard of workers needed in close by Plymouth, got job worked four months - big layoff. There was another phase of the water project starting close to Arlington, California - got a job as a mechanic technician - worked at Lake Matthews for about two years. The orange groves, fresh vegetables, sunshine were what Billy needed and his health improved for the most of the rest of his life. For the first time in his working years, Pat had Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays to spend with his family: picnics, fishing trips to Los Angeles, and San Diego to visit with his sisters.

"But, as with all construction jobs, the work ended. They heard of work in Sacramento area.

"In spring of 1938 and together with the Pitt Family (who was out of work again) they moved to Sacramento. The depression was about over but still lots of unemployment. O’Dwyer’s and Pitts had been in contract with men of D & SL Railroad Company and had a promise of work if they could get to Colorado in the summer. Everyone worked at something. Frances, Iva Pitt, her son Alphus worked in a cannery; Rog Pitt delivered Telegrams, Billy and Don Pitt sold newspaper on street corners after school, Buddy did odd jobs; Pat and Bill Pitt did whatever they could and all the pennies, nickels, quarters and dollars went into a kitty. Very meager living expenses, sharing of a six-room apartment etc. finally got together enough money to bring them back to Colorado. The Pitts went to Denver, O’Dwyers to La Salle to stay with Francis’ brother, Charles, wife Hazal Crosley, and son Bob. Waiting for a job opening, Pat worked on a farm using horses again and loving every minute of it. However, not much pay, Buddy helping him.

"Finally a job for D&SL Railroad Company in Phippsburg, Colorado, affectionately known as “P-burg.”

“P-burg” was a terminal town for railroad. All people were related to railroad in some way. A goodly number of families lived in boxcar houses, because of a shortage of places to live. The railroad moved two boxcars together in the form of a “T.” They finished the rooms, painted them, and made a semblance of living quarters. One boxcar had a living room and bedroom; the other boxcar had kitchen and bedroom. No plumbing but they did have electric lights. (1937?) The women made them pretty livable with curtains, rugs, pictures, etc. The water had to be carried about a block from the community pump. Sunday evenings the pump was kept pretty busy with children carrying enough water for Monday wash day.

"Once again Pat worked long hours, 12 hours a day, seven days a week, no holidays, no sick leave, no vacation for $3.27 a day. If you didn’t like it, “go on down the road Buddy as someone was waiting to take your place.” But steady work and a very frugal wife, Pat and Frances again began to prosper. They bought some furniture, a washing machine, and paid off a lot of debts. Buddy was a freshman in High school now. Billy was in eighth grade. Both discovered they were good at sports and participated whenever they could.

"In 1938, after about a year they moved to a small house in P-burg. They were supposed to live in it a year and that would make the down payment. In six months, they were transferred to Tabernash.

"Tabernash again, no longer a terminal town, was just a helper station. When the trains leave Tabernash going east they start up a steep grade and need some help to get to the apex (center high place) in the Moffatt Tunnel, where they are released and return to Tabernash. Coal engines still picked up coal and water here and it was Pat’s job to see that all was ready for this.

"World War II was breaking out in Europe and Asia, and United States manufacturing was picking up. More coal was needed for factories so more trains were moving. By this time the Denver and Rio Grande West (D&RGW) Railroad was using part of the trackage and also added to the work load. Pat was in charge of the operations in Tabernash and had five men under him. Bought a home from Miss Tiball (old maid school teacher), but never got to live there. Got transferred to Hot Sulfur Springs.

"In boxcars again. In summer of 1940 was transferred to Hot Sulfur Springs, coaling station. This was a new automatic loading coal hopper and water station. Had six men under him, responsibility was adding because of war effort and train delays were unforgivable. While train crews were eating in Railroad café, ashes were dumped, water tank filled, coal bin filled, and train ready to move. Sometimes four or more trains there at a time. The hours were longer and life was more hectic. Pat was up early each morning working and sometimes late evening.

"Buddy and Billy (now called Pat Jr. and Bill) were active in school activities and so not much family life together. They lived a mile from town and only had two close neighbor families. Bill realized in his later life why his father always went to sleep while reading the newspaper - always tired."

WWII and Final Years

"The U.S. went to war December 7, 1941 when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. That Sunday morning, December 7, 1941, Pat and his two boys were laying linoleum floor covering in their kitchen, Frances was next door visiting, when the news of the attack was broadcast over the radio. She came home crying and just knew the end of the world was near. We had been furnishing machinery and equipment to England, who was already at war, for some time now and finally we were in it. The troop trains, the equipment needed to fight a war on two sides of the world had to be transported back and forth across the nation. Trains were the logical way. The D&RGW Railroad was connected to a cross-nation railroad line. So many of the trains came through Pat’s port. He was required to keep them moving. As the war progressed, fewer men were available for work, so he worked harder, longer hours.

'Pat and Frances were working extremely hard in their war effort. Francis had gone to work at the railroad café to help feed the train crews and keep trains on schedule. Most of the young men were in the services and Pat couldn’t find very much help, just a few old men. All this was having an affect on his health. Finally in 1944 he had a stroke and was left partially paralyzed, disabled, a casualty of the war as surely as if he had been wounded in action. An unsung hero, as were many others who stayed home and kept the industries of the nation working.

"Because of the hard winters in Colorado, they went to visit Frances’ brother Edward Crosley in Los Angeles, California. The warmer weather helped Pat but he would walk with a cane for the rest of his life. His speech was so slurred, hard to understand. Frances worked in Ed’s café during this time to help relieve financial problems.

"These years were extremely hard on a man who always had a physically strong body. Now dependant on others to do ordinary things for him.

"They stayed in Los Angeles for about one and a half years. The war ended in August 1945. Pat Jr. still had some time to finish his enlistment in Navy. Bill was discharged in April 1946 and met his parents in San Diego. During the discharge process, parents went home to Hot Sulphur Springs, and a few days later Bill followed.

"About this time Frances and Iva Pitt (her husband Bill deceased) bought the railroad restaurant and the trains were still moving a lot of men and material, so they were real busy. Bill lived at home for a while to help with the heavy work and transport Dad to the doctor in Denver about once a month, even though he had gone back to work as a telegraph operator.

"Pat’s health was a long decline and in those days, the doctors really didn’t have any therapy program. Each doctor tried his own thing. One suggested Pat have his natural teeth extracted (they were good teeth)! He complied and could never get used to his “false choppers.”

"Frances sold the restaurant and moved to town 1947. They had signed the papers to buy a home in Hot Sulphur (they had been living at the railroad restaurant living quarters) in 1947. They never lived together in this house. Over the years they had bought three or four houses, but never got to live in their own home, always had to move before living in their own home.

"Pat died on 18 February 1948 at the hospital in Kremmling, Colorado and was buried in Crown Hill Cemetery Denver Colorado. He only saw one grandson (Steve), others born after his death never saw him.

Some of the things he taught his sons:

  • Dependability - if you say you’d do something - do it!!
  • Honesty
  • Pay your bills - don’t buy unless you have a way to pay for it.
  • Love your wife and family - provide for them.
  • Take care of your own - don’t depend on someone else.
  • Do your best in what ever you undertake.
  • Patriotism - you owe your freedoms to someone else - do what you have to, to guarantee freedom."


To see larger images, view the Flickr stream: http://flickr.com/gp/historymaiden/aN40N7/

Birth Certificate

Anthony and some of his siblings

"Cowboy" Anthony

Anthony with wife Frances and kids

Anthony with kids

In Cry Baby Land Words and Music

Create by Molly ODwyer on 2012-05-14 00:04:00.0
Last updated by Molly ODwyer on 2012-05-14 04:12:24.0