CHARLES F. O’BRION
Foreman, New Almaden Quicksilver Mine
SURNAMES: FITCH, NEW
Charles F. O’Brion, outside foreman of the Quicksilver Mining Company, New Almaden, is a native of Michigan, born at White Pigeon, St. Joseph County, August 27, 1834, his parents being Elijah and Harriet Cornelia (Fitch) O’Brion. His father, who was a native of Ohio, was a merchant tailor.
The subject of this sketch was reared, to the age of sixteen years, at White Pigeon, by his grandparents, his mother having died when he was but two years old, and his father having removed to Arkansas. At the age of sixteen he went to Chicago, where he attended public school two years, and acquired a knowledge of book-keeping at a commercial college. He was engaged as a cabin boy on a steamer on Lake Michigan before the building of railroads from Chicago to New Buffalo, and was for a time in the Chicago Tribune office as mailing clerk. In 1859 he crossed the plains to Pike’s Peak by ox teams, with a large party, and for the ensuing year was engaged in the mines, then returning to Chicago. Soon afterward he went to Texas, via New Orleans, and joined his father, with whom he remained for three years, the stock business. At the breaking out of the Civil War, he went to San Antonio, and joined a party for California, leaving there the same day that the Ku Klux came in from the surrounding country and took possession of the government property at that point. The party pursued their journey peacefully until within sixty miles of El Paso, where they found it necessary to cross over into Mexico to evade capture by Southern Confederacy troops. The Fourth of July found them at El Paso, and they celebrated it appropriately, with the Confederate soldiers looking on from across the river. It had been the intention to go through Arizona, but as the troops had been withdrawn from that point, Mr. O’Brion formed a company which went by way of Northern Chihuahua, and through the Guadalupe Pass, a route followed by early immigrants to California. They went through Chihuahua to Sonora, thence to Santa Cruz, where the party split up. His party then concluded to go to Guyamos, and from there by steamer, after selling out all their effects, etc. They were, however, delayed by a revolutionary party of 400, on the way to the coast, and on arriving at Guyamos, found the steamer had gone. Instead of waiting one month for another, Mr. O’Brion hired out and went into the mines of Sonora.
At San Antonio de la Huerta, at San Marcial, and at Tico Ripa he mined, kept store, made roads, etc., until 1863, when he again determined to proceed to California. Going to Guyamos, he took passage on a steamer bound for San Francisco. He was sick for three months after his arrival there, then went into a dry goods store for awhile, and on the twenty-third of March, 1865, he left for Almaden, where he went to work on the twenty-fourth. Two months later he became night watchman, and three months after that became receiver of ores. Six months after arrival he was made surface foreman, continued so until 1870, and then was placed in charge of the Almaden stores. After four years, his health failed, and he rested for a year or two.
September 4, 1874, he was married to Mrs. Anna New, widow of John C. New, and went back to Chicago for a wedding trip. On returning to New Almaden, he was re-employed in his former capacity, and two years after left and went into business at Darwin with Joseph Waterman. In 1881 he returned again to New Almaden on account of poor health, and commenced work in his present capacity. He is a member of Triumph Lodge, No. 47, K. of P., at San Jose. He holds the office of School Trustee. Mr. and Mrs. O’Brion have one child, Bruce Clark, born August 2, 1875, at New Almaden.
Pen Pictures From The Garden of the World or Santa Clara County, California, Illustrated. - Edited by H. S. Foote.- Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1888.
Transcribed by Kathy Sedler