The Obituary of Elizabeth Dwen Beaton O'Leary

The following obituary appeared in a Galena, Illinois newspaper shortly after Mrs O'Leary's death in 1910. This was prepared from a typescript which, I believe, was originally prepared by Leo Sheridan Jr. from the original newspaper. Mrs. O'Leary's first husband was Donald Beaton and she was the mother of Matthew Beaton. This obituary contains the account of the winter she spent near Fort Snelling with three children and her mother. This account is the subject of Ft. Snelling During the Winter of 1851-52 . I believe that Elizabeth's maiden name was most likely Dwen.

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Mrs. Elizabeth O'Leary

In the death of Mrs. Elizabeth O'Leary, which occurred at her home on Diagonal street Monday Evening, March 21st, there passed away one of the earliest arrivals among the few of Galena's pioneer residents now remaining, one who for more than seventy years had taken her quiet part in the life of the city and died esteemed and mourned by all at the honored old age of 81 years. Her early life was truly that of the pioneer, replete with experiences the recalling of which seems as romance to the present generation. Born in the city which was the capital of wealth and culture of the southern half of the original colonies, it was her destiny to witness as a child the building of America's first railroad, to see as a. young girl the sentinel posts of civilization's westward march at St. Louis, Galena and St. Paul, and as a young wife to endure the privations and perils of frontier life, when the wolves still ran in hungry packs and the redskins swarmed in enforced peace under the guns of Fort Snelling.

Mrs. O'Leary was born in Baltimore, Dec. 28, 1828. Her father was Michael Wren, one of the first railroad contractors in the country, and who had contracts in the construction of the Baltimore & Ohio railroad. She recalled riding on the embryo B. & O. when the track consisted of strips of iron riveted on top of stout wooden rails, and the first locomotive having yet to come, the cars were horse drawn. Her mother was Ann Caton, member of a collateral branch of the distinguished old Maryland family of that name. They were married in 1826 in the old cathedral at Baltimore, the first and then the only Roman Catholic see in the United States, and in the same historic edifice, the daughter was baptized. There were three children of the family, Mrs. O'Leary, Mrs. Catherine Ryan Young, deceased, and Mrs. Mary Molloy, formerly of Galena and now of Chicago.

The nature of Mr. Wren' s business required him to follow "the course of empires", and in 1831 the family moved to Pittsburg, where new contracts called him, and thence in 1835 to St. Louis. In 1838 they came from St. Louis to Galena, then next in importance only to St. Louis in all the West. Mr. Wren, with Darius Hunkins, took contracts for construction work on the projected Galena - Savanna road, but as the State of Illinois backed down on the project the road was never built and Mr. Wren sold his interests at a heavy loss, although Mr. Hunkins later recouped in full. After this costly experience the family went to Bellevue, where the father bought two farms, and operated them from 1843 until 1845, when he sold out and returned to Galena. He died here February 18, 1846, the same night on which his first grandchild, Matthew Beaton, was born. The marriage of Elizabeth Wren and Donald Beaton took place in the old Catholic church in Galena in 1845. Mr. Beaton was a blacksmith, a sturdy type of that sturdy craft in those primitive days when it was the most important of the trades. He was also a master of his trade, was known as the only man in the northwest who could shoe a stubborn ox, and this prowess won him a very (most of a line is missing here) ment which occasioned the family's removal in 1850 to Fort Snelling. They lived in the one white man' s habitation without the fort, an old stone house, built by an Indian trader, a mile from the fort, and midway between it and the falls of Minnehaha. The next year her husband' s health failed and he was ordered by the post surgeon to go to New Orleans on the last boat in the fall, and that winter the young wife, with her three little children and widowed mother lived the long months through in that lonely habitat, with no white neighbor except those in the garrison a mile away. At. St. Anthony's Falls in that year the present site of Minneapolis was distinguished by a solitary log cabin. The Indians were daily visitors and the wolves terrorized the nights.

Mr. Beaton, although a man of splendid physique, fell a victim of pulmonary consumption, and was obliged to abandon his work at Fort Snelling and return with his family to Galena in 1852. Being again ordered to New Orleans he succumbed to the disease there in the winter of that year. After eight years of widowhood, she was married in 1860 to Thomas O'Leary, remembered by all of middle age as for many years the city marshal of Galena. His death occurred in 1883. There were three children of her first marriage, Matthew, Catherine, now dead, and Annie, and of the second marriage one son, the late Augustus G. O'Leary. Matthew Beaton, for many years one of Galena's leading business men and most esteemed citizens, a year ago took up his home in Rogers Park, Chicago, and his one sister, the companion of her mother lifelong, will henceforth make her home with him. Thus is marked the extinction locally of another of Galena's earliest families.

Mrs. O'Leary was a woman of exceptional mental attributes, strength of character and Gracchian devotion to the hearthstone. Doubtless the broadening and somewhat trying experiences of her early life had much to do in the moulding of the mental and vital strength which in her latest years were remarked of all her acquaintances. Indeed, in her long life, she never experienced the slightest physical ailment until very recently, and her death the physicians ascribed to natural vital exhaustion, superinduced by an ordinary cold. Throughout life she was a keen and discerning observer of all things that passed, and was a tireless reader. It is related that when a young girl at Bellevue, she walked every week eight miles to Sabula and home again for the privilege of borrowing books for the weeks consumption from an aged local servant at Sabula who had the only li.brary worthy of the name in all that young locality. This reading, with increasing discriminating taste, she kept up all her life. She possessed broad culture and could be at will a most engaging conversationalist. Over fifty years ago, when the present day reading circles and chautauquas were all unknown, she organized such a circle among her neighbors on Franklin street and was its leading spirit through a profitable existence of several years.

Her memory was marvelous. It was said that any narrative of history or fiction which she had once read was the more interesting and graphic by her verbal synopsis of it than the original. Of the wide panorama covered in her childhood she retained a vivid recollection, not only of the salient points but of details, and would discourse entertainingly of early scenes in Baltimore, Pittsburg, St. Louis and the new northwest. Of early events in Galena she had clear and accurate remembrance. It is a fact that attorneys of the city have not infrequently consulted her as to date about some of the early families, and whenever records were found they invariably corroborated her recollection, while when there were no records available her remembrance was taken as sufficient authority.

In her long life there was the average allotment, perhaps even an undue share of the vicissitudes and trials of the world, but nothing ever ruffled the outward calm of a singularly fortitudinous spirit, nor impaired her native gentleness and charity. She lived to see her children to the fourth generation growing up, having seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. In her more active years she was the comforter and aid of every friend and neighbor in sickness or distress, and in her declining years she found comfort in her beloved books, in the tender attachment and care of her remaining son and daughter, and in her religious faith, in which, as in all things she was firm though undemonstrative. These crowned her days with contentment and peace.

The funeral services were held on Ash Wednesday in St. Michael's church, the rector, Rev. J. E. Shannahan, solemnizing requiem high mass. He also delivered a short appropriate discourse. Interment was made in the Catholic cemetery on the East Side. There was a large assemblage of friends at the funeral. Mr. and Mrs. Matthew Beaton arrived from Chicago before her death, in response to telegram, and Donald Beaton and Mrs. Frederick B. Cozzens, grandchildren, came over for the funeral. The pallbearers were Dr. J. J. Creswell, John Cloran, T. J. Sheean, Henry Conoughy, Joseph M. Nack and Thomas Berry.

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Fort Snelling: 1851-52

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Matthew Beaton, 50 Years in Business

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