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History of Iowa From the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the Twentieth Century/4/Henry O'Connor

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HENRY O’CONNOR


HENRY O'CONNOR was born in the City of Dublin, Ireland, July 26, 1820. When old enough to leave home he was sent to Tullow where he received private instruction from the monks who kept a free school. He finally emigrated to America, going to Cincinnati, where he began the study of law when about twenty-six years of age and took six months' instruction in a law school, working at his trade to support himself. In 1849 he was admitted to the bar and came to Iowa, locating at Muscatine, where he opened a law office. He united with the free soil movement in 1854, supporting James W. Grimes for Governor. In 1856 he was a delegate to the State Convention which organized the Republican party in Iowa and made a speech on the evening of the ratification meeting which for impassioned eloquence has seldom been equalled. It placed him in the front rank of Republican orators. In 1857 Mr. O'Connor wan chosen District Attorney in the Seventh District. When the War of the Rebellion began in 1861, Mr. O'Connor enlisted as a private in the First Iowa Regiment and fought bravely until his term of service expired. In 1862 he was commissioned major of the Thirty-fifth Regiment. In 1867 he was elected Attorney-General of Iowa, serving by reëlections until 1872. While holding this position, a young woman was elected to the office of superintendent of schools in Mitchell County. Her eligibility to the office was questioned and submitted to the Attorney-General. He decided that a woman was eligible to hold office—the first decision in the United States upon that subject. In 1872 Mr. O'Connor was appointed by President Grant Solicitor of the Department of State and served in that important position under four secretaries—Hamilton Fish, Wm. M. Evarts, F. T. Frelinghuysen and James G. Elaine, a period of nearly fourteen years. In 1872 he was warmly supported for Governor before the Republican State Convention but the nomination went to C. C. Carpenter. Major O'Connor died at the Soldiers' Home, November 6, 1900.