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O'Brien, one of the most renowned of all Irish names, comes from Brian Boru, High King of Ireland in the 11th century.  His royal family started using the name after his death at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014, although it didn't come into general use untill many years later.  Brien is derived from the irish brion, meaning lofty or eminent.

ife in 18th century Ireland was difficult, especially so for Catholics.  They were forbidden from practicing their faith, stopped from buying land or horses, and banned from serving in the army or holding public office.  Late in the century, the United States gained its freedom from the British, and thus provided new opportunities for many of the repressed Irish Catholics.

Mathew O'Brien   b:1740   d:1783
Alice Clarey  
Michael O'Brien   d:1816
(w) Margaret Hook   d:1854
Samuel O'Brien   b:1813   d:1869
(w) Eliza Devlin    
William Henry O'Brien   b:1847   d:1918
(w) Elizabeth Wendling   b:1854   d:1945

One such family, called O'Brien, made their way from Waterford County, Ireland, to Baltimore, Maryland in the Americas.  Here they gave birth to a new generation of O'Brien's.  Their American born son was named Michael.

Michael was raised during the last decades of the 1700's and was educated to be an architect, though he never practiced the profession.  He met and married a Philadelphia woman by the name of Margaret Hook on December 1, 1791.  The ceremony was performed by the first U.S. Catholic Bishop, John Carroll.  In June of 1806 Michael moved, with his wife and children to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he became one of the city's pioneering merchants.  There, in 1813 they gave birth to their last son, whom they named Samuel.  Just three years later, in 1816, Michael died.  Margaret survived him for another 38 years.

Samuel grew up in Pittsburgh, where he later became a contractor and builder.  He married Eliza Devlin, and raised six children: Margaret, Joseph, Mary, Samuel, Elizabeth, and William.  Their son, Joseph, fought and died in the Civil War, serving with the 63rd Pennsylvania Volunteers, Company H.   Samuel passed away in 1869.

Family Picture
William H. O'Brien Family
O'Brien Crest
O'Brien Family Crest

Samuel's youngest son, William, trained as a pattern-maker at the age of 18, but in only a few months decided to become a plumber and gas fitter instead.  In 1870 he married Elizabeth Wendling of Birmingham, Pennsylvania. 
O'Brien Family Home
O'Brien Family Home - 1914
218 E. Clay Street, Butler, Penna.
The street was later renamed to
E. Brady Street

He fathered fourteen children, two of which died in infancy.  The family moved to Oil City, but finally settled in Butler in 1888.  There, William founded the plumbing firm of W.H. O'Brien & Son.
Children of William and Elizabeth
Albert Francis   b:1870   d:1934
Catherine   b:1872   d:1872
Mary Stella   b:1873   d:1947
Ida Christine   b:1875   d:1946
Catherine Regina   b:1878   d:1878
William John   b:1879   d:1942
Elizabeth (Bess) Irene   b:1881   d:1975
Samuel Cleveland   b:1885   d:1969
Marie (Maria) Mabel   b:1886   d:1973
Joseph Howard   b:1889   d:1963
Camilla Florence   b:1891   d:1921
Murray (Merle) John   b:1892   d:1941
Esther Laverne   b:1895   d:1984
Cecil Victor   b:1901   d:1949

Background image of W.H. O'Brien & Son Plumbing is Copyright 2000 by Mary S. Rehm KEY:  [ (w) Wife ]  [ b: Year of Birth ]  [ d: Year of Death ]

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Samuel Cleveland O'Brien Murray (Merle) John O'Brien Elizabeth (Bess) Irene O'Brien Joseph Howard O'Brien Camilla Florence O'Brien Albert Francis O'Brien William John O'Brien Marie Mabel O'Brien Ida Christine O'Brien Elizabeth Wendling William Henry O'Brien Esther Laverne O'Brien Mary Stella O'Brien Victor Cecil O'Brien The O'Brien Family