Pictorial and Genealogical Record
of Greene County, Missouri

Together with Bibliographies of Prominent Men of Other Portions of the State, Both Living and Dead


JOHN O'DAY. This citizen is one of the prominent men of Southwest Missouri, who has not only been prominently identified with the legal profession for many years, but has been one of the chief promoters of the great railway systems which are now doing so much toward the development o this country. Beginning the practice of law in Springfield when a very young man, shortly after the close of the great Civil War and when Springfield was but a village and much of the surrounding country a wilderness; at a time when the people were struggling to adjust themselves to new conditions and the bitterness of partisanship was evident in many lawsuits and the real cause of much litigation, Mr. O'Day gained an experience and a knowledge of the people of Missouri which could hardly have been gained under other conditions. His practice extended throughout the entire southwest portion of the State, and he frequently made long journeys on horseback to attend court in the log house of some pioneer farmer. Thus he has seen almost the entire progress and growth of Springfield and southwest Missouri, and has taken part as a citizen and a lawyer in all public events worthy of record. Mr. O'Day was born in Ireland November 18, 1844, and was brought to America by his parents when an infant. His father, John O'Day, Sr., settled in Livingston County, N.Y., but in 1868 removed with his family to Springfield where he remained until his death, which occurred at the patriarchal age of eighty-four years. The early advantages for acquiring an education of the subject of the sketch were first those of the common district school and afterward that of the Academy of Lima, N. Y. At an early age the keenness of his intellect was shown and he made rapid progress in his studies. Upon leaving school he began the study of law with Judge Winsor, of Rochester, N. Y., with whom be completed his legal studies and with whom he came West as far as Juno, Wis., where Mr. O'Day remained three years, coming to Springfield in February, 1866. He immediately hung out his shingle to notify the public that he was ready to defend the cause of the injured, and unlike the majority of attorneys, had not long to wait for clients. He was admitted to the bar in Wisconsin, and the Springfield bar, was represented by Gov. Phelps, Col. Henry C. Young, Judge John Bryce, Judge John S. Waddle and C. B. McAfee, Esq., the sole surviving lawyer then practicing at the bar in this city, except Mr. O'Day. The latter was then but twenty-two years of age, but he possessed unmistakable ability, and it was not long before he was established in a large and continually growing practice. At that time Springfield contained about 1,500 inhabitants. There was no court-house in either Ozark or Taney Counties, and Mr. O'Day's practice extended over twenty-one counties, over which wide range of country there were no lawyers and the attorneys of Springfield attended to all the legal cases. Naturally there was a great deal of litigation growing out of the unsettled condition of the country during and immediately after the close of the Civil War, and there were numerous prosecutions for treason, murder and arson. In the sparsely settled, rough frontier country, Mr. O'Day steadily made his way, and overcoming all difficulties; by his manly, straightforward course, gained the confidence of the people and became a successful lawyer with all he could properly attend to in the way of legal work. He soon interested himself in the affairs of the St. Louis & San Francisco Railroad, of which be was appointed attorney in 1869 in connection with Judge Baker. He was vice-president of this road from 1886 to 1890, and is now one of its large stockholders. He was one of the promoters of the Springfield Northern Railroad, the Springfield Southern Railroad, the St. Louis, Wichita & Western Railroad, Ft. Scott, Paris & Texas Railroad, and has been president of all these roads. From his long experience in building railroads and in their management, Mr. O'Day is one of the best informed railroad men in Missouri and is a thorough exponent of railroad law, on which he is considered an authority. His services to southwest Missouri in the advancement of means of transportation are of the greatest value, and are not exceeded in public utility. He has been in active practice at the Springfield bar for a longer time than and other attorney, with the exception of C. B. McAfee, and is one of its leading members. Socially he is a Knight Templar in the A. F. & A. M., and in his political views he is a stanch Democrat. He is a gentleman of large wealth, genial and courteous manners and stands deservedly high, not only for his ability at the bar, but for his sturdy independence and high character.

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