Ramsey County History magazine offers a wide variety of articles on the people, places and history of Ramsey County.
Volume 14, Number 2: Spring 1979
Letters to Fannie Higgins: The Courtship of Patrick O’Brien
Author: Michael Maher
The author has assembled a portrait of the Irish immigrant Patrick O’Brien, his life, work, and personality from surviving letters. The result is a portrait of life in St. Paul in the 1860s and ‘70s. The letters comment amusingly on politics, the work of the Catholic Church, popular entertainments and diversions, the operations of the U.S. mail (O’Brien became assistant St. Paul postmaster), and public health and morals, among other topics. The original letters are in the Ramsey County Historical Society collections.
PDF of Maher – O’Brien Letters
The Liberated Woman Patrick O’Brien Married
Author: Michael Maher
Fannie Higgins worked in her youth as a dressmaker in Hudson, Wisconsin. The same cache of family letters that inspired the previous article about Patrick O’Brien also yields a portrait of Fannie Higgins and her times. She was independent, a good businesswoman, and constantly concerned for the welfare of her brothers. It took nine years for her to agree to marry Patrick O’Brien.
PDF of Maher – Fannie Higgins article
A Grandson Describes: The O’Briens’ House on George Street
Author: George A. Rea
The author remembers his grandparents, Patrick and Fannie O’Brien, and their big house (still standing) at 255 George Street. Initially they lived on Irvine Park, but grandfather “decided to move the day a neighbor’s bantam chickens got into his garden and ate his newly sprouted vegetables.” The new house, completed in 1890, had everything a fine home of the time should have. Grandfather worked seven days a week. Grandmother, with the help of servants, ran the house and family. For amusement they read, participated in literary groups, Bible study, and fraternal organizations, and attended performances at the Metropolitan Opera House. Horse-drawn buggies were the usual means of transportation and cutter sleds and sleighs were used in the winter. Both grandparents lived nearly 90 years.
PDF of Rea article
The Ghost of the Roaring Twenties
Author: Lucile Arnold
Lucile Arnold grew up in Gladstone, now vanished into Maplewood, in the 1920s. She and her friends danced the Charleston, rode the streetcars, shopped (and worked) at the Golden Rule, talked about Babe Ruth and Nazimova and Charles Lindbergh, saw shows at the Metropolitan, walked to Phalen Park, sang “Ain’t We Got Fun?”, and attended the first Johnson High School. She, her sisters, brother, and amused father searched for the ghost lady by the graveyard on Larpenteur Avenue. Then in October 1929 the stock market crashed. “By the end of the year the dust had settled, and like the lady ghost, the Roaring Twenties slipped quietly into history.”
PDF of Arnold article