The O’Connor Brothers, Both Mayors of Sudbury

The O’Connor boys, it seemed, had a finger in every pie and a desire to try everything that life had to offer.  Their interests were diverse and their contributions to Sudbury and other northern communities were unequalled

Dan O'Connor

Dan O’Connor was Sudbury’s second mayor first elected in 1894.

Dan O’Connor was born in 1864 in Pembroke, Ontario.  He arrived in Sudbury in the late 1880s and immediately became involved in the industry, economy and life of the district. His first enterprise was lumbering, where he became well known as a sawmill operator in Northern Ontario. He soon branched out into mining and prospecting. He managed the Comstock Mine in Wahnapitae and pursued many other mining interests. As a sideline, Dan turned to hotel management. He operated the White House Hotel (former site of the Nickel Range Hotel on Elm St.) for many years. In May of 1891, Dan travelled to Brockville, Ontario to marry Mary A. Bourke.  The couple returned to Sudbury and soon added a daughter to their family.

Sudbury officially became a town in 1893. In that year Dan O’Connor was elected to Sudbury’s first Council under Mayor Stephen Fournier and in 1894, this enterprising gentleman became Sudbury’s second mayor. His life, thus far, (he was not yet 30 years old) seemed inordinately full yet this was still not enough for Dan.

Belle of Temagami steamship

The Belle of Temagami was the first of Dan O’Connor’s fleet of steamships (he had 10) and was launched in 1906.

At the turn of the century, Dan’s interests turned to more northerly regions. He travelled to Temagami hoping to discover some mineral prospects and to take advantage of the lumbering boom that was going on in that area.  What he found was the natural beauty surrounding the Temagami area and, entrepreneur that he was, Dan O’Connor capitalized on it by turning the area into a summer resort. In quick succession he opened the Temagami Inn, The Ronnoco Hotel (his name spelled backwards), Lady Evelyn Hotel and later a general store.

In those days, transportation routes were inadequate so in order to facilitate travel between the lumber camps in the area, he established a steamship company. The Temagami Hotel and Steamboat Company operated three boats on the lakes in the region.
Dan O’Connor was still very active in his prospecting activities. He was lured further north in search of gold and he made several promising discoveries. He owned many claims, among them the Ronnoco & Cleaver Gold Mines.

Financially, Dan O’Connor did well in life and he didn’t hesitate to help those in less fortunate circumstances. Various accounts tell of how he helped Indians, trappers, prospectors and other residents of many northern communities.
At the time of his death, on March 29, 1939 Dan O’Connor was living in Timmins with his family.

Larry O'Connor

Larry O’Connor was Sudbury’s mayor for seven years and was first elected in 1905.

Larry O’Connor was born on May 2, 1870. He left his home in Pembroke at the age of 15 to work for Murray and Loughrin in Mattawa. Soon after, he was in Algoma Mills where he was a clerk during the construction of the railway line to Sault Ste. Marie and then he was hired as an accountant for the Chicago Nickel Ore Company in Worthington.

White House Hotel Sudbury

The White House Hotel first opened in 1890, the Nickel Range Hotel was later built on the same property .

When he came to Sudbury in 1887, he was not yet 17 years old. By saving his money, Larry was able to purchase the White House Hotel, which since its opening in 1890 was Sudbury’s most elegant hotel. In 1895 he purchased a dry-goods store, The Golden Bull, and two years later he bought a wet-goods (liquor) store in the Rothschild Block which he operated until 1905.

In 1896 Larry wed Sarah Ellen Vasey in Sudbury and shortly thereafter became interested in municipal politics. He was first elected to city council in 1899 and held his position for five years. In 1905 he was elected mayor, by acclamation, for the first time. His career, as Sudbury Mayor spanned 7 years. Elected in 1906, 1907, 1910, and again in 1911, sparked many humourous references in The Journal about the “regular foot path between his residence and his favourite chair at City Hall.”

During his terms as mayor, Sudbury benefited from many of his ideas and improvements. Paved streets and sidewalks, electricity and street lighting and organizing the Sudbury and Copper Cliff Suburban Electric Railway all were achieved in Sudbury.

Larry retired from politics in 1907 but continued to hold a seat on the council board and he was still adding to his considerable real estate and mineral holdings.

In 1907 he was the Secretary-Treasurer of a newly formed company that was planning a city-sized opera house. Construction began on the Sudbury Grand Opera House in 1909 and Larry was one of the financial backers.

Larry died on December 12, 1928 at the age of 58 years, his wife had predeceased him 10 years earlier. With his brother Dan, they left a rich colourful legacy of achievements and a solid base from which the north could continue to grow.

“When my wife and I argue, we’re like a band in concert: we start with some new stuff, and then we roll out our greatest hits.” Frank Skinner

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contact: colin@southsidestory.ca

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