Ophelia’s Children

O'Neil Sykes Group front

The ladies and gentleman in the above photograph are probably four of William Thomas O’Neil and Ophelia Young O’Neil‘s five children. I qualify that statement because one of the ladies is not named in the inscription on the back (below). Also unclear is which daughter is which.

We can positively identify Henry Edward O’Neil (1876-1923). In Census records and newspaper accounts of Ed’s death there is considerable confusion about his name. Was it Edwin or Edward, was this name first or was Henry first? In spite of good professional and financial fortunes (Saint Regis Falls National Bank president, Saint Regis Falls Light and Power Company president, considerable lumber holdings) his life ended early and tragically. According to press accounts, in April 1923 Ed drove from his home in Saint Regis Falls, NY to Brasher Falls, NY and checked into the Riverside Hotel. That night he went to a dance and returned to his room very late. When he didn’t show up for “dinner” at midday, the hotel owner investigated and found that Ed had hanged himself using bed sheets tied to a bedpost. In The Journal and Republican and Lowville Times of 26 April 1923 it was written that “No reason could be ascribed for his act other than belief he was a victim of despondency.”

Dorothy Grace O’Neil (1891-1969) married Edwin Gilchrist Sykes (1890-1959) in 1917. They operated a dairy and they had three sons.

Florence Louise O’Neil (1885-1976) married Chester Marion Austin (1885-1969) and they had two sons.

Edith O’Neil (1874-1934) married Canadian-born Donald Alexander MacDonald (1862-1935). In 1914 and 1915 Edith was the Assembly District Leader of the Franklin County Suffrage League, a position from which she resigned when she moved to Albany, NY with her husband who was an assemblyman and Conservation Commissioner. Read her “It Is The Indifferent That Oppose Suffrage” in the 15 September 1915 edition of The Norwood News. In 1917 Edith received a patent for “a process for extracting dye from autumn leaves.” According to Sustainable Fashion: Past, Present, and Future by Jennifer Farley Gordon and Colleen Hill, the development of the process, inspired by the stains leaves leave on sidewalks, was timely because WWI had disrupted synthetic dye imports from Germany. Her patent emphasized the fact that fallen leaves were a renewable resource which could be recycled as fertilizer after processing.

Not pictured is the youngest sibling, Arthur S. O’Neil (1893-1965), who married Katherine Russell Warner (1897-1972). They had one daughter. Arthur was president of the Ogdensburg Trust Company in Ogdensburg, NY when he died. His absence from this photograph could be explained by his service in WWI which took him overseas between 26 February 1918 and 6 July 1919. He served in the 41st Engineers and the 13th Battalion of the 20th Engineers.

O'neil Sykes Group back