The Boys of the West

O’Neill (standing with Cowboy hat) and some pals in the 1890s [Mary Lesch Collection]

Francis O’Neill was a multi-faceted character: Chicago chief of police, avid Irish music collector and player, successful real estate investor. You wouldn’t know this from the stern photographs that survive. The light-hearted photograph above is rare alternative view of the man.

Before his success, he started out scraping a living as a sailor who travelled from port to port. He even did a stint herding sheep in California herding sheep. Not quite a cowboy but not far off it. He recounts his Wild West adventures in his memoirs: Sketchy Recollections of an Eventful Life in Chicago.

It was great fun writing this section of Chief O’Neill. I have always been a fan of Westerns and was very excited to find O’Neill lived that life for a while. He even got into a gunfight with a drunken Kentuckian! Please enjoy the following excerpt from this period of O’Neill’s life:


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