The fourth person from the left is Thomas O’Brien.

A look back at the history and times of Thomas O’ Brian

Colleen Palumbo takes a look at the life of a former resident.

It seems impossible that I could have been here this long, but I started at the Golden Museum in May of 1990.

When I first came I was fresh from my job at Star Video Rentals where I had on a daily basis worked with everything new and leading edge so I must admit it was a bit of culture shock for me to take on this job where all of a sudden I was working with everything old. My first request for information came from the Glenbow Museum.

They were looking for information on a lawyer named Thomas O’Brien, who defended a murderer in Golden in 1900.

Having no idea what was in the archives, I set their request aside while I learned my way around. Within a few days I came across Thomas’ name several times, but not enough information to determine if he had any relatives somewhere.

Two weeks after starting this job I came across Thomas O’Brien’s obituary. It contained the information that the Glenbow Museum was looking for. They were trying to locate a relative to whom the Canadian government could give a medal of recognition. It seems Thomas had been an important person in Manitoba’s history and they wanted to finally say thank you.

I sent the information and received a thank you back. Since that time I have come across a great deal of information, enough to consider myself a friend of someone who died 47 years before I was born. Each year at Easter I make the pilgrimage up to the Golden Cemetery to take flowers to important people in my life, my grandmother, Jenny Allen, my mother Jenny Barbour, my mother-in-law, Lorraine Palumbo. It seems that every year the list grows but Thomas is always on it. A man who gave to Golden the best he had and left no one to remember him.

Thomas was born near Liverpool, England in 1872. He came to Canada and became private secretary to the Hon. Sir John Schultz, Lieut. Gov. of Manitoba, afterwards moving to Calgary where he was associated with the law office of Senator J.A. Lougheed and was an alderman on the city council.

He moved to Golden in 1897 and a check with the Law Society of BC shows he was admitted to the Bar in 1899. His name began to appear in the police court and this ad was a regular insert in the Golden Star: “Thomas O’Brien, Barrister, Solicitor, Notary Public, Conveyancer, etc. Office in the Upper Columbia Navigation and Tramway Company Building, Golden, BC.”

Thomas took and active part in all aspects of Golden social life. He was a member of the Masonic Lodge. He was also involved with the curling club, the hospital, the Board of Trade and was politically active with the Conservative Association.

His exceptional ability as a lawyer helped him fulfill his love of travel and he traveled all over Canada and the USA. He contributed money to many causes but any that dealt with children were sure to get his attention.

He was quite involved in business as well and for several years was the owner of the Golden Star. He also had interests in several mining companies and a hotel.

Sounds like a pretty good life, until you look a little deeper. He suffered from terrible bouts with pneumonia and was often hospitalized both here in Golden and in Vancouver. Thomas never married nor did he have any family here, but from everything that I have found he had many close friends in Golden.

While on a trip to Spokane, Wash., in Sept of 1908, Thomas died of pneumonia at the age of 36. His body was brought back to Golden, and he was buried in the Municipal Cemetery with all the ceremony due a VIP. I went to the cemetery to look for his grave. It sits alone under a tree and reads, Thomas O’Brien – Died Sept 4, 1908, aged 36 years.


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