O’BRIEN, EDWARD GEORGE, soldier, pioneer, and businessman; b. probably on 8 Jan. 1799, at Woolwich, Eng., son of Lucius O’Brien and Mary Callender-Campbell; d. 8 Sept. 1875 at Shanty Bay, Ont.
Edward George O’Brien spent his early boyhood at Cork, Ireland, and went to sea as a midshipman in 1810. He remained in the Royal Navy until 1815 when peace ended hope of promotion. In 1816 he became ensign in the 58th Regiment of foot and went with the regiment to Jamaica. Promoted lieutenant in 1820, he exchanged to the 29th Regiment in 1825, and retired on half-pay in 1826. He returned to sea in the merchant marine.
O’Brien emigrated to Upper Canada in 1829 and took up land near Thornhill. One year later he married Mary Sophia Gapper and, in 1832, left Thornhill and completed a new home, “The Woods,” on Lake Simcoe at what came to be called Shanty Bay. O’Brien had been made emigrant agent for Oro Township in 1831. In this capacity he was entrusted with the supervision of a proposed Negro settlement, but the project attracted few settlers and was soon abandoned. As magistrate and commissioner of the Court of Requests, O’Brien played a leading role in the life of Shanty Bay, and he was also largely responsible for the building of St Thomas’ Church (Church of England). Commissioned lieutenant-colonel in May 1838, he commanded the 3rd Regiment of Simcoe militia during the aftermath of the rebellion.
About 1845 O’Brien moved to Toronto and became secretary of the projected Toronto, Simcoe, and Lake Huron Union Railway (later the Northern Railway). He also served as secretary of the Provincial Mutual and General Insurance Company. In 1848 he bought a newspaper, the Toronto Patriot, edited first by his brother Lucius James O’Brien*, then by Samuel Thompson*, but he sold it after a few years to Ogle Robert Gowan. About 1858 he retired from active business life and returned to Shanty Bay, where he died. He had several children, one of whom, Lucius Richard O’Brien*, became a prominent painter.
PAO, [Mary Sophia Gapper (O’Brien)], O’Brien journals, 1828–38. [Mary O’Brien], The journals of Mary O’Brien, 1828–1838, ed. A. S. Miller (Toronto, 1968). Chadwick, Ontarian families, II, 143–44. Davin, Irishman in Canada, 294–99. Henry O’Brien, “Reminiscences of Lake Simcoe,” Simcoe County Pioneer and Hist. Soc., Pioneer Papers (Barrie, Ont.), no.3 (1910), 8–11. W. E. O’Brien, “Early days in Oro,” Simcoe County Pioneer and Hist. Soc., Pioneer Papers (Barrie, Ont.), no.1 (1908), 22–27.