John “Jack” O'Neill

John “Jack” O'Neill

Steubenville, Jefferson County, Ohio, USA
Death 12 Jul 1883 (aged 56)
Brainerd, Crow Wing County, Minnesota, USA
Burial Brainerd, Crow Wing County, Minnesota, USA
Plot Blk 13 Lot 27
Memorial ID 55699228 · View Source
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Father: John O'Neill, born Ireland
Mother: Charlotte, born Ireland

COD: Inflamed bowels

Arrived in Brainerd in November 1873.

      The notorious Jack O'Neill passed through here Wednesday on the noon train, in charge of Sheriff Blanchard, for St. Paul, where, no doubt, he will meet with his deserts. (Brainerd Tribune, 07 September 1872, p. 1, c. 6)

                      JACK O'NEILL.

Special to Minneapolis Tribune, 13th.
      BISMARCK, Dec. 12.—The notorious rough and generally believed to be murderer, Jack O'Neill, was shot through the heart this morning at 2 o'clock by another rough known as Paddy Hall. O'Neill had been drinking considerably yesterday and was crazy drunk at night. In the evening he had a scuffle with Hall, and shortly after O'Neill got a revolver and shotgun and chased Hall round town. Hall also got a revolver to defend himself and the result is as above stated. Hall surrendered himself immediately to the Sheriff. (Brainerd Tribune, 19 December 1874, p. 1, c. 7)

[Obviously, the above outlined death of Jack O'Neill did not take place as reported.]

O'Neill, John [‘Jack']

Dates his birth in Steubenville, Jefferson county, Ohio, on the 11th of July 1827. He learned the trade of stone-cutter when young, followed the business for a number of years, and was afterward employed on the Ohio and Mississippi river boats. He came to Minnesota in 1872, and after living in Lake City, Mankato, and Red Wing, came to Brainerd in 1877 [sic], and has lived here ever since. He is the present proprietor of the saloon known as "The Last Turn," in front of which still stands the pine tree on which the two Indians were hung in 1872, for the murder of Miss McArthur. (History of the Upper Mississippi Valley, Winchell, Neill, Williams and Bryant, Minnesota Historical Company, Minneapolis: 1881; p. 652)

Jack O'Neill ran the Last Turn [Saloon]. He always wore a red undershirt and no top shirt. (Biography: 1936; Fred Hagadorn, born 27 July 1870; CWCHS)

There was the time Jack O'Neill shot ‘Faker' George [1881]. I was standing on the sidewalk, right beside Jake Payne [sic] [Paine] and saw that myself. O'Neill grabbed a big .45 and shot ‘Faker' George right through the back. Then he yelled, "There now, heal [sic] yourself, you faker!" (Biography: March 1936; Joseph Kiebler, born 06 April 1860; CWCHS)

      We learn that Mr. J. O'Neil, who has been quite an invalid during the winter, is rapidly improving in health. (Brainterd Tribune 26 March 1881, p. 1, c. 1)

      Jack O'Neill, who shoots ‘Faker' George in 1877 [sic] [1881], keeps the bar at the Last Turn Saloon in November 1873 [sic]. (Brainerd Dispatch, 01 June 1922)

      Jack O'Neill, a saloon keeper of Brainerd, shot and killed a notorious and quarrelsome character named [‘Faker'] Geo. Smith on Friday. Public sympathy is with O'Neill. (Minneapolis Tribune, 29 May 1881, p. 1)


BRAINERD, Minn., May 30.—The preliminary examination of Jack O'Neill for the murder of [‘Faker'] George Smith took place today. Judge Sleeper reserves his decision until tomorrow at 9 o'clock. (Minneapolis Tribune, 31 May 1881, p. 2)

                  DEEDS OF DEVILTRY.

            GEORGE” BY JACK O’NEIL.

         Minor Squibs of Crime and Little
              Pieces of Cussedness for
                   Dessert this Week.

By the TRIBUNE Special Reporter.
      Last night about 15 minutes before 9 o'clock the citizens of this rapidly growing town were electrified by the sound of firearms coming from the west end of Front Street. The shots were fired in rapid succession. Your correspondent upon appearing at the scene found about 100 men gathered about the saloon known as “The Last Turn” and kept by Jack O’Neil. Upon the floor of Mr. Davenport’s store 50 feet west of the saloon lay the almost lifeless form of the daring bagnio-keeper Fakir George, or rather Geo. G. Boomhower [sic]. He was bleeding profusely from the wound of a rifle ball. Upon his breast, moaning piteously, lay his supposed wife. Dr. Parsons was called but of course could do nothing for the wounded man. He was shot in the back, the ball passing through the left lung, between the 3rd and 4th ribs and came out about a half inch above the nipple, probably slightly touching the heart, and rising in its transit about an inch and a half. He died about 30 minutes after the shot took effect.
      This morning, the prisoner, Jack O’Neil was brought before Justice Sleeper and pleaded “not guilty.” The trial was postponed until Monday morning next. Your correspondent called upon Mr. O’Neil this morning and found him quite ready to answer any questions that were asked. He said that Fakir George had at many different times threatened to kill him. But the night before the shooting they had been “out” together and had parted as friends, shaking hands, etc. Last night about six o’clock Fakir George came in quarreling with another party. Fakir George finally hit one of his opponents on the head with his revolver. Jack O’Neil therefore told Fakir to go away and not create any disturbance. This seemed to irritate Fakir George and he said to O’Neil, “Here you are,” “You son of a b---h go and heel [sic] yourself.” Or in other words defend yourself. O’Neil upon this invitation went into the back room and returned with his rifle. He walked up to within ten feet of Fakir, (who stood just in the door way,) his rifle in his hands. Fakir fired one shot which passed near O’Neil’s head tipping his hat to one side. O’Neil then returned the fire just as Fakir turned and ran up the sidewalk, the ball entering his back as described above. After the first shot O’Neil fired again without any effect, excepting the scare it gave to people on the sidewalk, one of whom felt the effect of it on the end of his nose, as it whistled by. When Fakir ran into the store he was bleeding profusely and groaned, “My God! My God!” He still held his revolver in his hand and dropped it when he was nearly dead. There is some difference of opinion in regard to O’Neil’s position when he fired the fatal shot. Some think he was outside of the building and that the last shot was the one that killed Fakir. At the time, Fakir George was under bail for his appearance at the fall term of court, to be tried on the charge of assault with intent to kill Harry Burgess about two months ago. The general feeling existing among the best citizens here is that Fakir George was a dangerous character, and was considered a hard subject generally throughout the community.
      It has since been ascertained that “Fakir George” has relatives living at Clinton, Clinton Co., New York. His name was Boonhower [sic], and not Smith, as generally supposed in this community.
(Brainerd Tribune, 28 May 1881, p. 1, c. 3)



     A Summary of the Evidence Elicited
          During the Trial Last Monday,
              Before Justice Sleeper.

      The case of the State of Minnesota vs. John O'Neil, on the charge of murdering Fakir George Smith, as he was generally known in the community, of which brief mention was made in our last issue, came before Justice C. B. Sleeper last Monday morning for a preliminary hearing. Below may be found a summary of the most important and leading testimony in the case:
      Mr. Ed. E. Bates testified, under oath, giving the conversation which occurred between Mr. O'Neil and Smith, previous to the shooting. Smith had been drinking during the P. M., and had some trouble with a man in Mr. O'Neil's saloon. George flourished a revolver rather promiscuously; Jack remarked to his bartender, Ph. Clifford that he did not want him (Smith) in the saloon, whereupon Smith said to O'Neil, "Have you got your gun? If you have, get ready, heel [sic] yourself." Heard three shots. Smith was considered a dangerous man, when under liquor.
      James Plant, being duly sworn, testified as follows: "George had been in O'Neil's saloon during the P. M., flourishing a revolver, and had threatened a man several times, finally O'Neil told him that he didn't want him around, when George went out, returning presently, telling O'Neil to "heel [sic] himself," saying, "Come on, I am ready." Witness stepped to the east door, and heard a shot, followed immediately by another. Smith fired the first one. Heard a third shot soon. After Smith told Jack O'Neil to heel [sic] himself, Jack stepped, or rather backed back into another room where his gun was, and then walked towards the north end of the saloon where Smith was standing. After the shooting O'Neil gave himself up to Sheriff Mertz.
      Mr. O'Neil then explained that while Smith was abusing the man, before mentioned, in his saloon, he told Smith to go home, when Smith said, "D--n you I'll send you home," firing at him at the same time. Mr. O'Neil had no cartridge in the barrel of his Winchester rifle at this time, but had a few in the chamber. He immediately pumped one into the barrel, and discharged it at Smith, taking no aim. This was in the saloon near the north door. Smith seeing that he had failed to hit O'Neil, started to run home, when, in the excitement, O'Neil said he pumped another cartridge into the barrel and fired again at Smith, as he turned to run, taking no aim. He did not mean to shoot this time.
      Mr. J. D. Davenport was then sworn: "heard some noise, looked out of my store door, saw some men on the sidewalk. I told them to come in as there would be some shooting, probably. Saw Fakir George go past the door towards O'Neil's, swinging his revolver, yelling, "Clear the way or get to the front—get—." Soon heard a shot and stepped to the door again, when I heard two more shots, quite near each other. Saw the flashing of the last one. I then saw Fakir jumping towards my door, coming sideways, his left side drooping after the last shot was fired. Smith was on the sidewalk about half way between O'Neil's and my store. He came by me into the store. I following him, putting my hand on his shoulder. He said, "My God! My God!" His revolver was cocked and in his right hand, with thumb and finger on the trigger. I said, "George, you are shot." He groaned. I led him back to a pile of paper, keeping behind him, for fear that he might shoot me. He was so limp that he could not sit up on the pile of paper, but leaned over on it. The revolver finally dropped on the floor, as he grew so weak. I kicked it behind a salt barrel. I saw the hole in his back; could see the bare skin through the hole. My building is the third from O'Neil's, west. Smith was a very reckless, bad man when he was drunk; has frequently got on sprees. I have considered him dangerous at these times. We were friends, and I have often lectured him about his recklessness.
      In response to a question from Mr. O'Neil, witness stated:
      George came into my store about 4 P. M.; he was just full enough to be ugly; was in my store just before dark; wanted three cigars; paid 20 cents, and said that, "By G-d he wanted to shoot Jack O'Neil, that he knew something." Took his revolver out, swinging it, and swearing that, "By J---- C----- he would shoot old Tiell." I said, "Fakir, you have just got out of one scrape, don't get into another." Said he, "Old Tiell has thrown dead cats and dogs into my yard, and I will shoot him dead!" I think he has intended to kill some one this summer, from what I have heard him say when he has been under the influence of liquor. Think he would unhesitatingly have shot anyone that evening whom he might have had any spite against.
      Mr. James Minough [sic] testified under oath to the same effect as the previous witness.
      Dr. A. W. Parsons being sworn, stated in substance the following:
      Was called to see the deceased; arrived at his house about five minutes after he was shot—about 8:45 P. M.; found two holes in his left side; he was lying on his back, and the blood was flowing freely from the lower wound, gravitating downward; thought the wound a fatal one and decided not to disturb him; he was unconscious all the time, and died in about 15 minutes—9:15. I made an examination Saturday morning; the bullet was a .44 calibre, and was from a Winchester rifle; entered the back about three inches to the left of the spinal column, between the 6th and 7th ribs—passed directly through the left lung, severed some large blood vessels at the back of the heart, and coming out about half an inch about the left nipple, between the 3d and 4th ribs, the point of exit being about one inch and a half higher than the point of entrance. The immediate cause of death was loss of blood.
      In reply to a question by the county attorney, as to whether the wound was necessarily fatal, witness stated that no person could survive a wound of that nature.
      Mr. Cathcart substantiated the previous testimony, as did Mr. Sloan.
      Court adjourned until 1 P. M.
      In the afternoon the defendant, Mr. O'Neil, testified in his own behalf, very clearly and concisely as follows, after relating circumstances connected with Fakir George's assault upon the man before referred to, what took place in his (O'Neil's) saloon:
      "I was telling my bartender never to allow George to abuse my patrons; again, that I did not want him in my place and turning just then, I saw George passing by the door. I went in to my supper, and almost immediately heard George's voice saying, "Come out here, you d--n son of a b---h!" I went out and saw George setting on a beer-keg. Went up in front of him, and saw that his revolver was cocked, and his thumb on the hammer. He said to me, "You son of a b---h, have you got a gun?" I said, No. Sir, for God's sake, George, go home; this is no way for a man to do. You are intimidating everybody." He said, "You son of a b---h, if you haven't got your gun, go and get your gun, for I am heeled [sic]." I was close to him, he being on the right side of the saloon, near the East door. I said, "All right, Fakir," edging back toward the back door, which I opened and seized my gun by the barrel. There was no cartridge in the chamber—about three in the magazine. I walked toward him—in front of him, with gun in hand, saying "Go home, for God's sake." His pistol was pointed dead upon me. he said, "G-d d--n you, I will send you home, you son of a b---h;" firing immediately, I was about six feet from him at this time—the bullet went so close to my face that I felt a stinging sensation, and my hat was tipped to one side. I pumped a bullet into the chamber of my gun, and he seeing that he had failed to hit me, turned and started to run out of the saloon; my gun went off without aim. I then saw him sag, and run up street; followed him out on the street, and they tell me that I fired again, but I do not remember it—did not intend to; returned to the back door of my building, and saw my wife running across the back lot; told her to come back; thought George had disappeared between the buildings, and expected him to appear at the back of my house and renew the assault, when some one came and told me that I had fixed George, and that I had better put up my gun and deliver myself up to Sheriff Mertz, which I did. Have known the deceased casually for about fifteen years, and quite intimately for about five years. He has lived in Brainerd about two years, lived with me when he first came here, a few months.
      This closed the defendant's testimony.
      Sheriff Mertz testified to the events connected with the arrest of the defendant. After taking considerable more testimony of a corroborative nature the court adjourned, with reserve of decision until 9 o'clock Tuesday morning.
      On Tuesday morning Judge Sleeper rendered a verdict in substance, that Mr. O'Neil was not guilty of the crime with which he was charged, viz: Committing a willful murder, and therefore discharged Jack from custody. The decision was received with general satisfaction by every one, and considered a very just one under the circumstance and from the evidence elicited during the trial. (Brainerd Tribune, 04 June 1881, p. 1, c.'s 1 & 2)

                Another Man Drugged.

      Wednesday evening at half past nine a man staggered into McFadden and Johnson’s drug store, stating that he wanted a big emetic and a doctor as quick as possible. “Mac” gave him the necessary Ipecac and called Dr. Parsons, who found the man in terrible distress, with an alarmingly high pulse and in a critical condition. After taking a couple of strong emetics and some stimulants the man was able to state that he went into a saloon, called for a drink, and was given something which made him feel as though he had swallowed melted lead. He said he had previously exhibited quite a sum of money in the saloon, and saw at once that he had been “doped,” but upon inquiry refused to disclose the name of the parties or the saloon at which he was thus used.
      He was not at all intoxicated during the evening. He was put to bed at the Leland house and everything possible done for his comfort.
      Later a TRIBUNE representative called at the Leland house, and was courteously received by the proprietor, Mr. Stratton, who kindly conducted him to the room the unfortunate man had been assigned to, with the purpose of learning, if possible, any further particulars of the affair. The man, who was discovered to be Luther Sparks of Aitkin, was seemingly in great pain, and was surrounded by quite a crowd. As the reporter was elbowing his way to the bedside of the sick man Sheriff Mertz arrived, and upon being questioned Sparks said that he had been drugged at the Last Turn saloon, owned and run by Jack O’Neill, and that the men who committed the crime were the barkeepers of the place, Frank McCauley and Dan Butler. The chief, accompanied by Mr. Stratton, the reporter, and another man, repaired at once to O’Neill’s place and arrested McCauley, and Butler was subsequently secured down town. Both men appeared to be much surprised at the state of affairs, positively denied that they had been parties to any such crime, and were apparently as cool and self-possessed as they would be in setting out a lemonade to a patron of their bar. They were locked up in a room at the Leland house, as the jail was filled and prompt investigation will be made by the authorities. (Brainerd Tribune, 22 April 1882, p. 1, c. 4)

      Mr. Sparks has so far recovered from his recent drugging that he will be able to appear in court today at the preliminary trial of Butler and McCauley. (Brainerd Tribune, 22 April 1882, p. 6, c. 1)

      Jack O’Neill, of the Last Turn saloon, is very angry over what appeared in a recent issue of the TRIBUNE, and insists upon branding every member of the force with every vile name possible. It was not the intention to in any way injure Mr. O’Neill’s business, but as a newspaper to publish what is brought in of a news nature. We are sorry Mr. O’Neill did not, in form of communication, make a statement of the matter as he views it, as the columns of this paper are ever open to any citizen to make a statement in his own behalf. (Brainerd Tribune, 22 April 1882, p. 6, c. 3)

               A Retraction Demanded.

      Jack O’Neill, proprietor of the Last Turn saloon made a very threatening assault last evening upon the editor of the TRIBUNE, demanding a retraction of the article appearing in these columns on Thursday morning, giving an account of the drugging of Luther Sparks, and threatened all sorts of vengeance if a full retraction was not published in this issue. Now, while it is not the desire of the TRIBUNE or the province of any newspaper to wrongfully accuse or in any way misrepresent anybody, we claim it to be the duty of a newspaper to publish the news as it finds it. We have examined the article in question, and a representative of the TRIBUNE called upon Mr. O’Neill for a statement of what he wishes retracted, but we fail to find anything in the article referred to not fully justified by the express charges made by Mr. Sparks, nor has Mr. O’Neill shown wherein any error appears. The TRIBUNE did not state that the drugging occurred in O’Neill’s saloon or that the parties arrested were guilty. It simply gave Mr. Sparks’ statement in that connection, and if Mr. O’Neill wishes any retraction he must look to Mr. Sparks for it, an opportunity for which will be afforded him in court as soon as Mr. Sparks is able to appear, which will probably be today.
      As the matter is being investigated by the proper authorities the TRIBUNE did not and does not now propose to forestall official action by expressing any opinion but we will say to Mr. O’Neill or any other person that no threats will swerve the TRIBUNE from its line of duty as it understands it. (Brainerd Tribune, 22 April 1882, p. 6, c. 3)

In 1883 Jack O'Neill held a liquor license in the city of Brainerd. (Brainerd Tribune, 1940)

      The O'Neil [sic] [O'Neill] building on the corner of Front and Fourth streets, is going up rapidly under the supervision of White & White, and will be quite an addition to that corner. (Brainerd Dispatch, Thursday, 06 September 1883, p. 3, c. 1)

      A. E. Losey has received a beautiful bronze monument which is to be placed at the grave of Jack O'Neil [sic] [O'Neill] in Evergreen cemetery in the spring. (Brainerd Dispatch, 27 December 1883, p. 3, c. 2)

      A. E. Losey erected a beautiful white Bronze Monument in Evergreen Cemetery, to-day. (Brainerd Dispatch, 01 May 1884, p. 3, c. 2)

Family Members



Click on individual photos for inscriptions.

4th and 5th photos (not shown - click on "Click here to view all images") shows inscription and rear of base of monument with "Detriot Bronze Co / Detroit Mich"


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  • Maintained by: A. Nelson
  • Originally Created by: John Van Essen
  • Added: 31 Jul 2010
  • Find A Grave Memorial 55699228
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for John “Jack” O'Neill (11 Jul 1827–12 Jul 1883), Find A Grave Memorial no. 55699228, citing Evergreen Cemetery, Brainerd, Crow Wing County, Minnesota, USA ; Maintained by A. Nelson (contributor 47143984) .