Michael John O'Brien

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Michael John O'Brien ( 19 September 1851 – 26 October 1940)) was a railway builder, industrialist and philanthropist. He was named to the Senate of Canada in 1918. He was a founder of the town of Renfrew, Ontario.

Born in Lochaber, Nova Scotia, he started in the railway business as a railway labourer during a period of great expansion of railways in Canada, eventually becoming a railway builder. He arrived in Renfrew, Ontario in 1879 when he and two partners won the contract to build the Kingston and Pembroke Railway. In 1891 he went bankrupt after a disastrous contract for the Canada Atlantic Railway. He rebuilt his business through construction contracts and opened the O'Brien silver mine in Cobalt, Ontario in 1903. He was the Temiskaming and Northern Ontario Railway's commissioner from 1902 to 1905. His influence in Renfrew and the surrounding area was everywhere, including a dairy, woollens and knit factories, and saw and planing mills. O'Brien's philanthropic acts were equally numerous and diverse. Many of the heritage buildings in Renfrew can be traced to his patronage.

He became involved in ice hockey while living in Renfrew financing several ice hockey teams run by his son Ambrose O'Brien, including teams in Cobalt, Haileybury, Montreal and Renfrew, which all played in the founding season of the National Hockey Association. He donated the O'Brien Cup to the league, which was used until 1950 by the National Hockey League and is in the collection of the Hockey Hall of Fame.

He served as Senator for Ontario from 1918 to 1925. He died in 1940 in Renfrew. His son died in 1968.

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