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Guide to the Henry O'Reilly Papers
1832-1873 (Bulk 1844-1860)
  MS 464

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400


@ 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Rohinie J. Munzel

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on November 02, 2011
Description is in English.

Biographical Note

1806 Born in Carrickmacross, Province of Ulster, Ireland
1816 Came to New York, New York, Learned printer's trade
1823 Assistant Editor of the New York Patriot
1826 Moved to Rochester, New York
1826-1830 Editor of the Rochester Daily Advertiser
1832 Appointed Deputy Collector and Inspector for the District of Genesee, New York
1833 Began advocating rebuilding and enlargement of the Erie Canal
1838 Appointed Post Master of Rochester, Published Sketches of Rochester
[1839] President of Rochester Athenaeum and Young Men's Association
[1844] Recording Secretary, New York State Agricultural Society
1845 Entered into contract with Samuel F.B. Morse and Amos Kendall for erecting telegraph lines in the United States
1851 Established Irish and American Steamship Company
1854 Organized Demoine Navigation and Railroad Company
1859 Chairman of Clinton League
1886 Died in Rochester, New York

Henry O'Reilly was born in Carrickmacross, Province of Ulster, Ireland on Feb. 6, 1806 to a merchant and the daughter of a physician. In 1816, the family emigrated to New York. After working as an apprentice in the printing trade including several years as an assistant editor of the New York Patriot, in 1826 O'Reilly was appointed editor of the Rochester, NY,  Daily Advertiser. Within a year, O'Reilly gained notice in the anti-Masonic uproar that followed the kidnapping and murder of William Morgan. In 1832, he was appointed Deputy Collector and Inspector for the District of Genesee, NY. He published numerous circulars and pamphlets on current events and issues, and in 1838  Sketches of Rochester, with Incidental Notices of Western New York. In that same year, O'Reilly was appointed Post Master of Rochester. From the 1830s through the 1850s, he was heavily involved in civic and political organizations, serving as the President of the Rochester Athenaeum and Young Men's Association, Recording Secretary of the New York State Agricultural Society, and Chairman of the Clinton League.

O'Reilly's commercial activities were similarly energetic and varied. In 1833, he threw his support behind improvements to the Erie Canal. In 1845, he contracted with Samuel F.B. Morse and Amos Kendall in the planned construction of telegraph wires from eastern Pennsylvania to the Great Lakes. Legal difficulties ended his involvement with the enterprise, despite his erection of over 8,000 miles of wire. In 1851, O'Reilly established the Irish and American Steamship Company; in 1854, he organized the Demoine Navigation and Railroad Company.

O'Reilly was married to Marcia Brooks, daughter of General Micah Brooks; they had one son, Henry Brooks O'Reilly, who was killed in the Battle of Williamsburg, 1862. Late in his life, O'Reilly changed the spelling of his surname to O'Rielly; additional papers of O'Reilly may be found under this variant.