top of page

Annie O'Brien, McLean & Boone County

Annie O'Brien, a young girl of Irish parentage, wrote a couple of letters to the asylum, but her story includes a newspaper story detailing a midnight train ride!.

Annie was first sent to Dawson, Illinois, in McLean County in 1899 where she was an adored daughter of an elderly Irish couple. They had already taken in three other orphans, but the last two were marrying and leaving their home. Marie Tavormino, an Italian girl, was marrying their cousin, John Frawley, and James Devine, an adopted son, was marrying Mary Graupp.

Soon after Annie came to them, the Devines moved to Bloomington for their retirement. Mrs. Devine wrote to the asylum, telling them how much she loved Annie. They purchased an organ so Annie could take music lessons and Annie did not go to school, because it gave her nightmares. Annie was certainly the coddled child of this elderly couple. Annie's blissful stay in Bloomington ended sometime before January of 1905. Perhaps Mary Devine had become too frail to deal with an energetic teenager, because she died January 11, 1906. Annie was transferred to another family, hundreds of miles away in Belvidere, Illinois.

Although Annie was expected to be grateful for a place in the home of a city alderman, Mr. Peter Kennedy, the transition was not smooth. A newspaper item (30 Jun 1905) in the Belvidere Daily Republican told the story of how someone in the Devine family had written to Annie, begging her to return to Bloomington. They even sent her money for the train ticket. Annie crept from the house one June night and made her way to the interurban station in Belvedere. She waited there for the train, but a neighbor noticed her walking away from her home and notified the family. Annie made it as far as Rockford, where the police had been asked to watch for her. She was returned unharmed to her new home. It was very unfortunate that someone in the Devine home was so reckless as to tempt this young girl to attempt a solitary railway journey to McLean County (the cars travelled at less than twenty miles an hour and it was 137 miles of travel!). Whatever became of Annie is not known -- with a name like Annie O'Brien, she is hard to find in the records.

Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
bottom of page