O'Farrell Family History

John A. O'Farrell:

John A. O'Farrell was born in 1823 in County Tyrone, Ireland. In 1836, he entered Naval School and in 1838 sailed to Calcutta, India. What an exciting life lay ahead for a 15-year-old boy!

In 1843, he arrived in New York City after sailing the "Seven Seas." He then sailed around the Cape to Monterey, California where he automatically became a United States citizen when California was admitted to the Union in 1850. In 1847, he met John Sutter and began his long love affair with mining. However, his sailing days were not over. He sailed back to England and fought in the Crimean War and was awarded the Crimean Medal of Valor.

By 1857, he was in Colorado prospecting for gold at Pike's Peak. In 1859, he traveled to Louisville, Kentucky where he married Mary Ann Chapman Lambert, who had a daughter, Mary Ann Lambert, who was later adopted by John O'Farrell.

John and Mary started across the plains from Colorado to their final destination in Idaho. This group of 14 wagons traveled for four months and three days before arriving in the Boise Valley. O'Farrell built his cabin in 1863 across the street from the present site.

From 1871-1878, John O'Farrell and his family lived in the Salt Lake City area where he mined in Park City, Utah. While in Utah, they suffered the loss of four children.

The O'Farrell family donated a block of land for the first Catholic Church in Boise, St. Patrick's. He was one of the original supporters of the New York Canal and was also politically active, serving a term in the Territorial Legislature.

John O'Farrell passed away October 29, 1900, five months after the death of his wife.

John O'Farrell Portrait

Mary Ann Chapman Lambert O'Farrell:

Mary Ann Chapman Lambert O'Farrell was born in County Cork, Ireland in 1840. Her family came to the United States, probably through New Orleans as she was enrolled in a French convent school there by 1849. Her father had died and her mother moved the family to Louisville, Kentucky, in the 1850's.

She married her first husband, John Lambert, in 1855 and moved to Philadelphia, where her daughter Mary Ann was born in April, 1856. The marriage broke up and Mary Ann Chapman Lambert left Philadelphia to join her family who ran a grocery store in Louisville. There she met John A. O'Farrell and married him on October 16, 1859.

Mrs. O'Farrell was responsible for the first Catholic services in Boise to be celebrated in this log cabin. She noticed two men on horseback and had her husband go after them and bring them to the cabin because she was confident they were priests. They held mass at the cabin for four years.

She was a compassionate and sympathetic woman who contributed so much to the small, growing Boise community. She was always ready to help the sick, the poor and the needy. Besides being the mother of seven children, she also became a mother to seven adopted children and gave them all the care of a loving family. She died on May 22, 1900.

*Photos above used with permission from Idaho State Historical Society

Mary Ann O'Farrell Portrait

Rosa O'Farrell:

In 1867, Rosa, then a child of seven years, was given to the O'Farrell's by the commanding officer of Fort Boise. Rosa was raised and educated by Mrs. O'Farrell. She was the niece of Chief Winnemucca, who led several raids in the 1860's, including one in which several Silver City residents were killed. U.S. troops from Fort Boise followed him to Oregon where a desperate battle was fought. Thirteen soldiers and more than 200 Indians were killed.

Approximately 90 Indian women and children were captured and brought to Fort Boise. Subsequently they were distributed to any white settler who wanted them. Rosa lived with the O'Farrell family for 24 years until her death.

In 1868, the five-year old brother of Rosa was sent to President Andrew Johnson by the army. The boy was named "Andy Johnson,"  He was placed into an education institution in Baltimore, and died at the age of 13.

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