West Valley Pioneer: James O’Boyle

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by Jeanine Buettner

James O’Boyle was born to Charles and Margaret O’Boyle on March 15, 1848. His father was employed by the Earl of Antrim, Hugh Seymour McDonnell (1812-1844) at the Earl’s estate in Deerpark Glenarm, County Antrim, Ireland. In 1868, at the age of 21, James set sail for New York and finding his way to Missouri for a few years. A forty-two day trip up the Missouri River brought him to Fort Benton, Montana Territory.

James and Mary O’Boyle

James spent some time in the mines of Helena and Butte, finally moving to the Flathead Valley in 1884. Kalispell did not become a city until 1891, so the Flathead Valley was largely an undeveloped area at the time. He pre-empted 160 acres on land located 3 miles northwest of Kalispell and built a home. This home was just above a grist mill on Spring Creek, now the south end of Mountain Vista Estate subdivision on Three Mile Drive. James lived there until 1929 when he lost the place during the Depression. He then moved over onto a farm on what is now Old West Reserve Drive.

The O’Boyle’s home on what is now Three Mile Drive

In 1881, James married Mary LaVelle here in Kalispell. Mary was also born in Ireland. She was a neighbor of his on what is now West Valley Drive. James and Mary had 9 children.

Mr. O’Boyle told of many interesting stories of the early days in Montana. He spoke of the great Indian Uprising and the subsequent campaign in which General Custer was killed, and told of the fear which filled the heart of the settlers, who were scattered over the Montana territory. Many of the women and children in the Flathead were quickly put in wagons and driven to Helena for safety.

Mr. O’Boyle passed away at his home February 6, 1936. His son Charlie took over the farm and now his grandsons Ed and Leo are farming the home place.

Charlie and Ena O’Boyle
The O’Boyle Farm on Old Reserve

Interesting note: the Earl of Antrim’s estates in Ireland were vast, comprising in excess of 330,000 acres in the early 17th century. A hundred years later the estates had shrunk to 152,000 acres. Glenarm Castle is still one of Northern Ireland’s oldest estates.

Glenarm Castle, Northern Ireland

My information was gathered from the Daily Inter Lake, February 15, 1936, the book Montana: its Story and Biography (1921), and my interview with Mr. Clifford Nortdom 1987.

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