Most people have never heard of M J O’Brien- not in the north anyway. He died in Renfrew in 1940 and was one of Canada’s richest men. But in 1903 he made a deal at the King Edward hotel in Toronto which made him more money and created much work in the silver town of Cobalt.
O’Brien was born in the Ottawa Valley in 1851. He started off as a water boy on big construction projects and ended up owning countless big companies. He made his money through careful research and driving hard bargains. His real money came from railways and lumbering.
In 1903 the heavy set, black bearded magnate from Renfrew heeded some advice from his friend, Robert Borden, then leader of the Opposition in Pariament. Borden put him onto a lawyer who who had some business ideas.