Memorable Manitobans: William John “Billy” O’Connor (1837-1910)
Born at Dublin, Ireland on 29 August 1837, he ran away to Boston as a boy, eventually becoming part owner of the Boston Hotel.
In ill health, he moved to St. Paul in 1876, where he was recruited by Edward Roberts, owner of the Grand Central Hotel of Winnipeg, as its first manager. He later opened the Merchants Hotel but experienced financial difficulties when the boom collapsed in 1882. Later he opened a succession of Winnipeg hotels, finally leasing and remodelling the old Bodega Hotel (renamed the O’Connor). In 1905 he opened the Corona Hotel. He was called “the dean of hotel men in Winnipeg.”
He was a member of the IOOF, the Elks, and the Catholic Order of Foresters, and was president of the local chapter of the Eagles (as well as president of the Hotel Men’s Association of Winnipeg) at the time of his death. O’Connor was also president of the Fort Garry Turf Club and active in the Winnipeg Driving Club and the Buffalo Park Driving Club. In addition, he was a dog fancier.
He died at his summer home at Winnipeg Beach on 6 July 1910. He was buried in the St. Mary’s Cemetery.
The Story of Manitoba by F. H. Schofield, Winnipeg: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1913.
Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by John M. “Jack” Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.
“Death summons “Billy” O’Connor,” Manitoba Free Press, 7 July 1910, page 3.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 1 September 2015