“Honest John” Power (1949-1916) was Sheriff of Douglas County, Nebraska, having emigrated to the New World at the early age of 16.
Born in Waterford, Ireland in 1849, in the teeth of the Irish Famine, he arrived as a teenager in the city of Philadelphia he trained as a cooper (barrel maker), before later living in Kansas City, Missouri and eventually settling in Omaha, Nebraska.
In 1882, he, like many enterprising Irish emigrants before him, started a business of his own on 4th and Jones Streets, Omaha and soon built up an extensive trade.
As Edward Morearty mentions in his book “Omaha memories : recollections of events, men and affairs in Omaha, Nebraska, from 1879 to 1917”,
He is known as “Honest John,” a title which he justly deserves, as all who have come in contact with him, either as a private citizen or a public official, can fully substantiate. He made one of the best sheriffs that Douglas County ever had.
In politics Power was a Democrat and was elected to the office of Sheriff of Douglas County in 1899, an office which he held for several years and through several re-elections. Having retired from law enforcement, he once again entered the trading arena, this time in addition to cooperage, he bought and sold coal, as president of the Power-Heafey Coal Company. His company also engaged in the manufacture of some of the first washing machines.
A dedicated family man, Power had many wide interests and was amongst others, a member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians. He married twice, first to Mary Quinlan (d. 1888) and then to Mamie O’Malley (d. 1915 who also predeceased him. He has at least 4 children that I could find.
He died at St. Joseph’s Hospital, Omaha, surrounded by his sons and daughters, of heart failure, in 1916. For a wonderful tribute paid to the man, by the Omaha Jacksonian Club, of which he was a prominent member, see this reproduction of the article from the “Omaha Daily Bee” newspaper, from Omaha, Nebraska, January 1916.