O'BRIEN, Michael

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O'BRIEN, Michael (c. 1863-1901), seaman, single, 38, who killed himself in an apparent psychotic episode aboard the sealing schooner, Kate and Anna, on January 12, 1901.

In the News~

December 22, 1883 [SBDP]: “A man named O’Brien was arrested last night by the city marshal on charge of robbing Manuel Calderon on Santa Cruz Island last April. He was brought up before the Police Court this morning, and was held for examination Monday morning at ten o’clock.”

January 28, 1899 [LAT/SB]: “Between 6 and 7 o’clock last evening Mike O’Brien, a stone mason of this city, made a determined attempt to end his life by cutting his throat with a huge jackknife from ear to ear, in a cell in the city prison, where he had been confined since 11 o’clock yesterday morning. O’Brien, who had been on a spree, asked the city jailer to lock him up. O’Brien had just returned from a sea otter hunting expedition, from which he had cleared $1000. This he has been spending freely for drink.”

January 14, 1901 [LAT/SB]: “Bloody schooner at Santa Barbara. Awful work done by a maniac sailor. He attempted to kill the captain, fatally cut the cook and nearly severed his own head from his body. The schooner Kate and Anna, Captain Walker, arrived from Santa Rosa Island today. She reports that Mike O’Brien, a seal hunter, ran amuck aboard the vessel Saturday morning. He made a vicious attempt to kill Captain Walker with a knife and succeeded in cutting the cook badly in the region of the heart, the wound probably being fatal. He then cut his own throat, dying on the deck. He slashed his throat until his head was nearly severed from the body. The schooner arrived here at 6 o’clock this evening for medical aid for the cook and captain, and to deliver the body of O’Brien to the morgue.”

January 14, 1901 SBDI]: “Mike O’Brien attempts murder and commits suicide in channel Attacks captain and cook of the schooner Kate and Anna and cuts his own throat, almost severing head from body—cook stabbed near the heart. The sealing schooner Kate and Anna of San Francisco arrived in port Sunday night, bringing the body of Mike O’Brien of this city, to be turned over to the coroner, and for medical aid for Captain Charles W. Walker and the ship’s cook, Steve Brennen. O’Brien had taken his own life, and had attempted to murder the captain and cook last Saturday morning as the vessel lay at anchor off the east end of Santa Rosa Island. Captain Walker reported that O’Brien ran amuck aboard the schooner Saturday morning. He drew a knife and attacked the captain, who escaped him by running below to his cabin. O’Brien then turned on the cook, who interfered when the captain was attacked. In the struggle the crazed man buried his knife in the cook’s breast near the heart. He held the blade there, turning and twisting it, until the cook, with an utmost effort, pushed him away. Still holding the knife in his grasp, the blade was withdrawn. The cook reeled forward while O’Brien rushed madly aft of the vessel. As he ran he began slashing his own throat with the bloody knife…”

January 15, 1901 [SBMP]: “With bloody decks, one man dead and another wounded, the sealing schooner Kate and Anna came into port Sunday night from Santa Rosa Island. The dead man was Miguel O'Brien, a seaman. The wounded man was Steve Brannen, the cook. Brannen's wound is in his breast near the heart. It was inflicted by O'Brien with a small pocket knife, the same with which he afterward cut his own throat, nearly severing the head.”

January 15, 1901 [LAT/SB]: “An inquest was held this morning over the self-mutilated body of Miguel O’Brien, the sailor who attempted to murder his shipmates on the schooner Kate and Anna, near Santa Rosa Island on Saturday morning. The vessel was in command of Captain Charles W. Walker. She had put into Santa Rosa Island from San Pedro to paint her boats, preparatory to a voyage. At noon on Friday, O’Brien, who had been working ashore on the boats, complained of being dizzy. He was told by the captain to stay aboard. During the afternoon he lay in his berth. In the evening the captain went down to see him and O’Brien said that the captain and crew wanted to cut him up for crawfish bait. This put Captain Walker on his guard and he sat up with the crazy man until midnight, when he was relieved by the mate, who sat up till dawn. About 5 A.M., the mate went to bed, and the cook went on deck. He was followed in a few minutes by O’Brien who stood in the stern and appeared to be contemplating jumping overboard. The cook attempted to restrain him, but was attacked. It was rather dark and the cook did not see the knife until he was stabbed about an inch below the heart. After stabbing the cook, O’Brien ran forward, striking at Captain Walker, who looked out of the hatch as he passed. He stopped in the bow and slashed his throat, then ran aft and fell down in the companionway… The dead man was a native of Santa Barbara, about 30 years old. Relatives have taken charge of the body. About two years ago, while drunk, O’Brien attempted to commit suicide in the City Jail.”

January 15, 1901 [SBDI]: “The sealing schooner Kate and Anna cleared this port this morning, returning to Santa Rosa Island to pick up her hunting boats that were left behind on the east end of the island, when the exciting event of last Saturday morning took place and the schooner left in haste for Santa Barbara, to bring the body of Mike O’Brien, the seal hunter who committed suicide aboard, to the coroner here. The cook, Steve Brannen, who was stabbed in the breast by O’Brien, was well enough this morning to accompany the vessel on the return trip. Captain Charles W. Walker, who also was attacked by the crazed sailor and hunter, continued in command of the vessel. The three hunting boats carried by the Kate and Ann will be painted and overhauled, and when ready a fur seal hunting cruise in the channel waters and about the Channel Islands will begin. Captain Walker reported that fur seals are ore plentiful among the Southern California coast now than for several years past. The funeral of Mike O’Brien took place this morning from the Parochial church.”

January 16, 1901 [SBMP]: “The schooner Kate and Anna left port yesterday morning for Santa Rosa Island. The cook, Brannen, who was stabbed by O'Brien, the crazy sailor who afterwards committed suicide, is considered out of danger.”

March 12, 1901 [SBDI]: “The sealing schooner Kate and Anna, Captain W. Walker, came into port last evening for supplies and water. The schooner has been cruising about the channel and islands in search of seals and otters. On her last visit here the Kate and Anna had a gruesome tale of an attempted murder and a suicide at sea. Mike O’Brien had tried to kill the cook of the vessel after which he cut his own throat from ear to ear. The coroner’s verdict was that O’Brien was insane at the time. After the inquest the schooner resumed her hunting trip. The schooner sailed again this morning, to resume hunting about the islands. Members of the crew reported that they were having a very successful trip.”

May 15, 1901 [LAT]: “The little schooner Kate and Anna, Captain C. Walker, has returned to port after having spent four months in a sealing cruise. She did not have a good run of luck, and brought only twenty-two skins. The Kate and Anna had been out only a few days when Michael O’Brien, one of the hunters, cut his throat, and died on deck. The vessel put into Santa Barbara. After the Coroner’s inquest, she returned to the pursuit of the seals...”

May 16, 1901 [SBMP]: “The sailing schooner Kate and Anna has returned to San Pedro after an unprofitable cruise. [She] had been out only a few days when Michael O'Brien, one of the hunters, cut his throat, and died on the deck. The vessel put into Santa Barbara.”

June 24, 1901 [SBDI]:Kate and Anna in port again. The sealing schooner Kate and Anna, Captain Walker, which had been cruising off the southern coast of the state in quest of seal and otter, put into port early this morning. The schooner is short of hunters and will endeavor to ship two from here. The Kate and Anna has been in port on several occasions. Some months ago she put in here to report a tragedy on the high seas. Mike O’Brien, one of the crew, who was shipped from this port, after making a murderous attack on the cook of the vessel, cut his own throat from ear to ear. The body of the suicide was taken ashore here, and an inquest held over the remains. Many rumors of foul play were circulated, but nothing was brought out at the inquest, and the vessel proceeded from here to one of the Channel Islands, where a few needed repairs were made. The Kate and Anna in her best days was considered a very lucky boat and has paid for herself many times over, but the last few years, the owners say, she has been a losing proposition.”