The Amazing Life of Hugh O’Kane

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! McMenamins Old St. Francis School in Bend, Oregon has a pub named after Hugh O’Kane, a daring Irishman with a life story so unbelievable, it could be a blockbuster movie.

O’Kane was born in 1854 at Bushmills, County Antrim, Ireland, just around the corner from the Bushmills Distillery. As a youngster, he had a taste for adventure, and stowed away on a ship bound for New York at the age of 12! Over the course of his life, his globe-trekking episodes generated fantastic tales that he recounted the rest of his days with great humor (and an ever-expanding number of details).

O’Kane moved to Bend, Oregon in 1903 and soon became one of the most recognized and respected people in the region. The Office saloon was O’Kane’s initial venture in Bend, which he opened in 1904, prior to the city’s official establishment. It stood at the corner of Bond and Oregon streets for only a year before it burned. O’Kane quickly had the site cleared and built a hotel and bar in its place. It, too, burned. Finally, in 1916, the Irishman erected the O’Kane Building, the largest and finest business building in town at the time. (It still stands today, at same intersection he had first developed in 1904.)

Along with Maurice Cashman and Father Luke Sheehan (namesake of our Father Luke’s Foundation Room), O’Kane spearheaded the establishment of St. Charles Hospital (Bend’s first) in 1917, and three years later, construction of a new, beautiful St. Francis Church. O’Kane lived until 1930, and upon his death, left a large donation which contributed to the completion of St. Francis School in 1936, the first parochial school in Oregon.

This comic-style artwork by Jenny Joyce brings to life dramatic scenes and plot twists of the adventurous tales of Hugh O’Kane. You can view the painting up close at Old St. Francis School, but since the words are a wee bit small, we offer them here for your reading pleasure. Decide for yourself: Tall tale or true story? Equal parts of both?

“𝑆𝑜𝑚𝑒 𝐻𝑖𝑔ℎ𝑙𝑖𝑔ℎ𝑡𝑠 𝑓𝑟𝑜𝑚 𝑇ℎ𝑒 𝐴𝑚𝑎𝑧𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝐿𝑖𝑓𝑒 𝑜𝑓 𝐻𝑢𝑔ℎ 𝑂’𝐾𝑎𝑛𝑒”

1854: 𝐻𝑢𝑔ℎ 𝑤𝑎𝑠 𝑏𝑜𝑟𝑛 𝑖𝑛 𝐶𝑜𝑢𝑛𝑡𝑦 𝐴𝑛𝑡𝑟𝑖𝑚, 𝐼𝑟𝑒𝑙𝑎𝑛𝑑. 𝐴𝑠 𝑎 𝑦𝑜𝑢𝑛𝑔 𝑏𝑜𝑦, ℎ𝑒 𝑟𝑎𝑛 𝑎𝑤𝑎𝑦.
𝐼𝑛 1867, ℎ𝑒 𝑎𝑟𝑟𝑖𝑣𝑒𝑑 𝑖𝑛 𝑁𝑒𝑤 𝑌𝑜𝑟𝑘 𝑎𝑠 𝑎 𝑆𝑡𝑜𝑤𝑎𝑤𝑎𝑦 𝑜𝑛 𝑎 𝑠ℎ𝑖𝑝.
𝐻𝑒 𝑠𝑢𝑟𝑣𝑖𝑣𝑒𝑑 𝑏𝑦 𝑠ℎ𝑖𝑛𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑠ℎ𝑜𝑒𝑠 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑠𝑒𝑙𝑙𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑛𝑒𝑤𝑠𝑝𝑎𝑝𝑒𝑟𝑠.
𝐻𝑒 𝑏𝑒𝑐𝑎𝑚𝑒 𝑎 𝑠𝑎𝑖𝑙𝑜𝑟 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑡𝑟𝑎𝑣𝑒𝑙𝑙𝑒𝑑 𝑒𝑥𝑡𝑒𝑛𝑠𝑖𝑣𝑒𝑙𝑦.
𝑂𝑛𝑐𝑒, ℎ𝑒 𝑠𝑚𝑢𝑔𝑔𝑙𝑒𝑑 𝑎𝑟𝑚𝑠 𝑡𝑜 𝐶𝑢𝑏𝑎𝑛 𝑅𝑒𝑣𝑜𝑙𝑢𝑡𝑖𝑜𝑛𝑎𝑟𝑖𝑒𝑠.
𝐴𝑓𝑡𝑒𝑟 𝑏𝑒𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑐𝑎𝑝𝑡𝑢𝑟𝑒𝑑, ℎ𝑒 𝑠𝑝𝑒𝑛𝑡 𝑛𝑖𝑛𝑒 𝑚𝑜𝑛𝑡ℎ𝑠 𝑖𝑛 𝑀𝑜𝑟𝑟𝑜 𝐶𝑎𝑠𝑡𝑙𝑒 𝑃𝑟𝑖𝑠𝑜𝑛.
𝐼𝑛 𝑡ℎ𝑒 1870𝑠, ℎ𝑒 𝑤𝑎𝑠 𝑖𝑛 𝑇𝑜𝑚𝑏𝑠𝑡𝑜𝑛𝑒, 𝑤ℎ𝑒𝑟𝑒 ℎ𝑒 𝑤𝑖𝑡𝑛𝑒𝑠𝑠𝑒𝑑 𝑔𝑢𝑛𝑓𝑖𝑔ℎ𝑡𝑠, 𝑏𝑒𝑓𝑟𝑖𝑒𝑛𝑑𝑒𝑑 𝐷𝑜𝑐 𝐻𝑜𝑙𝑖𝑑𝑎𝑦, 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑘𝑛𝑒𝑤 𝐶𝑎𝑙𝑎𝑚𝑖𝑡𝑦 𝐽𝑎𝑛𝑒.
𝑊ℎ𝑖𝑙𝑒 𝑠𝑒𝑟𝑣𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑎𝑠 𝑎 𝑝𝑎𝑐𝑘𝑒𝑟 𝑓𝑜𝑟 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑈𝑆 𝐴𝑟𝑚𝑦, ℎ𝑒 𝑤𝑎𝑠 𝑛𝑒𝑎𝑟𝑏𝑦 𝑤ℎ𝑒𝑛 𝐶𝑢𝑠𝑡𝑒𝑟’𝑠 𝑡𝑟𝑜𝑜𝑝𝑠 𝑤𝑒𝑟𝑒 𝑚𝑎𝑠𝑠𝑎𝑐𝑟𝑒𝑑 𝑎𝑡 𝐿𝑖𝑡𝑡𝑙𝑒 𝐵𝑖𝑔 𝐻𝑜𝑟𝑛.
𝐻𝑒 𝑘𝑛𝑒𝑤 𝑆𝑖𝑡𝑡𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝐵𝑢𝑙𝑙, 𝐺𝑎𝑙𝑙, 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑜𝑡ℎ𝑒𝑟 𝑐ℎ𝑖𝑒𝑓𝑠 𝑜𝑓 𝑡ℎ𝑎𝑡 𝑡𝑖𝑚𝑒.
𝐻𝑒 𝑗𝑜𝑖𝑛𝑒𝑑 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑔𝑜𝑙𝑑 𝑟𝑢𝑠ℎ 𝑖𝑛 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝐵𝑙𝑎𝑐𝑘 𝐻𝑖𝑙𝑙𝑠 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑎𝑚𝑎𝑠𝑠𝑒𝑑 𝑎 𝑓𝑜𝑟𝑡𝑢𝑛𝑒 𝑜𝑓 $50,000.
𝑊ℎ𝑖𝑐ℎ ℎ𝑒 𝑔𝑎𝑚𝑏𝑙𝑒𝑑 𝑎𝑤𝑎𝑦 𝑖𝑛 𝑡ℎ𝑟𝑒𝑒 𝑑𝑎𝑦𝑠 𝑎𝑡 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑔𝑎𝑚𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑡𝑎𝑏𝑙𝑒𝑠 𝑜𝑓 𝐷𝑒𝑛𝑣𝑒𝑟.
𝐷𝑢𝑟𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑎 𝑝𝑙𝑎𝑔𝑢𝑒 𝑖𝑛 1880’𝑠 𝑀𝑜𝑛𝑡𝑎𝑛𝑎, ℎ𝑒 𝑑𝑢𝑔 𝑔𝑟𝑎𝑣𝑒𝑠 𝑓𝑜𝑟 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑑𝑒𝑎𝑑.
𝐴𝑙𝑠𝑜 𝑖𝑛 𝑀𝑜𝑛𝑡𝑎𝑛𝑎, 𝐻𝑢𝑔ℎ 𝑜𝑝𝑒𝑟𝑎𝑡𝑒𝑑 𝑎 𝑠𝑡𝑎𝑔𝑒 𝑐𝑜𝑎𝑐ℎ 𝑙𝑖𝑛𝑒 𝑡ℎ𝑟𝑜𝑢𝑔ℎ [𝑁𝑎𝑡𝑖𝑣𝑒 𝐴𝑚𝑒𝑟𝑖𝑐𝑎𝑛] 𝑡𝑒𝑟𝑟𝑖𝑡𝑜𝑟𝑦.
𝐹𝑒𝑒𝑙𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑢𝑟𝑔𝑒 𝑡𝑜 𝑡𝑟𝑎𝑣𝑒𝑙 𝑎𝑔𝑎𝑖𝑛, ℎ𝑒 𝑙𝑒𝑓𝑡 𝐵𝑢𝑡𝑡𝑒 𝑤𝑖𝑡ℎ $600, 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑙𝑎𝑛𝑑𝑒𝑑 𝑏𝑟𝑜𝑘𝑒 𝑖𝑛 𝐶𝑜𝑛𝑠𝑡𝑎𝑛𝑡𝑖𝑛𝑜𝑝𝑙𝑒, 𝑇𝑢𝑟𝑘𝑒𝑦.
𝐹𝑜𝑟 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑝𝑟𝑖𝑐𝑒 𝑜𝑓 𝑓𝑜𝑜𝑑, ℎ𝑒 𝑤𝑟𝑒𝑠𝑡𝑙𝑒𝑑 𝑤𝑖𝑡ℎ 𝐴𝑟𝑎𝑏𝑠 𝑖𝑛 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑏𝑎𝑧𝑎𝑎𝑟.
𝐻𝑒 𝑗𝑜𝑖𝑛𝑒𝑑 𝑎 𝑐𝑎𝑚𝑒𝑙 𝑐𝑎𝑟𝑎𝑣𝑎𝑛 𝑡𝑜 𝑃𝑒𝑟𝑠𝑖𝑎.
𝐻𝑒 𝑡𝑢𝑟𝑛𝑒𝑑 𝑢𝑝 𝑖𝑛 𝐸𝑔𝑦𝑝𝑡 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑜𝑝𝑒𝑟𝑎𝑡𝑒𝑑 𝑎 𝑑𝑜𝑛𝑘𝑒𝑦 𝑡𝑟𝑎𝑖𝑛 𝑡𝑜 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑝𝑦𝑟𝑎𝑚𝑖𝑑𝑠.
𝑂𝑛 𝐺𝑖𝑏𝑟𝑎𝑙𝑡𝑎𝑟, ℎ𝑒 𝑏𝑜𝑥𝑒𝑑 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑤𝑟𝑒𝑠𝑡𝑙𝑒𝑑 𝑑𝑎𝑖𝑙𝑦 𝑓𝑜𝑟 𝑠𝑖𝑥 𝑤𝑒𝑒𝑘𝑠 𝑤𝑖𝑡ℎ 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝐵𝑟𝑖𝑡𝑖𝑠ℎ 𝑡𝑟𝑜𝑜𝑝𝑠.
𝑂𝑛 𝑎 𝑠𝑡𝑒𝑎𝑚𝑒𝑟, ℎ𝑒 𝑝𝑒𝑒𝑙𝑒𝑑 𝑝𝑜𝑡𝑎𝑡𝑜𝑒𝑠 𝑓𝑜𝑟 𝑝𝑎𝑠𝑠𝑎𝑔𝑒 ℎ𝑜𝑚𝑒.
𝐴 𝑠𝑎𝑖𝑙𝑜𝑟 𝑎𝑔𝑎𝑖𝑛, 𝐻𝑢𝑔ℎ 𝑡𝑟𝑎𝑣𝑒𝑙𝑙𝑒𝑑 𝑡𝑜 𝑆𝑜𝑢𝑡ℎ 𝐴𝑚𝑒𝑟𝑖𝑐𝑎, 𝑟𝑜𝑢𝑛𝑑𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝐻𝑜𝑟𝑛, 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑐𝑟𝑜𝑠𝑠𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝐴𝑛𝑑𝑒𝑠 𝑚𝑎𝑛𝑦 𝑡𝑖𝑚𝑒𝑠.
𝐹𝑜𝑟 𝑎 𝑤ℎ𝑖𝑙𝑒, ℎ𝑒 𝑠𝑜𝑙𝑑 𝑓𝑟𝑒𝑠ℎ 𝑤𝑎𝑡𝑒𝑟 𝑡𝑜 𝐶ℎ𝑖𝑙𝑒𝑎𝑛 𝑃𝑜𝑟𝑡𝑠.
𝐻𝑒 𝑚𝑎𝑛𝑎𝑔𝑒𝑑 𝑓𝑜𝑜𝑡 𝑟𝑎𝑐𝑒𝑟𝑠, 𝑜𝑛𝑒 𝑜𝑓 𝑤ℎ𝑜𝑚 𝑤𝑜𝑛 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑆𝑦𝑑𝑛𝑒𝑦 𝐻𝑎𝑛𝑑𝑖𝑐𝑎𝑝 𝑖𝑛 𝐴𝑢𝑠𝑡𝑟𝑎𝑙𝑖𝑎.
𝐴𝑡 𝑡𝑖𝑚𝑒𝑠, ℎ𝑒 𝑜𝑤𝑛𝑒𝑑 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑡𝑟𝑎𝑖𝑛𝑒𝑑 𝑟𝑎𝑐𝑒ℎ𝑜𝑟𝑠𝑒𝑠.
𝐸𝑣𝑒𝑛𝑡𝑢𝑎𝑙𝑙𝑦 𝑠𝑒𝑡𝑡𝑙𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑖𝑛 𝐵𝑒𝑛𝑑, 𝐻𝑢𝑔ℎ 𝑏𝑢𝑖𝑙𝑡 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝐵𝑒𝑛𝑑 𝐻𝑜𝑡𝑒𝑙 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑙𝑎𝑡𝑒𝑟 𝑚𝑎𝑟𝑟𝑖𝑒𝑑.
𝐴𝑓𝑡𝑒𝑟 𝑡ℎ𝑒 ℎ𝑜𝑡𝑒𝑙 𝑏𝑢𝑟𝑛𝑒𝑑 𝑖𝑛 1915, 𝐻𝑢𝑔ℎ 𝑏𝑢𝑖𝑙𝑡 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑂’𝐾𝑎𝑛𝑒 𝐵𝑢𝑖𝑙𝑑𝑖𝑛𝑔. 𝐻𝑒 𝑤𝑜𝑢𝑙𝑑 𝑠𝑖𝑡 𝑖𝑛 𝑓𝑟𝑜𝑛𝑡 𝑜𝑓 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑏𝑢𝑖𝑙𝑑𝑖𝑛𝑔, 𝑠𝑙𝑒𝑒𝑝𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑠𝑡𝑜𝑟𝑦𝑡𝑒𝑙𝑙𝑖𝑛𝑔.

Every time it seemed like his Irish luck had run out, Hugh astoundingly found it again and again. Pour a drink and raise your glass to Hugh at the O’Kane Pub at McMenamins Old St. Francis School. Cheers and sláinte!

Leave a Comment