I’m sure that many people have passed by the giant granite rock outside of the Greenfield Parks and Recreation Department’s office and probably never read the brass plaque that is affixed there. It was placed on the rock by the Greenfield Kiwanis Club in 1947 to commemorate the life of a native son, Charles Leo O’Donnell. The plaque gives O’Donnell’s birth and death dates as well as several of his accomplishments.
He was a soldier, a teacher, a poet and a statesman. However, it is probably the last achievement for which he is most noted — President of Notre Dame University. While these accomplishments are all very impressive, there is more to the story:
Charles O’Donnell was born the son of Irish immigrants, Neil and Mary (Gallagher) O’Donnell, on November 15, 1844 in Greenfield. Neil and Mary were both from County Donegal, Ireland, and had evidently immigrated together at a very young age. However, they did not marry until they were in Hancock County on November 4, 1869. They would settle on a farm in Center Township, and would raise five children: Rose Ann (1870), Agnes Gertrude (1876), Michael (1879), John James (1882) and Charles Leo (1884).