Everything my cousins want to know about Daniel Ambrose, John Wolfe Ambrose, and the Ambrose Lightship but were naturally afraid to ask me, and rightly so!

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing but I am willing to share and unafraid. Here is some interesting history of our Great Grand-mere Mary Ambrose's  two brothers, Daniel & John O'Kennedy Ambrose , and the somehow related yet to be figured out exactly how, cousin or half/brother, John Wolfe Ambrose, gggranddad John may have married 3 times...

"The civil, political, professional and ecclesiastical history, and commercial and industrial record of the county of Kings and the city of Brooklyn, N. Y., from 1683 to 1884"

This gentleman was born November 14, 1843, in the county 
of Limerick, Ireland; and, on the paternal side, belongs to a 
family in which the healing art seems to be hereditary, no 
less than ten of his family name and kinship being, during 
the past fifty years, in the medical profession, among whom 
is his brother, Dr. J. K. Ambrose, Coroner (1883) of Rich- 
mond county, N. Y. His father, Stephen Ambrose, died 
when he was about three years of age. Stephen was the son 
of John Ambrose, who, was a man noted for his upright 
character. He died some fifteen years ago at a very advanced 
age. He was the owner in fee of his native place at Dungan- 
ville. On the maternal side. Dr. Ambrose is descended from, 
a family who were, for centuries, Chieftains of Ormond. 
They suffered during the various wars and confiscations 
of the country, and were finally entirely dispossessed of their 
patrimony by Cromwell, the fanatical zeal of whose fol- 
lowers caused them to frequently discard the usages of 
civUized warfare in their treatment of those whom the for- 
tunes of war placed at their mercy. The tragic fate of the 
last who held out with the confederated forces against the 
CromwelUan invaders, is thus told by Morison, a contem- 
porary historian and eye-witness, whose work " The Thre- 
nodia," was published at Inspruck in 1659. 

" The illustrious Colonel John O'Kennedy, a man of the 
utmost integrity, was slain by the swords of the enemy after 
their faith had been pledged to him in battle. His head was 
then cut off and fastened on a spike in the town of Nenaeh 
A. D. 1651. ^ ' 

"James O'Kennedy, son of the aforesaid illustrious 
gentleman, a youth of great hopes, being deluded with 

similar pledges of good faith, was executed also at Nenagh, 
A. D. 1651." 

A young son with two other children escaped from the 
general massacre, settled and prospered in the neighboring 
county, and from him James O'Kennedy, or Kennedy, as 
some spellfed the name, the maternal grandfather of Dr. Am- 
brose, was fourth in descent. He died in 1819, and was buried 
in the cemetery of Anhid with many generations of his 
kindred; among others his father, and uncle Mark Kennedy. 
Among the children of the latter was a son of the same 
name. Lieutenant in the 66th Infantry, who died young, and 
a daughter who married Mr. John White, of Ennis. Their 
only child surviving at their death, was a young lady of 
rare virtues, who, dying at an early age at the commence- 
ment of this century, left upwards of £30,000 to works 
of charity and benevolence. In Lenihan's History of 
Ldmerick are extended particulars of the benevolence of 
various members of the family, including an account of Miss 
White's endowment of the College of Park, near the city; 
and of her conversion of a former theatre into the Church of 
St. Augustine, which she presented to the Fathers of that 
Order, and which, located on George street, has since been 
their house of worship. There is a very handsome monument 
erected to her memory in the family burying-ground above 
mentioned. The father of James O'Kennedy married one of 
the McMahons of Court, who also suffered severely in the 
Penal days. His grandfather married a member of the 
Cantillon family, then, and still, large landed jn-oprietors in 
the county. Another member of this family, a daughter of 
Robert Cantillon, married Maurice O'Connell, of Derrynane 
Abbey, whose younger brother was the father of Daniel 
O'Connell, styled the "Liberator." 

Daniel Ambrose, the subject of this sketch received a pre- 
paratory education at the best classical schools in Ireland, 
and, in his seventeenth year, took up the study of medicine 
in the medical schools and hospitals of Dublin. In 1864 he 
received the diploma of a licentiate of the Royal CoUege of 
Surgeons in Ireland, and in 1865 was made a Doctor in Medi- 
cine of the Queen's University, and received the diploma of 
licentiate of the King and Queen's College of Physicians in 
Ireland. Before the close of the last mentioned year, he 
came to the United States, and located in Brooklyn, where 
he has since resided, during tlie last fifteen years, at his 
present residence, No. 97 Second Place. His success in his 
profession was rapid, and he soon obtained a large and lucra- 
tive practice. In 1866, he joined the Kings County Medical 
Society, of which he is still a member. He was connected 
with St. Mary's Hospital, Brooklyn, at its inception, and in 
1875 was appointed by the Commissioners of Charities of 
Kings county, physician to their Department. The Brooklyn 
Press, of June 29, 1873, speaking of him, says: 

" Dr. Ambrose is building up a splendid practice in Brook- 
lyn. His thorough European education and experience, 
emphatic though brief, because the Doctor is still a young 
man, has its proper weight, and it is safe to affirm that no 
physician in this city has finer prospects, and none has de- 
served them more." 

In 1867, Dr. Ambrose married Miss Anna Parker, only child 
of James Parker, at whose death, which occurred when she 
was but one year old, she became the ward of the Lord 
Chancellor of Ireland, and so continued until she attained 
her majority ; her mother bemg a daughter of John 
O'Connell, of a very old and respectable family. James 
Parker was the son of Richard, whose father in the olden 
times was a very prosperous merchant and owner of vessels 
plying on the river Shannon. The mother of James Parker 
was Anna, daughter of Thomas Jacques, who was descended 
from a Huguenot family, which emigrated from France in 
the seventeenth century, and settled in Ireland. Thomas 




65 & 

saw extensive service in the British navy, and fought with 
Nelson in all the naval battles of the Mediterranean and 
the Nile, and was engaged in the famous naval fight at 
Trafalgar in 1805, in which the great admiral lost his life. 
He was the son of Luke, the son of Isaac Jacques, who was 
mayor of the city of Limerick over one hundred years ago, 
and whose monument still exists in St. John's Protestant 
Church in that city, of which church he and his family were 

While at the zenith of success, in 1879, Dr. Ambrose was 
obliged to suspend the active practice of his profession on 
account of his suffering from catarrh, with which so many 
persons are afflicted along the Atlantic seaboard, and especi- 
ally physicians, owing to their frequent exposure in all kinds 
of weather. Being of an active temperament, he could not 
remain idle, and he associated himself with his cousin, Mr. 
John W. Ambrose, of New York, whose firm of Mills & 
Ambrose had just then completed the contract for the con- 
struction of the Second Avenue Elevated Railroad in the 
city of New York. 

John W. Ambrose is a gentleman of rare energy, abil- 
ity and executive qualities, and his indomitable persever- 
ance, together with the magnitude of his works, have placed 
him in the foremost ranks of the contractors of this country, 
his operations having necessitated the employment of 6,000 
men at one time. Together they purchased, in December, 
1879, the large tract of water front between Twenty-sixth 
and Twenty-eighth streets, Brooklyn, and from the vicinity 
of Third avenue to the channel line of Gowanus bay, con- 
taining about twenty-seven acres. They immediately com- 
menced operations, in which they were joined about six 
months subsequently by Mr. Robert J. Mills, of New York 
city. The general plan or scheme of these gentlemen em- 
braced the establishment of dry docks, piers, a series of 
warehouses, and, indeed, such other improvements as the 
enterprise would from time to time develop. They built 
large and powerful steam dredges and scows of the largest 
capacity, for the purpose of dredging, so as to make deep 
water, and carrying the excavated material to sea, for which 
object they had steam tugs of great towing capacity. April 
23d, 1882, the Brooklyn Eagle devoted much space to a re- 
view of this enterprise, saying, among other things: 

" In short, it was the practical rescue by capital of what 
had hitherto been only a vast expanse of water and swamp, 
and its subordination to the spirit of progress. Since that 
time one-half of the property, including that part between 
Twenty-sixth and Twenty-seventh streets, or a little over 
two hundred lots, by making deep water, sinking cribs and 
building land behind them, has been improved. There is 
sufficient water to allow vessels to come in and out, and the 
cribs have been sunk to a distance or depth sufficient to float 
the largest vessels that come to this port, thus anticipating 
by a year or two the dredging of the channel by the United 
States Government. * * * *' * Continumg 
the march of improvement the company built from the bulk- 
head line to the external or pier line, a distance of about 
700 feet, two pile piers, between which were placed two im- 
mense sectional dry docks. These docks are capable of 
lifting the heaviest ships, and have all the appliances known 
to modem ship-building. Since their construction they have 
been in constant use. The advantages accruing from the 
situation of the docks are : their central location, abundant 
space, immunity from the depredations of river thieves, 
freedom from the commercial annoyances of low tides, and 
their constant employment of large numbers of men who 
have came from New York and other cities to reside per- 
manently in Brooklyn, and thus contribute to the bone and 
the sinew of its working community. From trustworthy 
sources it is estimated that, owing to the influx of popula- 
tion by reason of this great commercial improvement of the 
city, over half a mUhon dollars is distributed annually, 
while small houses in the vicinity of the ship yards are in 
the greatest demand by the families of mechanics who have 

come to stay, and who coubtitute a little seitlement of their 
own. One of the many interesting features in connection 
with the improvement of this property is the eight great tab- 
ular wells, located at a depth of about 60 feet, and/ which 
furnish a supply of fresh, delicious water, limited only by 
the capacity of the pipes sunk. From this source 20,000 
gallons of water per hour are obtained, and the supply can 
be increased almost indefinitely. It is distributed in six- 
inch pipes over a great part of the property, and through 
these are numerous taps and nozzles, ready at any time to be 
brought into requisition, either for general use or in case of 
fire or other emergencies." 

The water has been analyzed and found to be free fi'om 
any substances deleterious either for drinking purposes or 
boiler use, and it is worthy of note in this connection, that 
the system so successfully introduced by Dr. Ambrose and 
his associates was, not long afterward, adopted by the city of 
Brooklyn in furnishing a water supply to its rapidly aug- 
menting population. The writer in the Eagle continues : 

"On the piers and slips running away out into the 
water and inviting, as it were, the merchantmen of distant 
shores to come into a safe and convenient harbor, is a little 
village of store-houses, blacksmith shops, offices and other 
buildings. Probably the most attractive of these is the ele- 
gant olSce occupied as the business headquarters on the dock, 
which is built on pile foundations in order to make it as sub- 
stantial in construction as possible. In imitation of corru- 
gated iron, and both finished and furnished in hard woods, 
it marks a happy combination of commerce and art. From 
the balcony of the second story a bird's-eye view of the ac- 
tive, busy scene below and the superb water front is pre- 
sented, while a perfect forest of masts rises up toward the 
sky, emblematical in its upward tendency of Brooklyn's 
commercial future. Along the 4,000 feet of river front may 
be seen the winter quarters of numerous yachts, excursion 
boats and steamers. Only a short distance further off are a 
number of vessels used in the North river freight trade, one 
of the Old Dominion line of steamers, and several vessels 
which have either been on the dry docks, or awaiting their 
tuin for repairing to be done. Over toward the extreme 
river front the Iron Steamboat Company has leased for five 
years about 700 feet of the dock, which is to be occupied as 
a depot for its boats in winter, as a storage place at nights in 
summer, owing to the inadequacy of accommodations in 
New York for that purpose, as a coahng bunk, and to take 
in water for the boilers from the capacious water works 
already described. The superintendent of the company 
***** has his office on the dock, 
thus bringing to this city, in fact, at least |100,000 to be dis- 
tributed, owing to the employment given by the company 
to representatives of many famihes living in the vicinity. 
The seven great boats of the line, named after the constella- 
tions by Rufus Hatch, of New York, and beginning with 
Taurus, "The Bull," a gentle reminder of the animals which 
are supposed to frequent Wall street, in midday, attract the 
eye of the visitor by the grace and symmetry of their pro- 
portions. Looking in another direction may be seen the 
dredging machines busily at work in Gowanus bay, lifting 
up huge buckets full of mud and constructing a channel 
which will enable the largest European ocean steamers to 
avail themselves of Brooklyn's commercial advantages. The 
bay is being dredged to a depth of 19 feet at low watei-, or 
24 feet at high water, the contract having been awarded to 
J. W. Ambrose & Company, who were the lowest bidders. 
It will cost about $150,000 when completed. * * * * 
The intention is to erect warehouses for the storing of grain, 
cotton, tobacco and such other merchandise as may be 
brought to this post, and the managers of the enterprise con- 
fidently look forward to a day — and that not a distant one 
— when that part of the city will be occupied by immense 
buildings similiar in character to the Pierrepont, Prentice, 
Harbeck and Robinson stores. * * * j^ connec- 
tion with the improvements stated, notice should be made 
of the telephonic communication with New York, and the 
electric light, which is placed at the end of one of the great 
piers, thus making the neighborhood at night almost as 
bright as day." 

On the first day of May, 1882, a stock company was 
formed and incorporated under the name of the Brooklyn 
Water Front, Warehouse, and Dry Dock Company, and 



such was the favor with which the enterprise was regarded 
that the stock was quickly and eagerly sought for by such 
gentlemen as Messrs. Eadcliffe Baldwin, the New York 
agent of the State Line of Steamers; John Williams, presi- 
dent of trie Fulton Bank, of Brooklyn; H. P. De Graaf, 
president of the Bowery National Bank, of New York; John 
W. Hunter, ex-Mayor, and James Weir, Jr. , president of the 
Board of Aldermen, of Brooklyn; David S. Arnott; Richard 
Poillon, the eminent ship builder of New York, and many 
other prominent capitalists of Brooklyn and New York. 
On the organization of the company. Dr. Ambrose was 
elected one of its directors, and such was the confidence re- 
posed in him by his associates that he was chosen to be the 
treasurer and executive officer of the corporation. This 
great interest has been a complete success, and will iden- 
tify the name of Dr. Ambrose with Brooklyn as long as 
the city shall exist. From present appearances it may be 
regarded as the precursor of a more gigantic enterprise of 
the same character, which promises to dwarf, at no far dis- 
tant day, the water front improvements of Brooklyn exist- 
ing at this time, the large body of land lying immediately 
south of the property of this corporation, which has hereto- 
fore laid dormant and absolutely unproductive, having re- 
cently been purchased by New York capitalists, some of 
whom have had their attention called to the possibilities 
contingent upon the development of the property referred to 
by the success of the improvements of Dr. Ambrose and his 

Politically, Dr. Ambrose has long been allied to the dem- 
ocratic party, and on all questions of national importance 
has thought and voted with that organization; but in 
municipal affairs his politics may be summed up in the state- 
ment that he has the best interests of the city at heart, and 
conscientiously supports such men and measures as he be- 
lieves promise most on behalf of the public good. The 
demands of his profession and of his business interests have 
been so great upon his time and energies that he has never 
had an opportunity to drift into political life ; and, even had 
such an opportunity presented itself, his inclinations would 
not have allowed him to become involved therein. Of pro- 
nounced literary tastes, he has devoted much attention to 
historical and general reading, and traveled much, both in the 
United States and throughout Europe. As a gentleman 
of education and a wide range of inJormation, socially, 
professionally, and in business circles, he takes rank among 
the best of the Brooklynites of this day and generation. 


  1. Awesome article. Loved reading this. Daniel Ambrose is my 1st cousin 3x removed. We share the common ancestor of John (Sean na haBhann - John The River) AMBROSE married ? Mary CONNORS. They are my gt gt gt grandparents

  2. This is so great to read! So MUCH information about my Ambrose Family. I am a direct descendant of Thomas F. Ambrose, brother to the famed John Wolfe Ambrose, who was the first cousin of Dr. Daniel Ambrose, MP. Here is the link to John's bio that I published at Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Wolfe_Ambrose

  3. I am also a descendant of the Ambrose from southwestern County Limerick. You may be interested in knowing that there is a group of these descendants on Facebook.


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