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O'Hara Family History

Some Historic Facts
About the
O'Hara Family

Assembled March 27, 1893
C.H. Willey
Principal, Barton Academy

Courtesy of Vermont Historical Society

Oliver O'Hara's father's name was John. John O'Hara died while he was young leaving two sons, Oliver and Charles. Oliver was a natural gentleman, with the old country definition, fond of all kinds of sport and a good athlete especially in running and jumping. Like all the inhabitants of the British Isles, he was a great walker, an exercise which he kept up all his life. He could outrun almost any young man after he was seventy years old. In Ireland there is a fair held each week at every place of consequence. These fairs are held on different days at different places, giving an opportunity to those so disposed to be at a fair every day in the week. The fair is not an exhibition but a general market, with horse racing and other sports thrown in by way of variety. Oliver always had to go once a week to a fair, and sometimes found it necessary to go oftener. After the crops were gathered in the fall, all hands turned out to play golf or shinny. He was in great demand for this game, as he never could be caught when he once had the ball. The golf sticks were used freely, as the name implies, but he could dodge them by jumping. His quick and excitable nature sometimes brought him into difficulty, but he never got hurt. He was restless and roving in disposition and this coupled with a stomach difficulty which was a serious matter at times and always troublesome, made him devote more of his time in his early days to leisure than would seem consistent to a man in his financial circumstances with a large family. His brother Charles was of an entirely different make-up. He was quiet and hard-working. Still he had the O'Hara restlessness which carried him to Australia about as far from his brother as he could get in this world.

(His mother's name was Jane McBennoir and she was very religious.) After Oliver's father died, his mother married a man by the name of Brown to whom were born two children Hugh and Margaret. Oliver was brought up by a rich aunt named McBennoir who lived in Bogue's Town, Parish Skerry. She brought him up in old folk's style to do as he pleased with the usual result, which was aggravated by his impetuous, excitable temperament. He had all the horses and etc. he wanted. He was smart and bright so he must needs be petted and spoiled. She and her family gave him the right to his holding in Bogue's Town and one hundred pounds in money. He immediately proceeded to run through the greater part of this. He never hated to put off work for a good chance to have some sport. He regarded it as a rare treat to break his cousin's horses, after they were four or five years old and had never known the weight of a strap upon them in any form. All his relations were gentle'men, but some one of his immediate ancestors had the misfortune not to be the oldest in the family. His father had been provided for by a government position. The O'Hara's had been in Ireland for many years. Two or three generations before, a Scotchman had married a certain Lady O'Hara and had taken his name. There was a general in the British army, Marmaduke O'Hara, a great-uncle of Oliver's. As the children grew up and found it necessary to add something to the family, they worked for rich families, Wiley's, Craig's and Irvings, which they would not have done according to the custom of that country unless they had been related. Only the very poorest classes would work for any one that would employ them. Oliver was also related to the Montgomery family, also rich. His cousin Henry O'Hara was a landlord and had a preserve for hunting. There was always a gamekeeper whose business it was to catch any and all who should attempt to kill or carry away any of the game. This consisted for the most part of hares with occasional grouse. None of his tenants might kill any animal which could be used as game even on his own land. The penalty for violating the game laws was trans'portation to Van Dieman's Land near Australia. Once a minister, Montgomery, his cousin, came to him and desired to catch a few hares in Henry O'Hara's close, without permission, which could easily have been obtained, but out of the spirit of dare deviltry, they killed one or two hares and aroused the keeper. This was the only one of numerous poaching expeditions when he had any fear of being caught. Not for his own sake however, for he did not doubt his ability to get away, but his clerical friend was not a fast runner. Quick as a flash he hid his friend and gave him instructions to get away as soon as he could do so safely. Then he succeeded in diverting the attention of the keeper away from his friend and to himself and after a pretty chase of four or five miles he escaped. These keepers would never recognize a man before they caught him although he was their nearest neighbor, but would exert themselves to the utmost to catch him. Oliver had a shotgun which he cut off so that he could hide it under his coat. After shooting the game he would leave it until night or send some of the children to get it, never touching it himself by daylight. Sometimes he would present his cousin with game caught on his own land right under the nose of the keeper to the chagrin of that gentleman and the delight of the owner. His wife was very conscientious and hated to use the game thus illegally obtained. Rather than to have it wasted, however, she would prepare it for the table.

Oliver O'Hara's wife, Mary McIver, came from a Scotch family. Her grandmother Jennie Lind came from Scotland into Ireland. Her family was rich and educated, but rather than live in wealth and luxury with some one her family proposed, she married Alexander Jameson, the man of her choice, poor, but of strong Christian character. The Linds lived near Glasgow and were very wealthy. Jameson was a comfortable farmer. His wife Jennie had never done a stroke of work before her marriage. An occasion came which put his religion to the test. Crops failed one year, but as it happened Jameson had a plenty. His family wanted him to keep all they had so as to be sure of enough for themselves to eat and to plant. He gave away half and used only half as much grain for seed as usual and the eyes of the potatoes. The crop was a grand success. Until the time of the new crop many of the neighbors had been starving. They had but one child, a daughter, Mary. She married Alexander Hamilton McIver. He had one sister, Mary. She never was married and lived her last days with Oliver O'Hara. The McIvers came from Kilmarnock near Glasgow. Alexander McIver had a very large farm in Ireland, near Bogue's Town. While he was lifting on an eight bushel sack of grain to assist a neighbor in putting it on his horse's back, he broke a blood vessel and died shortly after. He was forty nine and his wife was sixty. She died in six months after his death. They had been married thirty years. Alexander McIver was light complected, blue eyed, six feet tall, and called very fine-looking. Mary Jameson McIver was short, dark complected with black eyes and hair with a large nose and plain looking. As a child she had been remarkably well educated for a girl in those days. Being an only child, she was educated at home by a governess. She was very careful that her sons should be educated, but overlooked the fact that daughters needed education just as much

Alexander McIver was a very pious man. It is related that while a neighbor, a Catholic was dying, and the house was filled with relations and friends after the manner of that people, the dying man requested that Alexander McIver be sent for to pray with him. This was very much against the wishes of most present. At last one went to Alexander McIver's and asked him to come as the dying man had asked. Of course he knew the danger but said he would go if the house were full of devils. He went and prayed, much to the dying man's comfort and got away safely. He was a wealthy farmer and always had a plenty and to spare. His farm was a very large one, but after his death things were not managed very well and the property run down and became a pasture. Finally everything was sold and the proceeds divided among the children. It appears that each one had a comfortable share. Alexander McIver and his wife died about the year 1820. They left eight children, Thomas, Samuel, Mary, Elisabeth, Sarah, Robert, James and Alexander. Thomas moved to Derby, Vt. and six or eight children were born to him there. Samuel had two children a boy and a girl, he lived in Ireland. His first wife died and he had two daughters by a second wife. Elisabeth never married. Sarah married Robert Taggart. She had two sons John & Robert. They lived in Ireland where they doubtless are to this day. James was never married. He was an invalid and mentally weak. He came to this country with Oliver and Mary O'Hara and afterwards strayed off to find some relatives in Canada and probably died there. The family would not have been complete without an Alexander. This name was given to the youngest son who died not more than three years of age. This was a great blow to the family. The mother was an invalid for many years having the old fashioned consumption. For this reason the father was more of a favorite among the children

Oliver O'Hara and Mary McIver were married about the year 1815. As is frequently the case, they were as near opposites as could well be imagined. He was a quick excitable person, with generous streaks at times when he would willingly give all he had to assist anyone in difficulty, but without any thought of the result to himself or family. She possessed an even temperament and was always the same to all people. While she would never turn a beggar away empty handed, she was one of the canny Scotch, and managed carefully and wisely for the best interest of the family. She was intensely religious both in precept and example. It was said of her that no one could talk five minutes with her without disclosing his position with regard to personal Christianity. Yet this was done with so much tact that no one ever was offended by it. He was religious in a general way. Living as he did among the strict Presbyterians in his younger days, he had a great reverence for religion in all its forms, and even until he was seventy five he would put on his best, walk straight as an Indian and attend divine worship although he was obliged to walk nearly two miles to do this. Never said much on religious subjects. In one respect they were alike. They were each five feet seven inches in height. He was very light, sandy haired, with red whiskers and blue eyes. He was very white. His hair curled and this was his delight. He flushed easily. She was dark with hazel eyes, would almost never flush. She was very modest, was not afraid of dirt that could be washed off with soap and water. She never got excited and never seemed astonished at anything, would forgive and forget. She cried easily, something occurring almost every day that would bring tears to her eyes. He never cried and never showed signs of grief or pain. The only way any one ever knew him to be ill was by his paleness or inability to get about, he would never say he was sick. He had a tenacious memory and never forgot or really forgave an injury. To his friends he was devoted to a fault. He always stuttered more or less and this was most noticeable whenever his wrath was excited, which could be done quickly and easily. This would be accompanied by some incoherent low' land Scotch, which was usually described by those that heard him as a yell, sometimes loud and furious. He never was able to talk in America without a strong suggestion of a brogue. She acquired the use of the Vermont dialect so well that no one would have suspected her of being something but a native. He preferred to work alone. Her family did not belong to the straight Presbyterian church in Ireland, but to the Union Presbyterians. She was converted while quite young in a Methodist meeting near her home and she always had a strong attachment to that church, regarding it the nearest her ideal of the true Christian church. Once she had her name taken from the roll of the Congregational church at Glover, but owing to the pleading of her oldest son, Alexander, he had it replaced where it still remains. She was always a fine singer. While religious songs were her preference, she would sometimes sing lighter music to her chagrin when it was shown to her. Her favorite hymn was 'There is a fountain filled with blood.' She discontinued reading novels because she believed them to be a great hinderment to spiritual growth

When they were first married they had a fine farm in Bogue's Town. This was in Town, Lough Conley, Parish Skerry - Country Antrim; Province of Ulster. This was twenty miles from Belfast, but the miles are longer than in this country as there are 21 feet to the rod. It is a mountainous country. There are valleys that run in among the hills that are fairly level, but crooked. Bogue's Town is not far from the sea but there is a mountain between. Lough Neagh is to be seen from a hill near by. Oliver O'Hara by signing with friends and poor management, lost considerable money and was obliged to move to a smaller and poorer farm. His wife's aunt who had left them considerable money and had some in her own right in all two hundred and fifty pounds it is said. Oliver also had, it is said, one hundred pounds, so that they started out in life well off. At the time they took the smaller farm, they were comfortably poor. There were twenty acres or so in the field with a right to pasture in the common on a mountain side. The field was divided into eight fields by stone walls five feet and a half high. The land was so rich that it kept the family and a good stock and furnished pasture for six cows at least. The houses are all built together, and away from the farms. They are placed in the form of a square with trees all around and a common in the centre of the group. Fuel is cut from the peat bogs which resemble muck beds in this country. The peat is cut in pieces a foot and a half long and four inches square. These chunks dry to about half that size and become hard and tough. The peat beds are often eight or ten feet deep. Where the peat is taken away they make good pasture. The mountains near by where the sheep were pastured in common was called Knoughchoram. Fences were made on the wet ground by digging ditches or by peat laid up. Horses and dogs went over all these obstructions-without hesitation in hunting. The ploughs used were made of wood with an iron nose. The ground was not so warm as in this country, but it never froze. There were many winters when no snow ever fell and sheep always were in the pasture all winter. Severe snow storms would occasionally destroy whole herds. Crops required two months more time to mature than in this country but never lodged. There many relics of savage times near by. There were two large artificial caverns within a mile. These had low approaches underground and were then found to be made of a chid stone many feet underground. These were several hundred feet long and would hold a great many people and were doubtless intended to shelter the inhabitants of the neighboring town from being carried away captives by some invading enemy. No one there, however, knew from tradition or other source why or by whom they were made. They paid five pounds rent and as much more for taxes. Oliver bred horses from the old English Eclipse which his cousin Henry O'Hara had bought after the horse had left the race track. Cattle were not used to work on the farms. Each one usually owns a horse, and they change work with each other to get work done that needs two horses

Eleven children were born to them. Alexander Hamilton, Ann, Mary, John, Sarah, Margaret, Henry, James, Oliver, Elizabeth and Nancy, all in Ireland. Grandmother had a brother Thomas who had emigrated to America. Her oldest son Alexander went to join his uncle and made his brother John promise that he would come as soon as he could get money enough. The parents saw that their children would come to America one by one and that they would be left alone. So they determined to come all together. Grandfather left one hundred pounds or so to support his mother and sold his farm or the right to it, they packed their personal effects with many mementos of home and friends in Irelands and went to Belfast expecting to take passage in the Independence, an American clipper. The ship had sailed and they, with some two hundred in similar circumstances, had to take up with the best that could be had. They embarked on the Exito of Sunderland, an old lumber ship fitted up for the purpose. The ship was big and clumsy and a wretched sailer. The voyage required six weeks and three days. When about two thirds of the way across, they encountered a storm that drove them back two or three hundred miles. They finally landed at Quebec, July 17, 1842. The next morning they took a steamboat to Montreal and at LePrairie took the cars for St. John's, from which point they moved most of the family and the baggage to Derby Line the father and John walking. There they visited for a time with Thomas McIver, and then moved into a house on the farm owned by a Mr. Mansur. This was in Stanstead. Here they remained through hasting and harvesting and the next winter. Then they moved to Holland and lived on the farm owned by I.L. Jenness in the central part of the town as it is given on the map of Holland in Beer's Atlas of Orleans and Lamoille counties. From this place the family became scattered within a year. Mary to Glover and worked with her brother Alexander, Ann worked for the Lathrop Chamberlain family at Brownington village, a very fine family who are buried in a tomb there. Sarah went to Concord, N.H. and worked several years in the family of Franklin Pierce. Margaret went to Concord before Sarah and worked in the family of Judge Nathaniel Upham a friend of Franklin Pierce. John worked at Stanstead Plain for a fine farmer, Spellman Field, where he stayed two years. After that he went to Medford near Boston and was in that vicinity until his injury. James got work in the vicinity for two years or so. He went down country with a drover and that was the last the family knew of him for twelve years. Henry stayed on the farm and helped what he could. Oliver, although young, did small jobs for Portus Baxter at Derby Line. (Henry was of a military turn of mind.) Henry went to Boston to get work and was swindled out of his money the first night he was there. Being without friends or money, he enlisted in the U.S. army and started to Mexico where the Mexican war was in progress. He died at Vera Cruz July 2, 1847, from the effect of the hot climate and malaria air. He is buried in the soldiers' burial field at Vera Cruz The two youngest, Eliza and Nancy remained at home. None of the children , had been to school much. In Ireland there were free government schools which were also supplied with books which were principally bibles. The children had to work so much over there, that they had but little time to attend school. In this country it was much the same only worse. Mother remembers going to school when she was three years old. In 1849, John bought a farm in Glover, southeast of Stone's Pond. The farm contained eighty two acres well cleared, in good cultivation, and was worth nearly a thousand dollars, but it was bought on a mortgage for about four hundred and fifty dollars. The buildings are there now, very much the sane as when the family moved to the farm. While on the Glover farm, in 1863, he came home from Boston an almost hopeless cripple. He was at work near Arlington, Mass, drawing ice from Spy Pond to an icehouse which had a spur of railroad track for the purpose of carring the ice. While he was standing on a platform waiting for his load of ice to be disposed of leaning against a bar which some one had laid up carelessly he fell backwards to the track a distance of 10 feet and struck on the back of his neck and shoulders. His whole body was paralyzed. He had physicians from Harvard Medical College and they saved his life by staroning him. After several weeks he regained the use of some muscles, particularly those of the right side. The left improved more slowly. He has been able to get about after a fashion all his life and to do considerable work, but his helplessness has given him many falls, several severe ones each year. And he now suffers more from these than the original one. James drifted from one job to another until he found work on the railroad. While a mere boy he was a railroad boss in construction. Helped build the road from Malone to Ogdensburgh. Afterwards he fired an engine three months and then had an engine. He was witty courageous and versatile. Candidates for office would get him to stump the town or county, which he would do at a moment's notice. He once pitched a Catholic priest who had come to take money from the poor workmen, over the dump, against the odds of a hundred to four or five. The persuasions of revolvers settled the angry feelings of the mob and in a few days they came in a body to thank him. Like his father he was afraid of nothing. Would strike straight from the shoulder, but never was damaged much. His mother waited all those twelve long years for his return and had the pleasure of seeing him come back at last. He made only a short visit and went back to the railroad taking his brother Oliver with him. Oliver fired one year and could have had an engine to run, but went to the shops instead to learn more. There he went on the road to run. He was very conscientious and did not want the responsibility upon himself of sending any one to eternity. James said they must look out for themselves, he had to. Oliver had the best trains, on the road. Once while the man in charge of the Niagara Suspension Bridge went to England for two years, he was placed in charge of the trains across the bridge, receiving 2' dollars for each train.

  1. Alexander married Betsy Alfreda Clark and had one son Ezra 0. died 8 yr. 6.

  2. Ann married Daniel Irvine of Salem Derby. Their children's names are Amaser, Margaret Henrietta, Abby, John, Mary, Oliver, Sarah, Henry, Eddie, Betsy Alfreda, Myra, Jennie, Martha, James.

  3. Mary married Edward Arnold. There were four children, three girls and a boy Edward. The family went to Ponca City, Nebraska, and it is not known now what became of them. They went west about '68.

John never married. After he came back from Boston he took charge of affairs. In 60 he bought a farm in Sheffield, now used as the town poor farm. It contains 266 acres and has good fields and a large sugar orchard. He lived here 26 years and cared for his father and mother until they died. Eliza also lived with them. Moved to Sheffield Hollow where they now are. Adopted Bessie Gray.

Sarah married Baxter Pratt and lived on Gilbert Square. Plainfield, Sheffield Hollow, where she died. Had two daughters Nancy and Ettee. Adopted a boy, Lincoln.

Margaret married John O'Brien. Children, Sammy, John, Annie, Frances and Kate. They have lived in Glenville Conn. a factory town, John was killed by a piematun blast in a well at which his father's hairs turned white in a few months.

Henry died at Vera Cruz, Mex.

James married Sophia Laurison, an excellent woman. They had four children. Addie Alice, Walter Wingfield, Grace, Gertrude. Boy died.

James kept a hotel in Canada. Afterwards went west and became lost to the family. Address? Walkerton, Bruce Co. Ontario.

Oliver married Martha __________. They no children that lived. He died opposite Detroit near by where he had worked. He was an engineer on the Grand Trunk.

Elizabeth never married. She always lived with her father and mother and now keeps house for John

Nancy married Aaron Willey of Sutton Vt. She taught fifteen terms of school, one after marriage. There are seven children in family, Clarence Henry, Zaida Edith, Vieva Maude, Erwin Aaron, May Delle, Carlyle Verne, Clyde Carroll.

Courtesy of Vermont Historical Society

    Descendants of John O'Hara    
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Etta Mary Pratt, daughter of Sarah O'Hara and Baxter Pratt, married Peter Blair, my great grandfather. For more information on Etta and Peter and the rest of the Blair Family History  click here.

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