The O'Harra Family

Pickaway County, Ohio

"The O'Harra family can trace its roots back to the days of Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658)," my mother has told me time and again. She remembers as a youngster visiting an elderly relative and seeing the family history documents that substantiated this belief. She recalls stories of three brothers from Ireland: one who stayed in the East; one who settled in Ohio; and the third who "went west". One of them allegedly married a Mingo. The one who settled in Ohio allegedly assisted slaves making their way north as part of the "underground railroad". But the records and the relative are gone from memory. We are reconstructing this history from scratch.

The Scotch-Irish began migrating to the American Colonies from northern Ireland in 1718. Various O'Harra families begin showing up in several counties in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia after that date. The first mention of an O'Harra in Ohio is in 1795 (Hugh, remember?)

John O'Harra, 1760-1832

We begin our O'Harra genealogy with John O'Harra who married the former Miss Priscilla Slagle about 1790-91, probably near Cumberland, Maryland. John is the first O'Harra for whom we have a direct relationship with our family. Priscilla's family has been the subject of numerous genealogical studies. One of nine daughters of Jacob and Hannah (Burrell) Slagle and three sons, the descendants of Priscilla's sisters and brothers are well documented in Slagle Trails and Descendants of Jacob Slagle (Ca 1740s - 1800, in VA), by Rebecca D. Kartalia, Anundsen Publishing Company, Decorah, Iowa, 2000.

Mrs. Kartalia built upon the foundation laid by Ora Monnet in is 1200-page Monnet Family Genealogy, by Orra E. Monnette, published Baltimore, Maryland, in the early 1900s.

In both books we learn that Jacob Slagle owned land in the late 1700s in both Allegany County, Maryland, and across the Potomac River, in Hampshire County, Virginia -- now Mineral County, West Virginia.

Several of Priscilla's sisters and brothers married persons from the Cumberland and Frederick, Maryland area. Two Slagle sisters married two Monnet brothers, for instance, and one Slagle brother married a Hilleary daughter, (the Hillearys being cousins of the Monnets). They kept track of each other's families quite nicely.

Priscilla married John O'Harrow - later O'Harra. This is stated both in the Monnet Family Genealogy, as well as in an article on the Slagle family in Colonial Families of the United States, Vol. 4, p. 457, George Norbury MacKenzie, U.B. Baltimore, Genealogical Publishing Co., 1966.

Nothing more is said of John and nothing is directly known about John's family of origin. We have found numerous references to what must be John's extended family in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and Ohio. These folks can be visited in the Appendix: So You Want to Unravel Relationships?

We learn a little concerning John and Priscilla's early married years through the last will and testament of Jacob Slagle. On page 488 of the Monnet Family Genealogy, in an excerpt from the will (15 Dec 1800) it reads:

"Third, I give and bequeath unto my son Joseph Slagle all that tract of land I bought of Michael Collier, lying in Allegheny County and State of Maryland, and also one other tract of land lying and being in the County and State aforesaid, whereon John O'Hara now lives and which tract of land I bought of James Martin."

It appears as though after John marries Priscilla Slagle he either rents or continues to work on the Slagle land until Slagle's death-- at which time the land is bequeathed to Priscilla's brother! Time for the family to move on.

The 1800 federal census for Allegany county, Maryland, lists a John O'Harra family with four males under the age of 10; one male 26-45 (John); one female, age 16-26 (Priscilla); and one female 45 years or older (possibly John's mother or another elderly relative.)

We can speculate that the young boys in this family are Joseph, Hugh, Charles and John Jr., and that the young girl is Mary "Polly" O'Harra.

Numerous family members have already migrated to Ohio by the early years of 1800. O'Harra relatives dot the area, as well as the names of Monnet, Hilleary, and Slagle kinfolk. John and Priscilla O'Harra have joined them and are operating a hotel in Franklinton, Ohio, by 1810. By 1814, John, Priscilla and family have purchased land and are living in Walnut township, Pickaway County, just south of Franklin.

The family continues to expand and prosper. But the end must come for us all. John O'Harra is buried at Reber Hill Cemetery, Walnut Township, Pickaway County. His stone reads that he died 19 DEC 1832, age 72 years (making his birth year 1760).  I visited Reber Hill myself in late June 2000, and photographed the gravestone and lot. Son Hugh and his wife Anna, and two of their children, are also buried in the lot, but with no grave marker remaining.

A review of property inventories taken at the time of the elder John O'Harra's death indicate that he was pre-deceased by a son, also named John:  John, junior.

On 3 JAN 1833, an inventory was filed for John O'Harra, senior, late of Walnut Township, Pickaway County.  Sons Joseph and Hugh O'Harra are listed as the administrators of this estate.

Sale of goods and chattle belonging to John Senior apparently occurred in MAR 1833.  Among the purchasers were Priscilla O'Harra (his wife); Hugh, Joseph, Francis, and Charles O'Harra (his sons); and Andrew, Hiram, and Ashford Corn (relatives of his sons' wives.)

Inventory of goods and chattle belonging to John O'Harra, junior, deceased, was filed 3 JAN 1833.  Apparently, the actual sale took place 13 NOV 1832, so John must have died prior to that date.  John Jr. had resided in Walnut Township, Pickaway County, OH, and was survived by a widow and children (no names listed.)  Among the purchasers of the goods were the names of John O'Harra (his father?); Andrew Corn (brother-in-law?); Joseph O'Harra, Frances O'Harra, Beneny O'Harra, and Hugh O'Harra (his brothers?) Hugh O'Harra was the administrator of the estate.

John O'Harra, Sr. Family of Origin

Who was John O'Harra, husband of Priscilla Slagle? Where did he come from?

Our best guess - but certainly not the only guess available - is that John was one of the six sons of John Oharro of Washington County, Maryland. Washington County is snuggled between Allegany County and Frederick County in the slim slice of western Maryland located between Pennsylvania and the Potomac River. We find John Oharro in the 1790 Washington County census with six sons and two daughters. He is not there by the 1800 census, but our younger John O'Harra is - with an older woman, possibly his widowed mother, living with his growing family.

Six O'Harra sons!

And that's not all. Just in 1790 we have a Daniel O'Harra and a Henry O'Harra living in nearby Frederick County, Maryland. Slightly to the north in Pennsylvania also in 1790, we have the families of John and Arthur O'Harra and Henry O'Harra, all living in Westmoreland County, PA.

In 179l across the Potomac, we have both an Arthur O'Harra family and a John O'Harra family listed in Hampshire County, Virginia.

A little earlier in 1786 and a little further south in Greenbrier County, Virginia, we have the families of Charles, Daniel, James, John and William O'Harra, probably all grown sons of one elderly Daniel O'Harra, born in Ireland about 1726.

How are all these folks related? We will never know. However, it is quite likely that most of them are brothers, cousins, and second cousins. And either they or their sons were migrating to the Ohio Country. Our John O'Harra and his wife Priscilla and family soon joined them.

One particularly neat possible relative is Hugh O’Harra, who first shows up in Ohio Country records when he escapes jail in 1795 and goes down river. An Hugh O’Harra fought in the Battle of Point Pleasant and was recorded as living in Marion County, Ohio – still in his round log cabin in 1827.  Read more about these possible connections in So You Want to Unravel the Relationships?

John and Priscilla O'Harra named their first son Joseph, after Priscilla's brother. They named their second son, Hugh. I am descended from this Hugh. Was my Hugh named after his father John's scalawag brother, perhaps? There is absolutely not a shred of evidence that would say so -- but I thought I'd mention the possibility anyhow.

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