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Introduction

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Introduction

In writing the history of the life of Michael O'Hair, this writer has endeavored to confine the story to facts revealed by public and historical records, using tradition or narratives sparingly when no official records were available.

            "Lord Macaulay, who has justly observed: 'A people, which takes no pride in the noble achievements of remote ancestors, will never achieve anything worthy to be remembered with pride by remote descendants. ' . . .A remembrance of what is past and an anticipation of what is to come, seem to be the two faculties by which man differs from most animals." 1  This writer has accumulated an extensive library of rare histories and the writings of many renowned authors in his research undertaking to discover and establish facts relating to the environment of Michael O'Hair in Ireland, Virginia and Kentucky. This writer has made free use of the works of various authors, and pretends to no originality in the hope that his story will prove to be interesting and informative. It is the intention of this writer to give full credit to every writer whom he has quoted. This has been done in the footnotes and bibliography. Gathering this information has taken considerable time and effort, but this has been a very interesting and rewarding undertaking. This writer regrets he personally did not have the spare time to go to Ireland and trace descendants of the family there; however, he did send two of his grandsons to Ireland for this purpose.

Much of the information collected here and there from tradition is uncertain and some of it incorrect. A strong wish to preserve in a permanent form a record of the life of Michael O'Hair, the first person of this name to inhabit America, that the record may no longer be misleading or clouded by fiction, has been the chief incentive of this writer. It cannot be denied that to Michael O'Hair his many descendants owe much

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of their prosperity and happiness, and they must feel a strong desire to become intimately acquainted with his record and the history of the country during his lifetime.

Writers of history in the present generation "have found that it is not safe to accept traditions and off-hand recollections at face value. They demand that all statements of such nature shall be supported by documentary evidence, whenever this is possible. . . But American tradition, as a rule, is formless hearsay, and when a given event is related by a second or third person the accounts usually disagree. And when the informant is aged. . . there is commonly more or less impairment of mental powers. The general trustworthiness of all such information is, therefore, in some doubt. . . All such individuals were no doubt conscientious in what they had to say. . . but some of their statements cannot therefore be accepted." 2 The examination of public records and other written sources has not been neglected in the writing of this story. Some of the statements made by one of Michael's grandsons appear toward the close of this book. Such statements were made when the informant was nearly eighty-seven years of age, and some of the statements are not supported by documented facts and have been found to be incorrect.

Family tradition is also erroneous and not supported by public documents in its belief that Michael fought in the Southern Campaign battles in 1781 during the Revolutionary War. Public records have been found which prove conclusively that he was in the Kentucky Campaigns under General George Rogers Clark during the entire time the Southern battles were fought. Copies of such records are introduced in a later chapter of this story.

Discrepancies have also been found in the coat of arms traditionally used by the O'Hair family. The services of the most highly recognized authorities on genealogy and heraldry, both in England and Ireland, have been utilized to establish this fact. These authorities have searched every library, public office and authentic recording of history to obtain their information. The results of their findings are presented in an early chapter of this book. The coat of arms pictured in the "Michael O'Hair Family" book, compiled and edited in 1957 by a member of the family, is not registered in Ireland or England.  It is similar to, but not an exact duplicate of, the Haire arms registered in Ireland. However, the O'Hair family does have the right and privilege to use and display two different recorded

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Irish coats of arms. These two are more fully described in the first chapter of this story.

Thru many past years, some members of the family have accepted the tradition that Michael O'Hair came to this country sometime in 1775 or 1776, motivated by a desire to join the American army and fight the British because of the abuses and hardships they inflicted upon the Irish Catholics in Northern Ireland. This tradition, although not generally accepted, was never supported by any documentary facts and is erroneous. Other traditional beliefs were that Michael was about eight years old at the time he came to America. That belief is not supported by any known record. The first accounting of his appearance in America is recorded at Staunton, the county seat of Augusta county, Virginia. The evidence is preserved that Michael was twelve years of age in 1761 when he came to America. However, some needed information is missing, such as a record of Michael's family, giving the names of his parents and siblings. We may assume that no light will ever be shed upon these questions, unless some descendant can be found who has such a family record. Efforts have been made in this respect and shall be continued. Possibly all of Michael's family were deceased when he left Ireland. Church records do not go back that far. Many of the older records in Ireland that were available to the public were destroyed in 1922 by a fire in Dublin. The records we do have indicate that the O'Hare family in Ireland (spelled O'Hair in America) was a very old and prominent family dating back to the earliest recorded history. Most of them were farmers and raised livestock; however, in the 19th and 20th centuries, several became prominent in other professions., Today the O'Hare family is one of the most numerous in the city of Newry, County Down, Northern Ireland, a city of 12,000 population.

Michael O'Hair was an unusual and remarkable man, distinguished by his courage, determination and perseverance. He was born into this world under very extreme and adverse circumstances.  Catholics had been starved and slain for the purpose of exterminating them. His family had been deprived of their land and of their human rights. They had been forced to live in the woods and caves, constantly hiding. They were hunted and killed like wild animals. They lived under conditions inconceivable and intolerable, imposed

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upon them by the British rulers who were supposed to be honorable Christian people. History is full of stories of man's inhumanity to man.  No greater inhumanity has ever been recorded in all history than that which was imposed upon the Irish Catholics by the British rulers. The O'Hare clan was one of the clans which suffered the full force and effect of such inhumanity. It is easy to understand why Michael left Ireland.

Michael O'Hair arrived in America at the age of twelve without money or friends. He was uneducated and spoke the language of his native country. From cradle to grave his life was one of continuous hardship and danger. He was continuously harassed by hostile, savage Indians who plundered and massacred during his youthful years as a pioneer in the upper valley of the James River in Virginia, and again as a pioneer in Kentucky.

Michael also had an unusual and outstanding record of service in the defense of his country during the Revolutionary War. The first public record of his military service is July, 1776 in the Virginia Militia. Later in 1776 he was enlisted in the Continental Army for two years. He enlisted in the Illinois Regiment December 1, 1779 and was discharged from that service February 2, 1782. He was again enlisted August 31, 1782 for a three year period, or for the duration of the war. Many of the military activities in which he participated have been detailed in this book.

             Michael was a pioneer, a soldier, a farmer, and a family man. He was married three times. He was the progenitor of nineteen children, eighteen of whom lived to maturity.   In those days of high infant mortality and few doctors, he and his wives must have been extremely hardy people. Michael's sons were all successful farmers. It is estimated that there are presently over three thousand living descendants, of Michael scattered throughout almost every one of the United States.  Most of his descendants have been successful in their chosen fields and some have been outstanding. The family now consists of clergymen, lawyers, doctors, educators, bankers, public officials, farmers, engineers, merchants and executives.

Michael's hard life made him stronger, more resolute, and gave him a greater appreciation of his accomplishments. We suspect that at the end of his life, he did not regret any

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of the hardships he had endured. He must have regarded his family and his country with great respect and appreciation. Michael passed away in 1813 at the age of sixty-four. He was buried on land he owned. His gravesite was the highest ridge of a small hilltop cemetery near Hazel Green, Kentucky. His remains were removed to the Hazel Green Cemetery in 1957. Memorial services befitting him were held May 26, 1957 attended by descendants from many states.     .

All of us, the present generation of descendants, should give our thanks for any of the strong and sustaining characteristics possessed by Michael O'Hair which we may have inherited. This story has been written with the hope that it will provide an interesting and lasting link to the past for members of the O'Hair family.

             The work of collecting material for this book relating to the life and environments of Michael O'Hair began early in 1956. Some of the places visited to obtain information were:

Library of Congress, Washington, D. C.
Daughters of the American Revolution Library, Washington, D. C.
The Virginia State Library, Richmond, Va.
The Kentucky Historical Society, Frankfort, Kentucky
Hazel Green (Wolfe County), Ky.
Prestonsburg (Floyd County Seat), Kentucky
West Liberty (Morgan County Seat), Kentucky
Fincastle (Botetourt County Seat), Virginia
Yorktown, Virginia
Valley Forge, Pennsylvania
Belfast, Ireland
Dublin, Ireland
Ennis (County Clare), Ireland
Newry (County Down), Ireland

Much information has also been obtained thru the services of

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professional record searchers in Ireland and England, also all of the counties and surrounding counties in which Michael resided.

This writer has sought to collect and to preserve for the future all of the records about Michael O'Hair found anywhere, and to relate conditions of the country and people of Ireland, Virginia and Kentucky as they existed during his lifetime. The only records found of his life are public records. Many of the archives relating to Revolutionary War records are incomplete. Fires have also destroyed other positive sources of information. Such records as have been found reveal an outstanding and remarkable career dedicated to the defense of his country, the development of the frontier, and the raising of a large family. His sons became pioneers in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas.

A number of people have been very helpful to this writer in many ways. That no person might inadvertently be overlooked, mention by name is not given; however, special mention is given to my wife, Myrle L. O'Hair (a member of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Madam Rachel Edgar Chapter, of Paris, Illinois), who has been very helpful during the writing of this book; to my daughter, Mrs. Martha R. Kirsten, and to my cousin, Mrs. Lorraine Miner, who read the manuscript and made some corrections; and to my secretary, Mrs. June Howe, who arranged and typed the manuscript. I extend my most sincere thanks to all persons who have in any way aided in this undertaking. It is my hope that this book may prove to be of lasting value to the people for whom it was written.

 Karl R. O'Hair

 Paris, Illinois
June 28, 1971