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New Environment

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Michael's New Environment

Michael O'Hair undoubtedly came to America on a ship such as James Patton had owned. The journey was hazardous. There were dangers of shipwreck, pirates and contrary winds. The sailing ships were usually crowded and unsanitary conditions claimed their toll in disease. The average speed of a sailing ship was about the speed of a man walking. The journey required two months or more depending upon the prevailing winds. Michael probably left his home near Newry, County Down, Ireland, sometime during the early Fall of 1761. The Newry, or Glenree River, passes by Newry. This river then flows into Carlingford Lough, an 'arm' of the Irish Sea. Michael probably took this route to board the ship which took him to America. He may have been a stowaway or a cabin boy who performed menial labor to pay his fare. We know he was not an indentured servant. Michael may have become acquainted with adults bound for Augusta County while on the ship. He probably accompanied such adults up the James River as far as Richmond, and then on to Staunton by foot, horseback or by small boat on the James River.

When Michael arrived in Augusta County, he was probably startled at the similarity of this new country to the country he had left behind in Ireland. He found the mountains had the same appearance, for they are of a height comparable to those around Newry. "In latitude, and in surface, soil, and climate, the two regions are much alike. In each there are mountains, usually deforested and sometimes gloomy, which are similiar in height... In each there are fine swift

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streams...In each the surface alternates from mountain to valley, and from broken ridges to small tracts comparatively level. In each the soil is often stony, sometimes excessively so, and in general not highly fertile or easily tilled...The climate, cool, cloudy and humid, is suited to grass, oats, and root crops, and either region is better adapted to grazing than to tillage...The rock formations are of the same geologic periods and the soils are similar in texture. The degree of resemblance goes far to explain why the immigrant from Ulster has so successfully adapted himself to Appalachian America." 1

Michael's only known possession when he arrived in America was a Catholic Bible. According to Jesse Ogden O'Hair, the youngest son of Michael's son, John, this bible became the possession of Michael's youngest son, Washington. In 1836 Washington moved to Edgar County, Illinois. Three years later he moved to Texas. Neely Claude O'Hair, a grandson of Michael's son, James Edington Montgomery O'Hair, visited descendants of Washington O'Hair during the year of 1958. The purpose of his visit was to locate Michael's old bible. He finally found a granddaughter of Washington O'Hair who had inherited this bible. Just the year before, her home and all contents had burned, including the old bible. Michael had probably received this bible from his parents, or from a Catholic priest, before he left Ireland.

The first record we have of Michael's presence in America is dated February 17, 1762, contained in Order Book Number 7, page 157, Staunton, Virginia:

At a Court Continued and held for Augusta County the seventeenth day of February, 1762.



James Lockard                         Robert Breckenridge

John Dickenson             &         John Archer

                         Gent Justices

On the motion of Alexander Millroy it is ordered that the Churchwardens of Augusta Parish bind out Michael O'Harah to him till he comes to the age of twenty one years

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being now of the age of twelve years the eleventh of September last the said Millroy giving him when free two suits of apparel (one new) and a mare or horse of the price of five pounds and to learn him the farming business and to read write and cypher as far as the rule of three.

Ordered that the Court be adjourned until tomorrow morning 8 o'clock.

(The minutes of these proceedings were signed)

                                                                   Silas Hark


From the information contained in the Order Book, binding Michael to the custody of Millroy, we can establish Michael's date of birth as September 11, 1749. He later stated he was born in County Down, Northern Ireland.

When Millroy took Michael O'Hair to his two hundred acre farm on the Cowpasture River, that area was still thinly populated. The frontier people were compelled to live within easy distance of a stockade fort built to withstand Indian assult. The outlines of such a fort still remain north of the Cowpasture region in what is known as the Bullpasture Bottom. The outlines indicate that the fort was about ninety feet square and very well located to withstand Indian attack. The fort is believed to have been built under the direction of Colonel Patton in 1754, utilizing the help of the forty or fifty men dispatched to him by General Washington for the defense of the frontier. The families lived within the forts in times of danger.

The site for a log house in that area was carefully chosen. There was a nearby spring for water supply. The land adjacent to the cabin was cleared of trees and any brush which might afford concealment for a lurking Indian. The window openings were purposely cut small so that an Indian could not crawl through, and the door could be heavily bolted. Holes large enough to accomodate the barrel of a gun were left in the walls of the cabin for the defense of the family against Indian attack. There was usually a community fort not too far from the cabin which the families customarily occupied much of the summer months when the Indians were most apt to be in the region. The frontiersmen took turns at

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scouting the region, always on the lookout for signs of Indian activity. The warm months were the times of greatest danger for the frontier family because it was during those months that the Indians were most inclined to roam. Cold weather was looked upon with joy. The families then relaxed their watchfulness and lived without the fear of Indian attack. Sometimes, after the first cold spell and freeze, the weather turned warm and the atmosphere became smoky near the horizon. The Indians were thus afforded another opportunity for plunder and massacre. The colonists called those late warm days "Indian Summer." That term still remains in use. The region comprising what is presently Bath County, then still a part of Augusta County, was severely attacked in what is known as the Pontiac War which started in 1763. That war lasted for more than a year, until after the collapse of the French power and treaty of 1764. The Indian tribes tried to drive the white people out of all the territory west of the Alleghanies. Many people were killed and their children taken captive.

Expert marksmanship was considered a necessity in those days. It was under such conditions that Michael became an expert marksman as a young man. His marksmanship later qualified him to become a soldier in General Daniel Morgan's famous Rifle Regiment. The Cowpasture River territory was subjected to frequent raids and massacres during the time Michael lived there. A raid was recorded there in 1774. Not until 1795 was there reasonable assurance that the danger of Indian attacks were a part of the past.

A traveler from Staunton, going to what is presently Bath County, journeyed by the way of Panther Gap, about thirty miles southeast of Staunton, in order to avoid climbing the rugged Shenandoah Mountains. Travel was either by horseback or by foot. The roads were little more than paths. Farming was the one great industry. The farming methods were crude, laborious and wasteful. Tobacco was the leading crop in Virginia. County levies were recorded in pounds of tobacco. The tobacco was paid into the public treasury and converted to money in England. A hundred pounds of tobacco represented one Virginia pound, equivalent to $3.33 Virginia currency.

Education was not regarded as a matter of public concern. There was no system of public schools outside of New

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England. The children of the wealthy were educated by tutors. There were a few private schools taught by members of the clergy. Lawyers and clergymen were the educated people as a general rule. William and Mary College at the Capital, Williamsburg, was the only institution of higher learning. There were not any daily newspapers and the very few weekly issues were small.

Mails were few, slow and irregular. The frontier settlements did well to receive mail once a month. There were not any regular mail services between the Colonies and England until 1755. It cost a dollar to have an ounce letter sent to Great Britain. There were only fifteen post offices in Virginia as late as 1755. Hygiene was little understood or practiced. Doctors were scarce and people depended upon their homemade remedies and superstitious charms. Qualified voters were few. Even as late as 1789, when the new Federal Government went into operation, there was only one person out of twenty-five qualified to vote. By 1829 less than two of every five men were qualified voters.

"The early comers found the wilderness infested with several predatory animals, the most troublesome of which was the wolf. For many years it was necessary to pen the calves and sheep by night to protect them from the bear and the puma, as well as the wolf...A poll tax of two shillings was authorized. This was to provide a fund for paying wolf bounties...The whole head of the wolf had to be shown to the magistrate, who clipped the ears, administered the oath, 'I, ____________ do swear that this head now produced is the head - or heads - of a wolf taken and killed within the county of __________ in Virginia; and that I have not wittingly or willingly spared the life of any bitch wolf in my power to kill. So help me God.' and issued a certificate. In one month of 1752, 225 wolf heads were brought to the Augusta courthouse...The bounty on a single wolf-head would pay the taxes for almost any man in 1765...By 1780 the bounty price was 100# tobacco ($3.33) for a grown animal and 50# for a cub." 2

Michael's name does not appear in the public records again until August 21, 1770, when he was a witness regarding a will. This information can be found in the Abstracts of Wills of Augusta County Court, in Will Book Number 4, on Page 320. We must assume that Michael remained with Alex-

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ander Millroy until he became of legal age in 1770, thereby ending the period of his bondage. Millroy's farm, at the time Michael became his ward, was located near the great bend of the Cowpasture River. The farm was "sold in 1762, to William Sprowl for 200 pounds...Alexander Millroy seems to have moved to Rockbridge about 1762...In 1762 Michael O'Hara was a ward of Alexander Millroy." 3 If Millroy did move in 1762, he was still a resident of Augusta County for several more years, because Rockbridge County was not formed from part of Augusta until 1778.

A division of Augusta County was made in 1769 when an act was passed creating Botetourt County. The act provided that the new county and parish would become established January 31, 1770. The new county was to include all that part of Augusta County south and west of the North River, near Lexington, Virginia. The act also made mention of the fact that the people living on the waters of the Mississippi, in the county of Botetourt, would be very remote from a courthouse and were excused from any levies made for the purpose of building a courthouse. It was expected that the people living a remote distance would soon be of sufficient number as eventually to become a separate county.

The first county court of Botetourt was held February 14, 1770, with ten justices being appointed. One of the first justices was Benjamin Hawkins. The new county was named in honor of Norborne Berkeley who became Lord Botetourt by order of the King. Lord Botetourt was the Governor of Virginia in 1768. The county seat was located at Fincastle, on forty acres given to the justices by Israel Christian. Fincastle was established in 1772 and was named after Lord Botetourt's county seat in England.

Many of the inhabitants along the James and Cowpasture rivers in Augusta County were on the move to the new county of Botetourt just prior to 1770. Those people settled along the waters of the Holston and New rivers. They were located far south of the county courthouse at Fincastle. By 1772 they petitioned to have Botetourt divided into two counties. "The Governor and Council enacted a law providing that from and after the first day of December, 1772, the said county of Botetourt should be divided into two distinct counties: that is to say, all that part of said county within a line to run up the east side of New river to the mouth of Cul-

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berson creek, thence a direct line to the Catawba road where it crosses the dividing ridge between the north fork of Roanoke and the waters of New river, thence with the top of the ridge to the bend where it turns eastwardly, thence a south course, crossing Little river to the top of the Blue Ridge mountain, shall be established as one distinct county, to be called and known by the name of Fincastle." 4

Lead Mines, now a part of Wythe County, was designated as the county seat. Leaders of the petition for a division of the county included the names of William Preston, William Christian, Arthur Campbell, etc. There were three different lines of Campbell families in that area during the 1770's. Fincastle County became extinct in 1777 when it was divided into the three counties of Kentucky, Montgomery and Washington. By the Spring of 1773, two congregations of dissenting Presbyterians had organized in the county - one at Sinking Spring (now the town of Abingdon) and another at Ebbing Spring, on the Middle Fork of the Holston River. The two congregations issued a call to Rev. Charles Cummings of the Tinkling Springs Presbyterian Church in Augusta County. The Reverend accepted the call and became one of the first dissenting ministers finally to be issued a license to perform legal marriages. This more liberal ruling on marriages did not become effective until 1784. Although the dissenting ministers undoubtedly performed marriages prior to that date, the marriage was not considered legal in the eyes of the Commonwealth. Government officials periodically checked the marriage records in the various counties. Inasmuch as Virginia was mostly settled by Presbyterians, and the official church was the Episcopal Church of England, many marriage records were destroyed in advance of an anticipated inspection if the marriage had not been performed by an official minister. "The public recording of marriages did not begin until about the close of 1781, and it is therefore difficult to secure definite knowledge of unions that took place before that date. By the new practice, the groom was required to sign a bond of fifty pounds. His surety was commonly the bride's father. If either groom or bride were under the age of twenty-one, and this was very often the case, the consent of the parent or parents had to accompany the bond, which served as a license." 5

After Michael O'Hair attained the legal age of twenty-

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one and was legally released from wardship, we do not know if he remained in Augusta County with Alexander Millroy. Like many others from the Cowpasture and James river settlements, he might have moved to the new county of Botetourt. "During this pre-revolutionary period there appears to have been a first marriage. To Michael O'Hair and this wife whose name has not been established there were born; according to at least two family records four children; Michael - 1774; John - 1778; Jes - 1780; and Elsbery - 1782." 6 Two known family references indicate the first marriage was to a Campbell girl whose given name, according to t r a d it ion, was Sarah. All the records of both Augusta and Botetourt counties, covering the years 1770 thru 1776, have been examined without finding a public record of a marriage to a Campbell girl.

It is the opinion of this writer that Michael O'Hair lived in Augusta County at the time of this first marriage. It is reasonable to believe that he married the daughter of one of the Campbell families who lived nearby. Whether he still lived in Augusta County, or had moved near Lead Mines, in Botetourt County, either location was far from a county seat which would have been the only place a legal marriage could have been performed at an official Episcopal Church. Because of the distance to a county seat, and because transportation was mostly by foot or horseback, the marriage could have been performed by a dissenting Presbyterian minister. Such a marriage would have been considered illegal in the eyes of the law, but such marriages were not uncommon in those days. The Campbell families in both of those counties were quite numerous. The Campbells were of Scotch-Irish descent. Their names are to be found in the registers of many old Presbyterian churches of Virginia, but no record has been found of a marriage between Michael O'Hair and Sarah Campbell.

This writer believes the information concerning the first marriage to be correct for several reasons. First, the names of the first two children, Michael and John, were names Michael later used for other children. The names, Jes and Elsberry, are names Michael's sons used for their children. Those names have remained in the O'Hair family for generations. Second, the public records of Augusta and Botetourt counties reveal that there were many Campbell families

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in the vicinity where Michael might have lived at that time. Third, Michael was twenty-three, an age when most young men of those times acquired a wife.

Federal censuses, family or public records fail to give a trace of what became of those first four children, but a diligent search continues. It is probable that Sarah Campbell died in childbirth when her fourth child was born in1782, because Michael married a second time in 1783.

An inquiry to a gentleman related to the Campbell family in southern Virginia received a reply that he had over a hundred Sarah Campbell names listed in his research papers. He wrote that his information concerning such names is incomplete, therefore no definite Sarah Campbell could be determined from that source.

According to family tradition, Michael O'Hair was acquainted with Daniel Boone. They might have first met during the years of 1773-1775 when Boone was in the Holston River area for the third time. The Boones and five other families had left their homes on the Yadkin River in North Carolina near the end of September, 1773, bound for Kentucky. They drove their cattle before them and their personal property was carried by pack horses. They were joined by forty other families at Powell's Valley. The following month Boone's son, James, was captured and killed by Shawnee and Cherokee Indians while the party was encamped near Cumberland Gap. The frightened group of travelers gave up the Kentucky trip and went back forty miles to the Clinch River Valley. Boone and his family lived in a cabin on the Clinch River, just a few miles from the Holston River, until 1775. Boone was occupied constantly in the defense of the southwest part of Virginia, and in scouting expeditions into the western woods of Kentucky.

The next public record to be found of Michael O'Hair locates him in the vicinity of New River or Holston River in Botetourt County. Michael O'Hair was recruited along with other men under the command of William Christian, to fight in an expedition against the Cherokee Indians. "On the 22nd of July, 1776, the Virginia Council received a letter from President Rutledge, of South Carolina, informing them that hostilities had been commenced by the Cherokee Indians, and that Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina had agreed to set on foot an expedition against the lower towns

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and middle settlements at once, and requesting the cooperation of Virginia, asking that she carry war into the upper or over-hill towns. Thereupon, the council directed Colonel Charles Lewis to march immediately, with his battalion of minute men, to the frontiers, Upon the receipt of this order Colonel Lewis immediately marched his battalion of troops to the vicinity of New River in Fincastle County, where it was ascertained that a number of his men were unfit for an Indian expedition; whereupon, he was directed to discharge all such and recruit others in their stead,

"On the first day of August, 1776, the Virginia Council ordered that such a commission issue appointing William Christian, Esq., colonel of the first battalion and commander-in-chief of all the forces raised for use in the expedition against the Cherokee Indians. It was decided to send two battalions of troops upon this expedition, which were officered as follows:

Commander-in-chief, William Christian,

Colonel first battalion, William Christian,

Colonel second battalion, Charles Lewis,...

But little is known of the participants in this expedition, " 7 The name of Michael O'Hair appears in a list of two hundred six names, comprising a part of the forces numbering two thousand, commanded by Colonel Christian, which included about four hundred men from North Carolina. Christian's instructions were to march his men into the Cherokee country and take any necessary action to put a stop to future insults and ravages.

Colonel Christian and his army of two thousand men arrived by the first of October, 1776, at a fort which had been hastily erected on Long Island, on the Holston River, now known as Fort Patrick Henry. The army proceeded beyond Long Island and cautiously marched toward the Tennessee. The Indians, numbering three thousand, disbanded for some reason and dispersed without offering any resistance, Colonel Christian had destroyed the towns and property of the Indians, and had chastised them as far as it was possible to do so. He sent out a number of men carrying flags of truce, and requested a conference with the chiefs, The troops were returned to Long Island in the Holston River and disbanded, The campaign had lasted only three months with the loss of only one white man.

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The pension application files often reveal the only details to be found regarding the common soldier. According to a deposition made by a man from Augusta County, we learn some of the details of the march. The deposition said that he "was drafted in 1776, with other militia-men, for the protection of the southwestern frontier against the Indians. They rendezvoused at the site of the present town of Lexington, July 15, 1776, and were assigned to the company of Captain John Lyle. From that point the men marched to the Holston river, under the command of Col. Russell. From thence they marched to the Great Island of Holston, and were placed under the command of Col. William Christian, with whom they went on the expedition against the Cherokee towns southwest of the Tennessee river. The command remained in the Indian country for some time, and returned about the middle of December, having been in service about five months. There was no battle, and not a man was lost...At least one other company from the county (Augusta) was in Col. Christian's expedition. It was commanded by Capt. William Christian and assembled at Midway, (Steele's Tavern)." 8