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Series I. James O’Hara Papers, 1777-1880

Scope and Content Notes:

James O’Hara (1753-1819) left his home in County Mayo, Ireland, in 1773 to settle in Philadelphia. In 1774, he was appointed a government Indian agent, and traveled to western Pennsylvania where he traded with Indians at Fort Pitt on behalf of an eastern company, and purchased extensive lands from the federal government. In 1788, James became the second president of the Bank of Pennsylvania, and two years later he wed Mary Carson (1760-1834) of Philadelphia, and brought her to Pittsburgh. George Washington appointed him Quartermaster General of the United States Army in 1792. During his military career, James served in western Pennsylvania to quell the Whiskey Rebellion and in General Anthony Wayne’s expedition against the Western Confederation. Anne Hemphill Herbert notes that James is credited with "saving the army with his efficient business methods and remarkable understanding of the Indian character and their various dialects."

In 1793, James purchased land at the forks of the Ohio from the United States government, and four years later he and his partner, Major Isaac Craig, built the first glass works in America on the southern banks of the Monongahela River. James became Pittsburgh’s first burgess and was a founder of the First Presbyterian Church. Materials in this series provide information on early frontier life in Pennsylvania through various personal and professional letters as well as official government reports. Also included are copies of James and Mary O’Hara’s wills, which are critical in understanding the inheritance of significant property holdings that are now important to Pittsburgh’s history, including Schenley Park and the Fort Pitt Block House. Accompanying these materials is H.M. Brackenridge’s critique of James O’Hara’s will. An obituary of James O’Hara and newspaper articles describe his role in the early development of Pittsburgh and his dealings with the Indian tribes. James O’Hara’s papers have been divided into subseries that separate personal and business papers from materials describing his legacy and estate.

Subseries 1. Personal and Business Papers

Scope and Content Notes:

Various personal letters written by General James O'Hara to his wife and contemporaries describe conditions at Fort Pitt and along the Miami River in the 1790s, including a comment that surrounding Indian tribes were "intent on annoying our Frontiers." A number of items relate to James O'Hara's land, including a 1785 land office record that documents property he owned near Campbell's Run, and a lease agreement for land in Robinson Township. A letter, court decision, and article of ejectment relate to a land dispute between the estates of Arthur St. Clair and James O'Hara. Transcriptions of James' diary include his opinions on immigration, and mention the glassworks that he built.

Box 1
Folder 1 James O'Hara to Devereaux Smith, April 8, 1777
Folder 2 James O'Hara to Mary Carson O'Hara, October 3, 1794
Folder 3 Diary (typed transcript), 1795-1804
Folder 4 Official Land Office record, October 17, 1785
Folder 5 Report on transportation, southwest branch of the Miami River, October 23, 1793
Folder 6 Receipt of Business Exchange, August 26, 1799
Folder 7 Lease agreement between James O'Hara and J. Benny, March 1805
Folder 8 Letter written by James O'Hara to Arthur St Clair, July 27, 1809
Folder 9 Judgment for James O'Hara, December 29, 1809
Folder 10 Survey of Land Ownership, September 20, 1830
Folder 11 Article on Ejectment from court, February 1846
Folder 12 Law suit, January, 1880

Subseries 2. Genealogy, Estate and Legacy

Scope and Content Notes:

Included are the wills of both James and Mary O'Hara, along with an essay written by Henry Marie Brackenridge critiquing the will of James O'Hara. Materials related to his estate include an article describing Mary E. Schenley's law suit against James O'Hara's executors and an 1881 newspaper clipping entitled "Sheriff"s Sales". James O'Hara's obituary and a number of brief, typed excerpts from the Pittsburgh Gazette, Pittsburgh Mercury, and the Pennsylvania Archives describe General James O'Hara and some of his accomplishments in the military. In an additional published item, John Heckewelder discusses General O'Hara's influence on the interaction between Indians and settlers. The collection also contains a typed O'Hara family genealogy, a family biography, and two portraits of James O'Hara.

Folder 13 "Sheriff's Sales" clipping, March 7, 1881
Folder 14 Typed excerpts from newspapers, 1786-1842
Folder 15 James O'Hara's Will, September 15, 1819
Folder 16 Obituary of James O'Hara, December 21, 1819
Folder 17 Extract of Mary Carson O'Hara's Will, October 10, 1825
Folder 18 Mary Carson O'Hara's Will, November 15, 1832
Folder 19 Essay by Henry Marie Brackenridge, August 15, 1846
Folder 20 Printed anecdote, "Indian Fidelity", mentioning James O'Hara, undated
Folder 21 List of O'Hara Family members, undated
Folder 22 O'Hara family Biography and Portrait of James O'Hara, undated