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Biographical Review: Greene, Schoharie and Schenectady Counties, New York
Barnard O'Hara

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[This information is from pp. 373-375 of Biographical Review Volume XXXIII: Containing Life Sketches of Leading Citizens of Greene, Schoharie and Schenectady Counties, New York (Boston: Biographical Review Publishing Company, 1899). It is in the collection of the Grems-Doolittle Library of the Schenectady County Historical Society at 920 BIO.]

Portrait of Barnard O'Hara

Portrait: Barnard O'Hara

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Barnard O'Hara, proprietor of the O'Hara House, Lexington, Greene County, N. Y., was born in Fishkill, Dutchess County, this State, June 1, 1816, son of Peter and Lucretia (Darbee) O'Hara. His father emigrated from Ireland in 1801, first locating in New York City and later in Fishkill, where he worked by the month on a farm. Peter O'Hara was subsequently engaged in farming in Westfield Flats, Sullivan County, and in Greenville village. His first purchase was a small piece of land, which he later sold. He finally bought a tract of forty acres situated on the Durham line, where he resided for the rest of his active period. By his industry and thrift he was enabled to increase his property by the purchase of adjoining land, owning at the time of his death, which occurred at the age of eighty years, a farm of two hundred acres. He was a capable farmer, possessing excellent judgment in all agricultural matters, which enabled him to make good use of his resources and opportunities. Besides the raising and selling of farm produce, he distilled apple brandy, an agreeable and somewhat seductive beverage, known to residents of the present day under the more familiar name of apple-jack. He was also a weaver of great renown. Peter O'Hara was a Democrat in politics, and took a lively interest in local public affairs, serving frequently as a grand juror at Catskill and holding minor town offices. In his religious belief he was a Roman Catholic and so true a follower of the precepts of the church that on one occasion he carried a child from Fishkill to Troy and thence to Lansingburg in order to have it baptized by a Catholic priest. His wife, whose maiden name was Lucretia Darbee, was a native of Goshen, Orange County, to which town her parents had removed from Goshen, Conn., settling as pioneers. Her father was a farmer and a cloth dresser for some years. Later he kept a tavern in Westfield Flats. He was killed by the overturning of a load of hay. Peter and Lucretia (Darbee) O'Hara had fifteen children, of whom six sons and seven daughters lived to have families; and six of the daughters were school teachers previous to their marriage. The only survivors are: Barnard, the subject of this sketch; and Levi, who still resides upon a portion of the old homestead, which, after the father's death, was divided into four farms. The mother died at the age of sixty-four. She attended the Methodist Episcopal church.

Barnard O'Hara in his boyhood and youth, from the time he was able to be of use, worked on the home farm during the farming seasons, and attended school winters.

Leaving home at the age of twenty-one, he went to Albany, N. Y., where he obtained employment in a dry and fancy goods store. His employer failed a short time later, and he made an arrangement with the assignee to peddle the stock upon the road. After driving through Central New York with a horse and wagon in the employ of others for some time, he invested what money he had saved in a team of his own; and, borrowing the sum of three hundred dollars of his father, he engaged in peddling for himself, soon establishing his credit in New York City by punctually meeting his obligations. After continuing upon the road some years, or until 1845, he settled in Lexington, where in the following year he completed the building of a store, which he stocked with general merchandise, and carried it on successfully for over thirty years. For a long period he was also engaged in the undertaking business.

After visiting some of the Western States he returned, feeling certain that his future prospects were just as promising in Lexington as elsewhere. The succeeding ten years were devoted to the management of his store and to the cultivation of his farm, which he purchased in 1865, and which he still owns.

In 1880, having admitted his son as a partner, he severed his active connection with the mercantile business. The son continued in charge of the establishment until 1888, since which time the store building has been leased to others.

The O'Hara House stands upon a site formerly occupied by a Baptist church. It was completed and opened in 1877, and is one of the largest hotels in Lexington, having accommodations for one hundred and twenty-five guests. Situated at an altitude of sixteen hundred feet above sea level, and provided with ample facilities for comfort and recreation, it offers special inducements as a health resort.

In 1845 Mr. O'Hara was united in marriage with Miss Charlotte Briggs, daughter of Darius Briggs, a well-known farmer of Lexington in his day. She became the mother of seven children; namely, Mary A., Edgar B., George P., Arthur, Arrietta, Ida, and Belle. Mary A. is the wife of James M. Van Valkenburgh, a hotel proprietor of Lexington, and has one son, George B. Van Valkenburgh, who is a college graduate. Edgar and George assist their father in carrying on the O'Hara House. Edgar also carries on a thriving business in the manufacture of cider. George O'Hara married Mary Smith, and has two children — Charlotte and Edgar L. Arthur O'Hara died at the age of two years. Arrietta died in 1876 at the age of twenty-one years. Ida married Peter J. Kelley, who is now a resident of New York City. Belle is residing at home. Edgar is a graduate of Manhattan College, New York, and of Eastman's Business College, Poughkeepsie; and George took a commercial course at Folsom's Business College. The daughters attended "Kenwood," a Catholic school in Albany. In politics Mr. O'Hara is a Democrat. He served as Supervisor in 1869 and 1870, receiving at his re-election the unanimous support of both the Republican and Democratic parties. He has been Clerk of the town and of the school district, and has frequently served as a grand and petit juror. Mrs. O'Hara died in December, 1880, aged fifty-four years. The family attend the Roman Catholic church.

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