Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Richard O'Meara (52 Ancestors - #2)

Only a short three years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed by Abraham Lincoln in 1863, my great grandfather Richard O'Meara was born to Richard and Elizabeth (McAndrews) O'Meara in Halifax, Nova Scotia (196 West Halifax - F Ward 5). He was their oldest son.
Richard Jeremiah O'Meara
Richard, to me, seemed like he wanted his story told as I felt compelled to research him more than any other ancestor. He did have quite a story to tell! He had a sister Anne (Cremmins) born in 1869 and brother John in 1871. His father, believed to be a blacksmith, possibly died of heart disease around 1870 while his mother was expecting John. Elizabeth was listed in the 1871 Canadian census as widowed. Richard's life continued with the sad loss of his brother John in1873 followed by the loss of his mother in 1874. Uncle Charlie, my dad's brother, always had said his grandfather had told him that he and his sister Annie were orphaned. For a long time Richard was my "brick wall". Luckily with help of a genealogy friend, Liz Barnett, and a trip I made, Richard's story soon unfolded.

"Naturalization record shows Richard Jeremiah O'Meara arrived in the US at Portland, ME in 1876, he was almost certainly the little boy, Richard O'Marra, working for his board on a farm in Whitefield, Lincoln County, ME at the 1880 census." He must have done this until he enlisted in the US Cavalry.

On a trip to DC to visit my daughter at college I decided to stop off at the National Archives. Staff at the National Archives were helpful, but doubtful when I approached them to explain that family folk lore had my orphaned great grandfather from Halifax as having served in the American-Indian War. I certainly could only find a "Richard O'Marrow" with my search, so I too was doubtful. We looked him up on microfiche and sure enough I found him with a big note scribbled across his card "served as Richard O'Marrow". It was my lucky day!!
Richard Jeremiah's Pension paperwork stating he enlisted as Richard O'Marrow
Holding his file in my had, especially the original enlistment papers of February 14th 1884 that he personally signed as a young man, was emotional in a good way. Richard was in Troop M, 8th Regiment of Cavalry. According to Wikipedia, " In May 1888, the regiment prepared for the longest march ever taken by a cavalry regiment. With the increased number of settlers moving to the Northwest United States, the regiment was ordered to march more than 2,600 miles (4,200 km) to its new regimental headquarters located at Fort Meade, South Dakota and station at Fort Keogh, Montana. Some of its march was along the famous Santa Fe Trail in New Mexico, near which carvings on large boulders and trees still gives mute testimony of the troops on the longest of all trails." When he reinlisted in February, 1889 he was assigned to Company D, 5th Regiment of Infantry until 1897 when he was discharged. 

Richard's enlistment papers
Shortly after his discharge he married Sophia Farrenkopf and settled down to a great family of 3 boys, Richard, Joseph and Eugene and one little girl, Caroline. According to his grandson, Richard, he was a tall, kind man. He was hardworking and seemed to stay close to his children right up to his death in 1940. This young orphan made out pretty well in life!

Richard and Sophia's grave in St. Joseph's Cemetary, W. Roxbury, MA

Note: If Richard were alive today I would ask him if he knew why he couldn't stay with his sister after his mother passed. I would also like to ask him what it was like to march 2600 miles along the Santa Fe Trail to the Dakotas.

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