O’HARA, EDWARD, merchant, politician, jp, office holder, and army officer; b. c. 1767 in Gaspé, Que., son of Felix O’Hara* and Martha McCormick; m. 10 May 1796 Elizabeth Cameron at Quebec; d. 24 June 1833 in London or its environs.
Edward O’Hara came from one of the first English-speaking families to settle in the Gaspé and likely spent his childhood and adolescent years in his native village. Moving to Quebec in the 1780s, he went into partnership with merchant Robert Woolsey. The firm of Woolsey and O’Hara, whose shop was on the Place du Marché (Place Notre-Dame) in Lower Town, specialized in fabrics, shoes, and clothing. The partnership was dissolved by mutual consent in June 1790, and the business was put up for sale by auctioneer John Jones* the following month. The partners delegated Simon Fraser and John Young* to look after debts owed to them.
On 10 July 1792 O’ Hara was elected to the House of Assembly of Lower Canada for the riding of Gaspé. He won the seat with three votes of a total of five. His disappointed opponent, George Longmore*, had not appreciated the manoeuvres of Jersey merchant Charles Robin, who worked to see that people like O’Hara, sympathetic to his company’s interests, were elected. He put pressure on the masters of fishing rooms and the fishermen working for him, who had to vote by a show of hands. With this intimidation, it is not surprising that Gaspé electors failed to exercise their right to vote. The irregularities resulted in three petitions being brought to the house to have the election contested, two from voters and one from Dr Longmore. They were all denied for want of evidence. Bringing witnesses to Quebec would have cost too much.
As an assemblyman O’Hara concerned himself with the grievances of the loyalists who on emigrating to the Gaspé coast sought land there. In March 1793, for example, he passed on to the governor 25 requests for land grants in the Gaspé, which were favourably received. As he was well integrated into his community, O’Hara was commissioned a justice of the peace for the Gaspé District on 13 Oct. 1795. The following year he was appointed grand voyer (chief road commissioner) for the district, but he did not have many roads to inspect. Despite the objections to which his election had given rise, he was returned in 1796, defeating his sole opponent by four votes to one. He sat until 4 June 1800, although he does not seem to have attended the sessions of 1798, 1799, or 1800.
O’Hara gave up politics in 1800 and joined the British army. A lieutenant in the 7th Foot at first, in 1803 he received a commission as captain in the York Rangers through the influence of the Duke of Kent [Edward* Augustus]. In 1805 he was transferred to the 1st Foot, and the following year to the 46th. He was promoted major in the York Light Infantry Volunteers on 12 April 1807. Appointed lieutenant-colonel of his regiment on 3 June 1813, he served in the 63rd Foot from 19 Dec. 1816. In addition to seeing service in India, O’Hara took part in the capture of Guadeloupe in 1810. Five years later he received a medal commemorating that victory and was made a companion of the Order of the Bath. He took his retirement on 16 May 1822.
ANQ-Q, CE1-61, 10 mai 1796; CN1-256, 16 juin 1790; CN1-262, 26 juin 1797. PAC, MG 24, F86; RG 68, General index, 1651–1841. Quebec Gazette, 19 June, 9 Oct. 1788; 17 Dec. 1789; 17, 24 June 1790; 15 Oct. 1795; 18 March 1802; 28 Aug. 1806. F.-J. Audet, “Les législateurs du Bas-Canada.” Desjardins, Guide parl. Jules Bélanger et al., Histoire de la Gaspésie (Montréal, 1981). C.-E. Roy, Percé, sa nature, son histoire (Percé, Qué., 1947). C.-E. Roy et Lucien Brault, Gaspé depuis Cartier (Québec, 1934). F.-J. Audet et Édouard Fabre Surveyer, “Les députés au premier parlement du Bas-Canada: Edward O’Hara,” La Presse, 27 août 1927: 53, 63. Réginald Day, “Il y a deux siècles: les O’Hara à Gaspé, “Rev. d’hist. de la Gaspésie (Gaspé, Qué.), 9 (1971): 342–97; 10 (1972): 31–35.