Papa and the Farmer:
an O'Hair Family Story
Shared by Sheila Kee
My grandfather, Fred L. O’Hair, (we called him Papa) was President of Central National Bank in Greencastle Indiana, a farming community. He worked well with the farmers and would often go into the fields to talk to them, rather than making them take time off to come into the bank.
When the Stock Market Crash of 1929 happened, in the panic, people flocked to the banks to get their money. Many banks went under at this time. But to keep Central National from going under, my grandfather did as his father had done during the Crash of 1907. He got gold coins from the Federal Reserve in Indianapolis and had them delivered to the bank. He then displayed them in the front window of the bank to make people feel confident that their money was safe. And it worked.
There came a time when Papa had to foreclose on a local farmer and called him into the Bank. Papa apologized that he had to do it, but the farmer’s time had run out to pay on his loan. The farmer then threatened Papa, saying he would kill
Genevieve and Jimmy O'Hair
him if he ever saw him again and he would harm his family if he saw them. At that time, my family was living in Greencastle in the O’Hair House at the corner of Seminary and Spring Streets. It was known by most people where they lived. Because of this, Papa told my grandmother (we called her Amah) not to let this particular fellow in if he showed up at the house.
The O'Hair House, 209 East Seminary Street
One night shortly after the angry incident, Amah and Papa were going to a party in the evening. Amah told my mom, Genevieve, (age 13) and my Uncle Jimmy (age 11) not to open the door for anyone, without stating why.
Mom and Jimmy settled down to play cards in the living room. My mom quickly became bored and quit playing. A short while later, a man knocked at the door. Mom told Uncle Jimmy not to open it. But the man kept knocking and knocking. Jimmy disobeyed and opened the door.
Unbeknownst to mom and Jimmy, this was the man who had threatened Papa! The man asked to see Fred O’Hair. Uncle Jimmy told him that his dad and mom were at a party but would be home soon. Jimmy asked if the man would like to come in and wait. The man said “yes” and proceeded to enter the house. Uncle Jimmy asked if he would like to play a card game (since mom wouldn’t.) The man again said “yes” and they proceeded to play cards for the next half an hour or so. Mom was very upset with her brother and remained at a distance in the living room, keeping an eye on the man.
Later, Amah and Papa came home from the party to find the man who had threatened Papa sitting with their son and playing a game. Amah quickly took mom and Jimmy upstairs out of harm’s way. Papa invited the farmer into his office to talk and try to resolve his problem. They came up with a solution satisfactory to both, I guess, since the man left without incident.
So... did the innocence of a child diffuse the situation? Had the man really come to shoot Papa? What happened in the man’s mind as he played cards with Uncle Jimmy to change his resolve to kill Papa? Mom said that Amah explained to her later (but not to Uncle Jimmy) about the farmer being upset and wanting to kill Papa. They often wondered if Uncle Jimmy had saved their lives.