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Chapter 6: Joseph Henry O'Barr

The Augustus Barto O'Barr and Lola May Peppers Family

HTML Version 2.0

copyright 1995 by Gerald L. O'Barr

This is a copy made 15 Feb 1995 by Gerald L. O'Barr of two typed pages, possibly originally written by Edith DePriest O'Barr near time of Uncle Joe's death. Remarks that are given in italics are my own. Original paper begins with the following title:


Joseph Henry O'Barr was born in Muldro (Indian Territory) Oklahoma, March 21, 1890. He died June 24, 1967, in Phoenix, Arizona. He was the son of Augustus Barto O'Barr and Sarah Francis Mahuldy.

Joe's mother died when he was only one month old. When he was nine months old his father married again, and Joe's care (as well as that of his little brother Frank) was taken over by Mr. O'Barr's young wife Lola May Peppers. She loved these two little boys as her own and helped their father rear them to manhood. Nine children blest this union, so Joe was brought up as a member of a large family, and with such love that he never felt that he was a "half" brother to any of them. This mother who reared him with such love and devotion, although now in her 90's, insisted on going to his side many times during his final illness, and is with us here today.

Joe's early boyhood was spent in Atkins, Arkansas. In 1904 when he was fourteen years old the family moved to Mesa, Arizona. Here Joe attended school and assisted his father with farming. He and his brothers worked long hours on the farm, irrigating, gathering and selling crops, milking cows, and picking and packing cantaloupes. Cantaloupes at that time were shipped out of the valley in iced railway cars. Joe liked helping his father in the melon fields and called himself "sled-boss" as it was often his job to drive the horse-drawn sled that gathered up the melons. Joe was also good at helping with the garden and selling the produce, a project in which whole family shared in those days.

When Roosevelt Dam was being built the O'Barr boys and their father took produce by team and wagon to the Dam. They made this trip about once a week. They also sold produce to the workers at Granite Reef Dam when it was under construction. New potatoes and string beans were measured with gallon buckets and were sold for 25 cents a bucket. Onions, red-top lettuce, and radishes were tied in large bunches and sold, two for a nickel. Wet "gunny sacks" were used to keep the vegetables fresh on these long trips.

As a boy Joe liked to hunt and fish and his success on hunting and fishing trips furnished many meals for the large O'Barr family. He also liked western music, and loved to sing the old-time cowboy songs.

Joe was always happy, enthusiastic and generous. He made friends easily and enjoyed their companionship. As a boy he always was sharing everything he had with his friends, and with his brothers and sisters. Once on the school ground in Mesa he was seen sharing an orange with a girl and was teased by the boys about having a girl friend. Joe thought that was a good joke as the girl he shared his orange with was his sister, Ida. When he was big enough to work away from home, he often returned to see what was needed by the family, and on one occasion he would check with all his younger brothers and sisters to see if any dental work was needed, and would send them to have it done at his expense. In his later years, with his wife Aurora, he enjoyed being host to his friends and neighbors for an annual turkey dinner, given on his birthday each year. Joe thoroughly enjoyed these birthday dinners and they were happily attended by every member of his family, and by his many friends and co-workers.

May I personally recount how true it was that Uncle Joe was always happy and full of fun and enthusiastic and generous. For him, these are not made up words. In any large gathering, you could always hear his laughter above everyone else. I remember Uncle Joe as being quite tall and fairly thin. He always brought the turkeys to eat. He "loved" my little sister and always had things to give us. He gave Colleen a real life size play house. I am sure that we were the only ones in the world to play in a real house.

Joe's career as a railroad man started in his early twenties, when he was employed by the old Arizona Eastern Railroad, which was later taken over by the Southern Pacific. It was for the Southern Pacific that he worked until his retirement just a few years ago. His services to the railroad were in the capacity of bridge-crew boss, running a commissary, and as a section foreman. He has been stationed for long periods of time, at such points as Cochran, Queen Creek and Fowler.

In his early years of work on the railroad, he made his home on the work train. Large crews of men would be fed and housed on these work trains as they went from place to place to build railroads and keep them in repair. What a thrill it was to the O'Barr family when Joe's work train stopped for a few days in Mesa, as it occasionally did. The O'Barr home was near the tracks and Joe's train always parked on a siding near- by when it was in the area. He sometimes invited his brothers and sisters to eat with him and the men on the train, and these occasions have left fond memories in their hearts of a beloved brother.

Once while he was working with a bridge crew, building a railroad bridge across the Agua Fria River, Joe fell from the bridge and landed on railroad ties below. His back was broken and he laid in a cast for eighteen months. He was a young man when this happened and he recovered enough to continue working, but in spite of long hospitalization, this caused him suffering all his life, for he never recovered completely from this injury.

Joe's good wife Aurora, who he first met when he was 25 years old, has been a comfort and joy to him, staying by his side, helping him to put on his back brace which he had to wear most of the time, and helping him with hobbies that he loved, such as raising turkeys.

Joe's later years as a section foreman was spent in the Tolleson area where he lived with his wife, on 75th Ave. He retired a few years ago, and at the time of his death they lived at 6216 S. 2nd. Avenue, in Phoenix. Besides his wife, Aurora, he is survived by his mother, Lola M. Clevenger of Mesa; three sisters, Ida Francom, Alice Sliger, and Lola White, all of Mesa. four brothers, Arthur O'Barr, Gus O'Barr, and Ernest Clevenger of Mesa, and Parley O'Barr of Burbank, California.

Also surviving are many nieces and nephews (from both sides of the family) who dearly loved their "Uncle Joe" and who will always remember him for the generosity and great love he showed them.

Joe's death leaves a void in the lives of all who knew him, for his cheerfulness, his lovable spirit, and his happy companionship, will be greatly missed.

The mother of Joseph H. O'Barr, Sarah Francis Mahulda Pollard, was born in Springville, St. Clair Co., Alabama in about 1865. She died 21 April 1890 in Muldro, Oklahoma. Joseph married Aurora Diaz 26 Feb 1938, Nogales, Mexico. Aunt Aurora died 21 July 1992.

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