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Memorial Tiles: Ira Ham

HAM, Ira: 1818 - 1881

Ira Ham, who was born in Ernestown (now Bath), Ontario in 1818, was the son of John Ham (1785-1843) and Esther Bradshaw (1792-1861) and the grandson of the original United Empire Loyalist pioneer, John Ham, the ancestor from whom all the Hams of Lennox and Addington are descended.

In his History of Lennox and Addington, Walter Herrington relates this humorous tale:

As a soldier in the Revolutionary War, Ira’s grandfather, John, took part in several important engagements. When in the British firing line, he was struck by a bullet from the rebel army, which lodged in the calf of his leg. He limped away to the improvised field hospital, assisted the surgeon to remove the bullet, and picking up the blood-stained missile, wiped it dry and as a special favour requested a comrade to return it to the enemy in the same manner in which it had been forwarded to him.(1)

After the war, in 1785, John had settled with his wife Elizabeth in Ernestown where they raised a family of ten children. Elizabeth, who died in 1845 at the age eighty-two, lived to see the fourth generation of Hams.(2)

Ira’s father, John Ham junior of Ernestown, married U.E.L. descendant Esther Bradshaw in 1808. Ira, the sixth of their thirteen children, became a farmer in Fredericksburgh and married Almeda Haight, born in 1827 in Adolphustown who was also of Loyalist descent. They had seven children, all born in South Fredericksburgh: Charles 1851, Caniff D. 1853, Mary E. 1855, Alfred M 1858, Almeda also called Nelly 1860, George I. 1862, and Arthur 1867.

Active in the community, Ira “was respected as a kindly neighbour and a man of many good parts, not anxious to thrust himself forward, but prepared to accept his share of the burden of public service.”(3) In municipal politics, Ira served as township clerk and treasurer then as reeve for many years. In 1873 he became Warden of the County of Lennox and Addington.

Ira remained close to home and served his community well; in contrast, there are colourful stories about his son, George Ira Ham, who married Maggie Breden of Odessa. They moved to Mexico where George was remarkably successful and made a fortune. George and Maggie’s daughter, Eno, married an American diplomat in Mexico and travelled the world. George was involved in a scandal when the United States Bank of Mexico City failed. Accused of fraudulent activities, he was imprisoned in Mexico(4) but eventually freed with American intervention. George died in 1914; Maggie remarried in 1923 to Sir Henry Sharp, an Oxford-educated Knight of the Thistle. Lady Sharp travelled in the social circles of her prominent husband but never forgot her roots and donated her family home in Odessa for use as a public library.(5)

Ira’s wife, Almeda, died June 4, 1868. Ira died on July 14, 1881, age sixty-three years. His funeral was held at the Methodist Church in Hamburg, Ontario and he was buried at Morven.


1. Walter Herrington, History of Lennox & Addington (Toronto: Macmillan, 1913), p. 378.

2. “Obituary of Elizabeth Ham,” The Banner (Toronto: May, 1845).

3. Herrington, 378.

4. Napanee Beaver, Oct. 12, 1906 and Feb. 9, 1912, Ham Family (Lennox and Addington County Museum and Archives, Napanee).

5. Larry Turner, Ernestown (Toronto: Dundas Press, 1993), p. 247.

6. “Ira Ham,” (accessed June 2011).