Transcribed by Vincent E. Summers email@example.com
for the Dauphin County Pennsylvania Genealogy Transcription Project
Date of transcription: 13 Oct 2000
Copyright © 2000 – All Rights Reserved: Use, duplication or reproduction for
profit or presentation by any person or organization is strictly prohibited.
service. She died young, leaving a daughter, Margaret, who
became the wife of Dr. Samuel Maclay, of Mifflin county, Pa.
Dr. Plunket had besides the foregoing, five other children,
all sons, who died in early life.
JOHN HARRIS, the eldest son of the first John Harris, and the
founder of Harrisburg, was born in 1726 at Harris’ Ferry. He was but
twenty-three years old when his father died. At that period Harris’ Ferry
was an important place on the frontiers of Pennsylvania; and that with the
management of his father’s estate and the guardianship of his younger
brothers required care and good judgment. Soon thereafter the French and
Indian war broke out. The ferry was the ‘entre-pot’ for the Provincial
forces stationed on the frontiers. The story of John Harris’ life through
these exciting times, down to its close, remains to be written, and we propose
at some future day to venture upon the subject. Much of it reads like a
romance. He lived in perilous times—and he was equal to the emergency. He
was an officer in the Provincial service, and during all that struggle for
white supremacy against the treacherous Delawares and perfidious Shawanese he
was active and energetic. The Records of Pennsylvania contain a great deal of
correspondence between John Harris and the Provincial authorities, principally
relating to the condition of the frontiers and accounts of Indian forays.
During the Paxtang Boys’ affair of 1763 and 1764 he was among those censured
by the government, but had that government taken his advice and removed that
viperous and blood-stained band of Indians on the Conestoga, there would never
have resulted the necessity in the Paxtang Boys taking summary justice in
their own hands. When the revolutionary struggle came John Harris was not
behind his friends and neighbors in taking sides with the Colonies. Not only
his influence, but his money was given to the authorities to assist in the
contest with the mother country. One of his sons, his eldest born, fell in
front of Quebec in December, 1775; another, David, became an officer in the
war, and served with distinction. Prior to the Revolution, with a far-seeing
eye, John Harris proposed the laying out of a town at the ferry—but that
contest put an end for the time to all projects. No sooner had peace been
declared than the proposals for the new town were set forth. In the newspapers
of 1784 an advertisement to that effect was published. The new county project,
however, changed the original plans, and provided Harris’ Ferry was chosen
as the county seat the proprietor offered lands for the public use—town,
county and State—and agreed to appoint commissioners who should value the
lots of the town of Harrisburg, and which were to be sold at the sum fixed
therefor. On the 4th of March, 1785, the General Assembly of the
State passed the act for the erection of the county of Dauphin, designating
Harris’ Ferry as the county seat. Agreeable to John Harris’ plans the lots
of the town were approved and valued, and report thereof made on the 14th
day of April, 1785. The town grew rapidly, and the founder lived to see it
prosperous. He died on the 30th of July, 1791, and his remains were
interred in the graveyard of old Paxtang church. A marble slab bearing the
following inscription marks the spot:
In memory of
Who died on the 30th Day of July
In the 65th year of his age
And gave name
To the Town of Harrisburgh.
The remains of
Elizabeth his first
And Mary his second wife
Lie interred with him
Under this Stone.
John Harris was in reality one of the "men of mark"
in the early history of Pennsylvania. During the French and Indian war his
services were invaluable, and so down to the close of his active life he was
the same unflinching patriot-a generous hearted and enterprising citizen. He
had strong faith in the advantageous position of the town which he had laid
out, and some years before his death, in his efforts to dissuade Matthias
Hollenbach, of Hanover township, who was then removing to Wilkes-Barre, and
who became quite prominent in the history of that locality, said this place
[Harrisburg] would eventually become the center of business in interior
Pennsylvania and in time be selected as the seat of government of the State.
He was far-seeing. At his death he owned about 900 acres of land, including
most of what is now embraced in the city of Harrisburg. Also 200 acres on the
Cumberland side of the river, including the Ferry, as also a large tract of
land at the mouth of the Yellow Breeches, in Newberry township, York county,
with 600 acres at the mouth of Conedoguinet creek, where an old Shawanese town
once had been.
John Harris, the founder, was twice married. In the year 1749,
by the Rev. John Elder, to Elizabeth McClure, born 1729 in Paxtang, and died
January 20, 1764, at Harris’ Ferry. The following incidents, credited to the
wife of the first John Harris, refer to this noted woman. "The log house
of Mr. Harris, situated on the river bank, was surrounded by a stockade for
security against the Indians. An English officer was one night at the house,
when by accident the gate of the stockade was left unfastened. The officer,
clothed in his regimentals, was seated with Mr. Harris and his wife at the
table. An Indian entered the gate of the stockade and thrust his rifle through
one of the port-holes of the house, and it is supposed pointed it at the
officer. The night being damp, the gun simply flashed. Instantly Mrs. Harris
blew out the candle to prevent the Indian aiming a second time, and he
retreated." On another occasion a servant girl was sent upstairs for some
purpose, and she took with her a piece of lighted candle, without a
candlestick. The girl soon came down without the candle, and on Mrs. H. asking
what she had done with it, she said she had stuck it into a barrel of
flaxseed. This, however, happened to be a barrel of powder. Mrs. Harris
instantly rose, and without saying a word, for fear of alarming the girl, went
upstairs, and advancing to the barrel, cautiously placed her hands under the
candle and lifted it out, and then coolly reproved the girl for her
carelessness. These occurrences prove her to have been well fitted for the
life of a pioneer.
The children of John Harris and his wife Elizabeth McClure
- Mary, b. April 13, 1750; m. William Maclay.
- John, b. August 20, 1751. He is the son of whom his father wrote on the
4th of July, 1775, after speaking of his son David, who was an
applicant for a commission in the patriot army: "I shall let my other
son Johnny go cheerfully in the service, anywhere in America." He
joined at this time Capt. Matthew Smith’s company, and fell mortally
wounded in front of Quebec, on the 31st of December, 1775.
- David, b. February 24, 1754, at Harris’ Ferry. He received a good
English and classical education under the care of the celebrated Dr.
Alison. At the time of the breaking out of the war for Independence he was
in Baltimore. He accepted a commission in the Pennsylvania Line and was
appointed paymaster of Col. William Thompson’s battalion of riflemen. He
served in various positions until the close of the Revolution, when he
returned to Baltimore where he married. After the death of his father,
being one of the executors of the estate, he came to Harrisburg, and was
appointed by his old friend and companion in arms, Governor Mifflin, one
of the associate judges of Dauphin county, August 17, 1791. This position
he resigned on the 20th of February, 1792, to accept an
appointment in the Bank of the United States. Upon the establishment of
the office of discount and deposit, in Baltimore, he accepted the
cashiership thereof. Major Harris died in that city on the 16th
of November, 1809, at the age of fifty-five years. His wife was Sarah
Crocket, of Baltimore, and their children were: John, who died in Europe,
and Mary Crocket, who married Joseph Sterritt.
- William, b. January 23, 1756; d. July 3, 1764.
- Elizabeth, b. November 22, 1759; d.s.p.
John Harris married, secondly, in November, 1764, by Rev.
John Roan, Mary Read, daughter of Adam and Mary Read, of Hanover, b. 1730;
d. November 1, 1787, at Harrisburg, and buried in old Paxtang church
graveyard. Their children were:
- Adam, b. November 7, 1765; d.s.p.
- James (1st), b. February 15, 1767; d.s.p.
- Robert, b. September 5, 1768; m. Elizabeth Ewing.
- Mary, b. October 1, 1770; m. John Andre Hanna
- Jean, b. March 18, 1772; d.s.p.
- Joseph, b. October 23, 1774; d.s.p.
- William, b. September 1, 1776; d. August 17, 1777.
- Read, b. October 5, 1778; d.s.p.
- Elizabeth, b. October, 1780; d.s.p.
- James (2d), b. 1782; d. May 17, 1806; unm.; buried in Paxtang church
WILLIAM AUGUSTUS HARRIS, son of John Harris, the elder, born
about the year 1730, at Harris’ Ferry; d. in 1760, near Elizabethtown, now
Lancaster county. He married, October 4, 1752, Margaret Simpson, daughter of
Samuel Simpson, of Paxtang. She survived her husband only a year or two. They
- John, d.s.p.
- Simpson, was a soldier of the Revolution, and died in the service at
Samuel Harris, son of the first John Harris, b. May 4, 1733,
at Harris’ Ferry. At the beginning of the Revolution, he was a settler in
Northumberland county, and took an active part in affairs there, as also in
the so-called "Pennamite War." He afterwards removed to near Cayuga
Lake, New York, where he died on the 19th of October, 1825. At West
Cayuga, or Bridgeport, on the shore of the Cayuga Lake, in the town of Seneca
Falls, is a monument erected to Samuel Harris. From it we take the following
inscription, although the date of his birth is seven years out of the way:
Born at Harrisburg, Penn.,
May 4, 1740
An active participant in the
Stirring scenes of the old French War
Was present at surprise and defeat
Of Braddock near Fort Du Quesne
He was the decided friend of his
Country and her Cause,
In the War
Of the Revolution, during which he was
Appointed Captain of Cavalry
Emigrated to and settled on the
Bank of the Cayuga Lake in the year 1795
Where he died Aug. 19, 1825
Aged 85 years 3 months 15 days.
On the same monument is this inscription:
Elizabeth Harris wife of Samuel Harris
Born at Philadelphia March 17, 1740
Died Dec. 25, 1828
Aged 88 yrs.9 mo. 8 da.
Blessed are the merciful for they shall ob-
Samuel Harris married, in 1758, Elizabeth Bonner, of
Philadelphia. Their children, all born at Harris’ Ferry, were:
- John, b. September 26, 1760; m. Mary Richardson
- William, b. October 3, 1762; m. Miss Mead, and left issue.
- Ann, b. 1764; d.s.p.
- David, b. April 22, 1771; m. Ann ___; and their children were Alfred,
Samuel, and Elizabeth.
DAVID HARRIS, the youngest son of the first John Harris, born
about 1737, received a good education, settled at Sunbury, and was
prothonotary of Northumberland county in 1777 and 1778. He died while on a
voyage to Europe. He married a Miss Mahon, of Baltimore, and they had one
child, Esther, concerning whom we have not been able to secure information.
MARY HARRIS, the daughter of the second John Harris, and his
wife, Elizabeth McClure, was born April 13, 1750, at Harris’ Ferry; d. April
20, 1809, at Harrisburg and is buried in Paxtang church graveyard. She
married, April 16, 1769, William Maclay. He was the son of Charles Maclay and
Eleanor Query, and was born July 20, 1737, in New Garden township, Chester
county, Pa. In 1742 his parents removed to Hopewell township, Lancaster
county, now Lurgan township, Franklin county, where he grew up to man’s
estate. He was at Rev. John Blair’s classical school, in Chester county,
when the French and Indian war broke out, and desiring to enter the Provincial
service, Mr. Blair recommended him as a "judicious young man and a
scholar." He was appointed an ensign in the Pennsylvania battalion,
subsequently promoted to lieutenant, and served under Forbes and Bouquet. He
afterwards studied law and was admitted to the York county bar, April 28,
1760. He was appointed one of the deputy surveyors of the Province, and until
the Revolution was busily engaged as the assistant of Surveyor General Lukens
on the frontiers. By direction of the Proprietaries he laid out the town of
Sunbury, where he erected a stone house and resided until the close of the
war. During that struggle he marched with the Northumberland county
associators, participating in the battles of Trenton and Princeton. He was
afterwards appointed assistant commissary of purchases. In 1781 he was elected
to the Assembly, and filled many offices in the county and State, while in
1789 was chosen to the United States Senate, taking his seat there as the
first senator from Pennsylvania. A diary of the proceedings of these two years
was kept by Mr. Maclay, the original of which was in the possession of his
grandson, William Maclay Lyon. Upon leaving the Senate he took up his
permanent residence in Harrisburg, where he built the stone house yet standing
at the corner of Front and South streets. He represented the
county of Dauphin in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives
in 1795 and 1803, and was a Presidential elector in 1796, and from 1801 to
1803 one of the associate judges of the county. He died at Harrisburg on the
15th of April, 1804. In the old Paxtang churchyard is a flat marble
stone with this inscription:
To the memory of
William Maclay, Esq.,
Late of Harrisburgh,
Who departed this life April 16, 1804,
Aged 68 years.
In the death of this valuable member of
Society his Country has lost an enlightened
Citizen and his family their only support.
He held some of the most honourable offices
In Pennsylvania and the United States
And discharged their duties with firmness
To an enlarged and superior mind he added
The strictest morality and served his God
By improving himself in virtue and knowledge.
He has gone to receive a glorious reward
For a life spent in honour and unsullied by crime.
His afflicted wife and children raise this stone
Over his grave and have no consolation but
In the remembrance of his virtues.
O’er thy loved tomb shall angels bend,
And true affection tribute pay,
To mourn the Father, Husband, Friend,
Untimely torn by Death away.
Tho’ power and honour could not save
Thy mortal part from Death’s abode,
Th’ ethereal spirit bursts the grave
And seeks the bosom of its God.
"Words of truth for once told on a tombstone," said
William Darby, the geographer, who knew Mr. Maclay well. For further notes
concerning him see "History of Dauphin County." The children of Mary
(McClure) Harris and William Maclay were (surname Maclay):
- John-Harris, b. Feb. 5, 1770; d.s.p.
- Elizabeth, b. Feb. 16, 1772; d. April 19, 1794. In Paxtang church burial
ground is a large marble slab with this inscription:
The Memory of
A lingering distemper
Borne with resignation
Put a period to her life
On the 19th of April, 1794
In the 23d year of her age.
Annexed to her station
Were dischargad <sic> without a
Her weeping Parents
Have placed over her this stone
Of her virtues and of
- Eleanor, b. January 17, 1774; m. William Wallace.
- Mary, b. March 19, 1776; m. Samuel Awl.
- Esther, b. September 19, 1778; m. Dr. Henry Hall.
- Sarah, b. January 5, 1781; m. John Irwin.
- Jean, b. March 19, 1783; m. John Lyon.
- William, b. 1784; d. 1785.
- William (2d), b. May 5, 1787; d. Monday, March 22, 1812, at Harrisburg,
ROBERT HARRIS, son of the second John Harris, and his wife
Mary Read, was born September 5, 1768, at Harris’ Ferry. He received a good
education, and was brought up as a farmer, residing during the early portion
of his life in the old log house which stood where the Harris Park school
building is erected. He filled various positions of honor, and during the war
of 1812-14 served as paymaster of the Penn’a troops. He was elected to
Congress two terms, 1823 to 1827. Mr. Harris was one of the most active and
energetic men of his day. Possessed of great public spirit, he aided in the
establishment of various enterprises, including the bridge over the
Susquehanna, Harrisburg Bank and Harrisburg and Middletown turnpike. When the
Assembly of the State decided to remove the seat of government to Harrisburg
he was selected as one of the commissioners for fixing the location of the
Capitol buildings before removal. Many of our old citizens remember well the
last prominent act in his long life, the address of welcome made by him to
President Taylor. Mr. Harris died at Harrisburg on the 3d of September, 1851,
at almost the age of eighty-three years. He married in Philadelphia, May 12,
1791, Elizabeth Ewing, daughter of Rev. John Ewing, D. D., provost of the
University of Pennsylvania. She died at Harrisburg on the 27th of
April, 1835, in the 63d year of her age. The children of Robert and Elizabeth
Ewing Harris were:
- John, b. March 9, 1792; died June 22, 1846; unmarried.
- Hannah, b. December 21, 1793; d.s.p.
- David, b. March 27, 1796, at Harrisburg. He received his education in
the schools of the town and at the academy there. At the age of eighteen
he went to Philadelphia, where he was engaged in mercantile pursuits
several years, when he returned to his native town and established himself
in the general
transportation business in connection with the canal, and
subsequently in merchandizing. For many years he was clerk of the borough
and city councils, was a justice of the peace under the borough charter, and
one of the first aldermen elected under the city charter. In 1814 Mr. Harris
marched to Baltimore—one of the youngest in that band of brave defenders—with
the "Harrisburg volunteers," and was among the last of its
survivors. Upon his retirement from councils he lived in quiet retirement,
his age rendering it impossible for him to participate in any active
business. He was a man of strict integrity, and lived an honorable and
correct life, doing what he had to do faithfully, beloved and respected by
his friends and neighbors. He died at Harrisburg on the 14th of
March, 1880. Mr. Harris married Elizabeth Latimer, who survived to a ripe
old age. Their children were Mary, Philip-Small, Henry-Latimer, Louisa, m.
Charles H. Wilson, and Sallie-Latimer. Of these Mary is deceased; Philip-S.
resides at St. Paul, Minn.; Mrs. Wilson, a widow, at Philadelphia, and the
others at Harrisburg.
- George-Washington, b. June 23, 1798, at Harrisburg, where he died on the
13th August, 1882. He received a preliminary education at the
old Harrisburg academy and select schools of the town. Subsequently he
went to Dickinson, Jefferson and the University of Pennsylvania,
graduating at the latter institution. He studied law and was admitted to
the Dauphin county bar at the December term, 1820. He remained at
Harrisburg several years, during a portion of which period he served as
deputy attorney general for the county of Dauphin. He afterwards removed
to Philadelphia and entered into law partnership with Calvin Blythe, at
one time judge of this district. He returned, however, in a short time to
Harrisburg, and resumed his place at the Dauphin County bar, and was
appointed reporter of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, publishing a
series of volumes of reports. For a number of years he filled the position
of secretary to the Library Committee of the United States Senate. Until
the last day of his long life he was very active—physically and
mentally. In his address, appearance and manners, he belonged to the old
school. He was a great reader, a man of good information and of fine
conversational powers. He was exemplary and upright in his intercourse
with his fellow-citizens, and was highly respected by all. Mr. Harris
married Elizabeth Mary Hall, daughter of Dr. Henry Hall, whose wife was
Hester Maclay, daughter of Senator William Maclay. She died during the
year 1884. Their children were Elizabeth-E., m. J. Wallace Kerr;
Catharine-Hall, m. William Morris; Robert, William-H., and Julia-Todd.
Mrs. Kerr, a widow, resides at Harrisburg, as does Julia T. Robert and
William H. were both physicians, and died in the prime of life. Mrs.
Morris resides in Delaware.
- Thomas-Jefferson, b. October 17, 1800. He received a good education, and
was appointed a midshipman in the U.S. Navy. He passed a few years in the
service, but having little inclination for a man-of-war life, he resigned
and returned to Harrisburg, where he lived in quiet retirement until the
close of his life, which terminated on the 10th of August,
1878. He was genial and generous, affable and entertaining, and a student
his whole life long. Mr. Harris married, in 1859, Eliza Stine, of
Harrisburg, but she died within a year thereafter.
- Robert (1st), b. January 29, 1804; d. March 8, 1804.
- Robert (2d), b. March 21, 1808. He was a physician and practiced his
profession at Harrisburg a number of years. He died there on the 19th
of December, 1863, unmarried.
- William-Augustus, b. August 21, 1810. He was an Episcopalian minister,
resided at Washington, D. C., and the last survivor of the children of
Robert Harris. He married Catharine Butcher, and their
children were James-Otey, Catharine, William, and Robert.
MARY HARRIS, daughter of John Harris and his wife Mary Read,
was born October 1, 1770, at Harris’ Ferry. She was an active and energetic
woman, and closed a life of four score years on the 20th of August,
1851. She married John Andre Hanna, a native of Flemington, N. J., where he
was born about 1760. He was the son of Rev. John Hanna and his wife Mary
McCrea. He received a good education under the direction of his father, and
was partly educated at the College of New Jersey. It is probable that he came
to Pennsylvania as a tutor, afterwards studying law with Stephen Chambers, of
Lancaster, a noted lawyer of his day, and was admitted to the bar of that
county in 1784. Upon the formation of the county of Dauphin he located at
Harrisburg, where his marriage to a daughter of the founder of the new town
gave him a prestige and prominence he would perchance not otherwise have had.
With this influence of family, and his great natural abilities, he soon became
the leader at the bar. Probably an active participant in the war of the
Revolution, he had a decided taste for military affairs. He commanded one of
the first companies raised in Harrisburg, and during the so-called Whiskey
Insurrection of 1794 was in command of the Second brigade of the Pennsylvania
forces. The same year he was elected to Congress, and up to the time of his
death served in that illustrious body. He died, somewhat suddenly, on the 18th
of July, 1805, and his remains repose in the cemetery at Harrisburg. General
Hanna was a man of rich promise, was a leader of the anti-federal party, and
the colleague of Gallatin, Smilie and other Pennsylvanians, then quite
prominent in the political affairs of the nation. He was a gentleman in
manners and deportment and eminent in his life work. The children of General
Hanna and his wife Mary Harris were:
- Esther-Harris, d.s.p.
- Eleanor, d.s.p.
- Sarah-Eaton; she married in 1820 Richard Templin Jacobs, who died
November 25, 1842. He was a prominent merchant of Harrisburg. Their
children were Samuel, Henrietta, James, George-W., and Eliza. The latter
was twice married, first to A. K. Cornyn, a lawyer, and secondly John J.
Clyde, of Harrisburg.
- Henrietta, d. 1840; unm.
- Caroline-Elizabeth, b. 1795; d. 1880 at Harrisburg. She married, in
1813, Joseph Briggs, of Silvers Spring, and they had John-Hanna, m. Julia
Ann Todd, and Mary, m. Hon. John J. Pearson.
- Frances-Harris, m. John Carson McAllister, and left issue.
- Juliana-C., m. John Fisher.
- Mary-Read, m. Hon. John Tod. He was the son of David Tod and Rachel
Kent, and born in Suffield, Hartford county, Conn, in November, 1779. His
father was a Scotchman by birth and a man of an original turn of mind,
possessing much shrewdness, and a dry kind of wit, many of his sayings
being familiarly repeated years after his decease. His mother was a native
of the town of Suffield. Young Tod received his preliminary education at
the public schools of the village, but his classical education was pursued
under the direction of the Rev. Mr. Gray, pastor of the Presbyterian
church of that town. His rapid progress in his studies enabled him on
examination to enter the junior class at Yale College, where he graduated
two years afterwards with great credit and honor to himself. After
graduating he entered the office of his brother, George Tod, then a
practicing lawyer in New Haven, and it is said was also a short time in
the office of Gideon Granger, Postmaster General under President Adams. He
was admitted to the bar of Hartford in 1800. Shortly after he went to
Virginia, where he filled the position of tutor in a family in one of the
southern counties of that State. In 1802 he located at Bedford, Pa., where
he did some clerical labor in the prothonotary’s office, and the same
year admitted to the bar there. His practice rapidly increased, and such
was his standing and popularity in the county that he was elected to the
House of Representatives of the
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1808, serving in that
branch until 1813— the last two sessions being speaker of that body.
In 1813 he was elected member of the State Senate, of which he served as
presiding officer from 1814 to 1816. He was re-elected in 1816, but
resigned the office December 20, 1816. In 1820 Mr. Tod was elected a
member of Congress, and again in 1822. The tariff question was the
leading measure of Congress during the session of 1823-4. His speeches
on the subject—particularly his opening speech, delivered on the 10th
of February, 1824, and that with which he closed the debate on the 8th
of April—are remarkable; the first for the data, facts, statistics and
other important information it conveys—the second for its powerful and
persuasive reasoning, fervid eloquence, with and satire, all expressed
in chaste and elegant language. Few subjects have elicited more masterly
and brilliant displays from American statesmen. On the 8th of
June, 1824, he was appointed president judge of the Fifteenth judicial
district, and thereupon resigned his seat in Congress. In May, 1827, he
was appointed by Governor Shulze a justice of the Supreme Court of
Pennsylvania. He had been engaged with two other judges in holding a
court at Lancaster, and becoming ill, hastened to his home at Bedford,
where, after a brief illness, on the 27th of March, 1830, in
the fifty-first year of his age, he breathed his last. The character of
Judge Tod was that of a plain, practical Republican—a downright honest
man. Without the least ostentation or disguise he remarkably
exemplified, in a Spartan simplicity of manners, the truth of his own
sentiments—that there may be a social equality in the intercourse of
men on all proper occasions without at all interfering with the
difference conferred by intellect and education. He was too humble to
think himself wiser than others, and too honest to account himself
better. The children of Mary Read Hanna and John Tod were Julia-Ann, m.
John H. Briggs; Rachel, m. Samuel A. Gilmore, of Butler; Isabella, m.
William M. Kerr, and Henrietta. Mrs. Briggs and Mrs. Kerr, both widows,
reside at Harrisburg.