Chapter 7
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Historical Review of Dauphin County
Transcribed by Robert Demy for The Dauphin County, Pennsylvania Geneaology Transcription Project –
Date of Transcription: 16 Oct 2000
Copyright (c) 2000 – All Rights Reserved: Use, duplication or reproduction for profit or presentation by any person or organization is strictly prohibited.


Some Early Dauphin County Families

(It is not intended to give a complete genealogical record of Dauphin county families. Records of other families have appeared in print or it has been proposed to publish them in distinct publications. Taken in connection with the Chapter of Genealogical Records, this information, limited as it may be, is of great value. There may be error here and there, but these will probably prove unimportant. The editor cannot verify every statement given him. The hope is that from this meager data many may see the value thereof, and at once proceed to gather up the valuable records of their own family, and preserve it for those coming after.)


John Harris, the first, was a native of Yorkshire, England, where he was born about the year 1673. He was a brewer by occupation, and at his majority came to America with several of his brothers. Watson, the annalist, states that John Harris’ "entire capital amounted to only sixteen guineas." Although spending a few years in the new city of Philadelphia, at a time when it was decided to license but English born persons as Indian traders, he with one or two of his brothers entered that lucrative business. In January, 1705, the commissioners of property authorized and allowed him "to seat himself on the Sasquahannah at Paxtang, to erect such buildings as are necessary for his trade, and to enclose and improve such quantity of land as he shall think fit." Mention is made of him in the Colonial Records, and among the fac-similes of Indian autographs is that of John Hans. An examination of the original show this to be a misprint of John Harris. The autograph I.H. is especially amusing, placing him among the Indian chiefs of the time. By comparing this signature with one in our possession we are perfectly satisfied that the "big Indian" John Hans was our pioneer John Harris. Of the incidents in the border life of this early settle it is not our intention to say much at the present time. That he was an adventurous spirit, hardy and daring, his seating himself in the midst of the perfidious and treacherous Shawnees is sufficient evidence. "He was as honest a man as ever broke bread," was the high eulogium of the Rev. John Elder, who knew him well in the early days of his ministry. John Harris died at Harris’ Ferry, in December, 1748, his will being probated at Lancaster the latter part of that month. At times we are inclined to the belief that John Harris had been twice married. If not, his first and only wife was Esther Say, whom he married late in life. She was many years his junior, and concerning whom we have much traditionary history. It is said that Harris, on his frequent visits to Philadelphia, met her at the house of Edward Shippen, the first mayor of Philadelphia, an intimate friend of Harris. She was also a relative of the family with whom she was residing. There were married in old Christ Church, but the exact year we have no record. Esther Say Harris survived her husband, and four or five years thereafter married William McChesney, who resided on the west side of the Susquehanna, in what is now Newberry township, York county. She died there in 1757, and was probably buried in Silvers Spring church graveyard. The names of John Harris’ children who reached maturity, and probable dates of birth, are as follows:

    1. Elizabeth, b. 1720; m. John Findley.
    2. Esther, b. 1722; m. William Plunket
    3. John, b. 1726; m. 1st, Elizabeth McClure; 2nd Mary Reed.
    4. William-Augustus, b. 1730; m. Margaret Simpson.
    5. Samuel, b. May 4, 1733; m. Elizabeth Bonner
    6. David, b. 1737, m. Miss Mahon

At his death, it may be noted, the pioneer, John Harris, was buried at the foot of a large mulberry tree on the river bank, as was also his first wife, and several of his children who died in early life. The inclosure in Harris Park and the fast decaying stump of the old tree mark the site of the last resting place of the first John Harris.

ELIZABETH HARRIS, the eldest child of John Harris, married John Findley or Finley. She died in 1769 at the age of forty-nine years; her husband in 1771 at the age of almost fifty. Little is known of him, save that he was the ancestor of the Findleys or Finleys of Western Pennsylvania. The children of Elizabeth and John Findley were:

    1. Esther, who married "William Patterson, Esq., of Fermanagh." Patterson had been previously married to Isabella Galbraith, of Derry, and their only son, Galbraith Patterson, was a noted lawyer in the early days of Dauphin county courts. The children of Esther and William Patterson were: John, Isabella, William-Augustus, Margaret, and James. all of whom married, and left issue.
    2. John, m. Hannah _______; in early 1796 he resided in Washington county, Pa.
    3. Isabella
    4. William-Augustus
    5. Margaret, she married William Wirtz, of Lancaster; and their children were; Margaret, Elizabeth, Esther, Christian, Hannah, and William. Otherwise concerning them we have little knowledge.
    6. James.

As previously remarked, the Findleys went to Western Pennsylvania, and from thence their descendants have scattered over the States of the Union beyond the Ohio, where are to-day a representative people.

ESTHER HARRIS, the second daughter of the elder John Harris, born about 1724, died in 1768. She married Sr. William Plunket, a native of Ireland. At that time e was practicing medicine in Carlisle. He was an officer in the Provincial service; subsequently located at Sunbury, where he became the leader in the so-called Pennamite War --- efforts made by the government of Pennsylvania to drive off the Connecticut intruders upon the Wyoming lands. During the war of the Revolution he was suspected of disloyalty, and was once placed under arrest. Sabine, in his loyalists of America, tells some fabulous stories of Colonel Plunket. We doubt if he was ever a loyalist. As in the recent civil conflict, however, it may be that as he was not for, he certainly must be against. All of his friends and family connections were ardent for independence – and he would have entered heartily into the struggle, but with the other officers of the French and Indian war, they found themselves supplanted by inexperienced men as officers, and this rankled in their bosoms and they stood aloof. At this distance from that era it is difficult to inquire into the causes why old and well-tried officers were totally ignored in the organization of the Pennsylvania Line, and the chief places given to men who knew not the "art of was." Plunket and his fellow officers of the Provincial war, at the outset of the Revolution, hurriedly organized the militia of the counties, but when the Continental Line was formed they were left out in the organization. And so the old hero quietly retired to domestic life, only annoyed by the repeated charges of disloyalty to the cause of liberty. He died at Sunbury in the month of April, 1791, and is there buried. The children of Esther Harris and William Plunket were:

    1. Elizabeth, who married Samuel Maclay, brother of William Maclay, a member of the Senate of Pennsylvania, speaker of that body, and afterwards United States senator; an influential man in public affairs, and whose descendants have occupied and do occupy honorable and prominent positions in Pennsylvania.
    2. Isabella, who married William Bell, of Elizabethtown, N.J. She was a remarkable woman, was principal of a young ladies’ seminary many years, and died on the 10th of March, 1843, at the good old age of eight-three years.
    3. Margaret, married Isaac Richardson. A descendant was recently a representative in the United States Congress from one the New York districts.
    4. Esther-Harris – married her cousin, Col. Richard Baxter, of the British