Navigation Bar for book - Descendants of Isaac Harris
Foreword   |   Contents   |   Isaac Beginnings   |   Part I - William   |   Part II - John   |   Part III - Wooten   |   Part IV - Benjamin
Part V - Elizabeth   |   Part VI - Mary   |   Part VII - Reuben   |   Part VIII - Zachariah   |   Part IX - Descendants of Alexander Rhodes

Descendants of Isaac Harris -- Beginnings

By Garda M. Hodgson

Six Brothers

The story of our Harris family begins in Upper Alton, Illinois on April 22, 1858, when Benjamin F. Harris wrote a letter to his nephew, William Jasper Harris, giving him a brief account of his father's family:

Wm. J. Harris Upper Alton, Ill.
Dear nephew April 22, 1858

"If I may say so I received your's pf the 11th inst. which gave me great pleasure that you were still living. It is the first time I have heard from you since you were at Council Bluffs. . . .I suppose the querry that exists in your mind in reguards to your father's family is answered by saying that I alone am living and emotions have stirred within me by your letter and your querry . . .(that) cannot be described. . . .

You wished me to give you the genealogy of your father's family. Your great grandfather was a Virginian by birth, and was born about the year 1760 or there abouts. Benjamin Harris by name, his parents dying when he was young. He was the fourth son, namely John, William, Wooten. There were two younger boys Reuben and Zachariah whose offspring with Wooten's is in Illinois. I know nothing of John and William . . . Your great grandfather (Benjamin) married Rutha Byers and settled in South Carolina in 1788. Your grandfather (Silas) was the second son born in 1792. 1812 he was married to Jane Hill, a sister to your mother's father. Your father (Zachariah) was born April 4th 1813. Your grandfather (Silas) had seven brothers, but one is living and I don't know where he is; neither do I know where the families of the others are. William was the oldest; his family was in Tennessee when I heard from them ten or twelve years ago. Wooten's family is all dead; Amos is living, I suppose, but I do not know where.

I should be glad to have you come and see me if you can find it in your way to do so, as your grandfather left 88 acres of land that partly belongs to you and Artimisia. I wait to hear from you . . . We have five children Martha Jane, John Silas, Benjamin Pearson, Julia Emma, and Harriet Isabel.

Give my love to Artimisia, tell her I should be glad to see her, but unless she comes to Illinois, it is not very likely I shall ever see her....

You write from Iowa, were you at your grandfather Hill's? If you were tell me how he is getting along. Tell me how your Uncle Charles Chrismon is?

P. S. Don't fail to write on receipt of this. Your aunt and cousins send their love to you and Artimisia. I remain your affectionate uncle until death.

(Signed) B. F. Harris

The brothers, Benjamin and Wooten Harris, both served in the Revolutionary War, and valuable evidence of their family is found in their Pension Papers. Benjamin applied for his pension October 12, 1832 in White County, Tennessee, "where he now lives," and stated that he: ". . .was born in 1762 Southampton County, Virginia, and that he was a resident of Brunswick County when he first entered the service in 1777."

When Wooten applied for his pension September 19, 1832 in Montgomery Co., Illinois, he stated that he was born in March 1759 in Brunswick Co., Virginia, and entered the service from there in 1777. He removed to North Carolina about 1787 where he lived about 30 years then removed to Tennessee where he lived ten years or upwards. From there he removed to Montgomery County,Illinois, where he lived until his death.

Quoting from his pension record:

"Wooten Harris was a resident of Brunswick County during the whole of the Revolutionary War . . . . During the whole of the time of my service the country was in great distress on account of the inroads of the British. Once Colo. Tarlton penetrated within twelve miles of my residence in Virginia."

The brothers Wooten, Reuben, and Zachariah (my ancestor) as well as the widow of Benjamin and some of his children ended up in Illinois. The following from the book, Past and Present of Montgomery County, Illinois, p. 729:

"About the year 1827, Wooten Harris, accompanied by his sons, Benjamin and William, emigrated from Hickman County,Tennessee, to Montgomery County, Illinois. The ancestors of Wooten Harris originally came from Wales and settled in Virginia. An older son of Wooten Harris named Sterling remained in North Carolina on the removal of the father from that state to Tennessee. It will be noticed that Wooten Harris originally came from Virginia to North Carolina, thence to Tennessee then to Illinois. Wooten Harris, pioneer, had a brother Zachariah who came from Humphreys County, Tennessee, to Illinois in 1829. . . ."

The book, A Macoupin County Illinois History, Portrait and Biographical Record, pub. 1891, p. 482, has information about Zachariah Harris, and his son and grandson:

"Zachariah Harris: On the 7th of July 1830, the home of Pendleton Harris and Jane (Mallard) Harris was gladdened by the subject of this sketch, Zachariah Harris. Pendleton Harris, who was living on a farm eight miles northwest of Greenville, Bond County, Illinois, was a native of Tennessee, and a son of Zachariah Harris. The latter was born in North Carolina, and was there reared and married. He removed from his native state to Tennessee, and was a pioneer to that commonwealth, locating on Duck River. He took up a tract of timberland whereon he dwelt until 1828, when he became a pioneer to this state, journeying overland with his family and taking his household goods with him to his future home on the frontier. He located in Fayette County where he bought land and improved a farm upon which he lived until his eyes closed in death...."

Reuben Harris, brother of Wooten, Benjamin, and Zachariah, moved to Illinois before 1830, and settled in what was then Schuyler County, but later became McDonough County, Illinois. The 1830 and 1840 Census records include his family. He was buried in the Liberty Cemetery, Blandinsville Township, McDonough County, Illinois. A marker records his birthdate as 22 Mar 1771 and his death 2 May 1845.

Found: The Father and Two Sisters of the Brothers

As I began my search of the Brunswick County, Virginia, records, I knew many others had tried and failed to find anything there. Apparently, however, they didn't search the Court Order books, for that is where I found the following:

030,666 Brunswick Co VA Court Order Books
Bk 12 p. 175 26 Nov 1777 "Ordered that John Harris, Wooten Harris, Benjamin Harris, Elisabeth Harris, & Mary Harris, orphans of Isaac Harris, dec'd, be bound out by the church warden of Meherrin Parish according to law."

Bk 14 p 165 29 June 1785 "Wooten Harris allowed for one gun taken by the militia 14-10-0"

Finding three of the six brothers at last in exactly the right place and time period seems more than coincidental especially when one of them has a name like Wooten Harris. I have never found this name in any other branch of the family. Not listed were William and the two younger brothers, Reuben and Zachariah. I reasoned that William was the oldest, rather than John, and over age 21 by 1777; and, since the court considers children orphans if their father is deceased, even though their mother is still living, the two younger children probably remained with their mother. Reuben Harris was born March 22, 1771, so was age six years in 1777, and Zachariah would have been about age four years at that time.

Finding the two girls made me wonder if Isaac had other daughters who were not mentioned because they were over age 21, married, or very young. What a boon it would be for present day genealogists, if the Meherrin Parish Registers could be found for this period. The secrets that they hold would undoubtedly add considerably to our knowledge of this family.

When I first found this information, I also found the christening records of Wooten Harris' wife Frances Adams, and her brothers and sisters. I knew her birth year from her testimony given under oath before the Fayette County, Illinois, Court, November 1, 1843 at which time she stated that she was 78 years old. Also, she was age 85 in the 1850 census record for Fayette County, Illinois, where she was living in the household of her son William B. Harris.

Recently her birthdate was also found in the Jonathan Cook Family Bible. The dates agree exactly with those in the parish register:

Albemarle Parish Register, Surry & Sussex Co VA (Pub. 1958)
born chr.
p 131 Sterling s of Benjamin Adams, & wife Frances 6 Apr 1752 24 May 1752
p 101 Howell s of Benjamin Adams, & wife Frances 25 Aug 1754 25 Aug 1754
p 85 Benjamin s of Benjamin Adams, & wife Frances 8 Sep 1756 -- --- 1756
p 237 William s of Benjamin Adams, & wife Frances 1 Sep 1758 12 Nov 1758
p 245 Elizabeth d of Benjamin Adams, & wife Frances 12 Nov 1760 1 Feb 1761
p 104 Howell s of Benjamin Adams, & wife Frances 21 Nov 1762 27 Mar 1763
* p 97 Frances d of Benjamin Adams, & wife Frances 19 Mar 1765 21 Apr 1765
p 302 Selah d of Benjamin Adams, & wife Frances 21 Jul 1760 29 Oct 1769
p 288 Rives s of Benjamin Adams, & wife Frances 11 Mar 1773 -- --- 1773

You will note that there are two children named Howell in this family. It was common practice at that time to give a child the same name as an older brother or sister who had passed away. The fact that the older Howell was the only child who was christened the same day he was born indicates to me that he probably didn't live very long. Also found in Albamarle Parish Register are the families of Frances Adams's grandparents -- Benjamin Adams and Agnes Ezell and Thomas Atkinson and Eliza.

In the records from Rutherford County, North Carolina, we find Frances's father referred to as Benjamin Adams, Sr., and her brother referred to as Benjamin Adams, Jr. This brother was also mentioned in Wooten Harris's pension papers at the time his (Wooten's) widow, Frances, appeared before the Fayette Court on November 1, 1843 giving testimony in order to receive her widows pension, to wit:

". . . she further declares that she was married to the said Wooten Harris on the 6th day of January 1784, and that her husband the aforesaid Wooten Harris died on the 11th day of February 1840 . . . she has no second evidence of her marriage, but has a register of births of her children which is here exhibited, by which it appears that her first son Sterling was born Nov 21st 1764 which to the best of her knowledge is in the handwriting of her brother, Benjamin Adams, and was written at the time or shortly after the births of the children there recorded.

Sworn to and subscribed . . . Frances ( X ) Harris."

Names Recorded in the Bible Crossed Off

The pages from the Wooten Harris Bible containing the "register of births" of her children were included in his Pension file; but there were six other births recorded on those pages besides his own children, each of which had a line drawn through it. These are: "William Harris born November 26th, 1798; William Harris born Jun 12th, 1791; Silas Harris born January 15th, 1792; Fearabea (?) Adams born February 28th 1798; Labin Walker born August 2nd, 1787." I have been unable to identify the first William. He could be a child of William or John that died as a baby or a young child. The date conflicts with the dates of known children of Wooten, Benjamin, Reuben, and Zachariah. The second William and Silas are the children of Benjamin Harris. As for Frances Walker and Labin Walker, the most likely possibility is that they are the children of Elizabeth Harris who may have married James Walker. More about this later.

Benjamin Harris Pension Record:

We quote from Benjamin Harris's Pension Record:

"Since the Revolutionary War he (Benjamin Harris) has lived in Rutherford County North Carolina, from thence he removed to Greenville District South Carolina from there he moved to the County of White, Tennessee where he now lives and has lived ever since. . . Benjamin ( X ) Harris." Also on September 10, 1853 Rachel Thomas, age 77, made oath before the White County, Tennessee Court that " . . . she was personally acquainted with Benjamin Harris, pensioner, and his widow Rutha Harris in Rutherford Co., N. C., at the time of their marriage . . . she stated she was not present at their marriage, but knows that they were married . . . she being in the neighborhood at the time, and well acquainted with the parties at the time of their marriage."

It is interesting that Benjamin Harris's pension papers tell us that he lived and married in Rutherford Co., North Carolina, while the records there are silent. On the other hand Wooten's pension papers state that he lived in North Carolina, but the county isn't specified. It is the records of Rutherford County that make it clear that this is where he lived. Records of John and William Harris are found there as well, which leads us to believe that the entire family moved to this area and this is where the younger boys grew to manhood. Still there are many questions. Did the children's mother remarry? Did she move to Rutherford County also? Or did she die before the move? As yet, we do not know the given or maiden name of their mother although the surname Wooten does seem to be a possibility.

The Harris Family in North Carolina

Rutherford County, North Carolina was formed in 1779 from Old Tryon County which was discontinued. Wooten Harris was listed in the 1790 census of Morgan District, Burke County, North Carolina, along with Ben and Howell Adams, Mark Hailey, Richard Hailey, and William Hailey. The Hailey/Haley families are interesting because Zachariah Harris later married Bathsheba Haley who was born in North Carolina, according to the 1880 censuses of two of her children. Actually, the area where Wooten Harris lived in Burke County in 1790 was added to Rutherford County in 1794-6. The people there petitioned the General Assembly of North Carolina to add "...that part of Burke County to Rutherford County that includes the waters of 2d Broad River and Conaways Creek...." because of the distance they had to travel to the Courthouse. This petition was signed by Wooten Harris, Willaim Hayley, Hodge Rayburn, Elijah Green, Philip and Joseph Goodbred, and others. (See Bulletin of the Genealogical Society of Old Tryon County - May 1987, Vol XV No. 2.

Frances Adams's father, Benjamin Adams, purchased 300 acres of land in Rutherford County, North Carolina, on both sides of Mount Creek of 2nd Broad River on January 1, 1779, in which he describes himself as being "of Tryon County, NC." Then in 1783, William Harris purchased 100 acres in Rutherford County on a branch of Cove Creek. Wooten Harris was a witness to this deed made on October 13, 1783. He married Frances Adams in 1784.

William Harris appears on the tax list of Rutherford County in 1782. Later, after William's death in October, 1811, Wooten is a co-defendant with William's widow, Ruth Harris, in a lawsuit brought by the administrators of his estate. Apparently Wooten co-signed a bond with Ruth Harris. This is strong evidence that William was in fact the brother of Wooten.

John Harris was in Rutherford County, North Carolina before October 1, 1785 when James Black sold John Harris, "both of Rutherford County, North Carolina," 100 acres on the Middle Fork of Cathey's Creek, for £80. Between 1786 and 1794, he purchased 350 acres of additional land in Rutherford County. He is the only possible candidate to be identified as the brother of Benjamin Harris as mentioned in the letter from B. F. Harris in 1858.

Benjamin and Reuben Harris

The only mention of a Reuben Harris in the Rutherford County records is in April Court 1795 when the court ordered "Reuben Harris to be fined for not serving as juror after being legally summoned." This is not likely our Reuben because he and Benjamin Harris were reported as living near each other in the Greenville County, South Carolina 1790 and 1800 censuses. These records reveal that they both were married but neither had children in 1790. In 1800 Benjamin had six children, four sons and two daughters, all under age ten. Reuben had two sons and two daughters also under ten. James Walker Jr., who is believed to have married their sister, Elizabeth, also is there in 1790 and 1800. By 1810, both Reuben and James Walker, Jr., had moved on, but Benjamin and family were still there. He is over age 45, his wife Rutha age 26-45. They now have ten children; 3M 16-25, 1M 2 F 10-16, 3M 2F under 10.

Benjamin sold his 500 acres in Rutherford County in 1818 then moved his family to White County, Tennessee, where he died May 21, 1834. His widow, Rutha, and some of his children later moved to Macoupin County, Illinois, where she died September 21, 1845.

Isaac's Daughters, Elizabeth and Mary

Isaac's daughters, Elizabeth and Mary, were apparently younger than Benjamin Harris, who was born in 1762, and older than Reuben Harris, who was born March 22, 1771. We have estimated their birth dates as about 1765 and 1768. The two main reasons we think the older daughter, Elizabeth, married James Walker are: First -- When Frances Harris, widow of Wooten Harris, submitted the register of births of her children in order to obtain her widow's pension, some of the names on this register were crossed off. Two of these names were the children of Benjamin Harris, and another can only be a son of Reuben Harris. In addition, the names of Frances Walker, Born June 30, 1785, and Labin Walker, born August 2, 1787, were included. Second -- In the 1800 Greenville County census, the name of James Walker, Jun. was listed as No. 263 after No. 261, Rheuben Harris and No. 262, Benjamin Harris.

Furthermore, the following record found in the Rutherford County Court Minutes of July 10, 1815 mentions a James Walker and Elizabeth as well as a Labin Walker. They are the right ages to e the children of Elizabeth and husband James Walker. Secondly, the following record mentions a James Walker and Elizabeth as well as a Laban Walker. The above Labin Walker, born in 1787, would be about age 28 at that time (Ref: Rutherford County, North Carolina court minutes, July 10, 1815):

Peggy Kirtland, Ledbetter Bradley, James Walker and Elizabeth and Laban Walker, being under summons to attend court as witnesses on behalf of John Kelly in his suit with Phill Goodbread, admr, being solemnly called, failed to attend, therefore forfieted, agreeable to act of assembly.

A James Walker and Laubourn Walker were included in the 1820 census record of Rutherford County. The Labourn Walker was age 26-44, which is the right age to be the Labin Walker who was born in 1787. The 1790 Greenville County James Walker and wife have four children, two boys and two girls. Then the 1800 Greenville County James Walker, Jun. is over 45 and his wife 26-44 years (if Elizabeth was born about 1765, she would have been about age 35 then). They have seven children, a son and daughter age 10-16, and three sons and two daughters under the age of ten. If the son age 10-16 is Labin Walker, born 1787, he would be age 13 in 1800 and age 28 in 1815 when ordered to appear in court.

We have not identified Mary Harris unless she is the Polly Harris who married John Black on February 4, 1795 in Rutherford County, North Carolina. If she was born about 1768, she would be about age 27 at that time. We know that a John Black of Tryon County purchased 100 acres in the Cove (for 50 shillings each 100 a) beginning at a red oak marked B on a branch of Cove Creek, a little above Philip Goodbread's claim or old improvement, on October 28, 1782. John Black later (October 13, 1783) sold this property to William Harris.

Zachariah Harris

There was an extra male included in the household of Benjamin Harris when the 1790 census of Greenville County, South Carolina was taken. At that time Benjamin would have been age 28, Reuben about age 19, and Zachariah about age 17, so there is a good possibility that Zachariah was staying with his brother, Benjamin, at that time. Another evidence that Zachariah was in Greenville County for a time is found in the deed dated March 6, 1818 (Greenville County Deed Book, p. 174) where Benjamin Harris is selling two tracts of land "which he purchased from Zachariah Harris." However, I was unable to find the deed where Zachariah sold this land to him. The land grants and deeds are not completely indexed, plus there are some mistakes in the indexing which makes finding these records very difficult.

Zachariah Harris married Bathsheba Haley. When their son, Thomas Wooten Harrs married for the fourth time on January 15, 1881, he reported his mother's maiden name as Basheby Haly (see Marriage Records of Fayette County, Illinois, Book A, p. 66). Her name is recorded as Bathsheba Harris in the records of the Liberty Church of Bingham, Illinois.

When we searched the records of Fayette County, Illinois, where Zachariah's family lived and where he died, we were surprised to find from the census records that his older children were born in Georgia. Later, when I was searching the records of Greenville County, South Carolina, I noticed that a lot of people were selling their property there and moving to Franklin County, Georgia. I took this as a clue and began my search for Zachariah in that county. This saved a lot of time because that's where I found him.

The first mention of Zachariah Harris was found in the Inferior Court Minutes of Franklin County, Georgia (Film No. 365,923), for Nov 25, 1799: "The following persons were drawn to serve as jurors at the next Superior Court: (Zachariah Harris's name was included along with others.)"

Zachariah Harris was included in the tax records of Franklin County,* Georgia until 1805. Several land lotteries were held in Georgia in order to encourage settlement in the state. The following persons, all of Franklin County, Georgia, were included in the Land Lottery of 1805: No. 598 Zachariah Harris, No. 599 James Haley, No. 608 William Haley, Jr., No. 676 Benjamin Harris, No. 598 Reuben Harris, No. 690 Basil Harris, No. 691 Robert Harris, and No. 659 Absalom Harris. They all drew blanks except William Haley, Jr., who drew a prize. It appears that Benjamin and Reuben came to Georgia long enough to establish residence (or pay a tax to the government) and participate in the land drawing.
[* - Franklin County, Georgia is the nearest Georgia County to Greenville County, South Carolina.]

In 1803, Zachariah Harris is recorded with 240 acres on Indian Creek for Richard Harris. (Richard Harris appears to be absent, but is charged a poll tax). Later, Zachariah Harris sells this land. The tax record is written as though the 240 acres belonged to Richard Harris, but then Zachariah sells the land as though it was his. I'm very curious about Richard, Basil, and Robert Harris. Could they be relatives of the brothers?

Move to Tennessee

By 1806, Zachariah Harris and members of the Haley family had moved to Tennessee. Later, Zachariah moved from Hickman County to Humphreys County, Tennessee. Reuben Harris and James Walker, Jr., disappeared from Greenville County, South Carolina, after the 1800 census. James Walker, Jr., may have returned to Rutherford County, North CArolina, temporarily before going to Tennessee, and Reuben moved to White County, Tennessee, before the 1820 census, which is the first census record for that area. Benjamin Harris moved from Greenville County, South Carolina to White County, Tennessee, in 1818 after he sold his 500 acres there. Later Reuben ended up in Jackson County, Tennessee, which was taken from Smith County in 1801. White County was taken from Smith County in 1806. These two counties were side by side until 1842 when Putnum County was formed from Smith, White and DeKalb Counties. DeKalb County wa formed in 1838 from Cannon, Warren, and White Counties.

Children of Isaac Harris and Wife
(Isaac's parents names and his wife's name are unknown)

The only thing we know about Isaac Harris is that he died shortly before November 26, 1777. His residence was in Brunswick County, Virginia, at that time. His children, "John Harris, Wooten Harris, Benjamin Harris, Elizabeth Harris, and Mary Harris, orphans of Isaac Harris, dec'd," were ordered by the court to "be bound out by the church warden of Meherrin Parish according to law." From this record and the letter to William J. Harris, dated April 22, 1858, we know the names of eight of their children. That the family lived in Brunswick County, Virginia is given in both Wooten's and Benjamin's pension records. However, Wooten gives his place of birth as Brunswick County and Benjamin claims he was born in Southampton County. I suspect they both were talking about the same place. It was Brunswick County at the time they were born, but after 1780, when Greenville County was formed from Brunswick County, Meherrin Parish became part of that county. It seems logical that Benjamin reported his place of birth as where it was located at the time he filled out his pension papers, but Wooten reported his as it was at the time of his birth.

Descendants of Isaac's children will be presented in separate parts of this history. William's descendants in Part I, John's in Part II, Wooten's in Part III, etc. In addition, I have included a Part IX, Descendants of Alexander Rhodes. There are many intermarriages between the descendants of Alexander Rhodes and Harris's descending from several of Isaac's children. Those descendants of Alexander Rhodes who are also descendants of Isaac Harris will be included in the Harris Part from which they descend. The Descendants of Alexander Rhodes not known to be descendants of Isaac Harris will be in Part IX.

    1. + William Harris, b abt 1754; m Ruth  ? 
    2. + John Harris, b abt 1757; m Frances  ? 
    3. + Wooten Harris, b Mar 1759; m Frances ADAMS
    4. + Benjamin HARRIS, b 1762; m Rutha BYERS
    5. + Elizabeth HARRIS, b abt 1765; m James WALKER
    6. + Mary HARRIS, b abt 1768
    7. + Reuben HARRIS, b 22 Mar 1771; m 1st  ? , m 2nd Mary or Polly (LYNCH) DUNCAN
    8. + Zachariah HARRIS, b abt 1773; m Bathsheba HALEY
# # #

Research sources from county records are listed in the Appendix

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Navigation Bar for book - Descendants of Isaac Harris
Foreword   |   Contents   |   Isaac Beginnings   |   Part I - William   |   Part II - John   |   Part III - Wooten   |   Part IV - Benjamin
Part V - Elizabeth   |   Part VI - Mary   |   Part VII - Reuben   |   Part VIII - Zachariah   |   Part IX - Alexander Rhodes

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