Descendants of John Harris of Pennsylvania

Title:Record of the Harris family descended from John Harris, born in 1680 in Wiltshire, England
Author:Joseph Smith Harris
Publication date:1903
Publisher:Philadelphia : [G. F. Lasher]
Digitizing Sponsor:Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center
Contributor:Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center
Repository:Internet Archive
Title page to Record of the Harris family descended from John Harris, born in 1680 in Wiltshire, England which contains the descendants of John Harris of Pennsylvania
Record of the Harris family descended from John Harris, born in 1680 in Wiltshire, England containing the descendants of John Harris of Pennsylvania

John Harris, Sr. We know of him only that he lived in Wiltshire, England; that he was one of the persons who, in 1681, bought of William Penn rights to locate lands in Penn’s proposed colony of Pennsylvania; that he bought in this way 1500 acres, and that he thereafter sold 500 acres, leaving the remaining 1000 acres to his sons, John and Edward, and that in 1701 he had recently died.

John Harris, Jr.. Of him we know that he was a resident in 1701 of Goatacre, a small village in Wiltshire, England, and that he was a clothier — i. e. a manufacturer of cloth, which seems to have been a leading industry in that section of the country; that he was “son and heir apparent” to John Harris, and that he joined with Edward, his brother, in 1701, in selling the remaining 1000 acres of land in Pennsylvania to Philip Roman, who had been then for some years resident in that colony. John and Edward Harris seem to have originally taken these lands for themselves, their names appearing as proprietors in Birmingham township, Chester county, on a map made by Thomas Holme in 1689 for William Penn; which map shows all the lands that had been taken up in Pennsylvania to that date.

They changed their minds about emigrating, however, and John probably removed to Ireland and died there about 1744.

Edward Harris was a younger son of John Harris, Sr., a yeoman, and a resident of Goocham, in Wiltshire, in 1701. There is no reason to suppose that he removed to Ireland.

It is not known with exactness when this branch of the Harris family came to America. There was a John Harris among the twelve resident taxpayers of Easttown township, Chester county, in 1715. As this is the locality in which Thomas Harris first appears, it may be that this man was John Harris, Jr., who, with his brother Edward, in 1701 sold 1000 acres of land to Philip Roman. If so, he must have returned to the family property in Antrim, Ireland, for the record says that his sons, John and Thomas, were born there in 1717 and 1722, respectively. When his sons came to man’s estate, he may have sent them out to settle in Pennsylvania, being then too old to change his home; or, it may be that they emigrated after their father’s death.

The name of Thomas Harris first appears on the public records in Pennsylvania in a list of taxables of Easttown township, Chester county, in 1747, and the first note regarding John Harris, 3rd, is in a similar list of taxables for Newtown township, Bucks county, in 1754.

There was a William Harris whose descendants suppose that they and we are of the same family, who married Elizabeth Blair, and afterward emigrant from Ireland in 1742, and passed the rest of his life in Philadelphia. The tradition in his branch of the family is that the name was originally “Herries,” and is of French origin, but I do not know what basis there is for that belief. They also claim a bishop of the Episcopal church in Ireland as one of their ancestors.

All of these persons — Thomas, John and William — were of the Presbyterian form of faith.

Dr. Robert Harris, who was a surgeon during the Revolutionary war, and whose name frequently appears in the records of that time as a manufacturer of gunpowder for the government, was a nephew of this William Harris, and married his daughter Isabella. He built the first powder mill in the province, on Crum creek, three miles above Chester. This was about seven miles below Gnibb’s mill, on the same stream, where Thomas Harris lived from 1760 to 1768. His powder mill went into operation May 23, 1775, and he reported soon after to the Committee of Safety that he expected to be able to deliver one ton of powder weekly after June 1 for the public use.

As John, 3rd, and Thomas Harris, with whom we are more immediately concerned, were young men when they came to this country, we need not be surprised that they did not at once settle down, and did not, therefore, appear anywhere on the list of taxables for several years after their arrival. We shall probably not be far astray if we put the date of the emigration of Thomas at 1745. John may have come later upon advices from Thomas of his successful start in the new country.

John Harris, 3rd, was born in Ireland, and came thence to Newtown about 1750. The earliest notices of his residence in America are the appearance of his name on the list of taxables in Newtown in 1754, and his appointment in 1756 as one of the appraisers of the estate of Daniel Lowell. He probably married early in 1760, as his wife, Hannah Stewart, was probably born in 1741, and their first child was born in November, 1760.

He prospered in his new home, and gradually acquired a considerable property. Before 1757 he owned a store and a tannery in the village of Newtown.

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1 thought on “Descendants of John Harris of Pennsylvania”

  1. BEWARE. This book mixes different Harris DNA groups including Harris Group 3 DNA which traces the descendants of Edward Herries and Flora Douglas of Ayrshire, Scotland and their sons. Robert is mentioned in the book as he is known to be from Donegal, Ireland and many stories relate he died in site of land and was buried in Pennsylvania. His 7 sons and 1 daughter also immigrated- John, Thomas, James, William, Charles, Samuel, Robert and Margaret.. This family is storied in a document written in 1805 called “The Mifflintown Document”. Thomas owned the Bear Tavern in Lancaster, PA and was the father of the physician, Robert Harris. This Harris group were contemporaries of John Harris of Harris Ferry in Lancaster who is known to be in another DNA group.

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