History Of John Harris <br> Founder Of Harrisburg PA,USA
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History Of John Harris Founder Of Harrisburg PA, USA

The John Harris Family In Canada 1820-1971
This information was researched and complied by Mrs. Carlyle C. Browne ( Sarah Ann Harris, fifth daughter of Alfred Bingham Harris, and granddaughter of Elisha John Harris of the Mansion, Harrisburg PA, USA) in 1971.


This is a record of the descendants of Elisha John Harris who, about 1817, came to Canada from Harrisburg, founded by his grandfather John Harris (the second) on the banks of the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania, USA.

The first John Harris, born in 1673 in Yorkshire, England of Welsh parents, emigrated to America late in the 17th century. When he landed in Philadelphia, his total wealth was 16 guineas ( about $81.76) but he began to improve his fortune through contracts to clear land and open streets in the city of Philadelphia.

He formed a firm and lifelong friendship with Edward Shippen, First Mayor of Philadelphia, justice of the State Supreme Court, the later president of the Provincial Council, and married Shippens niece Esther Sey (Say), also a native of Yorkshire, England. He developed cordial relations as well with the Penn family.

In 1705 the first John Harris received his trader's licence to "seat himself on the Sasquahannah"and "to erect such buildings as are necessary for his trade, and to enclose and improve such quanties of land he shall see fit." At first a roving trader, he eventually established a trading post on the Susquehannah, and soon became known for fair dealings with the Indians and later, wise counsil to the settlers, reputationswhich became traditionalwith him and his sons.

In 1733 he was granted the right to operate a ferry across the Susquehannahand for more that half a century "Harris's Ferry" was the funnel through which much of the Scot-Irish and German migration trickled west. In the same year he acquired, through grants, two tracts of land adjacentto his fairy, totaling 800 acres....site of today's central Harrisburg.

John Harris, the trader, died in December 1748 and left to his son, the second john Harris, management of the estate and control of an important strong point on the frontier.

The second John Harris continued to operate the Ferry, enlarged and fortified the trading post against indian raids and danger from the French and continuing in the traditon of his father, became highly trusted and resrespected by the settlers, soldiers, rangers, traders, as well as government authorities.

When the french and Indian war ended, he turned his attention to development of the family plantation.

One of his early decisions was to build the Mansion......a family home seperate from the trading post and on higher ground....using stone quarried from his land. The Mansion was completed in 1766.

The Plantation itself was divided into three farms and John, who had bought from his brothers and sisters the rights to all the land owned by their father, thought of dividing soem of the land into lots.

The Revolutions delayed his plans. John Harris strongly supported the the cause of freedom. He contributed provisions and money to Washington's army, and two sons of military age entered the patriot's army. One son, Johnny was killed near Quebec, Canada, on December 31, 1775.

When the Revolution ended, there was agitation among newer settlements for creation of new counties. John Harris was instrumental in the establishment in 1785 of Dauphin County and location of a new county seat "near Harris's Ferry." The government accepted his proposal to lay out a new town, to be called "Harrisburg". His son-in-law William Maclay ( later first United States Senator from Pennsylvannia) drew the town plan.....207 lots of 1/4 acres each. John Harris reserved 20 lots for himself, and retained the Mansion tract as well. Later, he offered a dozen additional lots and after his death, his executors laid out another 114 lots.

The second John Harris and founder of Harrisburg and builder of the Mansion , died in 1791. The Mansion was willed to his son, David Harris, who lived there only briefly. David's main interests were in Baltimore to which he returned, selling the Mansion to his half-brother Robert. Brought up as a farmer, Robert became responsible for much of the family business on the death of his father, the second John Harris. He bought the Mansion in 1805 and lived there for thirty years. He was paymaster of troops that marched to Baltimore in the war of 1812-14; Registrar of Wills in Dauphin County; Secretary- Treasurer of the Harrisburg Bridge Company, and instumental in the building of the first bridge across the Susquehannah River; a director of the Harrisburg Bank; one of the organizers of the Harrisburg- Middletown Turnpike; a Congressman from 1823-27. In 1835 Robert sold the Mansion to Thomas Elder, but continued to live in another house on the Mansion tract until his death in 1851.

In 1791 Robert married Elizabeth Ewing, daughter of the Reverend John Ewing of Paxton, PA. Their first child John ( the third) was born March 7, 1792, at the Mansion.

In the War of 1812-14, John joined the Army and was sent near Quebec in Canada. He received his discharge in 1815 and returned home to Harrisburg. But he liked what he had seen of the north and, being of restless disposition, came to Canada West in 1817, settling near the shore of Hamilton Bay. The City of Hamilton was then in the early stage of development... little more then a village.

John purchased eleven acres of land in Saltfleet Township, well to the east of the site of Hamilton. His land streched from the Bay shore to the Beach Road ( now Burlington Street East in the City of Hamilton). At the Registry Office, he signed his name as "Elisha John Harris".

He built a log cabin on his property, facing Beach Road, and about 1820 brought to it his bride, margaret Lottridge, daughter of a near-by settler Samuel Lottridge whose land was bordered by Lake Ontario on the north, and the present site of the Hamilton Waterworks pumping Station on the south.

Eight children were born to Elisha ohn Harris and Margaret Lottridge, and as his family grew, so did his holdings. In 1834 he bought 100 acres of land and in 1836 another 90 acres, lying between Beach Road and Barton Street, and west of the Harris Side Road (now Parkdale Avenue in the City of Hamilton). In 1837 he received the deed for this property and about this time began building a larger home for his family.

in 1838 his father Robert Harris, accompanied by his lawyer, journeyed from Harrisburg, PA to tell Elisha john that the Mansion had been sold and to suggest that he return to Harrisburg with them to help settle the estate.

Elisha John refused to go.He had put down roots in Canada and, with wife, family and considerable property, his responsibilities at that point were heavy. He was keenly interested, as well, in the development of his community. And so he remained....helping to improve roads, build bridges, assist neighbours, and was instumental in building the Methodist Lake Church, at the corner of what is now Ottawa Street North and Burlington Street East in Hamilton. In 1840 his wife Margaret Lottridge died, at the age of 38 years.

In 1842, on April 29th, he married again, to Adelia Ann (Keys) Clark of Woodstock, a widow with six children. Adelia was the daughter of Sylvester White Keys of Avon, New York State, USA, beleived to be of Dutch descent, who had come to Canada and purchased 50 acres of land at Woodstock, in Oxford County, Ontario. Adelia married Whedon Clark, a farmer at Woodstock, and they had six children. Whedon died in 1839, at the age of 33 years.

When Adelia married Elisha John Harris in 1842, he took her to his Homestead on Beach Road, Township of Saltfleet, they had six children. On June 7th, 1877 Elisha John died, at the age of 85 years, at the Homestead. Four years later on November 22, 1881 Adelia died , at the homestead also, at the age of 74 years.

To his adopted country, Elisha John Harris brought the strong sence of community which was part of his family heritage. He played an active role in working with his neighbours and developing the new land. His sons and daughters married into other early-Ontario families, and such names as Rymal, Pottruff, Gage, Nash,Milne, Steele, Brigham, Jones, Bishop, Chambers, are part of the Harris history in Ontario. Where ever Harris people located, they carried the urge with them for community involvment, and their contribution to the development of rural Ontario is significant. Most of Elisha John's family saettled within close radius of the homestead and have left their mark on Bartonville ( now in the City of Hamilton), Stoney Creek , Mount Albion, to the east of Hamilton; Glanford, Mount Hope, and Ancaster, to the south; Burlington, Lowville, and the Township of Nelson, County of Halton, to the north. Others of the family moved farther away, however, and more distant Ontario points also boast longtime harris connections....Lynden, Leamington, Windsor, Cayuga, Waterford, Simcoe, Tillsonburg, to name a few. more recent generations have carried family ties far beyond Ontario Borders, to Saskatchewan, British Columbia, New York State.

The site of the Harris homestead on Beach Road has been almost obliterated by the encroachment of heavy industry on Hamilton's waterfront. In the mid twentieth century, annexation of part of Saltfleet Township by the City of hamilton brought the Haris properties within the City limits. Beach Road became Burlington Street East, and harris Side road ( or Harris Road) became Parkdale Avenue.

Harris Family Page

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