Indian wars and pioneers of Texas / by John Henry Brown. Page: 264 of 894
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INDIAN WARS AND PIONEERS OF TEXAS.
JOHN RICHARDSON HARRIS.
John Richardson Harris was born October 22d,
1790, at Cayuga Ferry, now East Cayuga, N. Y.,
and May 7th, 1813, married Miss Jane Birdsall,
daughter of Mr. Lewis and Mrs.Patience (Lee) Birdsail,
of Waterloo, Seneca Falls, N. Y., and for several
years thereafter resided at East Cayuga. During
the war of 1812-14 he volunteered and commanded
a company in the line; and with his father, Col.
John Harris, is honorably mentioned by Gen. Winfield
Scott in his memoirs of the campaign. He
emigrated to Missouri, and in 1819 was living at St.
Genevieve, where he was joined by his wife and two
children, and where his third child, Mary Jane, was
born August 17th, 1819. Here becoming acquainted
with Moses Austin, who was contemplating the colonization
of Texas, then a possession of Spain, he
determined to embark in the enterprise. In July,
1820, providing his family with a fine team suitable
for making the long overland trip back to Cayuga,
he accompanied them on horseback as far as Vincennes.
Having taken a contract to build a State
house at Vandalia, he returned to complete this engagement,
and then, visiting Texas, selected a location
for a home in the colony. In 1824 he received
a grant of land from the Mexican government of
4425 acres, which he located at the junction of Buffalo
and Bray's bayous, about twenty miles from
Galveston Bay; in 1826 laid out a town at this
point called Harrisburg; soon after brought out
machinery for a steam saw-mill and purchased a
schooner called the " Rights of Man," which,
under the command of his brother David, plied
between this place and New Orleans, supplying the
colonists with provisions and other necessary articles,
which were kept for sale at his store at Harrisburg.
'Holding the post of Alcalde, or local judge,
from the Mexican government, it was said he was
accustomed to hear causes seated under the spreading
branches of a large magnolia tree, situated on
a picturesque point of land separating the two bayous.
The country was too unsettled to admit of
his family moving to Texas at first, but in 1829
every thing promised well for their early removal
to their new home. There were no saw-mills in
the colony until his was erected. The machinery
was on the ground ready to be put in place
in August, 1829, when he found it necessary to
make a trip to New Orleans. There he was taken
sick with yellow fever and died August 21st,
1829. His widow, Mrs. Jane (Birdsall) Harris was
descended from a family of Birdsalls who emigrated
from England in 1657-60, and settled
on Long Island, N. Y. Her grandfather, Benjamin
Birdsall, was a Colonel in the Revolutionary
army, living at that time in Duchess
County, N. Y. He and Gen. Washington were
warm friends and the General usually stopped at
his house when in the neighborhood. Lewis, son
of Benjamin Birdsall, married Patience Lee and
emigrated to western New York, settled first at
Penn Yan and afterwards near Waterloo on a farm,
and in 1829 or 1830 emigrated to Texas, where he
lived on Buffalo bayou until the time of his death,
which occurred in March, 1843. Mrs. Jane (Birdsall)
Harris, daughter of Mr. Lewis Birdsall, was
a woman of rare courage and determination. These
qualities she displayed in traversing the wild, unsettled
regions intervening between her home near
Waterloo, N. Y., and St. Genevieve, Mo., at a
time when there were few white settlers, and in her
experience in the early days of the colonization of
Texas, which alone would suffice to fill a book of
interesting matter. In 1833, she, with her son, De
Witt Clinton Harris, removed to Harrisburg,
Texas, and participated not only in the hardships
of colonial life in the wild country, but also shared
dangers of the struggle for independence from
Mexico in 1835-36. From March 19th to April
16th, 1836, the home of Mrs. Harris was the headquarters
of the provisional government of Texas.
When she heard of the near approach of the invading
Mexican army, she and her household went
on board a schooner, which conveyed President
Burnett, Vice-President Zavala and others to New
Washington, and herself and other refugees to
Anahuac. The next day she was conveyed to
Galveston Island and with many others was encamped
there when the news of the glorious battle
of San Jacinto, fought April 21st, 1836, reached
them. About the first of May she and her two
sons, Lewis B. and De Witt Clinton Harris (who
had arrived at Galveston, April 21st, for the purpose
of joining the Texas army), returned to Harrisburg
to find that every house had been burned
to the ground by the Mexicans under Santa Anna.
Her house was rebuilt of logs, hewn by the
Mexican prisoners and with various additions and
improvements stood until October 11th, 1888, when
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Brown, John Henry. Indian wars and pioneers of Texas / by John Henry Brown., book, 1880~; Austin, Tex.. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth6725/m1/264/: accessed July 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; .