« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »
ANNALS OF HARRISBURG.
JOHN HARRIS-HIS FIRST SETTLEMENT.
From authentic records, we learn that John Harris commenced a settlement, on the present site of Harrisburg, a short time previous to the year 1719.
Mr. Harris was a native of Yorkshire, England, and appears to have been a brewer by profession, as he worked at that business in the city of London. In “Watson's Annals” it is stated that “he was a middle-aged man when he came to America, and was one of the first emigrants with William Penn, at which time his entire capital amounted to only sixteen guineas.” Hefirst settled in the city of Philadelphia; and according to a writer in Hazzard's Register, “the nucleus of his future wealth was formed by a profitable contract he obtained from the authorities for removing the stumps and opening streets in that city.”
During his residence in Philadelphia, Mr. Harris was on intimate terms with, and enjoyed the friendship and esteem of, Edward Shippen, Esq., the first Mayor of that city, and for a long time one of the leading members of the Provincial Council. It was in this gentleman's family that he first saw and become acquainted with his future wife, Esther Say, also a native of Yorkshire, who is represented to have been a lady of superior intelligence and extraordinary energy.
HARRIS BECOMES AN INDIAN TRADER.
From Philadelphia, Mr. Harris and his wife moved to Chester county; thence to the neighborhood of the present site of Bainbridge, Lancaster county. Being an enterprising man, he became an active pioneer, and with the fruit of his industry commenced a trade with the Indians, penetrating by degrees to the westward until he reached the present site of Harrisburg.
On the 17th of December, 1733, the proprietaries of Pennsylvania granted to John Harris, by patent, three hundred acres and allowance of land, extending from what is now the upper boundary of the borough of Harrisburg, down the river to a black oak somewhere near the termination of Walnut street with Front street, and thence back by a line, now the upper line of the Messrs. Hamilton's brick-yard, to the rear line, now the line of Mrs. Sales' farm. On the same day, December 19, 1733, a patent was granted to Joseph Turner for five hundred acres and allowance, adjoining the above, and extending down the river from the aforesaid black oak to what is now the division line between the lands of the late John Mahan and Mrs. Hanna, deceased, extending back from the river, and embracing the James Harris tract, now the property of A. B. Hamilton. This was taken up by John Harris in the name of Joseph Turner, no doubt, to comply with certain usages of the Land Office, for on the next day (December 18) Joseph Turner conveyed to Edward Shippen, who on the next day (December 19) conveyed to John Harris.
Here Mr. Harris deposited his merchandize, and opened a profitable commerce with his red neighbors, who at that time were very numerous. He gradually acquired the friendship of most of these tribes, receiving their peltry and other objects of Indian traffic for his ammunition and rum. This led to an active exchange of commodities, and gradually enabled him to pur
chase the land adjacent to his establishment, and to undertake considerable agricultural improvements.
The majestic Susquehanna, nearly a mile broad, flowed in front of his hut, while along its high banks nothing was to be seen but one dark mass of woods, reaching to the summit of the lofty hills that bounded the view in every direction
BIRTH OF JOHN HARRIS, JUNIOR.
In the bosom of this wilderness Mr. Harris' family was located, and here was born, about the year 1727, John Harris, the founder of Harrisburg, who, it is said, was “the first white child born in Pennsylvania west of the Conewago hills who attained the age of manhood.”
The son thus born was carried to Philadelphia by his mother for the purpose of being baptized; and according to the Parish Register of Christ Church, in that city, this event was duly solemnized on the 22d day of September, 1728—his age at the time being 11 months.
HARRIS' MANSION ON THE SUSQUEHANNA.
Mr. Harris' first habitation was on the lower bank of the river, about one hundred and fifty or two hundred feet below the spot where now repose his remains. The foundation walls of this house have been seen by some of our oldest citizens.
A well, dug by Mr. Harris, still exists about one hundred feet east of his grave. It was covered over about ten years ago, but its site is easily distinguished by a small circular mound of earth. Mr. David Harris, a great-grandson of John Harris, states that in his early days “this well supplied a large neighborhood with water, which was exceedingly cool and pleasant to the taste.”
In connection with his mansion-house, he erected a large range of sheds, which were sometimes literally filled with skins and
furs, obtained by him in traffic with the Indians, or stored there by Indian traders, who brought them from the western country. These skins were carried, at an early day, on pack horses to Philadelphia for sale.
HARRIS CONDEMNED TO BE BURNED HIS RESCUE.
In this state of affairs, it happened one day that a number of Indians of the Mahanoy, Mahantongo or Shawanese tribe, (most probably the latter,) who had been down the river either on a predatory or trading expedition, stopped at the house of Mr. Harris on their return northward. Most, or all of them, were under the influence of liquor, and demanded of Mr. Harris an additional supply of lum, meaning West India rum, as the modern whiskey was not then manufactured in the Province. Perceiving that they were already intoxicated, and fearing mischief, Mr. H. refused to grant the demand; whereupon they became greatly exasperated and dragged him to an adjoining mulberry tree, to which they firmly bound him.
Here they declared their intention to torture and burn him alive, and bade him prepare for instant death. Dry wood was gathered and piled around his feet, and torches held in readiness to kindle it; the yells of the enraged savages echoed along the river shore and through the surrounding forest, while with demoniac gestures they danced around their victim. Death in its most cruel form was before him; and, bereft of hope, he gave himself up for lost. In vain he supplicated for mercy, and offered to give up everything in exchange for life; but the savages were deaf to his entreaties, and declared he should die. The flaming torch was advanced towards the pile, and about being applied, when a band of friendly Indians, supposed to have belonged to the Paxton tribe, and to have come across the river from either the Indian village opposite Harris' residence, or the one situated at the mouth of the Candogoguinet creek, burst suddenly upon the scene and set him at liberty.
These Indians were led on by a negro man named “Hercules," a slave belonging to Mr Harris, who at the first alarm ran to the neighboring tribe to beg for succor, and now brought it to his master's relief. The deliverance was well timed. A moment's delay would have been fatal. The presence of mind, the decision, the speed of this negro alone saved Mr. Harris ; and so sensible was he of the great service rendered to him by this poor slave that he instantly emancipated him, and some of the descendants of the worthy Hercules still reside in the borough, enjoying their freedom, so nobly won, in the bosom of the large community who occupy the ground on which the occurrence took place.
An escape so providential was suited to make a deep and lasting impression on the mind of Mr. Harris. Pious and grateful feelings fastened to his heart. It was a signal deliverance; it was a manifest evidence of God's merciful interposition. Struck with this conviction-in order to perpetuate the memory of it among his own descendantshe directed that at his death his body should be deposited at the foot of this mulberry tree; and there it lies, with some of his children, a memento at once of savage ebriety, domestic fidelity, and above all, of the watchfulness of Him who alone can inflict or withhold the stroke of death."
The above facts are gathered chiefly from an account of the affair written and published in 1828, by Hon. Samuel Breck, at that time a State Senator or Representative from Philadelphia. Mr. Breck enjoyed an intimate acquaintance with the late Robert Harris, Esq., from whom he derived the particulars of the incidents as the latter gentleman had received them as part of the traditional history of his family.
Mrs. Bell, a daughter of Mr. Plunket, a native of Ireland, who was married to Esther, a daughter of John Harris, Sr., made the following statement in relation to this affair to George