Charles Harris Sr., Colonial Planter of Somerset Co., Maryland: 1748-1830

Among the 17th Century settlers of Somerset Co., Md., named Harris, Peter Coldham lists two: David Harris, planter, "Heart's Content," 300 a., Nov. 21, 1685; and Richard Harris, Curvurth 200 a. Sept. 18, 1684, and Friend's Assistance, 100 a. May 3, 1686.

Many Quakers settled the lower Eastern Shore along the Annemessex River.  "Friend" was the name Quakers called themselves. Richard Harris married Susanna Richardson Jan. 17, 1682, in old Somerset. William Harris mar. Alice Roberts Mar 5, 1767. Timothy Harney mar. Elizabeth Greene Dec. 25, 1682. Elizabeth Greene mar. John Light 1680. Henry Hayman Jr. mar. Martha Standridge Aug. 24, 1687. Also, among early settlers of Somerset County 1666-1700: William Noble, from Anglican or Church of England family.

From Torrence's Old Somerset on Eastern Shore of Maryland, "descendants of Charles Harris of Somerset & Worcester Counties, begin to see a kinship cluster form, composed of Greene, Noble, Richardson, Roberts, and Hayman families." ("Old Somerset," by Torrence, p. 398, 466). It is highly likely, Richard or William Harris of that community was the progenitor of the Somerset Harris family.

Land records of Worcester County, Maryland, show Charles Harris lived near Salisbury from 1768 to 1806.Chashar.bmp (80054 bytes) An Inventory of Prerogative Court (Vol. 108:352), May 29, 1771, cites Nehemiah Harris' next-of-kin as Charles Harris and Benton Harris. Charles Harris may have been a brother, son or nephew of of the deceased; but usually in Maryland inventories, next-of-kin were siblings. Families were large. Fathers left property to elder sons with proviso they provide for younger siblings. This practice is called primogeniture: the right of inheritance of the eldest son.

Charles Harris "the nearest kin" signature on 1771 Nehemiah Harris Inventory

Records for Charles Harris were sparse because he lived on property owned by an elder kinsman. In other words, he was probably not a tenant farmer as described by Stevens in Snow Hill Remembered. Charles, probably a younger son, was a planter of modest means who supported his large family on a small tract called "Alderbury." Prior to his first purchase of land in 1786, he was a tenant on land owned by his kinsman Benton Harris, a large land owner in both Somerset and Worcester Counties. In Land Records of Worcester County, the tract Acquango was sold Jan. 7, 1790, to Samuel Smith, having been mortgaged to Benton Harris of Snow Hill. Benton Harris died before conveyance, but willed tract to be sold after death of wife Betty Harris & John Rousby Whittington, and money to be divided among five sisters and his heirs. ("Land Records of Wor. Co," Dryden, p. 3)   

Charles Harris appeared in Stepney Parish records when he married Mary Green on Jan. 23, 1772. Green Hill Church (St. Bartholomew's) is now in Wicomico County. The old brick church with the date 1733 on its gable end still stands on the bank of the Wicomico River. The parish records also included the birth of the couple's first child: George Harris, son of Charles Harris and Mary his wife, born Feb. 9, 1773. George Harris was perhaps named for his maternal grandfather George Green, whose name had been passed down for generations. No other children are listed for Charles and Mary, so presumably they removed to Worcester County to another parish. Unfortunately, records of many Episcopal churches on the Eastern Shore were lost due to their unpopularity and non-support during the Revolutionary War.  Photo: Old Green Hill Church, Whitehaven, Md.   

On Feb. 17, 1774, Charles & Mary Green Harris were deeded a tract of 200 a. on Broadkill 100 in Delaware, formerly owned by George Green, who had died intestate  Charles sold this property to Edmond Dickinson.  (Sussex Co Del. Deed Bk K:398).

During the Revolution and afterwards, Charles lived in the Colbourne's District No. 6, Wicomico Hundred, Worcester County, a few miles from town of Salisbury. He would have been a planter not living within the confines of a town.

Charles Harris was in the Md. Militia 1776 and 1780.  All men, regardless of their religious beliefs, between the ages of 16 and 60, were obliged to sign up for the militia at the beginning of the Revolution. British war ships in the Chesapeake Bay made forays on the Eastern Shore for supplies. Worcester Co. Militia would have responded to calls of distress from the citizens asking for help in protecting their plantations and families. To be prepared, a sharp watch was placed on movement of British ships in the Bay. Adding to the problem, were home-grown loyalists who aided, sometimes joined, the British army. In this time of crisis, Charles Harris of Worcester Co., Wicomico Hundred, was in the Maryland Militia. Charles Harris can be found in several books on the subject as follows:

Revolutionary Patriots of Worcester & Somerset Cos, Md. 1775-1783, by Henry C. Peden, the following citations:

"Charles Harris, Pvt., Worcester Militia, Snow Hill Battalion, Capt. Ebenezer Handy's Co., April 9, 1776 (Ref. Clements & Wright, Md. Militia, p. 249 cites "Muster Rolls and Other Lists,"  Maryland Historical Society, MS 1814, )

Wicomico Battalion Classed  the 15th of July 1780, Capt. Handy's Company, Second Class: Charles Harris, 2nd Lt.  (Ref: Clements & Wright, op cit, p. 254n & "Militia Lists of Daughters of Founders & Patriots held by Md. Hist. Society)

Charles Harris was found in "Store Accounts of John Nelms" (pp. 34-35), a storekeeper in Salisbury, Wicomico Hundred, Worcester Co, Md.  Under Harris debtors, Charles Harris (Feb. 20, 1768 - Mar. 4, 1776) was listed. He had delivered corn for credit on accounts of James Twillery Jr. (1768) and Marcellus Hobbs (1776). Barter was a common practice in the colonies and was one reason for the Revolutionary War. Hard money was simply not in circulation, so the way around that was barter.

In 1783, Charles Harris was on the Worcester Co. Tax List for 200 a. called "Alderbury," which was named in 1695 for town in Wiltshire, England, by patentee Thomas Cox. ("Settlers of Md," Coldham, p. 39) Charles Harris family numbered 3 males (Charles Sr., Charles B. & George Harris) and 4 females (Mary Green Harris, Tabitha, Mary and Elizabeth). Charles Harris subsequently received deeds to three separate tracts of Worcester County land: (a) tract from Wm. Dykes on Sept. 1786 (Liber M:488), (b) tract from Benjamin Dennis & Elijah Christopher July 1796 (Liber R:144), and (c) tract from Johnson Hayman, his neighbor, Oct. 1800 (Liber U:4).

US 1790 Census shows Charles Harris in Worcester Co. with 10 members: 1 FWM 16+, 3 WM -16, and 6 F.  Before July, 1795, Mary Green died. Charles married (2) Hannah Noble, widow of Joshua Noble, on July 15, 1795. Her young daughter, Matilda Noble, came into the family and appeared in will of Charles Harris in Campbell Co, Ky. as Matilda Thomas, w/o Basil Thomas.

Maryland's 1800 Census listed the Charles Harris household as follows: 1 M -10 (John Harris); 4 M 16-26 (Charles B., William, Thomas, & James); 1 M 45+ (Charles Harris Sr.); 5 F -10 (Sally, Nancy, Charlotte, Lucretia, Matilda Noble) 1 F 10-16 (Rhoda), 1 F 26-45 (Hannah Noble Harris).

On March 29, 1806, Charles Harris sold 50 a. of "Williams Choice" to Levin White. This property was located in Coulbourne District of Worcester Co Md. (Dryden's "Land Records Wor Co.," p. 673) This tract was near the 9 acre tract "Brandy Wine" which Charles Harris had purchased from Johnson Hayman on Jan. 10, 1801. The White family lived next door: Henry, Benjamin, Lemuel, & Gustavous White. (Dryden, op. cit., p. 71)

When Charles Harris left Maryland between 1807-1807, most of his family accompanied him. Kentucky's 1810 Census listed the Charles Harris household as follows: 1 M 16-26 (John); 1 M 45+ (Charles Harris Sr.); 2 F -10 (Catherine, Henrietta), 1 F 10-16 (Lucretia), 1 F 16-26 (Matilda Noble), 1 F 26-45 (Hannah Noble Harris). Four of the children had married by 1810: Charles B. Harris m. Catherine Sturgis Jul. 17, 1801; Elizabeth Harris m. Solomon K. Price Oct 10, 1797; Thomas Harris m. Sarah Mills Jul. 15, 1796; Nancy Harris m. John Jenner Apr. 17, 1804. John Jenner, a carpenter, owned a tract of land in Somerset in 1790 purchased from Thomas Goslee (Liber I:40). John and his family went to Kentucky with the Harrises.

Charles Harris  lived out his last years, assisted by several of his daughters and a step-daughter named Matilda Noble who married Basil Thomas on Apr. 3, 1823. During his last illness while confined in bed, he was nursed by his daughter Henrietta who decided to elope to Indiana with an old sweetheart, Hiram Leak. Even though Charles recovered, he never forgave his daughter. The distribution of his property in 1834 lists eleven heirs. He inserted a codicil in his will disinheriting Henrietta Leak. He died in either November or December of 1830 at his Harrisburg Hill home at age 62. [Copy of his 1830 will in Snow Hill Remembered, p. 55.]

The Harris family settled along the Licking River in Campbell County on the brow of a hill they named Harrisburg Hill. The Licking River carves a winding channel through the rolling hills of Northern Kentucky. On either shore rise steep bluffs with occasional coves of rich bottom land. From Mason County, Charles Harris moved his family into southern end of Campbell County on land bordering the Licking River near Grant's Lick, a small hamlet named for John Grant, a prominent landowner. The Grants held 17,000 acres. The Grant surname figures in the Harris line because George Harris, s/o Charles, named his first son for his friend, Squire Grant. Other Harrises settled not far from Harrisburg. Tax Lists for Campbell began in 1795. George & James Harris appear together on a listing dated Apr. 20, 1803, for 275 a. on Bank Lick Creek. In 1807, George's brother-in-law, John Jenner, purchased 30 a. on the Licking River called "Churchwell."

Land purchased by Charles Harris was part of the Caldwell-Kennedy-Rubsamon Patent of 1,398 acres which included the John Harris survey in 1784 of 5,000 a. This property consisted of "200 a. on e. side of Licking River" beginning at Rubsamon's back line. Charles Harris purchased this 200 a. tract from Jos. Russell on March 4, 1807. (C.C. Deed Bk C:177). His land lay atop the bluff overlooking the river on what became known as Harrisburg Hill. Sometime before 1820, John Harris (1792-1883) built a log farmhouse at the south end Harcabin.jpg (26886 bytes)of the property near the corner of today's Pleasant Ridge & Harrisburgh Hill Roads. Charles Harris probably built on the north 100 acres as indicated in an early deed, although no trace of this homestead was found. It was here Charles brought his family and made his living as a farmer.

John Harris, son of Charles,  lived his entire life on Harrisburgh Hill, never once traveling far from home. His descendants have lived in Campbell Co. for nearly 200 years. John died December 30,  1883, at age 91, having outlived almost all of his brothers and sisters. He is buried in an unmarked grave, along with his wives, in a mound in the center of a field just north of his old homestead on Harrisburgh Hill. 

Photo left: Harrisburgh Hill two-story log cabin at end of lane on Dawson farm near the Licking River. John Harris, or his son William Harris, may have built the log cabin. Later owners covered it with metal siding. The property was maintained over the years by Ruth Harris, a great-granddaughter of William Harris. It now stands at the end of a lane on the Dawson farm near the intersection of Pleasant Ridge and Harrisburgh Hill Roads. (Ref. 1883 Lake Atlas Map for Grant's Lick Pct.) If you have information on the log cabin pictured, please contact Pat Doster or Buck Seibert.


Children of Charles Harris & First Wife Mary Green:

1. George Harris b. Feb 9, 1773, Somerset Co Md., d. May 23, 1836, m. Martha Maddox, d/o Notley & Violette Maddox

2. Thomas Harris b. c1775, Worcester Co, Md.

3. James Harris b. c1777, Worcester Co, Md.

4. Charles B. Harris b. Dec 27, 1778; d. Jan. 27, 1854. 

5. Elizabeth Harris b. c1779, Worcester Co, Md.

6. Tabitha Harris b. c1781, Worcester Co, Md.

7. Nancy Harris b. c1782, Worcester Co, Md.

8. William Harris b. c1786, d. Jul. 3, 1847, Worcester Co, Md.

9. Rhoda Harris b. Apr. 22, 1788, Worcester Co, Md.

10. Mary Harris b. c1790, Worcester Co, Md.

11. John Harris b. c1792, d. Dec. 30, 1883.

12. Sarah "Sally" Harris b. Oct 1, 1794, d. Feb 3, 1887, Worcester Co, Md.

Children of Charles Harris & Second Wife Hannah Noble:

13. Charlotte Sturgis b. Mar. 23, 1797 Worcester Co Md.; d. May 22, 1875

14. Lucretia Harris b. c1799 Worcester Co Md.

15. Catherine b. c1801 Worcester Co Md.

16. Henrietta b. 1805 Worcester Co Md., d. Apr 5, 1874 Montgomery Co, Ind.

George Harris & his wife Martha "Patsy" Maddox           

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Bibliography:

"Snow Hill Remembered: History of the Harris Family of Md., Ohio & Kentucky," Richard E. Stevens, Bowie, Md.: Heritage Books, 1994, pp. 27-35.

"Land Records of Somerset Co, Md.," Ruth T. Dryden, Westminster, Md.: Fam. Line Pub., 1985.

"Land Records of Worcester Co, Md.," Ruth T. Dryden, Westminster, Md.: Fam. Line Pub., 1987.

"Settlers of Md. 1679-1700," Peter Wilson Coldham, Balto. Md.: Gen. Pub. Co., 1995. 

"Old Somerset on the Eastern Shore of Md.," Clayton Torrence, Westminster, Md: Fam. Line Pub., 1992.