Friday, April 16, 2010

Harrisons of Buncombe NC

The following email was archived on the Internet. It's a little hard to read there, but worth it. I have edited it here for clarity. There's some good history in here concerning the Harrisons of Buncombe Co NC and York Co SC, and even the comment that Nathaniel Harrison of Clarks Fork was just to the south of Kings Mountain.

From: Charles W. Johnson
Subject: Joseph Harrison
Date: Wed, 16 Jun 1999

Great to hear from a descendant of Nathaniel Harrison [wp: of York Co SC, who signed the will of Robert Patterson in 1775]. I do not think I have ever heard from one before! I am fascinated with your description of ability but morose personality. It is hard to figure why he left Buncombe where he was so successful and such a big property owner. He was variously Sheriff, State legislator and long time County Clerk. Once I was in the Buncombe Genealogy Society and met a researcher, a retired Judge I think of Florida and with his son a present Federal Judge of Tallahassee, Fl. I am not sure about what if any relationship he had to Nathaniel but he was very curious how he could be so successful yet coming from modest means. He thought perhaps that his marriage to Sarah Smith (his second marriage) may have been a big boost since her father was perhaps the wealthiest man around: James M. Smith who was said to be the first white person born in Buncombe. Maybe that is part of the answer.

As county clerk he ran the courthouse and if I count correctly, the courthouse had three record damaging fires while he was in office. Consequently, Buncombe is sadly deficient in Wills and Estate papers. The deeds were destroyed also but people came back in and re-registered their deeds and there are several volumes of re-registered deeds. He signed his name as N. Harrison.

Once he went to Ohio to fetch his sister [wp: Rachel Harrison Snelson] and her children. Her husband [wp: Joseph Snelson], a son of the pastor of Newfound Baptist Church had died in Ohio where he and his father [wp: John Thomas Snelson was pastor of Newfound Baptist Church from 1802-1815] and numerous others had gone for mining. Nathaniel brought her back to Buncombe where she remarried to David Miller, who had lost his wife and David Miller replaced Nathaniel as County Clerk when Nathaniel moved to Georgia. Abel Hill Harrison lived a long time and not morose as far as I can tell. He was a prosperous merchant in Villa Rica GA as well as their legislator for GA. He was admired as a philosopher and confidant. When he died all of his siblings were dead and he had no children. His considerable wealth therefore was to go to his siblings children and/or grandchildren. The court ordered an "official" genealogy of the heirs which produced much information about his siblings and their descendants.

Another document of interest, we call the "Ballard" document. It was a writeup of the family and going back into Buncombe and the writer, a descendant of Nathaniel and a Physician, told about knowing his cousins, as a child, Thomas, Nathan and Jeremiah and he told about Nathan, who became Rev. Nathan Thomas Harrison, my late wife's ggg-grandfather who also moved to GA to Murray County, as did Rev. Jeremiah, another Methodist Minister. The Thomas he probably referred to was Rev. Thomas Harrison who went to St, Clair Co. IL (Belleville) right across the Mississippi from St Louis where he was a Methodist Minister but also became a very wealthy man in the wheat and flour milling business and banks, hotels, heavy machinery manufacturing and philanthropy. Dr. Ballard referred to these as cousins but they could not be first cousins we figure since Nathaniel's father, Joseph was an only son. We do not know the relationship but close we figure.

Your Nathaniel was the son of Joseph and Margaret Hill, daughter of Abel Hill of SC. This Joseph is not to be confused with the Joseph who started this all out [wp: "this" meaning the thread of conversation they were engaged in at the time of this email]; Joseph of Charles City County, MD. There is no relationship that we know of but some old genealogical records of Buncombe claim that your Joseph was fom Charles City County. Moreover it claims that Joseph was a cousin to President William Henry Harrison Balderdash, but these mistaken records prompted the DAR to put a marker on Joseph's grave in Newfound Baptist Cemetery in Buncombe stating more errors such as calling him the famous pioneer preacher of Historic Three Forks Baptist Church in Watauga Co., NC - preposterous. This marker ceremony was with a ceremony and the press and pictures and such in the 1930's. The marker has apparently been quietly removed, but the errors persist.

Your Joseph was the son of Nathaniel Harrison of Clark's Fork of Bullock's Creek in York County, SC just south of the famous King's Mountain. Nathaniel's loyalty to the American cause in the Revolution is questioned. He may have been a loyalist and property confiscated and he could have been executed perhaps, but Joseph regained the property and he and his mother [wp: Rachel Harrison] sold the property and moved to Buncombe with some relatives, the Blacks and Ponders [wp: we can add Pattersons to this list, as Thomas Patterson of Clarks Fork SC and also Buncombe Co NC was a neighbor of old Thomas and Nathaniel Harrison on Clarks Fork, and then also a neighbor to Thomas Harrison in Buncombe. Furthermore, Thomas Patterson was married to a Margaret Harrison, of the same age as Nathaniel and Thomas Harrison]. The Ponders were notorious Tories and the last I heard the Sheriff of Madison Co. NC which was part of Buncombe has long been a Ponder. We do not know the parents of Nathaniel, father of Joseph, but we think we find him in the book SETTLERS BY THE LONG GREY TRAIL by J. Houston Harrison and we feel that all the other Harrisons of Buncombe are from this same family but probably from a missing link we have not yet found. I belong to a group of researchers of the Buncombe County Harrisons and we have never had anyone from your Nathaniel's family. Welcome! We have much more information and members of that family but I guess that this is enough for now. One other item. We were in the Atlanta Archives and we found a letter from someone in Hollywood CA who sounded important but I had never heard of. The letter was addressed to the Governor seeking information on your Nathaniel and his brother Abel Hill Harrison and their GA legislative file. The Governor sent this letter to the head of the Archives and asked him to respond, which he did. It told that Nathaniel was born in SC in the Greenville area, but did not say where Abel Hill was born . This suggests to me that his mother went home to SC to have her baby with her parents, the Abel Hills.

In the 1800 census your Joseph was shown in Rutherford County NC (always confusion as to just where the border was between N and S Carolina in this area. But in Buncombe was Thomas Harrison with a household of 14 including a number of adults. Nearby were households of John Grantham whose wife was Elizabeth daughter of Thomas Harrison and Eleanor his wife, and also nearby was Ezekiel John whose wife was a Harrison, and John Harrison whose wife was Davis. This household seems to be a hot bed of future Methodist preachers named Harrison and Grantham. It was a year later in 1801 when your Joseph and Margaret Hill Harrison acquired property near "our" Harrisons in Buncombe.

Sincerely, Charles W. Johnson, M.D. ...please keep in touch.

Wes' thoughts continuing here:

Apparently, the 3 fires in Buncombe took out the wills and estate papers, and many of the deeds, too - but people came back in and re-registered many of the deeds - thankfully.

The Nathaniel Harrison of Buncombe (son of Joseph Harrison and Margaret Hill Harrison; and therefore a grandson of Nathaniel of Clarks Fork) was not only the county clerk, but sometimes a sheriff, and also a state legislator. According to Mr Johnson (who's notes are online on what's called the Harrison Repository), this Joseph (b 1762) was the only son of Nathaniel of Clarks Fork. Something to keep in mind, although I'm not sure what that declaration is based on.

I suspect the Thomas Harrison of Clarks Fork was a brother of Nathaniel, and therefore was probably the old Thomas Harrison of Buncombe, also. He would then be the progenitor of most of these Buncombe Harrisons, and Joseph of Clarks Fork (son of Nathaniel) would be the progenitor of the rest of the Buncombe Harrisons.

I also suspect (believe) that Margaret Harrison, wife of Thomas Patterson, was a sister of Nathaniel and Thomas Harrison, but cannot yet prove that. Thomas and Margaret Harrison Patterson were the parents of John Patterson of Buncombe, my gggg-grandfather.

Harald Reksten and I have a theory that these older Harrisons, who were born in the 1730's and 40's, were siblings and may have been children of the Samuel Harrison, brother of the Joseph Harrison who died in Augusta Co Va in 1748. That Joseph's estate settlement was administered by Jeremiah Harrison (brother-in-law of old Robert Patterson) and was held at the home of Samuel and Lydia Harrison Stewart, along Linville Creek, near Harrisonburg, Va. We think this older Joseph who died in 1748 would have been born ca 1702. We think that he may have been an undocumented son of Isaiah Harrison Sr,. Another possibility is that Joseph could have been a son of Isaiah Harrison Jr, but we are leaning toward the first suggested theory. We believe that Isaiah Harrison, Jr actually died young and never lived in VA or the Carolinas. That the Isaiah Harrison named in VA in 1748 and then later in NC was a son of the Joseph who died in 1748 VA.

Joseph Harrison's clan appears to have moved about this time (1748-1753) to the Yadkin River Valley of NC. While on the other hand, this other group who moved to Clarks Fork in modern day York Co SC, moved there in the 1760's with the Blacks, Pattersons, and Cravens. This latter group was the focus of this post, i.e. Nathaniel and Thomas Harrison and Margaret Harrison Patterson. The Clarks Fork group is the same group who later moved to Buncombe Co NC in the 1790's, give or take a few years depending on the person. It is now my believe that the SC and then later Buncombe NC Harrisons were children of Samuel and Mary Harrison, he being the youngest son of Isaiah Harrison, SR.


August 25, 2016 Update

I no longer lean toward the theory that Margaret Harrison, wife of Thomas Patterson, was the daughter of Joseph Harrison. That theory was mainly due to the extensive collaboration of the primary families (Harrison, Cravens, Patterson, Black, Ponder) who moved to Clarks Fork in York Co, SC in the 1760's, and their connections to the Joseph Harrison, Samuel Stewart, Jeremiah Harrison families, all of whom were involved in Joseph Harrison's estate vendue in 1748 in VA (Augusta Co., near Harrisonburg). The connections of these families in DE and VA were there, but they diverged at that point. The Joseph Harrison and Samuel Stewart clans moved to the Yadkin Valley of NC about 1748, while other Harrisons (most likely only Samuel Harrison - brother of Joseph), and the Cravens, Pattersons, Blacks, and Ponders moved to York Co SC later in the 1750's and early 1760's.

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