Harris Family Was At Ross's Landing During Indian Removal; Fought In Civil War

Thursday, March 29, 2018 - by John Wilson

At the time of the Indian Removal, Dr. Nathan Harris was a surgeon and quartermaster for the troops that were involved. When the Civil War came to Chattanooga, members of the Harris family were caught up in that action as well.

The Harrises were originally from Albemarle County, Va. The Harris family was among the wealthiest in early Albemarle and were neighbors of the Jeffersons. The family was "prominent in county and state affairs and many times members of it represented Albemarle and Nelson counties in the General Assembly. They were and are people of highest social standing."

Robert Harris was one of the earliest settlers at Frederickville Parish on Doyle's River, patenting almost 3,000 acres there beginning in the 1740s. His wife was Mourning. Robert Harris in 1762 transferred 521 acres of the Doyle's River property in the Blue Ridge Mountains to his son Robert Jr., and he gave him the slave Joe. He gave the boy slave Johnson and the girl slave Suckey to his son-in-law John Rodes. Robert Harris died in 1765. His other children were Christopher, Tyree, James, William, Lucy who married William Shelton, Sarah who married John Rodes, a daughter who married William Dalton, Mourning who married John Jouette, and Elizabeth who married William Crawford.

William Harris Crawford, who was from Albemarle County and later was a prominent U.S. senator from Georgia, was related to the Harris family that moved to Hamilton County. His parents were Joel and Francis Harris Crawford. William H. Crawford had a brother Nathan Crawford. William H. Crawford served as U.S. minister to France and he was Secretary of the Treasury under President James Monroe.

James Harris, the son of Robert, married Mary and lived at Doyle's River. In 1761, he sold property on Moormons Run to his son-in-law Thomas Grubbs for 10 pounds. James Harris bought 20 acres from John Mullens of Goochland and 22 acres from his near neighbor Benjamin Brown in 1763. Robert Harris Jr. was married to Lucretia Brown, daughter of Benjamin Brown. James Harris died at Albemarle County in 1792. His children were Thomas, Joel who married Anna, Nathan, James, Lucy who married Thomas Grubbs, Mourning who married Cornelius Maupin, Sarah who married James Harrison, Susan who married Nicholas Burnley, Ann who married a Haden and Jane who married a Dabney. This James Harris was appointed a magistrate of Albemarle County in 1807. He married Mary McCulloch, daughter of John and Mary McCulloch. James Harris operated a mill at Millington with his brothers-in-law Robert and James McCulloch. However, he sold his interest in the mill and left the area in 1822.

The Dr. Nathan Harris who was at Ross's Landing was a son of James Harris and Mary McCulloch. They also were the parents of another doctor, Crawford Harris, as well as Robert M. Harris, who had married Lucinda Maupin in 1819 when the family was still at Albemarle County. The Maupins had come to Virginia from France about the 1740s, Daniel and Gabriel Maupin being the American pioneers.

Lucy Harris, a daughter of James Harris and Mary McCulloch, married Richard Cobbs. The Harris brothers and Cobbs family settled in East Tennessee. Dr. Nathan Harris was living at Madisonville in Monroe County by 1828. He was stationed at the Cherokee Agency on the Hiwassee River when his son, William Hooper Harris, was born in 1835. He had moved to Ross's Landing when another son, Nathan Crawford Harris, was born on Feb. 11, 1838. After the Indians had been pushed west from Ross's Landing, Dr. Nathan Harris stayed on for a time. He practiced medicine with Dr. Milo Smith. His residence was on "Chatanuga Creek, within one half mile of the Georgia line," when a daughter, Virginia Adaline, was born in October 1840. He purchased 71 acres on the creek from Asahel Rawlings for $1,000. Later, Dr. Nathan Harris lived at Cleveland, Tn., and at Cherokee County, Ala. He died in 1855. The wife of Dr. Nathan Harris was Jane Lowry. Their marriage occurred in February 1822. Their older children were James Crawford, John Lowry, Mary Jane, Richard Ragland and Sarah Isabella. The youngest was James Piper Harris.

Dr. Crawford Harris went to Talladega, Ala., and was there until the Civil War, when he became medical director of Joseph Johnston's army. After the war, he was medical director for a medical institute in Atlanta.

Robert M. and Lucinda Harris moved to Hamilton County, occupying the property at the foot of Lookout Mountain. Richard and Lucy Cobbs moved here also. Two of the Cobbs daughters married Rogers brothers here. Ann Cobbs married Alfred McKinney Rogers, and Sarah Cobbs married William L. Rogers. Robert Harris was a colonel of the state militia, and he and his brothers were Jackson Democrats. However, both Robert Harris and Richard Cobbs died not long after arriving here. Robert Harris died in 1844. Afterwards, his widow hired out a slave, Alfred, for $100 per year to John G. Glass for work at his hotel on Market Street between Sixth and Seventh streets. One of the Harrises said Alfred "was well known in after years as Alfred Cobb. He was the father of the Cobb boys. Alfred acted as the justice of the peace for the colored people in matrimonial cases, and had great faith that Lincoln would free the negro. I am sorry that he did not live to see it."

The widow Lucinda was left with a large family to tend since they had 11 children. One of the daughters married a Fryar and they moved to Arkansas. Another daughter, Martha A., married Nelson Wilson in 1862. A son, James C. married Mary E. Doyal in 1858.

Another son, Thomas R. Harris, was only two years old when his father died. He was sent two months in the year to a common school. However, it was decided to switch him to Aldehoff's Academy on Lookout Mountain because "the school teachers of that day were more perfect in teaching the art of marbles than they were in teaching mathematics." But the Civil War broke out before he could enroll. At the time, he and his older brother were working the Cobbs farm on Moccasin Bend. The last crop they made on the Bend was 1862. They were living on the Bend when Union soldiers shelled Chattanooga. A lieutenant and six or seven privates rode up to their house, and asked who the horses in the lot belonged to. The lieutenant said he had orders to confiscate the horses. The Harris brothers replied that if they had to give up the horses they could not finish their crop. The lieutenant replied why the brothers were not in the Confederate Army. Thomas R. Harris later recalled, "I said because I thought it was wrong to fight against the union. He then asked me my name, and I told him. He then pulled out of his pocket a small book, looked in it, and said to me, "Young man, you and your brother are alright. I won't take your horses." The Harris brothers sold their unharvested crop that fall to Alfred Rogers and James Jack for $25 per acre. James C. Harris later got through to the Federal Army and joined the Fourth East Tennessee Cavalry. He was wounded in battle and died from his injuries. He left a young daughter, Martha L., who was just an infant when he died. She was later raised by Thomas R. Harris.

Thomas R. Harris was in Chattanooga the day Jefferson Davis stopped off at the Crutchfield House and made a speech, and he heard William Crutchfield's fiery response. He recalled, "Crutchfield denounced Davis as a traitor and called him a renegade from his post of duty." Harris was arrested twice by Confederate military authorities. The first time was in 1862 at his Moccasin Bend home. Alfred Rogers and Joshua Beck vouched for him to report to Capt. C.C. Spiller's Confederate unit in 10 days. It was then in camp near Stringer Spring. Instead, Harris went back to his home area. He said that "Cupid partly attracted me back to the Seventeenth District - one of the prettiest blue-eyed girls in the district having promised to take me unto herself for better or worse." This was Catherine Tennessee Hamill, the eldest daughter of D.C. Hamill, who lived on a neighboring farm. The couple was married on Sept. 2, 1862. Thomas R. Harris joined - apparently unwillingly - Barry's Battery, a Confederate unit made up mainly of Chattanoogans. He enlisted at Knoxville a month after his marriage. He was later in a hospital at Canton, Miss., and was among those captured when the Federal soldiers stormed up Missionary Ridge on Nov. 25, 1863. He was sent to Nashville, then to Louisville, Ky., and finally to Rock Island Prison in Illinois. Shortly after his release on Dec. 16, 1863, he joined the U.S. Navy. He was on board the U.S.S. Massachusetts, serving until August of 1865.

William Hooper Harris, cousin of the Unionist Harris brothers, opted for the Confederacy. Major Harris was on the staff of General Joseph Wheeler, serving throughout the war. Afterwards, he was editor of the Cotton and Tobacco Journal. He lived for some time at New York City, then at Nashville. He died at Mobile, Ala., in 1908 when he was 73.

After the war, Thomas and Catherine Harris settled back on their farm by Lookout Mountain in the vicinity that became St. Elmo. He recalled, "I remember the Fifth Ward of our town, meaning the old Fifth when it was covered with forest trees and was known as Buzzard's Roost, and the suburb of St. Elmo was known as Hell's Half Acre." He said one morning in 1874 he was "on my way to the city when I met Squire Blackford near the crossroads. He was summoning a coroner's jury and summoned me as one of the jurors. Inside of the old blacksmith shop there, I beheld a colored man hung at the end of a rope and in a perfectly nude condition. This was a fair sample of what gave the name to a section out there which was 'Hell's Half Acre.' " He said that by the time a new road was built up the mountain by George Ruble in 1879, "the crossroads began to improve. It had sometimes been called Kirklen Town. With the improvement, a considerable number of people moved from the city out there and built homes."

Thomas Harris left St. Elmo in 1891 and moved to Sequatchie, Tn. His old farm was afterward known as the Monroe Fry place. Catherine Hamill Harris died at Sequatchie in 1914, and Thomas R. Harris died there four years later. They had nine children and eight were still living in 1914. They were Florence Isabella, Lula L. Jennie A., James D., William J., Dennis F., Robert T. and Herbert Hamill. Lula L. and Jennie A. were unmarried. Herbert Hamill Harris married Nanette Maude Ellis from Green Pond, Ala. They had four children - Joseph Herbert, Robert Rosemund, Glenn Ellis and Martha Merle. Herbert Hamill Harris moved to Greeley, Ala., around 1910 to work for the Brown Ore Mining Company, which was acquired by the Tennessee Coal & Iron Railroad.  He advanced quickly and retired from U.S. Steel in Birmingham as chief financial officer around 1940. Joseph Herbert Harris married Rosa Stewart. Robert Rosemund Harris married Mae Kennedy. Glenn Ellis Harris did not marry. Martha married James Earl Conaway. One of their sons, James Earl Conaway Jr., has researched the family. 

Florence Harris married Joseph Ernest De Sabla of Sequatchie, who had inherited the title of a French Marquis. He was descended from Josephine, empress of France and wife of Napoleon, through her first husband. One of the De Sablas had come from France to help survey the Panama Canal, and he died there. His son, Joseph Anthony De Sable, in 1851 took his mother to Louisiana and then on to Crossville, Tn., for her health. He returned to Crossville in 1861 and married Nancy Pauline Narramore. Their son was Joseph Ernest De Sabla. At the death of Nancy Pauline Narramore DeSabla in 1903, her heart-broken husband was found on the garden path with a dagger plunged in his heart.



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