The Harrison Family of Texas and their Kinfolk in Virginia, South Carolina, Mississippi & Florida
from Chapter 1: The Harrison Family in Texas, 1830 -1966, by Katharine Harrison Sarrafian*
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"Isham Harrison, like his immediate forebears, was a part of the great push to the west, which saw each generation, spurred on by ambition and by love of adventure, move and settle farther westward.

"Isham's father, James Harrison, came to Greenville District, S.C. from his native Virginia. Isham himself made two such moves: first, to Jefferson County, Alabama, and later to Monroe County, Mississippi [near Aberdeen], where he lived until his death, and from where he saw five of his children move on and settle in Texas. A sixth, Richard, was to join the Texas Harrisons some years after Isham's death.

"Nothing is more surprising than to note the readiness with which these pioneers, after having successfully established themselves and sired a family, would even late in life, sell out, and with family and slaves make the difficult move to a new and often more primitive locality..."

II

"The first of Isham's children to set foot in Texas, as far as I have been able to learn, was his second child and second daughter, Laura, two years after her marriage to W. H. Jack of Georgia, which took place May 16, 1828 in Jefferson County, Alabama. From 1828-1830 Mr. Jack, though still in his early twenties, represented Jefferson County in the Alabama Legislature. In 1830, with his wife and infant daughter, he moved to Texas, settling in Stephen F. Austin's colony of San Felipe de Austin. Laura Harrison Jack was said to have been one of the most beautiful and intellectual women of her day in Texas, and her husband at once took a leading part in the affairs of the colony. In 1834 the Jack family moved to Brazoria, where Colonel Jack opened a law office and continued to practice until his death in 1844. He saw active service with the Texas army in the war with Mexico, holding the rank of colonel, and was present at the Battle of San Jacinto. In 1836 he served as Secretary of State to President Burnet.

"A year before his death, Colonel Jack took into his law office his wife's young brother Thomas Harrison, twenty years old, who had just graduated from the University of Mississippi. It was probably as a result of the untimely death of Colonel Jack at the age of 38 that Thomas Harrison returned to Mississippi; at any rate we next find him beginning to practice in Aberdeen.

"But in 1846 Texas called him again. The war of the U.S. with Mexico was beginning, and McChang's Company of the 1st Mississippi Rifles was being organized to leave for the front under the command of Colonel Jefferson Davis. Thomas Harrison, a bachelor, enlisted. He served for a year, taking part in the Battle of Monterey and other engagements. At the end of his year of service, he decided to remain in Texas and again began the practice of law, this time in Houston. In 1850 he was elected to the State Legislature, and the following year moved to Marlin. Central Texas seemed to please him more; he remained four years in Marlin, then in 1855 moved to Waco, where he lived for the rest of his life. On May 26, 1858, at the age of 35, he married Sarah Ellis MacDonald, daughter of a Waco physician.

"It seems safe to assume that it was the favorable reports Thomas sent back to Mississippi about the good black land selling at low prices in Central Texas and the opportunities of all kinds in the new town of Waco which brought other members of the family to the area.* His nephew John Baylis Earle, who had graduated from the University of Mississippi two years before, arrived in Waco in 1855. Two years later the young man's parents [Dr. Baylis W. and Eliza Harrison Earle] arrived with the rest of their family, and his uncle, Thomas' eldest brother James E. Harrison, came with his family. Dr. Earle built on South Fourth Street, then the most fashionable residential district, the large home known for years as 'the old Earle mansion.' Two years after his arrival in Waco, however, Dr. Baylis Wood Earle died. His widow kept the home for some years, then sold it to her brother Thomas Harrison and went to live with her daughter, Mrs. Charles B. Pearre. Thomas Harrison established his young family there and made it his home for the rest of his life.

"James Edward Harrison was already a successful planter in Monroe County, Mississippi, 42 years of age and with a large family of children (eight, I think) when he succumbed to the fever of "going to Texas." Ever since that state had been admitted to the Union, prospective settlers had been pouring across its borders, and the favorable reports received from Thomas Harrison and young Baylis Earle may have decided him.* He prepared to move to the new state.

"James E. Harrison arrived in Waco in 1857, and bought 6000 acres in McLennan and Falls County, reduced 2000 acres to cultivation, and like his brother-in-law Dr. Earle, set about building an impressive family home. The house, about eight miles below Waco on the east side of the Brazos, was red brick with white columns and is said to have been one of the finest homes in the state at that time. It stood until well into the 20th century, and was torn down after the land was sold to William F. Neale.

"Two other children of Isham and Harriet Harrison emigrated to Texas. Louisa Jane and her husband Dr. Wells Thompson came from Mississippi to McLennan County at some time between their marriage in 1836 and the beginning of the Civil War. It may be that they came with the other members of the family in 1857. Dr. Richard Harrison remained in Mississippi until after the Civil War, joining with other members of the family in McClennan County in 1866.

III

"At the time the first members of the Harrison family came to Waco, it was a rapidly growing village of something less than 1000 souls, the chief population center of the area. Though there was no bridge across the Brazos, two ferries... served to transport the travelers and vehicles across the river. McClennan County had a network of 11 roads, maintained by the cooperation of the landowners of the county. The nearest railroad was over 100 miles away, but in 1858 Waco became the terminus of the stage line running north from Houston. Waco boasted Methodist and Baptist churches, several private schools, as well as the beginning of a public school system for the so-called "indigent schools" organized and maintained under the jurisdiction of the Commissioners Court. By 1860, two colleges were in operation, the Waco Female College and the Waco Classical School. The latter, a Baptist institution and one of the ancestors of Baylor University at Waco, numbered among its trustees James E. and Thomas Harrison.

"In 1860 it was estimated that the total free population of McClennan County was 3807. The slave population was not included in the census, but the total population of McLennan County in 1860 has been estimated as between 5500 and 6000."

* Excerpted from The Harrison Family in Texas, 1830 - 1866, by Katharine Harrison Sarrafian, The Texian Press, Waco, Texas, 1966. Reprinted with the kind permission of Harrison Sarrafian.