Gen William Harris

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Gen William Harris

Birthplace: East Whiteland, Pennsylvania, United States
Death: September 04, 1812 (54)
East Whiteland, Pennsylvania, United States
Place of Burial: Great Valley Presbyterian Church Cemetery Malvern Chester County Pennsylvania
Immediate Family:

Son of Thomas J. Harris and Elizabeth Harris
Husband of Mary Harris
Father of Campbell Harris; Dr. Thomas Harris, USN, Chief of Medicine; Mary Harris; Dr William Harris; John Harris, Commandant of the USMC and 2 others
Brother of Mary Harris; Bailey Harris; Col John Harris; Margaret Christie; Elizabeth Mackelduff and 2 others

Managed by: Douglas Arthur Kellner
Last Updated:

About Gen William Harris

William Harris lived all his days in the home in East Whiteland -which his father purchased in 1770. He entered the military service of the country at the early age of 18, the first mention of him heing in a memorandum book of Captain Persifor Frazer in the summer of 1776, when he is spoken of as Sergeant Harris. He was appointed in April, 1777, second lieutenant of Captain John Marshall's company of the State Regiment of Foot, Col. John Bull commanding, and rose to the position of captain. The regiment to which he was attached, to whose command Walter Stewart succeeded in June, 1777, was taken into the Pennsylvania line in the Continental service, and became the Thirteenth regiment. This regiment was in action in the battles of Brandywine and Germantown, and the family tradition says that William Harris fought in these battles and in several minor engagements.

There are in the public records of the day notes connecting him with the movement of troops at various times throughout the Revolution, but the battalion to which he belonged does not seem to have been in action in the latter years of the war.

He was again in service in 1794, when an army was called out to quell the Whiskey Insurrection in western Pennsylvania. He was the captain of the eighth company of the Chester county regiment, and was the regimental paymaster.

He continued throughout his life attached to the state military organization, rising steadily until, in 1811, he was commissioned Brigadier-General of the Second Brigade, Third Division of Pennsylvania troops.

When in 1812 the war with Great Britain broke out, Governor Snyder of Pennsylvania ordered out 14,000 troops. William Harris was then called into the service with the command due his rank, but he died before the troops took the field.

He was a member of the state legislature, elected in 1779, in 1780 and again in 1810 and 1811, and was on' duty in the last session of that body prior to his death.

He was, in many ways, an important factor in the life of the community in which he lived, where to this day his zeal in the cause of public education is not wholly forgotten. He gave to those of his sons who desired it the best education the region afforded, and was mainly instrumental in the creation of the Chester county academy, which held for some years an honorable place among the preparatory schools of his section of Pennsylvania. By his efforts while in the legislature he obtained an appropriation to erect the buildings required, and to maintain the school, and he gave the ground needed for the purpose out of his own farm. He also gave freely his personal attention to forwarding and hastening the completion of the project, though he did not live to see the inauguration of the school.

He was an elder in the Great Valley Preshyterian church, and in various ways was active in church work. His pastor, Eev. William Latta, summed up his career in the inscription which his tomb still bears:

Sacred to the memory of Gen. William Harris, who departed this life Sept. 4th, 1812, in the 54th year of his age.

Gen. Harris was a man of great worth, and to those who knew him his memory will long be dear.

Uprightness, sincerity, candor and integrity were marked features of his character. Possessing naturally an excellent understanding, and a turn for public business, he was eminently useful. The public generally, and especially the church of which he was a member, has sustained a loss by his death, which is sensibly felt. The lingering illness which dissolved his earthly tabernacle he bore with remarkable patience, and trusting in the merits of his Redeemer for acceptance with God, and evidently ripening for Heaven, he closed his eyes upon this transient scene with the comfortable hope of awakening in the light of Eternal day.

William Harris was, as men of the family are apt to be, tall and rather slight in person. He was a man of great industry and energy, the principal note of his character that I could get when I made inquiry twenty years ago of those who still remembered him being that he was very vigorous in his administration of public duties, and impatient of sluggards. His health was not vigorous after his early army experience, which brought him some permanent injury, and doubtless somewhat shortened his life.

He left a fair estate, which was divided among his sons, with the reservation of a comfortable maintenance for their mother.

His wife, Mary Campbell, born February 27, 1752, died November 26, 1837, was a daughter of Rev. John Campbell, a minister of the Presbyterian church, and Mary Hubbard. She was a woman of great physical and mental vigor, ruled well her household, and retained throughout her life the respect and affection of her sons, whose letters to her, which are still preserved, furnish many proofs of their attachment to her, and supply much material for the history of the family in the first third of the nineteenth century.

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Gen William Harris's Timeline

October 7, 1757
East Whiteland, Pennsylvania, United States
May 2, 1781
January 3, 1784
Chester County, Pennsylvania, USA
October 15, 1786
August 18, 1792
October 14, 1795
September 4, 1798
East Whiteland Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania, USA
September 4, 1812
Age 54
East Whiteland, Pennsylvania, United States