THE REVEREND JOHN HARRIS

Colonial Minister

Reverend John Harris was a Presbyterian minister who served as pastor in the Long Cane area of South Carolina during the turbulent era of the Revolutionary War. He and his family were drawn into that conflict along with the people he served.

John Harris was born September 29, 1725. There are conflicting reports as to the place of his birth; some reports say that he was born in Maryland, but this is possibly because his wife was from Maryland and he lived in Maryland before moving to South Carolina. He earned an AB degree at Nassau Hall (now Princeton University) in 1753. He served as minister to several churches in Delaware, Virginia and Maryland. While in Maryland, he met and married Mary Dashiell Handy, the daughter of Co. Isaac Handy and Ann Dashiell of Somerset County, Maryland. They eventually had several children:

Handy Harris B. 1760 John Harris II B. 1762 Anna Harris B. 1765 Thomas Harris B. 1768 Elizabeth (Betsy) B. 1769 Nathaniel Harris the youngest birthdate unknown

Sometime around 1770, the Synod of New York and Philadelphia directed Rev. John Harris to establish or serve congregations in South Carolina, and so the family made the long and difficult trip to the Carolinas, stopping briefly in Virginia and North Carolina to supply churches there with a minister.

The family arrived in Long Cane, Abbeville District, South Carolina, in November 1772. Rev. John Harris served and/or established the following churches during the years between 1772 and 1779:

Upper Long Cane Lower Long Cane (Now Hopewell) Saluda Church (Greenville) Boonesborough (Ft. Boone) Bulltown (Now Rocky River) Little Mountain Rocky Creek (near Greenwood)

There are reports of Rev. Harris preaching under trees before churches were built.

The Harris family was allied with the Pickens and Calhoun families of this area and there were marriages among the three families.

On page 440 of HISTORY OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH IN SOUTH CAROLINA, VOL. 1, the author George Howe, describes Rev. John Harris: "In person Mr. Harris was not above the medium stature, but his sturdy frame and erect carriage commanded respect, and the severe but honest determination of his countenance tempered the pleasantries which often sparkled from his dark eyes. By all his acquaintances he was acknowledged to have been a very judicious, pious, and exemplary minister of the gospel."

During the Revolutionary War, Rev. John Harris and his family were targeted by the Tories because of his influential position and his championing of the American cause. It is said that he preached with his rifle by his side. Nathaniel, the youngest son of the family, was ill at their home when it was invaded by Tories. They took all the family’s valuables and stripped Nathaniel of his clothing, leaving him to die in his youth. (see p. 50, ANNALS AND MEMORIALS OF THE HANDYS AND THEIR KINDRED by Isaac W.K. Handy, D.D.) The family’s two oldest sons, John II and Handy, served in the Revolutionary War. John II served under General Andrew Pickens and eventually married his daughter, Mary Pickens.

Rev. John Harris was elected to the Second Provincial Congress and the First and Second General Assemblies of the Ninety Six District during the years 1775-1778 and voted for the ratification of the Federal Constitution in 1778. He also served as a trustee of a public school and as a justice of the peace in the Ninety-Six District. The will of Rev. Harris was filed for probate April 5, 1790. The location of his grave is unknown. His son Handy became a doctor and remained in South Carolina. The second son, John II, also remained in South Carolina. Thomas, the third son, moved to DeKalb County, Georgia, where he was active in establishing several churches. Anne Harris married Elijah McCurdy. They lived in South Carolina, and after Elijah’s death, Anne moved to Lincoln County, Tennessee. Elizabeth Harris married Joseph Irving, and they moved to Jackson County, Georgia.


Credits:

Prepared by Dr. Calvin W. Hines For further information on the Harris family, contact suzalee@aol.com

Sources:
1. ANNALS AND MEMORIALS OF THE HANDYS AND THEIR KINDRED by Isaac W.K. Handy, D.D.
2. BIOGRAPHICAL DIRECTORY OF THE SOUTH CAROLINA HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, VOL. III, 1775-1790, by N. Louise Bailey and Elizabeth Ivey Cooper.
3. HISTORY OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH IN SOUTH CAROLINA by George Howe, DD
4. VISIT OUR FAMILY TREE by Clara Haines

Our thanks to Dr. Calvin W. Hines for contributing this information on his ancestor.

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