Thursday, April 11, 2013

William Harrison (1807-1896) and his bride Nancy Shepherd Harrison (1815-1900)

Copyright 2013, The Hopelessly Hooked Genealogist (B. Harrison)

Above are photos of my great-great-grandparents, William M Harrison and Nancy Shepherd Harrison, taken in their late middle-aged years or early "senior" years. There are no known portraits in existence of them in their younger years. They were married on 24 November 1834.  Their marriage is recorded in Greene County, Missouri.....however it is not known if they ever lived there.   They settled in Maries County, Missouri. Not a lot is known about their roots prior to the time period when they settled in Missouri as newlyweds.   Nancy Shepherd's family was from Kentucky.   Her parents were John William Shepherd and Mary Polly Clayton Shepherd, of  Shelby and Mason County, Kentucky.

William's family is more of a mystery.    Generations of descendants have remained mystified as to the origins of this line of the Harrison clan, despite recent DNA testing of descendants (circa 2012 and 2013). An old  family bible was purported to be in existence which stated that William was born in a place called "Sura", North Carolina, about 1807, near the headwaters of the Dan River. William and Nancy's photos and other heirlooms were recently discovered to be in the possession of a female descendant of this line.   It is this distant cousin who provided the above photos of these ancestors, as well as a copy of a page taken from what we believe may have been the fabled family bible (see below). The page came out of a worn book that had been referred to as "Nancy's bible", and had been handed down through the generations to this descendant.
Unfortunately, the top left corner of the page is torn off, which would have indicated the county of William's birth.    Some descendant's have interpreted the often-quoted "Sura" as referring to Surry County.   However, my research has led me to believe that it referred to a settlement known as Suaratown.   This was a historic settlement near the ancient Saura Mountains in North Carolina, near the Dan River. In the 1700's and early 1800's, there was an Upper Sauratown and a Lower Sauratown, located approximately 2 miles south of what became known as Leakesville, and is the present-day town of Eden, in Rockingham County, North Carolina (at one period it was part of Stokes County). It also not far from the town of Walnut Cove.  The following information can be found on the Eden Chamber of Commerce website: 

Source:   Eden Chamber of Commerce
"Eden was so named by William Byrd in 1728 when he led a survey party seeking to establish the boundary line between North Carolina and Virginia.  Byrd called the area "Land of Eden" because of its beauty.  He had his own strong-minded ideas for its use: tillage; grazing; the growing of hemp, flax, cotton, grapes, peaches, apples and rice; and the cultivation of raw silk through the production of white mulberry trees for the feeding of silk worms. Eden, originally three townships known as Leaksville, Spray and Draper, was one of the first cities to be established in the Piedmont area of North Carolina as an economic center.  Here the Piedmont's textile boom began with the establishment in 1837 of the Leaksville Cotton Mill - Morehead's "Factory," it was called - by John Motley Morehead who was to be a two-term governor of the state from 1841 to 1845."
The above historical marker can be found on US 311 at Dan River bridge northeast of Walnut Cove, North Carolina.   It marks the site of part of the old historical settlement of Sauratown, which was originally inhabited by the Saura Indians, and later by American pioneer settlers.   With changing territorial boundaries over the decades, this region was at varying times considered part of Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee. It may have even at one point been part of what was referred to as the early Kentucky territory. Settlers in the remote mountain regions often were isolated from communication with the rest of the country and lived in assumption that they lived in one territory or state, even after it had officially become part of another territory or state.    This could account for the varying responses to "birth place" give by William Harrison and his brothers Lewis and Tyree Harrison to census takers over the years.    While William appears to have consistently referred to his birthplace as being in North Carolina, his brothers sometimes indicated they were born in either Tennessee, Virginia, or Kentucky.    It is possible the family moved around a lot, but is more plausible that they were simply confused as the official name of the territory the family lived in at the time of their birth's.  DNA testing has connected our line of Harrison to Lineage # 1 on the Harrison DNA Patriarch's Study website, with roots in North Carolina and Virginia.  We are line H206 in that study. .  As yet, we have still been unable to identify the parents of William, Lewis, and Tyree Harrison and their sisters.  They remain known only as the mysterious "Widow Harrison" and possibly a William Harrison Sr.  Research continues on this Brick Wall in our tree. 

William and Nancy Shepherd Harrison are buried at Bowles Chapel Cemetery in Maries County, Missouri.  They share a headstone, with William's inscription on one side and Nancy's on the other. 
Memorial pages can be found for them on the Find A Grave website, with links to other family members. ( William's is Find A Grave Memorial# 53273047.  Nancy's is Find A Grave Memorial# 40376051).