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).

William Harrison's Farm: Finding The Original Homestead Of My Great-Great-Grandfather

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

The above photos are recent pictures (taken April 2013) of some of the original farm land owned by my great-great-grandfather William Harrison, circa 1853 to 1896 in Maries County, Missouri.  The photos were taken by my distant cousin, T. Cadenbach, who shares some Harrison ancestry with me and still lives in the general vicinity of our Missouri roots.

William Harrison's Land Patent:

 In 1853,  my ancestor William patented 40 acres in Section 20, Township 39-N, Range 7-W, 5th Meridian, Maries County, Missouri.  He later added to this land, and his brothers Lewis and Tyree Harrison owned adjacent farm lands and acreage.  With the help of a plotting tool utilized through Google Earth, and the legal description coordinates from the original land deeds, we were able to pinpoint the exact location of the original farms of these three Harrison brothers, as shown below. 
My cousin has recently met the current owner's of my ancestor's original acreage, who gave their permission for photos and further exploration.   The acreage is kept in immaculate condition by the current owners, and is still undeveloped rural farm-ranch acreage, much as it was back in my ancestor's time. The difference would be that the land is now far less forested.  Though many beautiful trees do remain, in my ancestor's era most forested acreage was cleared for planting of crops,  as well as later to sell the wood for railroad ties to the Frisco Railway. There is a large modern home now inhabited by the current owners.  However, remnants of historic buildings and foundations still remain, to be further explored and documented.  One of the brothers of my ancestor, Lewis Harrison, deeded part of his land that encompassed the Harrison family cemetery for the formation of what is now known as Rock Spring Cemetery. It is there that many of our Harrison ancestors and kin are buried.  We believe it may be the final resting place of our mysterious Brick Wall ancestor, the "Widow" Harrison and possibly her husband (parents of William, Lewis, and Tyree Harrison and their sisters) who may rest there in now unmarked graves.

Below is William's farm is it looks today (2013):
Below is William's farm, the only known photo of the old original old farmhouse, taken circa 1883.

Marker for a Great-Grandmother: Mary Jane Coppedge Harrison 1840 - 1923

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

Mary Jane Coppedge Harrison 1840 - 1923 
We don't know if my paternal great-grandmother ever had a marker for her gravesite, or if she may have originally had some sort of wooden or stone marker that has long since deteriorated into oblivion.  But, at long last, this ancestor in my tree has a legible headstone to mark her final resting place next to her husband, John Milton Harrison, Civil War Veteran.  They were my paternal great-grandparents, long passed before I was born.
Mary Jane Coppedge Harrison (1840 - 1923) and John Milton Harrison (1836 - 1899) are both buried at Dillon Cemetery in Phelps County, Missouri. Mary Jane also has a memorial page on ,  Find A Grave Memorial# 53272446 . She was the daughter of George Helm Coppedge and Margaret "Peggy" Kitchen Thornton Coppedge. She was the granddaughter of Travis Coppedge and Elizabeth Helm Coppedge, and Thomas Thornton III and Nancy Kitchen Thornton. Her great-grandparents were Moses Aaron Coppedge and Mary Jane Catlett Coppedge, George Helm and Mary Frances Calmes Helm, Thomas Thornton II and Lucinda Waters Thornton, and (possibly) William Harrison Kitchen and Nancy Anne Harrison Kitchen. Among her great-great-grandparents were Charles Coppedge and Lucy Sarah Lunsford Coppedge, John Catlett and Mary Ann Grayson Coppedge, Captain Leonard Helm (Revolutionary War) and Elizabeth Calmes Helm, Thomas Thornton I and Lettice Peyton Thornton, and Thomas Harrison V and Mary Ann Butler Harrison.  It appears, thus, that Mary Jane was a Harrison descendant herself as well as marrying a Harrison, her distant cousin several generations removed. I doubt that she even realized there was a chance that they were distant cousins.
The cemetery where May Jane and John Milton Harrison are buried is on private property in Phelps County, Missouri. It is a small country cemetery that is well-maintained by the current owner of the property. For generations, John Milton Harrison had an original Civil War Veteran's headstone that was gradually deteriorating from age and exposure to the elements, but there was no visible marker for his wife who was laid to rest beside him.  At the time of Mary Jane's passing, her husband had already been gone for a few years. Mary Jane died as a resident of the Soldiers Home hospital-nursing home in St. James, Missouri.   She had been placed there for long-term care after being found incapacitated by a local court. This appears to have transpired when her senility became too much for her caretaker daughter, Georgia Ann Harrison Finn, to deal with. We may surmise that she may have been afflicted with something akin to Alzheimers disease as we know it today. As a tragic side note, George Ann Harrison Finn died of a heat stroke or heart attack while walking to visit her mother in the Soldier's Home on one hot summer day. Mary Jane passed away shortly thereafter.   We can only guess that financial constraints may have been a reason that no individual permanent marker was placed on Mary Jane's grave. The death certificate confirms that she is buried at Dillon Cemetery.
In 2012, with the assistance of my 4th-cousin on the Harrison side of my tree who lives in Phelps County, Missouri; we were able to get a new headstone placed for John Milton Harrison (see above photo).   His original headstone had deteriorated beyond repair and was no longer legible due to being covered with algae, mold, and fungus.    Recently, in 2013 we were able to set a new marker in place for his wife, Mary Jane, as well.   Their markers now stand side by side, as their souls rest for all eternity.