8514 Rockmoor, San Antonio, Texas 78230
© 1997 Charles W. Johnson, M.D.
REV. THOMAS A. HARRISON (JR):
I have made a very valuable contact! Mrs. Gail Shlanta, Sioux Fall, SD 57106. She is descended from Rev. Thomas of Mecklenburg, to GA, to York SC, to Buncombe to St. Clair Co. (Belleville), IL. She has done a huge amount of genealogy on this family. My main problem in discussing this is to condense all this into a form suitable for our interests.
I made contact with Mrs. Shlanta through Tressie Nealy, whose query I answered in A LOT OF BUNKUM. She is a Galbreath/Gilbreath researcher, but not Harrison. Rev. Thomas A. Harrison m Margaret Gilbreath of Mecklenburg. Some of the Galbreaths moved to Buncombe and then with Rev. Thomas to St. Clair Co., IL (sometimes spelled Calbreath) but let me take up Rev. Thomas first, from Gail Shlanta, who is descended from Rev. Thomas and therefore from his Galbreath wife.
I do not believe that Mrs. Shlanta has any more information about Rev. Thomas; ancestry than we already have, but she has a great deal about him and his descendants. There are a number of documents that tell about his movements as a child and finally to St. Clair Co. IL as a young man in 1802, and living a difficult life in the wilderness for a time. He was b 13 Dec. 1779 (one source says York District SC and another says GA). Governor John Reynolds of IL wrote a book 1852, PIONEER HISTORY OF ILLINOIS, and wrote about him with high praise, while Rev. Thomas was still alive and quite prominent. The Governor also wrote about his parents as follows: "His parents were respectable, and obtained their living by cultivating the soil, which is the most ancient and honorable occupation on earth. His father moved to Rutherford County, North Carolina, and resided there some time, then settled in Georgia. Afterwards (they) resided in Buncombe County, North Carolina, and from that point Thomas Harrison, the Galbreaths, and some others emigrated to Illinois in July 1804"(other sources say 1802) I wonder if Gov. John Reynolds knew him earlier in Buncombe? Reynolds were associated with Harrisons in Buncombe County.
He m Margaret Galbraith 1800 in Mecklenburg NC with Scotch Presbyterian rites. She 10 July 1782 - 25 Jan 1852, b. Mecklenburg, d Belleville, IL, (She had brothers Hugh and James who also moved to Buncombe and then to St. Clair, IL). Rev. Thomas died 27 Aug 1867 in Minneapolis, Hennepin Co., Minnesota. "He was six feet tall, broad of shoulder, strong of arm..an expert in all the arts of woodmanship and a perfect shot with his rifle". (from a paper sent to Mrs. Shlanta many years ago). He became a Methodist c 1802, and became a miller in Belleville, and a Methodist Minister.
m 2nd Elizabeth Wood Hunt 1877
There is extensive information on descendants, which I will not cover at the moment. We already know that Rev. Thomas and his sons had established extensive milling industries in Belleville: cotton, sawmill, grains, machinery, hotel and such on a large scale. They became very wealthy and very well known. He was also an elder in the Methodist Church (high ranking minister). After his wife Margaret Galbraith died, he and much of his family moved to Minneapolis by steamboat, a place they had visited before and liked very much. In Minneapolis they were very active in the Methodist Church and benefactors to hospitals and were active in numerous corporations and banks and boards of directors. We did not know about this move to Minneapolis before. There is extensive information about this leading family of Minneapolis, but I will not go into detail. All these children were very prominent; men and women.
I would like to comment that I was b. in Memphis, TN but I was reared in Alton, IL, not far from Belleville, and I am familiar with the area as it was in the 1920’s through the 1940’s. Lately I have been into a couple of history books about the Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis and Clark expedition. St. Louis, across the Mississippi River from Belleville, was in 1802 a rough and ready village under the Spanish Flag, but inhabited mostly by French traders, trappers and adventurers. New Orleans at the mouth of the Mississippi was the important prize, also Spanish, Napoleon had plans for America and the West Indies and he acquired New Orleans and St, Louis and between in a secret treaty with the Spanish (unknown to St. Louis). President Jefferson was anxious to establish the whole area as American all the way to the Pacific Ocean. New England Yankees (the Federalists) wanted no part of such commercial competition with the Mississippi Valley and liked Spain blocking access to the Gulf. Others such as Vice President Aaron Burr and General Wilkinson, head of America’s military (and a spy for Spain) wanted a new county separate from America to control this area and they had much support from TN, KY, Ohio, etc. on the Mississippi waterways. There was much conspiracy, plotting and planning.
The Lewis and Clark expedition arrived in the area in 1803 to begin the expedition, but the Spanish authorities in St. Louis knew nothing about the territory being turned over to Napoleon, nor that Napoleon had sold it to America. The expedition set up camp on the IL side at Wood River, a small stream between Belleville and Alton, and spent the winter there. By spring the notification came officially to St. Louis, and there was a double ceremony. The Spanish flag was lowered and the French raised. The next day the French flag was lowered and the American flag raised and Lewis and Clark were ready to take off for the Pacific Ocean by way of the unexplored Missouri River. They left 1804. Rev. Thomas Harrison was there.
Belleville was a wise choice to locate, across the river from the evil and dirty St. Louis, so full in intrigue and crime. Both sides of the river were to become very shortly, sites of intensive immigration, Riverboats and industry. Rev. Thomas was there at the right time and the right place with the right visionary attributes. Though I do not know whether it was relevant at that time, Illinois has coal and Missouri does not. To this day, much of the industrial power of the area is located on the relatively high and dry side - the Illinois side of the River. Rev. Thomas was a big producer of milling products, requiring power which he quickly adopted as steam power (coal?) and a manufacturer of machinery. His sons and son in laws ran much of this. While he preached twice a week.
Rev. Thomas had the middle initial A, but what A stood for is unknown. My first thought is all those Harrisons of Mecklenburg along McAlpin’s Creek with the middle initial A. which stands for Adams. But these are descendants of Old Jeremiah Harrison whose
wife was Catherine Adams. Rev. Thomas had a son Thomas A. in which A. stood for Asbury, the name of the famous Methodist Bishop Francis Asbury, who knew so many Harrisons. But it would be unlikely that Rev. Thomas A. was named for Bishop Asbury because when he was born and named in 1779, the Bishop was not really around to name kids after! Methodists were barely existing in America at that time, and Rev. Thomas married in a Presbyterian Church (Providence Presbyterian next door to Harrison Methodist in Mecklenburg?). There is no clue that Rev. Thomas was a descendant of Old Jeremiah Harrison and wife Catherine Adams.
Why did Rev. Thomas and family leave Belleville in 1859 and move to Minneapolis? I can think of several reasons why he might even at the age of 81 and 7 years from the time of his death at 88. It has been said that the family had been there before and liked it. Have you ever been a Methodist living in that neighborhood? Well, I have been one such. The area may have been pristine when he arrived, but by 1860 this was heavy industry. It was a bustling, stinking, dirty, sooty place. In winter the snow was black, the sun never shown. When the snow turned to slush it was black. Hanging the laundry on the line to dry was impossible. It was dirtier after drying than it was before it was washed. A gentleman wore a hat but it had to be cleaned and blocked one a week. Non-gentlemen such as the French and rapscallions of St. Louis did not war hats but tied dirty handkerchiefs around their head. In spring the mighty Mississippi flooded and commerce had to stop. In summer it was very hot and humid. One had the option of keeping the house shut up from the soot flying all around, and sweltering inside or sleeping outside with the bugs or in a basement on a cot. There was no evening breeze. Fall was not so bad but one knew that winter was coming soon.
UNCLE TOM’S CABIN had been written. War was coming. Illinois was a free state but southern Illinois was full of southern sympathizers. Methodists were anti-slavery, as it is said that Rev. Harrison was from his family’s life in Georgia. Missouri did not know how they felt. Abraham Lincoln of Illinois was running for President. Rev. Harrison probably knew that he was a relative, living in Springfield in Sangamon County where the prominent people were Long Grey Trail Harrisons. Some of these Harrisons were also living Alton nearby. A war would disrupt commerce and the industry. In Alton a lynch mob of southerners killed a newspaperman named Lovejoy who advocated freeing the slaves. East St. Louis had a burgeoning black populous. That is just a stone’s throw from Belleville. At one point East St. Louis had a race war in which about 1000 blacks were strung up to lampposts.
Minneapolis was a burgeoning city at the upper end of navigation of the Mississippi. It was no doubt a main shipping point for hard winter wheat, probably a main source for high quality flour, which was his main business. It would be a safe haven from war.
I do not know when the first bridge was built across the Mississippi from St. Louis, but I think it was a Railroad bridge. Such construction was a massive undertaking. But even if there was no bridge at that time, a big ferrying business would have been going on, making St. Louis a perhaps-unwelcome neighbor. It was the gateway to the west.
I do not know what the Methodist Church was like in those days, but I know what it was like 60 years later in the area, personally (1920’s). It was hellfire and brimstone. It was against the law for a Methodist to smile. All Methodist women were ugly and had stern horse faces with the corners of their mouths turned down. They all know they were going to hell, men and women. No sins were forgiven. Alcohol was an abomination, as were playing cards. Of course no one really bought that ranting and raving, except on Sunday morning. My father never was contaminated by all that. He sat in the last pew and slept through all that, frequently snoring. Also, he and my mother, both southerners from Memphis with appropriate accents and friendliness
kept smiling. But nobody would criticize them because my father was always the dead of the finance committee or President of the board or such, even if he never heard a sermon in his life. Kids were more rambunctious and resisted the imposed loss of self esteem so engendered. My folks were never very obedient to the oft-repeated "gospel" of "spare the rod and spoil the child" or "children should be seen and not heard". There were no pretty girls in church. If they were pretty and could not help it, they went to the Baptist or Presbyterian churches. No young man would ever marry a Methodist bride, except under duress. If there were rich they joined the Episcopal Church, where the choir was always larger than the congregation and the Priest preached on esoteric points of philosophy, and most little sins were not sins.
I expect it was different in Rev. Thomas Harrison’s day. He owned the Mansion House Hotel, where he refused to sell alcohol to the frustration of his guests. It was a first class hotel with some prominent guests such as Charles Dickens in 1842. The only quote I see from Rev. Thomas is reported about an incident at the hotel. A weary traveler with a parched throat sat his bag on the counter and called for the bar. "We have no bar", said Rev. Thomas. "Well, that beats the devil", was the rejoinder. "That is just what I’ve been trying to do all my life", said Rev. Thomas. I would bet that he smiled, frequently. Both he and his wife were crack shots. He would often call on his wife to show her skill with a rifle, especially when Indians were around to witness her skill. I expect she smiled too.
I knew a very old Methodist Minister in the 1920’s; Rev. Cates, as a small boy. I would bet that he knew Rev. Harrison, or certainly knew of him. He lived two doors from us. He was retired from our church. He smiled a lot and was, though very dignified, friendly to the neighborhood kids. His daughter Jenny seemed very old too, to me. She was a teacher in my school and a tough one, She was very strict and never smiled at school, but at home she was very nice. We felt free to play in her yard, but carefully7. She was unmarried as were all female schoolteachers. My father and Rev. Cates enjoyed each other. They shared a nature tinged with a bit of larceny. They conspired to influence the congregation to build a new Parsonage: not for Rev. Cates but for his successor who lived in a run down old house owned by the church. My father thought it was too spartan for our masochistically inclined Minister, even though it was in the midst of a depression. With Rev. Cate’s connivance, my father ordered a load of gravel placed on the vacant lot next to the church and drove some stakes in the ground and tied string between the stakes to imply pending construction. They never said a word to anyone about doing it. They just let them ponder and stew and wonder. Finally someone decided they should build a new parsonage there. (my story, while probably not entirely accurate, is reasonably so, I believe. It is wasn’t Rev. Cates, it was some other Methodist Minister, and typical of my father and Rev. Cates).
An article by Cyrus Thompson in the BELLEVILLE DAILY NEWS DEMOCRAT, 4-11-1933 tells about Rev. Harrison. The author knew him and he tells about the marriage performed by him May 13, 1856 when his grandson, Theophilus Harrison married the author’s sister Mary Eleanor Thompson. The author was age 10 and Rev. Harrison about 77., "Having come from North Carolina where cotton was one of the leading farm products…he built a cotton gin." (I doubt that cotton was grown in Buncombe, but if he knew cotton, he probably learned about it in GA)
REV. THOMAS A. HARRISON JR. AND HIS BROTHERS (?).
From the same article above, "So far as I know nothing is said of any others of the Harrisons coming here from NC..(but) at the corner of father’s farm (Thompson), lived an old man, ROBERT HARRISON, who had married a sister, I think, of a neighbor of ours, Nathan Gregg. I may be wrong but I think he must have been a brother or some relative of Thomas Harrison, though no one knows. Once in rambling around through the old Union Cemetery to the left of the highway between here and Millstadt, I found an old
neglected grave. The slab had fallen down and possibly broken, but the inscription said: "In Memory of Robert Harrison who departed this life January 5, 1845." I am the only person in all probability who knows where that grave is, and none of the descendants of Thomas Harrison know whether Robert was a relative of Thomas Harrison or not. From the conversation in father’s family I think Robert must have been an old man when he died, but the stone only says he departed this life in 1845 - a few months before I was born." (Cyrus Thompson, along with Harrisons were owners of Harrison Works. Thompson says he was with the company for 52 years and intimately involved with the Harrison family)
There is also a family tradition about a brother names John and that "Robin" and John came with Thomas from Buncombe on a wagon train with Gilbreaths and others. There seems to be nothing more on John. I wonder if John did come with his brothers Robert/Robin and Thomas and turned around and went back and settled Knox Co. KY and then Indiana, later. (Helen, what do you think? Is there a gap about John which would fit?).
Well, this could account for those early records of Robert Harrison in Buncombe County. There is no mention of William Harrison who was sold 200 acres on Sandy Mush Creek by Joseph Harrison 7-8-1806. Joseph did not have a son William that I know of (Book A Page 8). William remains a mystery. Sandy Mush is where Rev. Nathan had about 700 acres and also where he and Ezekiel John transferred property. We generally think of Joseph having his property on Turkey Creek and Rev. Nathan on Sandy Mush (as also, Rev. Jeremiah Harrison), but Rev. Nathan also had a property on Turkey Creek where his blind son Thomas reared his family.
HARRISON MARRIAGES OF ST. CLAIR CO. IL
Both Ruth Bowes and Gail Shlanta sent marriage records from two different sources. The one from Mrs. Shlanta contains more marriages because it ends at a later date. I think they are consistent. Mrs. Shlanta’s contains 58 Harrison marriages and she has marked 18 of them as accounted for as descendants of Rev. Thomas and Margaret Gilbreath. I will not discuss these at this point, but others are of interest:
Robert Harrison m Ann Gregg book B p 74, 3-9-1826. This is also recorded 3-4-1826 as the license date per coll (?). If this is the old man who died 1845, I would guess that this was a later marriage; not his first. No telling how many of the Harrison marriages on the list that are unaccounted for are descendants of Robert.
William HARRIS m Polly Patton 3-20-1811. Could this be Harrison? Patton is a common name associated with LGT Harrisons. Moreover, there is a P.D. Harrison, Padon Harrison, and Payton Harrison among the later marriages, also LGT suggestions.
Burr Harrison m Deborah D. Wilson 4-30-1839. To me this means that at least one other Harrison line is here and rather early - the Burr Harrison family.
Two Harrisons m Davises: Isaac Harrison m Martha Jane Davis 1-30-1855 and Lucretia Harrison m Jesse Davis 5-29-1851. Neither of these is credited to descendants of Rev. Thomas.
This list extends to some other names than Harrison and it is interesting to note that many are German names. I know that Belleville was considered a German community when I lived near there. Its main street was noted for a vast number of neon beer signs advertising a local beer - Start Beer, made in Belleville.
Mrs. Shlanta comments that she is in contact with descendants of a few of these unaccounted for Harrisons on the marriage rolls, but no common tie has been found. Any tied to Robert?
THOMAS OGELSBY HARRISON was the son of James Harvey Harrison and Lucinda Gooding. James Harvey the son of Rev. Thomas. He was b 1 May 1827, d 20 Feb 1863. (died in Hastings, MN). He was a miller in both places. He m Eliza Jane Calbraith 29 Feb 1852 in Belleville. The name Ogelsby certainly attracts my attention since Rev. Nathan
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Transcribed by Sue Countryman - many thanks to Sue!