In 1874 James H. Stone published "A Biographical Sketch of Judge Bazel Harrison, The First White Settler in Kalamazoo County", republished in 1913 by "The Express" in Schoolcraft, Michigan. Bazel Harrison was the son of William Harrison and his second wife Worlenda (Davis) Harrison. Mr. Stone's "biographical sketch" can also be found in the "Michigan Pioneer Collections", Volume 11, 1887, contributed by A.D.P. Van Buren. There are several points of contention and disputed facts in Mr. Stone's sketch of the Judge. The relationship to the James River Harrison family has never been substantiated. Stone wrote:
"William Harrison was a descendant of the great Gen. Harrison who held a commission under Cromwell. These grandparents immigrated to Virginia and settled in either Berkeley or Charles City County, early in the last century." His father's name was also William Harrison, and he was born in Berkeley, Virginia, about 1730. William Harrison, Jr. was twice married and by his two wives had was the father of 23 children, our centenarian being a son of the second wife, whose name was Worlenda Davis. His father married her in Maryland about the same time his younger brother, Benjamin Harrison (father of President Harrison and uncle of the Judge), married her mother, Clara Davis, a widow."
This excerpt directly contradicts itself. Benjamin (V) Harrison, the father of President William Henry Harrison, was born in 1726 (which would have made him William Harrison's older--not younger brother). Benjamin (V) Harrison did not marry Clara Davis; he married Elizabeth Bassett who is the executor of his will. No accepted genealogy of the James River Harrison family contains a link, which leads to a relationship to Bazel Harrison.
Stone listed sixteen of William Harrison’s children who lived to majority. The children of William and his first wife (Unknown) were:
William Harrison and Worlenda Davis were married after 1766 (no proof of the marriage has been documented). Their Children were:
Bazel Harrison was born in 1771 in Frederick County, Maryland. In his biography Stone wrote about the 1790 elopement of Bazel Harrison and Martha Stillwell in Greencastle, Franklin County, Pennsylvania. The parents of Martha Stillwell remain a mystery today. None of the Stillwell families that lived near Franklin County in 1790 have revealed a daughter named Martha. Bazel and Martha first appear in the 1800 Federal Census of Somerset Township, Washington County, Pennsylvania.
Bazel was later taxed in adjacent Fallowfield Township from 1801-1808. His name is crossed out on the tax enumeration for the year 1809. Stone wrote that Bazel then went to Kentucky to work on the "Millbrook farm" of his cousin then General and future President William Henry Harrison. Bazel Harrison does not appear on the 1810 Federal Census of Kentucky and no evidence has ever substantiated Stone’s statement. In 1812-1814 Bazel and Martha Harrison bought and sold land in Butler County, Ohio.
Bazel and Martha Harrison were then taxed in Clark County, Ohio from 1820 until he led a party of twenty-one to Kalamazoo County, Michigan in 1828. From Stone’s biography:
"All eyes were turned to Michigan. To Mr. Harrison with his large family and in his mood of mind it was just the place for him. And he had no difficulty in securing company for his migratory journey. His oldest son William was anxious to go, but could not get away until the next year. Ephraim, the blacksmith, was ready with little preparation. Judge's son-in-law, Whipple, with his wife, and three children, responded to the invitation, and announced their readiness to leave their rented farm. Abraham and Ephraim Davidson, neighbors, also volunteered, and the party rendezvoused at the Judge's farm. We can not fix the exact date of their starting, but think it was about the 20th of September. The party numbered 21 persons, as follows: Bazil Harrison and Martha Harrison, his wife; Henry Whipple and his wife Cynthia Harrison Whipple, and two children; Ephraim Harrison, wife and three children; Abraham Davidson, wife and one child; Ephraim Davidson, and the following unmarried children of Mr. Harrison; Elias S., Worlender, Bazil, jr., Martha, John S., and Almira. As they set out from the deserted home-stead, with their eyes turned toward a new and unsettled country where they were to seek a new home, they formed quite an emigrant train. First, no doubt, came the old fashioned, great Pennsylvania wagon. That was none of your modern vehicles, but was so deep that a man standing on its floor could scarcely see over its side. It was long and high and broad, and it was very capacious. The box was boat-shaped--top, bottom and sides, though not at the ends generally painted blue, and the outside furnished with panels made of slats or moulding. The wheels, tires, axles, &c., were all made on the same scale of size and strength. To this conveyance was hitched two spans of horses. The harness used was quite another thing from those we see now--they were in keeping with the style of the wagons--an immense amount of leathern broad bands, no collars, and hames plain as a pike staff and as strong. Then came four other "wide track Ohio wagons," all but one drawn by two horses, the exception being preceded by a yoke of sturdy oxen. One of the four "Ohio wagons" with the horses that drew it belonged to Whipple, one to Abe Davidson, one to Ephraim Harrison, and the other, as well as the "Pennsylvania vehicle," to the patriarch of the party. There was also a light single horse wagon in which rode Mrs. Harrison and her daughters. Then there were three cows, fifty head of sheep, and nearly as many hogs."
The children of Bazel and Martha Harrison were:
Bazel Harrison was appointed an associate judge of Kalamazoo County by Governor Cass in 1830 and served in that capacity until 1836. Martha died in 1857, and Bazel died at the age of 103 years in 1874. From the Ross Coller notes (a reporter for the Kalamazoo Telegraph) at the Western Michigan Regional Archives:
"Pallbearers (at Bazel Harrison’s funeral) were from 69 to 84 years and ages totaled 466 years: John Brown, Robt. Pursel, Judge E. B. Dyckman, Preston J. McCreary, Abner Mack and Godfrey Knight."
Bazel and Martha are both buried in Harrison Cemetery in Prairie Ronde Township. Two historical markers commemorate their arrival in Kalamazoo. The first marker shown below was placed near their original homestead at Harrison Lake:
First permanent settler arrived in Kalamazoo County, November 5th 1827 or 1828. Guided to this site by Pottowatomie, Chief, Sagamaw and Braves. He traveled through trackless wilderness with loaded wagons drawn by horses and one yoke of oxen. Was commissioned by Governor Cass. "Associate Judge of County Court" immortalized by Cooper as "Bee Hunter" in Oak Openings. Died in 1874 a Centennarian.
A second marker was dedicated in 1978 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of their arrival. The marker is located at the corner of U Avenue and 10th Street near Harrison Cemetery:
Bazel and Martha Harrison
Bazel and Martha Harrison are buried in the Harrison cemetery south of this marker. He led a party of 21 who were the first permanent settlers on Prarie Ronde Kalamazoo County, where they arrived on November 5, 1828.
One thousand people attended his funeral on September 1, 1874 because he was admired, esteemed, respected and loved by all who knew him.
Martha Stillwell Harrison died on June 7, 1857. As his wife of 67 years she shared all of his early hardships and later ease, successes and failures, joys and sorrows and was the mother of 17 children.
Kalamazoo County Sesquicentennial Committee
This "biographical sketch" by Mr. Stone has confused and frustrated family researchers for many years. The discovery of William Harrison's proven lineage remains to be discovered. Was Mr. Stone's biographical sketch of Judge Bazel Harrison a fabrication, a misrepresentation of the facts by a journalist, or an elderly Bazel Harrison and his oldest son William "Uncle Billy" Harrison who were misunderstood or perhaps juxtaposed some important details of the family history which clouded these relationships. Recently, the descendants of Bazel and Joseph Harrison have joined together to collaborate and document this Harrison line and explore and preserve the past for future generations to enjoy our Harrison and allied families’ history.
The mission statement for the project says it best:
"We, the descendants of William Harrison, seek to discover documentation of the lineage of William Harrison, a supposed son of Benjamin (IV) Harrison and Anne (Carter) Harrison, find the parents of Martha Stillwell and explore collateral family lines..."
The project can be viewed at:
Many thanks are due to all the Harrison descendants who have made this project possible: Velma McKay, Mike and Kim Wolbers, Marie Mackey, Justin Herbst, Sara Romano, Chris Sheridan, Michael Crofts, Norm Washburn, Bruce Harrison, Sara Hagelgans, Dean and Karen Fisher, Cathy Gowdy, and many others.
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