Pioneers of Ellis County
Frank S. Harris
Contributed by Dr. David P. Fearis III
Frank S. Harris, a prominent and influential farmer of Ellis County, was born in Smith County, Tennessee, December 23, 1828. He is a son of Dawson Harris, a native of Fauquier County, Virginia. The latter afterward moved to Tennessee when he engaged in farming and stock-raising. He was a son of Thomas Harris, who was a captain in the Revolutionary war, and also had a brother in the same war. Dawson Harris married Miss Polly Dowell, a native of Virginia, and they had seven children, six of whom survive, viz.: Frank S., our subject; Robert D., of Ellis county; B. Harris of Smith county, Tennessee; Betsy A., the wife of Elias Jenkins, of Springfield, Illinois; Sallie J., wife of James Fry, of Illinois; Mary, who married John Macon, and is also living in Illinois.
Frank S., our subject, was reared to farm life and received a common-school education. In 1846 he came through Texas on his march to Mexico, to participate in that war. He enlisted in Smith County, Tennessee, in Captain Don Ellison's company, and from there marched to Nashville and was mustered into service. From Nashville, he was marched to Memphis, Tennessee, and they then elected field officers. Jonas E. Thomas was elected Colonel, and Captain Don Ellison was elected Lieutenant-Colonel. John F. Goodner became captain of the company. This command was cavalry and they furnished their own outfit of clothing and horses. They marched from Memphis, Tennessee through Arkansas and Texas, to Matamoras, on the Rio Grande river, and then the regiment was attached to the command of Generals Patterson and Pillow. From there they took up the march for Tampico. At Victoria our subject, with others, was detailed to carry dispatches back to General Taylor at Monterey, which detail caused our subject to be with General Taylor's command at the battle of Buena Vista. From Buena Vista said detail was sent back to Matamoros, and then went under command of General Cushing, Commander of the Post. This detail remained at Matamoros until its twelve months' term expired, but this applies only to this detail. The regiment to which the detail properly belonged joined General Scott at Vera Cruz. This regiment marched with General scott and fought at Jalapa, and there their time expired.
From Matamoras our subject was sent with his detail to the mouth of the Rio Grande, and from there to New Orleans, where he was discharged. The regiment meantime had reached New Orleans and had been discharged before this detail reached there.
After returning from Mexico, our subject went back to his old home in Tennessee, and engaged in the cabinet business, which occupation he had pursued in early life. He afterward married Elizabeth Sweatt, and bought a small farm near Lebanon, in Wilson county, and remained there until 1855, when he sold his farm and moved to Texas, settling in Waxahachie; he worked at the carpenter trade for a while, and, in 1856, built the First Methodist church in Waxahachie, which, with its improvements, remains standing and in use. He then bought a farm on Grove creek in the fall of 1856 and moved to it; he afterward sold that farm and purchased, in 1866, a farm on Waxahachie creek of 300 acres, to which he has since added, now owning about 1,000 acres in Ellis county.
In 1862 Mr. Harris enlisted in the Confederate army at Waxahachie, Captain Car Forrest's Company, Colonel Nat M. Burford's Regiment, Nineteenth Texas Cavalry, which was afterward attached to what was known as Parsons' Brigade. He served with this command about seven months, west of the Mississipi river, and was then discharged on account of ill health. After returning home he was detailed in the commissary department of the Trans-Mississippi, and in that capacity served until the end of the war.
He had been the owner of some ten or a dozen slaves, but these went free of course. He then commenced on his farm with one old man and a yoke of oxen. But by prudence and industry, he is better off; his children--two of them, daughters--are married and prosperous, and he is now enjoying a vigorous old age, and says, that if necessary he thinks he could go through two more small wars, and still be able to save the country from any contributions to his support.
[The foregoing is a true and accurate copy of the biographical sketch of Frank S. Harris taken verbatim from "The Memorial and Biographical History of Ellis County, Texas" published by the Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, Illinois, 1892, pgs 285, 286 and 287.]
In Memoriam F. S. Harris
F. S. Harris, the subject of this sketch, died at his home near Ray, in Ellis County, Texas, March 25, 1905, and his body was laid to rest in the City Cemetery, the immense concourse of sympathizing friends assembled at the cemetery showing the high esteem in which he was held by his neighbors and fellow citizens. He leaves two daughters, Mrs. B. C. King of Weatherford and Mrs. C. U. Fearis of Ennis, also a brother, R.D. Harris of Ray, Texas, to sorrow for a loving, kind, dutiful and affectionate father and brother.
In the death of this noble hearted man. Ellis County has lost a noble citizen, a man of integrity and veracity, and this writer, a true friend. He had all those characteristics that go to make up true manhood, was a consistent member of the Church of Christ, and was a constant attendant of the church until his hearing failed. He said to this writer some months since that he did not attend public worship then, as he could not hear, and that he remained at home to read his Bible and commune with his God.
F.S. Harris was born in Smith County, Tennessee, September 23, 1827, moving to Texas from Tennessee December 27, 1855 and settling in Ellis County, where he remained until his death.
He saw service in three wars: in the war with Mexico, in fighting the Indians on the frontier of Texas, and in the civil war. In 1846 a company was raised in Smith County, Tennessee, by Captain Don Allison, to take part in the war with Mexico, and in this company Mr. Harris enlisted. After the company was organized and equipped, they proceeded to Nashville, Tennessee, where they were mustered into service, thence to Memphis, where a regiment was formed. These men all furnished their own horses and equipments, all for the defense of their country against a common foe. From Memphis the regiment began its long and tedious march through Arkansas and Texas, to the seat of war. Arriving at Matamoros on the Rio Grande, the regiment was attached to Gens. Patterson and Pillow's command. This division took part in some of the most important battles of the war, such as Buena Vista and Vera Cruz. After the surrender of Mexico City, they returned homeward by sea, landing at New Orleans, where Gen. Taylor's command was mustered out of service.
Returning home, Mr. Harris shortly afterwards located in Lebannon, Tennessee where he married Miss Mary Carr, who lived only a short time. On the second of September, 1849 he married Miss Sarah Sweatt, cousin of his first wife. Of this marriage two children were born. Mrs. B.C. King and Mrs. C.U. Fearis. In 1852 these children were left motherless. In 1854, Mr. Harris married Miss Elizabeth Sweatt, sister of his first wife, who raised her husband's orphaned children with all the care and affection of a loving mother. The two last mentioned, were sisters of Mrs. S.H. Overstreet of Ray and our honored and lamented Dr. R.P. Sweatt. At the beginning of the war among the states he again shouldered his musket in defense of his dear Southland. Through all the duties, trials, and hardships of a soldier's life, he maintained his manly integrity, and to the close of his life was an honored and useful citizen.
One of the characteristics in the history of this benevolent, generous hearted man, we wish to speak of. He was a true friend and helper of the widow and the orphan, and his big heart seemed to sympathize with these helpless ones. But he was not content with sympathizing alone. He manifested his sympathy in good works. Mr. Riley Wheat, who now resides in Western Texas, a prosperous and law abiding citizen, left an orphan at a tender age, was raised and cared for during his boyhood and youth by Mr. Harris. Also Mrs. Mit Wheatley (Alice Field) of Howard, Ellis County, Texas, a most estimable lady, and wife of one of Ellis County's good men, in her orphanage received the fatherly care and affection of Mr. Harris. One other Miss Ann Mitchell, was raised and cared for by Mr. Harris and at the dying request of her husband was again received by Mr. Harris as one of his family until her marriage to Mr. F.P. Bradley, a good citizen of Colliers Chapel, Ellis County, Texas.
Such is the life and character of our deceased friend and brother, F.S. Harris. His life and the memory of his good works will ever be held sacred in the memory of these dear ones, and in the memory of all who knew him.
One by one, we that wore the gray are falling, the ranks are being thinned. May we join hands over the River in the Sweet Bye and Bye. "Rest soldier, rest." Let us bow in humble submission to Him that doeth all things well.
Thomas B. Criddle
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