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James Harris, Jr.

HARRIS, James, Jr. — The contemporaries of the Harris family in McDonough County include all who have cast their fortunes within its boundaries for the past seventy-one years. Its members have been vigorous of body, industrious of hand and clear of brain. Whether as dwellers in a rude cabin, the victims of privation and loneliness, and surrounded by game and other accompaniments of frontier existence, or as promoters of the intelligent and successful land cultivation which links this State with the best in agriculture and stock-raising in the world, they have adapted themselves to their most practical opportunities, and have risen to the business, political, educational and religious energies of their environment. Individually and collectively they stand out as strong and conscientious promoters of local stability and encouragers of clean, wholesome living, and sturdy, non-visionary ideals. Although at present the honor and worth of the family is vested in comparatively few, Jonas alone surviving of the seven daughters and five sons of James and Prudence (Harris) Harris, pioneers of 1834, all in passing have contributed to the growth of the county, and have left records worthy a noble New England ancestry and fine parental example. Of this large family none are better remembered than James Harris, Jr., who was born in McDonough County in December, 1834, the son of Daniel (II.) and Laura (Mayo) Harris, who were natives of New York, the former born in Chenango County of that State in 1806.

Isaac Harris, the first American ancestor of this family, and great-great-grandfather of the subject of this sketch, was a native of England, who came to America in the seventeenth century and settled at Plainfield, Windham County, Conn. His two sons, Daniel and Nathan, natives of Plainfield, married, respectively, Lucy Fox and Prudence Park, also of Plainfield, and James Harris (the son of Daniel), born in Plainfield, July 22, 1782, married his cousin Prudence (daughter of Nathan Harris), born in Berkshire County, Mass., in 1785 — their marriage taking place December 15, 1802. Daniel Harris, father of the subject of this sketch, was a son of James and Prudence (Harris) Harris, and was an older brother of Jonas Rude Harris, whose sketch appears on another page of this volume. (For additional details of family history, see sketch of the latter.)

The prosperity and thrift of his father, Daniel Harris, of New Salem Township, combined with his own industry and resourcefulness, enabled James Harris, Jr., to obtain a better education than was the lot of the average farm-reared youth. A diligent pupil during the winter season in the neighboring school of Eldorado Township, he afterward took a course at Lombard College, Galesburg, Ill., and in time engaged in educational work in Vermont, Fulton County, and later in the public schools of McDonough County. His later means of livelihood, however, was the stock business in which he was engaged for many years with his uncle Jonas, and strict attention to which enabled him to accumulate competence. At his death he owned 1,000 acres of land. He was a Democrat in politics, but had no inclination or willingness for public office. Before her marriage the wife of James Harris, Jr., was Ella Will, of Ray County, Mo., in which State her wedding occurred. One son, Daniel Octavius, perpetuates the family name. The genial, kindly nature of Mr. Harris drew to him and continued indefinitely, the friendship of many people. He was painstaking and methodical, and as an educator and stockman invested his undertakings with thoroughness and dignity. To know him was to know a reliable, high-minded gentleman, and one who has contributed materially to the growth and prosperity of his well favored county.

Source: The Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of McDonough County, compiled by Dr. Newton Bateman, and Paul Shelby, 1907, volume 2, pages 896-897, extracted 04 Jan 2019 by Norma Hass.

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