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Distinguishing the Thomas Harrises of Early Virginia

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Date: 1600 to 1725
Location: Virginiamap
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This text was originally extracted from a What is the documentation for claimed children of this Thomas Harris? G2G thread from June 2020.


Thomas Harris d Charles City, Virginia 1677


Some researchers say he was the Thomas Harris of London who married first Alice (some say West; this is wrong; see Alice West Harris of Nunney, Somsert, England) who died 1652 in London;Template:Citation sought then he married second Yvet _____.

Tom King, former WikiTree member, claims, without citing his source, that the parents of this Thomas Harris "were documented by an English Genealogist in 1990." King added: "Proven by a Sgt John Harris letter to the College of Arms in London in 1636 testifying that his [whose?] four children were William deceased, John deceased, Dorothy living and John living."

Until we find sources that say otherwise, we only know that when he died in 1677, he was survived by at least two (unnamed) minor children and a wife named Yvett who may or may not have been the mother of his children. The surviving children were placed under the guardianship of John Hardaway or John Echols; they are referenced in a court record: " in behalf of the orphans of Thos. Harris, dec’d". If these children were minors, they were born after 1656.

The identity of these orphans was analyzed in Claiborne T. Smith, Jr. (1993) "Sergeant John Harris of Charles City County, Virginia: A Reappraisal." Virginia Genealogist 37

He suggests there were at least three orphans-- Thomas, Unknown daughter who married John Echols, and another daughter Frances. At least one researcher disagrees with Smith's theories. See John Brayton, "The Five Thomas Harrises of Isle of Wight County Virginia" (1995); Introduction pgs vii, etc and Notes 2 & 3.

Some people believe that John Hardaway, one of the guardians, married a Francis Harris (older daughter of this Thomas?) and that the other guardian, John Echols, married another daughter of this Thomas.

Bacon's Rebellion

Some believe he was executed (hung) as a result of his involvement in Bacon's Rebellion.

There appears to be some confusion in the sources over whether it was Thomas Harris who was tried and hung for his involvement in Bacon's Rebellion, or a James Wilson?

The Calendar of State Papers: Colonial Series, America and West Indies 1677-1680, no. 303, p. 105 does have a report from the Governor, Sir William Berkeley where he states that four were executed at York; Young, Page, Harris and Hall (no first names given).

What is presumably a copy of the full pages is here.

However in The statutes at large: being a collection of all the laws of Virginia... by W.W. Hening, vol 2, p. 545-546 it has Thomas Hall, Thomas Young, Henry Page, and James Wilson as being tried and executed at Yorke. There is no mention that I can see of Thomas Harris in relation to Bacon's Rebellion at all.

In Ann Cotton's account of the rebellion, which appears to be given in full here, again it is James Wilson, with the addition of 'once your servant' who is stated as being executed along with Young (Yong), Hall, and Page.

This list of rebels, compiled by Kevin Frazier, has Lt. Colonel Thomas Harris of Isle of Wight (county of residence) as captured. I was so hung up on the Charles City County/Isle of Wight County disconnect, I missed that he was listed as captured, not executed. The list shows James Wilson & many more as hanged, but does not note the date(s) of execution. It also does not indicate the fate of any of the three Harrises listed, aside from noting that Thomas Harris was captured.

This list has the "at York whilst I lay there" heading for the following four entries:

One Young, commissionated by Genl. Monck long before he declared for ye King. One Page, a carpenter, formerly my servant, but for his violence used against the Royal Party, made a Colonel. One Harris, that shot to death a valiant loyalist prisoner. One Hall, a Clerk of a County but more useful to the rebels than 40 army men--that dyed very penitent confessing his rebellion against his King and his ingratitude to me.

Comparing the info on the two lists doesn't help ID which Harris was executed at York, but there is only one each of the other surnames & the descriptions match:

  • Thomas Hall of New Kent - county clerk; hanged; court-martialed on Martin's Ship
  • Henry Page - carpenter; hanged
  • Thomas Young of James City - hanged; with Cromwell in English Civil War

Gov. Berkeley's list does not mention Wilson but only names 14 people executed; the information compiled by Kevin Frazier says 24 were sentenced to death or hanged. For James Wilson of New Kent, it says only that he was hanged.

edited to clarify which list (changed from wording "second list" to a link). And to add this about Young, from Tyler's Encyclopedia of Virginia Biography:

Young, Thomas, was son of Captain Thomas Young, who was uncle of George Evelyn, commander of Kent Island, Maryland. He served in the parliamentary wars under General Monk, and afterwards came to Virginia, where his father had a farm on the Chickahominy, in James City county. He sided with Nathaniel Bacon Jr. in 1676, and being captured by Berkeley was executed January 12, 1677. He was known as "Captain Young of Chickahominy."

I did see that first list, but unfortunately although it has a long list of sources, doesn't specify which source relates to which fact.

There is a dissertation by J.H. Sprinkle, Loyalists and Baconians: The participants in Bacon's rebellion in Virginia, 1676-1677, which mentions George Harris in a list of Surry County Baconians, (p. 197 (image 209 of 257) but appears to have no mention of Thomas or John Harris.

Looking again at the Colonial State Papers, I notice the list by Sir William Berkeley was probably written in mid-June 1677, once he was back in England, and only a few weeks before he died, so it's very possible he got the names wrong and substituted Harris for James Wilson.

Even if he is right and the other primary sources have omitted Harris for some reason, then as you say there is still no clear indication that this is Thomas Harris.

It's interesting though that I haven't come across anything that discusses the difference in the two lists of who was executed at York/e.

https://scholarworks.wm.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3727&context=etd Mentions George Harris.


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