Albert and Ethel Herzstein Library, San Jacinto Museum of History

Adele Briscoe Looscan Collection

John R. and Jane Harris Papers, Manuscript Collection: MC063

Collection Summary

Creator: Harris, John R., 1790-1829
Title: John R. and Jane Harris papers
Dates: 1814-1869
Dates: (Bulk: 1829-1850)
Abstract: Correspondence, financial and legal documents, and genealogical notes detail the lives of Jane Harris and John R. Harris of Texas.
Identification: MC063
OCLC Record No.: 50105481
Quantity: 1 box (.4 linear ft.)
Language: Materials are in English.
Repository: Albert and Ethel Herzstein Library, San Jacinto Museum of History, La Porte, Texas

Creator Sketch

John Richardson Harris was born on October 22, 1790, in Cayuga, New York, the eldest son of John Harris and Mary Richardson. On May 13, 1813, he married Jane Birdsall (1791-1869), the daughter of Lewis Birdsall and Patience Lee. They lived in Waterloo, New York, and Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, and had four children - DeWitt Clinton, Lewis Birdsall, Mary Jane, and John Birdsall. After meeting Moses Austin in Missouri, John R. Harris decided to go to Texas in 1824, leaving his family to return to New York. He quickly gained title to over 4,000 acres of land within present day Harris County at the confluence of Buffalo and Bray's Bayous. With the help of Francis W. Johnson, he laid out the town of Harrisburg, Texas, and constructed a steam sawmill and gristmill. John R. Harris died suddenly of yellow fever on August 21, 1829, while in New Orleans purchasing equipment. His brothers, David, William Plunkett, and Samuel assumed control of his business ventures during the absence of his widow.

With her eldest son, DeWitt Clinton Harris, Jane Harris arrived in Harrisburg, Texas, in 1833. She quickly became a fixture in early Texas as innkeeper and hostess to the provisional government. Forced from her home during the Runaway Scrape, she sought safety in Anahuac and Galveston. She returned soon after the Battle of San Jacinto to find that the town of Harrisburg, including her house, had been destroyed by the Mexican Army. Shortly after the Texas Revolution, her remaining children - Lewis Birdsall, Mary Jane, and John Birdsall - joined their mother in Texas. From 1839 to 1849, Jane Harris owned stock in the Harrisburg Town Company. With a steady supply of patrons from the Buffalo Bayou, Brazos, and Colorado Railroad and steamboat routes, Jane Harris operated an inn in Harrisburg until her death on August 15, 1869.

Scope and Content Note

The papers consist of two groups: the papers of Jane Harris and the papers of John R. Harris. Correspondence, financial and legal documents, and genealogical notes document the life of Jane Harris. Letters from her daughter, Mary Jane Harris Briscoe (10), and grandson, Parmenas Briscoe (7), describe their lives in Mississippi after the death of their husband and father, Andrew Briscoe, in 1849. Later letters concern their move to Anderson, Texas. Other family correspondence includes letters from Jane's son Lewis, brother Maurice L. Birdsall, and sister Eliza Van Tuyl. Correspondence sent consists of a single letter addressed to "Children." Receipts, a promissory note, and "Jane Harris' Cash act" July 1858 comprise the financial records. The only legal document is a deed from Maurice L. Birdsall to Jane Harris, 1842. Genealogical notes contain a lock of hair from Jane Harris and a brief list of her immediate family and their birth dates.

Financial and legal documents detail the short life of John R. Harris. Accounts payable (4) and receivable (50) 1828-1829 record an active business selling merchandise to settlers. Promissory notes, drafts and receipts record the financial transactions of Harris and include several documents to Stephen F. Austin. Legal documents deal primarily with land acquisition in New York, Illinois, and Texas. The estate of John R. Harris consists of financial and legal documents. The majority of the financial documents are receipts. Among the legal papers in the estate of John R. Harris is a 76 page inventory of his estate, records of a land dispute between the heirs of John R. Harris and John Birdsall, David Burnet, and John W. Moore, 1838-1847, and a compromise dated June 5, 1838.


Organized into two groups, Jane Harris Papers and John R. Harris Papers, and seven series; arrangement is alphabetical and chronological.


Restrictions on Access


Terms Governing Use

Open for research by appointment.

Publication Rights

Copyright has not been assigned to the San Jacinto Museum of History. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Library Director. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the San Jacinto Museum of History as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the researcher.

Index Terms

Austin, Stephen F. (Stephen Fuller), 1793-1836
Birdsall, Maurice Lee, 1794-1847
Briscoe, Mary Jane Harris, 1819-1903
Briscoe, Parmenas, 1839-1906
Harris, Jane, 1791-1869
Harris, John R., 1790-1843
Harris, Lewis Birdsall, 1816-1893
Van Tuyl, Eliza Birdsall, 1799-1869
Land tenure--Texas
Harris County (Tex.)
Mississippi--Social life and customs

Archivist's Note

Other related papers from the Adele Briscoe Looscan Collection include the Harris Family Papers, Mary Jane Harris Briscoe Papers, the Birdsall Family Papers, Lewis Birdsall Harris Papers, the William Plunkett Harris Papers, the DeWitt Clinton Harris Papers, and the Adele Briscoe Looscan Papers. All photographs are located in the Adele Briscoe Looscan Papers.

Administrative Information


[Identification of Item], John R. and Jane Harris Papers, MC063, San Jacinto Museum of History, Houston, Texas.


Mr. and Mrs. George A. Hill, Jr., Houston Public Library, Annie Hume, 1939-1940.

Processing Information

Processed by Sandra Eileen Yates, 2002.


"Harris, Jane Birdsall." The Handbook of Texas Online.

"Harris, John Richardson." The Handbook of Texas Online.


Jane Harris Papers

box folder
73 1 Received: Mary Jane Briscoe 1849-1853, undated
2 Received: Parmenas Briscoe 1849-1854
3 Received: Lewis B. Harris 1851-1869
4 Received: General 1842-1856
5 Sent 1854 December 16
6 Envelopes undated
box folder
73 7 Receipts, Promissory Notes, Cash Accounts 1849-1866
box folder
73 8 Legal: Deed 1842 December 26
box folder
73 9 Genealogy undated

John R. Harris Papers

box folder
73 10 Accounts Payable 1828-1829
11 Accounts Receivable 1828-1829
12 Promissory Notes, Receipts 1824-1829
box folder
73 13 General 1814-1829
Estate of John R. Harris
box folder
73 14 Financial and Legal Documents 1828-1829
15 Financial and Legal Documents 1830
16 Financial and Legal Documents 1830
17 Financial and Legal Documents 1831-1834
18 Financial and Legal Documents 1835-1837
19 Financial and Legal Documents 1838
20 Financial and Legal Documents 1839
21 Financial and Legal Documents undated