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Guide to the Samuel Harris Journal

MSN/COL 9100

 

Collection Summary

Title: Samuel Harris journal
Dates: 1774
Collection No.: MSN/COL 9100
Creator: Harris, Samuel, 1733-1825
Extent: 1 volume
Language: Collection material in English
Repository: University of Notre Dame. Hesburgh Libraries, Department of Special Collections. 102 Hesburgh Library, Notre Dame, IN 46556
Abstract: A manuscript journal kept by Pennsylvania native Samuel Harris from 14 October to 1 December 1774, recording the progress of a surveying party up the Susquehanna River.

Selected Search Terms

Harris, Samuel, 1733-1825
Pioneers -- Pennsylvania -- History -- 18th century
Surveying -- Pennsylvania -- History -- 18th Century
Pennsylvania -- History -- 18th Century
Susquehanna River
Susquehanna River Valley -- History
Pennsylvania -- Geography

Administrative Information

Restrictions: There are no access restrictions on this collection.

Preferred Citation: Samuel Harris Journal, Department of Special Collections, Hesburgh Libraries of Notre Dame.

Acquisition and Processing Note: The Harris journal was purchased by Notre Dame in January 2005, from Michael Krehel of Northumberland, Pennsylvania. Arranged and described 2005, by George Rugg. Finding aid 2009, by Jacob Baska.

Biographical Note

Samuel Harris was born on 4 May 1733, the same year that his father, John Harris, Sr., received a license to operate a ferry across the Susquehanna River in south-central Pennsylvania. The place where Harris plied his trade became known as "Harris's Ferry" (now Harrisburg). Samuel Harris was an early settler of present-day Lycoming County, Pennsylvania; by the late 1760s he had moved up the West Branch of the Susquehanna, to an area later incorporated as the township of Loyalsock. Harris lived in Loyalsock for many years, serving as town assessor from 1796 to 1798. He later moved further north to the Finger Lakes region of New York, settling at Cayuga Lake. He died there on 19 October 1825; a monument dedicated to his memory stands in the town of Bridgeport, on the western shore of the lake.

Scope and Content Note

The journal is a stitched pamphlet (19 cm.) of 12 leaves, with 21 pages of entries in Harris's hand. The entries record the progress of a surveying expedition up the North Branch of the Susquehanna River, in present-day Bradford County, Pennsylvania. The journal commences on 14 October 1774, when Harris was below the confluence of Wyalusing Creek and the Susquehanna, and runs through 1 December, and the conclusion of the party's work. Entries appear for most days during that span; the typical entry is between 150 and 200 words. Much of the content consists of Harris's surveyor's field notes, but entries also include descriptions of the party's movements, observations on the land and weather, and one extended account (on 8 November) of a council with an unidentified Indian "King or Chief" concerned with the party's possible encroachment on Native land. The surveys recorded in the journal were made on lands lying along, and to the east of, the Susquehanna, immediately south of the "42 degree" (i.e., the New York line). The Iroquois had sold a sizeable portion of the area to Pennsylvania in 1768, but viewed the region north of the Chemung-Susquehanna confluence as the gateway to the lands of the Iroquois confederation.

The broader context of the expedition is not much alluded to in the manuscript. At the volume's conclusion Harris notes that "[T]he aforgoing Jornel and field notes are the work and Proceedings don for Robt Lettis Hoopper and Comp. by him". Hooper (c1730-1797) was probably the chief surveyor in the party; he had contracted to perform many surveys for Pennsylvania proprietors. Also involved with the expedition was Samuel Wallis (1730-1798), who had arrived in Lycoming County around the same time as Harris, and became known as the "Land King" for his tireless acquisition and speculation.

Accompanying the journal is an undated, unsigned record docketed "List of Proprietary Property of Sundry favourite grants." The relationship between this document and the journal is unclear. A typical entry notes the owner and location of a particular property in very general terms. The locations of the properties run across Pennsylvania from east ("Dr. ... 3000 included on old Indian Town on Delaware [River]) to west ("Alex'r McKee 500 at the mouth of Chartiers Creek 5 mile below Ft. Pitt"). Some areas listed in the document are also mentioned in Harris's journal, such as Lycoming Creek and Loyalsock.

Arrangement Note

The document acquired with the journal is held in a separate folder (Folder MSN/COL 9100-2-F1).

Container List

  • Journal. Samuel Harris, 1774. Folder 1 (MSN/COL 9100-01).
    • "List of Proprietary Property of Sundry favourite grants", n.d. Folder 2 (MSN/COL 9100-02-F1).