Friday, December 12, 2014

J.F. Harris Obituary, Henderson Gold Leaf, Dec. 5, 1901

From The Gold Leaf, Henderson, N.C., Dec. 5, 1901

Major J.F. Harris…Full of Years and Usefulness He Passes Peacefully Away…One of Henderson’s Oldest and Best Know Citizens…An Honorable and Upright Man, Loved and Respected by all Who Knew Him…Short Sketch of His Life…The Funeral Services

Maj. J.F. Harris died at his home in this place about half past nine o’clock Friday night. He had been sick but a few days and while his condition was known to be serious from the first the community was scarcely prepared for the announcement of his death.

Maj. Harris was one of the oldest and best known citizens of Henderson and one of the most popular and greatly beloved. Every one who knew him was his friend and well wisher and he cherished ill against no man. Of a genial nature and friendly disposition, and sociable in his habits he was a most companionable man always. He loved company and was especially fond of the society of young people. Though old in years Maj. Harris was young in spirit and until within the past year or two he was remarkably active and well preserved for his age. But his friends of late had observed in him the effects of advancing age. He had lost his elastic step, his love of out door exercise and sports afield, and his buoyant spirits had given way to graver and more serious mien and manner.

Had he lived until the 25th of next March Maj. Harris would have been 84 years old. Many of our readers will recall the reception given by Major and Mrs. Harris in 1898 in honor of his attaining his eightieth year. It was a most delightful occasion and among the vast number who paid their respects there was not one who appeared to bear his years more lightly than the genial host who was just “eighty years young.”

Maj. Harris was a loyal and consistent member of the Methodist Protestant church and was one of its most liberal and cheerful supporters. He took an active part in the building of the beautiful new church which adorns the lot he gave—a structure not only creditable to that denomination but an ornament to the town and pride of our people generally—and had expressed a desire to live long enough to see two things: First to see the church completed and an annual conference held in it. He was spared to see both. For some months it had been his great pleasure to worship therein, and the first funeral service that was held there was that of his brother-in-law L.B. Yancey. He saw the conference of his church held here and was one of the most active and interested workers among the laymen. And the very day it adjourned he was taken sick and passed to the great conference of the redeemed above without having left his bed.

Of the life and character of Maj. Harris we shall not attempt to speak. This has been done by another in the sketch which is published blow. The funeral was held from the Methodist Protestant church at 2:30 o’clock Sunday afternoon. The attendance was perhaps the largest ever seen at a funeral in Henderson. Many persons were here from a distance. The church was crowded and numbers of people had to stand outside. Rev. J.S. Williams conducted the service, assisted by Rev. A.R. Shaw, Rev. M.H. Tuttle and Dr. Hufham. Mr. Shaw delivered the opening prayer, Mr. Tuttle read the Scripture lesson and Dr. Hufham made the closing prayer. The services throughout were singularly impressive and appropriate. In place of any remarks of his own, Pastor Williams read the following paper which at his request was written by Mr. A.J. Harris:

John Fletcher Harris, second son of Ivey and Judith Harris, was born March 25th, 1818, at his father’s home near Harris’ Cross Roads in Granville county, N.C. At 19 years of age he went into the mercantile business under the late Col. John Hargrove, at what was then known as Linesville. Here he and the late Maj. W.W. Vass received their first lessons in actual business affairs. After one year here he refused the offer made by Col. Hargrove to double his salary, and, in partnership with his oldest brother Wm. A. Harris, opened a store at the Cross Roads near Wiliamsboro. After remaining here for several years he went to Midway.

He was successful in these several ventures, and in October, 1842, he married Miss Martha Sledge, with whom he lived happily until her death in 1884. From this time until the end of the Civil War he devoted himself to agricultural pursuits and as an example of his success in this field there will be found among his papers $11,000 of Granville county script given him for meat and bread furnished to families of soldiers during the Civil War.

After the disasters incident to the Civil War, with depleted fortune and well nigh hopeless of bettering his financial condition by agricultural pursuits he embarked in the business of manufacturing tobacco at Tally Ho. This venture proved unsuccessful, and embarrassed by the debts contracted here and the losses incident to the war, he began after the great Henderson fire to rebuild his shattered fortunes at this place—buying a site for a store before the fires quit burning. He entered into partnership with his brothers in the mercantile business and for years they carried on the principal business of this town. Here he made his greatest financial success, and with this he closed his active business career, except the year 1886. In all his business life he lived strictly up to the Scriptural command to owe no man anything.

As a Mason for more than 50 years he was treasurer of a Lodge, receiving and paying out the moneys with a justness and exactness that always made his re-election a matter of course.

As Chairman of the County Court of Common Pleas and Quarter Sessions his dignity and firmness rendered him popular, and his rigid adherence to rules of right made him the friend of order and the open enemy of every willful violator of the law.

As a churchman he was instantly loyal to the Methodist Protestant church. He and William A. Harris were the principal founders of Harris’ Chapel at Dabney, which church was named on account of the noble work of these two men.

The old Methodist Protestant church in Henderson found the same two brothers leading in every place for the progress of that edifice. It is needless to tell the people of Henderson what his intense zeal did for the new Methodist Protestant church for this is so recent as to be known of all.

When the late lamented John Paris was contemplating writing a history of the Methodist Protestant church, he went to the home of John F. Harris on his “Tarlton Farm” and there wrote a large part of that work that has so strongly appealed to the hearts of loyal Methodist Protestants in its portrayal of the sufferings of the founders of the church.

He was married to Miss Jennie Yancey on the 12th day of February, 1890, and her genial and happy life was the principal cause of his prolonged youthfulness, despite approaching age.

His last public utterance, on Monday night last, was a strong appeal for the preservation and enlargement of the fund for superannuated Methodist Protestant preachers and their wives. His last church work was meeting with the Trustees for that fund, of which he was a member, and striving to add to the usefulness and strength of that organization.

Major Harris possessed a wonderful faculty of rendering himself popular with the young people with whom he came in contact. He was fond of outdoor sports and exercises and always claimed that he was enabled to shake off depressing effects of business reverses by fox hunting and the pleasures afield with gun and dog during the shooting season. Even in his later years he clung with great tenacity to his sport feeling that it kept him active and vigorous.

His honesty and integrity was of that stern, unyielding type that recalls the Puritans, and when he had the right on his side, he never stopped to bandy soft speeches in order to add weight to the side he thought right.

He scorned a so-called manhood that would shirk the payment of an honest debt by trickery or chicanery. He thought deeply, felt strongly, and expressed his opinions freely and openly. He realized that old age was upon him and was proud of his reputations for honesty and fair dealing with a just and worthy pride.

Within 10 days he said to me: “In only a short while the affairs of this world will affect me no more than does the rustling of that leaf blown along by winter wind.” He laid no claim to perfection to which he had not attained; but he was honest, courageous, faithful, true to his word and to his friends. He left no unfulfilled obligations.

His unyielding honesty, his unswerving loyalty to his church, his unceasing activity in her cause may well serve as examples to the younger generations who will look long ere they see his like again.

Asked to give an opinion of Maj. Harris, Mr. T.M. Pittman wrote this which Mr. Williams read also:
I think Major Harris was wise above the men of his day in his recognition of the fact that “a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.” When he had gathered sufficient property to provide against want in old age, he retired from active business and the pursuit of riches, and gained time to know his fellowmen and to study life on its better side. His sympathies and friendships were broadened and deepened. His old age was freed from the cares of business. Rivalry, and contention, and bitterness, and suspicion, and distrust, and the disappointment that comes from the business pursuits of old men passed him by, and his end was peace. Surely wisdom is justified of her children. He could say:

“Let my setting sun at last
Find out the still, the rural cell

Where sage Retirement loves to dwell!

Let me taste the home-felt bliss
Of innocence and inward peace;
Untainted by the guilty bribe,
Uncursed among the harpy tribe;
No Orphan’s cry to wound my ear,
My honour and my conscience clear;
Thus may I calmly meet my end
Thus to the grave in peace descend.”

Maj. Harris was a prominent Mason and was buried with the honors of that Order. The active pall bearers were W.W. Rowland, R.J. Corbitt, L.W. Barnes, Dr. H.H. Bass, W.E. Moss, Owen Davis, O.C. Burt. The honorary pall bearers each bearing an exquisite floral tribute were D.Y. Cooper, R.R. Pinkston, Maj. W.E. Gary, J.B. Owen, Col. Henry Perry.

At the grave the usual ceremonies incident to a Masonic funeral were gone through with. Prof. J.T. Alderman, Master of the Henderson Lodge, officiated and read the burial rites. It was a solemn and impressive scene, made all the more so because of the life and character of the man who whom honor was being done. The Masonic ceremonies concluded, the grave was filled, the benediction was pronounced and there beneath a bank of roses the mortal part of one who had for so many years passed in and out among us and who was regarded and esteemed as few men are was left to repose in the dust from whence it came, his spirit in the presence of the God who gave it.

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