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Below is a family biography included in The Portrait and Biographical Record of Randolph, Jackson, Perry and Monroe Counties, Illinois published by Biographical Publishing Co. in 1894.  These biographies are valuable for genealogy research in discovering missing ancestors or filling in the details of a family tree. Family biographies often include far more information than can be found in a census record or obituary.  Details will vary with each biography but will often include the date and place of birth, parent names including mothers' maiden name, name of wife including maiden name, her parents' names, name of children (including spouses if married), former places of residence, occupation details, military service, church and social organization affiliations, and more.  There are often ancestry details included that cannot be found in any other type of genealogical record.

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W. D. HARRIS, one of the honored citizens of Jackson County, who successfully carries on farming on section 35, Carbondale Township, was born in Saline County, Ill., September 16, 1820, and is a son of Richard and Hannah (Tanner) Harris. Her grandfather, Samuel Tanner, was a soldier of the Revolution. Both parents were natives of North Carolina, and the father was a soldier in the War of 1812. They were married in Kentucky, and in 1820 emigrated to Saline County, Ill., then a part of Gallatin County, becoming honored pioneers of that locality, where they resided until 1830, when they removed to Williamson County and began opening up another wild farm. Mr. Harris died in 1835, but his wife long survived him, passing away in 1874. She was a member of the Baptist Church. In politics he was a Democrat. Seven of their fourteen children are yet living.

Upon the home farm our subject was reared to manhood, and for about three months in the year he usually attended school, his education being thus acquired. He also learned the carpenter’s trade in his youth, and followed it for some years. On the 29th of December, 1840, he married Miss Sarah Maria Robertson, who has indeed been a faithful companion and helpmate to him on life’s journey. She was born in Saline County, Ill., and her parents, Mark and Mary (Burns) Robertson, were natives of Alabama. The father was a farmer by occupation and served in the War of 1812 under General Jackson. The maternal grandfather was a native of Scotland, and was a relative of Robert Burns, the poet.

Mr. and Mrs. Robertson were married in Alabama, thence removed to Tennessee, and about 1819 settled on wild land in Saline County, Ill. In 1832 they went to Gallatin County, and in 1835 removed to Tazewell County, where the death of the father occurred in 1836. His wife survived him until 1861. They were the parents of ten children, three of whom are yet living: Mark, of Wright County, Mo., who was a soldier in the Black Hawk War, and for twelve years has been a Presiding Elder in the Methodist Episcopal Church; William, of Franklin County; and Mrs. Harris, who was born October 1, 1822.

Our subject and his wife began their domestic life upon an unbroken tract of land, but he soon made it a productive farm. In April, 1855, they took up their residence in Carbondale, Jackson County, where Mr. Harris followed carpentering for nineteen years. He enlisted May 16, 1861, in Company K, Eighteenth Illinois Infantry. He was promoted to be Corporal and afterward to be Sergeant. He was first sent to Mound City, Ill., thence to Cairo, and from thereon to the front. He was one of the advance guard at Ft. Henry, and took part in the battles of Ft. Donelson, Pittsburg Landing and Jackson. He was detailed to run a fleet on the Mississippi River under General Elliott, and had three rams in that fleet—”Queen of the West,” “Lancaster” and “Monarch.” He was never captured or wounded, and was honorably discharged June 7, 1864, in Springfield.

Mr. Harris then returned to his home in Carbondale, and continued to engage in carpentering until 1874, when he removed to his farm, which he has since greatly improved. He owns one hundred and six and two-thirds acres of land, of which seventy acres are under the plow. He has recently erected a comfortable residence in Carbondale at a cost of $1,500. Though Mr. and Mrs. Harris have never had any children, they have cared for and reared Belle Mitchell from childhood. Both are faithful members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and he has served as Trustee and Steward. He has also been Superintendent of the Sunday-school. He has never chewed tobacco but once, and forty-two years have passed since he has tasted liquor as a beverage. His life has indeed been an honorable one and is well worthy of emulation. Socially, he is a Royal Arch Mason, and has been Treasurer of the blue lodge. He also belongs to the Grand Army post of Carbondale. In politics he is a stalwart Republican, and he has served as Alderman of Carbondale.

Mr. and Mrs. Harris have a large circle of friends and acquaintances, and are highly regarded by all. On the 29th of December, 1890, they celebrated their golden wedding, for fifty years had passed since they started out on life’s journey together. The following poem was written in commemoration of the event:

Just fifty years ago, dear wife,
Since you and I were wed.
Today’s our golden wedding day,
Where can the years have fled?

Am I that shy and awkward youth,
Are you that maiden fair,
With silver threads among the curls
That once was golden hair?

I never can forget the day
That made you all my own,
Your lips like tempting cherries ripe,
Your cheeks like roses blown.

Your sweet eyes shining bright as stars
In fancy yet I see.
And you that day than all the world
Were dearer far to me.

And yet, dear heart, I know that I
Love better far today,
Than e’en I loved that maiden fair,
The wife’s that’s old and gray.

And I will pray that you and I
May walk life’s golden sands
Until we reach that better place,
The house not made with hands.

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This family biography is one of 679 biographies included in The Portrait and Biographical Record of Randolph, Jackson, Perry and Monroe Counties, Illinois published in 1894.  View the complete description here: The Portrait and Biographical Record of Randolph, Jackson, Perry and Monroe Counties, Illinois

View additional Jackson County, Illinois family biographies here: Jackson County, Illinois Biographies

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