Family Stories

James Harlan 1755-1816, Frederick County, Virginia to Mercer County, Kentucky

On the 15th of the month, we discussed Elijah Harlan’s family and his will.  Elijah Harlan was the son of James Harlan and Sarah Caldwell, born in Lincoln County in 1792.  We will go back a generation to Elijah’s father, James. 

From History and Genealogy of the Harlan Family and Particularly of the Descendants of George and Michael Harlan Who Settled in Chester County, Pa., 1687 gives much information on this family.  The book was compiled by Alpheus H. Harlan and published about 1914 (the date the preface was written).  Alpheus began his work in 1881.  He visited cousins, looked through old letters and records in the family – ‘old wills, marriage certificates, Friends’ Meeting records, newspapers and hundreds of letters.’ 

Unfortunately, I do not own a copy of this book, my research was online at Ancestry.  Not to get on a soapbox, but I cannot imagine never holding another book in my hand.  Online books can be helpful, but to truly search a book, it must be held in the hands, pages flipped through, index checked.  I’m of the old school I suppose. 

To continue, James Harlan was the son of George Harlan, born in Chester County, Pennsylvania, February 22, 1718/19, to James and Elizabeth Harlan, members of the Friends or Quakers.  George moved to Frederick County, Virginia, where he married Ann Hunt.  The couple had four sons – Jehu, Elijah, Silas and James; and two daughters who died in infancy – Catherine and Elizabeth.  

James Harlan was born September 8, 1755, in Berkeley County, Virginia (now West Virginia), and died August 7, 1816, in Mercer County, Kentucky.  The farm upon which he lived was later Boyle County when it separated from Mercer in 1842.  About 1785 he married Sarah Caldwell, which was then considered Lincoln County, Mercer being formed in 1786.  She was born in 1762 in Prince Edward County, Virginia, the daughter of Henry and Martha Caldwell, and died December 28, 1831.  James and Sarah had the following children:

  1. George, born 1786.
  2. Silas, born 1788, married Mary May.
  3. Mary, born 1789, died March 10, 1833, married William Harlan, a cousin.
  4. Elijah, born April 5, 1792, died November 26, 1843, married Sarah Moore October 1815 (from the previous post).
  5. Jehu, born September 15, 1794, died June 27, 1868, married Clarissa Black, March 27, 1822.
  6. John Caldwell, born March 25, 1797, died February 8, 1854, married Maria Anderson, March 8, 1821.
  7. James, born June 22, 1800, died February 18, 1863, married Eliza S. Davenport, December 23, 1822.
  8. Isabella Caldwell, born December 28, 1801, died April 23, 1831, married Robert I. Moore, February 28, 1823.
  9. Davis Caldwell, born 1803, married Patsey Pruitt.

In the Harlan family book we are told, ‘In the month of May, 1774, James Harlan, then aged 19 years, and his brother Silas, two years his senior, joined a company of adventurers from Pennsylvania and Virginia, then being raised by Captain James Harrod.

‘They embarked in pirogues, or canoes, on the Monongahela and Ohio rivers, and thence to the mouth of the Kentucky River, which they ascended to the mouth of a creek, called (from that fact) ‘Landing Run,’ now Oregon in the lower end of the present county of Mercer, east of the village of Salvisa; thence across to Salt River, at ‘McAfees Station,’ and up that river to Fountain Blue, and to the place where Harrodsburg now stands.’  I have not found information that gives the name of all men who came to Kentucky with Captain James Harrod.  It is quite possible that the Harlan brothers were members of his party since it seems this family kept good records and wrote many letters, of which this was likely discussed.

Reason (a good Quaker name) Rawlings Harlan, 1758-1837, son of Moses Harlan and Eleanor Rawlings, and cousin of the above James Harlan, kept a journal.  The following is an excerpt.  ‘December 9, 1826: At John Harlan’s [son of James and Sarah] in Todd County.  Dec. 12: Came 37 miles yesterday.  Dec. 14: Started before day from Mr. ___, came through the little town of Perryville, and then to the widow Harlan’s [Sarah].  Yesterday we came 30 miles, crossed the rolling Fork, at Salt River, and slept at Mr. McClanes, eat dinner in a little town called New Market, in Washington County, and near night through another called Lebanon.  Dec. 15: At cousin James old habitation in company with his dear old widow, a very agreeable and worthy Christian woman, and this morning I seen her son Jehu and they are all kind and good.  Dec. 16: I am still with these dear relations, and this morning I had the happiness to meet Silas and James, a lawyer, a thing that was very unexpected to me, as I had never heard that cousin James had a lawyer in his family.  Dec. 17: I am still with my blessed relations, last night I stayed with Jehu, and am much pleased with his blessed wife and beautiful children.  After breakfast I came to the widows.  Dec. 18: I am still with this blessed family . . . Yesterday was the Sabbath, and I went to visit the grave of cousin James, and wept over it for some time, and a serious melancholy rested upon me all day.  Dec. 27: I am at the widow Harlan’s.  Dec. 29: I am still with these dear people.’   

When I first read the journal entry my heart quickened with the name of each town that I recognized!  Being away for a year and a half has made my home state even more dear to me.

At James Harlan’s death in 1816 all his children were living, and named in their father’s will.  I could just find a recap of the information in the will, not the will itself.  It was written August 3, 1816, just a few days before his death.  His seven sons are named, Isabella was single since she was listed as Harlan (married in 1823), and Mary’s husband, William Harlan was named.  Executors were Jeremiah Briscoe, James Warren, David Knox and son Silas Harlan.  The will was probated In October of 1816.

6 replies »

  1. Fabulous post!! I would also love to see a list of that 1774 group! An I too loved seeing the locations.. so essential to grasp their lives!

    Thank you!

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. In addition to John Cowan, his second in command, Harrod’s company consisted of the following men:
    Blackford, Joseph, PA *Harmon, John Valentine, VA
    *Blair, James, PA *Harrod, Levi, PA
    *Brown, James, PA Harrod, Thomas, NC
    Brown, John, PA *Hinton, Evan (John?), VA
    Campbell, Arthur, VA Hite, Abraham, VA
    Campbell, William, VA Hogan, Henry, VA
    *Chaplin, Abraham, VA Kerr, James, PA
    *Clark, John, VA Martin, William, PA
    Cowan, Jared, PA Mortimer, William
    *Crawford, John, PA Myers, William
    *Crow, John, VA Ooley, Peter
    Crow, William, VA *Quirk, Thomas, VA
    *Davis, Azariah, VA Reece, Azariah
    Davis, James, VA Sanders, James, VA
    Doran, Patrick, VA Shelp, John, VA
    Dugan, Henry *Smith, John, VA
    *Fields, William, VA *Sodowski, James, VA
    Garrett, William, VA Stull, Martin, VA
    Glenn, David, PA Venable, William
    *Glenn, Thomas, PA *Wiley, James, VA
    Harlan, Elijah, VA Williams, David, VA
    Harlan, James, VA *Wilson, John
    *Harlan, Silas, VA *Zane, Andrew, VA
    The names of his party with him in 1774 as copied by General McAfee from Harrod’s company book, in possession of Margaret Harrod Fauntleroy.

Leave a Reply