Recounting the development of new territories includes the life stories of all types of people, including the rare few who possess a winning combination of foresight, passion, brains, talent and character that lead to a highly successful life. Josiah Harris appears to have been one of those blessed few.
from: A Standard History of Lorain county Ohio
Josiah was born 30 Nov 1783 in Becket, Berkshire, MA, son of James Harris (a veteran of the Revolutionary War) and Martha Parke. On 30 Mar 1807 he married Charity Messenger, daughter of Hiram Messenger and Lydia Shapley.
He traveled on foot to Ohio in 1814 and 1815 (a distance of nearly 600 miles) to scout around and to purchase land. The young family, including their first three children, moved in 1818 with ox and horse teams, arriving on July 2nd. Their fourth child was born in their new home. Charity passed away in March 1837. Josiah’s second wife was Anna Groves Moore of Thetford, Vermont; they had two daughters.
Whether by calculated design or social intelligence, starting a tavern soon after arriving in a new location was a brilliant move. Taverns were for men and men ran everything. The tavern keeper set a tone for his business, a tone which would be felt by all its clients. Just so happens that Josiah’s temperament was even, fair and benevolent. When it came time to form any and all aspects of the township and the county, Josiah’s hand seems to have been in it.
At various times during the 50 years that Josiah and his family lived in Lorain county he:
- started a tavern and a mill
- was elected County Sheriff, State Senator and State Representative, clerk of Amherst, and Justice of the Peace (36 years)
- was appointed Associate Judge of the Court of Common Pleas and Postmaster (41 years until his death)
- contributed land for the Congregationalist church and a school-house
His obituary noted that “he so faithfully discharged the duties of his office [Justice of the Peace], that only five appeals were ever taken from his decision, and only one of them ever came to trial in the Common Pleas; and in that case the decision of the justice was sustained.”
One of the most famous quotations of Ralph Waldo Emerson goes like this:
“To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”
in Amherst, Lorain, OH
By those measures, Josiah Harris was a wildly successful man. The final paragraph of his obituary sums it up:
“Judge Harris was ever a lover of good deeds, and the poor, the unfortunate, the widow and the orphan, ever found a true friend in him, and his house was the hospitable home of the early ministers and missionaries of every denomination. Schools and school children were his great delight; and the people of the village which has grown up under his eye and liberality, and of the region round about, loved and revered him as a Patriarch Father. He lived and died without an enemy.”
Josiah and both wives are buried at Cleveland Street Cemetery in Amherst Township.
- Harris family from A.D. 1630 in two lines by Dwight J Harris; Norman D Harris (1909)
- Vital Records of Becket, Massachusetts to 1850 (1903)
- History of Lorain county Ohio by W W Williams (1879)
- A standard history of Lorain county, Ohio; Volume: 1 by G Frederick Wright (1916)
- Bench and bar of northern Ohio by William B. Neff (1921)
- The Sandusky Clarion, 19 May 1824, , Sandusky, Ohio
- Elyria Independent Democrat, 1 Apr 1868, Elyria, Ohio
- The Grindstone – The Amherst Historical Society Newsletter – Jul/Aug 2007
- Cemetery Inscriptions of Lorain County, Ohio 1980by volunteer, Jean Diedrick as it appears on this site: http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~ohlorain/cems/clevst.html
- Josiah Harris Elementary School in Amherst, Lorain, OH < http://www.amherst.k12.oh.us/harris/ >