Jacob Harris, Corporal
of the 103rd U.S. Colored Troops Co. C
by Amy Hedrick
23 July 1890—Jacob was 52 years old.
Jacob Harris was a corporal in the 103rd and filed for an invalid’s pension from Brunswick, Glynn, Georgia in August of 1890. He enlisted in this regiment with his brother, Edward Harris, as a private on 30 January 1865 and served for 90 days (the war ended in April 1865). On 20 April 1866 he was honorably discharged as a Corporal at Fort Pulaski in Chatham County.
On 30 November 1894 his complaints were rheumatism with enlargement of joints of hands and feet and that he was receiving a pension of $8 per month at that time and was requesting an increase in his pension due to total disability. He was 5’7 ½” and weighed 130 pounds upon the examination date.
He filed for another increase on 16 December 1896; doctor’s stating his condition had worsened and due to his chronic pain, senility had prematurely developed. This document rated his rheumatism from 1 to 18 with 18 being the worse and ranked Jacob at a 10 and his senility and debility at eight.
A surgeon’s certificate dated 19 July 1899 tells us the cause for Jacob’s pain was due to frostbite of the hands and feet that he contracted one year after the war. He weighed in at 148 pounds and was 5’8” tall during this examination conducted in Jacksonville, Duval, Florida. His rheumatism was quite visible according to these documents, stating his finger and ankle joints were very swollen and he could not move his toes on either foot.
On 19 March 1902 when filing for another increase we see that his middle finger on the left hand and big toe on the left foot were the appendages that suffered from frost bite. However, Jacob never received an increase in his pension all these years as there was nothing to justify the increase since he was generally disabled from the beginning and was pensioned accordingly. Apparently cost of living increase was not an issue during these times.
Nearly everyone who served during the Civil War (Union and Confederate) filed for a pension; many claiming invalid status even though they were not disabled. Most pensioners filed on a yearly basis for an increase too, but the exams were routine and had to be done regularly whether an increase was requested or not. Jacob finally received an increase from $8 to $12 on 19 August 1903 when it was stated he was completely disabled and senile from the effects of rheumatism. Jacob’s disease was visible and there was no doubt he was suffering.
Witnesses Hugh C. Christopher age 37 and D.L. Carr age 35 were both deposed on 25 August 1891 as to the condition of Jake’s health; both saying he was visibly ailing. Hugh had known Jake for 15 years and the whole time he watched Jake’s illness progress; D.L. Carr stated the same and that he had known him for 7 years. Edward Harris was deposed on 23 January 1897 for the same thing and stated that Jake had been disabled for at least 10-12 years. Edmond Lockwood was 73 years old when he was deposed on 6 August 1897 and stated that he too knew Jake to have been disabled for 12 years.
Jake first sought treatment for his illness from Dr. A.C. Blair on 14 February 1885 and was subsequently treated by him until 14 August 1885 and then again in October 1886 and January & July of 1887.
Upon his death his widow, Maria, filed for a widow’s pension and part of this process is to verify that she was legally his wife and still legally married to him upon his death and that at no time were they separated nor were there any other women who could claim to be his spouse. In order to do this a sort of “trial” was conducted where she was granted legal counsel and allowed to be present. She received notice of the hearing on 7 July 1909 and declined to be present or to be represented while witnesses testified to the validity of her marriage and life with Jacob. This was not unusual especially in Jacob’s case where it was readily known by the community that he was in need of financial aid; the whole community, white and black, testified or witnessed these depositions.
The witnesses were rated by the special examiner whose name is hard to read but appears to be M.D. Avis. He stated that Jacob was “industrious, sober and careful and that he had the respect of the substantial white residents of Brunswick. His family and his brother Edward Harris…” Among the other witnesses were Victoria White, Hamilton Berry, Cyrus Murray, and Amy Stevens.
Maria Harris was deposed at her home 1014 Stonewall Street on 7 July 1909 by Mr. Avis. Questions about her life were asked and answered to the best of her ability; the first being her age which she did not know but could only say that she was a young girl at emancipation. She said that Jacob died “last year on the last day of February, here in my present home (which was then numbered 614 Stonewall Street).”
Before her marriage she was Maria Wade and she was only married the one time but she could not remember the date only saying it was possibly the second year after the war closed and that they were married on St. Simons Island by Mr. Eaton of the Freedman’s Bureau (the Bureau was stationed at Retreat Plantation on St. Simons Island). Unfortunately there was no certificate of marriage or a family record.
Jacob was brought to the island with others for farm work and they had known each other for a year or two before their marriage. Apparently he had left the army, stopped in Savannah, and then came to St. Simons where they met and later married.
Their youngest child was Lilla who at the time was 20 years old; and here again, Maria did not know Lilla’s birth date but her daughter told her during the interview that she would be 21 on her next birthday.
Maria lived all her life on St. Simons Island and was enslaved by Mallory King at Retreat Plantation. She had only one sister, Abigail Taylor who lived in Savannah at that time (1909) but Maria did not know where nor did she know the husband’s name. She describes to the interviewer how she knows the witnesses that are to testify saying that Victoria White and husband Jupiter, Cy Murray, and Mylie Farm all lived near her before her marriage. She said that the first three persons lived on St. Simons and that Mylie (who I believe may have been Mollie Fahm) was now in the home of a Mr. Brooks Berry in Fernandina but for a time lived with Arthur Farm. Most of these folks were formerly enslaved by Anna Matilda Page King.
Victoria White, Mylie Farm, Hamilton Berry, and John Berry were all present at her marriage to Jacob Harris. Atwell Baxter, Frederick Armstrong, Charley Clark, and Amy Stevens all knew her from childhood. Maria only knew of one sibling to her husband and that was Edward Harris who lived nearby.
None of the King family were around to confirm anything of Maria’s past and the only white person she knew of that had known her since she was young was Judge Fahm (this was likely J. George Edward Fahm). Maria understood everything that was about to happen and stated that no fees or agreements had been reached prior to this interview; that she was not promised anything so far. She signed her name with an X and two witnesses to the testimony also signed their names in full: Agnes Harris and Lilla Thomas.
Edward Harris was “60 some years old” on 7 July 1909 when he was deposed. He stated that he lived at 1700 George Street and that he was Jacob’s brother. Before the war they lived in slavery near Ludowici, Liberty County; however, Ludowici is in Long County so it may be that they lived on the border of both counties. They both served together in the same outfit and when discharged they went directly to St. Simons Island. There was one other sibling, a sister named Coraline whom Edward lost contact with after he joined the war stating he knew that she lived near Riceboro and was married.
The two men were enslaved by Mr. Billy Dunham who lived six miles from Ludowici and he nor Jacob ever went back to the community after they entered the army so there was no way for him to know anyone who could verify the above information.
Edward had lived on St. Simons the whole time until about 20 years ago (1889) when he removed to Brunswick and he states that he knew everything there was to know about Jacob. The first vital piece of information was that Jacob was married twice; his first wife was Lucy whom he married while they were enslaved and no children were born to them. She was enslaved by Mr. Way in Liberty County near Chatham County but apparently she already had a husband so Jacob left her and never saw her again. This was just before emancipation according to Edward and that she may have died years ago near Savannah but has no knowledge of who might be able to confirm this information.
Maria Wade was the daughter of March Wade of St. Simons Island and Edward verified her statement that they all knew each other a couple of years before her marriage to Jacob in which Edward also stated that she had never married before and she was a “perfectly young girl.”
Edward signed his name with an X and the witnesses signed their names in full: Asa Clark and Henry Johnson.
Due to the length of the file, the National Archives sent the file in two parts and within the second part was a deposition of Jacob Harris who contradicted some of his brother’s information. First off he states his brother’s name was Ned and not Edward. Secondly, he states that his owner during enslavement was John Dunham and not Billy Dunham. However, he also gives us some new information, one being he was known as Jacob Dunham before the war and that he picked the surname of Harris because he liked it and that he didn’t know anyone of that name to get the idea for using it as his own.
During enslavement most of the enslaved were known by their owner’s last name, i.e. Dunham’s Jacob becomes Jacob Dunham. Jake confirmed that he was born in Liberty County and that his father was known as Johnson and that he never knew his father by any other name than the one. He further states that he enlisted at Savannah and was taken to Beaufort, South Carolina where they drilled for 3 or 4 months and then returned to Savannah. They then removed to Doctortown in Wayne County and then to Thomasville where they remained until time to muster out. However, the regiment was removed to Savannah and was mustered out at Fort Pulaski. They never saw any battles.
He named a few men of his company: Bogan was his Colonel; Easter 1st Captain who was removed and replaced by Moore who was a 1st Lieutenant before he became Captain and was the man who mustered them out; Iron Ord. Sgt.; and Young 2nd Sgt. Jacob was a Corporal and he named Clarence Heythal as another who was his messmate. His brother Ned Harris was a private in Jake’s company as were Handy Whitehead and Martin Merriweather.
Hamilton Berry was born in 1837 and in 1909 he lived at the corner of Gordon & L Streets in Brunswick and had lived here off and on since emancipation. He had known Maria since she was a girl and knew that she was ensalved by Mallory King and he confirmed her marriage and father’s name. He could not confirm the marriage date but said it was before Mr. Eaton left in late 1866 or early 1867. Hamilton stayed in contact with William Eaton long after he left, writing to him in Knightsville, Maine and knew that at the time of this writing he had died.
He knew Jake Harris for about 5 months before the marriage and he was led to believe that Jake was married previously. He further confirmed that Maria had never married and went further by stating she had never even lived with another man as his wife and that she was living with her parents up until her marriage to Jake.
Victoria White was 50 years old at the time of her deposition and was living 3 miles from the St. Simons Island Post Office. She had known Maria all her life as they grew up together and had known Jacob since he first moved there just as everyone else had. The only information she had to offer was that she was a witness to the marriage of Maria and Jacob. She signed her name with an X and the witnesses to her testimony signed their names in full: H. Morrison and Birdie White.
Amy Stevens did not know her exact age and I could not make out what she said about her age at the time of emancipation. She moved to St. Simons Island shortly after emancipation and was a witness to the marriage and had remained friends with Maria ever since then. She signed her name with an X and the witnesses signed their names in full: John Bell and A.S. Paul.
Cyrus Murray was 63 years old and had lived on St. Simons Island all of his life; he too was enslaved by the King family and said that his mother and March Wade were second cousins. He signed his name with an X and the witness signed his name but it was hard to make out, the last name was clearly Cobb but the first name looked like Croung. It is possible that this was Orange Cobb as he was listed in the 1900 and 1910 census for St. Simons Island.
Two more people who were witnesses to various documents that Maria filed were Atwell Braxton who said he knew her for 38 years and Matilda J. Tatnall who knew her for 26 years.
On a document dated 25 March 1898 signed by Jake he stated his children were: Lula born 19 June 1882; Mattie born October 1884; Agnes born 14 February 1886; and Lilla born 30 September 1892. Later he stated Lula was born 9 June not the 19th and that Mattie was born 30 October 1884.
Jacob died on 29 February 1908 and Maria received the pension until her death on 12 September 1927. Further in the pension file an actual marriage date was found that said they married on 10 October 1866 or 1867, then later it was written as 10 October 1866. The clerk of court could not find a record of their marriage and stated that it was common practice at that time for African-Americans to be married by the Freedman’s Bureau and that all records were kept with that Bureau and never filed in the local court house.
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