Joseph Frank Harris - Martha Martin Family Group

Parents   Parents
  John Harris Eleanor Girdler   Thomas Martin Elizabeth Adams
  b. 4 Jul 1749 in Marblehead b. 25 Oct 1756 in Marblehead   b. 18 Oct 1763 in Marblehead bp. . 3 Apr 1768 in Marblehead
  d. 4 Aug 1826 in Marblehead d. 31 Jul 1805 in Marblehead   d. 18 Oct 1827 in Marblehead d. before 1804 in Marblehead
Joseph Frank Harris Martha Martin
b. 10 May 1794 in Marblehead, Essex, Massachusetts b. bp. 3 Feb 1799 in Marblehead
d. 30 Jan 1870 in Marblehead d. 27 Mar 1866 in Marblehead
Relationship Events
Marriage 30 Jan 1820 Joseph Harris to Martha Martin in Marblehead
Marriage 1 Jul 1868 Joseph Harris to Jean MacKelvy Lemon in Marblehead
Elizabeth Ellen Harris b. 25 Jun 1820 in Marblehead; m. 13 Jun 1837 in Marblehead John H. Goss (1806 - 1849); five children: John F., Martha Martin, Elizabeth E., Calvin Briggs Harris, and Joseph Harris Goss; d. 22 Sep, 1906 in Marblehead of "old age"
Thomas Martin Harris (1st) b. 28 Feb 1822 in Marblehead, Essex, Massachusetts, USA; d. 20 Sep 1832) in Marblehead (drowned in the harbor)
Joseph Frank Harris, Jr., b. 4 Jan 1824 in Marblehead; m. Juliet (Winslow) Homan (widow) (b. 1820 in Danvers, Essex, Massachusetts); seven children: Mary C., Martin, Eliza P., Joseph, Harriet Stoddard, Winslow L., Juliet W., and Lucy M. Harris d. 4 Aug 1885 in Marblehead,
John F. Harris b. 24 Oct 1825 in Marblehead; m. 8 Dec 1850 in Marblehead Ann Ashton Brown (b. 7 Nov 1822 in Marblehead, d. 14 Sep 1895 in Marblehead); four children:  John F., Robert G., Anna M., Richard B. Harris;  d. 26 Jul 1896 in Marblehead
George S. Harris b. 7 Jun 1827 in Marblehead; m. 9 Sep 1858 in Marblehead Mary H. (Bowden) Harris Brown (b. 28 May 1838 in Marblehead, d. 1 Nov 1912 in Marblehead); one child: George Harris; d. 18 Feb 1862 in Marblehead of tuberculosis
Richard Pedrick Adams Harris b. Abt 1830 in Marblehead; m. 28 Nov 1860 in Marblehead Lucy M. Clemons (b. 20 Sep 1838 in Deerfield, Rockingham, New Hampshire, d. 27 Jul 1918 in S. Portland, Cumberland, Maine); three children: Annie M., William Lincoln, and Herbert Adams Harris; d. 12 Jul 1880 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Thomas Martin Harris b. abt. 1832 in Marblehead; m. 25 Apr 1867 in Marblehead Mary Oliver Lemaster (b. 7 Jun 1835 in Marblehead, d. 20 May 1917 in Atlantic City); three children: Martha M., Mary Oliver, and Thomas M. Harris, Jr.; d. 28 Apr 1913 in Atlantic City, Atlantic, New Jersey
  Peter Martin Harris b. 25 Dec 1833 in Marblehead; d. 13 Oct 1872 in Marblehead of tuberculosis
Calvin Briggs Harris b. 29 May 1839 in Marblehead; d. 17 Aug 1845 in Marblehead of "dropsy"
  Robert Girdler Harris b. 19 Dec 1836 in Marblehead; d. 13 Sep 1856 in Marblehead of tuberculosis
Martha W. Harris b. 17 Oct 1841 in Marblehead; d. 1 May 1870 in Marblehead of tuberculosis
Mary Ann Brown Harris b. 21 Mar 1843 in Marblehead; m. 14 Jan 1874 in Marblehead Dr. William P. Neilson, physician (b. Feb 1840 immigrated from Halifax Nova Scotia, Canada, d. 14 May 1915 in Leominster, Worcester, Massachusetts); two children: Mary Blanche and Gertrude Adams Neilson; d. 14 Nov 1904 in Marblehead of pulmonary tuberculosis compounded by exhaustion.
Harriet Stoddard Harris b. 24 May 1845 in Marblehead; d. 21 Aug 1846 in Marblehead of tuberculosis

What We Know About This Family


Joseph Harris was not born wealthy, but started shoe manufacturing in his home. In time, he built one of the largest shoe manufacturing factories in the Marblehead area. He and his wife, Martha, had 13 children, and at least three of his sons worked with him at the Joseph Harris & Sons firm.

An Overview of Their Lives

Joseph Frank Harris, son of John, one of the four brothers who all served in the Revolutionary War, was born 20 years after the marriage of his father to Eleanor Girdler. His father lived long enough to see him grow to adulthood, although his mother died when he was about 11.

Martha Martin was also born later in her parents' marriage – about 14 years after the marriage of her parents Captain Thomas Martin and his first wife Elizabeth Adams. Elizabeth was the daughter of Revolutionary War patriot, John Adams (no known relation to the President of the United States).  Martha was named for her paternal grandmother, Martha Nicholson. Martha also lost her mother at an early age (five years of age or younger).  I suspect that Elizabeth’s sister Mary, who was several years older than Elizabeth, and who married Thomas Furness Salkins, was very present during Martha’s upbringing (the name “Salkins” erroneously appears as the maiden name of her mother on Martha’s death record).

Joseph and Martha lived in a time when survival was not assured. Joseph outlived only half of his children, and two died not long after he did. Most who died too early were taken by illness, but their eldest son, the first Thomas Martin Harris (named for his grandfather, Thomas Martin) drowned in the harbor when he was ten years old. Most of their older children survived to adulthood, and sons John, Thomas, and Richard joined him as partners in the firm. The younger children did not fare so well. Calvin died of "dropsy" at age 9, and six others died of tuberculosis, although five of these survived until they were at least 19.

According to Samuel Roads, the author of The History and Traditions of Marblehead written in 1880, Joseph began business as a poor man in 1841.  His workshop was an upper chamber of his dwelling house in Harris’s Court, where for years he conducted his business. 

Roads gives an interesting description of the work that went into the manufacture of the shoes in Marblehead. 

The uppers were cut under the supervision of a foreman in these buildings (the shoe factories); but this was about the only portion of the work performed there.  The shoes were generally given out in sets of 36 and 72 pairs each, to be stitched and bound by the deft hands and nimble fingers of the young women.  The homes in the old town were ‘hives of industry’ in those days, and presented a most cheerful appearance.  Having first performed their regular daily duties as beseemed good housekeepers, the mother and her daughters were accustomed to sit down with their work-baskets and prepare the uppers which were to be made into shoes by the father and brothers.

Generally, when prepared, the uppers were carried to the factory, from whence they found their way in company with soles and thread in the small shops with which the town abounded.  Once there, the various parts began to assume shape.  The soles were wet and ‘skived’ and “rounded on"; -- they had no patterns then; the ‘stiffenings’ were wet and ‘skived’ and pasted in; the upper was fastened to the soles and sewed; the shoe was dried and turned and beat out; the edges were properly blacked and ‘slicked’; the bottoms were scraped and sand-papered and chalked; the sole linings were pasted in; the shoes were strung into pairs, and the set was finished.  This work was all performed by one man, but it took several days, perhaps a week, to do it.  The shoes were then neatly packed in a basket and returned to the factory, when the work, if satisfactory was paid for, and another lot was given.

The shoemakers of Marblehead were generally men of very limited education; yet they were men of sound judgment, and were well informed upon all the great political questions of the day. This was from their constant practice of having the newspapers read to them while at their work.  Sometimes the editorials and speeches provoked a partisan discussion when both sides of the question  at issue were ably argued. Nor were the newspapers the only sources of information of which they availed themselves.  Books of history, biography, and travel found their way into the shops occasionally, and were read to willing auditors, perchance by some school-boy, delighted at the prominence which the opportunity gave him. With the introduction of the sewing machine, the division of labor and the factory system began. This has had the effect to abolish nearly all outside labor.  It was very gradual in its growth, beginning first with having a certain proportion of the uppers stitched or bound in the factor.  Then, in 1859, came the McKey sewing machine, introduced by Mr. Joseph R. Bassett (a descendant of one of our other ancestors in Marblehead) for sewing uppers to the soles.  Compo work began at about the same time; but … only the first of these innovations had made very great progress in the town … by 1860.

Several of Joseph Harris’ sons joined him in the business, and “with untiring industry they toiled, making all the shoes manufactured by their father until, by rigid economy and self-denial, they laid the foundation of a successful business.  As the business increased, a large number of workmen were employed and a factory was erected on Pleasant Street. This building was enlarged from time to time until it became one of the largest shoe manufacturers in the town.”

The shoe-making firms in Marblehead owned by Joseph Bassett (the largest manufacturer), George Knight & Co., Thomas Garnet, Samuel Sparhawk and others employed about 1100 men and 300 women in the factories, and another 300 working on stitching machines at home.  These 1700 workers went on strike in February 1860. The demands of the Compo women in the Joseph Harris & Sons firm were immediately complied with.  Their wages went from $2.50 to $5.00 per week. (“The Shoemakers Strike the Causes That Led to It,” New York Herald, February 29, 1860).

In 1856, Joseph purchased a beautiful estate on Pleasant Street close to his factory. Several of their children had not yet married and resided with their parents. Martha Martin Harris died with a liver disorder at the age of 67 in 1866.

On the night of February 5, 1867, the town narrowly escaped a destructive conflagration when a fire broke out in the Joseph Harris & Sons factory.  This fire destroyed the building together with the Baptist Church and the dwelling house of Increase Brown as well as the residence of Joseph Harris (Jr.?).  The loss of the Harris factory was most unfortunate as it employed some 500 or 600 hands, who were all thrown, at least temporarily, out of work.  TheBoston Journal, February 5, 1867 wrote “The fire is supposed to be the work of an incendiary, as the establishment was heated by steam, and no fire was used in the part of the building where the fire originated.” The loss to the Harris family was estimated at over $100,000, with insurance of $65,000 according to the February 6, 1867 edition of the Lowell Daily Citizen and News. A “commodious” factory was erected by Joseph and his sons on Elm Street. (Roads).

In 1868, Joseph married his second wife, Jean. in 1870 he fell down the stairs, an accident that apparently contributed to his death at the age of 75 with a stroke (apoplexy) the following day. Joseph’s bequeathed a trust fund of $12,000 to his sons John F. Harris and Richard P.A. Harris for the express purpose of investing in a fund that would pay half of the interest income to his daughter Elizabeth Harris Goss and the other half to his son Joseph Harris, Jr. His sons, Thomas Martin Harris (our direct ancestor) and Peter M. Harris, each inherited $5,000. His daughters (both single at the time of his death) Martha W. Harris and Mary Ann Brown Harris inherited $30,000 to be divided equally among them with the provision that if either died, the other would inherit her $15,000 share. (As it happens, Martha died very shortly after her father's death). The mansion and his personal belongings were bequeathed to these same two daughters and their heirs. His son Peter died within two years. The will did not bequeath anything specifically to his two sons John F. Harris and P.A. Harris, although both were named as executors and trustees for the fund set aside for their siblings, Elizabeth and Joseph Jr. A passage in the will specifically mentions them as having an estate that will continue to grow.  I could find no provision for his widow, Jean, although I did see an expenditure labeled “Solomon Lincoln for Mrs. Joseph Harris in the amount of $3,616.17” on the expense schedule. The will was written 12 Jun 1868, which was two weeks before his marriage to Jean. She died 19 years later in Salem.

The Documents section for this family contains the records of vital statistics plus photos of the factory and the mansion, as well as the main pages of Joseph's will.

About the Children Who Outlived Their Father

  • The Boston Directory of 1873, which was published three years after the death of Joseph Harris, has a listing of  “Harris, Joseph & Sons” with the names of “John F., R.P.A. [Richard Pedrick Adams], and Thomas M.” on Elm Street. Richard according to an article in the Salem paper had set up his own factory in Philadelphia in 1874. Whether Thomas did the same at that time, I don't know, but he had definitely relocated to Philadelphia and built his own factory there by 1880 where the family is recorded on the Census for that year. We can see the facts available, but don't know the reasons why Thomas and Richard both decided to leave the partnership and the town where their families had lived for generations.  In December 1888, several of the factories were apparently burned down, and adding to the difficulties, Harris & Son could not agree with its workers on a price list.  The March 18, 1889 edition of the Boston Journal states that Mr. Harris (probably John F.) had decided to close up business in Marblehead and move both his residence and the business to Mechanic Falls.

  • John F. Harris married his first cousin, Ann Ashton Brown, and had four children.  Ann's mother Mary Adams Martin and John's mother Martha Martin were sisters, both daughters of Captain Thomas Martin and Elizabeth Adams. According to an excerpt about John F. Harris in the History of the Military Company of Massachusetts, John became one of the most enterprising and successful men of business.  He served in the executive council under governors Claflin and Washburn. He was a lifelong director in the Marblehead National Bank, and its President for ten years.  For sixteen years he was a director in the National Bank of the Commonwealth in Boston.

  • Joseph F. Harris Jr. was alive until 1885, but no information exists which suggest why he would not have been listed with his brothers as one of the sons with ownership interest. He married widow Juliet (Winslow) Homan. He was listed as a cordwainer (shoemaker) in his death record -- perhaps he worked independently of his brothers.
  • Peter Martin Harris died at 19 of tuberculosis two years after the death of his father.

  • Elizabeth married John H. Goss, who for some strange reason had his profession listed with the birth of three of his children: John (mariner), Elizabeth (seaman), Calvin (ropemaker). It's possible his middle name was Hammond (possibly his mother's surname).They had six children, their second dying of cholera as an infant. At the 1850 census, the family looked intact. John was working as a shoemaker. By the 1860 census, Elizabeth's husband had either died or left, and her two oldest children were shoemakers. Daughter Martha Martin Harris Goss married Francis Ireson, Jr. in 1861. They soon after had an infant daughter who died of cholera. Francis enlisted to fight in the Civil War, was injured in 1862, and died in 1865 I assume of his injuries. In the 1865 state census, Eleanor lived with her five children ages 15 to 25. Her oldest listed herself as a boarder (and widowed), the other four were all working: a fisherman, a shoe trimmer, a soldier, and a heeler. That's the last trace I found of daughter Lizzie, who was 19. Son John F. was "lost in a gale" with several others in 1867. At the 1870 census, Elizabeth Goss's household including Martha and a machinist named Ephraim Hammond next door to our drect ancestors Thomas Martin Harris (Elizabeth's brother)) and Mary Oliver Lemaster and Mary's daughter Lizzie Alley (her father died in service in the Civil War) and my three-year-old great grandmother, Martha. At 1880, Martha Goss Hammond had a daughter Carrie with her second husband, Ephraim Hammond (the pevious boarder) who was working in a shoe factory, At the 1890 census, Elizabeth Harris Goss was the head of a household (landlady) that included her son Calvin, her daughter Martha and husband Ephraim, and her grandaughter and her husband. Son Joseph died in 1896 at age 46 of pulmonary tuberculosus. Elizabeth died in 1906 at the age of 86. She was buried with her parents and most of her siblings.

  • Richard Pedrick Adams Harris married Lucy M. Clemons. They relocated to Philadelphia with their family, and Richard died there but was buried in Marblehead. Lucy married again and died in Maine in 1918.

  • Our direct ancestor, the second Thomas Martin Harris, married the widow of Jacob Alley, Mary Oliver Lemaster, who had one surviving child, Lizzie, at the time of their marriage.  Together, Thomas and Mary had three additional children: Martha M.  (our direct ancestor), Mary Oliver, and Thomas Martin Harris, Jr.  The Thomas M. Harris family was living in Philadelphia at the 1880 census; Thomas and his son-in-law, Samuel R. Henderson, were partners first in shoe manufacturing and then in a cut-glass factory before the Harrises retired in Atlantic City. Thomas died there in 1913 and his wife, Mary, in 1917. The name "Harris" passed in Thomas's line to one of his step-daughter's sons, Clayton Harris Taggart; to three of his grandsons, Harris Henderson (who died as an infant), Joseph Harris Henderson, and Robert Harris Lee; to his great-grandson, Joseph Harris Henderson, Jr.; and to his great-great grandson, Paul Harris Wiegand.

  • Mary Ann Brown Harris married a physician of Canadian birth.

Proof of Relationship

The best proofs are in the wills of 1) John Harris, who left half the Harris St. house to his son Joseph; 2) Thomas Martin, who left parcels of land to "Joseph Harris and his wife, Martha;" and 3) Joseph Harris who left $5,000 to his son, Thomas M. Harris. Marriage, death, and/or birth records also offer proof of parentage with the exception of Martha Martin Harris, who twice had her mother designated as "Salkins" or a variation. The proof of her parentage comes first from The Vital Records of Marblehead 1649 to 1849, which revealed that a John Adams with wife Mary Pederick were the parents of Elizabeth Adams. The same source also records the marriage of a Thomas Martin to an Elizabeth Adams. The will of John Adams proved his relationship to the daughter, who predeceased him, when it mentioned her as the wife of Thomas Martin. (As circumstantial evidence, two of Martha's children carried Adams as a middle name, and Richard carried the Pederick name as well).

What Else We Need to Learn

The goal of this project is to trace every line of ancestry to the arrival of its first immigrant to America. The basic information of each couple is considered complete when we know the dates of birth, marriage, and death for both spouses. their parents' names (or whether they were the immigrant), and the child or children in our ancestry line.

The research on this family is complete.


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