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Harper descendants claim English ancestry

According to Ancestry.com Bannister Harper was the immigrant ancestor of this Harper family, which eventually settled in Covington County, Ala. He was a native of England where he was born in 1710. His wife, Lucy Hudson, was also born in 1710. Bannister died in 1793 in Wilkes County, Ga. Some records show this couple had a son whom they named Bannister Harper Jr. He was born in 1734 in Hanover County, Va. and died in 1794 in Lincoln County, Ga. Other records show Bannister and Lucy were the parents of a Robert Harper. Each of these men, Bannister Jr. and Robert Harper, are shown as being the father of George Harper.

Bannister Harper Jr. was married to Margaret Naire who was born in 1740 and died in 1801. Robert Harper was born in 1724 in Pennsylvania and died in 1799 in Wilks County, Ga. He was married to Mary M. Dunlap (1725-1802). This writer could not determine for certain which of the two men would have been the father of George Harper.

George Harper was born in 1763 in Lancaster, S.C., and was brought that year by his parents along with four older brothers to Wilkes County, Ga. He later served under his older brothers, Capt. Samuel Harper and Lt. Robert Harper, during the America Revolutionary War in Turtle Creek near Augusta, Ga. In 1786, George was married to Lydia Jane Saxon (1766-1849), daughter of Samuel Saxon Esq. (1740-1805) and Elizabeth Davis (1744-1802). Samuel Saxon was also a veteran of the American Revolutionary War.

George and Lydia Jane Harper made their home in Hardin Creek, Wilkes County, Ga., for about 22 years and had 15 children. George had become a large land-owner, but in 1808 he sold all of it along with six slaves before moving to Jones County, Ga. George died there in 1839, and within three years Lydia Jane sold the Jones County property and moved with her single daughter to Tallapoosa County, Ala., where two of her married daughters had settled with their families. Lydia had been born in 1766 in Halifax County, N.C. and she died in 1849 in Tallapoosa County where she was buried in an unmarked grave in the Lockhart Cemetery located near Camp Hill.

George and Lydia Jane Harper had the following 14 children: William Thomas, b. 1789, d. 1874, m. Matilda Russell; Elizabeth, b. 1790, d. 1865, m. William Whatley; Jane L., b. 1792, d. 1869; Mary Dunlap, b. 1792, d. 1847; Sarah, b. 1794, d. 1866; Nancy, b. 1795, d. 1854; James, b. 1797, d. 1880, m. Malinda Cotton (1804-1876); Micajah, b. 1798, d. 1977; Joseph Malone, b. 1799, d. 1850; Frances, b. 1801, d. 1857; Elvira Die, b. 1804, d. 1836; Lavinia, b. 1804, d. 1806; George R., b. 1810, d. 1877; and Lydia, b. 1811, d. 1865.

George and Lydia Jane’s oldest son was named William Thomas Harper who was born in 1789 in Wilkes County, Ga. He was married in Georgia in 1807 to a cousin, Matilda Russell (1788-1883), daughter of David Russell and Susan Saxon. This couple moved to Dale County, Ala., in 1830 and settled in the Sylvan Grove or Walding Crossroads community. During the next year of 1831, William Thomas was commissioned as the first probate Judge for Dale County, a position in which he served for nearly 11 years. He also became a successful land speculator, millwright, shepherd and large slave holder. During the Creek Indian disturbances in Dale County in 1837 and 1838, Judge Harper worked with the militia company of Captain Jeremiah Pate as quartermaster and commissary officer. In 1841 when the new Coffee County was formed, William Thomas’s residence fell within the section used for the new county; therefore he resigned his office of Probate Judge for Dale County.

William Thomas Harper was enumerated in 1850 in Coffee County, and by 1860 he was residing in Covington County. He may be the William Harper who acquired 239.91 acres of land in 1854 in the Opp Township, or it could be his son, William G. Harper who bought 320.92 acres that same year in the same Opp Township. William along with several of their 12 children would have moved to this area during the early 1850s. All the children were born in Georgia before 1829 and the family’s move to Dale County, Ala. William Thomas and his wife, Matilda, were enumerated in Covington County in the 1870 federal census. After William T. died 1874 in Covington County, Matilda moved to Ozark where she lived with their youngest daughter and family and died in 1883.

William Thomas and Matilda Harper reared the following 12 children: Louvina “Viney,” b. 1810, d. 1885, m. John R. Ard; Elizabeth “Betsy,” b. 1810, d. 1889, m. Curtis Byrd; Pauline “Polly,” m. William Isaac Byrd; Amanda, b. 1815, d. 1897, m. Lorenzo Jackson Cole; William George, b, 1717, d, 1887, m. Eliza Calaway; James, b. 1819, d. 1911, m. Frances Cravey: Aaron, b. 1821, d. 1894, m. Margaret Ann Weeks; Fairba/ Pheriba, b. 1824, d. 1909, m. John Adkins; Micajah, b. 1826, d. 1862, m. Margaret Caroline Gillis; Susan, b. 1827, m. John Driggers; Martha Jane, b. 1828, d. 1919, m. William Martin Andrews; and David, b. 1832, d. 1862, m. Catherine Russell. Some lists of children include another daughter, Elafair, b. 1826, d. 1909.

Another son of George and Lydia Jane Harper, James Harper, was born in 1797 at Hardin Creek, Wilkes County, Ga. In 1822 he was married to Malinda Cotton, and they settled that year in Monroe County, Ga. In 1835 they moved to the Opelika area, which was in Chambers County at that time. In 1841 James was listed as a registered voter in Notasulga, Macon County. They later lived for a time in Pike County before finally settling in Covington County where they lived during the 1860s and 1870s. They resided here until James’s death in 1880 in Dozier, which was in Covington County until 1866 when Crenshaw County was formed.

There are some differences in the various lists of George and Lydia Harper’s children. The following list is the best this writer could determine, so there may be some errors: Frances M., b. 1830; Mary Ann Caroline, b. 1831, d. 1905; Mary Elvira, b. 1834; Erastus Micajah, b. 1835, d. 1920; Josephine Lydia, b. 1838; Nancy B., b. 1841; Cleora Meona, b. 1442, d. 1904; and Sarah Malinda, b. 1844.

Sources for this writing included the following: Ancestry.com; Covington County, Alabama People, compiled, edited and additional notes by Scott R. Smith, Ed.D; Gus and Ruby Bryan’s Covington County History, 1821-1976, and Wyley D. Ward’s Early History of Covington County, Alabama, 1821-1871.

It is hoped enough additional genealogical information on this family can be found to write an additional column. Anyone who might have more history on the Harpers is requested to contact this writer, Curtis Thomasson, at 20357 Blake Pruitt Road, Andalusia, AL 36420; 334-804-1442; or Email cthomasson@centurytel.net.