In issue number 173 of the Harrodsburg Historical Society’s Old Towne Ledger (July-August 2019), there was a retyped article from The Harrodsburg Herald, Friday, September 3, 1926, “Photo of James Harrod’s Half-Sister”. There was also a photo of Polly Brown, who was born in Fort Harrod June 17, 1783; it listed her parents as Samuel Brown and Susan Bacon Brown, and a half-sister of James Harrod. Pretty exciting, right?
For most people who only know the basic about James Harrod’s history in Harrodsburg, they will automatically link Polly and James, which will lead to no further research on the matter. However, as a local historian, I have spent the last two years researching and reading articles, reports, books, diaries, anything with the smallest scrap of information about James Harrod. Here is my theory concerning this article.
James Harrod, the 1774 founder of Harrodsburg, did not have a half-sister. He did, however, have two older stepbrothers, Thomas and John Jr. Harrod. His father, John, came from England about 1734, probably in search of a better life for himself, wife Caroline Downey and two sons. It was a hard life and Harrod’s father soon became a young widower, when Native Americans came, killed his wife Caroline, and burned their Pennsylvania home. Thankfully, the two young boys were rescued by neighbors.
John Harrod knew he needed to find a new wife to care for his sons, so when he moved to the Shenandoah Valley, he soon married Sarah Moore, daughter of James Moore and Frances Gay. The couple went on to have four sons - Samuel, William, James, and Levi – and six daughters – Nellie, Rachel, Mary, Sallie, Elizabeth, and Jemima.
One source states James was twelve years old when his father died in 1754, but others state he was not quite ten years old. Considering the varying range of James Harrod’s birthday, 1742 to 1746, it’s hard to know exactly how old he really was when his father died, but we do know that his mother never remarried, and she never lived at Fort Harrod.
The only way James Harrod could have a half-sister is: 1.) if his father remarried and had more children, or 2.) if his mother remarried and had more children. Historians show us that Harrod’s father and mother were still married until 1754, so this fact contradicts the first statement. Harrod’s mother never remarried, she had no children out of wedlock, and her name was Sarah not Susan.
James Harrod only lived at Fort Harrod during the worst of the Native American attacks of 1776 through late 1778. By spring of 1779, Harrod had fortified his new Harrod Station at Boiling Springs in Danville, Kentucky. Though no exact description exists, it is said Harrod’s Station was several cabins surrounded by a stockade. Also living at Harrod’s Station during this time were Samuel and Margaret Coburn (Ann Harrod’s parents) and her brother, James Coburns family; the families of Henry Prathers and Isaac Pritchards; Jacob Kelly and several of Harrod’s nephews, one his namesake, James Harrod.
So far, I have not had luck in researching the nephew, James Harrod, or Polly Brown or Samuel Brown and Susan Bacon Brown. Realistically, it is possible for the nephew to have a half-sister, but I’m not able to verify this.
James Harrod’s brother, William, had a son named James who died before 1814, but I can find no information on how old he was. This is probably the nephew James Harrod that lived at Boiling Springs. Harrod’s older stepbrother, Thomas, had a son named James Harrod, who married a lady named Elizabeth Stewart. I have been unable to find any more information on these two people. Harrod’s nephew, Levi Jr., also had a son named James Harrod, who was born September 3, 1808, which makes this James Harrod too young. Harrod’s nephew William Jr., also had a son named James Harrod, but again, this Harrod is too young.
Susan Bacon was born when her mother, Mrs. Harrod Bacon, was 50 years old and was attended by her three half-sisters. The name of Samuel Brown appears in numerous militia lists, but I’ve been unable to find any personal information. Samuel Brown married Susan Bacon and they had several children, including a girl named Polly who was born in Harrodsburg on June 17, 1787. Polly married William Campbell, born August 1776 and died February 10, 1832.
Polly Brown Campbell moved to Switzerland, Indiana in 1813 and she died there on September 4, 1869. I have searched in all the available records I could access locally and, on the internet, but I will need to make a trip to the Switzerland County Historical Society to find more information on Polly. The back of the Polly Brown photo from the Harrodsburg Herald article states: “Polly Brown, born Fort Harrodsburg KY. June 17th, 1783. Lived there until 1787 married Wm. Campbell June 17, 1800. Parents were Samuel Brown and Susan Bacon Brown, she was a ½ sister of Jas. Harrod. They moved to Switz. Co. Ind. In 1813. Polly Campbell died 1869.”
To summarize, Harrodsburg founder James Harrod did not have a half-sister. He did have two nephews named James Harrod, but the trail has gone cold on any personal information about them. I have listed above the little information I found on Samuel and Susan Bacon Brown. I will keep the Harrodsburg Historical Society updated on any new information I can uncover.
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