Briscoe, Mary Jane Harris (1819–1903)

By: Seymour V. Connor

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: September 20, 2017

Mary Jane Harris Briscoe, Houston civic leader and founder of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, the daughter of John Richardson and Jane (Birdsall) Harris, was born at Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, on August 17, 1819. She was raised in New York and remained to attend finishing school there when members of her family immigrated to Texas. She joined her brother, DeWitt Clinton Harris, in Harrisburg in the fall of 1836. She knew Sam Houston and other Texas leaders, became known as the "Belle of Buffalo Bayou," and was one of four of John R. Harris's children to become shareholders in the Harrisburg Town Company, which established that community. On August 17, 1837, she married Andrew J. Briscoe; they had five children. Her husband died in 1849, after which she managed his estate. Mrs. Briscoe lived for a time at her father-in-law's plantation in Claiborne County, Mississippi, before returning to Texas in 1852 to live at Anderson, Galveston, and Harrisburg before moving to Houston in 1874. On July 18, 1881, as a widow of a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence, she received a donation grant of 1,280 acres. The Daughters of the Republic of Texas was organized at the Briscoe home in 1891, and she served as vice president of the organization until 1897. She was founder and first president of Sheltering Arms, a home for women in Houston. She wrote sketches and reminiscences and was a charter member of the Texas State Historical Association, of which she was elected an honorary life member in 1897. Mary Briscoe died in Houston on March 8, 1903, and was buried in Glenwood Cemetery.

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John Henry Brown, Indian Wars and Pioneers of Texas (Austin: Daniell, 1880; reprod., Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1978). Marguerite Johnston, Houston, The Unknown City, 1836–1946 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1991). Adele B. Looscan, "Mrs. Mary Jane Briscoe," Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association 7 (July 1903). Thomas L. Miller, "Texas Land Grants to Veterans of the Revolution and Signers of the Declaration of Independence," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 64 (January 1961). Andrew Forest Muir, "Railroad Enterprise in Texas, 1836–1841," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 47 (April 1944). C. W. Raines, Year Book for Texas (2 vols., Austin: Gammel-Statesman, 1902, 1903). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

  • Women
  • Activism and Social Reform
  • Civic Leaders
  • Women's Clubs
Time Periods:
  • Republic of Texas
  • Antebellum Texas
  • Late Nineteenth-Century Texas
  • Houston
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • East Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Seymour V. Connor, “Briscoe, Mary Jane Harris,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 18, 2022,

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September 20, 2017

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