Arabella Jemima Gray Deaver (Dever) Harrington, pioneer settler and landowner, was born probably in Rowan County (parts of which later became Burke County), North Carolina. According to her grave marker, she was born in 1768, but no specific date is known, and her birth year could possibly be 1778. She was the daughter of Lydia (Richardson) Gray and William Gray. Sometime in the early 1790s she married a Revolutionary War veteran, Nathaniel Deaver (also spelled Dever). The family moved to Illinois and was listed on the 1810 census. That same year Deaver died in Randolph County, Illinois, leaving his widow Arabella and up to five children.
Arabella moved back to North Carolina, then to Missouri, Arkansas, and on to Texas. She married John William Harrington, who reportedly was killed in a sawmill accident in Arkansas as they moved toward Texas. Three children were born of Arabella's second marriage. She entered Texas about 1826 and made her home at Washington-on-the Brazos. She received a Mexican land grant on March 22, 1831. It consisted of one league, known as the Arabella Harrington League, on New Year's Creek in what later became Washington County. Engaging in some farming and cattle raising, she is also said to have practiced midwifery, tended the sick, and served meals in her home to support herself and her younger children. Her oldest son, William Harvey Deaver, and her youngest son, John Walton Harrington, both served in the Texas Revolutionary Army.
A letter that Arabella Harrington wrote on October 28, 1842, to two of her daughters in North Carolina included a reference to the Mexican Invasions of 1842: “…through the invasion of our country this fall by Mexicans I am at present, left alone, John having been drafted into the army…I am unable, at my age, without company, to come to you.”
Arabella Harrington sold a 100-acre tract, known at the time as Hickory Grove, to Jesse Farral and James Hurt. Most of downtown Brenham was built on this tract, which Farral and Hurt donated for the purpose of establishing the new townsite. She built her home on a hill south of Brenham. She was a charter member of the Brenham Methodist Church, founded in 1844. Arabella Jemima Gray Deaver Harrington died in Brenham in April 1860. She was buried in Walker Cemetery in Brenham.
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D. L. Vest, Watterson Folk of Bastrop County (Waco: Texian Press, 1963).
Founders and Pioneers
Republic of Texas
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Joyce Martin Murray
John Ronan Broderick,
“Harrington, Arabella Jemima Gray Deaver,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed June 28, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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