Harris, DeWitt Clinton (1814–1861)

By: Andrew F. Muir

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: February 22, 2017

DeWitt Clinton Harris, Harrisburg County official and railroad promoter, the son of John Richardson and Jane (Birdsall) Harris, was born on July 17, 1814, in Seneca County near Waterloo, New York. With his widowed mother he moved to Texas in 1833 and opened a store. In June 1835 he and Andrew Briscoe were imprisoned by Mexican customs officials at Anahuac, an incident that marked the beginning of overt hostilities between Texans and Mexicans (see ANAHUAC DISTURBANCES). In 1836 Harris served as an election official and was defeated for the position of regidor of the municipality of Harrisburg. He was elected first county clerk of Harrisburg County on February 6, 1837, and served as such until February 9, 1841. He was a director of the Harrisburg Town Company from 1839 to 1847 and, after Briscoe's death, agent for the company. In 1842 he was elected alderman of Harrisburg. He married Saville Fenwick of Frankfort, Kentucky, on March 16, 1849, and they had four daughters. He was connected with the Buffalo Bayou, Brazos and Colorado Railway Company from 1850 to 1861 as contractor, conductor, director, and secretary, and for a number of years he was postmaster of Harrisburg. Harris was an Episcopalian and from 1839 to 1842 was a vestryman of Christ Church, Houston. He was a charter member of the first Texas Independent Order of Odd Fellows Lodge, organized in 1838, and the first Houston Chamber of Commerce, incorporated in 1840. He died in Harrisburg on January 2, 1861, and was buried in Glendale Cemetery. In 1913 his remains were removed to Glenwood Cemetery, Houston.

Daughters of the Republic of Texas, Founders and Patriots of the Republic of Texas (Austin, 1963-). Houston Metropolitan Research Center Files, Houston Public Library. Adele B. Looscan, "Harris County, 1822–1845," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 18–19 (October 1914-July 1915). Andrew Forest Muir, "Railroad Enterprise in Texas, 1836–1841," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 47 (April 1944). Andrew Forest Muir, "The Municipality of Harrisburg, 1835–1836," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 56 (July 1952).

Time Periods:
  • Mexican Texas
  • Texas Revolution
  • Republic of 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.

Andrew F. Muir, “Harris, DeWitt Clinton,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 09, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/harris-dewitt-clinton.

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February 22, 2017

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