Harris, Jane Birdsall (1791–1869)

By: Andrew F. Muir

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: February 22, 2017

Jane Birdsall Harris, innkeeper and hostess to the provisional government in Harrisburg, daughter of Lewis and Patience (Lee) Birdsall, was born on September 21, 1791, in Waterloo, Seneca Falls, New York. She was married to John Richardson Harris in New York on May 7, 1813, and they had one daughter and three sons. The Harrises moved to Missouri and remained there until 1824, when Harris, preparing to settle in Texas, returned his family to New York. Mrs. Harris removed to Texas in 1833, four years after her husband's death, and settled in Harrisburg. In March and April 1836 she was the hostess of the government. So crowded was her house that all of the cabinet, except the president, vice president, and secretary of state, were obliged to sleep on the floor. During the Runaway Scrape she went first to Anahuac and then to Galveston. Shortly after the battle of San Jacinto she returned to Harrisburg and with Mexican prisoner of war labor built a new dwelling to replace the one destroyed by the Mexican army. From 1839 to 1849 she was a stockholder in the Harrisburg Town Company. Until her death she operated an inn that, after the construction of the Buffalo Bayou, Brazos and Colorado Railway, was well patronized by travelers who changed from railroad to steamship and from steamship to railroad at Harrisburg. Mrs. Harris was a devout Episcopalian and a communicant of Christ Church, Houston. She died in Harrisburg on August 15, 1869, and was buried in Glendale Cemetery, Houston.

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Andrew Forest Muir, "The Municipality of Harrisburg, 1835–1836," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 56 (July 1952). Andrew Forest Muir, "Railroad Enterprise in Texas, 1836–1841," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 47 (April 1944).


  • Women
  • Founders and Pioneers
  • Pioneers

Time Periods:

  • Texas Revolution
  • Republic of Texas
  • Antebellum 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, Jane Birdsall,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 24, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/harris-jane-birdsall.

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February 22, 2017

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