William Plunkett Harris, shipowner, businessman, planter, and official of the Republic of Texas, was born in Cayuga, New York, on February 27, 1797, the son of John and Mary (Richardson) Harris. As a youth he clerked for Daniel S. Wilter and later sold merchandise from a craft he operated on the Allegheny River. Between 1826 and 1830 Harris, with Robert Wilson, was owner and master of a number of ships on the Mississippi River. He moved to Texas in July 1830. He and Wilson presented large claims against the estate of John Richardson Harris and operated much of the Harrisburg property until 1838. In addition they owned two ships, the Nelson and the Mecana,used in 1832 to eject the Mexican garrison during the Anahuac Disturbances. At the Convention of 1832 Harris was appointed a member of the subcommittee of safety and correspondence for the district of San Jacinto, and in 1835, upon the reestablishment of the committee, he resumed his membership. He represented Harrisburg in the Consultation and, as chairman of the committee on naval affairs, was active in its deliberations. He also served in the General Council until December 30, 1835, when he left to assume duties as collector of the port of Galveston. During the spring campaign of 1836 he transported government supplies and personnel aboard his steamboat, the Cayuga. He served the republic as land commissioner of Harrisburg County in 1838 and as alderman of the town of Harrisburg in 1842. During this period he was a director of the Harrisburg Town Company, one of the proprietors of the town of Cushatte on the Trinity River, and a planter with a large estate at Red Bluff on Galveston Bay. In 1840 Harris married Caroline E. Morgan, and they had one son and one daughter. Harris died on December 8, 1843, and was buried in the Harris-Beasley Cemetery at Red Bluff.
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Adele B. Looscan, "Harris County, 1822–1845," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 18–19 (October 1914-July 1915). Adele B. Looscan, "The Pioneer Harrises of Harris County," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 31 (April 1928). Andrew Forest Muir, "Railroad Enterprise in Texas, 1836–1841," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 47 (April 1944). Texas House of Representatives, Biographical Directory of the Texan Conventions and Congresses, 1832–1845 (Austin: Book Exchange, 1941).
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Andrew F. Muir,
“Harris, William Plunkett,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed July 05, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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