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PAINE, HARRIET EVANS

PAINE, HARRIET EVANS (ca. 1822–1917). Harriet Evans Paine, also known as Aunt Harriet, a slave, storyteller, and oral and family historian in Liberty, Texas, was born in Tennessee in about 1822 to Jim and Rebecca Evans, slaves owned by Swan and Jerusha Hardin of Maury County, Tennessee. Between 1826 and 1828 she accompanied the Hardins from Tennessee to the Liberty area in Texas to join their sons, Augustine Blackburn, William, Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Watson, and Milton Ashley Hardin, who were developing plantations along the Trinity River. While spending her first winter in Texas threading needles for Jerusha's mother, young Harriet became known as the Hardin family matriarch's "thimble girl." A few years later, she became a servant in the household of Franklin Hardin, with whom she later participated in the Runaway Scrape. Soon afterwards, Mexican officers captured at the battle of San Jacinto were transferred to one of the Hardin houses and Harriet became known for her kind treatment of them by waiting on generals Martín Perfecto de Cos and Juan N. Almonte. One officer later wrote that although most of the prisoners returned to Mexico upon their release, many of them settled in Texas, induced by the kind treatment accorded them by the Hardins and Aunt Harriet. According to the prisoners and other guests, Aunt Harriet told several stories and was well known to all who visited the Hardin plantation.

In 1839, Franklin Hardin built a house, called Seven Pines, in Liberty and moved his family from his plantation north of town to the now historic site. In addition to his own family, which consisted of his four daughters and two sons, Aunt Harriet and her children also resided at Seven Pines, behind the main house. While Harriet called herself Harriet Evans, her children called themselves by their fathers' surnames-Henry Rowe, and Calvin and Melinda Green. There is no record of Harriet's having married. She remained a servant at Seven Pines before, during, and after the Civil War. By the 1870s one of Franklin Hardin's daughters, Camilla, had married George W. Davis, and they took up residence at Seven Pines, where they enjoyed the continued services of Aunt Harriet. Their daughter Geraldine, married George Humphreys and eventually took over Seven Pines, also retaining Harriet as their servant. In March 1916, when a chimney fire almost destroyed the house, Harriet rescued all of the family's letters and documents and stored them in safe cupboards. Having served six generations of Hardins, she became the family historian because she lived to be nearly 100 years old and could always recall how the people in the area were related. She was responsible for written notes concerning the history of the family and the Liberty community, which were recorded by two of Franklin and Cynthia Hardin's children. These notes are preserved in the Hardin Collection of the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center. Harriet continued to live in the house behind Seven Pines with her granddaughter Lizzie and Lizzie's husband. She died sometime in 1917, but her gravesite is unknown.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Hardin Papers, Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center, Liberty, Texas. Miriam Partlow, Liberty, Liberty County, and the Atascosito District (Austin: Pemberton, 1974). Camilla Davis Trammell, Seven Pines, Its Occupants and Their Letters, 1825–1872 (Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1986).

Richard Allen Burns

Citation

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

Richard Allen Burns, "PAINE, HARRIET EVANS," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fpadl), accessed April 19, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.