Monday, March 15, 2021

Stephen Harlan (1740-1830), Farmer, Millwright, Wagon-Maker, Friend


1751 Joshua Fry and Peter Jefferson Map
A map of the most inhabited part of Virginia containing the whole province of Maryland with part of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and North Carolina. Drawn by Joshua Fry & Peter Jefferson in 1751, published by Thos. Jefferys, London, 1755. 
Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons
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Stephen Harlan is my sixth great-grandfather. He is the son of William Harlan (1702-1783) and Margaret Farlow (1703-1767) – I wrote about them HERE. This is another post where I’m locking my perfectionism in the closet and proceeding anyway, in defiance of pandemic brain exhaustion. (I don’t have much documentation on him and I couldn’t verify as much of the family history as I’d prefer, but I learned a lot of history I never knew before in researching him and there's a wonderful love story towards the end of the post). The “History and Genealogy of the Harland Family in America”, compiled by Alpheus Harlan describes Stephen as a farmer, millwright, wagon-maker, Friend. He is also a pioneer. In my last post, I stated that in my research of the Harlan line, I have found that the older sons tended to stay close to home their whole lives and the younger ones tend to be the pioneers leaving and pushing further into the new country. Stephen’s father, William, was the first-born son and lived his whole life in the county in which he was born. On the other hand, Stephen was their seventh child and fourth son, and he moved his family to the western frontier counties of North Carolina (now mid-North Carolina), about 440 miles from his parents’ home.


 Stephen's parents, William and Margaret, had nine children: Mary Harlan (bn 1722- dd ?, married William Moore 1742), William Harlan (bn 1724- dd 1819, married Abigail Hollingsworth 1743), Jonathan Harlan (bn 1726- dd 1774, married Elizabeth Webb 1749), Alice Harlan (bn 1730- dd 1797, married Richard Flower 1754), Sarah Harlan (bn 1732- dd 1775, married Robert McMinn 1749), Stephen Harlan (bn 1740- dd 1830, married Mary Carter abt 1761), George Harlan (bn 1743- dd 1821, married Elizabeth Chandler 1768), and Enoch Harlan (bn 1745- dd 1794, married Edith Carter 1769).  Stephen was born on 12 May 1740 (3, 12, 1740)* in West Marlborough, Chester County, the British colony of Pennsylvania.


I have no information about his childhood and growing up years. As I noted the post about his father, I could find no records on the family between his parents’ marriage and his mother’s death. All of the secondary sources and genealogy website posts about Stephen Harlan that I have found have referred to him as a Quaker (Friend), but actual Quaker records (or at least the ones I can access from home sitting on my couch) are very sparse concerning Stephen. He probably was Quaker since his parents were and some of the later Quaker meeting records of his children in North Carolina indicate that they were birthright Quakers.


It is perhaps ironic that the one Quaker record I found regarding Stephen is a meeting record for the New Garden Meeting in Pennsylvania: “given forth at our mo. Meeting of Newgarden held the 28 day of the 4th mo 1759 -- Whereas Stephen Harlan son of William Harlan have had his education amongst us, but he not regarding the Principles Councils nor Precautions, but being Strong in his own self will, Placed his Affection on a woman not of Our Society & was Marryed by a Priest for which disorderly and Stubborn practice we disown him to be of our Society until by Repentance he comes to see the Evil of his ways, which is our desire he may. Signed in & on behalf of the Meeting by Isaac Jackson.”

Stephen Harlan Disowned 28 April 1759

New Garden Monthly Meeting 30 Jun 1759, Stephen Harlan, Disowned
Quaker Meeting Records,

All the secondary sources I have found agree that he was disowned by the Society for marrying his wife, Mary Carter, daughter of Nathaniel and Ann (McPherson) Carter, farmers, in the Immanuel (Episcopal) Church in Newcastle in the Delaware colony, but they all have the marriage occurring on 2 December 1761 – over two years later. I haven’t found a disowning record for him in 1761 or 1762. That’s not to say it doesn’t exist, but I didn’t find it (yet). If Stephen and Mary married in 1759, they were both 18; if they married in 1761, they were both 21.


He would not necessarily have remained disowned. Members could be disowned for a variety of reasons (marrying outside of the society, getting drunk, dancing, not dressing plain, fighting, playing cards, joining the army during a war, etc.) and could be readmitted to the Society of Friends if they submitted a written petition to the Meeting acknowledging and repenting of their wrongdoing/willfulness and then the Meeting would decide whether to readmit them to the Society.


In going outside the meeting to marry, Stephen followed in the footsteps of his new father-in-law, Nathaniel Carter, who was a birthright member of the Society of Friends, but married Ann McPherson in an Episcopal ceremony at Holy Trinity (Old Swedes) Church in Wilmington, Delaware. So, his new in-laws were likely not quite as shocked as his own parents would have been.


A Quaker marriage took months (see this post for a description of the marriage process). Some couples did not want to wait that long and would go “outside of the Meeting” to be married by another religion’s church leader or by a judge. Often a couple who had married outside of the Society would seek readmission just prior to requesting a certificate of transfer in order to move to a new meeting. If this occurred years after their marriage any children born prior to their readmission would not have their births recorded in the monthly meeting records. I have been unable to find contemporaneous birth records on any of Stephen and Mary’s children in the Quaker records (several of them do have their birthdates recited in later Quaker records when they married or died). I don’t know whether that is because Stephen and Mary never were readmitted or because the area the family later moved to was a frontier area with a Meeting that was subsequently “laid down” (closed) in 1772, and the records for that Meeting have been lost.


Stephen and Mary had at least nine children: Elizabeth (bn 1762, dd 27 Feb 1845, m. Eleazar Kersey 1784), Alice Ellen (bn 22 July 1764, dd 17 June 1835, m. Moses Robbins 1786), Margaret (7 Dec 1766, dd 30 Nov 1825, m Obed Barnard 1810), Stephen (bn 25 Jan 1773, dd 6 July 1859, m. Alice Smith 1795), Edith (bn 6 Sept, dd 27 March 1847, m. William Hill), Enoch (bn 17 March 1776, dd 9 June 1863, m. Abigail Jones 1805), Mary (bn 12 Sept 1779, dd 22 May 1841, m. William Morrison 1802), and Ruth (bn ?, dd ?, m. George Criscow 1814), Ann (bn ?, dd 1866).


By the time Stephen and Mary married, the eastern portion of Pennsylvania was becoming quite crowded and it was difficult for a younger person to find land to farm. The proprietors of the colony discouraged expansion West into the mountains because of treaties with the indigenous tribes so expansion had been deflected southward into the valleys of Maryland and Virginia, and into the Piedmont region of the Carolinas. Within a few years after their marriage, Stephen and Mary and their first two children joined what has been described as “the first large overland migration of families in American history”, to the South. The “History and Genealogy of the Harland Family in America…” states that they may have moved south to Cumberland County NC with Mary’s family and I’ve seen other blogs writing that they joined Mary’s family who were already in Cumberland County, NC.  At that time Cumberland Country was part of the North Carolina backcountry – now, it is towards the eastern edge of the middle of the state.


The trip from Southeast Pennsylvania to the North Carolina backcountry was over 400 miles long. The migrating families largely followed one of two routes South. But before leaving they had to plan their journey and pack their belongings, paring down what they owned, so that it all fit in a Conestoga wagon, and selling or giving away the rest. The Harlans likely had the advantage of knowing quite a bit about the destination from correspondence with Quakers who had moved to the area before them. Also, in many cases, fathers made a preliminary trip to the backcountry to see what prospects there were and what the trip would be like before taking the family there, and it is possible that Stephen made that trip on behalf of his family. It would help explain the extended gap between children after the oldest two were born.


Conestoga Painting (1883) by Newbold Hough Trotter
in the public domain


Most families did not have a wagon before the trip and had to buy one, and the wagon of choice for the trip, the Conestoga wagon, was developed in Lancaster County Pennsylvania. It is possible that since Stephen Harlan has been described as a wagon maker, he may have built one or more for the family for the trip. It was the primary overland cargo vehicle until the railroads were invented. Because of its weight, it required a team of at least four horses. They would pack the wagon with clothing, food for at least for a few days and a similar amount of feed for the animals traveling with them, and a canvas tarp for a tent, and items they would need in their new homes such as tools, farming implements, cloth for clothing, and seed.

The main route was a series of roads and paths on a north-south course that came to be called the Great Wagon Road, where travelers left from Philadelphia, crossed over the gentle hills of Chester and Lancaster counties towards South Mountain (part of the northern extension of the Blue Ridge Mountain range) crossing the Susquehanna River by ferry or by ford, through the Maryland Hill country, into Virginia, where they had to cross the Potomac River, by ferry or ford, usually above Alexandria. They would then travel on through the valley of Virginia heading towards Western North Carolina or Southwest Virginia, almost all of it uphill through oak and pine forest, rising from 2000 feet above sea level at the start to 3000 feet above sea level at the end. By 1753, the Great Wagon Road made up a significant chunk of the route that many took to the backcountry of Virginia North Carolina, with a spur called the Carolina Road. Families traveling on this route dealt with daily challenges. Traveling the back country roads with a party on horseback, or walking, with wagons full of supplies was difficult as they were poorly maintained and poorly marked, even by 18th-century standards; and at the end of the day, families had to set up camp or find shelter in a private home that was willing to take in travelers. There were inns/taverns along the way called Ordinaries, but quality varied significantly and families sometimes preferred to camp near the Ordinary rather than to pay for rooms. The Ordinaries also offered opportunities for the travelers to buy provisions, send mail ahead to their new community or back to the family they had left behind, and get directions for the next leg of their journey. It took about four to five weeks for a family to migrate from Pennsylvania to the Piedmont of North Carolina.

Climbing My Family Tree: Great Wagon Road and Carolina Spur
Great Wagon Road and Carolina Spur
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Climbing My Family Tree: 18th C East Coast Chesapeake Ferry Route PA to NC
18th C East Coast Chesapeake Ferry Route PA to NC

There was another route that was used by many from southeastern Pennsylvania, Delaware, and northeastern Maryland. For people in those areas, the most direct route to the North Carolina backcountry was a trip along the length of the peninsula comprising Delaware and the eastern shores of Maryland and Virginia. The roads along this route were not any worse than the roads comprising the Great Wagon Road but traffic along this route was lighter than on other routes. One deterrent could have been the 60-mile ferry ride across the Chesapeake Bay from Cheristone in Northampton County to the town of Norfolk Virginia, as it involved a significant investment of money and time. The ferry ran across the bay on a schedule determined by tides and winds, and those waiting to take it could be delayed for several days, and if enough people arrived waiting for the ferry, there would be no guarantee of there being sufficient room on the ferry for all those who waited. The roads beyond the ferry were often just paths instead of actual roads, and directions were confusing. There were also Ordinaries along this route, providing the same services as was available on the Great Wagon Road, and again many families preferred to camp with their Conestoga’s near the Ordinaries and save the money for settling in their new homes. Travelers could buy provisions from private homeowners along the way and occasionally stay the night with a breakfast provided in the morning. It was a long, hard trip with a family and it took approximately three weeks if there was no hold up at the Chesapeake Bay ferry.

Map of North Carolina Counties in 1760
Map of North Carolina Counties in 1760

It’s estimated that Stephen and his family made the trip in 1765, so that means the children on the trip would have been Elizabeth, 3, and Alice, approximately 1-year-old. The family first moved to Cumberland County, which today is not part of the Piedmont region (the county has shrunk as other counties were formed out of the original western parts of the county and it is now wholly in the eastern region of the state). Since they moved to Cumberland County, if they did rejoin the Quaker meeting, they would have joined the Dunn’s Creek monthly meeting in the Cape Fear River Valley (the Meeting site today would be about 8 miles southeast of Fayetteville NC). In later years the Meeting closed, which may explain why there are no records from the Dunn’s Creek Meeting. As far as I can tell, Stephen and Mary did not have any children for the first several years after they moved to North Carolina. That may have been because of the effort put in to settle in a new area on the edge of civilization, and it also may have been because people tend to not want to have children during a period of disturbance or war, and they had moved into an area that was anything but settled politically.

In 1766, local conflicts had erupted when backcountry farmers and small merchants in the Piedmont, calling themselves Regulators, tried to fight government corruption, unclear land laws, problems in the court system, and taxes to help build a governor's palace in the Coastal Plain at New Bern. (Lord John Earl Granville, who had been rewarded with nearly one-half of North Carolina by the King for his services, admitted fees and taxes were excessive and that 50 percent of the taxes collected were embezzled by his agents.) The popular movement to eliminate this corrupt system of government and replace it with a fairer version came to be known as the Regulator Uprising, War of the Regulation, or the Regulator War. At first, 1765 through the spring of 1768, it involved sporadic local protests and clashes over attempts to collect taxes. In 1768, the clashes escalated and the local objectors came together in an organized opposition who called themselves the Regulation or Regulators. The Regulators acts became more violent (including invading the courts, driving judges from the bench and dragging and whipping attorneys through the streets) because they felt their efforts to object were being ignored. The movement climaxed with the Battle of Alamance on May 16, 1771. Colonial Governor Tryon led a well-trained loyal militia of about 1,000 men into the backcountry. The usual Regulator strategy was to scare the governor with a show of superior numbers in order to force him to give in to their demands, and depending on the account, the Regulators showed up with between 2000-6000 men. Governor Tryon ordered the Regulators to disperse and return to their homes and when they did not, he shot and killed one of the leading Regulators. More shots were exchanged, but the untrained Regulator resistance dissolved and it was all over in two hours with nine deaths for the governor's forces and about the same for the Regulators. Following the battle, Tryon's militia army traveled through Regulator territory, where he had Regulators and Regulator sympathizers sign loyalty oaths, destroyed the properties of the most active Regulators and had six of the Regulators hung for their part in the uprising. He also raised taxes to pay for his militia's defeat of the Regulators.

Climbing My Family Tree: Battle of Alamance Postcard circa 1905 1915  by artist J Steeple Davis
Battle of Alamance Postcard circa 1905 1915  by artist J Steeple Davis
in the public domain

The Society of Friends in their official capacity condemned the Regulation movement to the fullest extent. The Quakers' religious principles did not allow them to condone the overthrow or challenge of any established government; obedience to the existing government, when such obedience did not run counter to conscience, was a fundamental duty. However, individual Quakers were known to have sympathized with the Regulators. Throughout the movement's years, 1766 to 1771, members were frequently disowned for doing anything associated with the movement. The Cane Creek Meeting disowned or had denials published by twenty-eight members on grounds ranging from “attending a disorderly meeting” and “joining a group refusing to pay taxes” to actually taking up arms. In 1771, eighteen men were disowned, sixteen of them two weeks after the Battle of Alamance. On the other hand, many Friends were forced to contribute to the war against their will by the colonial government to meet demands for provisions and equipment for the provincial forces fighting the Regulators.

Stephen and Mary and their family had moved to the portion of North Carolina most affected by the Regulator movement, at the start of the movement. I don’t know if they were involved or held to Quaker standards of noninvolvement. Either way, it would have been a tense time to live through. Stephen and his family lived in Cumberland County for several years because at least two of the children were born in Cumberland County, after the defeat of the Regulator movement: Stephen in 1773 and Edith in 1775. 

They had another son in 1776, who they named for Stephen’s youngest brother Enoch. Their daughter, Mary, was born in 1779. Although I have no birth records for any of their children, later records place both Enoch’s and Mary’s births in Randolph County. But Randolph County NC didn’t exist when Enoch was born; it was created out of the southern third of Guilford County on February 2, 1779. So, if the family had moved away from Cumberland County, it is likely that Enoch’s birth should have been attributed to Guilford County. Stephen and Mary had at least one more daughter, Ruth, but I have no idea when she was born and so don’t know where she fits in the sibling order.

Map of North Carolina Counties in 1775
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Map of North Carolina Counties in 1780
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As always, when any of my ancestors moved large distances from their home, I wonder whether they ever went back home for a visit. There were likely letters to the people back home, because several of the books and articles I read referred to frequent letters from those Quakers in North Carolina back to relatives in Pennsylvania who returned them letters. In addition, traveling proselytizing Quaker speakers would carry messages from one family to another as they traveled. I do know that at least one of Stephen’s brothers followed him to North Carolina, and followed in his footsteps in more ways than one.

Stephen’s younger brother Enoch had helped Stephen’s family and the Carter family on the trip down to North Carolina. After he returned home, he sent a letter to Mary’s younger sister Edith telling her that he was home safe. The History and Genealogy of the Harland family includes a transcription of a letter from Edith Carter to Enoch dated July 28, 1766: 
     “Dear Friend Enoch, I send thee these few lines to let thee know that I am in good health at present and I hope thee art in the same state. Our parting was a trouble to me, neither do I ever expect to see thee again, but I hope the Lord will preserve us both, and my desire is for thy welfare as for my own. I received thy letter which I was glad to see, and to hear that thee had got safe home again to thy dear parents, which no doubt was a joyful sight to them. Thee says in thy letter that thou art free in mind to come here again but that thy mother is not free to part with thee. So I despair of ever seeing thee again. So, in that love that nothing but death can separate I bid thee farewell, farewell, from thy loving friend, Edith Carter. N. B. I desire thee to write a few lines to me. I now live at John Carter’s. Direct thy letter to Betty Harveys. I would be exceeding glad to see thee again.”

Stephen and Enoch’s mother died in 1767, and three years later, the minutes for the New Garden monthly meeting on November 23, 1769, noted that “Enoch Harlan, son of William, went to North Carolina without a certificate and married out of the Society. A testimony prepared against him to be read at London Grove preparative meeting and then sent to North Carolina.” From the New Garden monthly meeting minutes for December 2, 1769, “Enoch Harlan was disowned.”

July 6, 1776 New Garden Meeting minutes, receiving Enoch Harlan into Society of Friends again eeting
July 6, 1776 New Garden Meeting minutes, receiving Enoch Harlan into Society of Friends again and resolving to recommend him to the Center Preparatory Meeting
Quaker Records,


From the New Garden monthly meeting, July 6, 1776: “Enoch Harlan who was testified against by this meeting, in the year 1769, now residing in Guilford County North Carolina, having sent a request to be received again under care but not having sent any acknowledgment for his misconduct he was wrote to by direction of that meeting on that account and also to a Friend there requesting that he might be visited by them and an account of his disposition being sent to us and his acknowledgment being now received together with a few lines from Center Preparative Meeting in the said county signifying his orderly conduct of late, and their belief in his sincerity, both of which were read and the case solidly considered, and several Friends expressing their minds his offering is received, and Joshua Pusey is appointed to prepare a few lines recommending him to Center Monthly Meeting and bring it to the next meeting for approval." It was approved at the next meeting. With that certificate, Enoch was accepted back into the Society of Friends by the Meeting which had disowned him, and they recommended his admittance into the Center Monthly Meeting in North Carolina.

Enoch had married Edith Carter. The Harland history says that Enoch and Edith then moved to Randolph County, “where he rented and operated a sawmill and that he was a Cooper and a wagonmaker, and a good scholar for the day and was quite an astronomer” and he and Edith had at least 11 children. Since Stephen was described as a millwright in the family history, which was a specialist carpenter who designed, built, and maintained mills, including sawmills, I wonder whether he worked with his brother at the sawmill.

Stephen outlived his brother Enoch (dd 1794 of typhus) and many, if not all, of his other siblings; he also survived his wife Mary (dd 1824) and his daughter Margaret (dd 1825). Stephen died in 1830 in Randolph County, NC, USA, and was buried where his wife was buried in the Marlboro Friends Meeting Cemetery in Sophia NC. In his will, after directing that all his just debts be paid as quickly as possible after his death, he bequeathed one dollar ($1) each to his sons Stephen and Enoch and his daughters Elizabeth Kersey, Alice Robbins, Mary Morrison, and Edith Hill. He bequeathed to his daughter, Ruth Criscow his “featherbed and furniture thereto belonging.” He also bequeathed one dollar ($1) to his granddaughter Mary Bond, and he bequeathed to his grandson Stephen Criscow all his shop tools. Lastly, he stated that he wanted his daughter Ann Harlan to have his plantation [farm] during her natural life and that afterward, it was to return to his lawful heirs equally among them. He also left Ann all his household furniture (except the featherbed that went to Ruth).

Will of Stephen Harlan, p.1
Will of Stephen Harlan, p.1
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Will of Stephen Harlan, p.2
Will of Stephen Harlan, p.2
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*Note: Before 1752 England and its colonies used the Julian Calendar, in which the first day of the new year was March 25, and not the Gregorian Calendar (used today) in which the first day of the new year is January 1. While the Quakers followed the calendar commonly used by England, the Quakers designate months by numbers, such that in the Julian calendar First month (or 1st mo. or 1) was March. In writing dates in this essay that occur before 1752, I’ll state what the date would be in today’s calendar and then, in parentheses, I’ll include the date as I found it in the source used. [For a more in-depth explanation of the Julian calendar transition to the Gregorian calendar, and Quaker calendar see my post, Dating Induced Headaches for the Family Historian: Julian, Gregorian, and Quaker Calendars.]

History and Genealogy of the Harland Family in America, and particularly of the descendants of George and Michael Harlan, who settled in Chester County PA, 1687, compiled by Alpheus Harlan (The Lord Baltimore Press 1914); Swarthmore College; Swarthmore, Pennsylvania; Minutes, 1746-1768; Collection: Philadelphia Yearly Meeting Minutes; Call Number: MR-Ph 339, U.S., Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935,;; PENNSYLVANIA AS AN EAELY DISTRIBUTING CENTER OF POPULATION By WAYLAND FULLER DUNAWAY, Ph.D. The Pennsylvania State College, pp. 134-169, file:///C:/Users/Jo/Downloads/28222-Article%20Text-28061-1-10-20121204.pdf; Southern routes: Family migration and the eighteenth-century southern backcountry Creston S. Long College of William & Mary - Arts & Sciences; Dunn’s Creek Monthly Meeting,;; North Carolina Quakers in the Era of the American Revolution by Steven Jay White, University of Tennessee – Knoxville;;;; ; ;; ;, 1663-1978; Estate Papers, 1781-1928 (Randolph County); Author: North Carolina. Division of Archives and History; Probate Place: Randolph, North Carolina, North Carolina, Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998,