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Weekly 150

The Harris-Collier Family (Part II)

General John Williamson Harris, CSA

Posted 10/29/19

After going down the genealogy rabbit hole, I realized there was as slight omission to my research. During a lunch meeting, I discovered Dr. Harris Collier had more than the one child (Harris Fields) …

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Weekly 150

The Harris-Collier Family (Part II)

General John Williamson Harris, CSA

Posted

After going down the genealogy rabbit hole, I realized there was as slight omission to my research. During a lunch meeting, I discovered Dr. Harris Collier had more than the one child (Harris Fields) I had listed. There was a second child, Mary, born in 1922 to the Colliers. Mary went on to marry Kermit Holland. They had three children, Mary (Jill), Jack and Anne.

The three Holland children were raised on the same farm as their grandmother Ada Harris Collier. Mary C. Holland died in 1960.

I learned of another Harris descendant of recognition on Tuesday by the name of John Williamson Harris. He was the eldest child of Albert and Pernecia Gilbert Harris, making him Ada Collier’s brother.

General Harris fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War as part of Tyree Bell’s 20th Cavalry Brigade which fell under the command of Nathan Bedford Forrest.

In 1938, the forty-eighth national United Confederate Veterans (UCV) reunion was held August 30-31, 1938 in Columbia South Carolina with the assistance of the American Legion and the United States Marine Band. The veterans elected General John W. Harris who had moved to Oklahoma City by this time, their Commander. The Convention ended with the grand parade—a march down Columbia, South Carolina’s main street to the state capitol, which still bore the scars of shelling by General Sherman’s Union army.

Digging as I do, I found an article from the now defunct The Press Scimitar that tells the tale of General Harris. I hope you enjoy.

90-Year-Old Head of Confederate Vets, A Teetotaler, Will introduce Liquor Bill at Next Session of Legislature In Oklahoma

A 90-year-old teetotaler by choice, General John W. Harris, newly elected commander of the United Confederate Veterans, plans to introduce a local option liquor bill in the Oklahoma Legislature at its next session.

“We’re drinking bad whisky and drinking it illegally-feeling like we’re stealing,” General Harris declared yesterday. “We might as well drink good whisky, drink it legally, and get for Oklahoma some of the whisky revenue that’s now going to Arkansas.”

The general, guest of Mr. and Mrs. Ben C. Mathes, 1188 Minna, used the editorial “we,” but he has no notion of partaking of strong drink, legally or illegally.

“Drank so much as a young man that I’m preserved,” he said humorously. “My stomach’s copper-lined I do believe. But some years ago I decided I’d cut out drinking and I did-just like that!”-snapping his fingers.

Honored By UDC

Seven chapters of United Daughters of the Confederacy honored him with a reception at Hotel Gayoso yesterday. He “went home” to the Mathes residence to put on a white shirt for the event. Earlier in the day, he saw the sights and visited (Memphis) The Press-Scimitar wearing a sporty blue plaid shirt and a polka-dot tie with his long-tailed, gold braided uniform and gold-banded felt hat.

The general was born at McKenzie, Tenn., and is proud of it.

“Must you know how old I am?” he asked jokingly. “You see, I’m a widower! Born in ‘48 and this is ‘38. That makes me 90 years young.”

General Harris farmed at McKenzie for some time after the war, then traveled for a Louisville wholesale firm before going to Oklahoma City, where he has oil interests and is commissioner of the state pension board. He works regularly from 8:30a.m. to 4:30 p.m. every day. His wife and three children died some years ago.

More Reunions? “Sure!”

“I want to do what I can for the veterans,” he said. “Alfalfa Bill Murray cut the veterans’ pensions in Oklahoma from $40 to $29 a month. I’m going to try to get it raised again. I’m also interested in making the next reunion a good reunion. Where it will be ought to be settled in the next two weeks. I favor Trinidad, Col. No more reunions? They’ve been saying that for the last 20 years--and we’re going to have them as long as any of us is able to go.”

The general had “an elegant time” at the joint reunion of Confederate and Union soldiers at Gettysburg.

“We joshed one another,” he relates. “I told those Yanks, ‘There’re 1500 of you and only 500 of us. We’ll get in a bunch and forgive you all at one time. According to numbers present, we have to do three times as much forgiving as you.”

The general gets winded when he gives the rebel yell, but he obliged with the Indian yell he and fellow soldiers used mostly. With friends, he visited Reelfoot yesterday, driving from McKenzie in two hours. The trip in war times took two days!

With Forrest

An orderly for Colonel Greer in Buford’s Division under Forrest’s command, General Harris carried hundreds of dispatches for General Forrest as well as his colonel. He lost one, but he was supposed to. It was a ruse to throw off pursuing Union soldiers with misinformation.

“General Forrest was the greatest cavalry leader in the history of all wars because he didn’t fight according to rules,” he said. “He didn’t have a military education and he made up his own rules as he went along. He fooled the enemy all the time. He didn’t ask his men to go where he wouldn’t go-he always led.”

General Harris had a good horse and was a hard rider, frequently making 40 miles overnight. He weighed only 96 pounds and today only weighs 116, but is 5 feet 10 1-2 inches tall.

“The war lasted as long as it did because our mothers, wives and sweethearts stayed home and encouraged us and we fought as long as we could get anything to eat,” General Harris said. “I never drew a cent from the Confederacy--was never given a thing except a plug of tobacco and I didn’t chew, so I gave it to some of the boys who did.”

Jason R. Martin

B.S. • M.A.Ed • MLS

Councilman, Ward II

Executive Chairman, McKenzie 150th Celebration

E: jmartin@mckenziebanner.com  P: 731.352.3323

Jason Martin is a life-long resident of McKenzie. He graduated from McKenzie High School in 2000; earned a Bachelor of Science in History from Bethel College in 2004; a Masters in Education from Bethel University in 2009 and a Masters in History and Humanities from Fort Hays State University in 2011.

Weekly 150

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