Harper - Alexander - Montgomery InGenWeb Project

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Harper - Alexander

Source: Portrait & Biographical Record of Montgomery, Parke &  Fountain Counties, Indiana.  Chicago: Chapman Brothers, 1893, p  536.

Alexander HARPER, who has for many years held local offices  and has proven himself a most efficient and popular man is a  member of several different socieites, in which, also, he has  been honored by elections to important positions.  As a business,  public and private man he is so well known that to dwell upon  these things seems almost unnecessary.  He was born near  Chillicothe, in Buckskin Township, Ross County, Ohio Sept 28,  1825.  Thomas T. and Jane Finch Harper, his parents. came from  Lexington, Ky. with their parents and settled in Ohio in 1800,  when they were about 5 years old.  

Mr. Harper's paternal grandfather was an Ohio pioneer, an old  soldier, and had lived in Ky during his early years, moving there  at the age of 12.

His grandfather on his mother's side was Col. Josiah Finch.   The Harpers were formerly from Va, the Finches Maryland, both  families afterward moving to Ky.  

Francis Harper, a great uncle of our subject, was killed at  the Indian battle at the Lower Lynx, while his great grandfather  was killed at Bunker Hill.  The wife of the latter was a sister  of Alexander McConnell, a pioneer of Ky, associated with Boone.  After her husband's death, she went to Ky.  
Robert Harper, a brother of Francis, was a Lt. Col. and aide  to Gen. Wayne at the battle of Maumee.  Alexander, Sr. died of  gravel at the age of 75.  He was a large, powerful man.  

Thomas T, the father of our subject, was, as has been  indicated, born at Lexington, Ky in 1795.  His father took of 800  acres of land.  In 1830 Thomas came to Montgomery County, Indiana  and located in Sugar Creek Twp, 18 miles NE of Crawfordsville.   Several families came to the same township at this time: Bowers;  Peterson; Stearns; Henderson; Saul Irvin; Wyant and William  Taylor, families from Ohio and later the Mitchells and others.   At this time, Thomas was a poor man.  After a time he built a  cabin, living there for 11 years, clearing and improving his farm  as much as possible.  About 1841 he moved into Franklin Twp, and  with his son, Alexander, entered another farm.  In the spring of  1843 trouble came to him in the shape of the death of his wife.  His own decease followed Jan 8, 1859. Both were buried at  Shannondale.  Mr. Harper, Sr. and his wife were Presbyterians.   Mrs. Harper was a well-balanced and well-educated woman,  superior in every way and remarkable for intellectual power.  She  was thoroughly informed in church doctrine and was frequently  consulted even by ministers. She was positive in her nature and  decidedly gifted.  
Only 3 of the children of this marriage are now living,  although 5 grew to maturity; Mrs. Mary J. Booher resides in Sugar  Creek TWp; Mrs. Elizabeth T. Harper has her home in Vermilion Co,  Il and in marrying did not change her name.  The elder sister,  Sarah A, died at about 60, while James F. lived to be only 49;  both are buried at Darlington.  Alexander was but 5 the day the  family came to Montgomery County.  
It was largely through his mother that Mr. Harper received his  education.  As has been said before, she was a superior woman and  her son holds her memory in grateful remembrance.  The subject of  our sketch continued to live on his farm 4 miles south of  Darlington til 1862. He was for some time a stock dealer for two  years confining his trade chiefly to Illinois, where he also  secured land.  In 1864 he opened a general store at Darlington  and continued in this business six years with good success.  He  also became a director in the Terre Haute Railway, being one of  those who first secured the right of way.  Soon after this he  entered into the business of contractor but lost about $15,000 by  this, not getting pay for work done.  Being crippled financially,  he got along as best he could, taking work as a contractor for 12  years.  In 1882, he became connected with local offices.   Previous to this, in 1853, he had been elected trustee of  Franklin Twp, and had also been elected JP serving about 20 years  in the two offices, having held the office of trustee as long as  the law would allow.  He was a Democrat and the only one of that  party that could have been elected in the township.  He had moved  to Crawfordsville in 1879 and 82 was elected sheriff over James  QW Wilhite, the then sheriff. Mr. Wilhite was a popular officer  and the campaign was a closely contested one, but our subject was  elected by a safe majority.

In 1884 he was re-elected and filled the office 4 years; this  last campaign was the hardest fought of all.  During Mr. Harper's  time of service occurred the only execution ever held in  Montgomery County -- those of John Coffeey for murder and arson  and John C. Henning for the murder of his sweetheart.  Mr. Harper  says: "I think the devil had a mortage on our county and was  trying to close it."  Crime went rampant so that during the first  year he had a great many hard cases and stirring incidents.  

His old township was about 75% Republican but he was kept  repeatedly in office for 20 years, as before stated, showing the  real worth of the man himself independent of party.  He proved  himself as well the best sheriff Montgomery County ever had.   Since retiring from office he has given his attention to his  farm, which is located 5 miles NE of Crawfordsville.  
Mr. Harper was married May 21, 1856 taking for his wife Miss  Eleanor Miller, who lived 5 miles west of Crawfordsville on Black  Creek.  She was a daughter of William Miller, one of the pioneer  settlers. She died about one year after her marriage, July 16,  1857.  Feb 24, 1859, he was a second time married, his bride  being Miss Harriet Flannigan, of Darlington, daughter of Saul and  Eleanor Abernathy Flannigan.  She was born in the county, her  father having settled here in 1826.  He has some interesting old  parchments signed by James Monroe.  His death occurred when he  reached the age of 50.  His widow is now living with the Harpers  and is 89.  She was from Virginia.  Mr. Harper's family consists  of two daughters, Martha J. and Calista C - both of whom are  unmarried and are living at home. Mr. Harper is a Mason a member  of the chapter at Darlington.  He has passed the Masonic work in  lodge and chapter, passed all the chairs, presiding in the east  in the Blue Lodge for years.  He still holds his memberhsip at  Darlington.  He was elected Master in 1866 and has been  repeatedly re-elected.  He has been Master for the last two  years.  He is a member of Darlington Lodge, No. 186;  Crawfordsville Chapter 84; Council, No. 30 and Athens Chapter,  NO. 96 of the Eastern Star.  Mr. Harper inherits the large,  powerful frame of his grandfather and united physical and mental  strength to a degree that makes him a man whom any city might be  glad and proud to count among its prominent men.  Crawfordsville  is ever ready to appreciate and acknowledge worth and she finds  this most truly in the subject of this sketch. - typed by kbz
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