Monday, 11 December, 1865

Another pretty day, till late in the evening it came on to rain. I had a piece of mixed jeans starched by Patsy for Zac, a suit of clothes, finished off a pair of pants for him today, and am now finishing off a pair for Bill. Both Va. cloth. Had black eyed peas scalded for winter use. I always have that done to prevent the bugs cutting them. They are so much nicer and the family are all so fond of them. – – Hardin and Zac went up the river and did not return till after breakfast. – – Bill sent Addison in a tumbrel to John Harris and to the mill.1 Got a little corn from one place and a few peas from the other. Martha ironed the jeans while I laid down from indisposition.2 Nan read while she did it. Bill killed an otter tonight.

  1. In the early decades of the 1800s free colored families named Harris began appearing on the King William census and tax rolls. Frankey Harris, over 55, is listed in the 1830 US Census. She is heading a family of seven, the lone male being under the age of 10. Frankey, however, never appears on the KW tax rolls and no Harrises are listed on the next census. In 1844 a Sterling Harris is listed for the first time on the KW PP Tax rolls. Six years later we learn more about Sterling from the 1850 census. He is 40 and a sailor. With him are Ann (30), and Thyrsa (9). But Sterling’s is not KW’s only free colored household listed in that census. Eliza Harris (38) heads what seems a three generational family. Living with her is John (20), Mary (16), William (14), and Thomas J., (1). That year, 1850, both Sterling and John Harris appear on the PP tax rolls for the first time. They will eventually be joined by William, a.k.a. William (Todd) Harris. Sterling will remain on the tax rolls through 1859. But the following year he is missing, Ann Harris (35), likely Sterling’s widow, now heads the household in the 1860 census. With her is William Harris (18). As this William does not appear in the census ten years earlier, this creates questions as yet unanswered. Two more free colored Harris families are listed in that 1860 census. Listed next to Ann is Louisa Harris (25). With her is Nancy (45), her mother or aunt perhaps, and two boys, Ira (9) and Cornelius (1). In 1852 Louisa is listed as a land owner, 17 acres 6 miles south of the Courthouse. Last is the Eliz. Harris who appeared on the previous census. She is now listed as 55 and the household includes Jim (30), John (27), Mary (26), Todd (22), Thomas (9), Jim (jr.) (7), Jeff (6), and Mary (4). This John Harris is then likely the son of Eliz. Harris. Now in his mid-30s, within the last year John has purchased 1 acre of land from William A. Gresham near Mantua Ferry on the Mattiponi, just downriver from Woodbury. While this is the first mention of the Harris family in Vol. 7 of Caroline’s Journal, it will not be the last. The detail of this footnote foreshadows the difficultly we will have identifying the Harrises from now on.  (back)
  2. Readers may be surprised to learn than the terms “jean cloth,” and “jeans” made from it, were in widespread use well before the Civil War. Legend has a young Levi Strauss, who immigrated from Germany about 1847, learning about “Kentucky” jeans and jean material when we worked for his sister’s husband’s dry good business in Louisville. He went west to San Francisco in 1853, and eventually decided to produce jeans from a tough blue denim material. And that was that.  (back)