The subject of this Memoir was born October 10, 1822, at Clay's Hope' farm in Saint Michael's district, Talbot County, Maryland, fronting on the Tred-Avon river, directly opposite the town of Oxford. His parents were Alexander Bradford Harrison and Eleanor (Spencer) Harrison, daughter of Colonel Perry Spencer of "Spencer Hall," whose grandfather, James Spencer, Junior, married Anne Benson, daughter of Dr. James Benson, who emigrated from England to Maryland in 1670, and who commanded a troop of horse in Talbot County in colonial times.
Doctor Harrison spent the active years of his youth in securing the education and knowledge necessary for the work he had in view. His preliminary instruction under the skilled and learned Reverend Joseph Spencer, D.D., was completed at Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pa., where, in a large and talented class, he gave evidence of a marked supe- riority in those branches pertaining to history, rhetoric, logic and the philosophies. He graduated, with honor, in 1840, at the age of eighteen. Having chosen the profession of medicine, he entered into the study of that science with avidity and earnestness so remarkable, that he was graduated with distinction in a class composed of some of the strongest men that the University of Maryland has sent from its halls. Having received his diploma, he began the practice of his profession with such zeal that his health, never robust, soon broke beneath the strain, and compelled him to seek strength and health in the then distant western city of Saint Louis, Missouri. He engaged temporarily in business there, but his active and scholarly mind soon tired of the monotonous commercial round, and being independent in fortune, he sought anew the home of his childhood in Maryland, and after a few years I "Clays Hope" was so named in the original patent from Lord Baltimore to one Henry Clay for 200 acres. Henry Clay and wife, Elizabeth, conveyed this tract of land to James Coulson, by deed bearing date Nov. 15th, 1664, only three years after the organization of Talbot into a county. This Henry Clay removed to Virginia and is thought to have been the ancestor of Henry Clay of Kentucky. residence in Baltimore City, he became permanently a citizen of Talbot County and an honor to it. About the second year of the Civil War, 1862, he established himself on "East Anderton," the Thomas family homestead, a fertile farm in Oxford Neck, and where he devoted himself to agriculture and to literary pursuits. Having been made President of the County School Board, the Superintendent of Public Schools in Talbot County, under the school system inaugurated in 1864, by the Republican party, of which he was an ardent advocate, he re- moved to Easton. He performed the important duties of this office, with indefatigable industry and well directed intelligence, putting into his work his heart as well as his great abilities and untiring zeal.
The change in the school system under the Constitution of 1867 legislated him out of office. After a residence of about nine years in Easton, he removed to his attractive country seat, "Woodstock," three miles from Easton on a branch of Miles river which he had recently purchased. Here he resided with his family for about seventeen years. For a few years prior to his -death he resided at " Foxley Hall," Easton, the residence of his son-in-law, Oswald Tilghman, where he died on the 29th day of May, 1890, in his 68th year.
His hospitable county home was always open to his friends, and his fluency in conversation made him ever a congenial companion of rare qualities, in imparting to others knowledge which he himself never tired of gaining. He was thoroughly imbued with a spirit of kindly consideration for the feelings of his fellowman, with whom he was brought in daily contact. His heart ever went out to the weak, and his every effort was bent towards the education and enlightenment of the ignorant and illiterate who lived about him. His vision was not, however, circumscribed by the horizon of things about him, its range extended far beyond it. His delight was in holding communion with the departed great and good, by uniting research and study of local history, thereby bringing their presence home to the minds of the living.
Doctor Harrison possessed a great historical mind, stored with a knowledge of all the important events and traditions of this favored section. Of almost servile industry his pen was never quiet. For many years he was at his desk long before the faintest glirnmer in the East told of the rising of the sun, and often he burned the midnight oil, putting into phrase and sentence facts and incidents of early local history which he has left as literary legacies of great value both to his County and State. Several of his historical papers were read by him before the Maryland Historical Society, of which he was long an active member, and have been published by this society in pamphlet form. In his will he very wisely bequeathed all of his valuable manuscripts and scrap books, the literary labors of a life-time to the Maryland Historical Society. His voluminous writings comprise a concise and critical history of Talbot County, and necessarily, of the early history of that territory now comprising Queen Anne's County and the western half of Caroline County, which was, originally, a part of Talbot County, covering a period of two centuries. They include the civil, military, social, industrial, educational, ecclesiastical and agricultural history of this highly favored and earliest settled section of the Eastern Shore of Maryland. These papers have been carefully collated, revised and edited, and much historical data added thereto, since the demise of their author in 1890, by his son-inlaw, Oswald Tilghman, who proposes publishing them in his forthcoming History of Talbot County, which will be issued in two large volumes, to subscribers only.
Among the many historical manuscripts written by Dr. Harrison is a most voluminous and exhaustive " History of the Church of England, and the Protestant Episcopal Church in Talbot," in his prefatory notes to which, he very modestly says, "It is right and proper that the compiler should at the outset, distinctly say that he is so largely indebted to the manuscript history of the parishes of the Eastern Shore by Dr. Ethan Allen, and to the published papers of the same industrious historiographer, that he can justly claim small merit for its preparation, as Dr. Allen was the appointed and recognized historian of the church, as well as a devout member of the same, and was therefore in a certain sense its advocate, greater liberty in the statement of facts, and greater freedom of comment than he possessed are permitted to one who holds neither relation, but can only unworthily claim a birthright in her rich memories and a reverent admiration of her beneficent services in the assuagement of human suffering and in the pro- motion of human progress." Sentiments so modest, so chaste and so beautifully expressed, could only emanate from a refined and cultured mind such as Dr. Harrison possessed.
It has been truthfully said by that brilliant revolutionary hero and historian, Colonel Henry Lee, "Light Horse Harry," the father of General Robert E. Lee, in his preface to his Memoirs of the War, of the American Revolution, that "In usefulness to society the degree is inconsiderable between the conduct of him who performs great achievements and of him who records them, for short must be the remembrance, circumscribed the ipfluence of patriotic exertions and heroic exploits, unless the patient historian retrieves them from oblivion and holds them up conspicuously for future ages." To the patient and untiring annalist who faithfully records the virtuous actions and noble deeds of those of his countrymen who have worthily preceded him, is due, from an appreciative posterity, a meed of praise, which they can only in a measure repay by awarding to his memory respectful homage and veneration. The many descendants of the early Worthies of Talbot, who are now scattered far and wide throughout this broad continent, when reading these memoirs of their honored ancestors may well exclaim as did Alexander the Great, when viewing the tomb of Achilles, " 0, fortunate youth! You who have a Homer to record your deeds of valor."
Those who follow closely the scholarly paragraphs of Doctor Harrison's facile pen will find a literary treat awaiting them. His Memoirs are not merely historical sketches and bare biographies of certain characters whose lives have contributed, some to the founding, and others to the upbuilding of Talbot County in every avenue of her advancement, but they are rare gems of literature as well. Among them may be found rich historical data, gleaned from every reliable source, by the patient labor and deep research of a local annalist whose whole heart was in his work, and whose sole reward was the satisfaction of having accomplished a task for which his literary talents so peculiarly fatted him. More than two decades have elapsed since death cut short the literary labors of Doctor Harrison, and but few of his contemporaries now survive to bear testimony to his many lovable traits and to his great literary accomplishments. He has reared for himself a monument more lasting and enduring than the massive granite slab that filial affection has placed upon his grave.