Lee County Biography

Wyoming Township

… About two years later than Town [1836] came Benoni Harris, then a man approaching eighty years of age, and his equally aged wife, with a large family of children. Mrs. Harris was the first in the settlement to be taken away. They were accompanied by a son-in-law, Edward Butterfield, John Ploss, John Wilcox and William McDowell. In the spring of 1836 Butterfield built a log cabin near the county line and close to the north line of the southwest quarter of section 19, De Kalb County, on south side of the road now leading to Earlville. It was on the east edge of the tract which became South Paw Paw. He later moved about a mile northeast of this point, and in 1854 went to Black Hawk, Iowa, when he finally returned and is buried near his old home. Wilcox located on the fractional southwest quarter, Section 18; Stephen Harris on the fractional northwest quarter of Section 19, LeClaire reservation; Benjamin Harris on the northwest quarter of Section 19, and Joseph Harris on the northeast quarter of the same section—all in DeKalb County. These were sons of Benoni Harris. John Ploss had a claim which embraced the larger part of South Paw Paw. Here, some rods east of the county line, he built his house on the creek about the time Butterfield put up his cabin.

Contributed by Doug Wicks from Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois
Chicago: Munsell Pub. Co., 1904, 897 pages Page 698-699

According to an 1879 history of Cayuga County, New York, Benoni Harris was among those who first settled on what came to be known as Howland's Island in the Seneca River in that county in the early 1820's. That history describes the outcome of Harris' efforts on Howland's Island.

"Previous to [Humphrey] Howland's connection with it, [the island] was known as Walnut or Hickory Island, and was occupied and improved by families of squatters named Stone, Spiller, Hyde, Butterfield, Campbell, Herrick, Woodward, Phaddock, Harris and Springstead, there being two families by the latter name. They had established themselves as a colony and built houses and a schoolhouse, supposing that no one owned the island. They were forced to yield to Howland's superior claims, and though each was paid something for the improvements made by him, they relinquished with reluctance the possessions which years of privation and toil had secured, and which they had fondly hoped to leave as a heritage to their families. Harris, who was a minister, preached, taught school, did the cobbling, and made himself the useful man on the island."

Benoni Harris is said to have been the first Methodist minister to preach at the nearby town of Montezuma, NY.

Benoni Harris and his extended family were among the first settlers of Paw Paw Township in DeKalb County, Illinois, according to an 1885 history of that county:

"The next to locate here was the Harris and Butterfield party, who came from Cayuga Co., N.Y., in July, 1835. The party was composed of Rev. Benoni Harris, a Methodist Episcopal minister, and family; Benjamin Harris, son of Benoni, and family; Edward Butterfield and family; John Plass and family; and L. D. McDowell and Joseph Harris, two single men.

"Benoni and Benjamin Harris, with their families, settled on the northwest quarter of section 14. Rev. Benoni Harris was the pioneer preacher of this region, and labored faithfully in his holy calling, both as a mission and circuit preacher. His wife, Thankful Harris, was the first to die in the new settlement. Her death occurred in the spring of 1836. She was buried in the grove on the west side of the road on section 19. The venerable pastor died in 1845 and was buried beside her. Benjamin Harris moved to Iowa in 1854, entered the army in the late war, and died some years later...Joseph Harris moved to Kansas in an early day....John Plass remained in the township only one year, and removed to Wyoming Township, Lee County "S. D. McDowell, who came here a single man, married Delilah Harris, July 4, 1836. Miss Harris was the youngest daughter of Rev. Benoni Harris. This was the first marriage in the township. Their daughter, Mary E., born in the summer of 1837, is believed to have been the first white child born in the township....Mr. McDowell and family continued residents of the township for several years, and then moved West."

Benoni Harris was married to Thankful Miles born about 1765 - died in 1836, DeKalb Co IL His children were Mary, Stephen, Benjamin, Benonia, Joseph, Amanda, Thankful and Prudence Delilah.

From the website of Sherri Risch - Rootsweb World Connect


Lee Co Bios

Illinois - "Our Way"