Inhabited during the 17th century by Karankawa and Orcoquiza Indians, and considered in 1756 by Spain for site of Presidio de San Agustin de Ahumada, this region was settled permanently in 1822 by the colonists of Stephen F. Austin. In 1824 John R. Harris (1790-1829) received title to 4,428 acres of land in Buffalo Bayou-Braes Bayou Junction area, and started village named for his family for Harrisburg, Pa., founded by his grandfather. Colonial settlements in the vicinity were Cedar Bayou, Lynchburg, Midway, Morgan's Point, New Kentucky, and Stafford's Point.
First step toward local government was taken when Stephen F. Austin and the Baron de Bastrop met (1824) with colonists at the house of William Scott, Midway, to explain colonization laws. Harrisburg, a town by 1826, was one of the original and most influential colonial municipalities, with a major role in Texas War for Independence, which won freedom in 1836.
The county of Harrisburg (later Harris) was created Dec. 30, 1836. The capital of the Texas Republic was within its boundaries for several years. In the Civil War, it was a command and ordnance center (1863-65), of Trans-Mississippi Department, Confederate Army. It has since grown into a center for world commerce.