Here lies John Harris, Sr., father of the founder of the City of Harrisburg, who emigrated from Yorkshire England in the early 18th Century to share in the opportunities of William Penn's new world. First locating in Philadelphia, Harris made his living by removing tree stumps to open new streets in that city. There, through his friendship with Edward Shippen, Esq., first mayor of Philadelphia, he met his wife-to-be, Esther Say. The Harrises moved to Chester County and then to Bainbridge, Lancaster County. His desire to venture farther into the frontier brought them circa, 1717 to this place, that of the present-day Harrisburg. Harris built a home several hundred feet south of this gravesite, traded with the "Indians," cultivated the soil and established his river-crossing ferry. In 1733, he took possession of 800 acres of lands granted to him by the Penn Family which would become the original Borough of Harrisburg. That year thus officially established Harris' interests at this site. Of particular note is the tale, reported in 1828 by Robert Harris, grandson of Harris Sr., that a band of unfriendly "Indians" happened upon Harris Sr.'s establishment requesting whiskey that Harris refused to provide them. In anger, they tied Harris to a nearby mulberry tree with the intent of burning him alive. An African American slave named Hercules, it was reported, was able to rouse nearby friendly Indians who came to Harris' rescue. So grateful was Harris that he immediately emancipated Hercules and, in doing so, proclaimed his intent of being buried beneath the famed mulberry tree, his direction being fulfilled in 1748.
Early illustration depicting the tale of John Harris Sr.'s rescue from being burned at the Mulberry Tree.
1890 view of John Harris Sr. Gravesite showing stump of what is thought to be the famed Mulberry Tree later washed away in the Flood of 1902.