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Collection Number: 03499-z

Collection Title: John Gideon Harris Diary, 1859

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held in the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the World Wide Web. See the section for more information.


This collection was rehoused under the sponsorship of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Office of Preservation, Washington, D.C., 1990-1992.

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Size 2 items
Abstract The collection is a diary, 1 January through 31 December, 1859, of John Gideon Harris, lawyer of Greensboro, Ala., chronicling his life in Greensboro, Havana, Eutaw, and Tuscaloosa, Ala. Harris wrote in his diary almost daily, but most of the entries are rather brief. Sometimes only the weather is noted, but on other days Harris wrote short descriptions of his activities, which seem to have revolved around attendance at church and at various social functions. There are occasional references to his work as a lawyer, including court appearances, to the activities of family and friends, and to general community activities, such as elections. There are also references to his visits to various educational institutions in Alabama, and to the buying, selling, and hiring of slaves.
Creator Harris, John Gideon, 1834-1908.
Language English
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Restrictions to Access
No restrictions. Open for research.
Copyright Notice
Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Preferred Citation
[Identification of item], in the John Gideon Harris Diary #3499-z, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Alternate Form of Material
Typed transcript available.
All or part of this collection is available on microfilm from University Publications of America as part of the Records of ante-bellum southern plantations from the Revolution through the Civil War, Series J.
Acquisitions Information
Received from Harris P and Jennie Barrow Dawson of Montgomery, Alabama, in September 1960.
Sensitive Materials Statement
Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, the North Carolina Public Records Act (N.C.G.S. § 132 1 et seq.), and Article 7 of the North Carolina State Personnel Act (Privacy of State Employee Personnel Records, N.C.G.S. § 126-22 et seq.). Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill assumes no responsibility.
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The following terms from Library of Congress Subject Headings suggest topics, persons, geography, etc. interspersed through the entire collection; the terms do not usually represent discrete and easily identifiable portions of the collection--such as folders or items.

Clicking on a subject heading below will take you into the University Library's online catalog.

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John Gideon Harris was born 1 March 1834. The 1859 diary in this collection indicates that Harris had attended law school. During 1859, he appears to have been reading law, but also participating in some court cases. His days (and nights) were largely filled with social engagements in and around Greensboro, Havana, Eutaw, and Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

In 1861, Harris organized Company I of the 20th Alabama Regiment in Greene County. From 1866 to 1886, he practiced law at Livingston, Alabama. He was then appointed by Grover Cleveland "Registrar of the Land Office" in Montgomery, Alabama. He held this post until 1890, when he was elected state superintendent of education and served in this capacity for two terms. In 1906, he was elected to the railroad commission.

Active in religious affairs, Harris edited the Alabama Baptist, a statewide newspaper that he bought in 1884 and sold in 1902. He also was president of the Baptist convention in Pittsburg in 1890. He also served as Master of Masons of Alabama in 1885-1886.

Harris married Mary Jane Brown (b. 1840). He died 7 July 1908.

(Information supplied by Jennie Barrow Dawson, donor and wife of Harris P. Dawson, John Gideon Harris's grandson.)

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Diary, 109 pages, of John Gideon Harris, 1 January through 31 December 1859, chronicling his life in Greensboro, Havana, Eutaw, and Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Harris wrote in his diary almost daily, but most of the entries are rather brief. Sometimes only the weather is noted, but on other days Harris wrote short descriptions of his activities, which seem to have revolved around attendance at church and at various social functions. There are also entries referring to the hire and sale of slaves, as well as to cases brought against slaves in the courts. Also, there is mention of Harris's frequent visits to educational institutions like the Greensboro Female Academy, the University of Alabama, and the Greene Springs School. He occasionally mentioned cutting timber or shearing sheep for his father. There are infrequent references to his work as a lawyer, including court appearances, and to more general community activities, such as elections. A typed transcription of the diary, produced at the Southern Historical Collection in 1960, is also available.

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Contents list

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Processing Information

Processed by: Roslyn Holdzkom, May 1991

Encoded by: ByteManagers Inc., 2008

This collection was rehoused under the sponsorship of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Office of Preservation, Washington, D.C., 1990-1992.

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