Michael Ernst (Hörner) Harness , Sr. and Family


Michael Ernst (Hörner) Harness, Sr. arrives in Colonial America

Michael Ernst (Hörner) Harness, Sr. (born in 1701 in Unteröwisheim in the Baden region of Germany) arrived in New York Harbor with his father Joachim Ernst Kraft Hörner, an older sister and brother in June, 1710. They were among a group of Palatine German emigrant families. from all along the Rhine river south of Heidelberg. They had travelled from their home in Germany to Rotterdam and sailed from there to London, and finally to America.

Professional historian and historical researcher John Tevebaugh completed and published in 2001 an extensive research study of the life of the man earlier researchers had mostly identified as "old Michael Harness" who lived in the early 1700's in colonial Virginia . Tevebaugh's well documented study, which reveals, among other things, that old Michael's surname was really Ernst, may be found on the Hardy County, WVA web site.

In 2002 Tevebaugh completed a detailed analysis of new information that documents the exact birth date, place, parentage and other information concerning Michael Ernst Harness, Sr.

Much of the information on this page reflects the information in the two Tevebaugh research papers cited above.

After their arrival in New York, Michael, his father, brother and sister lived at first in an emigrant camp on Nutten Island (today's Governor's Island) in New York Harbor. The children's father, Joachim Ernst Kraft Hörner, died just a few months after his arrival in America, at West Camp, a Palatine emigrants camp on the Hudson river in Ulster County, New York.

According to historian Tevebaugh's research, New York Governor Robert Hunter, on November 23, 1710 apprenticed Michael's older brother, Conrad (then age 15) to a New York City man (Enoch Freeland), leaving Michael, under the age of 10, by himself to find a new "home". By the end of December, 1710, Tevebaugh's research indicates that Michael appears to have joined the subsistence list of his sister, Margaretha and her new husband, Johannes Kayser, probably at West Camp, north of present day Saugertus in Ulster County, New York. Michael apparently remained with his sister and her husband until the end of September, 1712.

New York Governor Hunter stopped subsistence payments to the Palatine emigrants after 1712, and the Kayser family (with Michael) left West Camp on the Hudson river and moved to Stone Arabia Patent along the Mohawk river, according to Tevebaugh's research.

Sometime between 1722 and 1725, Michael (Ernst) Harness, in his early 20's, was among a group of Palatine immigrants who left New York state for the Tulpehocken Creek Settlement in what was then Chester County, Pennsylvania.

Michael Ernst is listed on the January, 1725 tax assessment list as a landowner in Tulpehocken Creek Township. His farm land adjoined Tulpehocken Creek and was just east of a lot owned by Conrad Dieffenbach, whose daughter, Elizabeth, Michael had apparently married a year or so earlier, probably at one of the settlement's in New York state. It is believed that six of the couple's 13 children were born in Tulpehocken Creek Township in Pennsylvania.

Maria Elizabetha Dieffenbach left Germany for America with her family on May 15, 1709, according to researcher John Tevebaugh. Elizabeth was born sometime before 1705 in Wiesloch, Baden Germany. She was one of three children. She and her mother and siblings were with her father for a few years after their arrival in America, living first in a Palatine settlement along the Scholarie river in New York, near present day Albany. About 1724 they made their way to the Tulpehocken Creek settlement in what was then Chester County, Pennsylvania. She and Michael Ernst must have married beween 1720 and 1725 either at the Scholarie river settlement, or more likely, at the Tulpehocken Creek Settlement in Pennsylvania, according to researcher John L.Tevebaugh.

Family tradition has it that while a resident of Tulpehocken Creek Township Michael learned of a valley along the South Branch of the Potomac river (known then as the Wappocomo) in Virginia from four men who had been sent out from Winchester, VA by Lord Fairfax* in 1737.

Phillip Powell Yocum was said to have been one of the four men sent. (Family tradition indicates that Michael may also have been among the men who went to scout out the area.) At any rate the four men apparently made such a favorable report upon their return that Michael along with Matthias Yoakum and George Stump reportedly set out in the spring of 1738 to help settle the South Branch Valley of Virginia (now WVA).

* Lord Fairfax (Fairfax, Thomas, 6th lord and baron of Cameron) came first to the Winchester, Virginia area from England in 1735 and remained until 1737 for the express purpose of documenting and protecting his family estates in Virginia (over 5 million acres between the Rappahannock and Potomac rivers, often referred to in legal documents at the time as the “Northern Neck”, and included a great portion of the Shenandoah Valley) that he had inherited from his mother, Catherine. She was the daughter of Thomas Lord Culpeper, who was one of eight trusted supporters King Charles II had granted vast areas of land in America in 1649 while the king was still in exile in France. By 1681, Culpeper was Governor of the Virginia colony and had managed to gain control of almost all of the lands granted originally by King Charles II.

To verify and document his holdings, Lord Fairfax (6th), the only resident peer in America, dispatched 4 men in 1737 to see what was really out there in that vast undeveloped area that he had inherited..

Lord Fairfax returned to England in 1737 but returned to America in 1747, settling first near what is now White Post, VA in Clark County where, in 1748, he made the acquaintance of George Washington, then a youth of 16, and was so impressed by his energy and talents that he employed him to survey his lands lying west of the Blue Ridge..

Lord Fairfax later moved to the Shenandoah Valley himself in 1752, establishing his residence at “Greenway Court”, just a few miles from Winchester.

(Sources for the above Lord Fairfax information: Dictionary of American Biography, including Men of the Times, etc., by Francis S. Drake, 1872; Concise Dictionary of American Biography, edited by Joseph G.E. Hopkins, 1964; George Washington, a Biography, by Douglas Southall Freeman, Vol.1, 1948; Virginia Land Grants by Fairfax Harrison and other articles by Mr. Harrison submitted to the Virginia Magazine; The Culpepper Family History web site; The Story of Thomas, 6th Lord Fairfax by Stuart E. Brown, Jr.-1965)

According to family tradition, Michael (Ernst) Harness first settled on the South Fork river. He reportedly built a cabin there, cleared several acres of bottom land, started raising a small crop of corn and vegetables, then went back to Pennsylvania and brought his family in a wagon up Lost River, cutting a road most of the way. Packing their goods on horses, family lore has it that Michael left the wagon and with his family crossed the South Branch mountain on foot to the cabin that he had previously built. Some time later he is said to have returned and packed the wagon with the running gears taken apart onto his horses, and ran the wheels over land by hand. It was said to be the first wagon on the South Branch.

Later Michael is said to have moved his family to the west side of the South Branch of the Potomoc river in what is now Hardy County WVA. Some early Harness family researchers indicate that he was the first permanent settler in Hardy County. He is said to have taken up land running from “Mike’s Ford” (where the ridge terminates at the river) down river a distance of about 5 miles to “Buzzard’s Ford” near present day Fisher, WVA.

How Hampshire and Hardy County Evolved

Michael reportedly built a fort, which was called Fort Harness*, in approximately 1739 just southeast of what is now Moorefield, West Virginia, as a family fortification against Indian raids. The Harness land was in the area of the hostile Catawba, Delaware and Shawnee Indians. Unfortunately three of Michael's sons, Adam, Conrad and Michael, Jr. would all be killed and scalped by Indians.

The fort was ordered garrisoned by George Washington in the summers of 1756 and 1757 during the French and Indian War. Fort Harness was one of a chain of frontier forts along the South branch of what is now the Potomac. In May, 1756, 50 men were garrisoned at Fort Harness.

NOTE: *Fort Harness is referenced approximately 10 times in The Papers of George Washington-The Colonial Series (in volumes 3, 4 and 5 of that 10 volume set, the original of which is housed at the University of Virginia.)

Remnants of old Fort Harness remain (as of the early1980’s) but it is now known as “Waters Edge Farm”, about 3 and a half miles southwest of Moorefield, WVA. (This information comes from Harold Duncan Harness, who with his wife, visited the farm in 1981. His description, along with photos is contained in his book, “A Glimpse of the Past, The Harness Family History, published in 1983.) According to family tradition, Michael and several members of his family were buried at a family graveyard located on a hill in back of their cabin (which was reportedly called Hawthorne) , but no trace of that cemetery has ever been found.

The land on which Michael and his family settled on the South Branch of the Wappacomo (the Potomoc) was soon within Lord Fairfax’s own South Branch Manor. On August 18, 1748, Michael was said to have been named on a “list of inhabitants in the Lower Part of the Manor of Wappacomo” which was the South Branch Manor. While that list has never been verified, it has been referenced by several Harness family researchers over the years. Having granted himself the Manor, Lord Fairfax seldom conveyed outright ownership of property within it, mostly leasing.

NOTE: According to research by Sara Stevens Patton, entitled Men and Manors in the South Branch Valley, between 1745 and 1797 the South Branch Valley lay within the boundaries of the Fairfax "Northern Neck" land grant, bordered on the north by the Potomac River and in the south by the Hardy-Rockingham county border, extended through Cabins, WV to the headwaters of the northern branch of the Potomac. Within this South Branch portion of his proprietary lands, Lord Fairfax created at least four separate tracts or manors including the South Branch Manor, the South Fork, the Wappacomo or Great South Branch of the Potowmack (sic), and the Patterson Creek Manor. Each was subdivided into lots of a few hundred acres, most leased out for the term of 21 years or the life of the tenant, at an annual fee of 25 shillings per hundred acres. Other researchers say that Lord Fairfax kept 561 acres in Patterson Creek Manor for himself. His lot(s) fronted on both sides of the river, according to most reference sources.

In approximately 1773, after having lived on the land for many years, Michael (Ernst) Harness appears to have obtained a lease from Lord Fairfax for 249 acres in the South Branch Manor (lot # 49 West), which seems to have been only a portion of the land Michael had originally settled on. On December 23, 1780, Michael conveyed his rights to the lease of lot # 49 West to his youngest son, Jacob. Old Michael died in early1785. His will was proved in March, 1785.

Michael and Elizabeth (Dieffenbach) Harness had 13 children (9 sons and 4 daughters.) The children and their siblings intermarried with the Cunningham’s, Stump’s, Rennick’s, Rohrbaugh’s, Yoakum’s, Van Meter’s, and Kuykendall’s.

NOTE: Some researchers contend that Michael’s wife, Elizabeth Dieffenbach, died around 1753 and that Michael shortly thereafter married another woman who also had the first name of Elizabeth , an Elizabeth Westfall. Other researchers disagree and say that Michael’s wife, Elizabeth Dieffenbach, lived a decade or so after her husband’s death and that he never had a second wife. Later research may resolve the matter. For the present, the best available information would seem to indicate that Elizabeth Dieffenbach was Michael’s only wife.

In 1782, Michael was taxed in Hampshire County, VA as owning 14 slaves, 39 cattle and 24 horses. He also appears in the 1782 and 1784 census of Hampshire County. In his will Michael left his wife 2 slaves, one-third of his property and one-third of "other effects and moveables" along with one-third of the money. He gave a slave to his son, Peter. He bequeathed the rest of his property, slaves, farm tools and livestock to his youngest son, Jacob. Michael then divided the rest of the money equally among all of his children and 2 grandchildren.

A ‘Widow Harness” (apparently Elizabeth Dieffenbach) is listed in the 1785 tax list of Hampshire County (the year after Michael’s will was proved) as possessing 2 slaves, 4 horses and 19 head of cattle. In 1786 “Widow Harness” was taxed as owning 83 acres of land in what had now become Hardy County, WVA. That tax listing continued under the name ‘Elizabeth Harness” through 1796, according to researcher Tevebaugh.

A manuscript in the Virginia State Library at Richmond, copied by Anne Waller Reddy, lists the names of persons who furnished supplies under the Commissioners of Provision Law, the supplies to be applied to Continental purposes during the Revolutionary War. Michael Harness is included in the list for furnishing beef. For this service Michael Harness is listed by the Daughters of the American Revolution as a non-military Patriot of the Revolutionary War. Three of his sons: John, George and Jacob, are also listed in the same document as non-military Patriots of the Revolutionary War for providing supplies or services.

The following is a typed copy of the will of Michael (Ernst) Harness, Sr. transcribed by John L. Tevebaugh on May 22, 2000:

The Will of Michael (Ernst) Harness, Sr.

[p. 1] In the Name of God, Amen. I. Michael Ernest. of the South Branch, in the County of Hampshire, State, of Virginia, being in Good health at present, an[d] Considering the uncertenty of Humen Life and that it is Nesessary for all Persons while the[y] have the happeness to Enjoy their Sences & Memory perfect, to Set[t]le and Dispose of their affairs, in Such manner, as may Prevend[t], any Dispute, or Lawsuits after their Death, amongst their Freinds and Relation[s]. I Therefore to prevent the Same as Much as Possible in my own Family And Dispose of my Estate in man[n]er Following

First. I Recom[m]ant[d] my Body after my Decise[decease] to the Earth from whence it Came, to be Buriet[d] in a Decent Man[n]er, and my Soul unto my He[a]venly Father, and it is my Disire that all my Funeral Expence and other Lawfull Debts to be paid as Sun[soon] as Convinient Can be Done after my Decise[Decease]//

Item I. Give and Devise unto my beloved Wife Elizabeth one Third pard[t] of my Pland[t]ation, Massuage or Tenement Ordgard and all belonging do[to] it. Induring[and during] hir[her] Life, as also Two Slaves, one Negro Man Named Manuel. & one wench Named Rachel to Labour for hir During hir Life. And if Said wench Should Bear any Children, the one halfe of them to be my Wife’s own for hir and hir Heirs for Ever. And after hir Decise[decease], The above Named Manuel & Rachel and the other Halfe Increas[e] of Said Negro[‘]s Childern to be Returned unto My Son, Jacob Harness, to be his own for him and his Heirs for Ever. And I give [and] Devise also to my beloved Wife the one Third of all my other Effects, or Moveables and also hir Thirds in the Mony Left by me, to be hir own for Ever.

Item. I. give Feoff[possession of land] and Devise unto my You[n]gest son Ja[xed out] Jacob Harness my Plantation, DwellingHouse, Baron Ordgard and all utent[s]ials of Husbandry, & all the Household Furniture (my Wifes part Exepptet), the Living Stock

[ p. 2] As also my Shlaves, ex[c]ept one for Peter, in Short he is to have Every thing Left by me on the Plantation and he is Like= vice to have one Equel part of the Money Left by me, and This is for the Good Cause, and Reason, that I have Furnishet[d] and Suployed[supplied]my Elder Sons with Land and other Necasaries before in Former Times, all to be his with out any Mollastation for Ever.

Item I Give and Bequeath to my Son John Harness, one Equel Part of the Money Left by me, for him and his Heirs for Ever and no more//

Item I Give and Bequeath to my Son George Harness one Equel part in the money Left by me to be for his Share for Ever and no more//

Item I Give and Bequeath to my Son Leonert[d] Harness one part of the money Left by me to be for his Share for Ever and no more//

Item I Give and Bequeath to my Son Peter Harness one Negro Named Will. as[and] also one Part of the money Left by me for his Share to be his own for him and his Heirs for Ever.

Item I give and Bequeath to my Gran Son Michael Herness and his Sister Elizabeth Robinson one Equel Share of the money Left by me, to be Dividet[d] amongst them for their part and no more//

Item I Give and Bequeath to my beloved Daughters Elizabeth Yoakem & and Barbara Zee & Lickevice and: Dorothea Horn[b]eck & and Margaretha Trumbo Likevice. Each one of Them, to have on[e] Equel Part, or share in the money Left by me, To be Equelly Dividet[d] amongst all my Childern, above here Mentionet[d]

[ p. 3] And Lastly I Do here by Nominate & Opoint[appoint] my Son John Harness, and my SonenLaw Samuel Hornbeck Whole and Sole Executors of this my Last Will and Testament

And I Do Here by Revoke and Mak Void all Former Wills, Declaring this to be my Last Will & Testament and no other. In Wittness where of I have here unto Set my hand Sign and Seal This Day one Thousend Seven hundert and Seventy Nine

Signed Sealed, and Pupplishet by the Testator in presence his of us

Michael ME Ernest
Anthony Baker mark
Joseph Petty Jacob yoakum

At a Court held for Hampshire County this [8th] Day of March 1785 This last Will & Testament of Michael [Ernst lined out] Harness dec’ed was presented in Court by John Harness one of the Executors therein named an[d] proved by the Oaths of Joseph Petty & Jacob Yoakam Witnesses thereto and Ordered to be recorded, and on the Motion of the Said Executor who made Oath according to Law[,] Certificate is granted him for obtaining a Probate thereof [in due] Form giving Security. Whereupon he together with Jacob Yoakam & Daniel Teverbaugh his Securities entered into and acknowledged Bond in the penalty of Five Thousand Pounds for his due and faithful Administration of the said Decedant’s Estate & performance of his Will. Test. And Wodrow Co. Cur[Clerk]

This last portion and a spot or two earlier were damaged in the original copy, so copy was taken from the Will Book. The entire will was copied into Hampshire County, Virginia, Will Book 2 (1780-1794), pages 110-112 [the index reference is to page 111], from the original which was presented as shown above, and ordered to be recorded. The copyist altered spelling and changed capitalization in many, many places, but did not alter the names or meaning at any point. The original will has, written on the verso of the third page:

“ Last Will and Testament For Michael Ernest No 1 Recorded & Exam.d Maid[sic.] in the Year 1779
Recorded / Will Bk 1-22
& \
Examined / Page 18 “

There is another so-called “Will Book” copy of this will in a book of Hampshire County miscellaneous wills [but with no appraisals or sales], 1756 through 1860, but only for deceased with surnames A-J. This is all typed! It is labeled Hampshire County Wills, Vol. 1, but it is not the volume 1 there should have been. On page 15 of that book, Michael Harness’s will was entered, but without some sections [eg., slaves], and with name spellings “corrected[read, confused]” and word order changed.

John L. Tevebaugh 22 May 2000