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Individual Record -- Harris, Broughton Davis


Age: 0, credited to Brattleboro, VT
Unit(s): State
Service: Vermont State Representative, Military Affairs Committee; Peace Commissioner

See Legend for expansion of abbreviations


Birth: 08/16/1822, Chesterfield, NH
Death: 01/19/1899

Burial: Prospect Hill Cemetery, Brattleboro, VT
Marker/Plot: Not recorded
Gravestone researcher/photographer: Bob Edwards
Findagrave Memorial #: 121598287


Alias?: None noted
Pension?: Not found
Portrait?: Unknown
Veterans Home?: Not Found
(If there are state digraphs above, this soldier spent some time in a state or national soldiers' home in that state after the war)

Remarks: None


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Prospect Hill Cemetery, Brattleboro, VT

Check the cemetery for location/directions and other veterans who may be buried there.


Harris, Broughton Davis, of Brattleboro, son of Wilder and Harriet (Davis) Harris, was born in Chesterfield, N. H., August 16, 1822.
Mr. Harris began his preparation for college in the Chesterfield Academy, and later attended Kimball Union Academy at Meriden, N. H. Matriculating at Dartmouth in 1841, he was graduated with high honors in the class of 1845, being a member of the Phi Beta Kappa and Alpha Delta Phi societies.
After graduating Mr. Harris began the study of law under Judge Asa Keyes, and continued it later in the office of Edward Kirkland, Esq., of Brattleboro. While thus engaged he also entered the ranks of journalism, and for a year edited the Vermont Phnix. In August, 1847, together with William B. Hale, long president of the First National Bank of Northampton, Mass., he founded the Eagle, a semi-weekly newspaper devoted to the interests of the whigs. On his departure for Utah in the spring of 1851 the paper was given over to the control of others. On his return in the fall of 1852 Mr. Harris again became editor and proprietor of the Eagle, which he changed into a weekly paper. During those days of great excitement in the political situation of the country the Eagle maintained the position of a successful and popular contemporary of the ablest journals ever published in the state, and Mr. Harris won for himself the distinction of being classed with the most skillful and forcible writers then in the ranks of journalism. His connection with the paper ceased by sale in 1856.
In the fall of 1850 his life-long friends, Senators Collamer and Foot, without his knowledge, procured for Mr. Harris the appointment of first secretary of the new territory of Utah from President Fillmore. In his administration of this office many difficulties and obstacles were interposed by the Mormons. The first Governor of Utah was Brigham Young, and the ideas and opinions of the two officials were so radically antagonistic that there was soon friction and later an open rupture between the Governor and the secretary. So defiantly did the Governor and his pliant Legislature disregard the provisions of the enabling act of Congress that Secretary Harris, after earnestly expostulating, finally positively refused to disburse the money committed to his care by the United States government for the benefit of the territory. He wrote an able letter assigning excellent reasons for this refusal, and as a result the Mormon Legislature waxed wroth and passed a series of resolutions requiring him forthwith to deliver over the money to the Mormon United States marshal of Utah on pain of instant arrest and imprisonment. The secretary, firmly adhering to his original conviction of duty and loyalty to his government, peremptorily refused to comply with this demand, and, amid threats of violence and assassination, returned to Washington and restored every dollar of the coveted appropriations to the United States treasury.
The administration heartily endorsed his action, and shortly afterward tendered him the office of secretary and acting Governor of the territory of New Mexico, an offer which he promptly declined.
In 1847 Mr. Harris was register of probate in Windham county. In 1860 he was a member of the state Senate and served on the committee on railroads. Being re-elected in 1861, he was assigned to the important post of chairman of the committee on military affairs at the breaking out of the rebellion, when nearly all legislation pertained to military matters. In the celebrated Peace Congress, which assembled in Washington on the invitation of Virginia, just before the war, Mr. Harris was a delegate appointed by Gov. Erastus Fairbanks, together with Ex-Gov. Hiland Hall, Lieut.-Gov. Levi Underwood, Gen. H. H. Baxter, and Hon. L. E. Chittenden.
As senior member of the well-known firm of Harris Brothers & Co., he was engaged for many years very extensively and successfully in the construction of railroads, being connected with some of the most important lines in the country.
Although never an office seeker, Mr. Harris's name has often been mentioned in connection with congressional service, and many prominent men and leading newspapers have at times urged him to become a candidate for the chief magistracy of the state. Mr. Harris is one of the corporate members of the Brattleboro Savings Bank and for many years has been, and now is, president of that solid and prosperous institution.
Mr. Harris was married on the 24th of March, 1851, to Sarah Buell, daughter of Edwin M. Hollister of New York City (now deceased). Their wedding journey was to Utah, there being then no white settlement between the Missouri River and Great Salt Lake. They have but one child, who is now the wife of John Seymour Wood, lawyer and author, of New York City.

Source: Jacob G. Ullery, compiler, Men of Vermont: An Illustrated Biographical History of Vermonters and Sons of Vermont, (Transcript Publishing Company, Brattleboro, VT, 1894), Part II, p. 181.


His Sudden Death Last Evening
The Event Was Entirely Unexpected Sketch of Mr. Harris's Active and Useful Life.

Hon. Broughton D. Harris, died at his home on Main street at about 9 o'clock last evening after a very brief illness. The fact that he was ill was not widely known and the announcement of his death came upon the community with a painful shock. Mr. Harris had suffered somewhat for two or three days from what appeared to be a slight attack of indigestion, but was able to attend the funeral of his old-time friend Judge R. W. Clarke, Wednesday afternoon. He was suffering severely when he returned home, however, and his distress soon became intense. His physician succeeded in partially relieving it, and on Thursday the affection of the stomach seemed to be yielding to medical treatment. The distress returned, however, and it became evident early in the morning that the pain had weakened him greatly, the heart's action became affected, and death resulted as stated. Mr. Harris was one of the four sons of Wilder and Harriet Davis Harris. He was born in Chesterfield, N. H., Aug. 16, 1822. Mr. Harris's ancestry is traced back to Arthur Harris, a prominent citizen of Duxbury, Mass., who came to this country in the 17th century from England. Abner Harris, the great-grandfather of Broughton D. Harris, moved to Chesterfield from Woodstock, Conn., in 1777. Wilder Harris, his grandson, father of Broughton D., was an enterprising, prosperous, and highly respected farmer of Chesterfield. After the sale of his farm in that town he moved to this village and his later years were spent here in the leisure of a good old age.

Broughton D. Harris prepared for college at the Chesterfield academy at Meriden. N. H., a fitting school second to none in its record for turning out distinguished men. Mr. Harris entered Dartmouth college in 1841 and graduated with high honors in 1845. The class was one of distinguished ability, and nearly all of its members have been men of prominence, either in the professions, in politics, in business or military affairs. The class contained 62 members, and at the time of its semi-centennial gathering in 1865 there were 24 survivors. Mr. Harris was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa and Alpha Delta Phi societies.

Immediately after his graduation Mr. Harris began the study of law in the office of Judge Asa Keyes of Brattleboro, and subsequently continued it in that of Edward Kirkland, Esq. While pursuing his law studies he acted as editor of The Vermont Phoenix for 12 months.

In August 1847, Mr. Harris and the late William B. Hale began the publication of the semi-weekly Eagle, a Whig newspaper. Mr. Harris's connection with the paper continued until he went to Utah in 1851. On returning from that territory in the fall of 1852 Mr. Harris resumed control of the Eagle, changed it to a weekly paper, and continued its publication until 1855, when it was united with the Vermont Statesman. Mr. Hale, who was associated with Mr. Harris, became one of the leading men of Northampton, Mass., where he was president of the First National bank and held other important public offices.

In the fall of 1850, on the unsolicited recommendations of Senators Collamer and Foote, whose confidence and friendship he enjoyed until the end of their lives, he was honored by President Fillmore with appointment as first secretary of the new territory of Utah.

In March, 1851, Mr. Harris and his wife, then a bride, started on their long, tedious and perilous journey across the plains. There was no white settlement west of the Missouri river, and the journey from that point to the Great Salt Lake occupied 65 days, through a country inhabited by numerous tribes of Indians.

Brigham Young was the first governor of the territory. The sentiments and aims of the two appointees were wholly incongruous and antagonistic. The faithful manner in which Mr. Harris discharged his duties soon brought him into collision with Brigham Young. In the opinion of Mr. Harris the territorial government, as organized by the governor and his associates, was not in harmony with the enabling act of Congress; indeed, they ostentatiously disregarded the plain provisions of that act. He therefore refused to disburse the money lodged in his hands by the United States government for the benefit of the territory, and in a letter assigned unanswerable reasons for his refusal. A storm of bigoted indignation raged about him. The Mormon legislature passed a series of resolutions requiring him to deliver to the Mormon United States marshall of Utah the public money in his possession, and threatened him with arrest and imprisonment in case he refused to comply.

Adhering to his clear convictions of duty the young secretary refused emphatically to yield, and under angry threats of personal violence and even of assassination, and through many and severer hardships, returned to Washington, and promptly restored to the United States treasury dollar of the appropriation. The administration fully approved of his action. Two federal judges who had been appointed to office in Utah returned to Washington with Mr. Harris. The three presented a formal report to the President, setting forth the reasons for their return and the condition of affairs in the territory.

Soon after his return from Utah Mr. Harris was appointed secretary and acting governor of New Mexico, but he declined to accept.

Mr. Harris was always deeply interested in state affairs, but being actively engaged in business he seldom allowed the use of his name as a candidate for office. In 1847-48 he was register of probate. He.. served on the committee on railroads. He was reelected in 1861 and was chairman of the important committee on military affairs at a time when nearly all of the sessional legislation related to matters of a warlike nature. The members of this senate were probably the ablest body of legislators ever assembled in Vermont. Among Mr. Harris's associates were such men as George F. Edmunds, Paul Dillingham, Ashael Peck, John W. Stewart. C. W. Willard, F. E. Woodbridge and Thomas E. Powers. In this corps of intellectual giants Mr. Harris was both conspicuous and influential, as attested by his position at the head of the most important committee.

Gov. Fairbanks appointed Mr. Harris to serve with ex-Gov. Hiland Hall, Gen. H. H. Baker, L. E. Chittenden and Levi Underwood in the celebrated peace congress which assembled in Washington, on invitation from the state of Virginia, just before the outbreak of the civil war.

Mr. Harris was for years engaged in the construction of railroads, and in this work made a handsome fortune. He was the senior member of the firm of Harris Brothers & Co. The list of railroads constructed in whole or in part by this firm includes the Wisconsin Central in Wisconsin; the Plattsburg and Whitehall, New York; part of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy in Central Illinois; the Buffalo and Suspension Bridge, New York, part of the Buffalo, New York and Philadelphia; the Chenango and Allegheny, Pennsylvania; the Brattleboro and Whitehall narrow gauge railroad; the St. Louis, Jerseyville and Springfield, Illinois; and the Pittsburg, McKeeseport and Youghlogheny, Pennsylvania.

Mr. Harris was predominantly a man of intellectual strength. With respect to his keenness and independence of thought and conviction, and his ability to express himself in clean-cut, incisive English he belonged in the class with the ablest men whom Vermont has produced. His native ability and his inborn habit of mind and character made him the fit and recognized companion, intellectually and socially, of the men who have given Vermont her fame in the eventful days since 1800. With both Senator Morrill and Senator Edmunds he enjoyed intimate personal friendship. He came to his young manhood when aggressive political controversy was in its palmiest days, and the columns The Phoenix and The Eagle of that time prove how trenchant was his past, and how equal he was to the situation. In the local discussions and controversies of later years he was a contributor with equal force and incisiveness. The prominent part which he bore in the preliminary work which made ready for the construction of the Brattleboro & Whitehall railroad is a recent and familiar illustration. His erect, well-knit frame and personal bearing admirably complimented his intellectual force.

In a company of his peers few men were so quick of wit, so brilliant in repartee, or possessed such a ready fund of information or of apt and amusing anecdote with which to illustrate a point or enforce an argument.

Since retiring from prominent business activity as a railroad constructor Mr. Harris lived quietly at his home in Brattleboro, Mr. and Mrs. Harris often spending the winters in the South. He had maintained a lively interest in all community affairs, and his main business activity has been in connection with the affairs of the Brattleboro Savings bank. Of this bank he was an original corporator and has always been a member of the board of trustees and for a long term of years a member of the board of investment. He had been president of the bank since 1881. He was an attendant at the Congregational church. He gave liberally for the support of that church, and was wise, generous and open-handed in the support of every public enterprise that commended itself to his judgment and sympathy. His strong constitution and notably correct habits of life had kept him strong, vigorous and in full command of himself both physically and intellectually.

Mr. Harris is survived by his wife, who was Sarah Buell Hollister, daughter of the late Edward M. Hollister of New York, and one daughter, Mary Buell, wife of John Seymour Wood, a lawyer and well-known author of New York city. One brother, Gordis D. Harris, now th only survivor of his father's family, lives in Keene. Mr. Harris's step-mother, his father's third wife, lives on High street. Mr. Harris's father died in this town 10 or 12 years ago. George F. Harris and Gordis D. Harris were the brothers associated with Mr. Harris in railroad building. Urban Wilder, the youngest of this family, died in 1857.

The funeral will be held at the house on Sunday afternoon at 2 o'clock. The body will lie in state from 1 to 2. Rev. W. H. Collins of St. Michael's Episcopal church will officiate.

Source: Vermont Phoenix, January 20, 1899.
Courtesy of Tom Boudreau.