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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Adam Harman: German Pioneer on the New River, Part 2

Born in Germany in about 1700, Adam Harman immigrated to America about 1726, as did six brothers: Jacob, Valentine, Mathias, George, Daniel, and John.1 Also accompanying Adam was his wife Louisa Katrina, whom he had married October 23, 1723,2 and two young sons, Adam Jr., born in Germany in 1724, and Henry, reportedly born on the Isle of Mann in 1726 during the journey to America. Early records of the Harman brothers in America can be found in and around Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, prior to 1734, in the form of land deeds and payment of quitrents.3 In 1736, Adam Harman’s name can be found in records in the area of Strasburg, Virginia, where his fifth son, Mathias was born.4 His other children included George, Daniel, Christina, Catherine, Philipina, Valentine, Jacob, and a fourth daughter, name unknown.5

According to Moravian records, Adam’s grandfather had suffered persecution in Germany for his Moravian religious beliefs, which may have led to the Harman family’s departure from Germany.[6] Evidence indicates that the Harmans had strong religious convictions. Early in their stay in America, some of them were associated with the Lutheran Church, as Adam, Jacob, and Valentine are listed as founding members of St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, built in 1750 on land (Price’s Fork, Montgomery County, Virginia) donated from James Patton’s estate.[7] For a time on the frontier before meetinghouses were built, the settlers held services in homes, and they enjoyed an occasional traveling preacher, including Moravians. During the French and Indian War, some of the Harmans moved into the Moravian community of Bethabara in North Carolina. In later years, many of the Harmans became Methodists.8

Along with many others, Adam Harman and at least four of his brothers, Jacob, Valentine, Mathias and George, journeyed into the New River Valley by way of a path that became The Great Wagon Road. Starting in Philadelphia, the road forged westward through what is now Lancaster and York, Pennsylvania, then angled southwesterly through present day Winchester, Harrisburg, Staunton, Lexington, and Fincastle, Virginia, on about the route that I-81 takes today. Around Fincastle, the road split two ways, one going west toward locations now called Christiansburg, Wytheville, and Abingdon, Virginia, and the other going south toward present day Charlotte, North Carolina. Harman would have taken the westward branch into the New River valley.

Although close examination of records clearly shows Adam Harman on the New River as early as May 1745,[9] some confusion has resulted from conflicting records regarding the date of his arrival. The Draper-Ingles records list Adam Harman among several others traveling with them into the area in 1748.[10] For many years, the Draper-Ingles families received credit for establishing the first English speaking settlement west of the Alleghenies. However, John Newton Harman in his extensive research on the Harman family, Harman Genealogy, Biographical Sketches and Historical notes, 1700-1924, quotes an except from a May 1745 road report made by surveyors Patton and Buchanan to the County Court of Orange that points to Adam Harman’s place in the area earlier than the Draper-Ingles families. The report notes various points along the road and that the road ends at “Adam Harman’s on the New or Woods river.”[11]  

 In 1923, J. N. Harman sent this evidence to William E. Connelly, noted historian of the Mississippi Valley and president of the Kansas State Historical Society. Connelly affirmed Harman’s record-changing evidence. The following quote is taken from a statement Connelly sent to J. N. Harman: 

[The Patton and Buchanan] report was made in 1745. It is an official record and is undoubtedly authentic and entitled to full credit. It establishes the fact that Adam Harman was living at Gunpowder Springs, now known as Eggleston Springs, in what is now Giles county, Va., in 1745. As his house was already occupied and so well known as to be mentioned as the terminal of this road being established by Orange County to the westward, it must have been erected prior to 1745.
The date is three years before the accepted date of the founding of the settlement at Draper’s Meadows [sic].
So the honor and distinction of having erected the first dwelling and making the first permanent settlement of English-speaking people in the Mississippi Valley goes to that sturdy pioneer, Adam Harman. For, though he was German in blood and spoke the German tongue, he also spoke English and was fully identified with the English westward movement in Virginia. He was fully associated with the English and was a citizen of Virginia and subject of Great Britain. His settlement was an English settlement.[12]

Since the record reveals that Harman had already established his home on the New River prior to 1748, one can only speculate as to why his name appears among the list of people accompanying the Draper-Ingles families on their southwesterly journey.

Locations on the New River where Adam Harman lived.
(c) 2014, Z. T. Noble.


1 John Newton Harman, 47-49.
2 Harman Family Bible, stored at Virginia Historical Society, The Center for Virginia History, P. O. Box 7211, Richmond, VA 23211-0311. Copies of these records are in the author’s possession. Also John Newton Harman’s book contains a translation of the records, 50-51.
3 John Newton Harman, 49.
4 John Newton Harman, 50.
5 John Newton Harman, 51.
6 Patricia Givens Johnson, James Patton and the Appalachian Colonists, (Verona, Va.: McClure Printing Company, Inc., 1973), p. 89. Also Mary B. Kegley and F. B. Kegley, Early Adventures on the Western Waters, Vol. 1 (Orange, Va.: Green Publishers, Inc., 1980), 223. Also John Newton Harman, 20, 23.
7 Johnson, 30; see after page 100, the 7th page, Johnson’s photo of St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, note names on marker. Also, John Newton Harman, 23.
8 M. B. Kegley and F. B. Kegley, 223.
9 Patton and Buchanan Survey Report, Augusta County, Virginia, Order Book 1, 1745-1747.
10 Hale, 16; Johnson, 10.
11 Patton and Buchanan Survey Report. Also Ann Brush Miller, Historic Roads of Virginia, Orange County Road Orders, 1734-1749, (Orange County Historical Society, Virginia Highway & Transportation Research Council, no date), 109. Also John Newton Harman, 49. Also, M. B. Kegley and F. B. Kegley, 217.
12 John Newton Harman, 56-57.

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