Joseph Helslip Harbison.  Among the honored residents of Spencerville, whose residence here for almost a half century has been marked with uprightness of life and sterling business qualities, is Joseph Heslip Harbison, a worthy representative of a pioneer family of the State.

The earliest records of the family have been lost, but it can be traced three generations back, through the family Bible, to the time of the grandparents, who lived and died near a little village named Ballamany, in the North of Ireland.  The little home was the shelter of a large family, many sons and one daughter the names of the sons that have been preserved were Mathew, John H. and Robert.  the birth of the last named, who was the father of our subject, took place in Ireland, whence he came to America about the year 1780.  He settled at Baltimore, Maryland, where he entered into business as a flour merchant, and became one of the prosperous men of his city.  In the great panic of 1827 he, with many others who had been considered men of capital, lost all his possessions and is a short space of time was reduced form affluence to poverty.

In this extremity Robert Harbison turned his thoughts to relatives who were of the same lineage, and were settled in the Western part of Pennsylvania.  It became necessary to found a new home and it is possible that the first idea of Mr. Harbison was to locate with his relatives, but  this plan was evidently abandoned.  About 1830, with his wife and seven children, Mr. Harbison, with the family possessions packed in wagons, left Baltimore and headed for the Western country.  We may well believe the month of journeying as a long and weary time, but without serious accident they finally arrived on the banks of Wills Creek, in Coshocton County, Ohio.  Here Mr. Harbison took a life lease of his brother-in-law, Joseph Heslip, on some 80 or 100 acres of land in Linton Township, which had been originally entered by his father-in-law. He did not live long enough, however, to develop this land or to place his family  in comfortable circumstances.  He was a soldier at North Point, in the War of 1812.  His death took place December 1, 1833, and his wife survived him less than five years. Both were victims of consumption.  Two of their children died in 1883, a son in February and a daughter in March.

Robert Harbison was married November 29, 1810, to Mary Heslip, whose death took place April 25, 1838.  Her family were early settlers of Coshocton County, Ohio, where they owned vast tracts of land at one time.  The children of this marriage were: Robert, Eliza Ann, Margaret, John Heslip, William, Susan, Mary, and Joseph Heslip, of Spencerville. The eldest son of the family was born May 1, 1812, and served in the Mexican War.  He was on his way home when stricken with mortal illness and died at Cerralvo, Mexico, aged 35 years and 23 days.  Eliza Ann (Platt) was born September 25, 1814, and died May 12, 1861.  Margaret (McCune) was born Deceber 27, 1817, and died December 27, 1865.  Dr. John Heslip Harbison, a pioneer merchant and physician, was born April 19, 1819, and died February 7, 1883, at Spencerville.  He married Harriet Webb, sister of his business partner, and they had three sons and three daughters, two of the latter being twins, one of whom is Mrs. H. M. Ashton, wife of the postmaster at Spencerville, and the other, Kitty, is the wife of Dr. M. E. Renner, of Urbana, Indiana.  William Harbison was born November 17, 1821, and died November 6, 1860, at Caledonia Illinois.  He married Harriet Cowgill; they are survived by a son and daughter James and Mary.  Susan (Julien) was born March 3, 1824, and died March , 1, 1883, at Old Plainfield, Ohio, leaving no issue. Mary was born August 20, 1829, and died April 10, 1876.  She first married J. C. Platt and was survived by a daughter, Luella, who is now deceased.  Her second husband was a Mr. Ferguson.

Joseph Heslip Harbison was the youngest member of his parents' family of eight children and is the only survivor.  The others were all born in Maryland, but his birth took place in Coshocton County, Ohio, December 26, 1832.  When he was but one year old his father died and when five years old he was bereft of his mother.  They both rest in Linton Township, Coshocton County.  The orphan child was taken by his maternal aunt Nancy Vance, a most estimable woman, of whom Mr. Harbison entertains a grateful memory, who reared him carefully for the next 10 years.  She lived on a farm near Morristown and two miles from Bethesda. He attended the local schools and enjoyed a short season in a small academy at West Bedford.  Encouraged by his practical aunt, he learned the cooper's trade in order to make himself independent.  He was naturally inclined to be studious and, while working at the trade, continued to study by himself and in this way acquired enough education to receive a certificate to teach.

In 1858 he came to Spencerville, a village then of some 400 dwellers, encouraged to do so by his brother, John H. Harbison, who then conducted the only mercantile establishment in the place.   At that time the beautifully situated hamlet bore the name " Acadia," but this was subsequently changed to the present one of Spencerville.  During 1859 he taught school and clerked for his brother, and continued to be identified with mercantile interests here until 1884.  His school teaching, beginning at Acadia (now Spencerville) covered in all some four years.

From the opening of the Civil War, Mr. Harbison had taken a deep interest in its issues and the determination to do his part in the suppression of rebellion culminated in his enlistment, on July 21, 1862, in Company A, 81st Reg., Ohio Vol. Inf., 16th Army Corps, the regiment being later transferred to the 15th Army Corps.  He served, with the rank of sergeant, under Lieut, David S. VanPelt and Col. William H. Hill, and participated in the following engagements:  Town Creek, Lay Ferry, Rome, Cross Roads, Resaca and Kenesaw Mountain.  He took part in the Atlanta campaign, accompanied Sherman in the "March to the Sea," was present at the taking of Savannah, Columbia, Lynch Creek, Bentonville, was present at the surrender of Johnston, was in the march to Richmond and then was in the Grand Review at Washington, which was particularly pleasing to him as there he was commissioned a lieutenant by Governor John Brough, of Ohio.  He was finally mustered out at Louisville, Kentucky, July 13, 1865, and was honorably discharged at Camp Dennison, July 21, 1865.  Through this long period he had served his country with a fidelity which was recognized and suitably rewarded.

After his return to Spencerville, Mr. Harbison was admitted to partnership by his brother, under the firm style of J. H. Harbison & Company.  This continued a few years, and then our subject purchased the stock and the real estate of Mr. Fogle and opened a mercantile business of his own.  He was appointed postmaster by President Hayes, succeeding N. Meeker.  He continued in this office for seven years.   Mr. Harbison's connections with almost all that has served to develop Spencerville has made him one of the most prominent figures in the life of the town for many years.  He was one of the early members of the Town Council and had much to do with the measures which have caused its development from a hamlet into its present prosperous activity and place among the small cities of the State.  Realizing the importance of good transportation, Mr. Harbison as one of the early promoters of the railroads and to his advice, assistance and encouragement are due many of the public utilities and successful commercial connections which are enjoyed by every citizen.

On March 21, 1866, Mr. Harbison was married to Sarah H. Patterson, who was born in Wayne County, Ohio, of Irish descent.  She was a popular teacher in the neighborhood of Spencerville at the time of her marriage. The eldest of a family of six children, she, with one brother, is the sole survivor.  The brother, H. M. Patterson, was formerly associated in the mercantile business with Mr. Harbison, at Spencerville, but for 25 years has been a funeral director at Atlanta, Georgia.  Mr. and Mrs. Harbison have two sons, Willis Grant and Charles Post.  The former was named for the poet, N. P. Willis and for General Grant, for both of whom his father entertains a great admiration.  He was graduated from the Spencerville school, attended the Ohio Normal University at Ada, and for 19 years has been connected with the C. & E. Railroad.  Charles Post was named for Mr. Post, one of the pioneers of Amanda township, a friend of his father.  He also attended the Ohio Normal University at Ada, later married Mary Koepling, and for some years has been the traveling representative of a large wholesale drug firm of Chicago.

    Mr. Harbison has always been a supporter of the public schools, and introduced many of the best-known text-books here, notably the "Appleton Reader."  Had his early education been different and his life a more leisurely one, Mr. Harbison would probably have developed his talent for poetry.  He is a lover of good literature and is well acquainted with the best poetry, being able to recite many of the gems of Robert Burns, his favorite poet. 

Mr. Harbison was made a Mason in 1856 and has always been an active member of the fraternity.  He belongs to Lodge No. 306, F. & A. M. and the Order of the Eastern Star.  For 19 years he was worshipful master of the lodge at Spencerville.  He is known in this connection all over the State.

Since he was 16 years old, Mr. Harbison has been a church member. In 1881 he united with the Baptist Church of Spencerville and shortly afterward was elected a deacon, an office he still fills.  He has also served as clerk and as trustee.

Mr. Harbison owns considerable valuable property at Spencerville. He has seen every house but one built on the Lima turnpike, where his own handsome residence is located.  He is known to everyone and by the younger generation is affectionately greeted as "Uncle Joe."