An Attempt to Burn John Harris


An Attempt to Burn John Harris


Ralph Trembly
American, 1817–after 1863
After William S. Reeder
American, nineteenth century?
Published by J. T. Bowen, Philadelphia.




In 1705, John Harris, originally from Yorkshire, England, was granted a license to trade along the Susquehanna River near the Susquehannock village of Peixtan, also known as Paxton (today the borough of Paxtang). By 1710 he had set up a trading post, bartering ammunition and alcohol with the local inhabitants in exchange for animal pelts. Sometime in 1720, as the legend goes, Harris was approached by a number of people, said to be Shawnee, in search of rum. Seeing that most or all of them were already inebriated, he refused, at which point he was tied to a mulberry tree and threatened with burning. As the lithograph here illustrates, just as the fire was about to be ignited, a second group of Native Americans arrived to rescue Harris from the cruel fate.

Several years later, in 1733, Harris set up a ferry across the Susquehanna in order to accommodate the growing number of settlers heading west. At the same time he purchased two large tracts of land adjacent to the ferry on the east shore of the river. As more people moved into the area, the Harris homestead came to be known first as Harris's Ferry, and then, in 1791, Harrisburg.


Palmer Museum of Art, The Pennsylvania State University, Partial gift and purchase from John C. O’Connor and Ralph M. Yeager




John C. O'Connor and Ralph M. Yeager Collection, Palmer Museum of Art, The Pennsylvania State University


This image is posted publicly for non-profit educational uses, excluding printed publication. Other uses are not permitted.


Lithograph with hand coloring; 22-1/4 x 28-3/8 in. (56.5 x 72.1 cm)