6 — THE SON
JACOB HARNESS (I)

 

We need only state exactly the same thing about this first Jacob Harness that we stated about his brother, Adam. There is only one extant document relating to this Jacob Harness. That is the bond document for the Administrator of his estate, his father, "Michael ME Harness," who made his mark on the bond on 14 February 1759. The father's sureties were the omnipresent Henry Lancisco and Jacob's brother, "Michael + Harness, jr."98 A bond document, as pointed out previously, by its very nature, tells nothing other than the name of the deceased whose estate was to be administered and outlines the duties of the bonded Administrator. Consequently, this lone document tells us only that Jacob Harness was deceased, that his death had occurred sometime before 14 February 1759, and possibly as long as six months or so before that, and that Jacob had an estate that required administration

Yet, this document carries with it certain implications that are very significant about the life of Jacob. For one thing, it tells us that Jacob was, at his death, over 21 years of age, and quite probably a few years older. No male under 21 would have had a legal estate that the county government would cause to be administered, testate or not. A person had to be "of age," or an adult, to have legal recognition in 18th century Virginia.99 Chances are that Jacob was at least 25, that being the usual age to be the owner of real property. Being "of age" means that Jacob was born sometime before 1739 and probably as early as 1734 or so.

This, in turn, suggests that the comment made nearly 140 years later by Helen Yocum Black that Jacob "died from bleeding at the town where he married" may have been accurate and should have been heeded by descendants.100 Bleeding patients was a common medical practice in the 18th century and before, and was thought to relieve intense fevers and certain other illnesses and, therefore, to speed healing. It was done either by applying leeches to the skin, or by drawing blood to the skin's surface by cupping (creating a vacuum) and then lancing the skin to allow the "excess" blood to flow out. This was practiced widely throughout the colonies and in Western Europe at this time. The "Pennsylvania Dutch," to which group the Ernst/Harness family belonged, followed this tradition especially.101 We found ample evidence of this common practice when "Cupping lancets & Cups" appeared as an item in the Estate inventory of Michael Harness, Jr.102 A lancet in inexperienced hands could result in serious bleeding, and may have been the case in Jacob's death. Unfortunately, we probably will never know the cause of his death.103

Helen Black's letter is important to mention here because she has been virtually alone among all Harness descendants in saying that Jacob died as an adult, and that he was married. Nearly every other Harness searcher almost habitually has dismissed this first Jacob as having died in infancy, thereby removing him from further consideration. In fact, there are many "Family Group Sheets" that don't even acknowledge his existence, the authors perhaps confused by the appearance of a later Jacob among the sons. Even when included on an "FGS," writers often seem to shift the first Jacob around to suit their own imaginations of the family birth order.104 To compound their birth placement problems, most of these writers unwittingly place the birth of the second, and later, Jacob before the death of the first one, often by as many as 15 years, without realizing the implications of what they wrote.

This present study is the first one known to utilize the bond document of 14 February 1759 to document firmly the death of this first Jacob Harness, and to consider its implications, even though the date of this document has been mentioned by a handful of Harness researchers. The following study of the second Jacob Harness will focus on the impact of these implications. As a result, several previously accepted things about the second Jacob now will have to be revised.

What the 1758 death of the adult first Jacob Harness tells us is that he must have been older than his sister, Dorothea, and probably was born before the family moved from the Tulpehocken settlement in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, to the South Branch of the Potomac River valley in Virginia. This death also tells us that the father shouldered a difficult burden in administering two estates of recently deceased sons at the same time. It reminds us, too, that Michael Ernst's son, Michael, and family friend, Henry Lancisco, were willing to provide monetary guarantees for the father's administration of both estates. What this bond document does not tell us is whether or when Jacob actually was married, whom he married, whether they had children, or exactly when and where he died.

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5. —The son, Jacob Harness (II)


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