Biography of Joseph Harper
Cass County, MI Biographies



Cass County

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Also see [Railway Officials in America 1906]

Mr. Harper was born December, 19, 1805, in Washington County, Penn., upon a farm where his grandparents, immigrants from Belfast, Ireland, had settled soon after the Revolutionary war. Robert, son of John and Margaret Harper, married Tamar Johnson, who was of Scotch descent, and belonged to a family who settled at an early date in Washington County. The subject of this sketch was the sixth child ma family of ten. He was reared upon the home farm. After spending two years in Pittsburgh and a short period in the village of Washington, he started for the then far West. It had been his intention to locate in Chicago, but, by one of those seemingly inconsequential happenings, of which time develops the importance, he became a resident of the then new village of Cassopolis. The exact date of his arrival was February 3, 1835. In Pennsylvania, he had learned the carpenter's trade, and he followed it after coming to Cassopolis for many years. He was the luilder of the first court house, upon which he began work in 1835, and also of the present court house. Very soon after coming to Michigan he was made Deputy Sheriff of Cass County, under Eber Root, and remained in that capacity until the State was organized in 1836. While occupying this office, he served the first legal papers in Van Buren County, thatcountybeing attached to Cass forjudicial purposes. In 1836, he was elected Justice of the Peace, and took the office July 4. In the fall of 1838, he was elected Register of Deeds, and re-elected in 1840. In 1887, he- was chosen County Treasurer to fill a vacancy, and again in 1839, to fill another in the same office, caused by the death of Isaac Sears. Capt. Harper (as he is commonly called) has been complimented by the bestowal upon him of a number of other offices of honor and trust. He was Superintendent of the Poor for several years subsequent to 1847; has been President of the corporation a number of times and is now the President of the Cass County Pioneer Society. In 1850, he went to California and followed mining there for four years. Upon his return, in 1854, he was elected Sheriff upon the first Republican ticket. Prior to the organization of the Republican party he was a Whig, and was prominently identified with the famous campaign of 1840. When the war broke out, his popularity made it an easy matter for him to raise a company of men and did so, going to the front in September, 1861, as Captain of Company A of the Michigan Twelfth Infantry. Upon May 27, 1862, he resigned and received a discharge for disability. His army experience was unfortunate in thatit undermined his health and he was for two years a sufferer with diseases which threatened very serious consequences. In 1864, with a view to the improvement of his health, he went to Montana, and for three years followed mining. The experiment was successful, and he returned so benefited that he is to-day as hale a man for his years as can be found in the State. In the spring of 1869, Capt. Harper was appointed Postmaster of Cassopolis, an office which he held until January, 1878. Since that time he has not been actively engaged either in public or private employment. Capt. Harper now, at the age of more than three score years and ten, as we have implied, preserves in a remarkable degree his physical powers and mental faculties. His memory is wonderfully retentive a storehouse full of the facts accumulated by the observation and reading of a long life-time. His accurate recollection of local affairs has been of peculiar value in the preparation of this work, and it is safe to say that no one man in Cass County has been able to contribute so much of reliable information for the benefit of the historian and for posterity. And now in the old age of a correct life, with family and friends about him, he enjoys both the present and the past. Religiously, Capt. Harper has been an almost life-long believer in the principles of Christianity, and has striven to conform his daily life to them. Capt. Harper was married October 25, 1836, to Miss Caroline Guylford. a native of Massachusetts, born September 4, 1816. Her parents were early settlers of Cuyahoga County, Ohio, and came from there to Michigan. The offspring of the marriage were four girls, of whom three are living in Cassopolis. Emily S., the eldest, is the wife of J.. B. Chapman; Melissa C., is Mrs. Joseph Graham; Janette, Mrs. C. L. Morton, died February 27, 1880; Maryette is the wife of L. H. Glover, Esq.

History of Cass Couny, Michigan
With Illistrations and Biographical Sketches
of some of it's Prominent Men and Pioneers.
Waterman, Watkins & Co., Chicago 1882.

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