Sunday, March 4, 2012

Benjamin Harrison IV

Benjamin Harrison IV (~1700 – July 12, 1745) was a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses, the son of Benjamin Harrison III, and the father of Benjamin Harrison V, who was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and the fifth Governor of Virginia. Harrison is also known as the builder of Berkeley which is believed to be the oldest three-story brick mansion in Virginia and is the ancestral home to two Presidents of the United States: William Henry Harrison, his grandson, and Benjamin Harrison his great-great-grandson. Two powerful and influential families in colonial Virginia, the Harrison family and the Carter family, were united when Harrison married Anne Carter, the daughter of Robert "King" Carter. His family also forged ties to the Randolph family as four of his children married four grandchildren of William Randolph I.

Benjamin Harrison IV was born in a small house on the plantation named "Berkeley Hundred" or "Berkeley Plantation". Upon completion of his studies at The College of William & Mary, he became the Harrison family's first college graduate. Harrison settled on his family estate and, like his predecessors, he increased his land holdings.Around 1722, Harrison married Anne Carter, whom William Byrd II had described as "a very agreeable girl". As part of a dowry from Robert Carter, Harrison managed and received profits from land that was technically owned by his father-in-law. This land was entailed by Carter to Harrison's son, Carter Henry Harrison. Using bricks fired on the Berkeley plantation, Harrison built a Georgian-style three-story brick mansion on a hill overlooking the James River in 1726. Berkeley would later earn a distinction shared only with Peacefield in Quincy, Massachusetts as the ancestral home for two United States Presidents. In 1729, Harrison purchased 200 acres of the Bradford plantation from Richard Branford III. From 1736 to 1742, he represented Charles City County, Virginia in the House of Burgesses.

Harrison and his wife had eleven children:

* Elizabeth Harrison (born ~1723) married Peyton Randolph, the son of Sir John Randolph, the grandson of William Randolph I, and the first President of the Continental Congress.
* Anne Harrison (born ~1724) married William Randolph III, the son of William Randolph II and the grandson of William Randolph I, and had five children.
* Benjamin Harrison V (born ~1726) married Elizabeth Bassett. His third son was William Henry Harrison, the ninth President of the United States. His descendants include Congressman John Scott Harrison and Benjamin Harrison, the 23rd President of the United States.
* Lucy Harrison (born ~1728) married Edward Randolph Jr., the son of Edward Randolph Sr. and the grandson of William Randolph I, and the couple had two children.
* Hannah Harrison (born ~1730 – ~1745)
* Carter Henry Harrison I (born ~1732) married Susannah Randolph, the daughter of Isham Randolph and the grand-daughter of William Randolph I, and had six children. His descendants include two mayors of Chicago: Carter Henry Harrison III and his son Carter Henry Harrison IV.
* Henry Harrison (~1734 – ~1736) who died in infancy.
* Henry Harrison (born ~1736)
* Robert Harrison (born ~1738)
* Charles Harrison (b. ~1740 – d. 1793) who was colonel of the 1st Continental Artillery Regiment.
* Nathaniel Harrison (born September 30, 1742)

Anne Carter is thought to have preceded Harrison in death. In 1745, he and his "two youngest daughters" (one of which was very likely Hannah) were killed when lightning struck his house. Harrison's will expressed his intent to be buried near his son, Henry, and it broke with the British tradition of primogeniture by leaving large amounts of wealth to all of his children. The six plantations that comprised Berkeley, along with the manor house, equipment, stock, and slaves, became the responsibility of Benjamin Harrison V, the oldest son. Eight other plantations were divided among the remaining sons and his remaining daughters were given cash and slaves.

One source indicates that Harrison's tomb is located on the grounds of the "old Westover Church", but another states he was buried in his family's cemetery

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