by Virginia Hale
J.K.P. “Polk” Harris was born October 2, 1846 in Alabama and died June 17, 1925 in Longview, Gregg County, Texas. He was buried in Section 2 (Harris Plot) of the White Oak Cemetery which is located a short distance off Rt. 80 between Longview and Gladewater. According to various sources, Harris served in the 15th Texas Cavalry during the Civil War. His wife was Mrs. Amanda A. Turner (nee Edwards, daughter of John “Jack” Edwards). They were married January 6, 1875 in Hood County, Texas.
1880 HOOD COUNTY CENSUS – PRECINCT 6 – HOUSEHOLD 10-10
According to 1889 and 1891 records of Hood County Taxpayers, J.K.P. Harris owned over 2,000 acres in Hood County.
Polk Harris was cited as a prominent Hood Countian in History of Hood County written by Thomas Taylor Ewell. Granbury, TX: Frank Gaston, 1895, p. 155.
The following passage is from the book Hood County History in Picture and Story published in 1970 by the Junior Woman’s Club (Granbury) which appears to be a reprint of a much earlier book; on page 7 of the reproduced book:
“Uncle Jack” Edwards who lived a few miles below Granbury, on the east side of the river, a well known “old timer,” contributed largely to Hood’s population. Many of his children have gone west and are good citizens. One daughter, Mrs. J. K. P. Harriss, resides on Strouds Creek.”
The City of Lubbock, Texas had a prominent citizen named Ross Edwards, 1884-1978, who served two terms as its mayor from 1934-1938. Ross Edwards was born in Hood County and was the nephew of Amanda Edwards Turner Harris. Ross Edwards was inspired to play the fiddle as a young boy by his uncle, Polk Harris. In 1965 Ross Edwards published his autobiography entitled Fiddle Dust in which he mentions Polk Harris briefly.
Steve Green, of northeastern Nevada and a former resident of San Antonio, is not a relative of J.K.P. Harris. His particular interest has to do with Harris’ reputation as an excellent old time country fiddle player.
One of Steve’s passionate interests in life has been researching historical information about old time fiddlers and fiddle music in various parts of the U.S., particularly in Texas and Kentucky.
Steve began trying to find out about Polk Harris after hearing him mentioned by a “famous” Texas fiddler named Eck Robertson who was from the Texas Panhandle. Robertson was a young man in the 1920’s when Polk Harris was an old man.
Later Steve found references to Polk Harris written by a prominent Baptist minister named J.B. Cranfill whose family was from Cranfills Gap in Bosque County. Cranfill wrote some articles for a Dallas newspaper in the late 1920’s in which he wrote about Polk Harris’ expertise on the fiddle, and that gave Steve some leads to follow.
Steve’s research has focused on two of Parker County’s early settlers: Moses J. Bonner (1847-1939) and Henry C. Gilliland (1845-1924), both of whom were expert old time fiddle players in their day. It seems that Bonner, Gilliland, and Harris all played against each other at various fiddle contests and Confederate reunions around Texas in the early 20th century.
Bonner, Gilliland, and Harris were Confederate veterans. Bonner moved to Fort Worth where he died in 1939. Gilliland moved to Oklahoma about 1901 and died there in 1924. Steve Green has managed to uncover a lot of information about Bonner and Gilliland, but precious little about Harris.