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One of oldest living descendants of Martin Henderson Harris turns 90

By Sam Russell

For the Deseret News

Published: Friday, July 29 2011 5:00 a.m. MDT

Hardwoods planted in 1876 by Martin Henderson Harris in celebration of our nation's centennial.

Sam Russell

HARRISVILLE, Weber County — Marion Robert “Bob” Henderson, tone of the oldest living descendants of the founder of Harrisville, celebrated his 90th birthday on Wednesday, July 27. His great-grandfather, Martin Henderson Harris, was the founder of Harrisville, Utah, and its first resident in 1851, according to information at the Harrisville city office. The city also lists Martin Henderson Harris as being a nephew of Martin Harris of Book of Mormon fame.

Bob has seen and accomplished a lot in his 90 years living in Harrisville. A recent visit with him prior to his 90th birthday was at the Harrisville Park where a beautiful grove of hardwoods still stand that his great-grandfather had planted in 1876 in celebration of the country’s centennial. Here is a look at some highlights of both the Harris family and the city of Harrisville.

Martin Henderson Harris is credited with being the first school teacher and building the first school in Harrisville. As their farming efforts grew in the early 1850s the threat of Indians still remained and many "carried guns into to the field," recalls Bob from the stories passed down to him.

The violence escalated with the killing of Chief Terikee of the Shoshone Indian Tribe in which the Shoshones retaliated by killing a white man named Campbell. A hundred and fifty men were sent to help secure Weber County by driving the Indians northward.

Bob recalls that the Harris farm where he grew up was "sold to the federal government at an unfair price" in 1940 and is the location of where the buildings and the old Defense Department Ogden building still stands. Bob took a job with the Arsenal, an ammunition manufacturing plant, after the sale, before joining the World War II effort in the Japanese theater in August 1944.

He recalls being aboard the APA 145 USS Colbert on a mission to pick up three American POWs that the Russians had rescued and were being held in Manchuria. The Colbert hit a mine in the Yellow Sea, killing the three POWs and rendering the Colbert helpless.

"We drifted at sea for nearly five hours in typhoon conditions before being towed in by a cruiser," Bob explained. "The water was so rough that they dropped oil in the water to help calm the seas."

Bob was discharged in February 1946 and returned back to Harrisville and his job at the Arsenal, which was now D.D.O., from where he retired after 37 years.

In his 90 years Bob has survived the Great Depression and World War II. He remains a resident of Harrisville and is proud of his ancestors for whom his hometown is named.

Sam Russell lives in Bountiful and owns six auto dealerships in Utah and Idaho where he has served customers as a loan originator for about 27 years.

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