THE INTERESTING ANCESTRY OF PAUL P. HARRIS
(transcribed and translated, with additions, from a talk given before the Rotary Club of Glen Burnie)
Paul P. Harris, the founder of Rotary was born April 19, 1868 in Racine, Wisconsin and died Jan. 27, 1949 in Chicago, Ilinois. Many of you know some of the details of his life and his accomplishments, but tonight I'm going to talk about his ancestry, and some of his forefathers. Much of what you will hear tonight Paul Harris himself did not know, I am sure.
First of all, what did the P. of his middle name stand for? Anyone know? Well, it stood for "Percy", although it was seldom used or mentioned in his stories.
There are several books by and about Paul Harris, and most of them mention his parents and grandparents. A couple of references make mention of the fact that "his ancestors came over on the Mayflower". I thought it would be interesting to see if I could find out who those Mayflower ancestors were, and I got much more than I bargained for.
How many of you were forced to read "The Courtship of Miles Standish" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in an English Lit class? You may remember that John Alden was requested by his friend, Miles Standish to act as matchmaker for him with Priscilla Mullins. Priscilla had a mind of her own, and made the classic response "Why don't you speak for yourself, John?". It's fortunate for us that she did, because John Alden and Priscilla Mullins married, and turned out to be Paul Harris' 6th Great Grandparents. (That's grandparents with 6 greats in front.) They were married in 1621, and that works out to 247 years before Paul Harris was born.
You don't have to feel sorry for Myles Standish, however. In 1624 he married a woman named Barbara who had joined the colony in 1623, arriving on the supply ship "Anne". Their son, Alexander, married Sarah Alden, daughter of John and Priscilla. It's interesting to note that John and Priscilla have probably the largest number of descendants of any of the Mayflower Passengers. They had at least 12 children, and 72 grandchildren.
What's interesting also, is that Longfellow, in writing about John Alden and Priscilla Mullins, was writing about his own ancestors. He was their 5th Great Grandson, and thus he was Paul Harris' 6th cousin.
I'd like to digress for just a minute and talk about the Mayflower. When the Mayflower landed at Plymouth, there was a concern about what laws would govern the colony. To address this, the colonists drew up what they called "The Mayflower Compact", where they agreed that each of them would be bound to conform with the laws and ordinances that the majority would pass. This was a very early manifestation of democracy in action, and historians and legal students still study it. It was signed by all the adult males in the colony, all 41 of them. Of those signers, Paul Harris was directly descended from 4 of them, and possibly a fifth.
The first winter was brutally cold, and the colonists were unprepared for the severity of it. It was called "The Winter of Dying" and half of the colonists did not survive, succumbing to the cold, starvation and disease. Priscilla Mullins, for example, lost her father, mother and younger brother, all of whom died in the month of February, 1621 and she found herself orphaned in a strange land at the age of 19.
Fortunately, in the Spring and Summer of 1621, the survivors were reinforced by ships from England bringing much needed supplies and additional colonists.
Priscilla Mullins name is interesting, because it evolved, with spelling changes, from the names Molines and Molyneaux, who were noble familes of England and France. Following that line of ancestry, we find that Paul Harris' 17th Great Grandfather was King Edward I of England, a great warrior-king who got the name "Hammer of the Scots" for his devastating victory over the Scots at the battle of Falkirk in 1298. If you saw the movie "Braveheart", Edward I was portrayed by the actor Patrick McGoohan.
Going further back in history, Paul Harris' 23rd Great Grandfather was King William I of England, also known as "William the Conqueror" who deposed King Harold, the Saxon king and seized the throne of England in 1066. His 30th Great Grandfather was "Alfred the Great" of England who ruled until his death in 899 AD. He was the only English King to have been given the title "the Great". I stopped tracing back with his 31st Great Grandfather, the great king of France, Charlemagne, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire who died in 814 AD.
Paul Harris was related to several well-know New Englanders: he was 3rd cousin to President John Adams, and 4th cousin to his son, John Quincy Adams, the 6th President of the United States. He was also 5th cousin to a man who was, by turns, a naturalist, ecologist, and perhaps one of the first "Beatniks", Henry David Thoreau. And he was also 3rd cousin to George Washington.
A rather interesting coincidence was Paul Harris' love of Scotland and things Scottish. He was quite enamoured of Scotland and visited it several times. His wife, Jean Thomson, who he married in 1910, was Scottish, and he referred to her as "My Bonnie Jean". It may seem ironic that he was descended from "The Hammer of the Scots", yet in other lines of descent he could trace ancestry from three Scottish kings, David I, Malcolm III and Duncan I. The last named, his 24th Great Grandfather, is of interest because he was foully murdered and his throne seized in 1040 AD by a villain named - MacBeth!
Finally, in closing, sort of as the piece-de-resistance, I'll mention his 29th Great Grandparents - Count Leofric of Mercia and his wife who lived from about 980 to 1067 AD. His name might not mean anything to you, but I'm sure you'll remember his wife - she was named Lady Godiva.