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Alexander Harrow Manuscript Diary, 1791-1800

Identifier: SC MS 0331

Scope and Contents

The material is one small book of old paper pages but bound in modern binding. When the modern binding was applied apparently the original pages were very loose and subsequently bound out of chronological order. Very tight binding making it impossible to read all dates and words written on pages. Some dates from 1794 are bound following dates occuring in 1798 and some pages are bound upside down indicating that the diary pages were loose when bound into the modern binding. The pages are not numbered but written on both sides. The format is mainly a daily account of activities performed by the writer between February 3, 1791 and November, 1799. In this particular logbook are reports overseeing shipment of government supplies and movements of civilian passengers between Detroit and Mackinac - the route of the valuable fur trade on board the sloop Wellcome (1779) and later on Chippewa (1792-1796) as well as trips between Fort Erie and Detroit. He lists his business correspondence as well as orders of barrels of salt, rum, pork, cattle, horses conflicts with the indigenous population, his military service, events during the “late war in America” and acquisition of Negroes. At some point in time various members of the family - John and George Harrow, his sons, and Washington B. Harrow, grandson of Alexander take possession of this logbook extending the dates in the diary to 1817 as well as others who used the empty pages of the diary to practice penmanship or drawing as there are sketches in profile of people and birds, various names not Harrow (Thomas Nokes, James Robertson, James Trebey, Nancy Brown, John Blaker) enscribed on the pages as well as statements “This book belongs to.” Grandson Captain Washington B. Harrow (1848-1928) added a page dated approximately 1910 with a brief biography of his grandfather with the date of death as 1818. Other death dates come from Google and possibly one item listed as “Obituary” on Google maybe the closer attributable date. Captain Washington B. Harrow was a shipmaster of Port Huron, Michigan and assistant manager of the Thompson line of tugs out of Sault Ste. Marie. He was son of George (1805/6 - 1886) and Lucretia Peer Harrow (1808-1893). Their names are mentioned in the diary.


  • Creation: 1791-1817
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1791-1799


Conditions Governing Access

Collection housed remotely. Users need to contact 24 hours in advance.

Conditions Governing Use

Collection is open for research.

Biographical / Historical

Alexander Harrow was born in Aberdeen, Scotland in 1755 to John and Elspet Harrow. At age, 20 leaving behind a dead wife and three children, he emigrated to Canada in 1774 according to a recollection of his grandson Washington B. Harrow. He became a British naval officer. In serving at the defence of Quebec in 1775, he was commissioned a 1st Lieutenant and Commander in the Naval Armament of the Lakes in 1779. Harrow got land on the River St. Clair as a result of the British government’s liberal settling of land distribution of wild lands to officers in army and navy as payment for service. He served in the Revolutionary War as a British soldier. In 1781 he was commander of Angelica, in 1783 he got command of the Wellcome overseeing shipment of government supplies and movement of civilian passengers between Detroit and Mackinac - the route of the lucrative fur trade. In 1782 he is transfered to the Gage - at the time the largest ship on the Lakes. In 1785 he is transfered to the Rebecca larger than the Gage. During the time in service he made daily entries in logbooks as is evident by this logbook/diary in the Lehigh collection. He ransomed Catherine “Kitty” Edelmont/Edlemont (1780-1865) from the Indians in 1786 and eventually she became his second wife. Together they had five children: John (1804-1875), Mary, Catherine, George (1805-1886) and James. In 1794 Harrow still a British officer settled in the Detroit area and became an early settler of St. Clair County, Michigan acquiring 14,000 acres along the river from Algonac to Bell River. After United States came into possession of the area, encompassing the state of Michigan, Congress passed an act limiting individuals to one section and Harrow was compelled to make a selection that became Algonac farm, St. Clair County, Michigan. He died in Michigan - various sources report 1811,12,18? and was buried on a private claim named Algonac. When later generations sell the Algonac farm to the State of Michigan, the land becomes known as the Algonac State Park, Michigan.


.1 Linear Feet (One small book) : Bound in modern brown linen binding with brown leather spine lettered in gold - Manuscript Diary. ; 20 x 16 x 2 cm

Language of Materials



An interesting 18th century logbook diary written by Alexander Harrow a commander of the British Naval Armament on the Great Lakes. His logbook relates journeys made between Fort Erie and Detroit on board various vessels. This particular diary keeps copies of his correspondence, orders for materials, land purchases, interactions with the indigenous population, military service, overseeing shipments for government supplies and civilian passengers while in service of the British government. There are various dates reported as to his death date. He was one of the early settlers in St. Clair County, Michigan.


Material is arranged as a daily logbook but not always in chronological order due to a modern binding applied to stabilize the loose pages. In the process of binding some pages were reversed, taken out of sequence and bound very tightly into the spine making it difficult to read the entries.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Notation in the book indicates that the book was given to Lehigh by Robert Honeyman in 1959 and included among the Honeyman acquisitions “stored in the vault.”

Related Materials

History of St. Clair, Michigan. 1883. Chicago: A.T. Andreas & Co.

Hubach, Robert Roger. 1885. Early Midwestern Travel Narratives. Cincinnati.

Jenks, William Lee. 1812. St. Clair County, Michigan, Its History and Its People.

Mansfield, John Brandt, ed. 1899. History of Great Lakes.

Detroit Public Library Special Collections. Alexander Harrow Family 1775-1930, Archive.

Alexander Harrow Manuscript Diary, 1791-1800
Alex Japha and Eleanor Nothelfer
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Repository Details

Part of the Lehigh University Special Collections Repository

Lehigh University
Linderman Library
30 Library Drive
Bethlehem PA 18045 USA
610-758-6091 (Fax)