My Georgia History

Ezekiel Harris House

The Ezekiel Harris House at1822 Broad Street is one of the oldest houses in Augusta.  It was built in 1797 by Ezekiel Harris.

But let’s start off with what it’s not, the McKay Trading Post.  The “Georgia Historical Commission” purchased the house back in the 1950s. They thought they had the McKay Trading Post where a battle was fought during the Revolutionary War.

In 1780, the much feared Colonel Thomas Brown of the British Army, was marching back to Fort Cornwallis.  Colonel Elijah Clarke and his men surprised Brown, surrounding him.  Colonel Brown with his men, and 300 Indians, took refuge in and around the Robert McKay Trading Post.  The date was September 14, 1780.   Elijah Clarke instructed his men to go down to the river, and block the stream that brought fresh water to the McKay House.  The British weren’t getting any water. The Indians dug in the ground, and were fighting like white men. Elijah Clarke tried to overtake the house but couldn’t.   So, having the British surrounded, they were shooting at them.  During the battle, Thomas Brown was wounded.  After he realized he couldn’t get away, he instructed one of his men to escape and go to the British Post at 96, South Carolina.  Brown’s men were hungry and thirsty, with nothing to drink. All they had to eat, were raw pumpkins.  Thomas Brown told his men to save their urine, they could drink that.  To show he was serious, he was the first one, to take a drink.  Three days had gone by, and they were in bad shape.  Someone noticed British reinforcement troops coming.  The Colonial troops withdrew, leaving about 30 wounded soldiers behind.  13 of the soldiers Brown hung on a stair rail so he could watch them die.  The rest he gave to the Indians who slowly killed them.  Now, this all took place at the McKay House.

The “Georgia Historical Commission” thinking they had the McKay House, fully restored the house in 1964, and listed it on the “National Register of Historic Places.”  It was advertised, as the  “Shrine to the American Revolution.”  But, in the 1970s, the word came. This was not the McKay House, but the Ezekiel Harris House.  Harris was a tobacco merchant. The McKay House was made of stone and was 80 yards from the river.  Well the group, that restored the house, gave it to the city of Augusta.    The house is made of wood, even though brick was commonly used.

In September 1797, Harris announced, in the “Augusta Chronicle Newspaper,” that his warehouse was in order to receive tobacco.  He also offered accommodations for the planters.  It read, “A good farmhouse, with a brick chimney, will be ready by the first of January 1798.”  If you’ve been to the house, you probably saw the rooms off the back porch.  The house was made using no nails.  It was pegged together, with wooden pegs.  Ezekiel Harris came to Augusta to set up a tobacco inspection center.   There were 20 inspection centers in this area.  Ezekiel Harris, along with his wife Eleanor, and children, lived in the house only 10 years.  During that time, he started Harrisburg, which is still here today.

While the Harris’ lived in the house, a daughter was born.  In March of 1806, his wife Eleanor died of breast cancer.  Over the years, Ezekiel Harris had been taken to court over business dealings. When he lost in court, he would sell off part of his land for the money needed. In 1807 Harris moved to Wilkes County.

The 1797 Ezekiel Harris House stands as a very rare example of the Georgian style of architecture, a style prominent in Colonial America.    It also stands as a Monument to the man who had it built.

Written by Mark Woodard

Research resources:

  1. The Story of Augusta. Cashin, Edward J. Spartanburg, SC. The Reprint Company Publishing. (1996)
  2. Augusta, A Pictorial History. Callahan, Helen. Richmond County Historical Society Publisher. (1980)
  3. Confederate City, Augusta Georgia 1860-1865. Corley, Florence Fleming. (1995)
  4. Memorial History of Augusta, Georgia. Jones, Charles C. Spartanburg, SC. The Reprint Publishers. (1890)
  5. From City to Countryside. Haltermann, Bryan M. (1997)
  6. Articles from the Augusta Chronicle.

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