John Martin Harless

At Sea
Death 1820 (aged 81–82)
Montgomery County, Virginia, USA
Burial Blacksburg, Montgomery County, Virginia, USA
Memorial ID 63887532 View Source
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My 5th Great-Great Uncle

(The exact burial location of Martin Harless is unknown. He and his wife lived near Harless Cemetery and his parents and other family members are buried here; therefore this cemetery is selected for his memorial although no gravestone has been located).

Martin was the oldest child of German immigrants, John Phillip and Anna Harless. The exact year of his birth is uncertain. It is possible that he was the first child named "Harless" born in what is now the USA. Although some say he was born on the Shenandoah River near Peaked Mountain Virginia other researchers think he was born earlier on the ship Winter Galley during the Atlantic crossing).

Martin and his sons served in the Virgina militia beginning in 1755 and continuing until after the American Revolution. He married Catherine Lingel (probably about 1753) in Virginia. Catherine was the daughter of Johan Jacob and wife, Ursula Anna Lingel, also immigrants. Martin and Catherine's children included Ferdinand, Daniel, Phillip O., Patrick, Michael, Anna, Margareth, Martha and Catherine.

The following biographical information provided by Debbie Rowe Clarkston provides a more detailed sketch of the life and times of Martin Harless:

"Martin Harless, the first child of Johan Phillip Harless and Anna Margaretha (Preisch-Price} was born on July 25, 1738 at sea when his parents were coming to the New World. Martin was baptized in the Holy Trinity Church in Lancaster, Lancaster Co., Pennsylvania, on March 11, 1739. He grew up on the frontiers of Southwest Virginia where life was not easy. When Martin was eleven years old the first "depredation by Indians West of the Blue Ridge" took place on his neighbor Harman's farm. From then on, except for the few years they took refuge in Rockingham County, the family was never safe from Indian attacks. Undoubtedly, these Germans, known for their sharpshooting and game-hunting, never went to the fields to work without carrying their guns. Supposedly, today's custom of keeping one's hand in his lap while eating with the other came from the founding fathers having to eat with one hand while holding a gun in the lap with the other.

During the Indian Wars, Martin served in the Virginia Militia under Captain Looney while his brothers served in the company of Captain John Taylor. Martin also served in the Virginia Militia during the Revolutionary War as did his teenage sons; however, Martin was denied a pension for his service in the Indian Wars of 1777 through 1780. William Preston, whose diaries have given graphic descriptions of occurrences of the wars, knew the Indians would attack Southwest Virginia, but did not know when. He, therefore, ordered one part of the Botetourt militia to "the Greenbrier" and the other to the Sinking Creek Fort somewhere near the Harless homestead. Preston was awakened early on the morning of Sunday, June 6, 1777, with a message that said "Yesterday three young men went from Smithfield, to Palser Lybrooks on Sinking Creek, discovered 5 or 6 Indians and saw signs where they were gathering horses. Several guns were heard by Martin Harless." At that point Preston reinforced the protection by bringing in a detachment of Augusta County militia. When Martin's father and family moved to Rockingham County to take refuge from the Indian raids, Martin also went and was member #65 of the Peaked Mountain Church where his daughter Anna Maria Christina was baptized on October 10, 1763. Sponsers for his daughter were Christopher Kisseling (Kisling) and wife Christina. The record describes the baptism and church as 'The following children bap'd in the province of Virginia at the Pinquit Moundyn in the church near Mr Herrman's (Herman} mill.'

The exact date of Martin's return to the German New River Settlement is not known, but sometime between 1776 and 1786 he was granted land by Governor Patrick Henry. Forty-six acres of the original grant were later transferred by Martin to his son Phillip Harless. Martin's homeplace was on the land he inherited from his father and where Harlesses have lived continuously from the time of Martin's death until the 1970's when Jesse Harless sold it to H. H. Cook (who was living there in 1981) and went to West Virginia like so many other Harlesses. The house sits in what is known as Clover Bottom, at Long Shop, which is a very small community on Sinking Creek. Near the house is the cemetery mentioned earlier where Phillip Harless, the immigrant, is buried. Martin undoubtedly is buried there, but apparently his marker is one of the illegible ones. Also near the house is a small church called the Shiloh Lutheran Church. At one time there was an older Shiloh Church that sat even closer to the Harless homestead, and from which a stained glass window was taken and placed over the front door of the present church. On the glass the name 'Allen Harless, 1717' is inscribed."


Martin Harless has no inscribed gravemarker at this cemetery; however, there are numerous unmarked graves.

Gravesite Details

Some sources show his name as "John Martin Harless". Years of Birth & Death approximate.


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