Andrew L. Harris (1835-1915)

Andrew L. Harris, the last of the Civil War veteran governors of Ohio, was born November 17, 1835, on a farm in Butler County, Ohio. His parents, Benjamin and Nancy Lintner Harris, were of Irish and German ancestry and both were natives of Ohio. Primarily a farmer, his father had also been a school teacher and had served in minor township offices. In 1838 the Harris family moved to a farm in Preble County, w here young Harris grew to manhood. Through the winter seasons he attended country public schools, and in 1857 he entered Miami University.

After graduating from college in 1860, Harris returned to help on his father's farm and to read law in the firm of Thompson and Harris in Eaton, the county seat. When the call was issued by President Lincoln in April 1861, Harris enlisted as a private. He saw active service in eighteen battles, some of which were major engagements of the Civil War. At the battle of McDowell in Virginia he was seriously wounded and his right arm permanently disabled by gun shot. He was also wounded in the fighting at Gettysburg. Harris received a number of promotions and when his regimental commander was killed in action at Chancellorsville, he was made colonel and commander. On January 15, 1865, he was mustered out. Further recognition was given on March 13, 1866, when he was breveted bridgadier general for "gallant and meritorious" service during the war.

Wounds kept him from manual labor on the farm in Preble County, so Harris continued preparing for the bar. In April 1865 he was admitted and began to practice in Eaton. A few months later, in October 1865, he was married to Caroline Conger, a Preble County farmer's daughter by whom he had one son. The people of Preble and Montgomery counties elected Harris as a Republican to represent them in the senate of the fifty-seventh general assembly of 1866-67. With Robert Miller of Eaton a law partnership was formed in 1866 that was to continue for ten years. In 1875 and again in 1878 Harris was elected probate judge of Preble County. After that tern, hoping to retire from public life, he returned to the farm.

This dream was to be short-lived, however, because a succession of public offices was soon to follow. In 1885 and 1887 he was elected to serve in the house of representatives of the sixty-seventh and sixty- eighth general assemblies. Governor Foraker appointed him, in 1889, a trustee of the Ohio Soldiers' and Sailors' Orphans' Home. In both the elections of 1891 and 1893 he was made lieutenant governor and served under William McKinley. Later, when McKinley was president, he appointed Harris to the federal industrial commission on trusts and industrial combinations and made him chairman of the subcommission on agriculture and agricultural labor. He served in this capacity from 1898 to 1902. Once more he retired to private life and his Preble County farm.

In the state elections of 1905, when political exigencies demanded a soldier as a running mate to Governor Herrick, Harris was again nominated as lieutenant governor. Although Herrick was defeated, Harris and the rest of the Republican slate were elected by substantial majorities. On June 18, 1906, Governor Pattison died, and Harris then became the chief executive. Because of a constitutional amendment adopted in 1905 providing that subsequent elections be held in even numbered years, the Pattison-Harris administration was to run for three years, 1906-9. All but about five months of this term was left to Harris.

Under Governor Harris considerable progressive legislation was enacted. A pure food and drug law was passed; conservation measures were adopted; a bureau of vital statistics was established; corporations were forbidden to contribute or to use money for political purposes; and a measure for the regulation and inspection of building and loan savings associations was passed. The Republican state convention in 1908 nominated Harris for governor by acclamation, but in the election he and the Republican candidate for treasurer lost to the Democrats. He had incurred the enmity of the liquor interests by the passage of a local option law, the Rose Law, which had enabled well over half of the counties of the state to go dry. He had long championed temperance measures as a state legislator and as governor, but his position on the question was well in advance of public sentiment at this time.

Because of the constitutional amendment changing election dates there was to be no scheduled meeting of the general assembly in 1909. In this contingency Harris called the seventy-eighth general assembly to meet in extraordinary session in January 1909. Election of a United States Senator, appropriations, and other routine measures were to be considered. Harris recommended the establishment of a department of auditing and inspection and the employment of the competitive bidding principle to be applied by all state officers in purchasing supplies, but "no enactments of any note resulted."

Harris went back to the farm once more where he spent the remainder of his days. The "farmer statesman" died of heart trouble in Eaton on September 13, 1915.