John Harries, one of the pioneer inhabitants of the city of Dayton, was born in 1783 in the town of Gebledewyll, in Carmarthenshire, Wales. In 1810, John married Mary Williams, and soon afterward settled on a farm near his birthplace. In the fall of 1823, they immigrated to the United States, landing in New York, where Mr. Harries embarked in the wholesale and retail grocery business, and there his wife died.
In 1826, he married Mary Elizabeth Conklin, of Huntington, Long Island, daughter of Elkanah R. and Rebecca (Smith) Conklin, both of whom were natives of Huntington and had roots in England. To his second marriage the children born in New York City were Charles and Caroline and in Dayton, Ohio, Mary, Rosetta and Emma.
In the spring of 1829, Mr. Harries, with his family, came to Ohio, arriving in Dayton on July 5th of that year, on the canal boat “Experiment,” having made the journey from Cincinnati by canal. The eldest son, Thomas, remained in New York, continuing his education, and the family that arrived in Dayton consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Harries and six children. Shortly after reaching Dayton, Mr. Harries engaged in the brewing business. He had little money and little knowledge of brewing beer, but by means of perseverance and considerable natural ability he made a success of the business, and continued to follow it actively until the last year of his life.
John bought the Dayton Brewery in 1831. He was the largest dealer of grain and his ale was the best made. It had a great reputation. John stored charcoal he used for making malt in a house made from a pirogue. The pirogue was a long narrow boat pointed at each end with boards on each side of which the men walked while pushing the boat upstream. After arriving at their destination, the pirogue was carefully taken apart piece by piece and rebuilt on dry land, becoming his first house in Dayton. John lived in it for many years and it was also used for hiding slaves who were trying to make their way to Canada.
The great secret of John’s prosperity was that while others reasoned and argue and weighed the probabilities of a case, he promptly resolved and acted. Mr. Harries had great power of concentration and self-control. He was a man of many virtues. With a heart tender and warm, his hand were ever open, ready and willing to lend aid to charitable causes.
The following words were said at the time of his death:
“John W. Harries is dead, and the places which knew him so long and so well shall know him no more forever. His friendly face, his familiar form, his cordial greetings, will never be seen or heard on earth again. On the 22d of February, at 1:10 P. M., he breathed his last. For several days he seemed on the point of dissolution, but such were his amazing tenacity of life and strength of will that he appeared to set death itself at defiance. Long and hard as the struggle was, however, he fell asleep at last, and a strong man passed away as peacefully as a tired infant goes to rest in its mother’s lap; Mr. Harries was a self-made man. Born in Wales, he came to this country in early manhood in quest of fortune, relying upon his character, his energy and his brains. His career strongly illustrates all the virtues, while it was far from most of the faults which characterize that remarkable class of brave men who rise by the inherent force of their own native and unaided powers. He earned his money by the sweat of his brow, and yet did not unduly estimate its value, nor pride himself upon its possession. In its use he was as liberal as a prince. Poverty could not depress; fortune did not spoil him. Wealth made him neither ambitious of the countenance or acquaintance of the rich or great, nor forgetful of the rights and feelings of the poor. In all his relations or dealings with men he was singularly just. He never forgot old friends or past favors. He had no false pride and never turned his back on a poor man. He was in many particulars a very remarkable person. Fixed in his convictions, he was in no wise intolerant of the opinions of other people. With few advantages of early education, native shrewdness, fine common sense, and close observation supplied the place of scholastic attainment. He was a reader of men, not of books. Without public position of any sort he was the best known, the most popular and influential man in the community in which he so long resided.”
John W. Harries died on February 22, 1873 at the age of 90. He is located in section 78 Lot 73.
Woodland Cemetery, founded in 1841, is one of the nation’s five oldest rural garden cemeteries and a unique cultural, botanical and educational resource in the heart of Dayton, Ohio as you will see as you read through this new MostMetro.com series. Visit the cemetery and arboretum and take one of the many tours Woodland offers free of charge. Most of Dayton’s aviation heroes, inventors and business barons are buried at Woodland.
Woodland Cemetery and Arboretum is located at 118 Woodland Avenue off of Brown Street near the UD Campus. The Woodland Office is open Monday through Friday 8 am to 5 pm and Saturday 8 am to 12 pm. The Cemetery and Arboretum are open daily from 8 am to 6 pm. The Mausoleum is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm. For more information, call 937-228-3221 or visit the Woodland website.