The Harper name is English and Irish. It is an occupational name for a player on the harp, from an ancient derivative of Middle English, Middle Dutch 'harp'. The harper was an important figures of a medieval baronial hall, especially in Scotland and northern England, and the office of harper was sometimes heeditary. The Scottish surname is probably an Anglicized form of Gaelic Mac Chruiteir 'son of harper' (from the Gaelic cruit 'harp', 'stringed instrument'). The surname has long been present in Ireland.
According to "A Family History" by Ann Willingham Willis (1946), the Harper family can be traced to several counties in England, but it is the line of Sir William Harper, eldest son Sir Thomas Harper, that produced the Harper's of Cave Spring, GA.
Ms. Willis' research indicates that Captian John Harper and his first wife, Sara Wells, were the parents of Alexander Thornton Harper, who was born in Fairfax County , VA, 1747, and married in 1775, Cumberland County, VA, to Elizabeth Jones, daughter of Harrison Jones who fought in the Revolutionary War. Alexander T. Harper married Elizabeth Jones and came to Jasper County Georgia long with two Jones brothers and their wives. They stopped in North Carolina on their way for several months where their first child, Alexander T. Harper II was born on December 8, 1776. The rest of their children were born in Jasper County.
When Alexander II was grown, his parents took the rest of their children to live in Mississippi while he returned to Virginia and married Tabith Hendrick Smith in 1765 and moved with her to Halifax County, Virginia. They had three children:
1. Martha Harper born Feb 25, 1799 in Jackson County; died March 22, 1877, Rome.
Martha married first John Baldwin of Hall County, who died in 1831, and second Alfred Shorter of Wilkes County, who died in 1882 in Rome, GA. They moved to Rome in 1847 and built Thornwood, which is now Darlington lower school on Shorter Avenue. It was at Thornwood where Martha Harper Shorter passed away. They had no children of their own but adopted two of her brother's children after he passed away (Martha and Charles Harper).
2. Elizabeth Harper, born May 20 1900, Jackson County; died November 14, 1868, Rome. She married in Monticello, Georgia to Hollis Eli Cooley (1794-1857), son of Eli Cooley and Chloe Allen of Deerfield, Massachusets. Their children were:
Ethyl Hillyar, married Hamilton Harris first and had Maud Harris who married Benjamin C. Yancey II and had E. Hamilton Yancey. She married Bester Brown Second.
Mabel Hillyer (1859-1909) married Warren Palmer Wilcox and had Eleanor who married Calder B. Willingham.
The Cave Spring Connection
3. Alexander Harper III was born March 10, 1802 in Jacson County, Georgia and died August 29, 1840 in Cave Spring. He married Frances Long Richardson, daughter of Armstead Richardson and Elizabeth Griggs. Their children were:
- Elizabeth Tabitha Harper married Moses Rochester Wright, son of William Wright and Mary McCall. She attended the Sprink School near Kingston Georgia where she roomed with Martha Smith, who would become the wife of Dr. Robert Battey.
- Alexander T. Harper IV was born March 25, 1832 in Cave Spring and died January 22, 1905. He was the first white child born in Floyd County. When he was only three days old, the Indians came asking if they might be allowed to see the white papoose. At first the young mother was afraid, but Mr. Harper, confident of the Indian's good intentions, placed his young son in the Red Man's arms. Each Indian took turns holding the baby marveling at how pale he was. During his youth, Alexander accompanied Thomas Berry of Rome to participate in the California Gold Rush. When Streights Raiders came through Rome, his family was staying at Thornwood while Col. and Mrs. Shorter refugeed in South Georgia, but were moved out so the house could be occupied by General Streight and his staff.
- Elizabeth (Bessie) Harper, married Mark McDonald: Among their many philanthropic gifts was the handsome pipe organ in the First Baptist Church; Rome; they had no children of their own, but their two nieces, Bessie and Frances Brow, lived with them after the death of their mother.
- Armstead Harper, married Susie Kincaid;
- Charles Mallary Harper was born March 28, 1839; died November 2, 1909, Rome: Married Georgia Moodie McDonald (1846-1905)
- Houston Richardson Harper, born Feb. 3, 1867, married Mertyl Renner of Hagerston, Maryland: issue: Julie Harper
- Donald Harper, born September 19, 1869, married Jeanne Bernard, daughter of Alfred Bernard and Berthe de la Saussaye, daughter of Count and Countess de la Saussaye, of Paris. After graduating from the University of Georgia he went to Paris and became a prominent International Lawyer.
(more to follow)