Susan Bevel Allen Harris

Susan Bevel Allen Harris (ca. 1818-1888), wife of Young Loftin Gerdine Harris, lent support to Confederate troops during the Civil War through her participation in the Athens Ladies Aid Society. Her husband is best remembered as a primary benefactor of Young Harris College. Described in her obituary as being “of a rather shrinking nature,” she tended to avoid taking a visible role in Athenian social life.

The daughter of Singleton W. Allen and Jane Lanier Heard Allen, Susan Bevel Allen was born around 1818 in Elbert County. Her father owned a large plantation. She met her future husband in 1834 when Young Harris, a newly licensed lawyer, opened his law office in Elberton. The couple wed two years later. The marriage produced no children. An up and coming professional, Young Harris represented Elbert County in the state legislature before moving to Athens in 1840 for health reasons. There, he continued his political activities and won election as Clarke County’s representative in the state assembly. Following the Civil War, Harris accepted the presidency of the Southern Mutual Insurance Company, a position he held until his death in 1894. He is credited with building Southern Mutual from a small company to one of the largest and strongest in the South. Young and Susan Harris joined the First Methodist Church shortly after their arrival in Athens and thereafter devoted much of their income to endeavors in support of Methodism. These efforts included the donation of two buildings to Oxford College of Emory, the funding for the construction of a church in China, financial support for more than one hundred superannuated Methodist ministers, and a gift of $20,000 for buildings at the Young Harris Institute in Towns County. In addition, Young and Susan provided tuition support to more than 500 students who otherwise could not have attended college. In keeping with her commitment to community service, Susan volunteered with the Athens Ladies Aid Society during the Civil War. After suffering from poor health for several years, Susan died on May 18, 1889, after contracting a severe cold during a picnic. To honor her memory, Young Harris funded construction of the Susan B. Harris Memorial Chapel on the campus that bore his name. Young Harris College also issues an annual award in her name. Although her obituary described Susan Harris as a woman “of a rather shrinking nature” who never took “a prominent place in society,” the symbols of faith, hope, and charity atop her tombstone provide a more accurate testament of the life she and her husband lived in devotion to God and service to mankind.

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