Harmon (or Hermon) Husbands was born in October of 1724 in Cecil County Maryland. His family were plantation owners. He spent part of his childhood in a tavern helping his grandfather. Raised Anglican, influenced by the Great Awakening, he became a New Light Presbyterian. Disagreeing with New Light church elders, he left the church. He joined the Friends, was a Quaker, and a member of the East Nottingham monthly meeting. Several of his siblings had done the same. Husbands was active as a religious leader in his church. Travelling and assisting at many Meetings throughout the 1750s. Harmon became known for his religious and philosophical thought.
Harmon’s first wife and he prospered. He owned a plantation, invested in copper mines and was a member of a shipping firm. He speculated on land and improving the land. It was in this way that he ended up moving to Sandy Creek NC, where by 1762 he owned more than 10,000 acres of land. He was an outspoken abolitionist by the time of this move. In September, 1759 he gained ownership of property in Orange County NC. There he built Husband’s Mill along the Deep River. He returned to Maryland to manage Fountain Copper Works.
In 1762 he returned to North Carolina, was a farmer, surveyor and mill owner. There he joined the Cane Creek Monthly Meeting. In January 1764, universally consistent practices were adopted by Quakers. Husbands left the meeting, and never returned. Despite the departure, he continued to embrace many Quaker practices, including pacifism.
A shared acquaintance, lead to a correspondence with Benjamin Franklin. Husbands was a member of the North Carolina Legislature during 1769 and 1770. As his beliefs grew and strengthened, so did his sharing of them. He began to reprint philosophical and political pamphlets in North Carolina. He published several pamphlets that gained popularity.
In 1766 he became part of what became Regulators. These men shared beliefs with the men who later fought to succeed from England. They sought to rid the colonies of corruption. Husbands was an outspoken philosophical leader of the Regulators. Arrested for his political beliefs, then later acquitted in 1768. Harmons path to victory was through gaining support using public sentiment. Few of the Regulators acted upon this concept. Pacifism was too long a road. They took matters into their own hands, supporting violence.
Husband’s political ideals were being recognized and supported by the Regulators. He continued on with the organization as a leading advocate. He participated in talks between representatives of the government and the Regulators.
Political upheaval drew him like a fly to honey. He participated in the Hillsborough Riots of September 1770. His later pamphlets included “Shew Yourselves to be Freemen” (1769),”An Impartial Relation of the First and Causes of the Recent Differences in Public Affairs” (1770), and “A Fan For Fanning And A Touchstone For Tryon” (1771).
Harmon spoke out for a resistance against British Government. His removal from his position could not have come as a shock. Labelled at that time as a “promotor of the late Riots and sedition in the County of Orange and other parts.” He was again arrested incarcerated until February 1771, and then released.
Although his pacifist beliefs prevented him from physical violence, he continued speaking out. Husbands was with the Regulators on May 16, 1771, the morning of the Battle of Alamance . He left the camp when he knew there would be no peaceful solution. Several of his family members died as a result of the battle of Alamance.
After the battle there was a price on Harmon Husband’s head. He was one of only 10 men who were never pardoned by the British Government. For two weeks after the battle the militia camped on Husband’s land beside his mill. When he did not return, his lands were seized and his mill burned to the ground.
Knowing his likelihood of arrest he left the state. He moved to the Allegheny Mountains in the Glades of Bedford County, now Somerset. Husbands stayed there with a relative named Isaac Cox, a hunter and trapper. There he took on the name of the “Old Quaker”. He began clearing the land and working it. His land expanded as he farmed more and more land.
Just as he had done in North Carolina, he became a hard working farmer with some land, and a lot of outspoken ideas. In 1776 he became a Tax Assessor for the State of Pennsylvania. In 1777–78 he was a member of the Pennsylvania Assembly. It was here that his knowledge assisted in the building of Fort Roberdeau
On February of 1778 John Armstrong writes to President Wharton . Harmon Husbands’ shared his knowledge of a Lead Mine in Sinking Valley.
“Mr. Husbands, that he, as soon as possible, may be spared to consult with the Board of War, on the best measures for making a tryal of deriving an early supply from that source.”
This is the first mention of this lead in reference to the Revolutionary war. This is the only surviving reference to Husbands and lead mines. John Armstrong had surveyed the region and was familiar with the area of the lead deposits. But it was Mr Husbands who shared a detailed account.
From 1781-1792 Husbands wrote for the Maryland and Virginia Almanack. His newest pen name was “Allegheny Philosopher”. He was a surveyor and a Bedford County commissioner. In 1790 he served as a Pennsylvania State Representative.
Ever an activist he was an active part of the Whiskey Rebellion. He is a known attendant of the meeting and Parkinson’s Ferry in 1794. He serves as a member of the resolutions committee. Harmon was part of the committee that negotiated with state and federal commissioners.
Arrested in 1795 and sent to Philadelphia for trial, he would never live to return home. Dr. Benjamin Rush, Dr David Caldwell, Alexander Martin, and Timothy Bloodworth spoke in his defense. Pardoned on May the 12, 1795, by George Washington, President of the United States he was set free. Yet Husbands had become ill. An illness lead to pneumonia. He died in a Tavern outside of Philadelphia on June 19, 1795. Probate includes over 800 pamphlets and 18 bound books.