May-June 2008

The Harrisons of Dundas, Ontario

In the first two weeks of June I traveled to New York State and to Canada, mixing my visits to friends and relatives with my genealogical research. I had no more luck gleaning information about the Harrisons at the Hamilton, Ontario, Library this time than last. But knowing that Henry Wickliffe Harrison lived in Dundas, just outside of Hamilton and only 2 miles from the dorm at McMaster University where I had stayed the night, I sought out the small library in Dundas and struck gold. All of the old Dundas Star newspapers had been gleaned and any name in the paper was put on an index card, telling which paper one could find it in. I quickly found ten such small items in the index, all on microfilm, and spent a productive several hours looking up the articles in the newspapers. In fact, I got so engrossed in looking at the articles that I clean forgot to get a picture of the Dundas War Memorial which I intended to do.

The family of Henry Wickliffe Harrison lived in Dundas for many years. Click on this link to read an interesting story of how “Wick” Harrison came to settle in Dundas. (By the way, Dundas is pronounced with the accent on the second syllable, dun-DAS)

There was mention a couple times in The Dundas Star of Gordon Harrison who was serving in WWI and then an article about his death, including portions of the letter his commanding officer sent to his parents.

Gordon’s younger brother, Raymond, managed to break his hip trying to field a high fly ball and falling down on something hard.

The weddings of both Earl and Raymond Harrison were reported. Interestingly in Earl’s wedding, his sister, Merna, was flower girl and in Raymond’s wedding, 14 years later, she was a bridesmaid. That is useful in guessing her age; I have not found a birth record for her yet.

All of these little tidbits helped me to estimate when “Wick” and his family moved from Dundas, Ontario, to Arizona. I had wondered about that ever since I discovered Wickliffe had given information for the death certificate when his older sister, Ida Townsend, died in Phoenix, AZ. The death certificate said Wickliffe lived in Phoenix, too. And he surely lived near there for some time because in 1936 when Raymond married in Flagstaff, his Aunt Ida Townsend gave a wedding dinner in honor of the couple. Ida died in 1950 and Wick died in 1956. Wickliffe came back to visit friends in Dundas in 1954, a year after his wife died, which was the occasion for the article referenced in the link above. (The story about Wick reminds me of the stories that Hubert Douglass, of Sackets Harbor, would spin whenever a reporter came around to talk about “the early years.”)

Wickliffe was not the only Harrison in Dundas. Remember John Durlin Harrison, Wickliffe’s brother, who moved from Hamilton, Ontario, to Lee County, Illinois, to try his hand at farming and after a few years moved back to Dundas to be a merchant again? Well, his son, Archie, died following or during an operation in Dundas when he was 14. One wonders what kind of operation was required at that young age, but the paper did not tell that. The only other news item about John’s family was the announcement that his oldest daughter, Miss Ida Harrison, had successfully passed the elementary piano examination of Toronto University. Ida was 13 at the time of this note in the paper; she married at age 22. I wonder if she went to college.

For your perusal I am transcribing below some of the articles from the newspaper. If you want to see how they fit into the Douglass family, the Harrisons are part of Catharine Douglass‘ branch; you can check out the relationships in her family tree.

(Lineage: Wickliffe-5, Thomas D.-4, Catharine Harrison-3, John-2, Alexander Douglass-1)

The Dundas Star, July 22, 1897

Mrs. Wyck Harrison is expected home from Pt. Sydney, Muskoka, today having made a pleasant visit among relatives and friends. (Julia Watson Harrison’s sister lived in Pt. Sydney; in fact Julia and Wick married in Pt. Sydney.)

The Dundas Star, Jan. 19, 1899, pg. 5

Mr. Broome P. Smith, a missionary in Central Africa connected with the Christian and Missionary Alliance of New York, who is now in town the guest of his brother-in-law, Mr. W. Harrison, intends delivering a lecture in the Methodist Sunday School building Friday evening, the 20th inst., (tomorrow) The lecture will embrace scenes and incidents during his sixteen years residence among the heathen natives. He will exhibit some of the mementoes secured during the time and altogether the lecture promises to be of a very interesting nature as Mr. Smith is a versatile speaker. There will be a collection in aid of the work.

(Broome Smith married Wick’s oldest sister, Emma. I suspect that at the time of this article, Emma had died, or was sick, which may have precipitated the trip home from Africa. She died before 1900 as her mother reported in the 1900 census that she had born 7 children and 6 were living.)

The Dundas Star, December 5, 1918

Pte. Gordon Harrison Was Killed Instantly

Mr. H.W. Harrison has received the following letter from Lieut. F. G. Dyke, giving particulars of the death of his son, Pte. A.G. Harrison, who was killed in action. Pte. Harrison was first listed as missing after the heavy fighting which took place September 28th to October 1st. He enlisted in the 129th battalion on April 24, 1916, and proceeded overseas after a long stay at Camp Borden. He was transferred to the 118th battalion and on reaching France was again transferred, entering the trenches with the 58th battalion. He was more than ten months in France. Before he enlisted he was employed in the Dundas office of the H. & D. railway and later on the Grand Trunk. Besides his parents, two brothers and a sister survive. The letter follows:

“No doubt you have already been advised of the death of your son, Pte. A.G. Harrison, but I am not sure whether or not you have received any particulars. I was not with him at the time but will tell you what I know about it. He was instantly killed by machine gun fire during the fighting between Sept. 28th and Oct. 1st. From the newspapers you will know where the Canadian Corps was then and may be able to take some slight satisfaction from the fact that it was in a big and very successful show that he met his death, and that it was instantaneous.

As you know he had been batman to Lieut. Martin, and as we were in the same company in the 58th I saw a great deal of your son around company headquarters. In all the time I knew him since the 119th was broken up your son’s conduct and manner of carrying on out here was of the very best. I can remember nothing in connection with him that he would not have cared to have let you know. I will not attempt any formal words of consolation, but will merely express my own very real regret at his loss”.

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