Select Harrison Miscellany

Here are some Harrison stories and accounts over the years:

One Early Claimed Harrison Line

The first Harrisons appear to have been recorded in Cumberland around the year 1400 and they may have been there as early as the 11th century.   Henry Harrison who came to Ireland as Commissioner of Customs in 1710 claimed a Harrison line going that far back.  

The first in his line in England was said to be Richard, Lord Harrisson, reported to have arrived in 1056.  Through his first and second sons William and John were said to have come the Harrisons of Cumberland, through his third son Edward the Harrisons of Yorkshire. 

The Harrisons of Castle Harrison in Ireland claimed their descent from the Cumberland Harrisons.  They posted a parchment of their lineage at the main entrance of the castle so that all visitors might see it as they entered.

The Harrisons of Wheldrake in Yorkshire

The early spelling was Herrison.  William Herrison died at Holme upon Spalding Moor in the East Riding of Yorkshire in 1576.  The spelling, however, soon became Harrison.  His grandson Thomas Harrison was a prosperous yeoman farmer.  On his death in 1639 he left a considerable sum in his will.  He lived and died in the village of Wheldrake “of the Waterhouses,” what were wetlands at the edge of the village.  

The Harrisons remained farmers in Wheldrake until 1800 or so when they moved to Wilberfoss near York.  Thomas Harrison, born in 1817, was a publican there.  Later Harrisons migrated south to London.

John Harrison and Longitude

Seafarers require two measurements, latitude and longitude, in order to establish precisely their position.  Without having both, there is always the likelihood of misdirection and the real danger of hitting rocks in unknown waters and shipwrecks.  The longitude measure was the problem. 

In 1714 the British Government offered £20,000 for a solution which could provide longitude to within half-a-degree, or two minutes of time.   Over the years they received many weird and wonderful suggestions, but no solution.   Many in fact believed that the problem could not be solved. 

The longitude problem was eventually solved in 1765 by a working class joiner from Yorkshire with little formal education.  John Harrison took on the scientific and academic establishment of his time and won the longitude prize through mechanical insight, talent and sheer determination. 

He had developed various chronometer prototypes over the years, H1, H2, and H3.  In 1762 the next prototype H4 was tested onboard a ship in Jamaica.  H4 tested five seconds too slow.  Close but not enough.   Later trials, however, did beat the two minute measurement cut-off time and the prize was eventually awarded after some quibbling.  A few years later Captain Cook took H4 on-board on his voyages of discovery.  

The 1997 book Longitude by Dava Sobel recounts this stor

Harris and Harrison

H.B Guppy in his 1890 book Homes of Family Names in Great Britain described the incidence of the Harris and Harrison names as follows: 

“Harris and Harrison each has its own area of frequency, Harrison in the north and Harris in the south; whilst they wage a sharp contest for supremacy in the midlands.  

Harrison has proved victorious in some counties, such as Derbyshire and Staffordshire, waging an equal contest in others, such as Nottinghamshire, but still completely outnumbered in Warwickshire and Worcestershire.  Pushing on however, in greatly diminished numbers, the Harrisons have established outposts on the borders of the English Channel. 

In this struggle between the Harrises and the Harrisons, it is evident that the former have been worsted. The Harrises, in fact, have been entirely on the defense.  Not only have they been unable to make any successful inroads into the northern territory of the Harrisons, but they have not prevented their foes from forcing a way through their ranks and reaching the south coast."

Early Harrisons in Texas

George Harrison came from Tennessee.  He was one of Stephen F. Austin's “Old Three Hundred” colonists who in 1824 received title to land in the western part of what is now Brazoria county.  There he established his plantation.  The census of 1826 classified him as a farmer and a stock raiser.  He had a wife Catherine and two sons. 

One of his sons Andrew was killed in the battle of the Alamo in 1836.  The state of Texas did not appear to recognize his sacrifice.  In 1860 the state rejected a land bounty claim of Harrison's heirs, claiming that there was "no law for giving any donation for dying in service." 

Another who died at the Alamo was William B. Harrison, born in Ohio, who was a commanding officer in the company known as the Tennessee Mounted Volunteers, which included David Crockett.

Carter Harrison, Mayor of Chicago

Carter Harrison Sr. was related through his father’s side to the Harrison Presidents and through his grandmother Anne Cabell back to Pocahantas (she was said to have been her great great great great grandniece). 

He started out in Chicago as a real estate agent and land investor.  He became Mayor of Chicago in 1879 and was re-elected a further three times in a row.  He had, according to his son, a bushy beard and a keen interest in horse-riding and later in bicycling. 

“The squire of the avenue was Mayor Carter H. Harrison who kept his big black bay mare named Kate in a stable near his house.  He liked to ride up and down the street in the manner of a plantation owner looking over his acreage.  He described himself as ‘unable to study out a problem or scheme sitting at his desk but did his best thinking at full gallop upon his flying steed.’" 

He ran for Mayor for a fifth time in 1893 and won again.  However, six months after taking office, he was assassinated at his home by a disgruntled office-seeker at the time of the Chicago World Fair.

The Harrisons remained popular in Chicago.  His son, Carter Harrison Jr, was also Mayor of Chicago five times, from 1897 to 1911.  Another son William was editor and publisher of the Chicago Times  He later moved to Los Angeles.

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