University of Texas
James Francis Harrison Jr.
August 1850–August 17, 1915
Acknowledgements: Many thanks to Glennon Harrison and Richard Lesesne for invaluable photos and information about the Harrison family.
After Professor J. W. Mallet resigned to return to the University of Virginia, regents appointed James F. Harrison Jr. over Alexander Macfarlane in a vote of 3 to 1; Professor H. M. Eaton received one vote. They were concerned that Macfarlane coming from Edinburgh, Scotland, might not stay. According to Professor Milton Humphreys, "Professor Harrison, who was called to the chair of physics after Dr. Mallet resigned, was a little dull of hearing when he came to Austin, then his hearing grew rapidly worse until, before the close of the session, he decided to give up teaching and go to farming. Against many warnings, he went into the country in May (so I was told) and purchased or leased a little farm and made the necessary preparations for cultivating the soil. He found beautiful, clear, purling streams whose permanence was guaranteed by the pebbles in the bottom. Towards the end of August, I heard that he was driving his stock five miles to water, and for household purposes hauling water three miles."
The following collection of facts makes for a creditable summary of Professor James Francis Harrison Jr.'s career. His father, James F. Harrison Sr., was a professor of medicine at the University of Virginia’s medical school and, from 1873 until 1886, was the Chairman of the Faculty of the University of Virginia. It seems reasonable that Mallet would certainly have known him. After deciding to leave UT, Professor Mallet may have suggested as his replacement, the son of a former, and soon to be again, colleague.
Harrison was the son of James F. Harrison Sr. and Amanda Gwynn Noble (1827–1855). (Picture of the senior Harrison is shown at right.) Harrison Sr. was a surgeon in the U.S. Navy from 1847 until June 1861, when he resigned his commission and joined the Confederate States Navy as a Surgeon and as chief of the Medical Bureau of that department and as a member of the Naval Examining Board. He was born 1822 and died January 17, 1894 in Gainesville, Prince William County, VA.
James Jr. was born in Washington, D.C. in August 1850, and his sister, Elizabeth, on November 29, 1853. In 1855, after their mother, Amanda, died in the yellow fever epidemic in Norfolk, VA, the children were sent to Washington to live with Amanda’s sister, Frances C. Lyell, a widow. James's father was commended for his service at the Norfolk Naval Hospital during the yellow fever epidemic.
In 1860, James, 8, and his sister, Elizabeth, 6, were living with their aunt in a boarding house in Washington, DC.
In 1861, James F. Harrison, Sr. married his sister-in-law. In 1870, James Jr., 19, an undergraduate student at the University of Virginia, was living with his father, James F. Harrison Sr., 47, step-mother, Frances, and sisters Elizabeth, 16, and Fannie, 8.
James's sister, Elizabeth Gwynn married Edmund St. Arthur Throp on March 16, 1887. Edmund was born May 20, 1844, in Mells Somerset, England. He immigrated to the US in 1875. Elizabeth Gwynn died February 25, 1922 in Prince William County, VA of pneumonia. Edmund died November 24, 1920. James' sister, Fanny died in 1950 at the age of 87. She never married.
James F. Harrison Jr. graduated from the University of Virginia in 1872 with a degree in French and mathematics. In 1874, he graduated from medical school at the University of Virginia.
James Jr. married Mary Eliza "Dolly" Jourdan on November 29, 1876. Mary was the son of Louis and Mathielda Trachao Jourdan. A son, James Francis Harrison III, was born September 9, 1877, in Mobile. James III married Cordelia Tyler on June 1, 1898, in Mobile. James III died in 1902 from a burst appendix, leaving Cordelia and their two sons, Leroy and Edward.
At left, is an entry from the Virginia Staunton Spectator, September 17, 1878, which reports the appointments of some of the University of Virginia graduates. Among the entries is, "Dr. James F. Harrison, Jr., elected Professor of Chemistry and Natural Sciences, Wesleyan Female College, Macon Georgia."
Below right, is an entry from 1887, announcing Harrison's appointment at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia. It mentions his previous appointment at the University of Texas as an Associate Professor of Physics.
In 1900, James Jr., 49 (b. District of Columbia) was a druggist in Mobile, AL. He lived with his wife Mary (b. Louisiana?), 47, son, Massillon, (b. Georgia) 19, daughters Susie (b. Georgia), 17 and Fannie, 14 (b. Alabama, named for James' sister). Massillon was clerk in a coal company. In 1925, Massillon was in Sioux City, Iowa with his wife Elizabeth D. and a son, James F. Harrison. Massillon was born January 16, 1881. In 1918, he was a public accountant with his own business in Sioux City, Woodbury, Iowa. Massillon and Elizabeth were married November 21, 1904 in Wilcox County, Alabama. They had a son James F. Harrison, born 1907 in Mississippi.
In 1910, a James Harrison, age 58, born Virginia, was living in Mobile, AL. He was a doctor in a marine hospital. His mother-in-law, Louisa Ripley, age 84, lived with him along with a number of boarders. Professor Harrison's wife, Mary's maiden name was Jourdan. Wife was not in the household though he is listed as married. He was on Jacalyn Street and head of the household. This may be a different James Harrison as the information in the census has evidence for and against this identification. No record of Mary has been found in the 1910 census.
In 1910, a James F. Harrison returned to Mobile from Progreso, Mexico, where his daughter Florence was living. He listed his profession as a teacher.
James died August 17, 1915, in Mobile, AL at the age of 65. His wife, Mary, died March 16, 1939, in Birmingham, AL, at the age of 85. His death is listed in Directory of Deceased American Physicians. He practiced allopathic medicine. He was a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Medicine, 1873. He died of general breakdown. James Francis Harrison and his wife, Mary Eliza Jourdon Harrison, are buried in Magnolia Cemetery, Mobile, AL, plot: Square 15-Lot 72. Their son, Massillon L. (1881–1935) and his wife, Elizabeth Acre Dawson (1878–1939) Harrison are also buried in this cemetery.
Here is James' obituary from the Mobile Register on August 19, 1915. The clipping was generously provided by Elizabeth Theris, Local History and Genealogy Librarian at the Mobile Public Library, 753 Government Street, Mobile, AL 36602.
The stone at the left above is for James and Mary's son, Massillon (1881–1935) and his wife Elizabeth Dawson (1878–1939)
James and Mary Eliza's daughter, Florence "Fanny" Harrison, incorrectly listed in the obituary, married Edward Blake Lesesne in 1904, in Vera Cruz, Mexico. Richard Lesesne, Edward's grandson writes of his grandfather, "My grandfather was quite a character, called by some a “swashbuckler” and “moral pirate” . He ran away from home at 14 from Charleston, SC and went to sea, participating as an observer to the Spanish American War and surviving two shipwrecks, notably one at Galveston during the hurricane in 1900. After an apprenticeship and serving on several ships, he became captain of a steamer that ferried goods between Tampico/Veracruz and New Orleans/Charleston/New York. From picture albums, I had gleaned that he joined a “Gatsby-like” or “Hemmingway-esque” community of American ex-pats in Veracruz, Progresso and Tampico in the early 1900s. There, he met Florence and married her. During this time, the US Navy invaded Veracruz, so they were very turbulent times there. Sometime after 1908, Florence and Edward separated, though they did not formally divorce until he met my future grandmother, who was a Dane from the Island of Saint Thomas (now the US Virgin Islands)."
Florence and Edward lived in Vera Cruz, Mexico from October 1904 to June 1909 (maybe 1908). On August 7, 1908, Edward and Florence arrived New York City aboard the USS Merida from Yucatan, Progreso. Florence worked as a stenographer for the Arkell Safety Bag Company in New York City from 1911 to 1918. Florence and Edward were divorced in 1912 in Puerto Rico, USA. Below is her passport application photo in 1918 for a trip to Manila to work as a secretary with an export company. Also shown is a photo of her husband, Edward. Photo and details of Florence and Edward's life together are from Richard Lesesno, Edward's grandson. Richard has found no record of Florence's return from Manila. Her contract was for four years. Richard speculates, "I had surmised that she either died of natural causes in the Far East before WWII or did not survive the Japanese occupation."
Below is a chronology for James Francis Harrison Jr. for the purpose of exposing inconsistencies with identification of Harrison as UT Professor.
1850 or 1851 born District of Columbia
1855 James Jr. 's mother Amanda Gwynn Noble Harrison died in Norfolk, Virginia in the yellow fever epidemic.
1860 James Jr. and sister, Elizabeth, were living in a rooming house run by Elizabeth Gynn (Guinn or Gwynn). In 1850, Amanda Gwynn Noble Harrison, James' mother was living in this house.
1868 University of Virginia
1870 in Virginia with father. Source 1870 Census
1871 graduated from University of Virginia with degrees in French and mathematics
1873 graduated University of Virginia with degree in Medicine
1876 married Mary Eliza Jourdan, Mobile, AL
1877 son born in Mobile
1880 no Census record
1881 son, Massillon L. Harrison born in Georgia
1883 daughter, Susie Harrison, born in Georgia
1877–1884 taught in Alabama and George according to Randolfph-Macon College announcement.
1884-1885 University of Texas physics faculty
1887 faculty of Randolph-Macon College, Ashland, VA
1900 druggist in Mobile
1910 MD in Marine Hospital in Mobile? a mother-in-law is listed with him but not correct name. No other 1910 census record found.
1910 returned to New Orleans from Progreso, Yucatan, where his daughter, Florence Harrison Lesesne, lived.