University of Texas
James Francis Harrison Jr.
August 1850–August 17, 1915

 

 

James Francis Harrison Jr.

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.


James F. Harrison Sr.
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.

 

 

James F. Harrison Jr. Photo and Document Album

D

The Harrison family in front of Pavilion III.

Photograph taken by Eugene A. Perry, ca. 1880. Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia.

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Dr. James F. Harrison Sr. is at left. His wife, Frances is third from the left. Elizabeth "Bettie" Gwynn Harrison (1853–1922), who married Edmund St. Arthur Thorp in March 1887, and Fannie Harrison (1862–1950), James Sr.'s daughter by Frances are surely in this photo. Other identifications in progress. Speculations below are likely to be affected by this recent picture. Photo ca. 1880

Dr. James F. Harrison Sr. family at Pavillon II ca. 1882
The Pavilions were designed by Thomas Jefferson for the head professors at the

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Dr. James F. Harrison Sr. is second from the left. Third from the left is his wife, Frances Harrison. The other two ladies are his daughters, Elizabeth "Bettie" Gwynn Harrison (1853-1922), who married Edmund St. Arthur Thorp (1844–1920) in March 1887, and Fannie Harrison (1862-1950), James Sr.'s daughter by Frances. She never married. It is possible that one of the two men is James Francis Jr. African-American man in the background likely a butler. Speculation by Mel Oakes, "The date on the photo would put this before James Jr. was appointed at the University of Texas. The man on the right with the cane appears to be older and rather more gaunt than James Jr. in the Texas photo. He might however be recovering from an illness. It was reported that Harrison while at University of Texas had a hearing problem. Given his career after Texas, it is likely that it was only temporary."
Here are three excerpted photos, man in the middle is known to be James F. Harrison, Jr. Man on the right looks more like him and appears to be a more comparable age.
Dr. James F. Harrison Sr. is seated at right. His wife, Frances Harrison seated at left. The other two ladies are his daughters, At right end is likely Fannie Harrison (1862-1950), James Sr.'s daughter by Frances. The white man in the middle is likely their son. The African -Americans are likely a butler and a maid or cook. Butler appears to be same man as in the other Harrison Pavilion photo. There was an Ann Brown in the household in the 1880 census listed as a cook. Photo taken June 1877
Dr. James F. Harrison Sr. is seated at right. His wife, Frances Harrison, seated at left. The other two ladies could be his daughters. though one appears to be African-American, if so she could be Ann Brown, their cook. If daughters, then, Elizabeth "Bettie" Gwynn Harrison, in white dress, and on the end, Fannie Harrison (1862–1950), James Sr.'s daughter by Frances. The white man in the middle is likely their son. The African-American man is likely a butler. The resolution is quite poor, however if forced to make a decision between the son being the man on left or right in preceding photo, I would choose man on the right.
Dr. James F. and Frances Harrison Sr. with daughter, maybe Elizabeth "Bettie" Gwynn Harrison, she would be 24. Her sister Fannie would be only 15. This picture was taken at the same time as the one above it. Their clothing is identical. As mentioned above the woman in white is quite dark an appears to be African-American or at least of mixed race.
Dr. James F. Harrison Sr.
James F. Harrison III marriage certificate. He was the son of Dr. James F. Harrison Jr. They have, however, lowered the generation suffix for both. James married Cordelia Tyler on May 31, 1898. James tragically died of a burst appendix four years later.
Dr. James F. Harrison Sr., University of Alabama School of Medicine in Mobile, AL
Dr. James F. Harrison Sr., University of Alabama School of Medicine in Mobile, AL
Dr. James F. Harrison Sr., Catalogue of the Officers and Students of the University of Alabama for the year 1906.

Announcement in August 19, 1884, Austin Daily Statesman, that describes events at the new University of Texas. The faculty for 1884–1885 are listed and includes J. H. Harrison.

Remembrances of James Francis Harrison Jr.'s father.

Culbreth, David M. R., MD The University of Virginia: Memories of Her Student Life and Professors. New York and Washington: The Neale Publishing Company, 1908. Pages 420-422:

"JAMES FRANCIS HARRISON (Sr.)–One day, shortly after my entrance to the University, while walking along West Lawn to a Latin lecture, I saw, for the first time, this gentleman standing in the doorway of his office–the door itself being partly open. The perspective was singularly impressive from what I considered a strained attitude—severely erect with spraddled legs and stern expression—answering well to an ungracefully posed picture in a rough frame. As time went on, granting many opportunities of passing him on the street with a bow of recognition, I observed this to be one of his favorite positions—assuming it frequently for a few moments as a method of obtaining either fresh air or a general survey of the campus and possible doings thereon.

"In spite of these semi-contacts we never came to meet until after he succeeded Professor Venable as Chairman, July, 1873. He occupied the second pavilion from the Rotunda, West Lawn, his office being the room just north, thus making it very convenient for students calling to get information, commands or reprimands, as each, after a fashion, desired or deserved.

"His wife possessed a sweet but sad face, and mingled little with the social contingent of the University, being prevented, we understood, by precarious health. But a daughter well beyond the teens, tall and lank, a brunette of attractive and striking features, did the honors of the home. A son of good manners and address was then a student, and enjoyed considerable popularity in the medical department, from which he graduated, and, like his father, became professor in a Southern institution. The Doctor himself was about sixty years of age, but seemingly experienced not the slightest impairment of faculties in spite of visible dermal wrinkles and silvered strands. He was exceptionally vigorous, active and alert–well calculated to perform the double duties of Chairman and his chair. He was about six feet high and weighed one hundred and eighty pounds. In dress, he was somewhat careless, but on stated occasions so attired himself as to give commanding appearance and the impression of a strong personality. His step was firm, positive, rather long and deliberate; face of the angular, elongated type, mostly covered with brownish-black beard and moustache worn slightly long and shaggy; forehead somewhat broad and high; nose large but thin, with graceful ridge or outline; voice deep, of lower register, and used generally without kindly modulation–indeed, I considered him abrupt in speech, very outspoken, mincing neither word nor sentiment. He expressed boldly and impressively what he had to say, and there was no need of mistaking his meaning; yet I never thought he intended to be harsh or severe—it was simply his individual way and manner. Having been for years a surgeon in the United States and Confederate navies, where positive command and discipline prevailed, and being without that innate gentle refinement characterizing many of the professors, it was not strange that his brusque abruptness showed in forceful contrast with those of a more retiring nature.

"At the same time we all recognized in him a good mirthful heart, one who often came down to the students' level and impressed them as desiring to be their true friend and adviser. While he was not a general favorite, he shared our respect and admiration—none of us harboring the slightest feeling against him. There was one thing to his credit in common with the other professors—he always knew his mind, never vacillated or wavered between opinions. We did not regard Dr. Harrison much of a student, and I believe the medical students recognized him the least learned of their triumvirate, in spite of his rounded experience in general practice where he seemed bold and fearless—qualities often counting to advantage at the bedside. Personally, I never happened to be sick any month he was on duty, consequently cannot speak knowingly of his bearing and impress in the sick-room—factors of inestimable value to both patient and physician—but I fancy him to have been cheerful, encouraging and well calculated to inspire confidence, as he was moved little by trifles and inclined to make light of that which others often thought serious.

"I distinctly remember a friend dropped into my room one morning very much provoked over the visit just made to Dr. Harrison for medical advice, when in describing his malady he laid special stress upon one symptom”— every time I take a long breath a sharp pain is felt about my heart." To this the Doctor seriously remarked —“You don't have to take long breaths; cease annoying yourself with the effort, breathe normally." After a few moments' conversation, however, he changed the pleasantry by prescribing that which soon brought a cure, but not an obliteration of the undignified command. I never heard but parts—endings—of several lectures, and the talks he gave on Commencement Days, when conferring diplomas, but from these I should not imagine him to have been a winning lecturer or speaker, as his voice, deep and penetrating, was used in quick, somewhat jerky sentences without much modulation—qualities that in time become monotonous and tiresome.

"My relationship with him was always most pleasant, and as Chairman of the Faculty he apparently measured up to the students' complete satisfaction. I never was before him for reprimand—that which he did not hesitate to administer to the deserving—but came near on one occasion when, owing to a previous engagement, I declined taking a Sunday horseback ride with some clubmates and others, who rode to Edgehill, entered the Seminary grounds, waved handkerchiefs at the young ladies, and indulged in mannerisms open to criticism. Upon Miss Randolph sending out to inquire what manner of men they were, each wrote his name on a cigarette paper, which were handed to the servant, only to realize them the next afternoon in the hands of Dr. Harrison, to whom they had been sent by morning's mail with an explanatory letter. The guilty students needed no reminder of what they had been summoned to the Chairman's office for, as filing in one by one they encountered the identical faces upon which they had gazed the previous day in sportive delight. The Doctor, much to their surprise, was very lenient—invoking for the future a proper regard for the University's good name and a promise not to depart again from gentlemanly behavior. We called him mostly “Doctor Harrison,” but occasionally could be heard the more familiar name, “Old Harry.” He continued Chairman and professor until 1886, when he resigned and moved to Prince William County, where he died ten years later."

Dr. James F. Harrison Sr.
Dr. James F. Harrison Jr. graduated in French and Mathematics. June 29, 1871, University of Virginia
University of Virginia Catalogue
James F. Harrison Jr. earned a medical degree.

 

 

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