Historical Newspapers: Mr. Samuel H. Harrison, Jr. | 1917

The funeral of Mr. Samuel H. Harrison, of 870 Washington avenue,
whose death occurred Wednesday evening at Protestant Hospital after an illness
of four weeks, took place from Shiloh Baptist Church Wednesday, May 16, 11 o’clock,
Rev. Dr. Ashby officiating. The deceased was well and favorably known in the community,
being a brother of J.M. Alton, Robert and Ernest Harrison. He is survived by a wife, Mrs. Hattie
Harrison, and eight children. For years he was a steward at the Elks’ Home and Southern Club, at Ocean View. He had a large number of friends, white and colored, who will regret to learn of his death. Mr. Harrison was stricken after a trip to New York, with a stroke of paralysis, and during his illness suffered greatly. Internment was in Calvary Cemetery.
The following acted as pall-bearers: Dr. F. S. Copppage, J. W. McRae, James Epperson, Albert Parker, R. C. Stith, Benj. Jones.
Source: Norfolk Journal and Guide

For this topic, let’s pore over the details included in the 1917 funeral announcement of my ancestor, Samuel H. Harrison, Jr.

Samuel H. Harrison, Jr., my maternal second great-grandfather, passed away on Wednesday, May 9, 1917. According to the above shared news item, he had fallen ill four weeks prior by suffering a stroke after a trip to New York. It is possible and very probable that Samuel and his wife Hattie were considering moving to New York. Years later, Hattie and her children were living in New York City, per the 1930 U.S. Census.

What was going on in the world during these days of May 1917? This was a time of The Great Migration amidst WWI and literally a few days before the Marian apparition sightings of three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal.

At only 37 years of age, Samuel fell mortally sick even as he and his family may have been planning for a new life in the North. The article states that he was a man of many friends, ‘white and colored’, and that he was employed as a steward at the local Elks Club. Samuel may or may not have held the same position that he had in 1910. The federal census of that year listed his employment as ‘bartender’ at a ‘saloon’.

1910 United States Census: Samuel H. Harrison, Jr.’s Employment

The information provided in Samuel Harrison, Jr.’s funeral announcement itself is filled with particulars that very well may have been lost to history, were they not documented in the article. I am inclined to think that Samuel’s brother, James, authored the piece, either in whole or in part. I believe this because James routinely submitted prose, poetry and news items for several newspapers in Virginia:

Stray Thoughtlets by J.M. (James Minnis) Harrison, as appeared in Norfolk Journal and Guide, October 15, 1938
Another of J.M. Harrison’s newspaper submissions, July 15, 1922 in Norfolk Journal and Guide

Here is more about the places named in the news clipping:

Late 1920’s: Hattie and Josephine Harrison, both daughters of Samuel H. Harrison, Jr. and wife Hattie née Turner, standing in front of their home, 870 Washington Avenue in Norfolk, Virginia. Photo Courtesy: Clyde McDaniel, Jr.
Protestant Hospital in Norfolk, Virginia was the location in Norfolk, Virginia where Samuel Harrison, Jr. passed away on 9 May 1917. Today Sentara Norfolk General Hospital operates in the footprint of the old Protestant Hospital.
Services held at Shiloh Baptist Church in Norfolk, Virginia | Photo Courtesy: welcometoshiloh.com

Here is a profile of the minister, Rev. Dr. Ashby, who officiated Samuel’s funeral and more about the other people named in Samuel’s funeral announcement:

Rev. Dr. John H. Ashby officiated the final services for Samuel H. Harrison, Jr. Rev. Ashby is profiled in the 1917 book, History of the American Negro and his institutions, by Arthur B. Caldwell.

Samuel’s brothers were: James Minnis Harrison (1873-1940), Alton Thomas Harrison (1876-1936), Ernest Seward Harrison (1884-?1963?), and Robert Hunter Harrison (1888-1918).

They were sons of Samuel Henry Harrison Sr. (1841-1896) and his wife, Louisa née Hunt (Hunter) (1840-1897).

Mrs. Hattie Harrison was born in Emporia, Virginia in 1884 to Rev. John H. Turner and his wife, Josephine.

Hattie and Samuel were married on 27 Sept 1897. They had eight children: my maternal great-grandmother—Louise Josephine Harrison (1898-1954), Alton Thomas Harrison (1898-?), Blanche Geneva Harrison (1903-1954), Hattie Harrison (1903-2002), Samuel Henry Harrison, III (1905-1973), Bernard Claudius Harrison (1907-1957), Josephine Kenneth Harrison (1910-1985), and James Minnis Harrison (1911-1968).

Mrs. Hattie Harrison passed away on 31 Mar 1937 in Norfolk, Virginia.

Samuel and his wife, as well as a host of other family and friends were interred at Calvary Cemetery in Norfolk, Virginia.

According to the City of Norfolk website:

For nearly a century, most of Norfolk’s African American citizens were interred at Calvary as there were not other burial options available to African Americans in Norfolk until the mid-1970s. Epitaphs document the lives of every aspect of African American society, from doctors, lawyers, and businessmen to soldiers, sailors, and laborers.

Pallbearers for Samuel H. Harrison, Jr. were: Dr. F. S. Coppage (this is actually Dr. Samuel Francis Coppage, so S.F. Coppage), J. W. McRae, James Epperson (according to records, James was a tailor), Albert Parker, R. C. Stith, Benj. Jones (per records, Benjamin was a tailor at Charles. S. Carter).

Once again we see how looking closely at the details in primary sources, such as this 1917 funeral announcement, provides an even greater level of understanding about bare facts.

Prior to seeing this news item, I had no idea of the circumstances surrounding the death of my ancestor, Samuel H. Harrison, Jr. I’m not sure that anyone in living memory was aware, for example, that he had been sick for weeks or where he worked and that he was so esteemed among his peers, regardless of color (or so was written). With this new knowledge, it allows for a bit more richness of understanding Samuel’s life.

It’s an honor to learn and share more about Samuel and all of my ancestors. It is my hope that you will also continue to discover new things about your family history. As we find these ancestral records, let’s drill down to gather new perspectives and insight of their lives.

Again, this is our situation.

The Genealogy Situation Room

2 thoughts on “Historical Newspapers: Mr. Samuel H. Harrison, Jr. | 1917

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s