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