Robert Lee Harner (1893 - 1973)

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Birthdate:
Birthplace: Bland Co. VA, Ceres, Bland, VA
Death: Died in Martinsburg, WV, USA
Occupation: Farmer
Managed by: Robert Harner
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Immediate Family

About Robert Lee Harner

Robert Lee Harner, known by his middle name Lee, was born in Ceres, VA on Dec 7, 1893, the fifth of ten children of Bird (Byrd) William Harner and Nancy (Nannie) Carr.

As the son of a farmer, and raised on a farm, he naturally became a farmer himself. When his father passed away in 1914, Lee was just 21, and being likely the oldest boy still at home, and almost 5 years older than his brother William, Lee was clearly needed at home to run the farm.

Between 1914 and 1917, as war enveloped Europe, the United States edged closer to joining the conflict. On January 5, 1917, just 3 months before the U.S. entered the war, Lee, at the age of 23, registered for the WWI draft. On the draft card he described himself as a farmer employed by his mother in Ceres, VA. In the block asking if there was anyone "utterly dependent" on him, he listed his "mother & sister". He was further described on the draft card as short and slender, with gray eyes and brown hair.

Lee enlisted in the U.S. Army on May 24, 1918 and served in France (according to his later recounting to family). Fighting in Europe halted with the November 11, 1918 armistice, and Lee was released from the Army on Jan 10, 1919.

At the time of the 1920 census, Lee, then 26, was still living with his mother Nancy (then 50), his brother Guy F (18) and his younger sisters Elizabeth C. (15) and Annie M. (11).

About eight years later, at the age of 34, Lee married Henrietta Leona Harmon on Wednesday, Feb 1, 1928. Henrietta, about 9 years younger, had grown up on an adjacent farm and presumably the families had known each other for many years.

Their first child, Harry Lee, was born June 20 of that same year, and their second, Nicky Gene, arrived about a year and a half later, in 1930.

Then the Great Depression began. The next decade was a time of hardship and poverty for many in America, and those living in rural southwest Virginia were not spared. Crop prices fell by about 60%, hitting a Depression-era low by 1933.

The 1930 census, dated April 12, 1930, shows Lee and Henrietta living on a farm in adjacent Smyth County, VA, with two young children, Harry Lee (1 year 9 months old) and Nicky (1 year old). That Smyth County farm, by the way, was adjacent to several farms owned by Creggar family members (Lee's sister Ann married a Creggar). The census shows them as owners of the farm, although family sources say that Lee and Henrietta didn't own the property.

Two more sons, Henry Fred and William Tildon, were born in 1933 and 1935.

Shortly afterward, driven by the harsh economic conditions of the time, Lee moved his family northward to a new life in Maryland. The 1940 census shows them living in Frederick County, MD.

The Japanese attacked Perl Harbor in December 1941. Four months later, on April 27, 1942 Lee, who was then 48, registered for the WWII draft. He listed his address as Ridgeville, Mt Airy, MD (Carroll County) and was described on the draft card as 5' 5" tall, 140 pounds, brown eyes, gray hair (curiously, the opposite of his 1917 draft card), and with a ruddy complexion. At the time, he was employed by Bethlehem Steel Company in Baltimore, MD, working on ships being outfitted for the war.

Later in life, Lee lived in a rented farm house in New Windsor (Carrol County) Maryland with his wife and their unmarried oldest son Harry. During these years his health declined. Eventually, complications from diabetes led to the loss of a leg, confining him to a wheelchair. Henrietta died of a stroke at home in December of 1972, and Lee died less than 6 months later at Veteran's Hospital in Martinsburg, WV.

Lee and Henrietta were actually 5th cousins once removed, although they presumably didn't know it. His 4th great grandfather Peter Johan Groseclose was also Henrietta's 3rd great grandfather.

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Robert Harner's Timeline

1893
December 7, 1893
Ceres, Bland, VA
1928
February 1, 1928
Age 34
Bland Co. VA.
June 20, 1928
Age 34
1930
February 5, 1930
Age 36
Ceres, VA
1935
March 28, 1935
Age 41
1973
June 14, 1973
Age 79
Martinsburg, WV, USA
????
- present
Ceres, VA, United States
????
- present
MD, Baltimore, United States