Gertrude Punshon, daughter of Elmer and Jody Harrison, granddaughter of Will and Ann Page Harrison, wrote in a letter to me (4/2/73) "Geneology is a very interesting subject...Some people do not care a hoot about their geneology but I love it."
Gertrude wrote in another letter (3/13/87) "My father and I were pals. Hobart and I, being the youngest, he took with him everywhere he went...." I am sure that father Elmer must have told Gertrude many stories about his younger days and also passed on to her the information he had about his parents.
Gertrude prepared a manuscript (ms.) about the Harrisons and about the family of Will and Ann Page Harrison in particular. I was able to type this up for her. In addition my mother, Beulah Harrison Mohnike, had given me a page on the Biography of William Harrison that she had hand-written from a copy that had been given to her parents. I was told that someone found this information about William Harrison in a book about Civil War Veterans and had told Mother's cousin Edith Harrison Jenkins, who was living in California at the time, about the book being in a library there. Elizabeth Berge, Edith's sister, also sent me a hand-written copy of a manuscript which was very similar to the one Mother gave me so the source for the two must be the same.
I have had access to some obituaries and some of the earlier ones gave a lot of information about the person who had died but also about the parents and their early lives.
I have gone through all these sources and have prepared the following history of the lives of William and Ann Page Harrison. My main source was Gertrude's manuscript. I have incorporated other information into it where appropriate and have used foot- notes to indicate discrepancies. I have also tried to indicate in the footnotes where some of the specific information came from. The footnotes are at the end of the paper.
I hope you will find the story interesting. If you have additions or corrections that you can send me, I would love to have them.
1/7/95 - Additions have been made to my original footnotes from material sent to me by Jeannette Harrison (JH). Jeannette is the wife of Homer Harrison, from the Will Harrison family.
Rogene M. Johnston 3900 J Street Lincoln, NE 68510
Three Harrison brothers came over from Normandy, France and fought with William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. The Saxon King Harold was killed in the battle and his wife committed suicide. England was ruled by the Saxons at this time and kings led their men into battle. William let the Harrisons be his hunters, or harriers.1 They now have thousands of descendants.
William Harrison was born in the village of Poulton, Gloucestershire,2 England July 30, 1830. His parents were John and Ann Towey Harrison. There is a Towey river in Wales. Will was the second of seven children, four sons and three daughters.
Ann Page was born in Down Ampney, Gloucestershire,3 England April 23, 1829, the oldest of eleven children. Her parents were John and Ann Fisher Page (a coincidence, two Johns and two Anns). Her mother was the daughter of Luke Fisher, who fought in the English army against Napoleon. (GP's note: I was told there is a statue to him in a cemetery in Queenton. I tried to find Queenton (three miles from Wimbledon) but no one had ever heard of it. Ann Page Harrison's youngest brother, Will Page, wrote me about it before he died.)3-1
(Uncle Will Page and his mother used to walk nine miles to do their shopping in Fairford. When Will Page was a young man, Vaughan Williams' mother had him take her little boy for rides in a pony cart because "Will was such a steady young man.")
Will Harrison's father was a baker and he met Ann Page when he delivered bread to her home.
Will and Ann were married November 15, 18534 in a beautiful little church in Meysey Hampton5 between the two villages of their births. (GP's note: When I was in England in 1966 I went in to this church and wrote in a record book about my grandparents being married there.)
Will was ambitious and because of the work situation in England, he knew that he could never get anywhere staying there.6 They realized the opportunities of the new world and so they decided to come to America. Will and Ann Page Harrison sailed from Liverpool on the sailing ship Adriatic May 10, 1854, arriving in New York harbor July 4, 1854. They took a steamboat up the Hudson River and traveled on to Detroit, Michigan, then they crossed Lake Michigan to Racine, Wisconsin. Ann's sister, Elizabeth, and her husband, Richard Marriner, were living in Racine at this time. Will and Ann settled in Calendia near Racine where they cleared a small farm in the cutover timber. Their children were all born on this Wisconsin farm. A railroad was near and the little boys used to throw apples at the trainmen who in turn threw coal at them.
Will Harrison helped to form the Republican party in Wisconsin to fight slavery. On September 2, 1864 he enlisted in Co. G 43rd Regiment Wisconsin Volunteers Light Infantry under Col. Asa Cobb to fight in the Civil War. They operated principally in Tennessee. He was wounded7 in Johnsonville, Tennessee8 and was sent first to an army hospital in Nashville, Tennessee and then was later transferred to one in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where he remained until the war was almost over. He got homesick and left a month early. Had he waited another month he would have received a pension.9 He was discharged, May 5, 1865.9-1 During a battle he was going to shoot a rebel soldier but he saw it was a woman in uniform and so he did not pull the trigger.
In 1871, he took a contract to build bridges for the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Railroad under Lindon, Lander and Shepherd of Minneapolis, Minnesota. In 1872, he was treasurer of Calendia township. Church worker, district assessor, tax collector, member of the school board, a natural leader, wonderful sense of humor.
Again Will realized another opportunity in cheap land in Nebraska. In the spring of 1873 he went to Clay County, Nebraska, to the Marriners the night before the Great Easter Blizzard that lasted three days.10 The Marriners were Ann's sister Elizabeth and husband Richard. They had been in Racine and had moved to Nebraska, taking their daughter Eve with them. Their son Charlie had died in Wisconsin. The Marriners had a large frame house southwest of Sutton. This was in 1873.
Will Harrison liked the country and settled on a homestead in Section 18 Township 6 North, Range 5 West Sheridan Precinct. He bought a team of oxen, Buck and Ball, and built a sod house. After starting a frame house, he went back to Racine and sold the Wisconsin farm for $100.00 an acre. The fall of 1873 he took his family on the train to Clay County when most people could not afford anything but covered wagons. They sent William John, then a boy of 18 years, ahead with an emigrant car containing their livestock, farm machinery, and household effects. Being the oldest of a large family and the father being in poor health, a large part of the responsibility of caring for the family was left to W.J.11 Will depended on him.
Other experiences that the family had in Nebraska was a plague of grasshoppers in 1875, a bad drought in 1879 and a severe storm of immense hailstones in 1880.
Will was soon active in community affairs. He served as school clerk of his district, justice of the peace and in numerous other local offices. He was a member of the Republican party, a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church and was Sunday School superintendent and steward.
He had an excellent farm of 480 acres, with five orchards and groves and substantial buildings. Eventually he and his grown children acquired 1,840 acres of land.
When the boys were quite young, an Indian came stalking into the kitchen, grabbed a ladle and took a big bite of chicken stew. It was too hot and he spit it out all over the table. He motioned for the children to go out and catch him some live chickens. They had been hanging dead chickens in trees for the Indians. When the neighbors saw the little boys running wildly around with an Indian after them, they came over and ran him out.
Will always kept a hired girl to help Ann with the work. One or two of them married Harrison boys.
Government land was being opened up in Dundy County. The free land could be claimed by filing on tree claims, planting trees and living on the land for a certain length of time. The brothers Doug, Grant, Elmer, Jack and Crean and their brother-in-law Albert Hall all went to Dundy Co. in 1884 and filed on six timber claims and two homesteads, returning to Clay Co. to spend the winter. The next spring they returned to build their sod houses and break their land.11 Will went there with his sons but could not stay because of his asthma. In 1888 Elmer married Mary Josephine Yarnell and took her with him to his timber claim to live. In 1890 Doug married Lillie Bowers Meek and they moved to his homestead in Dundy Co.
Will purchased a steam threshing machine for his sons and sent it to them. They had a rough time getting it home from Wauneta. It made their work much easier. During the fall and winter they ran a corn sheller.
"They watch every opportunity to better their conditions, yet are not grasping. They assisted in all laudable enterprises and extended a helping hand to their neighbors in distress."12
The brothers were in Dundy Co. with their families for about eight or nine years. Most of their children were born there. But they had so much dry weather that some of them decided not to stay. Their father Will had bought land from the railroad near his homestead in Clay County and had given each of his children, except George, 40 acres. Doug (in 1897), Grant and Albert Hall moved back to this land. Elmer (also in 1897) moved to Burlington, Colorado.
Jack and Crean never lost faith in Dundy Co. and they both stayed on their farms until they died.
Will died of asthma February 18, 1895. As George was born a cripple and had never married, the home place was left to him and Ann, his mother, lived with him. In 1905 George and his mother moved to Verona. Ann Page Harrison died September 20, 1907 and was buried beside her husband in the Marshall Union Cemetery, Clay County, Nebraska.
1Gertrude Punshon offered another explanation for the origin of the name in a letter (4/2/73) that she wrote to me: "The name derived from 'Henri', a French name, and 'son' but the English, who never pronounce anything the way it looks, called it Harrison."
2Will Harrison's obituary says Wiitshire. The Civil War Biography (CWB) says Wilts. (JH) Poulton originally was in the county of Wiltshire but the county boundary was changed. Poulton is now in Gloucester county.
3The CWB says Middlesex.
3-1(JH) Queenington is north of Fairford in Gloucester county.
4GP's ms. said November 13, 1853 as did the CWB. However, the obits for Will Harrison, Ann Page Harrison and Elmer Harrison all gave the date as November 15, 1853. (JH) Copy of the marriage record from England gives the marriage date as the 15th November 1853.
5Will Harrison's and Elmer Harrison's obits spelled it Maisey.
6GP letter 2/26/87.
7The CWB says "He took sick" and considering his long history of illness with asthma, I am wondering if the CWB is not correct. However, in a letter (2/26/87) from Gertrude she says "he was wounded in a battle in Tennessee...I wondered if it were the battle of Shiloh...."
9GP letter 4/2/73.
9-1(JH) Will's Civil War records show that he was sick and in a hospital in Jefferson, Indiana. Then he was in a hospital in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He first appeared on muster out rolls at Nashville, Tennessee. He was mustered out 29 April 1865. 5
10EB's ms.: "The first experience of Mr. Harrison was 3 days in a sod house 8 x 10 ft. through a storm of snow and hail. RJ's note: Could this be the Great Easter Blizzard? There is a problem, though. The end of this paragraph quotes from GP's ms.: "The Marriners had a large frame house southwest of Sutton. This was in 1873."
11From William John's obit.
12Quoted from the CWB. This must have been published before Will's death in 1895.
EASTER BLIZZARD 1873
Quotations from Along the County Line by Rita Joyce Haviland
p. 129 - ...in 1873 before they (the farmers) could put in any crops there was the Easter Sunday blizzard. It had been raining that day, just before dark the wind changed from southwest to northwest, the rain changed to sleet, and the sleet to fine snow. The storm increased in fury and lasted for two days and two nights. Very few had their barns built yet, so they had to take their horses, cows, pigs, and chickens into the cabin, where all lived until the storm abated.
p. 178 - One of the worst blizzards in this area of Nebraska was the Easter storm on April 13, 1873. It had rained all day Easter Sunday, and just before dark the wind changed to the north and the rain changed to sleet, and then to fine snow. Spring had already arrived...Then for three days and three nights, winter returned in full blast. The air was full of snow driven by a tremendous gale from the north. The fury of the tempest was indescribable...Most of the livestock unsheltered was frozen. Many houses or shacks were unroofed by the gales and the people in them froze to death. Travelers caught in the blizzard, who attempted to take refuge in the ravines, perished. Some people attempting to go from their houses to their outbuildings or to the well became lost...The storm lasted three days, but not at the same intensity. Freezing weather followed for a day or two. The the sun came out, the snow melted and spring arrived. The drifts however lasted for weeks.
p. 185 - On Easter Sunday, April 13, the afternoon had been dark and cloudy, deepening into rain, and as darkness fell, changing to sleet, then to fine snow. At daybreak on April 14, the air was filled with solid snow. The next day shortly before noon a gale of wind with snow came with such velocity, blotting out the landscape and sweeping everything before it...During the night the storm increased in vehemence. The wind blew in long gusts, paused to get its breath then resumed with redoubled fury. After midnight the wind died away and the snow stopped. When morning dawned, the world was made of snow. DUNDY COUNTY
I had always heard so much about "Dundy County" while growing up but had never been there. Finally, in July of 1987, my husband Bob and I just decided to drive out there from Lincoln and we asked my Mother, Beulah Harrison Mohnike, to go with us. She thought it was kind of a foolish thing to do but after we got there and saw all that we did, she thoroughly enjoyed it. I had Jim and Anna Harrison's address (from the Jack Harrison family. Jim has since died.) We tried to call them but didn't get an answer. A man on the street in Wauneta told us where their farm was so we drove out there and just as we got there, they were leaving! They told us about the "Four Corners" and drove over there with us. They were so helpful in telling us about the old homesteads. They gave us a grand tour and we were grateful that they were willing to spend so much time with us. These are some notes that I jotted down after I got home.
"Four Corners" - 12 miles south of Wauneta and 1 mile east.
The southwest corner was Uncle Jack's original homestead. The home is still standing that he built. His son Elmer farmed it after Uncle Jack was kicked by a horse and became bedfast. Elmer's grandson Don now farms it.
The southeast corner was originally Great-grandpa Will Harrison's homestead. Uncle Jack still had land in Clay County that he "traded" with his father so he could take over this land. Great-grandpa couldn't stay in Dundy Co. because of his asthma.
This corner had a windmill on it. Jack had built a small house here for his son Roy. After Jack was kicked by the horse, he went from the hospital first to his son Jim's home near Palisade. (This farm was rented for l year and it was cooler than the home place. My grandfather Doug, grandmother Lillie, my mother, my sister Wilma and I drove out to see Uncle Jack after the accident and this is where we visited him.) Anna said the doctor for some reason had both legs wrapped after the accident and this ruined the circulation in the good one so that he could never walk again. When he was able to be moved, he and his wife Millie moved into the little house with son Roy. Uncle Jack was bedfast for 7 years. After his death, Millie lived on with Roy until her death. Their son Elmer and his family were on the homestead at this time.
The northeast corner was Uncle Crean's original homestead. The house was still standing that he had built. His son Fred and his wife Edna had lived in it until they were killed in an automobile accident.
Their daughter Wilma had married a Mr. Keiser. He bought Albert Hall's original homestead, which was the northwest corner, and also land to the east of Crean's land. Wilma and her son Lynn now live in a new house a mile or so east of the homestead.
The northwest corner was son-in-law Albert Hall's homestead. The house he had built has been moved to another farm in this area.
Doug, Gee and Elmer had homesteads west of the Four Corners. Elmer's was maybe l mile west on the southeast corner of that intersection. Doug's and Gee's now are part of a ranch and there was no way we could get to it. Their land was not as good as the Four Corners land. It was canyon country in part.
A footnote to Uncle Jack's family: His wife, Millie Gosney Evans, had been married before and had two small sons - W. A. Evans and Albert M. Evans by her first husband. Albert must have visited the Harrisons in Clay County because this has to be where he met the woman he married. Florence Ousey had been a young girl when her mother, Ann Thorpe Ousey, died. Grandmother Lillie was a good friend of Mrs. Ousey so she took the daughter under her wing. There was a son, too, Fred. Florence and Albert were married and eventually settled in Sterling, Colorado. Whenever my parents and my sister and I would travel to Denver to see Mother's sisters we always stopped in Sterling to visit Florence and Albert. It was years before I learned of the connection to the family.
Grandmother Lillie had moved to Clay County with her father, Hamilton Meek, and her stepmother. There were two children born to this second marriage, Emmett and Hattie. Hattie eventually inherited the Meek farm, which she kept until her death, and it was farmed for many years by Fred Ousey and his wife. It is interesting how many lives in those days were woven together.