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   The Way West

                      The Harrisons from Ireland to America

John Harrison, a twenty-two year old single man, landed in America on May, 24, 1848. Thousands of Irish were streaming here to escape the famine and the repression of their benighted homeland. He had left Sligo on the western coast of Ireland with intentions to stay in the U.S. That he did. His earliest days are not clearly known. His Bible is inscribed "John Harrison's book - Bought Tunkhannock - March the 11th, 1855." That is Tunkhannock Pennsylvania, on the Susquehanna River in Wayne County, only forty miles or so from where he made his farm. At that time work was going forward on the North Branch Canal where many Irish immigrants found work. The 1860 census shows him in Schuylkill County, south of Wayne County, as a miner. After twelve years of hard work John bought a farm in Sullivan County, Pennsylvania and in 1862 married Catherine Jordan. Catherine and her family were from Sligo, as were several other families that all settled in Sullivan County. They emigrated between 1840 and 1844. John and Catherine had the following children:

  • James Harrison b. 1863 m. Catherine Jordan Philbin
  • Mary Harrison b. 1865 m. Charles Cain
  • Henry W. Harrison b. 1867 d. 1897 unmarried
  • Margaret Harrison b. 1869 m. James F. O'Neil 

I have walked the land where these people lived and raised their children. It has returned to forest. The place they settled is called "Irish Ridge". Here are some of the neighbors: Cawleys, Philbins, Sweeneys, Cavanaughs, McDonalds, Jordans, Rouses, and Cains. The Ridge, of course, is on top of a mountain that falls off sharply to the Loyalsock and Rock Run creeks. This was not prime farmland. In fact, the Harrison family stayed only for about 75 years or two generations before leaving the farm. An account of an original settler on Irish Ridge is to be seen here.

This image is the only one of the old farm and of John Harrison (standing at the fence). Between him and Catherine stands Maggie Harrison O'Neil. James Harrison "holds his horses."  The above house burned down and only a foundation is left. The house, on top of the mountain, was vulnerable. Witness this item from the April 26, 1883 issue of the Sullivan Review:

"During the thunderstorm of Thursday evening, the dwelling house of John Harrison, on what is known as "Irish Ridge", in Forks Township was struck by lightening. In the home at the time were eight persons, including Mr. and Mrs. Harrison and four children, Thomas Jordan and William Fell. They were all more or less stunned from the effect of the lightning, but have entirely recovered. A dog lay on the floor between Jordan and Fell and was instantly killed. The occupants of the house were certainly very fortunate in escaping serious injury if not death. The chimney was destroyed and some other damage done to the house. A few years ago a tree was struck in the garden  near the house which shocked Mr. Harrison severely."  

But for "the luck of the Irish" this story would have ended here. Apparently, the dog was not Irish.

 James Harrison, John and Catherine's eldest son, married Catherine Jordan Philbin. Several Philbin families lived close to the Harrisons. Another house was built for James and his family and was much smaller. The family consisted of:

  • John Henry Harrison b. 1898 m. Rose Dorsey
  • Mary Harrison b. 1901 d. 1902 of whooping cough.
  • Mary Alice Harrison b. 1904 m. Raymond Connors
  • Agnes Harrison b. 1906 m. Edward Dix
  • A.E. "Betty" Jordan b. 1909 m. James Owens (Betty was adopted and raised by the Harrisons.)

In the 1970s the survivng children went to visit the old house and that of their mother's family.  Lower housePictured are John, Agnes, Mary, and  Charlie Cain, a cousin.This house was torn down the following year in order to provide paneling for someone's hunting cabin.  The Philbin homestead has also become a hunting lodge but has been preserved and developed. It now has a pond and a beautiful setting. The same people are seen on the front porch; Philbin Houseor I believe they would call it a stoop. All of these folks are now passed on but the flavor and richness of the times can still be seen at the Sullivan County Website one of the best genealogy websites ever. 

 

Later photos courtesy of Jim and Pat Dix

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