Many members of the Harlan Family have been (or could be) featured in human interest stories. Please send accounts of Harlans involved in good deeds, adventures, service, etc. to Dorothy Sperry.
Also visit the site, "The Who's Who of Harlans".
Though leaving home in 1971, Steve Armstrong maintains close ties to his hometown in Chambersburg, Pa. A 1971 graduate of Penn State, he is an architectural engineer and has worked in 42 states and many foreign countries. He is Captain in the Naval Reserves, serving with the Seabees on task forces that are often involved in humanitarian ventures.
In 2000, Steve directed a project that put a bridge over the Poltsama River in central Estonia which reunited two World War II lovers. As teenagers from two villages on either side of the river, their link to each other was destroyed by the war. The Soviets built a portable bridge for their use but abandoned the disassembled bridge when they hurriedly left the country in 1993. A local farmer stored it in his barn for years as no one in Estonia knew how to erect this type of Soviet bridge. The American task force, under Steve Armstrong's leadership, erected the 40-meter bridge on one side of the river and then pushed it over the gap. The operation was quite an event to watch and when completed, the two former sweethearts were the first to walk across the span.
While in Estonia, the task force also built a pavilion and new play facilities for an orphanage, renovated a soup kitchen for the homeless in the country's capitol, and repaired storm damage to public facilities in another town.
Steve led another group of Seabees to Albania in 2001 to repair and replace a vital section of road in that country. He and his family lived in Europe from 1989-94 and traveled extensively during those years, visiting every European country except the Scandinavian ones. The wall came down in Eastern Europe while they were there.
Steve and wife, Donna, have two daughters and two sons and have been foster parents for over 17 years. Over 100 children have lived with them at one time or another. While not on duty, Steve Armstrong has his own engineering firm with projects all over the country.
Steve's Armstrong's lineage: George #3, James #11, George #45, Jehu #212, Daniel #822, Jehu #2865, Esther Harlan DeArmoun #7219, Jehu Harvey DeArmoun, Eula DeArmoun Miller, and his mother, Phyllis Miller Armstrong of Chambersburg, Pa.
My Dad, Ronald Aubrey Harlan, was born April 4, 1924; he married Bernice Marguerite Borton on June 12, 1946. They bore three children: Hazel Loree on March 17, 1947; Rick Alan on September 11, 1950, and Lorna Lynn on May 18, 1952. Besides their own children, they raised many other children including two of Bernice's nephews. My Dad worked for the Fire Department and also for Rasmussen Spray Service. My mom worked for the Department of Revenue for several years.
While still at the Fire Department, Dad did various volunteer projects for the Fire Department and for the VFW. Dad had served in WWII and had a purple heart. He was a very active member of the VFW, as was Mom. They were both officers of the VFW 661 in Salem, Oregon.
They decided the VFW needed help in raising funds, so they started Bingo in the little hall. They worked 50-60 hours a week doing services for others. They would meet people at gas stations and give them gas money to get somewhere. They would take furniture, beds, wheelchairs, walkers, etc., to disabled veterans and the needy. They would have sales, and the proceeds would go for cancer foundations, etc. They were constantly giving others rides when they needed transportation.
Dad and Mom put more hours into their week than I ever did with a full-time job. Dad passed away in October, 1999. Mom is surviving, having taken over most of his previous duties. They have both given more in a day than most people would give in a year.
Over the years, it has been my distinct pleasure to help a good number of people named Harlan (including recognized and accepted variations of that spelling) find their roots, find their ancestors, find their way home. I have discovered in the process of helping, that many of these individuals trace their roots back to Tompkinsville (Monroe County), Kentucky. This isn't too surprising to me since my father (M. H. Harlan), grandfather (John Wesley Harlan), great-grandfather (William H. Harlan), great-great-grandfather (George Washington Harlan), great-great-great-grandfather (John Harlan) and great-great-great-great-grandfather (Aaron Harlan) have Kentucky roots, and the Monroe County area was where they called home. It should come as no surprise to other Harlan researchers that their ancestral path may wind its way back to the Commonwealth of Kentucky. For those unfamiliar with this land, it may conjure up images of Daniel Boone, mountains, tobacco farms, moonshiners and beautiful race horses. Kentucky is all this and much more. I'd like to tell you about Monroe County.
Geographically, Monroe County is located in the heart of southcentral Kentucky, in the upper Cumberland hills, rolling beautiful farming country, dotted with tobacco farms and some small industry. Monroe County has only three incorporated towns, including the county seat of Tompkinsville, the other two are Fountain Run and Gamaliel. Several small unincorporated communities (19) including Akersville, Boles, Boyd, Mt. Gilead, Cave Springs, Center Point, Emberton, Flippin, Gum Tree, Hestand, Jeffrey, Meshack, Martinsburg, Mt. Hermon, Mud Lick, Rock Bridge, Rush Point, Sulphur Lick and Vernon. Gamaliel is located near the Tennessee-Kentucky border in southwest Monroe County, while Fountain Run is on the border of Barren and Allen Counties to the west. Tompkinsville is about eight miles from the Tennessee border. The Cumberland River winds through the southeastern part of Monroe County and the Barren River cuts through the southwest section. There is a state operated ferry on the Cumberland River connecting two segments of Kentucky 214, as it winds through the beautiful and scenic Turkey Neck Bend section of southeastern Monroe County.
Old Mulkey Meetinghouse is located in Monroe County, holding considerable historical and religious significance. It is one of the oldest churches west of the Alleghenies. In the Old Mulkey State Park and Shrine burying grounds, in addition to Harlans and family, they also have Hannah Boone, sister to Daniel Boone. The architecture and construction of the Old Mulkey church is unique and symbolic. It is built in the shape of a cross with twelve corners said to represent the twelve apostles or twelve tribes of Israel, with three doors representing the Holy Trinity. If you are planning a visit to Tompkinsville, Old Mulkey should be on your list of "must see" items. I almost forgot the family ties, Christian Minister John Mulkey's daughter married #806 Joel Wright Harlan, and apparently John Mulkey's wife, Betsey Hayes, had her own Harlan connection, her mother. In 1820, five Harlan names appeared on the church rolls: Nancy Harlan, Samuel Harlan, James Harlan and wife, and Melissa E. Harlan.
When my cousin, William B. Harlan, a college professor at Mississippi Southern (now Southern Mississippi), died prematurely, his parents Jim and Susan Harlan, gave land and money for the William B. Harlan Memorial Library, and it should be on the agenda of every Harlan researcher headed for Tompkinsville. The library was dedicated October 16, 1966. In addition to being an outstanding well staffed facility, they also have Dayton Birdwell, a Monroe County historian and genealogist. I am the proud owner of volume number 772 of 1000 of a limited edition book compiled by Dayton Birdwell and published by the Monroe County Press, Inc., "The History of Monroe County Kentucky 1820-1988," copyrighted 1992 by William B. Harlan Memorial Library, 500 West Fourth Street, Tompkinsville, KY. If memory serves me correctly, this limited edition book was sold to raise funds for a library project, and I was fortunate enough to be in town to purchase one.
I have five first cousins still living in Tompkinsville, children of my father's sisters, but none with the Harlan name. There are currently twelve Harlan listings in the Tompkinsville phone book, and probably all are related to my branch of the tree, but when I would ask my grandfather about the other Harlan families around the town and county he would indicate that if they were related he was unaware of it.
When my father graduated from Tompkinsville and left in 1939 to attend school in Nashville, the population was slightly under 2,000 and that's about what it is today. The current population of Monroe County hovers around 12,000 (11,401). Federal standards set 12,000 as a population for a small town, most counties are larger. Monroe County has 330 square miles, amounting to a population of 34.5 individuals per square mile. It would be an understatement to say life moves at a slower pace here. Actually, it moves at its own pace, not much influenced over the years by what the rest of the world was doing. One thing that stands out in my mind from my boyhood travels to Tompkinsville was the honesty and trust people had for each other. That is not to say that everybody was good, they did have their outlaws, it's just that everybody knew who they were and what to expect of them. I have seen money transactions and big money sales made on a hand shake without one signature being put to paper.
Things are changing in Tompkinsville. I am still trying to adjust to the fact that they have a new WalMart Supercenter just north on 163, not too far from my grandfather's farm. I don't think anything has caused such a stir since the "pipeliners" came through Tompkinsville. I still like to think of it as the quaint, slow-paced little town where old men sat around the court house square with sharp wit and sharp knives making cedar shavings and pieces of folk art.
One of the things I have made a part of my trips home to Kentucky, is to visit the cemeteries and locate the graves of my forebearers. I have a list of twenty-two of these burying grounds, too lengthy to include here, but I will provide that information to anyone who needs it. Even though I was never a resident of Kentucky, I still feel a strong attraction to the Bluegrass country and find it hard to keep a dry eye when I hear "My Old Kentucky Home" played for the Kentucky Derby. With all these generations before me, I can't help but trace my roots to Kentucky.
The Charles Wesley Harlan Story
My father, Charles Wesley Harlan (b.11-2-1854 d.10-30-1926), having lived and worked in cities and towns during his 26 years, became infected with the land hunger prevalent in the eastern portion of the United States about 1880. He and Mary Elizabeth Haller had been married in a Lutheran Church on Union Street, Allegheny, Pennsylvania, across from the park in 1882.
In 1885, C. W. made a trip to east-central Nebraska where the government was offering free land to homesteaders who would agree to live on the land for five years. The railroad brought him to Sargent, Nebraska, where he hired a horse and rig and drove into the area of the Middle Loup River near Westcott. He paid the $5 registration fee and was granted 160 acres of land, four miles from Westcott. He then returned to Allegheny to await a propitious time to make the move to Nebraska.
In March of 1886, Howard Malcolm (brother) was almost three years of age, and I was six months old. We left at that time by railroad for the West. Mother had packed hampers of food for the three day trip. She was almost 24 years of age at the time and was leaving her large family and her friends for a life on the prairie where her nearest neighbor would be one-half mile away.
My father built a soddie, cutting slabs of sod two feet long, one foot wide
and four inches thick from the prairie. The walls of the house were two feet thick.
Branches of cottonwood trees were used for roof rafters, and sod was laid on them with the
grassy side up. The house had two rooms. Window glass, frames for doors and windows, sash
and one door were purchased. The
For some time after our arrival there was no pig pen or barn. Dad dug a cave in a small rise to house the pigs and placed a fence around the opening. Shortly after this a prairie fire ravaged the area. Dad set a back fire around the house, as the prairie grass was several feet high. The pigs lost most of their hair in the fire, as they were curious to see what was going on and did not remain in the cave. We had a cow at the time and brought her into the house to save her life.
Dad was a brickmason and, after spring plowing and planting, went to Broken Bow or Omaha to work at his trade. He was away from the farm from three to six months at a time.
There was an Indian trail crossing the northwest corner of our land. It was not uncommon for the Sioux, singly or in small groups, to use this trail and at times, to come to the house asking for food. Mother, trembling inwardly, would order them to sit outside the house and bring food to them.
Dad dug a well near the house and found excellent water at a depth of 30 feet. The soil was dark, sandy loam. He found one small pebble during the digging. He carried this pebble as a pocketpiece since he found no other stones or pebbles on the place during his five years residence there.
When Howard was about four years old, he found a jar in the barn containing a white powder and ate some of it. Mother noticed some of the powder on his clothing and asked where he got it. When he showed her, she found that the jar contained arsenic, used by Dad on occasion for the animals. Mother dissolved some of her home-made soap in lukewarm water and made him swallow it. She then hitched up the team and drove four miles to the doctor in Westcott. After the doctor examined Howard, he said she had saved his life by giving him the emetic promptly.
Mother had a garden in an abandoned corral which was reached by steps cut into the earth, as the bottom of the corral was some 20 feet below the level on which the house stood. The garden was several hundred feet distant from the house.
In 1988 my sister, Marion, was born in the sod house. One day, when Marion was still quite small, I was looking after her not far from the house when a bull snake (not poisonous) crawled to within a few feet of her. I ran to the top of the garden steps and called Mother who came and killed the snake, which measured about five feet in length.
Dads brother, Percy, then about 18, came to visit us and stayed with us for several weeks. He loved to hunt. One November day when he was hunting for jackrabbits several miles from our house, it began to snow so heavily that he had to find shelter in a strawstack. The storm turned into a blizzard which raged all night. Luckily for him, the temperature did not drop much below freezing so, when the blizzard had blown itself out next morning, he found his way back to our house. Many a man in a similar predicament had frozen to death because of a severe drop in temperature.
We had two dogs in Nebraskaa mastiff named Major and a small pug dog named Beppo. Major was a one-man dog and would not permit a stranger to come near the house.
One of our neighbors, an Englishman named Emanuel Smith, was coarse and brutal. He had advertised in England for a wife. When her ship arrived in New York, Mr. Smith met her and brought her to his homestead. Mother said the woman was a half-wit, but harmless. Her husband was accustomed to hitching her with a horse to his plow and beat her when she displeased him.
Another of our neighbors, Mr. Hemming, had several boys. It was his custom to hitch his team to a rough wagon, take the boys along, and scout the area for fence posts or other loose pieces of wood on his neighbors land, which he might use for firewood. Timber was one of the scarcest articles on the prairies.
Major, very early, began to detest Smith and Hemming, and they dared not come near the house until Dad had tied him.
Mr. Walter Henderson, who lived one-half mile from us, was a fine neighbor and proved himself a real friend. There were many things to be learned about the prairie if one wished to stay alive and healthy.
After living in Nebraska five years, as we were about to leave, Dad gave the dogs to Mr. Henderson. Beppo became attached to his new home, but Major ran away repeatedly and would lie at our door where he finally died of grief and starvation.
When Dad would be working away from home, the entire responsibility of the family and
homestead devolved upon Mother. In addition, the mournful windswhich in some months
blew constantlyadded to the feeling of lonesomeness. After five years in Custer
County, Mother decided that she had had enough of frontier life. The family returned to
Note: Oldest son Howard Malcolm Harlan died at the age of 11 of
Other children of Charles Wesley Harlan and Mary Elizabeth Haller Harlan: Marion Blair, Ralph Kenneth (died at age 18 months of scarlet fever), Harold Lester, Ruth Mildred and Kenneth Nelson.
"My dad's grandfather married my mother's grandmother, and both were Harlans!" This sounds like the beginning of a riddle, but it is a true story. Dorothy Harlan Wear has Harlan ancestors on both sides of her family.
Reuben Harlan's (#2729) first marriage and family are documented in Alpheus Harlan's genealogy book. But not in the book is Reuben's second marriage to Cynthia Darnell. They had two children: Reuben Smith Harlan and Mattie Harlan. Reuben is Dorothy's great-grandfather on her father's side, and Mattie is her great-grandmother on her mother's side. Dorothy says it took almost twenty years to confirm the stories of how her mom and dad are distantly related.
Dorothy and her three sisters were born and grew up in Los Angeles County, California, but her parents were born in Louisville, Kentucky. Dorothy now lives in Washougal, Washington.
Perhaps Dorothy's double-dose of common Quaker ancestry is one reason she is currently involved with a caring volunteer organizationAmerica Vista. It is a federal program that is sponsored by various groups in the United States such as the Red Cross and Kiwanis. Dorothy's volunteer service is supported by the City of Vancouver's (WA) Retired and Senior Volunteer Program. Volunteers receive stipend wages and agree to serve one or two years.
Dorothy's involvement includes enlisting senior volunteers to tutor students who read below grade level in kindergarten through third grade. She now has over 70 tutors from the senior community who work in 18 different schools. Dorothy spends 40 to 60 hours a week in a well-equiped office keeping track of hours, placements, test scores, recognitions, purchases and press releases. Other avenues for Vista volunteer service include day care centers, homeless shelters, medical centers for the homeless and low-income people, and parks.
If there are other Vista volunteers who would like to contact Dorothy, you can e-mail her at DWear28921@aol.com.
Harlan First to Fly Historic Atom Plane
It was a bright June afternoon when test pilot Lee Harlan walked out across the Offutt Field runway at Omaha toward the big aerial monster he was about to put through its paces. Harlan noticed two things about this particular B-29 that were different from the other B-29s he had test flown.
The four propellers, powered by giant Wright engines, had reverse pitch. This would permit a pilot to land the plane safely with an unexploded bomb, even if the brakes were burned out. He noticed, too, that there was something remarkably different about the bomb bay.
Harlan jotted down the aircrafts number 86292a number that would live forever in history. He climbed into the big plane, made his way to the cockpit, turned several switches and studied a maze of dials intently. A man with a fire extinguisher stood by as he revved up the engines and taxied to the apron. You may take off now! You are cleared to take off, from the tower.
The big Wrights roared to crescendo. The colossal plane trembled from nose to tail fin. She eased forward at first, then faster and faster. Harlan pulled the wheel gently toward him. Offutt runways fell away and Lee Harlan became the first man to fly the Enola Gay.
That was June 11, 1945. Two month later Harlan learned that the plane he had tested, dropped a bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, and opened the nuclear age. This bomb and the one dropped three days later on Nagasaki by Enola Gays sister B-29, had ended World War II many months earlier than Allied leaders had anticipated and without the loss of many thousands of American lives which an invasion of Japan would have cost.
In Harlans black-bound pilots log book, itself a legal document, the test flight of 86292, the Enola Gay, is duly recorded. In the page margin is a penned notationatom bomb, Hiroshima, Japan, 8-6-45.
Harlan began flying in 1927the year Lindberg crossed the Atlantic Ocean solo in the Spirit of St. Louis. He did much of his flying around Amarillo, Texas, and in Missouri and Oklahoma. We didnt have airfields in those days, he remembers. We landed in cow pastures.
Harlan got his pilots license in 1940. For a time he was a civilian flight instructor for the Army giving pre-glider instruction. Flight experience which won him his license all was prior to his army service. He went to work for the Glenn L. Martin Company in April of 1943 as a test pilot. The first plane he tested was the old B-26, sometimes known as the Widow Maker or the Flying Coffin. The B-26 was a hot ship with a high landing take-off speed, as compared to aircraft of its day. Harlan took the bombers off the assembly line for their initial flights to iron the bugs out before they were turned over to the armed forces.
How did he feel about the atom bombing of Hiroshima? I just wish it could have fallen on the heads of war mongers who started the war instead of on innocent people at Hiroshima, he commented.
Note: Lee Harlan closed out his test pilot log book October 1, 1945, but never quit
flying. He went on to become an Allis Chalmers tractor dealer, car dealer, crop duster and
ambulance plane pilot, retiring in Clarinda, Iowa. He was born in 1905 north of Salisbury,
MO; died 1990 in Iowa.
My son, Mark Harlan, is currently involved in a personal adventure that has a human interest story connected. Mark is part of The GTE Big Ride Across America, a group bicycle ride from Seattle, Washington, to Washington, D.C. With a starting group of approximately 1,000 riders, it is billed as the largest cross-country cycling event in history. The purpose is to benefit the American Lung Association, and participants had to raise a minimum of $6,000 in cash and pledges to be eligible to join the group.
Much to my surprise, Mark, never a serious rider and hardly a rider at all for the last several years, raised $9,100 in pledges quickly, bought a new specialized bicycle and showed up in Seattle registered and ready to go. This, mind you, was all done on little more than a whim--an expanded impulse. The starting date was June 15. They are slated to arrive in Washington, D. C. August 1, 1998. That will be Mark's 38th birthday. This is going to test his mettle, his legs, his wind and his resolve.
And he rides with a man who may be dying. The American Lung Association connection with this ride makes it possible for a cyclist to select an imaginary "buddy" for the undertaking--a sort of "honorary rider". The designated person must be someone whose life has been profoundly altered by a lung disease. Mark has chosen Joe Loft of Clarence, Missouri, for his "buddy".
Clarence is a town of about 1,000 in rural northeastern Missouri. My father, Dr. D. L. Harlan (Delly Lee in the Cousins List) was the local doctor there for many years, and that is where I was born and raised. Joe Loft and I were the closest of friends in high school. My father was Joe's doctor for years, and I remember when he removed Joe's appendix. Country doctors did that sort of thing, you know.
My father is long since dead and although Joe and I never totally lost touch, I moved away years ago, and our lives diverged. But this past May I was informed that Joe had a malignant growth in his chest; his condition was deemed terminal, and he had been given three weeks to live. Appalled, I rushed back for one last visit.
My son, Mark, upon learning all of this and already in the process of enrolling for the ride, opted to choose Joe as his "ride buddy". I will always admire Mark for that choice because, although he met Joe once long ago, he doesn't really know him. He does know my feelings in the matter, however, and acted accordingly, totally unknown to me.
Well, it turns out that Joe is still alive, having already outlived the early predictions. He still seems relatively strong. We have supplied Joe and his family with a US map that has Mark's proposed route marked on it. They have mounted it on a wall and are charting his progress. Mark sends periodic updates on the trip, his "Roadkill Gazette", and we pass those on to Joe.
The local paper ran a piece on this "partnership ride". Mark's ride now has its own website. It is http://www.spies.com/roadkill/. The whole affair has stimulated Joe. He waits for reports as to where the riders are and takes strong interest in watching their trail extend across the map.
As I write this Mark is approaching Billings, Montana. He has crossed Washington, Idaho and a good bit of Montana. He has taken a few lumps, and he hurts something fierce at times, but he's still there. Every day he stays increases the odds of his making it all the way to the East Coast. Riding for Joe is a definite factor in keeping him going. What started as an lark has turned into a mission.
To some extent Joe and Mark seem to be getting strength from each other. When this business started, we were hoping Joe could stick around for the start of the ride on June 15 and hoped Mark could make two or three full days. Then we aimed for a state border or two. Now we're pulling for them both to be around for the finish on August 1.
After that? Who knows? Nobody's giving up. Keep pumping, both of you.
Post script from Mark's father:
Mark had made it. Seven pounds lighter, and somewhat weatherbeaten, he had ridden a bicycle all the way across the United States.
And Joe had made it. Joe, the "condemned man", who wasn't supposed to last until the ride started, was around for the finish. He seems to be stronger than he was in June, and plans are being made to bring him from the hospital. For the entire trip Mark wore a dogtag with both his and Joe's name on it. It has been sent to Joe. We all think of it as a momento to each of them toughing it out in his own way.
None of us is trying to claim any curative powers for a bicycle ride with an imaginary
companion. But we're not knocking it, either.
also read more about Mark on the Who's Who page.
The first story in Spike Walkers book, Nights of Ice, contains a riveting account of a near disaster involving Joe Harlan, captain of the fifty-three-foot crab boat Tidings, and his crew of three in icy waters near Kodiak Island, Alaska. Because of dangerous chill-factor temperatures and heavy ice formations, the skipper and crew decided to end their crabbing season and head for port.
But at Narrow Cape, some bad tide rips caused heavy icing of the entire ship. The crew was rousted from their bunks and as they began to break up the ice, the Tidings began to list to the port side. Water entered the engine room. Joe was able to yell Mayday! into the CB mike just before the Tidings sank, trapping him inside the wheelhouse. The suddenness of the ships icing and sinking caught the crew without their survival suits, and they were plunged into the cruel arctic waters.
Youll need to read Spike Walkers story to learn how Joe amazingly escaped from an icy grave to join his suffering crew as they were frantically treading water. Just minutes from death, the weak and hypothermic men were miraculously rescued. It has the impact of the Titanic story, only on a smaller scale and with a happier ending!
Nights of Ice was published in 1997 by St. Martins Press, New York.
Joe Harlan, a commercial fisherman, was born in Flint, Michigan, and was 32 years old at the time of this story. His family originated in Harlan County, KY, and Joe has lived in Missouri, Iowa, Michigan, California and Montana, as well as 18 years in Alaska. He is married to Mary Ellen Nugent whom he met in Alaska when he hired her as one of his fishing crew. Ironically, Joe and Mary Ellen grew up two miles apart in Michigan but never met. They have one daughter, Chelsea, who goes out with Joe in the summer during salmon season.
The numbers in parentheses are from Alpheus Harlan's "History & Genealogy of the Harlan Family".
December 1, 1845: Arrived at Lexington, Missouri and spent the winter. Here Sarah Harlan ( niece to George and daughter of Samuel ) married her cousin George W. Harlan ( nephew to George and son of William )
Spring 1846: Peter Wimmer ( brother-in-law to George Harlan Wagon Master ) joined the wagon train with his new wife ( he had been widowed ) Elizabeth Jane Cloud.
Independence, Missouri: The wagon train went there to join 500 other wagons in the spring of 1846.
April 6, 1846: The wagons started out. The Ex-Governor Boggs of Missouri was the leader. The Donner Party was also a part of this train.
Fort Laramie, Wyoming: It was here that Langsford Hastings ( a guide ) persuaded 3 groups of the big train to go to Fort Bridger, Wyoming, and take a short cut that would save them 300 miles.
July 23, 1846: Fort Bridger, Wyoming. Harlan-Young party left for cutoff, ahead of Donner Party
July 31, 1846: Donner Party left for cutoff. The Bryant Party had left before both of the others.
Weber Canyon, Utah: Upon reaching the cutoff Bryant sent back a note urging all who followed to avoid this route. Neither the Harlan-Young nor the Donner Parties received this note.
When the Harlan-Young train reached the head of Weber Canyon in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah they "ran into a stone wall". The going was extremely difficult and at some points the shoulders thrusting into the gorge were so steep the wagons had to be lifted over by windlass and rope.
Hastings left a note at the entrance of the canyon to urge the Donner Party not to follow but to ride ahead and find a better route.
Reed upon reading the note, rode to find a new route and waiting for him cost the Donner Party more time.
Salt Lake Valley: When the Harlan-Young Party finally made it through the Wasatch Mountains they then had to cross the desert. They went 90 miles with no water. John Hargrave died on this part of the journey. William Fowler lost 7 yoke of oxen, and most of the livestock on the train perished from lack of water. Two years later the Mormons from Illinois followed this route to Salt Lake. The Harlan-Young wagon train was the first to cross that desert. They left all the wagons but three and hitched all the oxen to these. They found water in another 20 miles then went back for the other wagons.
Humbolt River: Upon reaching this point George Harlan sent Jacob Wright Harlan and Tom Smith ahead to Sutter's Fort for food and fresh animals.
Jacob and two Indians returned with provisions and met the train on the Truckee River. Tom Smith had joined Fremont's Army.
October 25, 1846: The Harlan-Young Party reached Johnson's Rancho near Sacramento. They arrived several weeks behind the Boggs Party, but they were the last train to cross the Sierras that winter.
The Donner Party: They had been delayed at the Wasatch Mountains in Utah and when they attempted to cross the Sierra Mountains, they were caught in the snow and were forced to spend the winter in the mountains.
Destination Mission Santa Clara: The Harlan Party sent their women and children by boat down the Sacramento River to Alviso and the men took the wagons by land. The boat trip was very rough as a storm blew up. They reached Yerba Buena, as San Francisco was called then, and went ashore. Later they went back to the boat and continued to Alviso. It took nine days to make the boat trip. The woman spent one night in Alviso then went on to the Mission Santa Clara the next day. In a few days the men arrived with the wagons.
December 1846: Two weeks after arriving at Mission Santa Clara John Van Gordon ( husband of Mary Harlan ) and Elizabeth Duncan Harlan ( wife of George Harlan the Wagon Master ) died of Typhoid Fever.
Jacob Wright Harlan enlists in the army under Fremont. He remained in until April 1847.
Spring 1847: George Harlan moved to Mission San Jose with his widowed daughter, Mary Van Gordon, and his mother-in-law, Mrs. Duncan. There he started a dairy with the cows that survived the trek to California.
August 1, 1847: George Harlan ( wagon master ) married Catherine Fowler Hargrave and moved to Napa Valley.
1847: Captain Henry C. Smith married Mary Ann Harlan Van Gordon and moved to the Oakland Hills where Henry was whip-sawing lumber in the Redwoods. Mrs. Duncan also went with them. Henry C. Smith had been recruited into the Army in Ohio in 1845 and had crossed the plains on horseback with a pack train.
Jacob Wright Harlan, George W. Harlan and George Harlan ( wagon master ) were also in the Oakland Hills cutting redwood shingles and fence posts for the village of Yerba Buena ( soon to be called San Francisco )
George W. Harlan and his wife Sarah opened a hotel, The Fremont, in the wilds of Santa Clara.
Jacob and Joel Harlan then went to San Francisco where they operated a livery stable until 1848.
March 1848: Jacob Wright Harlan and Joel Harlan opened a General Store in Coloma. Gold was struck there that spring so the brothers made a lot of money selling supplies to the miners.
April 1848: Julia Smith was born to Mary and Henry Smith in Oakland.
Summer 1848: Smiths move to Coloma to mine for gold.
August 1848: George and Catherine Harlan also moved to Coloma for the gold.
Winter 1848: Smiths moved to San Francisco with $8,000 that they had mined during the summer.
April 2, 1849: Joel Harlan married Minerva Jane Fowler in Sonoma.
1849: Mrs. Duncan, mother-in-law of George Harlan the wagon master, died at 93 years old. She had come across by wagon train two years before.
1849: Henry C. Smith was named First Justice of the Peace at Mission San Jose.
1849: Nancy Harlan, daughter of George Harlan, married Lucien Huff.
1849: Jacob and Joel sold the General Store in Coloma to Langsford Hastings (the guide ) and the brothers went gold mining but returned to San Francisco to dairy with George Harlan, wagon master. They were getting $4.00 a gallon for milk.
1849: Jacob Wright Harlan sold a " Worthless " lot on Bush Street in San Francisco, so called because it was simply sand hills and greasewood bushes, to Dr. Coit and two partners for $2500.00. Known as Coit Towers today.
February 9, 1850: Emma Smith was born to Mary and Henry Smith at Mission San Jose.
May 1850: Nancy Huff had a daughter, Dena Huff, at Mission San Jose.
Summer of 1850: George Harlan, wagon master, died of typhoid fever at the Mission San Jose. He was 48 years old.
1850: Elisha Harlan, son of George Harlan, wagon master, went to live with his brother Joel Harlan in San Francisco.
1850-1852: Jacob and Joel Harlan and their families farmed potatoes at the mouth of San Lorenzo Creek.
1851: Henry Smith went by way of the Isthmus of Panama to New York and on to St. Joseph, Missouri, to see his family.
1852: Jacob Wright Harlan and William J. Harlan also went to New York via the Isthmus of Panama. Jacob went on to Indiana to his family. William Fowler went to Iowa.
1852: Joel and Minerva Harlan moved to a 1,000 acre ranch Joel bought in the Amador Valley. Elisha Harlan, brother of Joel, also went with them.
1852: Henry C. Smith was elected to the California State Legislature from Santa Clara county. The state capital was at that time in Benicia. He introduced the bill creating Alameda County.
1853: Smiths moved to Alvarado, California.
1853: Jacob W. Harlan is in Indiana where he and his brother George and cousin
William buy 306 head of cattle and horses and set off for California. They again take the Weber Canyon cutoff and arrive in California with 189 head of livestock.
1853: Jacob then ran the Slocum's Ferry near Stockton and raised livestock in many places in California. He eventually ended up in an Old Soldiers Home, destitute except for his Army Pension.
1855: Henry Smith was elected one of the first Supervisors of Alameda County.
1856: Joel Harlan and his family moved to the Norris Tract in Danville where Joel added 800 more acres to his ranch. He also built a two-story house called " El Nido " that still remains with his descendants today, being Mrs. Al Geldermann. The house is a museum in Danville.
1856: Nancy Harlan Huff died.
May 7, 1858: William J Harlan and Nancy Randall marry in Iowa.
1860: Elisha Harlan left his brother Joel's ranch in San Ramon and went to Fresno County where he spent nine years buying and selling livestock near Kingston.
1861: Smiths moved to Nevada where they operated hotels.
They arrived in San Lorenzo in late 1863.
1868: Smiths purchase a farm of 160 acres in Livermore.
1869: Elisha Harlan homesteads 160 acres 25 miles south of Fresno. He added by purchase until he owned 700 acres.
September 14, 1871: Elisha Harlan married Lucy Hobaugh. Lucy Hobaugh was Riverdale's first Postmistress. The ranch still remains in the family, and a grandson, John Jerome Harlan, Jr., lives there.
Additions and corrections are welcome. Please send to Ruth Harlan Lamb
Some additional notes from Steve Harrison, son of a Harlan, who has been researching the Harlan family for over 30 years .
1. "Summer of 1850: George Harlan..died of typhoid fever..."
2. "1856: Nancy Harlan Huff died"
3. "September 14, 1871: Elisha Harlan... The ranch still remains in the family,
and a grandson, John Jerome Harlan, Jr. lives there."
4. There is a note at the end about the books by Katherine Grey. For clarification, it should be stated that her books are works of fiction, probably geared toward young adult readers. They are both out of print.
Submitted by Craig Harlan Hullinger, grandson
We made the second land venture in 1938 by buying the west half of Section 25 105-79
for $1650, where we lived before moving to town, and we were renting more and found more
and more work to do.
During the war years, help was hard to find, and the soldiers had no days off, so we
worked some Sundays. Margaret and Ellis mowed hay, as did Ellis and Jack. And then there
were always the cows to milk, from 10 to 20, and calves to feed, and all the kids did that
as long as we kept it up; Clifford and Maribee first, and then Margaret and Ellis, when
they were big enough. Jack got some of it, too, but we stopped milking cows about then,
when the war was on. So "the three little girls," Carolyn , Doris and Virginia
escaped most of that but did whatever there was to do. And then, all at once, they were
gone and scattered everywhere. But they still "come home" in letters and in
person and they don't forget us.
Note: Craig Hullinger, grandson of Pearl and John and who submitted "Memories and Milestones, relates that his Grandmother Pearl remembers that her father got the letter from Mr. Harlan (Alpheus H. Harlan) asking for his input to the Harlan book, but he refused, thinking it was some kind of a scam.
One rare day came a deluxe letter from our Uncle James Harlan. This story-book brother of Mothers, and Fathers heart-friend, who had written me since I was six or seven of his rich life wrought out of the Indiana pioneer conditions, had been my constant inspiration. We had not heard from him since his commencement gift and felicitation, but we always realized his countless interests. Consequently, the surprising announcement that he was coming to make one of his infrequent visits was all the more delightful. Moreover, he was also bringing with him his granddaughter, the first of the three children of his daughter Mary and Robert Todd Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln's only surviving son. Uncle James had been the close friend and Secretary of the Interior to the Civil War president. This connecting link had been a source of pride in our individual house of Snow and we continued to be very proud and happy in his Congressional record and his present position as senior judge in the Court of Alabama Claims. He referred to young Mary Lincoln most attractively as a good armful of lively girlhood, and he hoped we would like her. Really to know this special Mary, named for her mother and her grandmother Harlan, was going to be very much more than just liking her.
We were so glad of the short notice, because we should have less time to wait. There
was plenty of time for our method of preparing for guests, and should we not become a part
of their lives as they entered into ours?
Mary was a good deal like him, Mother thought, doubtless a bit jealous for the Harlan strain. She was one of the people who never waste time in getting acquainted, having intuition as well as breeding. She was a well-grown, substantial girl of fifteen, medium brunette in complexion, with abundant hair in two braids wound about her shapely head. Her eyes were either brown or violet according to the light. She had a generous mouth, a lovely chin and throat, and a sensitive nose. Her hands apparently were ready for whatever might come, and withal she possessed the appeal of a simply nurtured fortunate child on the brink of a womanhood already surprisingly expressive.
Speaking of Abraham Lincoln one day and what it meant to be the progeny of such unique lineage, she said, Yes, but it means so much to live with Grandfather Harlan. And once she told her Great-aunt Lydia how glad she would always be to think of her along with her mothers mother whom she had known as Aunt Eliza Harlan, very much Mothers type, as shown by her pictures. She did not speak of her Grandmother Lincoln, and I wonder now what the childs idea was of that inexplicable Mary Todd whom so many writers of the advancing years have sought to reconstruct and explain as the wife and widow of the Great Emancipator.
One evening midway in the great visit, Father and Uncle Harlan announced, with special smiles Motherwards, that it had been decided I should go home with Uncle Harlan and stay with him at least until New Years, if I cared to. Would I care to enter through the pearly gates and walk on streets of gold! It took my breath completely, and when it came back I said, But what about my graduate work next year? clinging to the cherished plan, and of course thinking of its larger expense; and what about helping you with your business?
I am so good and strong now, he replied, I can get along very well. You know some of the worst bothers are wound up. Your Eastern college can afford to wait for a chance like this, and James seems to need you in his lonely house. Pretty hard lines ever since your Aunt Eliza went. Mother happily nodded her consent. Mary clapped her hands, and Emily had evidently known about the miracle, thus following betterin her lip-reading skill, even though Father and Uncle usually were a bit difficult to follow, like all mustached and bearded men. When Uncle had his say, outlining what I could do for him while having the time of my young life, I could only fall upon everybodys breast, metaphorically speaking, fairly drowned in delight.
The winged hours put on extra speed. Mary, whose clothes were naturally very right in every way, declared that my wardrobe was all-sufficient, since now one could buy such very good things. Surely knowing how when the time comes, never fear, she said. A consultation with the Learned girls and their mother, remaining members of one of our first families who had spent the previous winter in Washington as guests of the family of the well-known artist, Elihu Vedder, gave me additional confidence. Also I should carry a letter to those relatives, and what a great, thing it would be to find a friendly teacher, O, just perhaps! in such a painter. My trunk and suitcase were fully fit, having been bought for my entry to Baker [Baker University, Baldwin City, KS] only three years before on special order through our J. Bishop's Emporium. Almost before we knew it we were on our way. Looking back, it seems almost incredible that moderately well-to-do people like us travelled so very little, now that no one is too poor for wheels and wings. I had not been farther away from home than Kansas City, where I had visited in the last Easter vacation the new home of my former village teacher, whose young and lovely wife also taught me many things not found in any books. But now had come this real journey, an astonishing dream of the impossible coming true.
Uncle and I were to stop for a week in his Mount Pleasant home, first slipping over to Chicago for a bit of his Court concerns, to use his own phrase, and to show Mary the city in my companionship. Her father was attorney for the Pullman Company, and her home was in the suburbs, but this would be something special for her as well as for me. How we did respond to his understanding! What magic there was in the enormous buildings and the limitless life and color of the crowded streets. How beautiful the Lake with its many kinds of shipping, only a little less wonderful than the ocean must be. There were the enchanting parks, miles of residence streets, and, best of all, the Art Institute bringing the wealth of nature and its human nature into the spacious rooms. There was one surpassing Shakespearean play in a tremendous theater, then, at the last, the cyclorama of the Battle of Gettysburg in its triumph of realism. One gained an impression in walking around the reproduction, as he would have done in the actual locality, that no cinema ever gives one.
The town of Mount Pleasant, Iowa, disposed upon its chosen tract of rolling land, was much like Lawrence, Kansas, in my impression, though its Mount had not the elevation of our Oread, and the one square stone college building was larger than Science Hall at Baker and not so ambitious as Fraser Hall of Kansas University. The Harlan home had a distinctive place on the broad streets with their splendid arching trees. It was considerably larger than I had thought, with wide porches on the three sides of its ell-front. There were two parlors, front and back, a wide hall and a big, alluring library. A generous dining room, with a butlers pantry, breakfast room and kitchen, finished the first floor, except for my uncles bedroom adjoining the library. The upper storey I thought especially charming with its roomy chambers and many windows for gazing far away. Mrs. Robert Lincoln loved to spend the summer here. So very restful she said, and so good for the children growing up.
This phrasing seemed to cover many essentials. She had been very gracious in her welcome, and the two other children complemented my feeling for Mary most delightfully. Jessie of the golden hair and hazel eyes was an engaging little sprite of twelve, who became your Mrs. Randolph. Jack, affectionate nickname for Abraham, the one son, was nine or ten. He has been treasured in my memory as one perhaps too choice and beautiful to bear the burden of an earthly career. With just a touch of malaria, everybody said who had any place in and about the house. Yet all had a persistent concern which Jack himself quite unconsciously dismissed as he read or talked, played his indoor games, or drove with Mary out into the painted fall in the pony-cart. It was during Robert Lincolns United States Ministry to Great Britain, just a few years afterwards that this Abraham Lincoln, the second, passed on, no earthly skill being able longer to preserve the signal name that might have exerted a double power in our present crises.
The accustomed life went on in the old Harlan home as any good home proceeds through such hopes and fears. Uncle Harlan was closely occupied with a case that would come before him soon after his return to Washington, though there were splendid moments for me and the other children. One day he took plenty of time to show me over the Wesleyan College that was so much a part of him, and to listen to all my comparisons with Baker. The two girls did all sorts of nice things for me and made me lonesome for the younger sisters that I might have had. There was always the great library. Books and books, and still more books, ready to satisfy ones hunger through the longest life, with the many symbolic baskets left over. The special tiers of mighty law books on one side had been the collection of Uncle's only son, who had not lived really to enter upon his profession. It was in this place one day that I discovered Robert Todd Lincoln searching for one of those same law volumes. I knew him at once, for we had all looked forward to his coming over the weekend; and I liked him immediately. It meant much to me that he said, And this is our little Kansas cousin, with an extra smile as I made myself still taller than I was. In our slight opportunity for acquaintance during his short stay, his appearance and manner and evident character impressed me more and more, measured with my notion of what such a man should be. One could well believe that he had wrought out his gift of individual life with no undue regard to parental attainment, and was happy in his success.
Cousin Mary had spoken of her special need of him in voicing her regret when I first came that she should be so unusually busy that she could do so little to entertain me. Entertain! when there was such a world of vital thought in everything about, and I had my eyes to see. Just to look at her was perhaps the best delight of all. Her fathers own child, she had a certain gift of Southern grace which I knew so well in so many novels, and which those same masterpieces would have credited to her Kentucky mother, the Eliza Peck who, like my own mother, had attended the Greencastle, Indiana, Ladies Seminary when our James Harlan was a student in the celebrated College. She wore very well the French princess house-dresses in which I usually saw her. It was evident that she was heavily burdened in the immense work of going through the sixty-odd trunks that her mother-in-law, Mary Todd Lincoln, had left when she passed on. When I ventured a bit of my admiration, she said very simply that this was her task. She would accomplish it like the Harlan she was and the Lincoln she had become.
Another time when a quick spark flashed between us, she took me into the big room upstairs that had been dismantled to accommodate these multiple possessions that this conscientious daughter-in-law said only indicated a kind of collectors mania that might have been immensely more attractive. This Grandmother Lincoln had bought lot after lot of childrens clothing, dresses and coats, hats and shoes, and all sorts of trinkets that might be nice for Mary or Jessie or Jack, or maybe for the children of friends or servants. Then they were packed away to be ready when the time came and were forgotten. And here am I, said my Cousin Mary, deciding what to do with this unconscionable accumulation. Many of the woolen things were sprinkled with red pepper to keep the moths out. Its mighty lucky I could have this room with so many windows. I felt mighty lucky that I knew enough to appreciate the splendid way she carried on, and said so, and it seemed to relieve the tension a little bit.
There were long trestle tables filling all the space left by a number of trunks still against the walls, and the worst of the work was apparently over. Piles of the various articles were checked with cards indicating families in different places and institutions in the town and state that would receive them, for this present Mrs. Lincoln would not have them wasted. What a strong generous lady she has always been in my memory of her, a modern Saint Elizabeth loaf-giver spelled in terms of clothing. At another propitious moment she showed me in her own room some of the lovely gowns worn upon state occasions by the Civil War First Lady, speaking of this or that which Mary and Jessie would treasure. What would I not give now in these Lawrence years if I might have had just one of them to put in our Spooner-Thayer Art Museum beside the white lace shawl worn by one of our Lawrence ladies at the second Lincoln inauguration ball!
Knowing the Robert Lincolns, even in so slight a way, has etched its own lines upon my life and thought. On leaving Mount Pleasant, I could feel a certain reality in the great beckoning before me that was impossible before. Crossing the Father of Waters was a kind of Rubicon that kept me from ever being the same again, while it assured me of boundless future privilege. The autumn loveliness that unrolled towards my first mountains was filled with the light that never was on sea or land. When we came to our journeys end I wondered why everybody in the crowded station did not stop and look at me. I felt somehow transfigured inside, so elevated in my outward circumstance.
The house where I lived through this period was out on O Street near Logan Circle, with its equestrian statue so much like the statues in all the other circles that I was glad they all had their names on the bases. But this one was friendly and hospitable. I came to know the other personalities, too. City homes all look alike until one gets acquainted. Uncles residence was a vitrified brick duplex with identical iron steps and railings, his part the northern exposure, which at first I regretted; but a bit later I was very grateful that the light in my room was so fine for painting. It had been Aunt Elizas room, and everything in it was a delight to my soul. The connection with Uncles bedroom and study kept me from thinking about the empty third floor, occupied, Annie the housekeeper said, only when the Lincolns came, or sometimes other guests.
The stairways, halls and first-floor rooms were like pictures of Southern homes. On the first floor there was a drawing-room instead of the Western parlor, and the back parlor with books and open fire like a library. The dining-room would have been very much too big for just us two had it not been so nice and comfy when the lovely mahogany table was pushed small and round. Annie and her husband, Richard Westfall, real quality mulattoes, pampered me beyond all reason, and liberally educated me out of their thirty or forty years service in Washington aristocracy. They kept the house with exquisite care, cooked and served perfect meals, and Richard was always ready for any valet duties, or any errands, including the marketing. This last became my nominal duty in the household. Carry on your business ability, Uncle said, and it made me feel very grand with Richard walking at a proper distance behind me, the capacious basket on his arm.
Sometimes the table was extended for an informal dinner. The servant-verdict as to me had been an immediate reaction, Jes ah nachewal-bohn, and it pleased both Uncle and me as my growth in grace ensued. Everybody was so nice to me constantly. There were two special women, either one or the other usually among the guests, who really belonged in what I was and hoped to be. Helen Ormsby was a middle-aged widow who lived near by, using her comfortable means in many cultural interests. She it was who took me to hear the masterly Canon Farrar on Robert Browning, so enhancing the interest I already had in this poet's poet that I bought next day the leading book of selections from his immortal worksand I cherish it to this day for a communion which my complete Browning volumes do not quite supply. Mrs. Ormsby might have been a poet herself, she lived her life in such a beautiful, practical way. But the second ladys influence was more distinctly artistic, for Charlotte Vickroy was a portrait painter who seemed to be a veritable darling of the gods. It seems almost incredible that anyone could be so richly endowed and so fortunate in birth and breeding, distinguished attainment, and a wealthy husband. She did not think so highly of her landscapes, but when she proposed that painting alone under her frequent criticism would be quite the best thing for me, everything in me seized upon the marvelous chance. There would surely be enough leisure in spite of all the going about to see what I should see. Surely no one in all the world could be more generous.
Another element, equally wonderful, soon came into the shining pattern these months designed for me. Lucian F. Turner, brother of my sister Annes husband, Dr. Eugene Turner, physician and surgeon of the post at Fort Benton, Montana, returned to the Smithsonian Institution to complete the work he had been doing in Labrador, collecting typical birds of the Far North. Declaring on his first call that he was very lonely without his family, he then and there gave me the freedom of his own quarters and the whole fascinating place. He had his own time and could usually meet mine when I sent a little note a bit ahead. How strange it seems to have lived in a period when there were no telephones! A most agreeable and brotherly man, his professional skill was highlighted in so many ways that it would have been a great misfortune to have missed knowing him.
During the lingering autumn weather, something akin to mid-western Indian summer, came the memorable trips to Mount Vernon, and later to Alexandria, Mrs. Vickroys old home town, a fact which made her presence in the party invaluable. There was a leisurely blue-misted day at Arlington, in a most interesting company, and then when the glory of the leaves had almost left the lovely trees along the picturesque Rock Creek, we had a delightful picnic that made me a bit homesick for my river woods in Kansas. But how every new delight suggested more beyond!
Even the daily routine fascinated me. Uncle, of course, was gone all day after our rather early breakfast. Then came the regular looking well to the ways of our household, with my two superior assistants. De Jedge and his plans and comforts were our chief concern, together with going to market nearly every day, and sometimes preparing some old-time family dish. My painting could not be neglected, and part of the time there was the kindred joy one finds in sewing. It was great fun to rent a machine and make a rather elaborate silk dress for myself and surprise my two dear women mentors. I saved the price of a new winter coat by creating for my rather passe garment a new trim of the elegant fur cloth, then a great leader in current styles. A big, gorgeous muff was the climax. In the evenings at home we read aloud if Uncle wished; or, if there was some compelling book for me, I read it under the gaslight at the head of my bed. When we were together, in the mellow study or over our meals, or on the walks we took to church Sunday morning, or elsewhere in the afternoon, or at any odd moments, Uncle told me for my book of remembrance, innumerable details of his life and work. Also, what surpassing patience he had with my endless questions about the splendid Washington I was coming little by little to think a mortal mind might know. And he really liked my points of view.
Surely never a girl of my capacity and background had ever had the freedom and the confidence that were so large a part of Uncles incomparable gift to me. If you doubt, dont, was his one admonition. Should I not learn for myself how vast is the concern of living? We both kept well, and things seemed well at home. I wished now and then that Father would write saying I might stay on as long as Uncle was satisfied, but as December counted the days it seemed that his at least till New Years meant just that limit. I had been such a very good child, wasting no time nor energy, and why could I not learn more and more of this marvelous city? Why could I not go on to Philadelphia and New York and Boston? One needed the values of comparison, and there were the Atlantic Ocean, London, Paris, Rome, Africa, Asia, and the islands of the sea. I might never be so far on my way again. In actual fact I never have been. Short trips to the Columbian Exposition and the Louisiana Purchase Fair, some acquaintance with California, the Pacific Sea, and the enchanted Inland Passage as far up as Sitka with its Capri-blue bay and old Russian church, have given me the big variations from my rocking-chair journeys.
As I look back, the Washington experience just at this period of my adventures in living has always been an immense compensation. Also, looking back, I realize that I was much more interested in the fascinating people who poured out their treasure for me than I was in the astonishing buildings and the whole illimitable Capitol plan. One responded to the tremendous creative genius in it, although quite unable to explain it. The city was pattern like certain Kansas blueprints. We laid out our towns in very similar fashion. Here was like pictures and statues with all sorts of transcendent design, and with the great spaces in the historic Potomac, and this was the capital of the whole United States, a city of cities indeed, taking to itself more and more strength and beauty. So now, trying for the whole effect upon my subconsciousness, I can only throw such a picture upon my present silver screen.
I was always fond of high places, having almost broken my neck on one or two ambitious occasions. Very early in my stay I had climbed to the dome of the Capitol, with the city, the White House, and far beyond, spread out before me as a living map rightly centered with the sweep of the avenue leading to the White House and out and away. We should have been invited there to some special dinner, said Uncle Harlan, rather wistfully, were it not for this Democratic incumbent. I replied a bit arrogantly out of my Republican blood, Id rather be a doorkeeper in our party than any Democratic president or his wife, a thing I still repeat, though I weaken considerably in recalling the personality of Mrs. Grover Cleveland as she graciously took my hand at a public reception.
As for the Capitol itself, that was my first real contact with classic architecture and the immense delight of finding the glory that was Greece in this America. I wrote a piece of blank verse later on, that quite naturally died a-bornin, about the marble steps and the Corinthian portico and its figures of Hope and Justice, so surprisingly designed by John Quincy Adams. The Rotunda, So wide and so highto quote one of our finest Kansas poems about the prairie and the skyenthralled me over and over again with its priceless murals, its ornate decorations, and the great door. It was the Congressional Library, now so far surpassed, that carried me much more fully out and away on the magic carpet of building in many kinds of stone adorned with sculpture and painting, all for the safe housing of the countless books for the use of the Capitol solons, yet so wonderfully ready for every book-loving person. It made me feel a glory akin to that of the building not made with hands in St. Johns four-square New Jerusalem.
With such a perfect guide and friend as Lucian Turner, notable expert in bird-lore and kindred matters, to me the Smithsonian Institute and the neighboring National Museum became much the most personal of the great buildings devoted to education. They gave me the deeper, broader feeling that I thought must come with graduate work, and an inestimable basis for appreciation in the beloved art galleries where my glorified fancy more frequently led me. There one breathed a more and more exalted air. One reveled in form and color so distinctively expressed, and slowly, surely learned to see masterly nude sculpture as clothed in its own beauty. Also, some pictures and marbles at Gallaudet College, the only school for the deaf of its quality in this country, were especially memorable. I knew so well what the whole foundation would mean to Emily, who had hoped and dreamed of a season there some sweet day. But Emily did her bit, as a member of the National Speech Association, by compiling a very adequate list of homophonous wordswords that look alike on the lipswhich is still used after four decades by outstanding teachers of speech-reading.
Of the government buildings, all having the same stately character, it is more or less significant, I think, that Printing and Engraving appealed to me most strongly. Here I saw the heavyweight Congressional Record in the making, precisely like the bottom shelf of those meticulous volumes, in their mottled bindings, in the biggest bookshelf at home. Also I saw the exquisite etchings prepared for the finished currency that gives us the engraved likenesses of pre-eminent government leaders. The Treasury Department was considerably more impregnable-looking, no doubt, than our stronghold in Kentucky would appear to me now. Those spacious vaults seemed very ample then for any foreseeable future as I saw countless newly minted silver dollars, and piles of much fine gold, and held in my hand a bundle of thousand-dollar bills that helped me to visualize the fabulous Croesus. The State Department and the Supreme Court, especially the black-robed incumbents of the Bench, epitomized all human dignity illustrated with my memory of Victor Hugos sense of righteousness in The Man Who Laughs. The Department of the Interior suggested Lo, the poor Indian and his place in our family fortunes. And here had been the place of Uncle Harlans Cabinet portfolio which covered also many duties concerning the length and breadth of the land, very much like the Court of Alabama Claims, wherein I found his wide variety of interests always fascinating. Hardly ever an incident in his telling failed to suggest a story or a poem. And the Pension Bureau at a later date had many threads of Kansas color, for here Eugene Ware, our beloved Ironquill, had a notable term of service.
The buildings of Washington stirred me to an attempt to formulate my own theories of
architecture. Defining architecture as frozen music has no appeal to me.
Music, in its very essence, is liquid, alive. Freeze it, and its distinctive power is
gone. Architecture remains rhythmical in expression as it is vital in purpose. Though it
has a fixed form, it cannot be static. The very idea of a building, pioneer cabin or royal
castle, housing for the government of a people, or a cathedral dedicated to the Most High,
gives it the spirit of poetry or painting or sculpture. The Capitol and the monument
erected to the Father of our country are the dominant motifs in the composition of
Washington, and the monument has been entrusted, I think, with the highest, clearest note.
It reaches far back through the artistic development of the human race to ancient Egypt
and beyond, and yet means so much in its expression of American ideals. The topmost
outlook was not yet completed during my unwearied contacts with all the citys
realities, so far beyond my comprehension, yet to be forever so near and dear. Yet through
an official card and my eager young interest I reached this crowning height ever and
again. There was a limitless vista of human endeavor reaching out into the far horizons on
every side in countless revelations of natural beauty. The Japanese Cherry trees had not
yet been planted about the tidal basin. The Lincoln Memorial bridge, that connects it with
Arlington, was yet in the future. But the famous long bridge, for so many decades the only
span across the river into Virginia, held the vision of our Northern troops as they went
forth to meet the Southern foe, and in due time came back again in the victory that
insured our life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness. How like a miracle it was that,
condemned as unsafe before the Civil War, the structure not only survived the strain of
those crucial years, but still remained for folk like me to see.
Billy Harlin and the Gray Cavalry
About ninety years later, my dad told it to me for the first and only time. In less than a month my dad would be dead, and I had no opportunity ask about other things that happened in those days.
My grandpa grew up in Monroe County, Kentucky, near the Tennessee border. Kentucky was called a border state because the sentiment of the citizens was equally made up of Northern and Southern sympathizers. My grandpas father, Jesse Harling, must have been in the minority at the time, being a Northern sympathizer where they lived. Because of that he prepared and sometimes stayed in a hiding place under the house in which they lived.
One day a troop of the Southern Cavalry came to the area to get feedstock for the Southern Army horses, then fighting in Tennessee where rations were in short supply. Under the command of a captain, there were several troopers in the party, plus wagons to carry supplies taken by them. The captain was described as a very large man whose stomach was so big that he used a board laid across the saddle horn so that he could be comfortable while riding.
The people of the community were told by the captain that he had information that some of the farmers had hidden hay and corn high up in the hills to keep it from him, but he intended to have it for his horses. He told Billy Harlin that the next morning he was to lead the troop to where the feed was hidden, and that there were to be no excuses.
That evening some of the men of the area got together with Billy and laid out a plan to save the supplies. Billy was to lead the troop in the right direction toward the feed and when they reached a certain place, Billy was to jump from the wagon and take cover while the men fired from ambush on the troopers.
That is what happened, and a firefight ensued as soon as Billy jumped and ran away from the wagon. Some of the troopers were killed outright, and the captain was shot from the saddle. His wounds would not allow him to remount so he was laid in the wagon bed and was taken back to the camp site where the troop had been staying. The weather at the time was cold and raining, and by the time they arrived at the camp, the captain was frozen to the wagon bed where he later died of his wounds. I am told the camp was in an orchard, and that is where the dead were buried, after which the remaining troopers left the area, never to return.
That is as much of the story as I was told, but my Grandpa survived the war and lived to be over ninety-nine years old, being born in 1846 and dying in 1945. Billy outlived two wives and fathered six children. He is buried in a cemetery at the Church of Christ in Gamaliel, Kentucky.
I remember my Grandpa as a small man with a long gray beard that my dad would trim down to an inch or so once a year. Food would disappear into that beard, and I dont remember understanding a word that came out of it.
I have often wondered about the Gray Cavalry buried in that old orchard. How were the graves marked and could they be found today? I believe the area is somewhere between Gamaliel, Kentucky, and Red Boiling Springs, Tennessee, but that is a long stretch. There was a small creek running through that area called Chicken Branch. I also wonder if this story is recorded in a history book somewhere, and if the names of the dead in that orchard are known. What about the men whose crops Billy saved, did they all survive? Did they ever say thanks to Billy or honor him for his bravery?
I don't have information on why the g was dropped from my great-grandfathers name or if it really belonged there. I do know why the i in Harlin was changed to a. My father did not like his first name and changed it to Bert after he left his parents home. In the early 1900s, he had a college professor at Bowling Green Business University whose last name was Gregg (the inventor of shorthand). Professor Gregg would grade down my fathers papers if he did not dot the i in his name, which often happened. So my father changed the i to an a, and we have been Harlans since then.
The late Robert Harlan, who retired to Freeport, Ill., after a 30-year diplomatic career, was a college exchange student in Germany in 1938 and saw firsthand the destruction caused by the infamous event known as Kristallnacht. As a result, he helped a Jewish couple who were among the victims, and he found them a way to escape.