John H. Harrison

No. 13130 John H. Harrison

Photo of J Harrison. Contained in an album at the Dorchester Historical Society of about 150 photos kept by Nathaniel R. Perkins, MD, who examined thousands of men who were going into the war, 1914-1918. Given by Mrs N. R. Perkins in accordance with instructions from her late husband, Dr. Nathaniel P. Perkins of 1122 Adams St, Dorchester. Index catalog has entries for the individuals.

J Harrison Serg 1052 Washington St 450 Truck Co C.M.T.S. enlisted March 1918 ? ? ? ? American PO 753 A.E.F. France Picture taken in France

John H. Harrison.  By Camille Arbogast

John H. Harrison was born on June 27, 1881, in Halifax, Nova Scotia. His father, Lucius Manlius Sargent Harrison, was a barber who had been born in Boston. In about 1880, Lucius married Mary Morris, known as Minnie, a Canadian who immigrated to the United States in the 1870s. In 1882 or 1883, John’s younger sister Maud was born in Minnesota. John immigrated to the United States in 1883, according to the United States census for 1910.

In the 1890s, the Harrisons lived on Coleman Street in Dorchester, first at number 39, and then, by 1894, at number 23. In 1899, they moved around the corner to 487 Quincy Street. The next year they relocated to Lower Mills, living at 91 Richmond Street. At that time, John was a clerk at a glass company. The Harrisons moved to 1065 Washington Street in 1901 and remained there through 1906. In 1905, the

Boston directory listed John living at 1065 Washington Street and working as a bookkeeper.

In 1907, a notice in The Boston Globe reported that “John Talbot has given title to Maud H. Harrison to the property on Washington st, near River st, Dorchester,” which consisted of “a frame house and 8015 square feet of land.” It is possible that the Maud H. Harrison in the notice was John’s sister, as around this time the Harrisons became the owners of 1052 Washington Street, where Mary ran a lodging house. In 1910, there were 11 lodgers living with the Harrisons at 1052 Washington Street; many of them were chocolate factory employees. Helping to run the lodging house was a housemaid named Mary Williams, a 23-year-old African-American from South Carolina.

Around 1906, John married Nora Donelan, an Irish immigrant who came to the United States in the 1890s. John does not appear in the Boston directories from 1906 through 1908, so it is possible they lived outside of the city. In 1909, John was listed in the directory as an insurance agent living at 1052 Washington Street. John and Nora’s daughter, Mary, was born at 1052 Washington Street in 1910. Mary died at three-days-old of convulsions at Saint Mary’s Infant Asylum on Jones Hill (which would later become St. Margaret’s Hospital). According to the 1910 census, Nora had given birth to another child who also died.

John entered the Army on March 25, 1918. He had most recently been employed as a chauffeur, and he may have done similar work in the military, as he served in the Motor Transport Service, later called the Motor Transport Corps, or MTC. Part of the Quartermaster Corps, the MTC was in charge of all vehicles—including not only cars and trucks, but also bicycles, motorcycles, and trailers— as well as vehicle garages, depots, and repair shops. John was a sergeant in the 450th Engineer Motor Transport Service Company, a truck company of 53 men, when he sailed overseas on the USS Great Northern, leaving from Hoboken, New Jersey, on August 31, 1918. He later served in the 650th and 690th Motor Transport Companies. In July 1919, John returned to the United States, sailing from Bordeaux, France, on the USS Santa Malta on July 3, and arriving in Brooklyn, New York, on July 15. He was discharged on July 24, 1919.

In 1918, while John was overseas, Nora lived in West Quincy, at 114 Hall Place. After his return, in 1920, they lived in a lodging house at 57 Rutland Street. John was an automobile mechanic. In May 1921, his father died. In 1927, John appeared in the Boston directory at 1052 Washington Street, still working as an auto mechanic. By that time, his sister Maud had joined the religious order the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, taking the name Sister Mary of Saint Sylvie. She was ordained in 1923 at St. Gregory’s Church in Lower Mills, according to family records. She lived in Sisters of the Good Shepherd convents in Newark and Morristown, New Jersey, and later at the Madonna Hall school in Marlborough, Massachusetts.

John appeared in the 1930 census living at 1052 Washington Street with his mother. Nora is not listed as part of the household. By 1936, John worked at Walter Baker Chocolate. His mother died in Morristown, New Jersey, in May 1947. It is possible he was the John H. Harrison who was listed in the Boston directory living at 53 Sydney Street in the late 1940s. At the end of his life, John lived at 1521 Washington Street.

John died on October 22, 1955. A mass was celebrated for him in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel at Holy Cross Cathedral in the South End. He was buried in Mount Hope Cemetery on Walk Hill Street in Mattapan. John was a member of the South End Post 105 of the American Legion.


Boston directories, various years;

Family Trees;

1900, 1910, 1920, 1930 US Federal Census;

“Two in Dorchester,” Boston Globe, 3 August 1908: 2;

Mary Harrison births, “Massachusetts Deaths, 1841-1915,” State Archives, Boston;

Mary Harrison death, “Massachusetts Deaths, 1841-1915,” State Archives, Boston;

Lists of Outgoing & Incoming Passengers, 1917-1938. Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, 1774-1985, The National Archives at College Park, MD;

Applications for Headstones for U.S. Military Veterans, 1925-1941, Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, National Archives at Washington, D.C.;

Office of the Chief of Engineers, Annual Report of the Chief of Engineers United States Army 1919, Part I. Washington, D.C. Government Printing Office, 1919: 37;

“Motor Transport Corps,”, last edited 19 November 2019. <>

Death Notices, Boston Globe, May 15 1921;

Death Notices, Boston Globe, 6 Feb 1977: 70;

Selective Service Registration Cards, World War II: Fourth Registration. Records of the Selective Service System, National Archives and Records Administration;

Death Notices, Boston Globe, 16 May 1947; 28;

Death Notices, Boston Globe, 23 October 1955: 51;





Posted on

April 4, 2022

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