Biography of Henry Harris


Harris, Henry, Tonawanda, was born in Cumberland county, Tenn., May 5, 1861. His father was of English and Irish descent, being born in this country. His mother was of German parents, born in Buffalo, N. Y., and after marriage moved to Tennessee. His father was killed in the southern army, and his mother after the war was over moved to Cincinnati, where she endeavored to bring her two boys up by taking in washing, and succeeded until death relieved her of her charge on January 31, 1871, leaving her two orphans to battle for themselves. They were taken care of by friends connected with the church of which she was a member and sent to the Childrens' Home, where an aunt found them in the early spring and brought them to Buffalo. Henry resided with different relatives and attended school until the fall of 1874, when he was compelled to find work in order to assist in his maintenance, which he did until the early part of November, 1876, when he could not content himself with his Jot and ran away from home, going to Canada on the ferry. He started for Hamilton, and tramping along the C. S. Railroad he fell in with a professional tramp. After walking to Ridgeway he went to a store and bought some crackers and cheese, dividing with his fellow traveler. After eating his share the tramp said, "You're a fool to spend your money for grub; you can get all you can eat by asking for it." Traveling along farther the tramp did the begging until they struck a job. Harris found a place to do chores for his board until he could find a better place, as he soon did, as he thought, to his sorrow. The farmer he worked for made him get out, feed, clean and harness two teams, milk two cows, eat his breakfast and drive four miles to the woods by daybreak where he drew cordwood all day and every day until his hands and feet were so badly frozen, over and over again, that his toe nails came off with his socks. He then became a public charge, the officials offering to give him $10 and pay his fare to Buffalo, but it would not work; he then remained with his first employer until he was able to get work on a farm, working at farm work until 1879; then for two years on construction work on the Ontario and Quebec Railroad; two years at farming and one year at carpentering, after which he returned to Buffalo on a visit to his relatives and decided to remain there, finding work at carpentering, and was employed putting up buildings at the N. Y. C. stock yards and the docks. In 1887 he engaged in electrical work, leaving $2.25 per day for $1.50 from the Callender Underground Construction Co. of New York, who were putting in underground wires for the Thomson-Houston Co., who were trying to get a foothold on street lighting. After three months' work he became foreman for the Thomson-Houston Co., which position he held three years, when he engaged with the Buffalo Railroad Company as foreman of wiring cars and car repairs. After severing his connection with the Buffalo Railroad Company he was employed on construction work for the Buffalo, Belleview & Lancaster Electric Railroad, Buffalo North Main Street & Tonawanda, Niagara Falls & Suspension Bridge Electric Railroad, and the Buffalo, Kenmore & Tonawanda Electric Railroad, of which road he is at present superintendent. December 19, 1888, he married Miss M. E. Messsenger, of Freehold, Warren county, Pa., and they had two children, Robert L., born January 8, 1892, and Lila E., born January 11, 1897.

Our County and its people
A descriptive work on Erie County, New York
Edited by: Truman C. White
The Boston History Company, Publishes 1898


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