Henry Walter Harrison was the fourth child of Stephen and Charity Harrison. He was born in 1864 one year after the Emancipation Proclamation. Our research of Walter largely comes from what we were told by his youngest daughter Lillie and census research.
Henry Walter Harrison was married to Diana Davis and their children were Charity, Arthur, Albert, Pearlie and Lillie. Walter (as he was called) was Diana’s second husband. Her first husband, George Wesley Washington was killed in a train accident. Diana had four previous children with George who were Isaiah, Mary, Henry and John.
Diana was a stewardess in Mount Olive Methodist Church in Slidell Louisiana. Walter was one of the first trustees of the Church. He was also an ordained minister of the A. M. E. Church.
Our research of Walter shows that he left Slidell, Louisiana and went to Mississippi around the late 1800’s. He is found on the 1900 US (Mississippi) Census. According to his daughter Lillie, men would go around and recruit families to go on farms and work. Walter decided he would take his family and go and work on one of those farms as a sharecropper. Diana got the children together taking Mary, Charity, Pearlie, Lillie, Arthur and Albert. They left Isaiah, Johnnie and Henry with Reverend Joe Dowery and his wife’s sister, Sarah Dowery. Diana was reared in Pensacola, Florida, the daughter of a fisherman, Henry Davis. She was familiar with fishing but unfamiliar with farming.
The oldest daughter, Mary, met and married Charlie Owens Lee. The marriage took place in Port Gibson, Mississippi. To this union four children were born; George, Rosie Anna, Jesse and Ike Lee.
Unhappy with farming Diana approached her son-in-law, Charlie about returning to Slidell, La. He told her that he would help her get away and he did. In the darkness of night they left, walking with the children a long way until they reached a train station where they boarded and went back to Slidell. Charlie and Mary stayed until they could slip away. Walter stayed and apparently went deeper into debt each year and therefore could not leave. Sharecropping is a form of land tenure in which the tenant farms land for a share of the crop. The farmer provides the labor for his share of the income, usually about one half. The landlord expenses for food, tools, seed, fertilizer, and other needs of the tenant. This system flourished in the southern United States after the civil war; however, it was not uncommon for the tenant farmers to become indebted to the landlords due to a bad crop, failure to meet their end of the bargain or in many cases unfair tactics by the landlord.
Walter would write to his family often but the separation ultimately caused the break-up of the marriage. Our research shows that at some point Walter left Mississippi and took residence in Wilson Arkansas. He continued to write and visit his family in Slidell.
In April of 1944 Walter’s oldest daughter Charity who by then was living in California decided that her father was too old to be working on a farm. She decided to go back to Arkansas along with, Lillie and other relatives to include her uncle James Harrison of Slidell. They then all left Louisiana for Wilson Arkansas to get Walter. When they arrived Walter said, “Oh Lord, children I can’t go now, you see my crop is just sprouting up, but I promise you if the Lord spares me I will be there for Christmas”.
On December 23, 1944 around 9:00 pm, Lillie, Walter’s youngest daughter received a phone call from a woman who rode the train from Arkansas with her father and step-mother. They were at her house. Lillie picked them up and Walter and his wife lived out their lives in California. Walter died in Los Angeles in 1952 and was the longest lived child of Stephen and Charity Harrison.