Alexander and Harrison Family Letters
Collection of Correspondence of the Alexander and Harrison Families of Litchfield and West Winfield, Herkimer County, New York, and elsewhere, 1852 – 1924

Archive of family correspondence consisting of approximately 474 letters, totaling 2,266 pages of correspondence, most with original mailing envelopes, plus 34 pieces of ephemera (mainly used envelopes), all dated between 4 October 1852 to 14 March 1924. Letters are written in ink, and pencil, written in legible hands, in good condition, with normal wear.

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Correspondents in the collection include three generations of the extended Alexander and Harrison families of Litchfield and West Winfield, Herkimer County, New York, including Olive E. Alexander who married Thomas E. Harrison, Olive's sister E. Jane Alexander, and the children of Olive and Thomas Harrison: Dr. Herbert A. Alexander, Leonard Alexander, and Elizabeth "Lizzie" Harrison. Other correspondents include the brothers of Thomas E. Harrison, Jane Alexander (sister of Olive), other brothers, and a number of cousins, and friends, who have dispersed across America in the migration west.

Of the 474 letters, 326 are written to Lizzie Harrison, another 59 are written to her brother Dr. Herbert A. Harrison, generally when he was away at school in Manhattan studying medicine, or doing a residency at a hospital in Washington, DC. Lizzie appears to have never married, stayed at home, and cared for her parents until their respective deaths, and became the center point for the family for all relevant news of members who had left home. Many of the letters written to Lizzie were written by her brother Herbert (over 45 letters) and Hebert's wife Delia (over 50 letters) who Lizzie became good friends with. Lizzie's cousin Carrie Alexander, who moved to Michigan with her parents, would later marry the Rev. Albert S. Tedman and reside in Detroit for time, as well as other locations in Michigan. Carrie writes 41 letters to Lizzie, keeping her apprised of her life and how things are going in Detroit.

Lizzie also receives letters from many friends and cousins from various places, particularly from New York State and Michigan, but also as far away as California. There are also letters written to Lizzie from her brother Leonard, as well as her father and mother (Thomas and Olive Harrison).

Dr. Herbert A. Harrison receives 59 letters and writes 46. His main correspondent is his sister Lizzie.  Earlier correspondence from the 1850s to 1870s, concern the Alexander sisters, Jane and Olive (Lizzie's mother), and their friends and cousins. In all Olive E. Alexander Harrison writes 31 letters and receives 13 (many from her sister Jane) and Jane Alexander (who never married) writes 3 letters, but receives 27. Thomas E. Harrison, Lizzie's father, in all writes 12 letters, receives 15, mostly to and from his children (Lizzie, Herbert, Leonard). 

Alexander and Harrison Family History

Thomas E. Harrison was born in Litchfield, New York, on 25 February 1836. He was the son of Stephen Harrison (1806-1894), who came from England and settled first in New Hartford, and then at Litchfield about 1833. He married Mary Watson (1810-1890), and they had eight children, Thomas E. Harrison being one of them. Thomas was a justice of the peace for a number of years.

Thomas married Olive E. Alexander of Litchfield, New York, about 1865. She was the daughter of Joseph Alexander (1797-1861) and his wife Eliza Warner (1801-1860). Olive's father had a small farm of about 105 acres at Litchfield, where he grew oats and corn, and had some milk cows and pigs. Olive became a school teacher and taught at Winfield in 1856 and at Litchfield in 1858. At the time of her parent's death, they were buried at the Jerusalem Hill Cemetery in Herkimer County, New York. The Alexander's had a second daughter by the name of Esther Jane Alexander (1824-1883), Olive's sister, who features in the early correspondence of this collection.

Dr. Herbert Alexander Harrison was born in 1871, at West Winfield, Herkimer County, New York. He was the son of Thomas E. Harrison (1836-1920) and Olive E. Alexander (1839-1893). Herbert had a sister Mary Eliza Harrison (1867-1929) and a brother by the name of Leonard E. Harrison (1876-1936); both were living at West Winfield when Herbert died in 1915.

Herbert's sister Mary Eliza Harrison (titled "Lizzie" in the correspondence) was educated first at the West Winfield Academy, then at the State Normal School at Albany, where she graduated in the class of 1888. She became a teacher and for awhile taught at Selden, Long Island. She is found living with her parents and her brother Leonard in the 1892 NY State Census, and listed with no occupation. Lizzie M. Harrison, of North Winfield is shown contributing $25.00 in 1895 to the Daniel Hand Fund for the Education of Colored People. A later letter in the collection shows her to be contributing money to the Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee. When the 1905 New York State Census was taken, she is shown living with her father and brother Leonard, her mother having died. She was not listed with an occupation, but rather listed for her occupation as "house work." She is later found to be a charter member of the Society of Middletown Upper Houses. On 3 October 1910, a passenger manifest for the ship Celtic shows her arriving at the Port of New York from Liverpool, England. Her father accompanied her to Europe.

Herbert's brother Leonard E. Harrison attended the West Winfield Union School and Academy. Leonard died of pneumonia contracted after he was hospitalized for a fall. He was a farmer and a graduate of Cornell University. He left a wife Edith Bonfoy Harrison (1885-1973) and a son Walter L. Harrison (1914-1994), a student at Cornell when his father died. There are several letters in this collection, written to Lizzie by a woman named Edit. It may be her sister-in-law Edith Bonfoy Harrison.

Herbert A. Harrison grew up in West Winfield and attended the village school and was graduated from the West Winfield Academy. Deciding to study medicine, he went to New York City and took a course in the New York Homeopathic College from which he graduated. A number of letters written to and from his sister Lizzie were written at the time that he studied at New York Homeopathic College.

After taking his degree in medicine at the N.Y.H.M.C. & H. in 1895, he served two years as an intern at the Washington Hospital and then began practice in Cooperstown, N.Y. When he was living at Washington, DC, there is some further correspondence between him and his sister Lizzie. After several years at Cooperstown, he took a special course in eye, ear, nose and throat diseases at the New York Ophthalmic Hospital, which he completed in June of 1903 and remained at NYOH for six months as house surgeon, before returning to Cooperstown where he practiced until July of 1905 when he removed to Utica, New York and followed his profession, residing at 8 Scott Street and having an office in the Evana Building. He was a member of the staff of the Utica Homeopathic Hospital. He attended Plymouth Church, and was a member of the West Winfield Masonic Lodge.

He was a member of the American Institute of Homeopathy, the American Ophthalmological, Ontological, and Laryngological Society, the National Society for the Prevention of Tuberculosis, the New York Homeopathic Society, the Central New York Medico - Chirurgical Society, and the Utica Homeopathic Club.

In 1903, he married Miss Delia Ellison (1867-1956) of Utica, the daughter of Henry Duane Ellison (1833-1910) and Elnora Josephine Arnold (1837-1888). Together the couple had two sons, one Thomas Duane Harrison (1904-1984) and Leonard Harrison (b. 1911). Delia wrote 54 letters in this collection to her husband's sister Lizzie, who she appears to have become close friends with. There are a couple of letters written to Delia's sons Thomas, and one written by Thomas in this collection.

On May 13, 1915, while walking the track on his way to the station at East Creek, New York. Dr. Herbert A. Harrison was struck by a train and instantly killed. He had the custom of taking the train to East Creek, then walking about ten minutes on the train track to a farm that was owned by his wife nearby. This collection contains several letters of condolence written to Herbert's sister Lizzie. Letters upon the death of Thomas E. Harrison, Herbert and Lizzie's father, are also included in this collection. He died in 1920.

Overall, the correspondence collection is interesting in that it shows the changing of one generation to the next. Thomas E. Harrison, a farmer, sends his children to university to become professionals, a teacher and a doctor. The collection also shows the extended family migration west, the women keeping in touch with folks back home, wishing them to come and move west with them, with promises of a better life. Most of the correspondents tend to be women and the conversations of the letters tend to be dominated on the domestic sphere of life that they controlled.               An inventory of the letters can be emailed on request.