Forgotten Life of Significance
Old College View Seventh-day Adventist church about 1945-1946, corner of South 49th Street and Prescott Avenue.
Today I feel compelled to preserve the memory someone I never met and few people in the College View community even remember anymore. The story starts in June 2015 when this picture, in water color with pencil, of the old College View Seventh-day Adventist Church shown above was given to the Union College Library Heritage Room. The donor claimed the picture was drawn by a Bill Harris and given to her parents in the late 1940s. College View Seventh-day Adventist Church clerk Mary Dickerson has identified two William Harrises in the membership records. I believe the artist was William "Bill" Lloyd Harris, a member of the church who died in 1949.
Bill was the son of William Allen and Susan Herron Harris of Hardin County, Kentucky born in 1859. In the 1860 census his father William is listed as a tavern keeper, born in Virginia. William died in 1864, possibly a victim of the Civil War. Susan then married Donald Ross and they moved to Illinois. I haven't been able to discover what happened to Donald Ross. In the 1880 census Susan is listed as divorced and living with her daughter Annie's family. In the 1899 Battle Creek (Michigan) city directory she is listed as a widow and in the 1900 census she is living with her son David and his family in Battle Creek.
According to his obituary,* Bill joined the Adventists in 1881 and then moved to Battle Creek, Michigan about 1885. He in fact is listed as a bath attendant in the 1883 Battle Creek city directory. His obituary supports this occupation claiming he worked as a hydrotherapy nurse. We don't know where he was a bath attendant, but chances are good it was at the Battle Creek Sanitarium. When he married Leah Faucher on January 7, 1886**, Bill was working as a painter, a career he was to fall back on for a good share of his life.What kind of painting he did is unclear. While census records and city directories list him as a painter in 1897, 1899, 1923, 1924, 1930, and 1936, the 1930 Census also lists him as a sign and house painter and his obituary claims he was a "decorator" implying that he may have been more than your average house painter.
I find no evidence that any of Bill's siblings or his mother joined the Adventist church. It appears that Bill was the first to move to Battle Creek and the others followed him, David even going so far as to take up painting as well. And when Bill and his wife and children moved to Oklahoma, they may have led the way for David and his family again. While the 1901 Battle Creek city directory still lists David, Bill is absent. What we do know is that by 1910, both brothers were farming homesteads in Oklahoma. Bill was issued a land patent in Rock Township, Ellis County (near Shattuck) on August 12, 1907. A patent for David's land was issued February 23, 1910 in nearby Beaver County. Ultimately David would give up farming to try retail, eventually settling in Wichita, Kansas where he died in 1930.
When Bill and Leah gave up farming in Oklahoma and moved to Lincoln, Nebraska in 1920 they joined the College View church. Their membership was accepted on May 8, 1920. Their membership was taken on the basis of "other" rather than the usual letter (if transferring from another congregation) or baptism (if new to the Adventist faith). At first glance one would assume that this unorthodox membership acceptance was likely the result of no Adventist congregation in sparsely populated Ellis County, Oklahoma. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Today the Shattuck, Oklahoma Seventh-day Adventist church is the only Adventist church in Ellis County and it is also one of three originally German Adventist congregations in the state. In fact the Harrises may have been among the founding families of an English-speaking congregation. The Southwestern Union Record first reports on evangelistic meetings in Shattuck in 1907 and a church was organized by 1908 with a building under construction. Did Harris help build it? (In addition to the numerous references to Bill as a painter, the 1920 Census reported him a carpenter.) We don't know but the idea isn't farfetched. But this wasn't the first Adventist church in Shattuck. According to the Ellis County Historical Society, a German-speaking congregation was established in 1901 by immigrants who migrated from Germany by way of North Dakota and Missouri. When the Review and Herald reported a church organized with 19 members in 1906 it did not specify whether this was a German or English-language congregation. But that same year report was made of a substantial school in a German neighborhood. And whether the statistic refers to the German or English congregation or a combination of the two, in 1910 Shattuck was considered the largest church in the Oklahoma Conference.
But the interesting points of the Harris saga don't end here. Bill's wife Leah Faucher was born in St. Anne, Kankakee County, Illinois around 1865 into a family who used the name Leah far too much. Between 1863 and 1866 French Canadian brothers Augustine, Sylvestre, and Antoine all had daughters named Leah. So which one married Bill Harris? Sylvestre's daughter is easiest to rule out as her death certificate is readily available on Ancestry.com and clearly states her father's name. Augustine's daughter was born first in 1863 which is at least a year earlier than one would expect Leah Faucher Harris' birthday based on later birth estimates in marriage and census records. So Antoine's daughter is most likely the Leah Faucher who married Bill Harris in 1886. Why is this question significant enough to spend the time sorting out this family? Because while we don't know how Bill was introduced to Adventism or why he or Leah were in Battle Creek, we do know how Leah became Adventist thanks to her father's obituary as written by her brother, George:
FAUCHER. -Died of cancer, at Grand Prairie, Dallas Co., Tex. Aug. 9, 1893, Antoine Faucher, in the seventieth year of his age. Father was born in Illeverte, Komauraska, Canada. He was brought up in the Catholic faith, and was confirmed by the young priest, Charles Chiniquy. At the age of twenty-eight he and a sister and two brothers, with a French Canadian colony and Father Charles Chiniquy, left Canada and moved to St. Anne, Kankakee Co., III. At the age of twenty-nine he was married. In 1858, by an act of providence, he, with almost the entire congregation, the above-named priest included, while standing in their church, were excommunicated from the Catholic faith by a drunken bishop. They then joined the Presbyterian Church. In 1875 Elder D. T. Bourdeau went to St. Anne, and began to lecture on the prophecies in that church; and my father was captured by the convincing power of the word. This time only he and his family took the step to obey God's law and the faith of Jesus. In 1876 he with his family left Illinois and moved to Texas, and in 1890 he was seized by that dreaded malady, cancer. He suffered patiently for three years, but now it surely can be said of him, "He is at rest," Words of comfort were spoken by A. W. Jensen.
Leah's reason for leaving Texas and going to Battle Creek in the 1880s is unknown. But like many other young Adventists she may have planned to attend Battle Creek College, the sanitarium nurses training, or work in one of the Adventist institutions in the city. Her marriage certificate does list Battle Creek as her residence in 1886.
So what about the other William Harris found by Mary Dickerson? According to Dickerson, he joined the College View Church by letter in 1945 and died shortly thereafter. She was unable to provide additional information and I've been unable to positively identify him. But he may have been the William R. Harris listed in the 1945 city directory as a maintenance man.
*HARRIS.-William Lloyd Harris was born in Kentucky in 1859, and died in Lincoln, Nebr., on Oct. 5, 1949. He became a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in 1881 and was a member of the College View church at the time of his death. In 1885 he went to Battle Creek, Mich., where he was employed in the sanitarium. While in Battle Creek he met Leah Faucher, whom he married in 1886. He led an eventful life as bellboy, hydrotherapy nurse, farmer, baker, and decorator. One daughter preceded him in death. The surviving members of his immediate family are his wife, and son, Lloyd, both of Lincoln; a daughter, Mrs. Annie Robertson, of Scottsbluff; nine grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.
**Although both bride and groom were living in Battle Creek they were married in Kalamazoo. George Hunting officiated and the two witnesses were Frances Hunting and Berniece Hunting suggesting the marriage took place in the minister's home.
Baker, Richard. "German Seventh-day Adventist School at Shattuck, Okla.: Fall Term 1906." Advent Review & Sabbath Herald, v.84 no.6 (February 7, 1907) 29.
Faucher, George E. "Faucher" [obituary]. Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, v.70 no.39 (October 3, 1893) 627.
"Field Notes." Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, v.83 no.45 (November 8, 1906) 20.
Joyce, R.S. "Harris" [obituary]. Central Union Reaper, v.18 no.48 (December 6, 1949) 7.
Olsen, O. A. "A Tour of Kansas and Oklahoma." Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, v.87 no.12 (March 24, 1910) 14.