Jennie B. Harris Reply

At one point in our house repairs, the living room mantle was opened to level it. A few shreds of 1940 post cards, a musical reception program and Mrs. Harris’ card were enclosed, like a time capsule. I photographed it on the mantle, in candlelight, so you can see the embossing. She must have been a character!

Jennie & Lawrence at UO, 1892 (which?)

Jennie & Lawrence at UO, 1892 (which?)

Jennie Beattie Harris was the first woman who lived in my house, built in 1925, when her husband was an Oregon Supreme Court Justice. She was the first woman hired for the new Eugene Carnegie Public Library, founded by the Fortnightly Club of Eugene. She was  the first assistant Librarian, with the (male) librarian; both were paid an annual summary of $5. I am very curious about her. It is very difficult to find photos of her. I only have two, and thanks to the Lane County Historical Society for them. The one at UO includes them, taken two years before they married in 1894.

I have heard from mutual friends (quite a time span!) that her husband loved her very much. They must have loved their cabin up in MacKenzie Bridge, where they fished.

Jennie & Lawrence, on right, their cabin in MacKenzie Bridge, Aug 1917

Jennie & Lawrence, on right, fishing up the MacKenzie, Aug 1917

He had a Lane County Park established and dedicated to her after her death, June 3, 1943. YouTube of a local beer-drinker walking through.

She is listed in the 1940 US Census with her husband, Lawrence Thomas Harris, and a 23 year old “servant”, Carla Rosmussen, born in Nebraska. Her nickname, Jennie, was for Jerenia, according to the 1940 census, which lists them as married, with her being 9 years older, a mystery, or a mistake? The 1930 census lists their “age at first marriage”, 28 for her, 29 for him. In 1920, they lived in Salem, where he was serving as an Oregon Supreme Court Justice, and our house construction hadn’t started. In 1910, they lived in Eugene, Ward 3. In the 1938 City Directory, their phone at this house was listed, #2194.

In the 1880 census, she was 5 years old, the youngest of the 7 siblings living in Oregon City, Oregon, with her parents Charles and Nancy,  and her siblings: Caroline, 21,  Robert, 19, Henrietta, 17, Lenora, 13, Laura, 11, Alfred, 8. Charles was a 52 year old Virginia-born farmer and Nancy was born in Tennessee. I wonder how strong the Oregon Trail pioneer spirit was here, then? In the 1900 census, she lives with her widowed mother and another daughter, 7 year-old  Maggie. I have to hope Maggie was actually a cousin!

Judge Harris at the Kitchen door, 1960

Judge Harris at the Kitchen door, 1960

There is a death certificate on file for her, June 3rd, 1943. She’d have been 68, living in this house built for her, for 18 years. Her husband lived here until his death in 1960. I wonder what he was applauding at the kitchen door? And what was the little door to his right, maybe a mail or dairy delivery? One of the houses we looked at had an Orchid delivery slot, but this looks too small. 🙂 The door isn’t there any more. I would like to think I can post more about them, if I learn anything.

In 1960, the house was sold to a newspaper family, Ted & Phyllis Baker, who raised 5 children here. He came to visit a few years after we moved in. He said he’d come home, draw a deep hot bath after a day as Editor at the Register-Guard, sink down up to his cigar and holler at the kids to leave him in peace. He also said the bedroom drapes were old when they moved in. 🙂 I’ve replaced them, the yellow ones. I’m not sure how long he lived here after his wife died, but we bought the house after a period of neglect from the third owners, a sad divorce.  It had been much loved, with doting care showing for much of its 78 years before we moved in.

The kitchen stairwell in 2013

The kitchen stairwell in 2013

We’ve almost been here for 10 years now, many repairs and no Remuddles, I hope.


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