Author Topic: William R., tax collector  (Read 3410 times)

Offline Polly Lynn

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William R., tax collector
« on: December 20, 2019, 04:50:19 PM »
William Robert Harrison, American tax collector. 
(compiled by Polly Lynn and Heather Kay.)
1.   William Harrison of County Monaghan, Ireland was born after about 1700.
2.   James Harrison of Church Hill (died 1796) wed four times.  His son Arthur was born during the last marriage, to the widow Foyle, nee McCrea.
3.   Arthur Noble Harrison married Jane Phillips.  Their children were baptized in the Church of Ireland (Anglican).
4.   William Robert Harrison was born about 1828 in New York and died in 1867.  He married Margaret E. Mackenzie.
5.   William Robert’s children were John, Edward, Kate, Margaret, but not Georgiana.  Georgiana Harrison (buried 1852) more likely sprung from William R.’s brother, James George.

Collecting taxes William Robert Harrison got into trouble with the law.  His older siblings born in Ireland, William Robert Harrison was the first child born in America to Jane Phillips and Arthur Noble Harrison.  He and 14 other people were in his father Arthur’s household in the 1830 U.S. census, Argyle, Washington County, New York.  William Robert went unnamed but was counted as the male child between the ages of zero to five.  Growing up, his playmates may have included the two boys and a girl, ages five to nine.   

By January 1836 when William’s parents sold their land in Argyle, New York, they had already moved to New York City.  William grew up in the city, where his father administered a porterhouse and served as a court clerk.

Twenty when he married, William was younger than all other Harrison grooms.   After Valentine’s Day in New York City on 19 February 1848, “William R. Harrison” married “Margaret E. Mackenzie.”   Their marriage was announced in the New York Herald.  Maher's index has, "Harrison, William R.  MacKenzie, Margaret E.  02/19/48."   

The year he married, William R. sold ribbons for his bride’s father.  The 1848-1849 New York City Directory shows William R. Harrison:  "Harrison William R. ribbons, 465 B'way, h. 61 Division"   Because Division Streets ends at Broadway, William R. may have walked from his home across the street to work on Broadway.  Divison parallels the wider Washington Street where at 197 four of his cousins had an office for their shipping business. 

In 1850 William R. worked for and lived with his father-in-law, Edward McKenzie, the owner of a ribbon store in New York City ward 7. 
Edward McKenzie, 56, Ribbon store, $6,000, born Scotland
Margt McKenzie, 46
John McKenize, 24, Book Keeper
Margt Hansen [sic], 19, born New York  [This was William's wife, Margaret McKenzie Harrison.]
Wm R. Harrison, 22, Clerk, born NY
Plus five younger “McKenize” siblings and [a maid], Hannah Oconnor born Ireland.   
 
In 1870 the census takers were instructed, "When clerks are returned, describe them as 'clerk in store,' 'clerk in woolen mill,' 'R.R. clerk,' 'bank clerk,' . . . "   In 1850 William had been called “clerk.”  He sold ribbons from the home of his father-in-law, Edward McKenzie.

In Ireland and the U.S. Harrisons named their children after people who gave them money.  William and Margaret lived with her parents, he depended on her father for his work of selling ribbons, and they gave their children McKenzie names:

1.  John Harrison was named after Margaret’s eldest brother and paternal grandfather. 
2.  Edward Harrison was named after Margaret’s father, Edward McKenzie.
3.  Kate Harrison most likely was named for her maternal grandmother who married a McKenzie.
4.  Margaret Harrison was named for her mother, Margaret McKenzie.

Naming his children after his wife’s family was an astute move, showing William Robert’s political side. 

Hoboken, New Jersey
In 1854 William R. Harrison was called “of Hoboken, New Jersey.”  Nonetheless daughter Kate was born in 1856 “back” in New York, a place the William R. Harrisons had lived before 1854-1856.  William R. Harrison had moved from New York to New Jersey before his father’s 1854 probate calls William “of Hoboken, New Jersey.” However, a child Kate was born about 1856 in New York.  Perhaps the mother, Margaret McKenzie Harrison, returned to her parents’ home in New York to give birth.  About 1856 William R. Harrison, his wife, and children were all in New Jersey.

William and Margaret moved their family to Hoboken, New Jersey.   On 22 February 1854 William's father, Arthur Noble Harrison, died and “William R. Harrison” is named in the will.  Later paper work calls him "William R. who resides at Hoboken, N. Jersey."  Arthur Harrison left his son William money:

"I give to my son Edward Harrison his heirs, executors and administrators and assigns for every subject however to the following bequests that is to say; to my son Richard Harrison one hundred Dollars ($100), to my son Andrew Harrison Two Hundred Dollars ($200), to my son James George Harrison Two Hundred Dollars ($200), to my son William Robert Harrison ($200), to my daughter Jane Harrison now wife of Matthew Lyons Two Hundred Dollars ($200), to my daughter Eliza Harrison wife of John McFadden Two Hundred Dollars ($200), to my daughter Sarah Ann Harrison now wife of Isaac Hall ($200), to my two orphan Grand children Letitia Foyle now wife of John Wallace and Prudentia Louisa Foyle Each the sum of Fifty Dollars ($50) making in the [] bequests to my above named children and Grandchildren the sum of One Thousand four Hundred Dollars ($1400), the said several bequests I direct my son Edward to pay to my said children and Grand children at the end of three years after my decease, and the decease of his mother and my said wife Jane or sooner if he my said son Edward, may think fit to do so, and I wish it expressly understood that my said son shall not be liable to pay any interest on any of the said several bequests.”

Edward Harrison agrees to be executor and names all of Arthur’s heirs.  In 1854 Edward tells the Surrogate Court of New York that William R. Harrison was of Hoboken, New Jersey.  The proceedings end this way:   

“all of the above-named persons are of full age and severally reside in the City of New York, except said Richard who resides at Smithville Chenango County N.Y. and William R. who resides at Hoboken N. Jersey."

By 1860 the city of Hoboken [elected or appointed] William R. Harrison city clerk.  He was also appointed collector of a tax for roads.  Tax collecting got William into trouble.

Hoboken vs. Harrison
Irish tax collectors overcharged tax payers and absconded with the money.  In Ireland cess or tax money, tithes to the churches, and hearth money were collected.  Tax collectors were paid part of the money they collected.  Perhaps William, being Irish, expected to profit from going door to door collecting tax money meant to improve roads.  At an unknown date, William R. Harrison had a lawsuit filed against him.  The purpose of the lawsuit was not to sue for the money he had collected for repairing roads, but to say that he was never truly appointed collector.  In the suit he is called “collector for the city of Hoboken.”  He collected money for street improvements, money officials expected him to put in the city coffers.  The New Jersey Supreme Court decided that he had indeed been appointed collector and that the mayor and city council who appointed him were jointly responsible for paying the money [lost].  I quote the New Jersey Supreme Court decision:

"whereas the said William R. Harrison had been duly appointed by the mayor and common council of the city of Hoboken as collector of assessments for street improvements, that if he should well and truly pay to the treasurer of said city all moneys which he might collect or receive as such collector as aforesaid &c."

"By this condition, the sureties have admitted this his election was by the mayor and common council, and agreed to be sureties for the payment of all moneys which by virtue of the appointment, thus made, he might receive.  They are estopped from denying that Harrison was de facto a collector of assessments for street improvements.  Their liability to pay over what he has collected is co-extensive with his."

"In a suit for moneys collected by him as such, neither the officer de facto nor his sureties may set up the invalidity of his appointment in bar of the action."

"The action is not to enforce upon him the execution of the duties of his office, or to recover damages for his failure to perform them.  In such a case both he and his sureties might answer and say, perhaps successfully, there was no such office, and I was without legal power; but here the suit is founded upon an actual complete execution of the duties of the office he claims to fill: he is functus officvo [sic, functus officio] as collector of taxes.  The money he has is the money of the city, which he has no right to retain, and which his sureties, on the whole case as it is, have stipulated that lie [he] shall pay over to the city treasurer.  [For precedence see] Seiple v. Borough of Elizabeth, 3 Dutcher 410."   

The amount of money William R. collected and kept is unknown. 

In summary of Hoboken vs. Harrison, an insurance company was trying to avoid reimbursing the city of Hoboken, New Jersey, under an insurance policy on the ground William Harrison was not a duly appointed tax collector.  But the court affirms he was [an employee of the city as tax collector] so the insurance company must reimburse the city what it lost.  William R. Harrison lost the city’s money because he failed to give to the city the money had had collected.

photograph
One thing William spent his money on was having his photo taken.  “Will. Harrison” had his photo taken at Percival studio at 142 Chatham Street,  Manhattan, about 15 buildings down from his father’s porterhouse at 179 Chatham.  Here is what a directory tells us. 

*  "Harrison Arthur, porterho. 179 Chat'm, . 179 Chat'm" [William's father, Arthur Noble Harrison, who owned a porterhouse].  179 would be 15 buildings away from the photography studio at 142 Chatham. 

William’s photograph was made into une carte de visite, a calling card, popularly used in the 1860s and 1870s. 

baseball umpire
His judgment in doubt, yet his civil-mindedness intact, William served as baseball umpire.  On 11 August 1859, "William R. Harrison" acted as umpire of a baseball game at Hoboken.  The Hoboken team played against. Jefferson and Lexington [New Jersey].  Umpire William R. Harrison was from the "Hoboken Club."   

William umpired the baseball game before baseball was invented.  His contest took place in 1859, before the American Civil War (1861-1865).  The war was the alleged starting date of the game of baseball.  It was primitive baseball, not fully developed the way it is today.  The home team of Hoboken did not wear white uniforms and the traveling team grey.  No amphitheater encircled a Kelly green lawn.  No crowd of thousands wore Hoboken blue, drank beer, and cheered, “Go ho bo!”  No child sang, “Take me out to the Ball Game,” no peanuts, no bratwurst.  No white uniforms for aways games.  In the beginning was baseball.

Despite the lawsuit,  William is listed in Hoboken in the 1860 U.S. Census.  He lived with his wife Margaret and their four children ranging in age from eleven to one, all but young Maggie born in New York State.  The census calls William R. “city clerk.”  Having recently inherited $200. from his father, William R. had $500 in personal property.

National Guard from New Jersey
William R. Harrison served first in the National Guard, and then in the U.S. Army.  In 1861 First Lieutenant William R. Harrison resigned from Company K of the National Guard.   

“While the regular army [was large], the vast majority of men entered the service through state volunteer units.  Unlike modern armies, the Union army did not have a ‘long tail’ of noncombat, support personnel.  The overwhelming majority of Union soldiers were combat troops.  Some men fought as cavalry, while others manned the artillery, and still others worked in pioneer (engineer) units.”  “By far, the most common experience was to be an infantryman in a state volunteer unit.”

After the National Guard, he served in the North’s Army.

U.S. Civil War
A list of New Jersey soldiers served during the Civil War.  Among the soldiers, William R. Harrison served in the First Regiment, New Jersey Infantry.   The regiment is honored at Gettysburg on the New Jersey Brigade Monument, on South Mountain on the monument at Crampton’s Gap, and at Antietam on a monument and marker.   In summary, during the Civil War “[From the] 1st New Jersey Volunteer Infantry Regiment . . . nine officers and 144 Enlisted men [were] killed or mortally wounded and one officer and 90 enlisted men [died of] disease . . .”

William’s death, burial, and probate
Having survived the war, William R. Harrison died in April 1867 and was buried in his father’s lot at Green-Wood Cemetry, in Brooklyn.

Offline PIJ1951

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Re: William R., tax collector
« Reply #1 on: December 22, 2019, 01:45:58 PM »
I'm not sure what this is. A Wikipedia article at best, I'd guess.
Reviewing it from a writerly perspective is impossible because it's simply a list of facts (presumably accurate). To the average reader who doesn't know any of the people named, it's rather dry, I'm afraid.
If you intend publishing the history behind these characters in book form I'd suggest you read a few biographies first to see how other writers overcome the problem of regurgitating names, dates and facts and nothing more. You have to find a way to make your characters leap to life from the page if you expect anyone to engage with their life histories.


Offline Polly Lynn

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Re: William R., tax collector
« Reply #2 on: December 23, 2019, 05:58:45 AM »
Hi, PIJ,

How would you make this tax collector leap to life?

I am glad you compare my article to Wikipedia, the most read history source.  "Regurgitating" was less appreciated, since it means throwing up.

Unlike Wikipedia, however, this is my original research.  I noticed William R. was the first of 3,000 family members to have a first name and that in the next generation 100% of forty nephews and nieces had one. 

I was the one who noticed that he had stolen the tax money he was supposed to collect for the town and he won the court case against the town.

I was the one who noticed that he refereed a baseball game in 1859 two years before baseball was invented, supposedly during the Civil War (1861-1865).

I have not found his four children's living descendants, though I have found 175 other descendants in this family.

It's not a list of facts.  It is a list of facts in chronological order.  :)  How can I make it less dry for you? I do not wish to cross over into historical fiction, but creative non-fiction is what I could aim for.  Thank you.

Polly LYNN

Offline Polly Lynn

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Re: William R., tax collector
« Reply #3 on: December 23, 2019, 06:16:23 AM »
Dear PIJ,

I am wordy.  We could start there.  What would you cut?  You could cut and paste those parts.  I will cut what you send me, so be nice.  yes, this question asks that you reread a "dry" article for me, so thank you. 

I chose you to send this to because you are so honest.  Now I am hoping you will be helpful and specific.  Thanks.  And I enjoyed your prison piece.  How can I make people feel my piece more, incorporate some of the five senses?  It that possible without me visiting Hoboken, New Jersey?

Polly

Offline Polly Lynn

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Re: William R., tax collector
« Reply #4 on: December 23, 2019, 06:32:01 AM »
OK, I shall go out on a limb and offend some people.  Here are some new topic sentences for you, PIJ.

William R. may have married too young. 

He did not independently support his wife, relying on her family for employment and housing, and having to name his children after benefactors. 

Perhaps because of his foreseen and predictable legal difficulties, his comparatively early marriage, his playfulness as demonstrated in playing sports as an adult, and his having left New York City where the other siblings lived, and other unknown characteristics, his father Arthur did not choose William as executor. 

He served in the national guard and Civil War, surviving Gettysburg.  You are in the U.K., so that was a big deal battle here in the U.S.  Should I tell why that battle was important?

Polly

Offline PIJ1951

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Re: William R., tax collector
« Reply #5 on: December 23, 2019, 07:52:33 AM »
Quote
How would you make this tax collector leap to life?
The same way you make a fictional character come to life. Treat him like a real life person rather than a name. Let him speak for himself (give him dialogue maybe?).
What do I know about William Robert Harrison?
You start by refering to William Harrison of County Monaghan. I have no idea what his relationahip is to Willam R. This William was born 'after about 1700' - that's really vague. If you don't know the exact year, why not say 'the early part of the 18th century'? As it stands, the reader's perceptions of the author's expertise is tarnished and we haven't even begun.
You then introduce four more characters by number and list their marriages, offspring, baptism, etc. You give us 14 names in total. All very interesting to you, no doubt - but this is what I mean by a 'dry' read. At this stage I don't know any of these people - and the speed at which they appear then disappear suggests they are not that important. It's a bit like browsing a graveyard and reading the gravestones but at such speed that nothing registers. If you expect me to invest my time and energy in finding out more about these characters you have to do a better job than this.
One guy (the patriarch?) was born in Ireland - but William Robert was born in New York. There's an opening for a fascinating story in itself. How and why did they leave the motherland? What was the sea crossing like? How did they adapt to life in America?
We'll never know.

This next paragraph is dreadful and highlights the underlying problem. You have a wealth of ephemeral information but don't seem to understand what is worth leaving in and what can be safely excluded
Quote
Collecting taxes William Robert Harrison got into trouble with the law.  How? Can't you see this is the kind of material that might pique a reader's interest? The rest is unreadable. It might be factually correct but it's boring and irrelevant. His older siblings born in Ireland, William Robert Harrison was the first child born in America to Jane Phillips and Arthur Noble Harrison.  He and 14 other people were in his father Arthur’s household in the 1830 U.S. census, Argyle, Washington County, New York.  William Robert went unnamed but was counted as the male child between the ages of zero to five. Growing up, his playmates may have included the two boys and a girl, ages five to nine.Seriously?

The facts keep coming. He sold ribbons - what kind of ribbons? Why did he choose this line of work? Did he get on with his father-in-law? None of this seems to matter - but we are told he may have walked to work. . . Again, he either did or he didn't. I hardly see why it matters in the grander scheme of things. You're supposed to be telling us his story, but this is not the way to go about it. Give your readers an excuse to give up reading even before they reach the bottom of the first page and they will gladly take it.

This bit tells me nothing new since you have already told us he sold ribbons.
Quote
In 1850 William R. worked for and lived with his father-in-law, Edward McKenzie, the owner of a ribbon store in New York City ward 7. 
Edward McKenzie, 56, Ribbon store, $6,000, born Scotland
Margt McKenzie, 46
John McKenize, 24, Book Keeper
Margt Hansen [sic], 19, born New York  [This was William's wife, Margaret McKenzie Harrison.]
Wm R. Harrison, 22, Clerk, born NY
Plus five younger “McKenize” siblings and [a maid], Hannah Oconnor born Ireland.   
In 1870 the census takers were instructed, "When clerks are returned, describe them as 'clerk in store,' 'clerk in woolen mill,' 'R.R. clerk,' 'bank clerk,' . . . "   In 1850 William had been called “clerk.”  He sold ribbons from the home of his father-in-law, Edward McKenzie.

Quote
In Ireland and the U.S. Harrisons named their children after people who gave them money.
Interesting, but you don't pursue it other than to produce another list of names.

Quote
Naming his children after his wife’s family was an astute move, showing William Robert’s political side.
Again, I'm intrigued by his 'political side' but the statement is left hanging in the wind.

Quote
I was the one who noticed that he had stolen the tax money he was supposed to collect for the town and he won the court case against the town.
But you don't handle this snippet of gossip particularl well. The case brought against William for misappropriation of collected taxes would normally provide an opening for an absorbing story where we finally get to know your character and his motivations a little better. Human interest stories involve holding up a mirror to real life. But you manage to bury the episode under a series of dry quotations. This is what I mean by 'regurgitation'. I don't see you, the writer. I see a dusty volume of court proceedings brought out from an archive to be pored over and dissected like a corpse.

Quote
I am glad you compare my article to Wikipedia, the most read history source.  "Regurgitating" was less appreciated, since it means throwing up.

I am also a huge fan of Wikipedia - I have used it as source research material for much of my writing (Wikipedia and Google Earth provide a wealth of information and often avoid the cost of overseas travel). But I would never dream of copying the format and rather encyclopaedic style in a book for publication unless it was meant to be a scholarly textbook. If that's what you're writing here then ignore my critique. I simply offer advice from one writer to another regarding the best style to adopt and level of detail if you hope to attract a wider readership.

I'll not continue. It's clear you have carried out a great deal of research but the over-reliance on citations and the amount of superfluous detail which you have presumabl included to validate your research will simply tempt the average reader to skim ahead in search of the interesting bits. My advice stands regarding reading other biographies. You have the facts at your fingertips - but that's the easy part. Now you have to weave them into a story so the reader does not feel they are being given a lesson based on someone's family tree.

Offline Polly Lynn

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Re: William R., tax collector
« Reply #6 on: December 24, 2019, 07:22:19 AM »
Thank you, PIG,

Your main point is to develop the character, and since reading your comments I have explained more about the ribbons William sold, hair ribbons, hat ribbons, ribbons sewed to women's clothing.  I have guessed that perhaps William never bought ribbons (as a man), but was recruited by Edward McKenzie because he had accounting skills, ones that so many of my Irish relatives had and that William's father and brother had as clerks in court and hotel work.  I have pointed out that William R. was at first over-reliant on his father in law (for employment, housing, and names for his children), perhaps because William both wanted to get out of his own father's crowded hotel and because he married so young. And thanks to you I am calling the move away from New York City to New Jersey as a move of independence.  Even history writers develop character, and you are correct I should have done so. 

The history causes problems for someone used to critiquing literature.  First I list the line (genealogy) of William's ancestors who are Harrisons to orient the reader.  After his line comes the essay.  Perhaps I should separate the list from the essay with a title, move the title from up top to just below the genealogy (list of names).

You say that I did not develop things in the opening paragraph.  In the opening paragraph I introduced things I developed later.  For example I have a paragraph on why William might have thought he could keep the tax money he collected.  This was mainly based on his family's experiences with taxes back in Ireland. 

This is history, I do not introduce dialogue, stick to chronological order, and use sources.  Dialogue is found in historical fiction.  This is not fiction, it is history.  In our earlier book one writer (of 97) chose to introduce dialogue and a real historian wrote, "I am glad you realize [this sue of dialogue] is not real history."  Real history does not invent dialogue.  If this essay is about William R. Harrison the tax collector, why would I write about is coming to America if he was born in New York?  I quote the census because that his how we know William R. sold ribbons for his father-in-law.  In history writing we have to tell our sources in the text as we go, in addition to using footnotes at the bottom. 

Thank you for your comments.  They both spur me to develop the character (and you told me when and where).  Also this is your second comment that makes me change the format of the book, so I appreciate that too.  Just a reminder that the reason I posted the two essays you have seen are that they are the worst in the book, the most unreadable.  Thank you, PIJ, for making this one more readable and pushing the list of hotels to an appendix.

Polly LYNN

 

Offline jadynm1234567

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Re: William R., tax collector
« Reply #7 on: January 02, 2020, 01:15:36 PM »
So I do have a few suggestions. It is like a list of facts; if you mean to write it as a story that is biographical, I highly recommend putting it in first person. That in itself will change your form of writing and "bring him to life," as you were worried about. By speaking as him, thinking as him, and acting as him, he will come alive. These facts will be great in telling his story, but just be careful to show the facts, not tell them. It's much better to weave details into the story subtly, so the reader can appreciate them.

Good luck!