IRA HARRIS, Jr.
The life story of Ira Harris, Jr., of Modesto, Stanislaus County, California, is that of the career of a self-made man, pushing, progressive and patriotic, who has shrunk from no duty and hesitated at no obstacle, a career of honest industry and a victory worthily won. Mr. Harris comes from the Revolutionary stock in both lines of descent, great-grandfathers of both of his parents having fought for American independence. He was born in Rhode Island, November 18, 1848. His great-grandfather Harris was an early settler there, but Jeremiah Harris, grandfather of the subject of this sketch, and his son Ira Harris, the father of Ira Harris, Jr., were both born in Massachusetts. Ira Harris married Miss Fanny Clark, a native of Massachusetts, whose father had fought in the War of 1812, following in the footsteps of his patriotic fathers. Ira Harris was a wagon maker during his active years. He is still living at the age of eighty-four. His wife died at the age of seventy-one, having given the work of most of her years to the Baptist church. They were the parents of six children, four of whom are living.
When the subject of this sketch had attained his fifteenth year, the struggle between the north and south was at its height and the need of more volunteers to put down the slave-holders’ rebellion was pressing. The boy had inherited warlike blood, the demands of which would not be denied, and July 15, 1863, he entered the United States Navy, onboard the frigate Ironsides. He was on duty at the capture of Fort Wagner and Fort Gregg, helped to silence the Cummings battery on Morris Island and assisted to batter down other fortifications on Sullivan’s Island. He was in the service about a year all told, and received a slight injury from a fragment of a shell and another from an iron lever attached to one of the guns on the Ironsides. He was honorably discharged at Philadelphia, and returning to his home devoted himself to acquiring a practical knowledge of the carriage maker’s and blacksmith’s trades in his father’s shop. He went to Colorado in the fall of 1879 and from there to San Francisco, California, in 1883. Six months later he came to Modesto, where for four years he was employed by Mr. Englehart and for a year afterward by Mr. Harter. In 1889 he opened a shop on his own account, which he has since managed successfully, giving attention to carriage making, ironing and repairing and to general blacksmithing, making a specialty of repairing all kinds of machinery. He has prospered satisfactorily and has acquired considerable town property. He is an influential citizen and is identified with the orders of the Druids and the Artisans, and is a Mason, a member of blue lodge and chapter, and is a past commander of the local post of the Grand Army of the Republic. In 1899 Mr. Harris was elected by the citizens of the town as one of the city trustees, which position he is earnestly laboring to administer justice for all.
Mr. Harris was married in 1869 to Mary Muhlholland, of Irish ancestry and a native of the state of Rhode Island, and the union has been blessed by the advent of eight children. Their eldest son, William, following in the footsteps of his father and his ancestors, gave his services to his country as a member of Company D, of the Sixth California Regiment, in the Spanish War. The other children are named Emma Agnes, Fanny, Mary, Ellen, Josephine, George and Genever.
Mr. Harris’s brother, Thomas E. Harris, also served in the United States Navy during the Civil War and he also achieved a record of which he had a right to be proud. Four of Mr. Harris’s uncles, Jeremiah, William, Abel and Oran Harris, served in the Union army during the rebellion and two of them gave their lives in defense of their country.
Transcribed by Gerald Iaquinta.
© 2010 Gerald Iaquinta.