Friday, July 25, 2014

Where’s Harry?

In trying to locate any information on Harry Sullivan, son of Julia Creahan Sullivan of Denver, Colorado, it seemed fairly uncomplicated—up to a point. At first, finding his name in the various documents and reference volumes at the beginning of the 1900s was straightforward. Right off the bat, we could see nine year old Harry in his mom’s home in the 1900 census. In the 1910 census, there he was again—albeit listed with an age that had not advanced commensurate with that ten year time span—still in Julia’s household.

By the time we had taken a peek at the 1913 city directory, looking for this possible Kelly descendant, it was easy to see Harry was still in the household of Julia C. Sullivan at the same Grant Avenue address that was showing in the 1900 census.

Whether we had found the right newspaper articles for this Harry Sullivan or not, there was a steady stream of mentions in the local papers—a regular showing, in fact, until right up to that last mention in the Rocky Mountain News on Monday, June 26, 1916. While I had shared just a section of the report the other day, here’s the full article:
The O’Fallons defeated the McGinnity All-Stars yesterday at the sunken gardens by a score of 14 to 6. The features of the game were the hitting of Trout, Gaut and Richmond for the winners and the all-around playing of Harry Sullivan, who lifted out three timely hits and made several great catches at the short field. Sullivan leaves today for a brief vacation in the mountains.

Apparently, the “brief vacation in the mountains” to which the News referred was not an idyllic getaway for Harry. While he did end up heading to the mountains, he was going on business—a different kind of business. After all, this was 1916. There was a war going on—although the United States did not embroil itself in the conflict until April, 1917.

Given the number of Harry Sullivans I had been finding in Denver at the time, I was hesitant to believe the next newspaper entries were for the same man. Gone were the fan-pleasing kudos for the popular baseball player—although there were indications that the military Harry was one and the same as the baseball Harry. Apparently, at just about the same time as that June 26, 1916, article was printed in the Rocky Mountain News, Harry was heading for training camp as part of the Colorado National Guard.

It didn’t take the News long to follow Harry’s trail. The July 7 edition that year carried a line drawing of the man, captioned:
One of the best known and most popular baseball players in the state, a member of the Colorado National guard, now at the Golden rifle range, who has been promoted from private to sergeant major of the First battalion, Sullivan, alert and shrewd, a lad who can always be depended upon, is making quite a hit with the “higher ups” at the range. He joined the guard at the first call for men, and his rapid promotion is the talk of the town.

He was up in the mountains, alright—up at Golden, Colorado—and was already beginning to see a rise in his new status in the Guard.

Harry was gone from Denver for the rest of the summer playing season and well into the winter, judging from the next appearance of his name in any Denver papers. The News promised on January 15, 1917, that
Harry Sullivan and Shorty O’Connor, well-known local ball players, who have been stationed with the national guard, expect to be back by March 1.

They were back—although a little later than March first, as promised—but not for long. The March 18, 1917, News gave his fans a glimpse of what Harry had been up to in the past few months.
Hail, hail: the famous boys are here! Harry Sullivan and Shorty O’Conner, the best-known players of corner lots, are scheduled to arrive in town today. They have been at the border with the Prides of Colorado, at the Brownsville (Texas) military camp.

Perhaps Harry remained in Denver for a few months, for the News mentioned him once again on May 23, 1917, as part of an article on local military developments:
            Two squads of women, each with eight members…gave a finished exhibition of preliminary army drills at the third meeting of the Colorado woman’s regiment at the Brown Palace hotel last night.
            Under the direction of Capt. Charles H. Doke of the first separate battalion of infantry, drill master, assisted by Sergt. Harry Sullivan, the squads of young women easily acquired the drill and gave promise of becoming first-class soldiers….

Not long afterwards—on July 24—yet another promotion was announced in the News for Harry:
Sergt. Harry Sullivan has been promoted to second lieutenant….

By June September 7, 1917, it seemed that life was returning to normal for Harry—almost. He was back to playing ball in Denver, according to the News:
Headed by Lieut. Harry Sullivan, a baseball nine composed of some of the best players at Fort Logan will play the American Beauties at Thirty eighth and Wyandot street Sunday afternoon.

That, however, seemed to be short-lived. There was another mission on the horizon for Harry. He made one more visit to Denver, mentioned in the News on June 12, 1918—this time from a military post in California. Perhaps this provides the explanation why we couldn't find this Harry in the Denver city directory for 1918:
Lieut. Harry Sullivan, who has played ball with many different clubs on the lots of Denver, is here on a visit from Camp Kearny, Cal. He will miss many of his team mates as pretty nearly all of them are in Uncle Sam’s service.

What became of Harry Sullivan after this point, in terms of his participation in the war, was not clear—until after the war was over. Even after the armistice on November 11, 1918, no further mention of Harry appeared in the paper until two articles printed in May, 1919.

One of those two mentions appeared in the Denver Post on May 18, and gave a glimpse of where Harry had been, and what business obligations still awaited him.
Lieut. Harry Sullivan, who just returned from France with the 157th division, is leaving Denver today for Salt Lake City, to help the Mormon City in their Victory Drive there. They are away behind Denver and Harry is going to show them what they should do.

The other article, short and sweet, provides us with—almost—just the familial connection which we were all hoping for.

Photograph: Panoramic view of Camp Kearny, California, taken in January, 1918, about the time Harry Sullivan may have been there in training; courtesy Library of Congress via Wikipedia; in the public domain.


  1. I know I should focus on Harry, but I can't help it ... American Beauties??? Hardly the powerful and intimidating names of today's teams.

  2. I suspect Harry was the coach of a women's team but I can't prove it.

    1. American Beauties? That would make sense!

      And keep in mind, Harry was also assisting a drill master in working with a women's regiment. Why not get a team of them to play sports?!


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