Monday, August 18, 2014

More Good Reports About Harry

In addition to the statement issued by the governor upon Harry A. Sullivan’s passing in 1950, a number of other good reports accompanied this Kelly family descendant’s last remembrance in his hometown Denver newspapers. Some give us a more well-rounded picture of the kind of guy Harry Sullivan really was. Some—and those I’ll share tomorrow—fill in the kind of blanks I had not been able to locate anywhere else.

Of course, as any eulogy usually does, the reports in both the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News began with the beginning: Harry’s birth in Denver. Only problem was, the date given by both papers is suspect. Granted, both papers were in agreement—they listed his birth date as August 8, 1895, as did his headstone—but taking a look back at evidence produced shortly after that birth date tells a different story. The reporting party for the Sullivan household in the 1900 census—likely his recently-widowed mother, Julia Creahan Sullivan—declared that Harry’s birth occurred in August of 1890. According to his mom, at the time of that census, Harry was nine years of age. Still, if that was his story—and everyone was sticking to it—it’s best I file that fact away for future researching reference.

As far as Harry’s military service went, there were a few tidbits I gleaned from the newspaper articles. One was that his unit was noted in both newspapers as “the famed 157th Infantry.” While I don’t know enough about World War I history to immediately agree with that journalistic assessment, it seems a point worth pursuing further.

The News noted that Harry enlisted in the U.S. Army “when very young.” I imagine lopping off five years from the date of one’s birth might bring on such appearances.

The News went on to observe that Harry “saw action on the Mexican border,” perhaps confirming the very mission for which we had previously read that he had been "at the border" during his time with the National Guard.

The Denver Post article included a list of all the schools Harry Sullivan had attended in his earlier years—a possible wealth of information, should I be able to locate old school yearbooks:
Mr. Sullivan attended Sherman and Logan public schools, St. Joseph’s parochial school, West Denver high school and Regis college.

An interesting addition to the Post article was this explanation of the start of Harry’s work on behalf of veterans as they returned from World War I:
The state veterans post was an unpaid position. Mr. Sullivan was officer manager for the legal firm of Lee, Bryans, Kelly and Stansfield.

The News corrected the name of his firm to include the fourth partner as “Stanfield,” and also added that Harry had previously served as office manager for another—undoubtedly known about town—firm, “Lee Shaw & McCreery.” Perhaps Mr. Lee valued the contributions Harry Sullivan made to his practice and took the manager with him when he made the move—or reorganization?—to the other firm.

The observation that Harry’s position at the state veterans’ post was an unpaid one is telling. We’ve already seen that, at the beginning, Harry had sometimes helped fellow veterans out of their hardships by digging into his own pocket. Apparently, the way he funded such charity was to work two jobs—one paid, one donated.

However he achieved it, Harry was ultimately recognized for his concern by the remembrance of a good friend, whose statement was carried by the Post:
“There never was a more charitable man than Harry Sullivan,” said Joseph H. Leyden, Sullivan’s longtime associate and friend. “His whole life was devoted to taking care of the underdog and under-privileged. Upon his return from World war I, he set up with his own limited funds an employment agency for veterans. An outstanding athlete in his younger days, he remained interested in athletics from the standpoint of young men.”

At Harry’s passing, noted both newspapers, he was living in town with his unmarried sister, Florence. In addition, his other sister—Regina, now listed as “Mrs. Rex McClinton”—survived him. No mention of Harry’s older brother, Thomas, provides us a benchmark for this other sibling’s passing, in hopes of locating yet another obituary.

The most helpful part of the two newspaper articles on Harry’s passing, however, was their mention of Harry’s father. With the few sentences included in the Denver Post article, we can glean enough to help isolate the right Thomas F. Sullivan—for just as we encountered when searching for documents on Harry’s mother Julia, you know, in a city the size of late 1800s Denver, there would be multiple Thomas Sullivans as well.


  1. Being remembered as a charitable person is something to strive for. Harry's charity was on a big scale. What a noble and admirable man he was.

    1. Family or not, that's the kind of man I wish we had gotten the opportunity to know. I wonder how many of his cousins back east in Indiana had any idea of all he was involved in...

  2. I wonder about that 5 year "gap" in reported ages. What happened?

    1. I've been wondering about that gap, too, Iggy. In war times back then, there certainly was that incentive to report one's date of birth in a way that makes a man seem older, but younger?

      My only guess--and I could be way off, here--is that it may have involved schooling. Now that we see the listing of all the schools he attended, it's apparent that he did something not everyone back then did: finished high school (and did some college work, too). I wonder if someone took him under his wings, encouraged him to go back to school--despite his fatherless condition, which in those times might have meant getting a job to help support the family. While age boundaries weren't as rigid in schooling situations back then as now, he may have found himself graduating much older than the usual two year variance in ages.

      Remember that strange football captain newspaper article I found? I'll have to go back now and see: maybe it was for our Harry Sullivan, after all!

  3. Strange that he would lop off five years of his age. I still think the census takers talked to whoever came to the door and many times they talked to small children who didn't know a thing and would just guess...neighbors too. I wonder if census takers were paid per household?

  4. Yes I found a reference to them being paid two cents per person and five cents for anyone that served in the great war or a widow of a soldier. That was for the 1890 census. I couldn't find a reference to the 1900 census that stated what they were paid, but I bet it was similar. The more names you put down the more you got paid...and not everyone was at home when they visited.


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