George Bryant Harbaugh
birth: 4 April 1894 in St. Joseph, Indiana to George Frederick and Margaret E. “Maggie” Long Harbaugh
death: 29 December 1954 in LaPorte, LaPorte, Indiana
burial: Ridgelawn Cemetery, Gary, Lake, Indiana
marriage: 16 October 1919 in Lake, Indiana
Elsie Wilhelmina Johnson
birth: 1 May 1896 in Miller, now Gary, Lake, Indiana to Anders Ludvig “Gust” and Lovisa “Louse” Carlson Johannesson/Johnson
death: 25 July 1968 in Gary, Lake, Indiana
burial: Ridgelawn Cemetery, Gary, Lake, Indiana
Children of Elsie Wilhelmina Johnson and George Bryant Harbaugh:
- Betty Jean Harbaugh 1922-1988 William Lewis Samuelson
- George Willard Harbaugh 1924-2004 Dorothy Louise Skogseth
- Glenn Robert Harbaugh 1928-1995
Ancestor here lived in:
- St. Joseph, Indiana
- LaPorte, LaPorte, Indiana
- Gary, Lake, Indiana
George Bryant Harbaugh was the eighth child and sixth son of George Frederick and Margaret E. “Maggie” Long Harbaugh. Born on 5 April 1894 in St. Joseph County, Indiana, his father was a teacher/principal and farmer while his mother was a homemaker. Unlike George Bryant’s father who had completed high school, he likely commenced his education in the 8th grade. His early years found him surrounded by a large family that included his great Aunt Mary Ann Eyster Johnson and Great Uncle William Johnson, maternal Grandmother Betsy, paternal Grandfather Pap,and numerous aunts, uncles, and older cousins. In childhood, George Bryant accompanied his father and siblings on fishing trips; the family owned a bicycle by 1897. George Bryant’s older brother, Grover, was an avid ornithologist and the family also had pet cats. Living on a farm, George Bryant was surrounded by cows, chickens, sheep, pigs, and horses. By 1910, George Bryant was employed as a farm laborer on his family’s farm. The family had made frequent trips to Chicago, Cook, Illinois so it is not surprising that George Bryant found work there beginning on 1 May 1917 as a watchman on the Elgin, Joliet, and Eastern Railroad. His monthly salary was $96.00 with additional income for dinner, supper, and rail car fares incurred on the job. His route took him as far west as Joliet, Illinois and as far east as Gary, Lake, Indiana. With the onset of WWI, George Bryant filed for a draft exemption in Miller, Lake, Indiana based on his occupation but it was not granted. In June 1917 he was listed as a single, tall, slender Caucasian with gray eyes and dark hair. George Bryant made the news on 28 July 1917 when, in the course of his duties, he was involved in a shootout with an employee at Gary’s American Sheet and Tin Plate Company who was brandishing a gun and threatening employees. George Bryant shot the man, Peter Pavelich, in the abdomen; he later died at Mercy Hospital in Gary. It is not known where George Bryant met his sweetheart, Elsie Wilhelmina Johnson, who lived in Miller, Lake, Indiana but the couple was discussing marriage when George Bryant enlisted on 30 March 1918 in Crown Point, Lake, Indiana. He arrived at Camp Taylor, Kentucky the following day. He was disappointed as he had hoped he would be sent to Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis, closer to Elsie, instead. At the time, George Bryant believed the war would be won and he would return home by fall stating “If Kaiser Bill could see what resources the U.S. has back of her I think he would say enough.” Instead, he boarded a train on 28 April 1918 for Camp Upton, New York. During a stop in Columbus,Bartholomew, Indiana, he sent Elsie a postcard to update her on his travels. The train trip took him through the hills of Pennsylvania and only 67 miles from his father’s birthplace in Waynesboro, Franklin, Pennsylvania. Arriving at Camp Upton he learned he was supposed to have been sent to Camp Mills so after being dropped off at Union Depot in New York CIty, marching 12 blocks through New York to a ferry, he crossed the Hudson River by ferry boat, and took the NYC & H River Ry to Camp Merritt. Why he did not go the Camp Mills is unknown. On 6 May he set sail for Europe with the D Company, 112th Infantry. Ironically, that regiment began in the Civil War and included the 13th, 15th and 17th Pennyslvania Regiments that had once served at Gettysburg, The current members were composed of Pennsylvanians from the area in which his ancestors had resided for generations. George Bryant arrived “somewhere in Europe” on 15 May 1918; he was in Calais, France the following day. He was first injured by gas in the battle to capture Vaux at Chateau-Thierry. The fighting had been fierce and he reported that less than 100 men out of the company of 250 survived. Next George Bryant battled the Dutch; he wrote to Elsie, “Well, Dear, I think we have learned them that the Yanks aren’t here merely to look on, but we are here to settle the fuss…” George Bryant was injured again in the Argonne Forest and was assigned to Base Hospital 56 by 1 October. He had survived the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. George Bryant experienced Armistice Day in a hospital bed; he reported that “At 4 P.M raise H-l…I was in bed yet then but we sure yelled…Bells all over France rang and everybody was happy, believe me.” He went on boast “it was a So. Bend boy who fired the first shot fired by U.S. troops over a year ago in Alsace Lorraine.” “This war is won ‘Thanks to the Yanks.'” George Bryant was released from the hospital on 15 December and sent to a convalescent camp in Allery, France. He was looking forward to returning home; he had been offered his old job back at E. J. & E. He was hopeful that Elsie and he would wed by June. Unfortunately, he developed acute bronchitis and bronco pneumonia so he was hospitalized at Camp Hospital 52. He lost 30 pounds and was so ill, the Red Cross brought his brother, Grover, to visit him. It was then that he learned that the 1918 Flu Epidemic had impacted his family at home in Indiana. George Bryant returned to the U.S. on 22 May 1919 via the US Transport Manchuria. He was assigned to Camp Merritt, New Jersey, then to Camp Sherman, Ohio. He was discharged on 14 June 1919. For his combat injuries, George Bryant was awarded a Purple Heart. George Bryant returned to Miller, Lake, Indiana and back to his old job at E. J. & E. Unfortunately, a labor strike occurred at U.S. Steel that halted work. It was during that turbulent time, on 16 October 1919, that George Bryant wed Elsie Wilhelmina Johnson in Lake County, Indiana, with Edward Stark officiating. After the strike, George Bryant was hired as a policeman at the steel mills. The couple purchased a home on Michigan Avenue in the Miller section of Gary, next door to Elsie’s widowed mother and her sister, Helen. Elsie’s sister, Ruth, lived five homes away with her husband, Bert Thompson. George Bryant and Elsie purchased a Sears & Roebuck model home, the Westly, via the dry goods catalogue for $2,614.00. It was delivered by railroad and the two story home was assembled by George Bryant. In 1925,the family moved in. Three children were born during the next six years, all were baptized at Augustana Lutheran Church. George Bryant decided to change occupations and became a fireman, perhaps the steel strike had made him seek more stable employment. During the Great Depression, George Bryant continued to be employed as a chauffeur with the Gary Fire Department. In his free time, George Bryant dabbled as an entrepreneur; he designed and marketed a crystal radio beginning in the Winter of 1925. He charged $6.00 for the radio that did not come in a cabinet or .25 for a blueprint. Purchasers reported that they could get a signal 360 miles from their home. Even though it was Prohibition, one satisfied customer promised to send a “nice quart of wine.” George Bryant again made the front page of the local newspaper in April 1937 when he was injured while fighting a fire on Miller Avenue and Howard Street in Gary. About this time he was promoted to Lieutenant. Luckily for the family, the firehouse was a half block from their home. George Bryant’s eldest son, George Willard, was drafted into WW2. After his own war time experience, it must have been difficult for him as a father to bear. Like his father, George Willard was injured, taken as a POW, and returned home earning a Purple Heart. After WW2, George Bryant transferred from fire fighter to being a fire protection agent. He also began working as a fireman at the Kingsbury Ordnance Plant in LaPorte, LaPorte, Indiana. On 13 December 1954, at 1:15 PM he accidentally fell from a ladder while at work. He was transported to Holy Family Hospital in LaPorte. He developed pneumonia and a pulmonary embolism. After 16 days of treatment, George Bryant died. It was the third time in his life that he had made the front page news. He is buried in Ridgelawn Cemetery in the Glen Park section of Gary, Lake, Indiana.
For further information on George Bryant and the Harbaugh family:
Lori Samuelson. Perseverence Amidst Adversity: The Ancestry of Three George Harbaughs. Amazon ebook, 2016.
Contact the submitter for a transcription of The Diary of Mary Ann Eyster Johnson. Submitter is currently working on an ebook about George Bryant’s military service during WW1.