Capt. John Rankin Harkness 1830-1903

John R. Harkness Contract for Corner Building of Lameuse and Pass Christian Streets in Biloxi 1893

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January 14, 1893
The Daily Herald
Biloxi, Mississippi

Excerpts from:


“If the gentleman who lost his upper teeth under the Herald office stairway, during the holidays, will pay for this notice he can recover the lost property by calling on Pete DeJean, at Little Gem saloon, who has the aforesaid teeth in his possession.”


“John R. Harkness, the old reliable builder has the contract fort he erection of a two story building on the corner of Lameuse and Pass Christian streets, which, when completed, will be occupied by Mr. Herbelin, who has recently moved here with his family from Covington, La.”


John R. Harkness was my maternal great great grandfather.


“The Flames” – Biloxi Business District in Ashes – October 13, 1894

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Biloxi Daily Herald

October 13, 1894



Business Houses and Residences Were Burned Like so Much Chaff

LOSS ABOUT $75,000—INSURANCE $28,000.

Heroic Action of Firemen and Citizens

Biloxi has again been visited by a conflagration more sweeping in extent and entailing a financial loss greater than that of the fire of June, 1889. Friday morning about 2 o’clock a private watchman discovered flames issuing from the two-story building of Jos. W. Swetman, located on Pass Christian st., main thoroughfare, and in the most densely populated portion of the city. The alarm was sounded and the fire department turned out in quick order, but the flames had gained such headway that it was impossible to save the building and efforts of the firemen were directed to those adjoining. The Swetman building was occupied by J. W. Swetman a drug-store with sleeping apartments on the second floor occupied by his family, and so rapidly did the fire eat its way that the family were only able to hastily gather a few articles of clothing and make their escape. Another portion of this building on the first floor was occupied John W. Henley, as a oyster saloon. Adjoining the Swetman building, and on the west the fire quickly communicated to the engine room of Mechanics Fire Co., and from that to the Masonic Opera House, a large frame structure. Continuing its course west, on Pass Christian street, the two buildings owned by John Eistetter, one occupied by J. H. Murphy as a blacksmith shop, and the other by P. Ferzar, as a lunch house, were consumed as was also the tin shop belonging to Dan Markey, and a small residence, both in the rear and owned by Jno. Eistetter. Crossing Magnolia street the storehouse and dwelling of Miss St. Tual was soon in ashes. The fire in its eastern course was checked with the burning of the market-house of Felix Borries, by the most desperate and heroic work on the part of both firemen and citizens.

Before this time, however, buildings were burning in all directions, and it looked as if the larger portion of the city would be consumed before the wrath of the fiery monster was appeased. Opposite the Opera House the large two-story business house and dwelling of S. Picard was in flames, and in the flying cinders the intense heat almost immediately ignited the residence of W. K. M. Dukate, on the east and a cottage on Magnolia street, owned by N. Voivedich and occupied by F. W. Eaton. With the destruction of the last named building the flames were, checked on Magnolia street, although the house south of it and occupied by T. E. Colline, was badly scorched.

On the south side of Pass Christian street the residence of Mrs. Rich and a small building adjoining, occupied as a candy store were being rapidly reduced to ashes only to be followed in quick succession by the building occupied by Joseph Lawrence as a shoe shop, and the barber shop J. Kilk both owned by George Ohr, Sr. From the barber shop the next to fall a prey to the fiery demon was the large two-story building owned by Chas. Redding and occupied by him as a residence and grocery store. South of Redding’s a cottage belonging to Dr. J. J. Lemon and occupied by Mrs. Kelty, was burned as was also a two-story cottage adjoining, belonging to Geo. Ohr, Sr. On the north side of Pass Christian st., and east of the Swetman building, four small buildings owned by the same gentlemen, were destroyed—one of these was without a tenant and the other occupied by Sing Lee as a laundry; H. Eikel, merchant tailor; and Mrs. Ohr, grocer.

The fire in this direction was checked at the building owned by Mrs. Amare and occupied by Keel & Jennett, grocers. This building was damaged to the extent of about $100, and it seemed at times beyond the power of human beings to save the structure and it was only by almost superhuman efforts that the flames were checked at this point. The destruction of this building would have followed by the loss of many more, and with this appalling fact staring them in the face the firemen worked with redoubled vigor and until their hands and faces were scorched and blistered by the devouring element.

In the rear of the property last destroyed stood the famous pottery of Geo. E. Ohr, whose shop during the past severel [sic] years has been visited by hundreds of visitors from other sections and from almost every State in the Union, seeking relics in artistic pottery. In a few moments the toil and work of Ohr, the artistic potter, was reduced to ashes.

In the rear of the opera-house the planning mills of John R. Harkness & Sons, together with a large amount of finished work and lumber, was destroyed.

In the upper story of the opera-house were the lodge rooms of the Masons and Knights of Pythias. The regalia and all paraphernalia of both orders were completely destroyed, only the secretary’s and treasurer’s books of the Masonic order being saved.

On the ground floor of the opera-house was the office of the Postal Telegraph Co., and the watch-maker shop of B. M. Root, both suffering a total loss.

Fortunately there was but little wind during the conflagration, else the damage would have been more than doubled. As it was, houses several blocks away from the seat of the fire were ignited by flying cinders, and it was only by the closest surveillance that many other buildings were not added to the conflagration.

The Convent of Mercy, situated some distance from the scene, was on fire twice, but before gaining any headway, the flames were extinguished.

During the height of the fire, and until it was well under control, much excitement prevailed among residents in the neighborhood. Houses were emptied of their contents, and vehicles of all sorts were pressed in service to aid in conveying the goods to a place of safety. In many instances this was found to be unnecessary. Household goods were piled helter-skelter in every direction, and when daylight came, the scene presented cannot be described. The area of the fire covers the larger portion of four squares in the heart of the city and as the buildings destroyed were all of wood, there was little resistance to the flames.

[Partially illegible paragraph] paraphernalia, $500; insurance on opera-house, $1500.
Knights of Pythias, $1000; insurance, $600.
Geo. Ohr, Sr., $5000; no insurance.
John R. Harkness & Sons, $3000; no insurance.
Miss St. Tual, $700; insurance, $2000.
Geor E. Ohr, $3000; no insurance.
H. Eikel, $2800; insurance $1000.
J. Kilk, $400; no insurance.
Jos. Lawrence, $100; no insurance.
Mrs. Rich (2 houses), loss unknown.
Dan Markey, $250; no insurance.
Mechanics’ Steam Fire Co., $400; no insurance.
J. H. Murphy, $100; no insurance.
Felix Borries, $400, no insurance.
N. Voivedich, $700; no insurance.
F. W. Eaton, $00; no insurance.
J. Eistetter, $1000; no insurance.
B. M. Root, $400; no insurance.
P. Ferrar, $800; no insurance.

The insurance is divided among the following companies of E. W. Morrill’s agencies:
Royal $00; Harford, $6450; American Fire, $2345; Phoenix of London, $2275; Phenix of Brooklyn, $2550; Lancashire, $2000; Queen, $1500; Liverpool, London and Globe, $3500; Mechanics and Traders, $3200.

In but few instances was any portion of the contents of the burned buildings saved, and then only in a damaged condition. There is also considerable loss in the way of outhouses, stables, fences, etc.

The Electric Light Co. lose [sic] about $6000 in the destruction of poles wires, transformers, etc.

Many of those burned out will commence rebuilding at once. The loss is a severe one to our people, and to many is the loss of all their possessions. The business men who own property along Pass Christian st., to whom a Herald reporter has talked to on the subject signify their willingness to widen the street ten feet on either side than its present width.

The Herald building was threatened by flying cinders, and had it not been covered with abestos [sic], there is but little doubt that the roof would have ignited and it would have been almost impossible to have saved the building from destruction, and that or other and valuable property. Owners having property in the west end of town can thank their lucky stars that this office was covered by asbestos [sic], for had it burned the destruction would have been three fold greater than now recorded.


My great great grandfather John Rankin Harkness’s business is mentioned as destroyed in this article. Capt. John Rankin Harkness (1830-1903) was one of the founders of the Biloxi Fire Dept. He was born in Pelham, Hampshire, Massachusetts, the son of William Harkness and Abigail Turner.

Capt. John Rankin HARKNESS (1830 – 1903) — My 2nd great-grandfather

Edna Irene HARKNESS (1880 – 1952), daughter of Capt. John Rankin HARKNESS

John Harkness MORRIS (1901 – 1965), son of Edna Irene HARKNESS

Janie Lucille MORRIS (1935 – 2013), daughter of John Harkness MORRIS

Me, the daughter of Janie Lucille MORRIS



Charter of Incorporation of The John R. Harkness and Sons Building and Milling Company of Biloxi, Miss.

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Biloxi Daily Herald

May 6, 1893

CHARTER OF INCORPORATION of The John R. Harkness and Sons Building and Milling Company of Biloxi, Miss.

Be it remembered that on the 2d [sic] day of January, in the year of our Lord 1893, that John R. Harkness, Wm. T. Harkness, Giles A. Harkness, and J. Lewis Harkness and such other persons as may hereafter become associated with them and their successors, be and are hereby constituted a body corporate under the name and title of The John R. Harkness and Sons Building and Milling Company, and as such may have a common seal, may sure and be sued, plead and be impleaded in all the courts of this State, may contract and be contracted with may own and acquire real and personal property as provided by law, relating to corporations.

Section 2. This corporation is created for the purpose of doing a general milling, building and lumber business and shall exist for a period of twenty-five (25) years, unless sooner dissolved by a two-thirds (2/3) vote of the stockholders, and its domicile shall be Biloxi, Harrison County Mississippi.

Sec. 4. The officers of said corporation shall be a president, vice-president and a secretary and treasurer who shall be elected aunually [sic] and shall serve for one year or until their successors are elected. The following officers shall hold the offices of said corporation for one year from the approval of this corporation, to-wit, John R. Harkness, president, ____ _____, vice-president, ____ _____, secretary and treasurer.

Sec. 5. Said corporation may enact such by-laws for its government as may be deemed expedient by a majority of the stock-holders.

Sec. 6. Said corporation shall have such other powers, as provided by chapter 25 of the Annotated Code relating to Corporations.

Sec. 7. This charter shall be in force and effect from and after its approval.

April 22, 1893


1893-05-06 Biloxi Daily Herald-Ad for JR Harkness and Sons Building and Milling Co


1892-11-26 Biloxi Herald-John R. Harkness
1892-11-26 Biloxi Herald John R. Harkness “well known contractor”.
1892-11-26 Biloxi Herald-John R. Harkness 3
1892-11-26 Biloxi Herald – Mention of location “opposite residence of Capt. John Harkness”.
1892-11-26 Biloxi Herald-John R. Harkness 2
1892-11-26 Biloxi Herald-John R. Harkness “Contractor and Builder”


Capt. John Rankin HARKNESS (1830 – 1903) My 2nd great-grandfather…

Edna Irene HARKNESS (1880 – 1952) daughter of Capt. John Rankin HARKNESS

John Harkness MORRIS (1901 – 1965) son of Edna Irene HARKNESS

Janie Lucille MORRIS (1935 – 2013) daughter of John Harkness MORRIS

Me, the daughter of Janie Lucille MORRIS

Harkness Happenings – January 14, 1893

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Biloxi Daily Herald

January 14, 1893


“John R. Harkness, the old reliable builder has the contract for the erection of a two story building on the corner of Lameuse and Pass Christian streets, which, when completed, will be occupied by Mr. Herbelin, who has recently moved here with his family from Covington, La.”



Proceedings of the Retiring City Council and Inauguration of the New Officers (excerpt)

“J. C. Bradford, alderman 4th ward, gave bond of $500 with John R. Harkness and J. W. Maybin as sureties.”


Donkey Party

The first Donkey party of the season was given Thursday evening at the residence of Mr. T. P Dulion, in honor of Miss M. Hannon’s birthday. After a great deal of amusement furnished by those trying to replace the donkey’s tail in the proper place, Miss C. Schumann captured the first prize, Miss S. Harkness, the second prize and Mrs. A. Dulion, the booby prize. The fun being over dancing was indulged in till the wee hours of morning. The following enjoyed the pleasures of the evening: Mr. and Mrs. T. P. Dulion, Mr. and Mrs. A. Dulion, Mesdames Arndt and Park, Misses Lizana, M. Hannon, T. Wachenfeld, C. Schumann, M. Ohr, S. Harkness, E. Shields, I. Park M. Murray, M. and O. Barthes, R. Henley, U. Harvey A. Bourdon, M. Ramon, T. Nielsen, M. Schumacher, E. Matthews and Messrs. C. W. Wachenfeld, P. Gillen, U. Desporte, O. Thompson, P. Wachenfeld, E. Barra, H. Champlin, W. Cousans, F. and L. Harvey, F. and A. J. Bourdon, W., G. and L. Harkness, W. Balthrope, W. Collins, W. Suter, Ramon, Lang, F. Shields, Lizana, A. Church, J. Bannon and H. M. Clark, Jr.

Ladies Aid Society

The Ladies Aid of M. E. church held their annual business meeting Tuesday afternoon. The meeting proved both pleasant and profitable. Mrs. Stilphen, having served as president for two years, resigned, giving this plea—“The interest of the work demands a change.”

Newly elected officers: President, Mrs. Chas Patten; first vice-president, Mrs. Peacock; treasurer, Mrs. Scott; secretary, Miss Sadie Stilphen; assistant secretary, Miss Estelle Harkness.

Several committees were arranged viz [sic]:

Committee on visiting the sick—Mesdames Peacock, Harkness and Scott.

Committee on visiting strangers—Mesdames Balfour and Horu, and Miss Estelle Harkness.

Committee on looking up Sunday-school scholars—Mesdames Robertson and Park, and Miss Annie Cousans.

The next meeting will be held with Mrs. Scott on Tuesday, the 17th, at 2 o’clock.

Wedding Bells for Harkness-Stilphen

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Biloxi Daily Herald

1896 Sep 5



The marriage of Miss Sadie A. Stilphen and Mr. William T. Harkness, both of this city last Wednesday, at 8:30 p.m., at the residence of the bride’s parents, was the occasion of much rejoicing among the two families. The couple are both well-known in Biloxi and are members of society in high standing. The bride is the only daughter of Capt. and Mrs. John H. Silphen who reside at West End. The groom is Biloxi’s well-known architect, contractor and builder, and is the eldest son of Mr. and Mrs. John R. Harkness. The wedding was a quiet and select affair, with only the relatives of each family present and a few chosen guests. The officiating clergyman was Rev. D. L. Mitchell. The attendants were Miss Abbie Harkness, a sister of the groom, and Henry N. Stilphen, a brother of the bride.

At the appointed hour the contracting parties took their position under a large floral bell, while Miss Estelle Harkness, presiding at the organ, performed Mendelssohn’s Wedding March, the execution of which was fine. The words that made the beautiful couple one were soon said, and they were the recipients of general congratulations from those present. Among these were Mrs. S. M. Stilphen, mother of the bride, and Henry N. Stilphen. The Captain was not present owing to duties on his vessel. There were also in evidence Mr. and Mrs. John R. Harkness, Giles A. Harkness and wife, Misses Estelle, Abbie, Edna and May Harkness, and J. Louis Harkness. Reve. D. L. Mitchell and wife, Misses Priscilla and A. Mitchell, Miss Alice Cousans, G. M. Robertson and wife, Mrs. T. J. Rosell, Harry and Miss Una Suter, Miss Jennie Gillen and others.

As it was the intention of the couple to immediately depart after the ceremony on the 10:04 p.m. train for a brief stay at Mobile and Point Clear, the bride was joined to her choice arrayed in a very fine and elaborate travelling gown of a soft, gray color, with hat and gloves to match, carrying a magnificent bouquet of natural flowers, and, as she stood beside the man she had selected, they formed a beautiful picture. After a short time spent in congratulations, the party entered hacks and were conveyed to the depot, where the train was boarded and, amid a shower of virgin rice, the handsome couple sped on their way with the gates of life open to them, and their friend’s best wishes following them. The trip will naturally be a short one owing to the manifold duties of the husband and which just at present can not be neglected.

Mayors of Biloxi

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Biloxi Daily Herald

October 31, 1934

MAYORS OF BILOXI — The earliest records available begin with the ‘50’s. L. E. Pradat was “president of the town” and “selectmen” served with him in 1857. The next record now at City Hall states that James Fewell was mayor in 1861 and James Blythe served as mayor protem  during that year, and the selectmen had become “aldermen.” Other mayors of which there are records are:

1866 – John L. Henley

1868 – Lyman B. Holley

            (There is a loss of records for a few years)

1875 – H. J. Meaut

1877 – Lyman B. Holley

1878-1880 – R. Caillavet

1881-1882 – F. W. Elmer

1883-(part) – J. R. Harkness

1883-1884 – Emile Laudner

1885-1886 – J. A. Bousquet

1887-1888 – Emile Laudner

1888 – John Walker

1889-1890 – Harry T. Howard

1891 – F. W. Elmer

1893-1894 – John A. Bousquet

1895-1913 – Edward Glennan

1914-1933 – John J. Kennedy

1933-1934 – R. Hart Chinn



Mayor J. R. Harkness was my Great Great Grandfather:

Capt. John Rankin HARKNESS (1830 – 1903)
2nd great-grandfather
Edna Irene HARKNESS (1880 – 1952)
daughter of Capt. John Rankin HARKNESS
John Harkness MORRIS (1901 – 1965)
son of Edna Irene HARKNESS
Janie Lucille MORRIS (1935 – 2013)
daughter of John Harkness MORRIS

William Turner Harkness Dies in Wisconsin 1941 – Biloxi Architect and Builder

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William Turner Harkness Death - TRose Blog Entry



William Turner “Willie” Harkness (1869 – 1941)  – my 2nd great-uncle

Capt. John Rankin HARKNESS (1830 – 1903) father of William Turner “Willie” Harkness

Edna Irene HARKNESS (1880 – 1952) daughter of Capt. John Rankin HARKNESS

John Harkness MORRIS (1901 – 1965) son of Edna Irene HARKNESS

Janie Lucille MORRIS (1935 – 2013) daughter of John Harkness MORRIS

Me, the daughter of Janie Lucille MORRIS