Senator Orlando Harrison

image of Senator Orlando HarrisonBorn January 27,1867 – Died March 25,1928

Senator Harrison’s Life’s History: Senator Orlando Harrison, of Berlin, Md., A Story of Opportunity and Accomplishments of a Native Son of the Del-Mar-Va Peninsula, written by E.D. Prince, Editor “Delaware.”

reprint of brochure by The Berlin Times Print, Berlin, Maryland, 1926

“Senator Harrison’s Life’s History Similar to Characters in Alger’s Stories.”

The finest product of any State or Nation is its people, and the ideal type of citizen is one who carves for himself, by virtue of his achievements, a place in the hearts of his fellow-men.

It is trypical of America that an individual may be born without riches and by sheer strength of character and determination win a great measure of success, the material rewards of which are secondary in importance to the esteem by which he is held by his neighbors.

This is the factor that makes American the “Land of Promise” and holds out to the native as well as the foreign-born boy or girl such opportunities as are not found elsewhere.

We who believe the Del-Mar-Va Peninsula to be rich in opportunities, because of certain natural gifts of climate, soil and topographical situation, together with the man-made improvements of highways, railways, fine homes, schools, churches, and all the things that make our standard of living the highest in the world, base our belief on the results of our efforts in this veritable “Garden of the East.”

As an example of what can be accomplished, by taking advantage of the opportunities existing, we offer the record of a native son, Orlando Harrison whose fame as a Nurseryman, Orchardist and Farmer has spread throughout the world.

Delawareans acknowledge with pride that Orlando Harrison was born at Roxana, Delaware, in Sussex County, on January 27, 1867.

The older residents of that section will tell you that he early showed his ambition to work out his destiny by the sweat of his brow in true Biblical fashion. They will tell you how at the age of seven years he toiled in the strawberry fields of that section, picking strawberries at the prevailing rate of compensation of one cent per quart.

At the age of twelve years he would be seen during the school vacation period, driving a timber wagon and handling three yoke of oxen, with a finesse out of the ordinary for one of his youth, for which he received twenty-five cents a day.

At seventeen we find him in the vast pine forests of North Carolina measuring lumber for his father; later stripping blades in the fodder fields of Roxana for one dollar and a half per week and board.

In 1884 he moved to Berlin, Maryland, with his father and mother and engaged in the fruit and nursery business, and farming. This business opened up an avenue for his unlimited energy and ability to organize and in quest of a broader knowledge of the subject he visited the peach orchards of Georgia in 1900 to study methods, varieties, etc., at close range.

After four years of intensive study and experiment he planted fifty thousand peach and apple trees in 1900 at Hancock, Maryland in association with E. P. Cohill and Sons.

In 1904, 1905 and 1906 he planted large orchards in Delaware, Maryland and West Virginia.

By this time the people of his community and the whole Eastern Shore who had watched his advancement and his devotion to business, decided that he should represent them as a member of the House of Delegates in 1906 for the State of Maryland.

Into his public life he carried the same spirit of service and served his constituents honestly and fearlessly, aligning himself with those forces seeking to achieve constructive benefits for the people of his county and State.

Not being able to remain satisfied with the usual normal course of experience, and ever on the alert to broaden his knowledge of Horticulture he visited the apple orchards of Kansas and the Western States in 1907. After an extensive tour of the Western States he returned to his home, convinced that the Eastern Shore of Maryland had unlimited possibilities of reward for honest effort.

A man is always judged by the place he holds among the home folks and as Mayor of Berlin from 1900 to 1908 and again in 1910, he exerted a powerful influence for the betterment of his municipality.

During Mayor Harrison’s administration the town built its municipally-owned water and light system, aquired electric street and domestic lighting service, paved its streets and accomplished many other improvements that greatly added to the comfort and prosperity of the people.

In 1908 Mr. Harrison made an extended tour through Europe visiting England, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, and Holland to but evergreens and shrubs, for propagation in America.

In 1912 he was elected President of the American Association of Nurserymen and also visited the peach orchards and nurseries of Texas, Georgia and other Southern States for study and observation.

In the same year his ability to serve the people was again recognized when he was sent to the Maryland Senate which office he has held to this date (1926) with credit to himself and to those he represents.

Senator Harrison has served as Chairman on the Committee on Roads and Highways, Chairman of the Committee on Education, and served on the Finance and other important Committees in the Senate.

In 1915 he visited the great apple orchards of the West, especially in Colorado, and toured the States of Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, New York, and New Jersey to study prevailing conditions in fruit and farming.

In 1919 he inspected orchards in the Southern States to note improvements in varieties and methods of Horticulture. His standing in this field, made him President of the Maryland State Horticultural Society and also President of the Peninsula Horticultural Society, having also served on the Executive Committee of both bodies and is yet an active member of both.

In the autumn of 1925 accompanied by his third son, Orlando Jr., Senator Harrison again visited Europe to study the advanced methods of growing evergreens, bulbs, roses and shrubs and market conditions for the sale of fruit in Europe. He left his son, Orlando Jr., in Holland to study the cultivation and growth of evergreens with one of the largest firms on the continent, then to London to take a course in Landscape Gardening. He visited the Kew Gardens in London to study landscaping methods which might be applied to the business in America.

Notwithstanding the great amount of time Senator Harrison has devoted to public affairs he has succeeded, with the aid of his father, Joseph G. Harrison, who died in 1912, and a brother, George A. Harrison, who died in 1922, and with the assistance of his four sons and two nephews, in developing Harrison’s Nurseries into a business of gigantic proportions.

The firm is the largest grower of fruit and shade trees in the world, having as many as ten million trees and seedlings per year. The business is not confined to the production of trees, but includes innumerable varieties of evergreens, shrubs, flowers and plants of many kinds.

There are vast orchards of apple trees and one of the most prolific peach orchards in the world, aged twenty-two years. These orchards were formerly the special care of George A. Harrison, but since his demise, have been under the supervision of Henry L. Harrison.

The Nurseries form the principal industry to be found in Berlin and the payroll carries from two hundred to five hundred employees as the season requires. Hundreds of carloads of fruit and nursery stock are shipped annually to all parts of the country.

The firm has devoted considerable attention to the growing of strawberries, peaches and apples and other crops because of the proximity to the northern markets.

Senator Harrison has employed more labor and paid out more money in Worcester County for labor than any other man in the County for 40 years.

At the time Senator Harrison was sent to the Maryland Senate from the Eastern Shore, there were practically no improved highways on the Peninsula below Wilmington, Delaware.

Ocean City, Maryland’s only seaside resort, which is seven miles from Berlin, could then be reached only by crossing to the peninsula on which it is located, by means of a railroad bridge, and by dirt road.

The agriculturalists of the Eastern Shore had other grievancies which they wished relieved by the Legislature and Senator Harrison gave freely of his time in every effort to improve existing conditions.

Much of the credit for the improvements throughout the whole Eastern Shore must be credited to the untiring work of this representative of the people of this section.

A main trunk road to Baltimore with its feeders and branches now connects the region with over twelve hundred miles of fine roads in the State of Maryland.

Through his efforts the Ocean City bridge was made possible. This has brought Ocean City thousands of visitors annually and the tourist traffic that has developed has been profitable to the State and to the counties and towns through which it is now passing.

Senator Harrison was one of the men responsible for making the University of Maryland at College Park, Maryland, from a small College to a real University for all farmer boys and girls of the State. Senator Harrison was one of the original men named in the charter for the Eastern Shore State Normal School, and always a friend to the Maryland State College of Agriculture.

Senator Harrison was an able supporter of the bill providing for County Demonstrators or Agents, the State and Federal Governments contributing equally to the support of these men.

Through his efforts the beautiful bridge at Pocomoke City was made possible, as a part of the State Highway system, and he hopes to be able to bring to fulfillment plans looking to the drainage of large areas of land now under water in times of high water or heavy rainfall, and other important improvements to complete the needed road improvements in the county.

Senator Harrison has found time to devote to fraternal activities, being a member of the Masonic Order, Independent Order of Odd Fellows and the Improved Order of Red Men. He has given his financial influence to a number of business enterprises of Berlin and greatly aided them by his sound judgement and advice. He is President of the Exchange and Savings Bank of Berlin, the Berlin Building and Loan Association numbers him among its directors. He loves his church and has given his time to the church, and was honored as a representative at the Methodist General Conference in 1924.

On the fifteenth of January 1893, he was united in marriage to Miss Ada Long of Frankford, Sussex County, Delaware, and they have become the parents of four sons, – G. Hale, Henry L., Orlando, Jr., and John Long Harrison. G. Hale Harrison is a graduate of Cornell University and has been actively identified with the business for several years. For some time he had charge of the budding of all fruit trees and is now Manager of Sales and Treasurer of the concern.

The second son, Henry L. Harrison, entered the business as director of the Orchards. Orlando, Jr., will have charge of the Greenhouses and John Long Harrison has charge of the Nursery. The two sons of George A. Harrison, Joseph G. Harrison and Burbage Harrison are now at school, and take an active part in the business.

Senator Harrison is keenly interested in any movement that will benefit the Del-Mar-Va Peninsula as a whole. He has given moral and financial support to the movement to divert automobile traffic north and south through the Peninsula along the new Del-Mar-Va trail from Dover, Del. to Cape Charles, Va., via Berlin, being convinced that this project will yield valuable benefits to the whole region.

He has been active in promoting the Del-Mar-Va Eastern Shore Association which plans to advertise the entire Peninsula through the nationwide campaign of publicity. He is thoroughly enthused on the many advantages to be found in this favored country, and those who are striving to develop the latent possibilities of the Peninsula point to the achievements of this native son, as the logical answer to the question “what can you offer in return for hard work intelligently directed and coupled with the desire to be a good citizen.”