Manitoba Historical Society
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Memorable Manitobans: Thomas James Harrison (1885-1964)

Agronomist, professor.

Born near Graysville on 15 April 1885, son of William Harrison (1844-1916) and Margaret McCullough (1843-?), he attended Kilmory School, Orr School, and Carman High School then was the first student to enroll in the Manitoba Agricultural College at Winnipeg, in 1906. After graduation in 1910, he taught field husbandry there until 1913, when he became Superintendent of the federal experimental farm at Indian Head, Saskatchewan. He came back to the college in 1915 to become professor of field husbandry. His research on crossbreeding and high-yield barley was important for the malting industry. In 1917, he was appointed Secretary to the provincial government’s Demonstration Farm Board. He helped found the Manitoba Agronomists Conference in 1920 and became assistant commissioner for Manitoba with the Board of Grain Commissioners in 1925. He also served as President of the Canadian Seed Growers Association. In 1932 he became Chair of the National Barley Committee and was instrumental in founding the Barley Improvement Institute. He retired in 1960.

On 4 September 1912, he married Ethel Mary Playfair (1891-1973) at Winnipeg. They had four children: Archibald William Playfair “Archie” Harrison (1913-2000, husband of Dossie H. MacLean), Alan James Harrison (1918-1966, husband of June C. Burn), Dorothy Meryl Morrow Harrison (1919-2008, wife of G. Herbert S. Malcolmson), and Harold Page Harrison (1926-1995, husband of Davena E. Lindberg). He was a member of the Winnipeg Kiwanis Club and was responsible for a public-speaking contest open to members of boys’ and girls’ clubs of the province. He was elected to the Agricultural Institute of Canada and the Royal Academy. In 1951, the University of Manitoba gave him an honorary doctorate.

He died at the Winnipeg General Hospital on 3 March 1964 and was buried in the Greenwood Cemetery. He was inducted posthumously into the Manitoba Agricultural Hall of Fame.


Birth, marriage, and death registrations, Manitoba Vital Statistics.

1901 Canada census, Automated Genealogy.

“Farm demonstration board’s secretary,” Winnipeg Tribune, 6 April 1917, page 14.

“Dossie MacLean plights troth to A. W. P. Harrison Saturday,” Winnipeg Free Press, 1 June 1942, page 9.

“Engagements,” Winnipeg Tribune, 20 March 1954, page 15.

“Couple celebrate 50th anniversary,” Winnipeg Tribune, 15 September 1962, page 31.

Obituary, Winnipeg Tribune, 4 March 1964, page 72.

Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 6 March 1964, page 29.

Obituary [Alan James Harrison], Winnipeg Free Press, 6 July 1966, page 32.

Obituary [Ethel Mary Harrison], Winnipeg Free Press, 8 May 1973, page 34.

The Rural Municipality of Dufferin, 1880-1980 compiled and edited by June M. Watson with the assistance of the History Book Committee, RM of Dufferin, 1982, pages 163, 497-498.

Obituary [June Catherine Harrison], Winnipeg Free Press, 16 May 1990, page 44.

Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by John M. “Jack” Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.

Obituary [Meryl Malcolmson], Winnipeg Free Press, 24 December 2008, page 43.

Obituaries and burial transcriptions, Manitoba Genealogical Society.

We thank Janet Fowler for providing additional information used here.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 17 May 2019

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

This is a collection of noteworthy Manitobans from the past, compiled by the Manitoba Historical Society. We acknowledge that the collection contains both reputable and disreputable people. All are worth remembering as a lesson to future generations.

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