- Agitator and Squatter
After a period in the navy and time working as a sea captain, John Harrison came to Sydney, where he married Jane Howe, in 1831. His family overlanded to Port Phillip in 1837 and moved around various settlements (on the River Plenty; at Swanwater, in Gippsland; and at St Arnaud), until Harrison lost the use of his right arm in a shooting accident. The family then sold up and moved to Fitzroy in 1850.
Harrison, who had long been active in democratic movements, took his two sons with him to the goldfields in 1851. He was soon agitating for better conditions for diggers and, in Bendigo and Mount Alexander, played a part in protests and meetings against increased licence fees.
In September 1853 he toured the country calling for the lands to be unlocked and for the franchise to be extended to the diggers. He had no direct part in the Eureka uprising, but on 7 December 1854, in Swanston Street, Melbourne, spoke to the great gathering that repudiated the armed resistance of the miners at Eureka and supported a peaceful settlement with the withdrawal of the troops.
In 1859 Harrison joined the Victorian railways and became stationmaster at North Williamstown. Asthma forced him to resign in 1864.