The town that shaped the boy created the movement that changed the world

Photos: Matts Ingemanson & Jack M. B. Selway


The Train Station


George Harris, in financial trouble brings 3 year old Paul…

and 5 year old Cecil to the Wallingford train station late one night.

It is this fateful train ride that may have created what we all enjoy today.

The train still brings commuters from the city to Wallingford and cities beyond every day.

As long as life lasts there will remain in the minds of the two boys the hallowed memories of the first night in Wallingford. Grand father met the little group as they alighted from the eleven o’clock train from Rutland. There were no other passengers to alight, the station master had long since gone to bed, and darkness enveloped all except a little circle in the center of which was a lantern and grand father.

It was a solemn occasion and the solemnity was emphasized by the stillness and darkness of that first night in the peaceful valley nest ling between two parallel ranges of the Green Mountains.

Paul little fist was held in the biggest, firmest, warmest hand he had ever felt —that of his grandfather. The light of the swinging lantern formed fantastic figures on a white fence as the group marched up the silent street of the little village. Page 9, “The Founder of Rotary” by Paul Harris 1928
Also his description of their arrival in Wallingford from “My Road to Rotary.” 1947

Also see “The Road to Wallingford” 1991 The Rotarian

Grandfather’s Home 2009 photos of Howard Harris’ home

Paul’s grandfather and grandmother lived in this home.

Howard Harris’ initials still show on the roof

The Harris’ were in their sixties by the time the two young boys arrived.

This home and the Wallingford community provided a stable environment

Howard Harris had built this home in the 1860’s

Harris home owner James Marquis shows the window where young Paul would make frequent late night “escapes.”

Russell Latuca, RC of Wallingford past president and Marquis, also a past president and member of ‘s 1905 Society

2009 photos of Howard Harris’ home 

The Family Church

The Harris family church

On Saturday night, grandmother gave the boys a vigorous scrubbing in the old family washtub and on Sunday morning promptly entered them in Lottie Townsend’s Sabbath School class. (The Founder of Rotary) Also his comments from “My Road to Rotary


The Lake

Fox Pond, now called Elfin lake

Paul thought of the grateful shade of the apple trees and of the long green grass, so cool to bare feet on hot summer afternoons. The butternut tree and the sugar maples were still doing duty as of old. He visited the swimming-hole where he and boys who have lived their lives and passed on had set up their springboard on the rocks from which to dive down into the cold dark waters. He took his lassie to Fox Pond, now called Elfin lake, where he used to skate and he pointed out to her the mountain road with its “Thank You Marms” down which he used to coast.



Paul’s School

Paul’s great-grandfather James Rustin built this school house.

RC of Wallingford, 1958

A rare commemorative Coin…

Paul attended school here, now the home of RC of Wallingford

house built by James Rustin in 1818. Front view of the school

From RC of Wallingford

Read the plaque

The schools is just one door away from Howard Harris’ home

Some of the banners inside the meeting room

Club commemorative plate

In the fall the boys were taken in hand by Miss Sherman of the primary department of the village school. The first day was memorable because at recess time the older boys formed a circle around the unfortunate Paul and dancing in glee shouted, “Oh, see the little girl boy.” The humiliation was greater than he could bear. That evening grandmother tearfully clipped off the offending curls.


Paul Harris Signs

There is always one great day in the life of every youth, one day greater than any other. Paul’s great day was at the same time the most sorrowful.

Grandmother had taken residence in the excellent home of her daughter in Rutland, where she had every service which loving hands could provide. It had been planned that Paul was to take up the study of law in Iowa and he and grandmother had been spending the few days in the blessed old home.

Grandmother and Paul spent the morning of the great day together while she revealed to him her hopes and ambitions for his future. She held up wonderfully, though she broke down at last. “Never mind, Grandma, I shall see you again soon”, said the boy. She shook her aged head tearfully. One more of life’s tasks had been completed. It had been left to her to make the final decision and she had made it without the slightest regard to her own feelings. Paul was to go to Iowa to study law.

Wallingford Cemetery

Wallingford’s Cemetery

His grandmother, Pamela Rustin Harris, died on Oct 3rd 1890 just as he was finishing law school.

Paul’s great-grandparents, the Rustins

Harris/Rustin family graves

Grandparents, Pamela and Howard Harris

Pamela Rustin, his grandmother’s mother, died at the age of 44.

Howard Harris memorial visited by Rotary Global History founder Jack Selway in 2003

The monument dedicated to Howard Harris

Sad losses, two daughters, both called “Frances.” One lived two years, one only six months.

Her husband, James Rustin, Paul’s great-grandfather died at the age of 65.

Paul’s grandfather died on St. Patrick’s day in 1888 at the age of 89

A married daughter, Mary, died at the age of 24.

James Rustin, Jr. died in 1873 at the age of 52. Paul would have been 5.

During his life in Iowa, Paul received many splendid letters from his grandmother but one sad day he received a telegram stating that she had peacefully passed on. On an autumn afternoon when the sugar maples on the mountain sides were in their most radiant colors, they laid her at rest beside her husband in the quiet cemetery in Wallingford. She had lived her entire life of seventy-eight years in the peaceful valley and only on very rare occasions had she ever left it.

Paul had not begun to see enough of the world to satisfy him and he made the resolve to devote the next five years to the study of life from as many different angles and in as many different cities as possible. He was aflame with desire to broaden his horizon. He longed to see the scenes of the exploits of his maternal grandfather in the golden west; the life of the plains; languorous Florida; and the land of his dreams, the tight little isles across the seas. He also resolved that on the termination of the five-year period he would settle in Chicago and practice law.

Paul Harris Sculpture

“Paul believes that the remaining years of his life, be they many or few, are a trust for which he should render good account; that his mental well being is dependent upon his physical well being and that both mental and physical depend upon the maintenance of his moral tone. He hopes to keep his moral tone wholesome and his mental and physical powers in as good condition as is possible through the observance of the laws of physical and mental hygiene and through keeping ever alive his passion for friendship.

Loyally and fervently he hopes that his Scotch lassie and he may walk down the remainder of life’s path way together as did his grandfather and grandmother in the days long since gone by.” Paul P. Harris Page 125, “The Founder of Rotary” 1935.