John Harper was born on 29 May 1872 in Houston, Renfrewshire Scotland. He was the son of George Harper and Rachel Spears.
During his life, John was saved three times from drowning. As a two year old, he fell into water and had to be rescued by his mother, Rachel. He nearly drowned on two more occasions before his death.
John Harper became a Baptist minister. At a young age he would stand on the streets, pouring out his heart and soul preaching to others.
He married Annie Leckie Bell on 28th April 1903 in Blackfriars, Glasgow. Annie and John had waited 10 years to marry. Finally they were together.
On 1st January 1906, Annie gave birth to a daughter, Annie Jessie Harper. Eight Days later Annie Died from complications of childbirth. Her husband was at her side when she died.
John Harper was left heartbroken and he never remarried. For a while after her mother's death, baby Annie or "Nan" as she was known was cared for by her uncle George Harper and his wife Mary. She went back to live with her father when she was six months old.
In the winter of 1911, John went to the Moody Church in Chicago, United States to conduct several revival services. He was so loved and such as success that he was asked back again.
On April 10 1912, John Harper, his little daughter Nana and his niece, Jessie Leitch boarded the RMS Titanic in Southampton as second class passengers. On board Nan met seven year old Eva Hart. the two girls played together on the ship.
According to Jessie Leitch in an interview, she said that on the night of the sinking, she and John had been out on deck, when looking at the sun set in the sky he said "It will be beautiful in the morning" - He never got to see that morning.
THE MANITOBA MORNING FREE PRESS 1912
REV. John Harper
the rev john harper and his daughter, Nina, 6 years old, were on their way to chicago from London Eng. The minister who is a well known Evangelist conducted revival services at the Moody institute in chicago last winter, and had been re-called for another series of meeting. The daughter was listed among those saved, but the late despatches did not mention the minister.
THE KANSAS CITY STAR 19 4 1912
Six year old Nina Harper, daughter of the Rev. John Harper. the evangelist, who was lost, arrived on the Carpathia with her aunt, Miss Jessie Leitch. The child did not know that she would never see her father again.
"When we were awakened by the sound of the collision we were told to go on deck," Said Miss Leitch. "Doctor Harper picked up little nina and kissed her. I believe now her knew it was for the last time. But we did not know. We never saw him again. We were put in a boat. When the Carpathia picked us up we believed we would find Doctor Harper in one of the other lifeboats, but we found there were no lifeboats for the men, They were only for the women."
After John saw Nan and Jessie into a boat, It is said that he went up and down the decks, encouraging people to let the women, children and the unsaved into the lifeboats. It is also said that he, once in the water still tried to bring salvation to others in the sea. John Harper died a hero that night. He was a man of faith and never gave up in trying to help others to everlasting life, even when he himself was dying.
Little Nan Harper and her cousin, Jessie went to Chicago. They had been met by one of the clergymen of the Moody Church. Apparently several people offered to adopt the sweet little girl and love her as their own, but She had a family in Scotland who loved her and wanted her home. Nan and Jessie went back to Scotland, although later than planned because Nan contracted Pink Eye, a contagious eye infection and so she was not allowed to sail.
Once back in Scotland, Nan was taken care of by her aunt and Uncle, Mary and George Harper. She grew up, married and died in 1985 in Scotland
Jessie Wills Leitch was born on 8 November 1880 in Linwood, Renfrewshire, Scotland. She was the daughter of John Leitch, and Jessie Gillespie Bell.
At the time of the 1881 census, the family lived at 43 Napier Street, Kilbarchan, Renfrew, Scotland.
Jessie's mother died on her fourth birthday, four days after giving birth to her younger brother, Alexander. Her father, John Leitch remarried in 1887, and shortly after this time, during the 1891 census, Jessie was living with her maternal grandparents.
In 1901, 20 year old Jessie was working as a shop assistant for her uncle David Bell, a watchmaker. She also lived with him, and her aunt, Annie Bell. David and Annie were siblings, Annie would later marry Rev. John Harper.
On April 10 1912, Jessie boarded the Titanic at Southampton. She was travelling with her uncle, John Harper and his daughter, Annie Jessie Harper. They were travelling to the Moody Church in Chicago. John had recently been there for three months, and he was so successful that he was asked back, for another three months.
Jessie, along with 6 year old Nan survived the sinking. John Harper died.
Here is a small Article which appeared in the Kansas City Star:
Six year old Nina Harper, daughter of the Rev. John Harper, the evangelist, who was lost, arrived on the Carpathia with her aunt, Miss Jessie Leitch. The child did not know that she would never see her father again.
"When we were awakened by the sound of the collison we were told to go on deck," said Miss Leitch. "Doctor Harper picked up little Nina and kissed her, I believe now he knew it was for the last time. But we did not know. We never saw him again. We were put in a boat. When the Carpathia picked us up we believed we would find Doctor Harper in one of the other Lifeboats, but we found there were no lifeboats for the men. They were only for the women.
Jessie Married Alexander Anderson on January 7 1925 in Linwood, Scotland. Alexander was a widowed estate agent
At some point, They both moved to Wales. When 67 year old Alexander died in 1928, Jessie was left a widow. She never remarried and died in Powys, Wales on 6 Feb 1963.
Birth Certificate, for Jessie Wills Leitch
Kilbarchan, Renfrewshire Scotland.
|Name and Surname||When and Where Born||Sex||Name and Occupation of Father. Name and Surname of Mother. Place and date of Marriage||Signiture and Qualification of Informant||When and where Registered|
|Jessie Wills Leitch||
November 8th 1880
1hr 15m Am
Jessie Gillespie Leitch
31 April 1880
November 23rd 1880
1881 Scotish Census, Kilbarchan, Renfrewshire, Scotland.
|Dwelling 43, Napier Street||John Leitch||Head||Married||22||Horse Driver||Linwood, Renfrew, Scotland|
|Jessie Leitch||Wife||Married||24||Drivers Wife||Govan, Lanark, Scotland|
|Jessie Leitch||Daughter||N/A||4 m||Linwood, Renfrewshire, Scotland.|
1891 Scottish Census
|Address||Name||Relation||Marital Status||Age||Occupation||Birth place|
|Langs Land||Richard Bell||Head||Married||65||? Gardener||Isle of Bute? North Pew?|
|Jessie Bell||Wife||Married||66||Perthsire, Enol|
|David Bell||Son||Single||32||Watchmaker||Renfrewshire, Govan|
|Annie Bell||Daughter||Single||24||Dress Maker||Renfrewshire, Govan|
|Jessie Leitch||Visitor||10||Scholar||Renfrewshire, Kilbarchan|
Houston and Killellan
|Lyle Terrace||Rachel Harper||Head||53||Housekeeper||Ireland|
|Mary Harper||Daur||Single||26||Cook||Houston, Renfrewshire|
|George Harper||Son||Single||21||Mason||Houston, Renfrewshire|
|John Harper||Son||Single||18||Packer in Carpet Work||Houston, Renfrewshire|
|Caroline Harper||Daur||Single||13||Scholar||Houston, Renfrewshire|
|Hugh Morris||Visitor||Single||26||Gardener||Largs, Ayr Shire|
1901 Scottish Census
Bridge Of Weir, Kilbarchan, Renfrewshire
|Address||Name||Relationship||Marital Status||Age||Occupation||Birth place|
|Langs Land||David Bell||Head||Single||42||Watchmaker||Lanarkshire, Glasgow|
|Annie Bell||Sister||Single||35||Dress Maker||Lanarkshire, Glasgow|
|Jessie Leitch||Niece||Single||20||Watch Maker's Shop Assistant||Renfrewshire, Linwood|
Daily Mirror Newspaper 1912
The Scotsman, 1912
1881 Scottish Census
1891 Scottish Census
1901 Scottish Census 559/B0 002/0B 004
Statutory Marriages 568/02 0001
Statutory Marriages 568/00 0012
568/01 008/01 002
The Kansas City Star 19 April 1912
* Picture - John and Nan Harper and Jessie Leitch - Daily Mirror 1912
* Picture -Jessie Leitch Daily Mirror 1912