George Alphonse Harpin was born on 19 January 1884 in Saint-Ours, Quebec, birth name on his baptism record given as Alphonse Charles Joseph Arpin. Saint-Ours is on the south side of the Saint Lawrence River between Montreal and Trois Riviere. His father Francois Xavier Harpin (Arpin) was a navigateur (sailor) and had married Marie Lahaise on 8 January 1878 in Saint-Ours. Other children born to the family were Louis (1878), Anne Marie (1882), Gaspard (1886), and Telesphore (1890). The surname Harpin was used interchangeably with Arpin in various Quebec records. In his youth George went by the forename of Alphonse, later using George as an adult.
By the 1916 Western Canada census George was living in Brandon, Manitoba and working as a fireman for the Canadian Pacific Railway. By the next year he was living in Kenora, Ontario and working for the railway as a locomotive engineer. Having had his medical examination in Kenora in November of 1917, he signed his recruitment papers on 14 January 1918 in Port Arthur with the 1st Depot Battalion Manitoba Regiment. He gave his date of birth as 19 January 1884 and a brother Edward (likely Telesphore) in England (later changed to Guillaume in Quebec) as next of kin. However he was noted as illegally absent on 17 February 1918 in Halifax and struck off strength as a deserter.
In 1919 George moved to Detroit, Michigan where he worked for a number of years as an auto worker/machinist in an auto factory. He later worked as a railway porter, lodging at the Marten Hotel. On 17 June 1924 he married Frances (née Watts) Thrasher. The daughter of James and Dorothy Lizzie (née James) Watts, Frances was born in Canada in 1882 and had married David Thrasher in 1898, shortly afterward making Detroit their home. George and Frances later divorced.
George died on 15 July 1951 in Detroit. He was predeceased by his father Xavier in 1914 and his mother Marie in 1916, both in Saint-Ours. George is interred in the Grand Lawn Cemetery in Detroit.
By Kenora Great War Project