Archiver > CAN-ONT-YORK > 2000-10 > 0971584309

From: Terry Logan <>
Subject: Harris
Date: Sun, 15 Oct 2000 17:31:49 +1300

Robert Harris's story is listed below. He supported many of his nieces &
nephews, children of his brother Joseph by educating them at Upper
Canada College in Toronto. Two of them, Robert and Joseph came to NZ but
some stayed in the area. I would be interested in hearing from anyone
who has ties with any of their descedants.
Terry Logan

Robert Harris born 1805
died 1861 (single) in London, Canada West & was buried in Paris, Canada
West. Refer to the article from the Dictionary of Canadian Biographies.

The following is an article from the "Dictionary of Canadian
Biographies" about Robert Harris born 1805. I have included it because
he had a big influence on the lives of Joseph and Robert Harris who both
ended up living in Marton, New Zealand and their other brothers and

Harris, Robert William, merchant and entrepreneur: b. c. 1805 at
Bogmount, Grange, Co. Antrim (Northern Ireland); d. 22 March 1861 in
London, Canada West. Robert William Harris was the son of a small farmer
whose family traced its Ulster roots back to the late 17th century. At
14 he began working in a Dublin dry goods business. Subsequently he
moved to Liverpool, then came to Canada in 1830 where he worked for
William Guild Jr & Company, dry goods merchants in
Montreal and, from 1832, York (Toronto). When Peter & Isaac Buchanan
took over the firm in 1834, Harris as an expert in the dry goods trade,
proved indispensable and earned a partnership in
their firm, Isaac Buchanan & Company, within a year. Harris'
responsibilities grew rapidly; in 1840 when the firm opened its Hamilton
branch with John Young also a partner, it was called
Buchanan, Harris, & Company. Harris himself moved to Hamilton in 1844.
In the early 1850's he became a partner with the two Buchanan's in their
principal firm, Peter Buchanan & Company of
Glasgow, & spent much time in Liverpool managing Buchanan, Harris &
Company's new office there. It had been his lifelong ambition to achieve
such a place in the British business world, yet he was happier in
Hamilton and settled there again in 1854. He had no capital in 1835, but
by 1856 his capital in the business exceeded $360,000.

Harris integrity and growing business eminence, and Peter Buchanan's
support, led to his election as President of The Great Western Railway
of Canada in 1849 and of various subsidiaries in later years. Harris saw
his office as a form of public service, for which he declined payment.
However, he did hope to assist Hamilton and his own business and to keep
Sir Alan MacNab from making
excessive raids on the companies treasury. As the line moved from
promotion through construction to operation, he was active in most
policy deliberations, though C. J. Brydges, whom Harris
had helped to select as managing director, became the more important
figure. By 1856 Harris considered he could safely retire. Instead, when
Isaac Buchanan sought to force the Great Western to build a branch along
the strategic "southern route" from the Niagara River to Amherstburg &
invoked Harris' name in support of the idea, the Great Western's board,
which felt that
no new branches should be authorised, demanded that Harris resign. It
was a sad end to seven years of devoted service.

A shy man, Harris made few friends and never married. After the deaths
of his brother and father, he took growing responsibilities for his
relatives in Ireland. He employed several nephews in the business and
arranged a partnership for William Muir, husband of his favourite niece,
Eliza Harris, in the London, Canada West, Branch of the business. In so
assisting relations he rejected the Buchanan's argument that he was
often misguided in his family loyalty. In 1837-38 Harris had commanded a
Toronto volunteer company, but he consistently opposed what he termed
"the compact" in Toronto and in Hamilton. Increasingly he was
disillusioned by the corruption he saw on all sides in Canadian

A riding accident in 1850 left Harris permanently lame. After 1856 his
mental and physical health deteriorated, and the tendency was hastened
by his railway reverses and losses suffered by the Buchanan's business
in the 1857 depression. In 1860, Peter Buchanan wrote Harris out of the
business; he feared death was near for Harris and that large payments he
new Harris had provided for in his will were beyond the business'
ability to pay. Harris, who now lived in London with his niece,
protested Buchanan's action but to no avail. Nevertheless, his heirs
ultimately realised $70,000 from the business before it went bankrupt in
1867, much less than the $300,000 Harris had provided for. Harris died
dependant on others & largely neglected by former business
acquaintances. He was buried in Paris, Canada West.

Children of Joseph Harris & Elizabeth Mulligan all born at Bogmount,
County Antrim Ireland.

Nancy born 20 January 1827
married William Patton

Eliza born 21 May 1828
married William Muir

Jno born 7 June 1830

Thomas born 15 January 1832

John born 17 November 1834

Robert John born 14 August 1836
died 1 March 1893 in Marton, New Zealand.
married (1) Euphemia Ballingar September 1861 in Duddington near Paris,
married (2) Eliza Gore Graham 26-6-1887 in Lower Hutt, New.Zealand.

James Reid born 16 November 1837
married Jeanie Flanagan

Rusk born 12 December 1838
died 26 October 1919
married Alice Powell

Joseph born 28 February 1841
died 25 October 1915 in New Zealand
married (1) 10 August 1869 Sarah Rodgerson
born 20 June 1845
died 22 January 1879
married (2) 31 January 1884 Hagdalen Shirer Brown
born 1860
died 20-3-1895

Joseph Senior's children ended up in Toronto, Canada but it is not know
how they got there. Uncle Robert was ward to five of his nephews and
sponsored his two nieces. It is not known if Joseph and Elisabeth Harris
went to Toronto or if their younger children followed after they died.
The potato famine years were prior to 1850 when huge numbers left
Ireland. Joseph attended Upper Canada College in Toronto, Ontario and
Eliza's husband became a partner in his business. Robert most likely
learnt his book keeping skills working for his Uncle Robert. Because
their Uncle Robert did not have a family of his own he took on a lot of
responsibility in helping his brothers family with education and finding

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