Early History of the Harris family of Boston, New London, Saybrook, Oxford County, Brantford, Ontario, Paul Dwight Turner, genealogy, family

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THE HARRIS name appears to be a patronymic name in that Harris is the son of Harry.  It may be from Erimon or Heradh to the French naming of Heriez or Ayers to the Anglicized, Harris Numerous spellings and variations are: Harris, Harries, Harrys, Harryss, Haries, Haris, Hairis, or even Harrison to name a few.  Harries is found mostly in Wales and Harris is more common to the west midlands and the southwest which might also include Wales.

The first encounter with this family was information given to me by a cousin, in 1982, and in that material was the notation that the family were of Welsh1 ancestry and came to Boston in the 1600s.  The initial 'tree' was the descendants of Eli Harris who married Lucretia Ransom and had the mention that there were 11 children of which only 3 were identified. 

From those initial notes it was said that the Harris family of Ontario, Canada immigrated c.1805 from Cooperstown in the Mohawk Valley of New York State and settled on Lot 14, Conc. 2, West Oxford County, Ontario, Canada Members of the family went on to form the Harris farm implement business which later joined with the Massey family to form Massey-Harris.  Another descendant was Lawren Harris who was the senior member of the 'Group of Seven' painters.


I am beginning to believe that the origins of this Harris family lie with a Richard Harris (born circa 1579) in England.  'England' might well include Wales.  Richard may have been married to a Sarah ??? and together they had a son, John Harris, born 1606, in England.  There is a John Harris who sailed with the Winthrop fleet in 1634 and settled at Boston, Mass, USA at the age of 28yrs.


There are many Harrises in the Massachusetts and Connecticut states and it is very difficult to trace all the families.  Many seem to have gone to NYS, Virginia, Texas and elsewhere as well as Canada.  In Canada there appears to be a branch that settled in Nova Scotia and our Harrises that settled in Ontario.  By no means am I attempting to join all the Harris families of the US and Canada to one denominator.

John Harris, of Boston (s/o Richard), married sometime before 1640 and he may have had 6 issues.  One of these issues was James Harris, born1640, and he married Sarah Denison. 

Our branch was certainly in the Mohawk Valley and married into the Dygert and by extension the Herkimer family. Probably patronage to Britain moved the family into Canada.


The first to arrive in Ontario were Eli Harris and Lucretia Ransom who settled on Lot 14, Conc. 2, West Oxford with their children.  Together they had:  Alvan,  Daniel,  Lueretia,  James,  Elijah,  Elisha,  Gibson,  Sarah,  John &  Lydia.  Of these children John had married Catherine Jane Dygert prior to immigration to Canada.  The married John Harris, was a minister but continued farming at Pleasant Ridge and invented the first Harris implement a revolving hay-rake.  It was his son Alanson - he had been operating a saw-mill at Whiteman's Creek - who, reanalyzing that the forests were receding and thus the saw-mill business was doomed, put his father's invention to business.  Alanson purchased a foundry at Beamsville and moved there in 1857;  in 1872, the company moved to Brantford and the name changed to A. Harris, Son & Co.;  the company merged  with Massey in 1891.  According to an old Kent County farmer, "....he liked the Harris plough as it was of cast iron with wooden handles and was lighter than the Fleury and the Cockshutt ploughs and it ploughed a narrow path".  A son of Alanson was Thomas Harris who issued Lawren Harris, the painter.

1:  Reverend Elmore Harris, s/o Alanson Harris, built a cottage on Lake Rosseau in the Muskoka District of Ontario and named it "Llanllar'.  According to the book 'Old Muskoka' by Liz Rundell, the naming was in recognition of his Welsh heritage.


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Rev: 2004.5.10