Samuel Retallack Harris

The Harris Family

Excerpt found in the book, "A History of Toronto and County of York" thought might be of interest to researchers of these families:

"SAMUEL RETALLACK HARRIS", a York Pioneer, and a well-known and highly-respected citizen of Toronto, was born at Lesneague, the parish of St. Keverne, near Helston, Cornwall, England, in 1816.

He was the youngest son in a family of eight children*, two boys and six girls, born to John and Mary (Retallack) Harris. His father was a farmer, who lived on his farm for about seventy-five years, and died in 1873, in the eighty eighth year of his age. There is now only one sister living at St. Keverne. Mr. Harris left home when thirteen years of age to learn a trade, and remained away about three years - until his mother's death, which took place in 1824 - and the same year he took passage on a sailing vessel bound for the New World.

The time occupied in the voyage was five weeks and three days, from the point of departure to the arrival in Quebec, and the journey from that point to Toronto was accomplished in two weeks. The mode of locomotion was in Durham boats, drawn by oxen, and the route lay through the Rideau Canal. From Kingston they took the steamer William IV, by which means they journey was completed.

The description given by Mr. Harris of the appearance of Toronto at that time (1834) is worth recording. He says: "Well do I remember going from the market up King Street to Yonge, jumping from one stone to another, there being no sidewalks. From King up to Yonge Street was a better sidewalk on the west side, laid down by our old and esteemed friend, Jesse Ketchum, with tan bark. There were no brick buildings as now. There was an old fence covered with hides drying for the tannery. In this same year", continues Mr. Harris, "William Lyon Mackenzie was elected Mayor of Toronto, not by the people but by the Council". Mr. Harris did not remain long in Toronto on his first visit but returned to Kingston and entered the employ of John Collar, a boot and shoe merchant, with whom he stayed four years, and it was during this period that the Rebellion broke out.

Mr. Harris became a volunteer in Captain James Jackson's Company and was under arms six months, but never saw much active service; he was a Sergeant in his corps. In 1838 he once more found his way to Toronto, and although work was plentiful there was hardly any money in circulation, wages being chiefly paid in store goods. In 1838 T.D. Harris first issued his twenty-five and fifty-cent "shin-plasters", which currency passed as good as gold in those days. Mr. Harris also records the fact that not many improvements were made in the city until 1840. "When you see the large brick buildings fast taking the place of the old shanties on King Street; who would have thought", he exclaims, "that the Toronto of 1834 would be the Toronto of to-day?"

Mr. Harris was married in the year 1850, his wife being Ann, daughter of Richard Hocken, of Montreal. The family were of English extraction, and came to Canada in 1818. By his marriage he has four sons living, and one daughter, Mrs. J.H.A. Taylor, living in Toronto. His youngest son resides in the city, and is book-keeper to Messrs. Mason & Risch; the other three sons are in the United States. Mr. Harris has taken an active part in the affairs of mutual benefit societies and brotherhoods, and was initiated in the City of Toronto Lodge of Oddfellows in 1844, and is now the oldest initiated Oddfellow of good standing in the city. He was elected Grand Master of the Order in 1870, and retired the following year. Mr. Harris was presented with a gold watch and chain, and his wife with a silver tea service by the brethren of Toronto. He is now a member of the Ontario; the Dominion; the Alma and the Purple Encampment (Hamilton Orders).

On March 18th, 1862, he joined the Wilson Lodge (No. 86) of Freemasons, and is still a member of good standing. He was elected and held the office of Treasurer of that Lodge for ten years, and at the end of five years' service in that capacity he was presented with a Mason's gold ring, and on his retirement from the same, received a testimonial taking the form of a gold-headed cane. Mr. Harris filled the position of postmaster at Yorkville for one year in 1862; which position he resigned.
In religion he belongs to the Church of England.
(Vol. II, p. 61)

*Notes:   John Harris' eight children
 Mary Ann  1804
 John  1806
 Mary  1808
 Nancy  1812
 Jane  1814
 Samuel Retallack  1816
 Eliza  1821
 Charlotte  1824


Of John Harris' children, Eliza, Charlotte and Samuel, they are mentioned in his will of 1873.