Harris Family

Like many other emigrants to Taranaki in the 1840s, Edwin and Sarah Harris came from Plymouth, England, to start a new life in the infant settlement of New Plymouth. They arrived with hopes of professional advancement that were quickly dashed by lack of capital and the settlement’s precarious existence on an open coast without a harbour. The links back to family in Plymouth, Liskeard and London were emotional and at times financial lifelines that persisted across the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth. A cousin in England cut a portrait of Sarah Harris from its frame to send to family in New Zealand on hearing of Sarah’s death in 1879. The same cousin had Sarah’s early letters typed and sent to New Zealand in 1922. When Edwin and Sarah’s grand-daughter Gretchen Briant soldered up tins of New Zealand butter, honey and cakes for English relatives during World War II, the pattern of long-distance family support came full circle. Throughout this time Sarah, Emily, her married sisters and their daughters were keeping letters and passing on stories and photos of the family in England.

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