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Richard Harris
Mary Walker
William Barnard
Caroline Ellingham
James Harris
Jane Barnard

Richard Mortayne Harris


Family Links

1. Harriet Louisa Owen

2. Mary McAskil

Richard Mortayne Harris

  • Born: 2 Jul 1846, Marston, Bedfordshire, England
  • Marriage (1): Harriet Louisa Owen on 28 Aug 1866 in Ampthill, Bedfordshire, England
  • Marriage (2): Mary McAskil on 3 Apr 1879 in Stewart Street, Brunswick, Australia
  • Died: 24 Jan 1895, Foster, Victoria, Australia aged 48

bullet   Cause of his death was Accidental Death - Hit by Falling Tree.

bullet   Another name for Richard was Richard Moretayne Harris.


bullet  General Information:


The following paragraphs are a mere summary, comprised of information that was felt to be accurate to a large extent - information that had been referrd to as fact for many family members for over a century.

Up until February 23, 2007 the "Land Feud" theory had been widely believed by the Harris family (the North America factions at least) to be factual. The origins of the "land feud" theory begin around 1900 - shortly after the Harris Brothers returned from their failed mission to find Richard and his family.

This very incorrect information is only being published so that family members can be witness to how ones personal details can be misinterpreted & twisted over time; it is only here to provide a very interesting example of how truth and tale can vastly differ from one another. This story, by far, is the best example of a completely untrue family legend that I have come across since starting this project.

LAND "FEUD" THEORY (initially compiled and written in March, 2005)


Modern day historical knowledge of the British/French/Spanish/Dutch settlement/colonization tactics used in Australia in the late 19th/early 20th century strongly point to a grim conclusion.

This theory", as told by and passed down by many members of the Harris family since about 1900 is that Richard and his family were the hapless victims of a Cannibalistic New-Guinean tribe that allied themselves with several tribes of angry Australian Aboriginals. The said tribes were outraged over their land being settled and cleared without Native permission or the existence of any type of land treaty. The said Natives wished to re-claim their country and supposedly decided to seek out justice for themselves, by themselves.

Australian/New Guinean historical records dictate that Richard could have, and may have gotten himself involved in some type of "land feud" with any one (or more) of the local Aboriginal tribes in Victoria, Australia. It can be safely assumed that this "feud" ended with the demise of Richard and possibly some, or none, of his known children. By 1899/1900 all of Richard's known children would have been young adults or adolescents. It is just as possible that these six children could have had families of their own - they may have met the same end; but just as likely, they may not have.


The theory discussed above (or any theory that is akin to this notion) is reportedly a widely accepted conclusion - one that would account for the disappearance of literally hundreds of English settlers from 1885-1900. English settlement, and generally the presence of English settlers, was apparently not appreciated of, or by, the larger majority of Australian Aboriginals. Of course, in today's reality this is very understandable.


**The preceding information re. Richard Mortayne Harris & his descendants has been derived & compiled utilizing communications by letter between William Harris, James Harris Jr. and John Barnard Harris (Richard's younger brothers). Australian settlement information and history was provided by Elizabeth Knutley from the Queensland Historical Society of Australia (in January, 2005). Other information relating to this issue was derived from a singular letter that was written by James Harris Jr.'s granddaughter, Lois Phasey as well as information communicated to this writer (James F. Harris) by Joan (Harris) Macrae between March 2005 and December 2005. Joan had based most of her information on historical data that she gathered, mostly through her communications by post/letter to various Australian historical and family research societies that she had made contact with between 1976 and 1980.




Richard Mortayne Harris was born on July 2, 1846. Richard was the first child born to James and Jane (Barnard) Harris.

Reportedly, Richard was quick to anger and "rough" by nature. He was not one to desert a conflict nor was he prone to silencing his opinions. Richard, being the eldest child, was known to be a leader and a very strong influence on his siblings, especially his younger brothers, William, John and James. He was well respected by his peers and his family in Marston; although he was prone to compiling large debt that he had great difficulty repaying - mostly due to what appears to be strokes of hard luck. Richard was known to be a physically strong, proud, hard working and independant man when things were going well.


Richard Mortayne Harris married Harriet Louisa Owen on August 28, 1866 in Ampthill, Bedfordshire. Harriet's Father, Reverend Thomas Owen, would conduct the ceremony. Harriet was fifteen years Richard's senior in age.

On October 18, 1870 Richard, Harriet and their two children (Sarah Winnifred and Arthur Ernest Owen) departed Marston Moretaine for the port town of Plymouth - located in the central and Southernmost part of England. According to a passenger manifest they set sail for Melbourne Australia from Plymouth England on October 21 1870. The ship that carried them was called "The Essex". The manifest of the Essex gives Richard's occupation as "Butcher" - his age at departure is noted as 24, Harriet was 39, Sarah Winnifred was 2, and Arthur Ernest Owen was 1 year old. On January 26, 1871 they arrived safely in Melbourne, Australia.

Upon arrival, they were to lay claim to a piece of sovereign land in Victoria Province, Australia - courtesy of H.R.H. Queen Victoria.


Australia (Terra Australis as it was originally called) was first discovered by the Dutch. Dutch captains (many - none specific) first landed in the Western portion of the continent at the beginning of the 17th century and named this portion "New Holland".

But, it was the reknowned English explorer/topographer Captain James Cook (b. October 27, 1728 in Marton, Yorkshire - d. February 14, 1779 in Kealakekua Bay, Hawaii) that is primarily noted to have been the first European to actually explore, chart and name parts the continent of Australia. The question Cook had was "Does the continent of Terra Australis Incognita exist, or is there only ocean in the unexplored part of the Southern Hemisphere?" No European had yet visited the eastern coast of the recently discovered "New Holland". One of Cook's men, Lieutenant Hicks, made the first sighting of this what we now know as Australia. Cook was notorious of duly naming places and this situation was no different. He named the bay that Hicks had found, Cape Hicks (later renamed Cape Everard). From here they sailed north, and anchored on April 29, 1770. This is the exact date noted by the English as the day that James Cook "discovered" Terra Australis.

Cook had already explored and charted most of New Zealand coast (North and South Islands) and many other islands around Australia by the time he landed on the East Coast - he named the area, New South Wales.

On February 14, 1779 in Kealakekua Bay, Hawaii Cook was murdered (shot and beaten) during a scuffle with a local Chief and several tribesman over a stolen longboat.

For more information please type the following URL into your web browser:

Largely due to Captain Cook's well known and somewhat legendary explorations and adventures in and around Australia; England felt that rights to the continental lands and waters should primarily be theirs. Of course, this was not a notion shared by other European Monarchies/Governments that felt that they too had stock in this new land - in particular, the Dutch and French (who already had stake in New Guinea). Australia was the last of the European "great discoveries". At the time there was great pressure on many European Monarchies and Governments to settle Australia - primarily due to its formidable climate, abundant and unique wildlife, and its potential for sea harvesting. The Great Barrier Reef was later to become one of the most fish populated and beautiful reefs the world has ever known.

The idea of granting Australian land to emigrating English subjects was an age old effort that had been successfully used in the past by the English Monarchy/Government. The goal of land granting was to quickly colonize the very new and relatively un-explored Continent of Australia with as many Britons as possible - thereby ensuring that England could hold sway in the case of a potential war over the newfound continent. Similar practices of Australian land granting was also being used by the French, Spanish & Dutch Governments/Monarchies for the same reasons. All of these countries had practiced this exact method of rapid settlement to colonize North America just 100-200 years prior.

Prior to roughly 1850 the southwestern portion of Australia had been utilized by the English solely as a prison colony.


Richard and his family landed in Australia on January 20, 1871. While setting up and farming their new home (it is unknown exactly where their land claim was) Richard and Harriet would have two more known children. After Harriet's death in 1877 Richard re-married to Mary McAskill in 1879. Richard & Mary would have eight children together. In all, Richard Harris had twelve children in total - eleven would live to adulthood.


At some point in the 189o's (roughly 1894 it seems), all communications with Richard and his family stopped completely. Reportedly, Richard and his family were never to be heard from again by any member of the Harris family. Ironically, Richard would be killed a little under a month prior to his mother death, Jane (Barnard) Harris. Of course, she was not aware of his death when she passed away in the February of 1895.


In late 1898 early 1899 it is known that William, John and possibly James Harris, departed for Australia by ocean liner (a gruelling 4-6 week one way voyage at this time in history) to search for any signs of Richard and his family. They never found Richard or any member of his family while they were there.


Up until February 23, 2007 Richard's year of death had never been truly verified. Family researchers of the past always documented Richard's death year as 1899/1900. This was the year that mambers of the Harris family stopped searching for Richard and/or any of his children.

We now know that Richard was killed by a falling tree on January 24, 1895. This information comes courtesy of two of Richard and Harriet's descendants, Lori Hudson & Robert Wuchatsch. It took almost exactly 113 years to finally link up with the descendants of Richard M. Harris - very much worth hunting for them. I thank them deeply for putting an end to all the speculations & legend that shrouded Richard M. Harris and his family for over a century.

February 28, 2007

bullet  Research Information:

Richard's middle name is spelled "Mortayne" on his death certificate, but there is a possiblility that it was spelled incorrectly. The town where Richard was born is Marston Moretayne (or Moretaine) - his parents may have spelled his middle name differently on purpose. Any/All records pertaining to Richard will utilize "Mortayne" (in this spelling) as his middle name since this spelling is reinforced and reflected on an official document of the day.

Any Information obtained re. Richard M. Harris/Harriet L. Owen and all of their descendants is courtesy of Lori Hudson and Robert Wuchatsch, they are the great x2 grandchildren of Richard Harris.

Both Lori & Robert reside in Australia and are descent of Richard & Harriet's daughter, Florence Margaret (Harris) Hudson.

Communication with this line of the Harris family is, in itself, a truly remarkable tale. There had been no communications between Richard Harris' family and any other descendants of Richard's siblings since roughly 1890-94.

The correspondence initiated by this writer (James Harris) and Lori Hudson on February 23, 2007 is the first communications between these Harris family lines in over 113 years!


The following information is courtesy of Robert Wuchatsch - obtained on February 25, 2007:

"After his arrival in Australia in 1871, Richard Harris worked as a butcher for three years, saving enough money to rent 28 acres of land at Coburg [now a suburb about six kilometres north of central Melbourne] and stock it. He apparently did reasonably well until his three year lease expired. Early in 1877, he took a seven year lease on a larger farm at Lancefield, about 75 kilometres north of Melbourne, which is when his problems began. His first wife Harriett soon fell ill and died in November 1877, causing much financial distress as well as grief, as he had medical and nursing bills to pay and childminding expenses for his four young children. He then lost considerable money on cattle he took to an overstocked Melbourne market and while away, his rented farmhouse was destroyed in a bushfire, causing further loss. He took to droving cattle to Melbourne and remarried in April 1879, but in June, under pressure from creditors, was declared insolvent. For the next four years he worked as a labourer in a quarry, then in 1883 he rented his own quarry. In 1884, however, he fell ill with inflammation of the liver, followed by typhoid fever and could not work for seven months. In 1886 he again rented and operated a quarry, but after a year gave it up to take employment again as a quarryman. In April 1888 a fall of rock broke his right thigh and dislocated his knee. In 1889, with no prospect of repaying his debts he was discharged from insolvency and is then believed to have operated a dairyfarm. Sometime during the early 1890s he bought a bush block in Gippsland [a rural region in south-eastern Victoria] where he was killed by a falling tree. "


Richard married Harriet Louisa Owen, daughter of Reverend Thomas Owen and Sarah Thomas, on 28 Aug 1866 in Ampthill, Bedfordshire, England. (Harriet Louisa Owen was born in 1831 in Chipping, Norton, Bedfordshire, U.K. and died on 16 Nov 1877 in Lancefield, Victoria, Australia.) The cause of her death was Liver Cancer.


Richard next married Mary McAskil, daughter of Donald McAskil and Mary Macdonald, on 3 Apr 1879 in Stewart Street, Brunswick, Australia. (Mary McAskil was born on 27 Aug 1851 in Stewart Street, Brunswick, Australia, died on 5 Jun 1922 in Stewart Street, Brunswick, Australia and was buried on 7 Jun 1922 in Coburg Cemetery, Victoria, Australia (PRESBYTERIAN: Compartment: P Grave No: 79..) The cause of her death was Injuries From a Fall.

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