Posted by: Julie Duell | January 18, 2013



Charles Christopher Harris and wife


My name is Julie Duell (nee Henderson) and I am a great granddaughter of the above couple. This site is to honour them and throw a light on their lives and their descendants.   During this process I have here included illustrations including many of my paintings and sketches.

Charles Christopher HARRIS  was born in 1844/5 in Illsborough, (later named Islesboro) State of Maine, USA /died in Cooktown 7.5.1887 aged 42 yrs. and Agness HARRIS (nee JOY) who was born in 1856 and died 18.12.1943 aged 87 yrs.  They were married in Sandhurst (early name for Bendigo)  1871 (most records give June/July 1871 but one gives 21.12.1871)

I and my family are assembling  information in this blog centred around Charles and Agness’  lives,  mainly their years spent in the Cooktown/Endeavour River area in North Queensland in the 1880s.

If you are a descendant of the above or just interested in this era, we would welcome hearing from you in the interests of preserving some of Australia’s history.  The 7 sons of Charles &  Agness are listed at right under Categories.  Just click on them for further information. (My own family’s lineage is under William Joseph Harris so naturally we have plenty of photos & info. in there.)

Business card

Sincere thanks  to Cooktown Historical Society and Queensland Herbarium for providing much of the information included  herein.

Disclaimer:  Any information given here is as best we know it as at this time (2013). Apologies are made should errors be discovered over time.

Contact:  Phone: 02.43659228  residing Erina, NSW as at 2013   

Other websites by Julie:

Note: I have added as little of my artwork throughout this site to add life to the history recorded here. 


Cooktown orchids

THE HARRIS FAMILY OF COOKTOWN – 1800s.     crocodile

Charles Christopher Harris C.C.Harris signature

was born in 1844-5  in Illsborough, State of Maine, USA and died in Cooktown 1887 at only 42 years of age.  His death certificate shows his parents listed as William Joseph Harris* and Eliza (nee Cadell).

Illsborough was later renamed Islesboro (meaning Island between two water channels – a description given by the Penobscot Indians for Penobscot Bay). It is situated in Waldo County and had only 566 residents in 2010.  Nearly is Grindle Point Lighthouse, built in 1851 at the entrance to Gilkey Harbour, suitable for much shipping.

Q. Word-of-mouth connects this Harris lineage to Harrisville in Utah and Eliza having been of Shoshone Indian origin – also that there was a twin involved in this union with the name Minnie.  Perhaps we can validate and clarify this at a later date?

*Note: “William Joseph Harris” was also the name of Charles & Agness’ 2nd son of our lineage – probably named after his grandfather.


Charles Christopher Harris married Agness (surname: Joy) in Sandhurst (later renamed Bendigo) in 1871/2. (A certificate is yet to be procured).

Beliefs: Agness from all accounts was very religious.  She is pictured wearing a wedding ring in her elderly photo, no doubt from her second marriage.  Both Charles and Agness are listed as belonging to Church of England  and Charles’ burial in Cooktown was conducted by members of the Masonic Lodge.

LURE OF THE GOLD! The couple followed the goldfields from Bendigo to Hill End (Tambaroora) where their first of 7 sons was born in 1872.  Their 2nd born (William Joseph of our lineage) was born in Sydney and the next 5 boys were born in Cooktown/|Endeavour River/Palmer river regions.

Gold Fever! Oil painting by Julie Duellprospecting

Charles “wore many hats” in his time around Cooktown. We find him listed in Queensland newspapers and on birth certificates as filling the roles of:

Naturalist, Master Mariner, Miner, Publican, Census Collector & Asst. Superintendent of Cooktown Fire Brigade.

The unsung female role

We have yet to research Agness Joy, born  1856, more fully but know she was very keen to have the surname “Joy” preserved in the family – and so it has been, right through to current generations, including many in our family.

Having her first child at age 17, Agnes had 7 boys by the age of 28 and was widowed at age 31.  It must have been a hard life following the gold fields, living by such basic means.

Here then are records of the 7 sons of Charles and Agness – all born about 2 years apart.



1. CHARLES COUTH HARRIS    Born 1872 Tambaroora NSW (Ref.72/17926)   Agnes is recorded as being 17 years of age at this time and her age on the rest of the certificates validates that.

2. WILLIAM JOSEPH HARRIS  Born 13.3.1874 Sydney NSW (Ref.74/626)  (See his post for  Cooktown stories from his memories)

3.  LOUIS ERNEST RUSSELL HARRIS  Born 15.1.1876 QLD (Ref.76/000667)

4.  WELLSLEY RUSSELL HARRIS Born 1878 QLD  (Ref.78/004361)

5.  WALTER WINFRED (JOY***)STEWART HARRIS Born 5.1.1880 Cooktown QLD.   (Ref.              80/000835)

6.  HERBERT JOY HARRIS Born 2.10.1881 COOKTOWN QLD. (Ref. 81/0001126) 

7.  PERCY SEPTIMUS HARRIS Born 30.1.1884 COOKTOWN QLD. (Ref. 84/001589)  Drowned in a well at 2 yrs. of age in 1886.

A little story about women’s lib eventually winning through!

***On this birth certificate, the originally registered name inclusion of “JOY” has been deleted at the baptism and replaced with “STEWART” – no doubt the result of a marital dispute, Agnes wanting her surname included after having so many boys only to be over-ridden by Charles!  She did however have her way when the following child, also a boy, was born and here we see Herbert Joy.  Well done Agness!!!  How she must have wanted a girl in there somewhere!

Mothering boy mischief


I purchased the above certficates, traced in the NSW Pioneer Index No.55 and Qld.Births R003 & AG003 FISCHE SYSTEM.  They are worth studying in detail and give us much information & can be viewed in each post listed at right.

For example, their firstborn, Charles Couth, who was born in Tambaroora (Hill End) NSW in the gold fields area was probably helped into the world by a Chinese midwife – we note the name Seth Sam as a witness on his birth certificate.   Wellsley Russell was also born in the Palmer River gold fields at Maytown, Qld.  and in both instances their father is listed as a Miner. 

Bullock labour - sketch by Julie Duell

Q.  How did they manage with small children and a new baby in such primitive conditions?  Accommodation would not have been more than tents in most instances. Can you imagine how difficult it must have been?  Many women were grateful for the assistance of male Chinese miners in delivering babies and providing/preparing food/running stores – occupations often spurned by many white men of the time.

Gold prospectors - Oil painting by Julie DuellChinese miner_________________________________________________________

AN UNCANNY COINCIDENCE: In researching both sides of her parents’ lineage, Julie realised that the first-born Harris son, Charles Couth, was born in the Hill End goldfields NSW the same year as one the offspring of William Toft PULLEN and Charlotte (nee HOY) on the HENDERSON side of our lineage were there.  Both women gave birth to a child there in 1872 and probably both men belonged to the Masonic Lodge in Tambaroora – so it is strange that our ancestors from different branches no doubt knew each other way back then.

Bush Hospitality Oils 1980s Bush cuppa - oil painting by Julie Duell



We do have a photograph of four of them, 3 with wives and firstborn (below) however we can only identify positively at this time the left hand son, William Joseph Harris with his wife Amy Louisa (nee Mackey) in front, and their firstborn William jr.

0047 HARRIS FAMILY email copy

You can just make out the mens’  hats perched up in the trees. Place of photograph unknown.  c. 1895   The photo below is unlabeled. We think it is the couple 2nd left above…do you?

0050 HARRIS email


crocodileAn overview of what we know at this time:– (numbers relate to the list above) so we will use the names they became known as in the family here below:

1.  Charlie  never married. He was in the Postal Service – Fly River, New Guinea, retiring in 1932. He died in 1935 aged 63.

2. Bill (or Will as he was known) *our lineage Naturally we have lots of pictures of Bill, Amy and offspring:  William Jr., Elsie Joy (Dencher) & Ruby May (Henderson) + their issue.  Bill was a sheet metal worker for Metters Stoves. He had a middle finger RH amputated after severe infection during this work. The gap of the missing finger was handy to hold his cigar!  He and Amy had shops: in Western Australia and later in Brighton-le-Sands, Sydney. They retired to a wonderful waterfront property at Taren Point NSW. Bill died at Gymea, Sydney aged 90.

3. Ernie married Ella – no children. He was in the drapery business with brother Herb from 1926-1928. Then lived in Dunelly, central Victoria.  He died in 1948 aged 72. Ella died in 1953.

4. Russell became a dentist, along with his son and grandson both following in this profession, in the same building in Victoria.  Russ re-married after his first wife Olive died. Russell died in 1972 aged 94.

5. Stewart drowned as a young man in a rowboat accident.  We have a photo of Stewart and an account of this unfortunate accident in his Category in the right hand column.

6. Herbert left the drapery business with Ernie and moved to Mt. Eden, New Zealand. There he married Lily, a widow with children from her first marriage.  Herb and Lilly possibly had children also. Herb kept in touch regularly with family in Sydney, often sending us wonderful colourful N.Z. Weekly magazines. He sent Julie a piece of kauri gum (still have it in 2013!) and some volcanic rock.  He, like Bill, loved living off the land – fishing, growing vegetables and keeping chooks for eggs. Herb died in 1967 aged 86

7. Percy Septimus– the 7th born – sadly drowned after falling into a municipal well in Cooktown near the

Seaview Hotel. He was aged only 2 years and 8/9 months.  Percy’s grave is in Cooktown. ++



Jan 1885 to May 1889                                        The Naturalist

HARRIS Charles Couth*
HARRIS Ernest Lewis*

HARRIS Wellesby Russell*
HARRIS William Jos*
HODEL Joseph

Below is an exerpt from references made in a site devoted to Herbert John (Jack) & Edith Matilda Colman:

“The Singing Class Book for Use in Elementary Schools” by Orlando J. Stimpson, Music Master at the Durham Diocesan Training College for Masters, etc. 25th Thousand. Collins’ School Series Published by William Collins, Sons, & Co., Limited, London & Glasgow. The Preface is dated Oct 1873. The front of the book is Inscribed: “Earnest Harris Jan 25” and is stamped in a few places with a Red-ink “Club Hotel, Cooktown. C. C. Harris”. It is not known when this came into the possession of Edith Matilda Millar.



++ The Brisbane Courier (Qld.:18864-1933), Monday 18 October 1886, page 6 National Library of Australia Country mails. Logan and Albert. (from our Correspondent.)

On Thursday afternoon last (7th October) the youngest son of Mr. C.C. Harris, 2 years of age, was playing about the vicinity of the municipal well, near the Seaview Hotel, when by some means the little fellow fell into it. no one seems to have noticed the occurrence, and it is surmised that fully an hour and a half elapsed ere the little body was discovered.  The little fellow was Percy Septimus Harris.


I am including at this point, the only other photo we have of Agnes Harris (nee Joy) aged about 70 (centre)  with descendants through her 2nd born son, William Joseph (who probably took the picture!)  L to R: Elsie Dencher (nee Harris) holding son Fred, Amy Louisa Harris (nee Mackey), Lurlene Harris (daughter of William Jr.) and *Ruby May Harris (later Henderson)  *the writer’s mother.  

000p Harris family c images (2) copy


THE JOYS IN OUR LIVES!   Many in our family have perpetuated the name “Joy” – some (myself included) without knowing it was a surname from way back.  Here is a list of those that I know of among the descendants with the name Joy included:

Herbert Joy Harris B.1881 – see his separate post.

Elsie Joy Dencher (nee Harris)  &  son Alfred … Joy

My stillborn sister was to be called Joy Henderson 1.7.1941

My daughter, Melissa Joy Ferguson B.24.3.1972

My grand-daughter, Amelia Joy Honor B. 11.1.1995

Also, before knowing the significance of the name, I wrote and illustrated an all Australian children’s book  “Joy and the Bush Sprites” in 1985, finally published in 2012.            Julie Duell.



Goanna - sketch by Julie Duell

Naturalists at work..Oil painting by Julie DuellGoanna 2 - sketch by Julie Duell

THE BRISBANE COURIER 1882:   C.C.Harris to be assistant Superintendent of the Cooktown Fire Brigade.

THE BRISBANE COURIER 1883: the Hon. the Secretary for Mines; and the curator, Museum  Publications by the Australian Museum, Sydney; and the Harvard University, USA.  I beg leave to direct your attention more especially to the fine collection of minerals over 500 in number – presented by Mr. D.C.McConnel, and to the collections of Messrs. C.C.Harris and Ling Roth, both of which have afforded new species of fish and reptiles.

Fish 1.

Fish 2

THE BRISBANE COURIER 1883 Mr.C.C.Harris, Cooktown, Mr. Baxter, Sandgate and the Rev. -Bailey,Southport, Mollusks from Mr. J.L.D’Arcy and Mr. C.C.Harris. Spiders, Echinoderms from Mr.C.C.Harris.

THE QUEENSLANDER 1883  Fish  from Mr. J.A.Evans, Mr. J.F.Shale, Mr. A.J.Carter, Mr. F.R.Davis, Mr. J.S.Cameron, Captain Young (Countess of Belmore) Mr. O.Gardner, Captain W.E.Armit, Townsville, Mr.F.Miles, Moreton Island, Mr.J.Drabble, Mr. H.J.Hockings, Mr.C.C.Harris, Cooktown; Mr.Baxter, Sandgate and the Rev. – Bailey, Southport.   Fish 3

Mollusks from Mr.J.L.D’Arcy and Mr. C.C.Harris.

Spiders from Mr. T.Wright, Miss A.Hudson, Mr.W.Hamilton, Dunwich; and Master Bernays. Insects from Mr. R.Illidge. Mr. Sheridan, Mr. C.Pointon, Kilcoy; Echinoderms, &, from Mr. C.C.Harris, Mr. H.Tryon and Mr. J.F.Heath.

THE BRISBANE COURIER 1883  Zoology-mammals from Mr. C.C.Harris, Cooktown.

THE QUEENSLANDER 1885  we (Cooktown Independent) have been favoured by Mr. C.C.Harris with a sample of gold washed in New Guinea by a miner now resident in Cooktown, and which we shall be glad to show to those who are interested in the mineral resources of  “t’ other island continent”.  It is scaly and appears to have travelled a long way from its quartz matrix.  We take it to be worth about 3 pounds 15 shillings per ounce.

Gold panning - oil painting by Julie Duell

THE QUEENSLANDER 1886 The iron schooner Upolu, lately wrecked at the Trinity opening near Oyster Cay was boarded by Mr. C.C.Harris (wired our Cooktown correspondent yesterday week) the census collector, who found that the cargo, consisting of trade, had been jettisoned.  The vessel was very little injured, and he could only discover a small hole, as if an iron bolt had worked out forward, and a small crack abeam, where some heavy cases had struck when the vessel rolled. The schooner filled through her portholes, the ports being open at the time of the disaster.  Mr. Harris picked up the ship’s articles and brought ashore a few cases of trade found on deck, which he handed to the Customs authorities here.  The anchor was lying under the fore foot of the vessel, and had she slipped off the reef she would have sunk in deep water. There was only 6in. of water on the reef at low water.


THE BRISBANE COURIER 1876   C.C.Harris of Cooktown and John Daly, blacksmith, of Maryborough, were yesterday adjusted insolvent upon their own petitions. The first meeting of creditors in each case was fixed for the 7th August; statements to be filed on the 5th August. 


NORTHERN STAR 1876  BOA CONSTRICTOR: A very large specimen of this class of Reptilia (says the Cooktown ‘Herald’) was captured alive by Mr. C.C.Harris, assisted by Mr. D.H.Cleve, on a creek running into the River. It is a very splendid specimen of its kind, differing slightly from that usually recognized as the carpet-snake, but has all the attributes of a boa as to its entwining and crushing power. It measured fourteen feet in length (4.267 metres) but its girth, the thickest part is slightly disproportionate, about nine inches (23 cm).  It is still alive and is destined for the south.

The following report of a clash between the aborigines and whites is undated but mentions Charles as owner of the boat involved and part of a recovery party…click to enlarge.

Aboriginal conflict

Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1878 – 1954), Thursday 19 September 1878, page 2, 3 National Library of Australia NORTHERN MAIL NEWS. COOKTOWN AND THE PALMER.

dugong One of the finest specimens of dugong that we have seen on the coast was caught in the net of some Chinese fishermen between this port and the Mossman River on Saturday last.

The estimated weight was ten cwt., and its length twelve feet.(1/2 a metric ton & 3.6 meters) Mr. Harris became the purchaser from the Chinese, and during the day dugong beef was extensively hawked about the town, and extensively purchased, as a novelty, at six-pence per pound.

 Mr. Harris is now stuffing the skin for transmission to Brisbane. It is a fact pretty well known that the dugong feeds principally on sea grass, that its beef is excellent when cured, and that the oil extracted from its liver is regarded by the faculty as more efficacious in pulmonary complaints than the well-known cod liver oil.


Q. What would Charles have stuffed the dugong with to preserve it for the Museum?  Research tells us that he probably used sawdust, having first treated the organic parts of the animal with alum and formaldehyde. A joke popped into my head when I read this – that perhaps a whiff of formaldehyde would have cured any troublesome nights getting all those children to sleep! Yes of course, I AM joking!  Just imagine the book Agnes could have written “Life in the gold fields with a Naturalist and 7 children” 


BOTANY!  Charles also collected many botanical specimens for Museums in Brisbane, Melbourne and NSW from Cooktown, Endeavour River, Possession Island  and the Upper Daintree River. It seems he was accredited in the naming of one specimen, Epaltes Harrisii (specific epithet) – F.Muell,  Family: Compositae. 


Added information from Queensland Herbarium 2013 (contact: Tony Bean):

Dear Julie, Thanks for contacting me. Marge Scully said she had been in contact with you and that you are both keen to find out more about your great grandfather. I am delighted to see that you have started a website devoted to your predecessors. It is a very well set out site and full of good info and images. Well done.

I don’t know if Marge told you why I was asking about C.C. Harris. It is because I am researching the plant genus Epaltes (small moisture-loving plants of the daisy family with very inconspicuous flowers), and one of the species that has been described is Epaltes harrisii. On checking the original publication, I saw that “C.C. Harris” was cited as the collector, but none of my colleagues knew who this was, and I could not find any publication that mentioned him. I am attaching the original publication details of Epaltes harrisii. Because Ferdinand Mueller, the author of this name, worked in the Melbourne Botanic Gardens, I contacted them in the hope that there may be some existing correspondence between Mueller and Harris. Unfortunately, no such correspondence can be found.

Our herbarium holds 15 specimens collected by C.C. Harris, all labelled ‘Cooktown’ and all of them ferns. The Government Botanist at the time (F.M. Bailey) was especially fond of ferns, and it seems likely that he asked Harris to send him some fern specimens from Cooktown. There may be some correspondence between them in our archives, and I must try to find that soon                   ________________________________________________________

I think Charles would have learned his zoological and botanical skills before leaving USA. He seems to be too much on the go while in Australia to do any serious study. Julie, the email you sent to our state government department was forwarded from one to another and finally ended up, would you believe, in my inbox!! Charles would not have needed any formal qualifications to be a contributor to the herbarium collections. Bailey was happy to accept any material that was suitably pressed, dried and fertile. Charles would have needed only the basics skills of pressing and drying plants. I am sure that he would not have been reimbursed for his efforts. Mueller (in Melbourne) did have some paid collectors, but they were few, and Bailey (in Brisbane) had none. I can send you a photo of one of our specimens of E. harrisii next week. In the meantime, here is an illustration of it, originating from a collection made by Banks and Solander at Endeavour River. Although the caption says “Epaltes australis”, you may rest assured that this is Epaltes harrisii.

Epaltes Harrisii illustration 

  Epaltes Harrisii - about 


Here are lists of botanical specimens provided by Charles and images of these species.  Our thanks to the photographers who made these images freely available. What an incredibly rich tropical environment he found himself in to pursue this study!

BOTANICAL LIST 1000 px.wide

BOTANICAL LIST 2 1000w px.



jpg. Death Cert - C.C

C.C.Harris death record  cutter



Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1878 – 1954), Friday 6 May 1887, p. 6National Library of Australia MAIL NEWS!2íKW OCIKBA.

The cutters Spey, Captain Harris, and Eclipse, Captain Patten, will sail to-day,says the Cooktown Independent, of a week ago, for New Guinea on an exploring and prospecting expedition, and although Mr. Harris, who conducts the whole, has neither been recognised nor assisted by either the Colonial or Imperial Governments, but has had to depend upon his own resources and the support of local merchants, we expect greater results from this than any previous expedition which has left this port. There are eight experienced European “salts” including Harris, Davies and other two seasoned explorers. The vessels are well found and good sea boats, and are well rationed and armed. Although we are not at liberty to divulge all we know, we may state that we hope in a few months to report such discoveries as will entitle this expedition to recognition and reward from both the Colonial and Imperial Governments.

The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld.: 1886-1939) Saturday 7 May 1887, page 721,760   National Library of Australia 19924538 (from our own correspondents.) 30

This morning the missionary boat from Elim arrived with Charles C. Harris in an insensible condition, he having been struck on the side of his head with the boom of the cutter Spey two hours after leaving here (Cooktown) on Saturday. Harris died this afternoon, and will be buried tomorrow by the masonic fraternity.

Mr. Davis, one of the party by the cutter Spey who returned with Harris, states that when at Cape Bedford at 6.30 a heavy squall came on and the give* of the cutter Eclipse blew away, and the latter was making for the Spey to see what to do.

Harris was steering the Spey at the time, and called out to the captain of the Eclipse to keep away, instead of which he went on.  Harris got frightened and a collision ensued.  The Spey veered off, when the boom came over and struck him on the left eye, knocking him down insensible and almost overboard, but Davis caught him by the leg.

A black boy from the Eclipse tried to jump aboard the Spey, but fell between both vessels, and was not picked up for an hour and a half. The two vessels proceeded to Three Islands for shelter and finding Harris not gaining consciousness the Spey went back to Cape Bedford and reported the case to the missionaries, who kindly brought him to Cooktown.  Harris leaves a wife and six children. He was 42 years old.

Queensland Figaro and Punch (Brisbane, QLD : 1885 – 1889),Saturday 28 May 1887, page 15

 C. C. HARRIS, one of the oldest residents of Cooktown, died at that port on the 2nd instant, from injuries he received at sea under the following circumstances :-The cutters Spey and Eclipse left Cooktown on Saturday, April 30th, with Davis and Harris’s New Guinea exploring and collecting party aboard, and encountered a heavy squall off Cape Bedford, the same evening. Harris was steering the Spey, and sang out to Captain Patten, of the Eclipse, to keep away. Harris brought his vessel up to the wind, and was knocked senseless by the swinging of the boom, Davis catching him by the leg just in time to prevent him falling overboard. The two vessels sheltered at Three Islands, but Harris remained insensible. He, with Davis, was, on the Sunday, conveyed to Cooktown in the cutter belonging to the Elim Mission Station, arriving atCooktown about three o’clock on Monday morning. He died some 12 hours afterwards. He leaves a widow and six chiidren. He was buried on Tuesday with Masonic honors, a very large number of people attending his funeral, and the flags at the various business places and on the vessels in the” harbor being half-masted. He was 43 years of age.

 Queensland Figaro and Punch (Brisbane, Qld : 1885 – 1889), Saturday 28 May 1887, page 9

 Joe DAVIS, of Cooktown, will succeed to the command of the ‘* Spey ” New Guinea Expedition, made vacant by the tragic death of C. C. Harris, inferred to elsewhere.

We thank Cooktown Historical Society for the provision of these articles.


This tragic accident left Agness Harris (nee Joy) with 6 surviving children:

Charles Couth 15, William Joseph 13, Louis Ernest Russell 11, Wellsley Russell 9, Walter Wenfred 7 and Herbert Joy 6. (Percy Septimus had died the preceding year aged 2).   We are left to wonder how she survived in such harsh circumstances.  A rate notice on the property (map below) showed the change-over into her name in 1887.

Q.  How did she manage with six children, the eldest 15? We note the difficulties encountered shortly before when the bridge over the Endeavour River was lost in flood-waters  so there would have been little to no backup for the family.  Yet survive they did and Agnes herself lived to the age of 87 whilst William Joseph of our lineage lived to be 90.

Lamplight - sketch by Julie Duell


Some time after Charles’ demise, Agnes re-married a Lesley Thomas EVANS and their son, Henry (known as Harry) was born in Carlton, Victoria on 6.1.1919. His wife (2nd we think) was Olive and Harry died in 2007.  Lesley Thomas EVANS served in WWII in France from 1915-17 before being invalided home after being gassed. He died in 1968 aged 77.

We are beholden to Harry, who rang Julie & cousin Fred in 2006 with many of these stories first hand.   I am sorry to say that Harry didn’t have a good word to say about his grandmother Agnes, describing her as a “Bible Bashing Tartar“.

We know she was strict, and a family story has it that after one of the sons telling a story at the table  that she didn’t approve of, she locked them all out for the night!   Remember these were crocodile infested mangrove estuaries where they lived!  We know this from the map description of mangroves adjoining their property, indicating tidal salt water at that point.

Escaping the crocs! sketch by Julie Duell


Harris property copyThis map shows what is thought to be the Harris property on the Endeavour River, shaded in grey.   The value and use of properties in this area was greatly affected by the loss of a bridge over the Endeavour River to floods in early 1884 as cited in this petition sent to the Minister for Works on 3.8.1884 which was signed by Charles and 38 other settlers:

bridge petition


Historical Society, Cairns, Nth.Qld.Inc.



QUESTIONS!  There are so many questions we would love answers to. Perhaps you can help contribute towards answering them. 

We would like to know when and by which ship Charles came to Australia and how became a qualified Naturalist, learning the art of taxidermy, since his strong interest in nature led him to provide numerous specimens to Australian museums – (see news items below & botanical lists.) Since he was 26 when he married Agnes in Victoria, it is probable that he learned these arts before leaving the US.  We are in touch with Maine Historical Society who have tried to trace Charles there as under:


The vital records of Islesboro, ME are published…and Charles Harris is
not mentioned…in fact the surname Harris is not mentioned. While the
records are published, they may not be comprehensive, as before 1892 in the
state of Maine records were not centralized. Towns managed their own records
and what exists, survives or was ever recorded varies from town to town.
What I can say is that the town of Islesboro has no record of Charles being
born there…which means he wasn’t or the record does not survive. With no
mention of the name Harris at all, I would think it more likely we need to
look at another town. With that being said, as I mentioned, the records of
Maine are not centralized…so you have to know what town to look at, which
is a bit of a Catch 22. After 1892, the state of Maine asked that backed
records be sent in. About 30% of Maine towns complied and submitted their
pre-1892 vitals to the state. These were complied into one series we call
the Delayed Returns. The Delayed Returns, as well as all vital records for
Maine from 1892-1922 are available on But, for example,
Islesboro did not participate in the Delayed Returns therefore are not
online along with many other Maine towns.
I will say that there are many William Harris’ in Maine in 1840, but none in
Islesboro, further the Shoshone Native Americans are not from Maine or even
New England. This of course does not exclude the possibility of Eliza being
of Shoshone ancestry, but certainly makes it increasingly less likely.
What source do you have indicating Charles may have been born in Islesboro?
Or his parents names? This may help us to know.
Jamie Rice

Jamie Kingman Rice
Research & Administrative Librarian
Maine Historical Society
489 Congress Street
Portland, ME 04101-3498
207-774-1822 x219


Other websites by Julie Duell:

“Grandpa’s Box!” FREE e-book. A good read about some of our Aussie pioneers in 1800s set in Hill End, Clarence River, Woolgoolga, Cooktown and Palmer River, Nth. Qld.  Fiction based on fact, written by 6th generation Australian artist/writer, Julie Duell c.2016 (free e-book) (an overview) (free art lessons)  (creative site for kids) (Fabulous Aussie Fables – free e-book)


Outback dunny - sketch by Julie Duell


Posted by: Julie Duell | October 18, 2016






Assembled to the best of our knowledge, with freedom to print.

Posted by: Julie Duell | January 19, 2013


Percy Septimus - death record


Percy Septimus- the 7th born – sadly drowned after falling into a municipal well in Cooktown near the seaview Hotel on 7th Oct.1886. He was aged only 2 years and 8/9 months.  Percy’s grave is in Cooktown. ++

His father, Charles is listed as a Publican at the time of Percy’s birth.


++ The Brisbane Courier (Qld.:18864-1933), Monday 18 October 1886, page 6 National Library of Australia Country mails. Logan and Albert. (from our Correspondent.)

On Thursday afternoon last (7th October) the youngest son of Mr. C.C. Harris, 2 years of age, was playing about the vicinity of the municipal well, near the Seaview Hotel, when by some means the little fellow fell into it. no one seems to have noticed the occurrence, and it is surmised that fully an hour and a half elapsed ere the little body was discovered.  The little fellow was Percy Septimus Harris.


Posted by: Julie Duell | January 19, 2013


0048D WELLSLEY RUSSELL HARRIS born Wellesley, Stewartown Hodgkinson goldfields


No further information at this time re Wellesley.  The family used to talk about Russell in the 1940s & I think this was Wellesley Russell they referred to.   The other brother with the inclusion of the name Russell was referred to as Ernest.

Wellesley was the 4th born of the 7 sons of Charles Christopher and Agnes Harris (nee Joy). His birth was recorded in Maytown/Stewartown on the gold fields inland from Cooktown and he was probably named after Wellesley, nearby. His father, Charles is listed on the birth certificate as a Miner.

Posted by: Julie Duell | January 19, 2013




We don’t have much information on Ernest, as he was fondly known in the family, except to say that he was the 3rd born son of Charles Christopher and Agnes Harris (nee Joy) and the first to be born in Queensland.

Born 15.1.1876 with brothers William Joseph, 2 and Charles Couth, 4 – it must have been a challenge for Charles and Agnes to travel north by ship from Sydney and set up in Cooktown with 2 toddlers and Ernest on the way.  Perhaps this website will bring forth some descendants to add information.

Posted by: Julie Duell | January 19, 2013



Charles  (first name for his father) – 1st-born of the 7 sons of Charles Christopher & Agnes Harris (nee Joy) – born in Hill End NSW during the gold rush.  Note one of the witnesses is “Seth Sam” who may have acted as Chinese midwife, as was common in the gold fields.

To the best of our knowledge, Charles never married. He was in the postal service – Fly River, New Guinea, retiring in 1932. He died in 1935 aged 63.

Posted by: Julie Duell | January 19, 2013




Born 5.1.1880 in Cooktown, Qld. 5th born son of Charles Christopher and Agnes Harris (nee Joy).

Unfortunately we have a sad story associated with “Stewart” as he was known in the family:

Walter-Wenfred Stewart (Joy) HARRIS


HARRIS Walter-Winfred Stewart (Joy) Born 1880

Above, Stewart, 5th born son, drowned in a rowboat accident on the Swan River, Perth. As told by Agness’ 8th born, Harry Evans: ‘in this sad incident, Stewart had been told by his God fearing mother Agnes “Not to go out in that boat, and if you disobey me, may God strike you dead!”  Stewart disobeyed and tragically drowned.’ 

Q. From this story, can we assume at least some of the family went from Cooktown to Perth to live.

On Walter Winfred Stewart Harris’ birth certificate, the originally registered name inclusion of “JOY” has been deleted at the baptism and replaced with “STEWART” – no doubt the result of a marital dispute, Agnes wanting her surname included after having so many boys only to be over-ridden by Charles!  She did however have her way when the following child, also a boy, was born and here we see Herbert Joy.  We also note that this birth was the only one where Agnes is listed as the informant, rather than Charles. Well done Agness!!!  How she must have wanted a girl in there somewhere!


Posted by: Julie Duell | January 19, 2013


0052 HARRIS.jpg email

0048F HERBERT JOY HARRIS At last Agnes, being the only informant, had 'Joy' included while Charle

Herbert Joy first married 1911, possibly in Auckland. to Elma ANDERSON.  We are unaware of any issue.  

At some stage Herbert had a drapery business in Victoria with his brother Ernest.

Herbert next married 1925 to Lilly Gertrude Blanche HELLIER, nee, RIGBY. born 1880 in Urenui, Taranaki, NZ. to John RIGBY [1843-1883] and Agnes Thomson McKENZIE, [1853-1929].

Lilly had previously married in 1899 to William HELLIER, [1869-1922] William & Lilly had 8 children.

Herbert and Lilly possibly had one or more children.

Fond memories: Herbert wrote regularly to his brother William Joseph HARRIS and his (my) family in Australia and we all looked forward to receiving his letters and wonderful “New Zealand Weekly”  papers full of  colourful pictures of New Zealand.  I (Julie Duell) recall as a little girl running excitedly from the letter box to the house in Gymea with those rolled up pink covered magazines.  He also wrote to me enclosing a small piece of volcanic rock and a piece of Kauri gum which I still have.  

Herbert Joy  was cremated on 28. July 1966, Purewa Cemetery, Auckland. His ashes were scattered.

Lilly [Lillian] also died in 1966.




Many in our family have perpetuated the name “Joy” – some (myself included) without knowing it was a surname from way back.  Here is a list of those that I know of among the descendants with the name Joy included:

Herbert Joy Harris B.1881 – see his separate post.

Elsie Joy Dencher (nee Harris)  &  son Alfred …. Joy

My stillborn sister was to be called Joy Henderson 1.7.1941

My daughter, Melissa Joy Ferguson B.24.3.1972

My grand-daughter, Amelia Joy Honor B. 11.1.1995

Also, without knowing the significance of the name, I wrote and illustrated an all Australian children’s book  “Joy and the Bush Sprites” in 1985, finally published in 2012.


Posted by: Julie Duell | January 19, 2013


Amy Louisa & William Joseph HARRIS c copy

William Joseph Harris  (or Bill as he became known) married Amy Louisa Mackey in 1896. Here is his birth certificate listing the address of the family than as at 112 Kent Street, Sydney NSW. Charles, Agnes and Charles Couth (2 years old) have left the Hill End gold fields and were about to travel to Cooktown by ship.


Bill told his family many stories about life growing up in Cooktown –

1. The cyclones, so prevalent in the summer monsoon season in far north Queensland.

2. Being involved in the collection of the sea cucumber Beche de Mer, which was considered a delicacy in South East Asia. This food was harvested from small vessels by hand, then dried for export. 

3. The incident involving Mrs.Watson arriving in a watertank with her baby and Chinese manservant after their escape from Lizard Island after aboriginal attack. They died of thirst and Mrs. Watson’s diary on board the tank told of their ordeal.  This story is will verified and documented.

4.  An incident (undated) whereby the Harris’ family abode on the Endeavour River was burned down along with their steam vessel (burnt to waterline).  Nobody in the family died as a result but they were forced to get back to Cooktown with a few belongings on a raft.   When reported to Sydney, a man’o war was employed to come to Cooktown to shoot 100 aboriginals in reprisal.  In attempting to verify this story, I searched listings of Aboriginal massacres in North Qld. but could find no reference to this incident.  However aboriginal massacres were quite numerous in those times, sometimes as a reprisal for only a minor incident and this terrible blight is a shocking stain on our white history in Australia.


Amy Louisa Mackay came from the Mackey family of Leederville, W.A. She was the younger of 2 daughters born to Mary Ann and Ernest Mackey. Here is an early photo of their home in Kerr Street: (Don’t forget to click on the pictures to enlarge them)

0021 1903 Mackey family at Leederville home W.A.

0022 Detail of Mackey family at Kerr St.Leederville 1903W.J

W.J store 2

Above is a close up of the W.J.Harris Miscellaneous store. Note the array of artifacts including china & drapery.  We have just had confirmation from a relative that the shop was in Leederville, Perth W.A.  in Cambridge Street. The residence was probably attached.  Water was carried up from the river in 4 gallon kerosene tins. They used to go to the Cottesloe bridge to swim.  Apparently there was a cave near there that spooked people & Will explored it with a candle.  He was very active in the Fire Brigade in Leederville and won prizes at field days – one being a much prized pale green glass tiered laperne, of which we were all in awe as kids as it adorned the centre of the billiard table at their Taren Point home. Another was a clock, which I still have, along with a lamp from my own childhood growing up without electricity:


Next we have a photograph taken c. 1911 of our grandfather William Joseph Harris B. 1874 with wife Amy Louisa and their 3 children all born in Leederville: William Jr, Elsie Joy (later Dencher) and Ruby (later Henderson).

000i Harris family copy 3

Harris camp 1910

Wedding of Elsie Joy (nee Harris) to Alfred Dencher

Pictured c.1926 above at eldest daughter Elsie’s wedding to Alfred Dencher (a tailor by trade), Bill and Amy adorn each end whilst Ruby is at 2nd right. Others unknown.

Below: the Grand View Refreshments shop at Brighton-le-Sands almost opposite the public baths – owned by William & Amy Harris in the 1920s.  Picture shows Amy and daughter, Ruby at counter.

Brighton-le-Sands Refreshment shop

Brighton le Sands Harris shop 


Brighton le Sands Public baths openingHARRIS 015 copy 3HARRIS 018HARRIS 011HARRIS 011 copy

Below: Tom Henderson & Ruby May Harris married 1930 in Sydney.  They had a son, Tom Jr. born 24.3.1931, Julie born 9.7.1941 and lost a baby girl, Joy, stillborn 1.7. 1940.

Tom & Ruby 1930

Bill & Amy with grand-children

Photo above 1932/3: Bill and Amy with first 4 grand-children, Lurlene and Russell at left (children of William Jr. and wife Marjorie), middle, Tom (Henderson) Jr. and Fred (Dencher). 

Tom Henderson Sr. & Jr.

Thomas Henderson was born in Brushgrove in 1898 on the Clarence River NSW to Thomas Henderson and Charlotte (nee Pullen) where they has a number of commercial stores + a floating shop called the “Fairtrader”. Their’s is a separate story so I will just give a small overview below. Tom Sr. & Jr. are pictured above camping at Angowrie with their little dog Toby 1st.

000l Henderson Clarence River Stores 1880 - 1920s


Below: Tom and Ruby Henderson (nee Harris) with son Tom Jr. & Julie 1941/2  Sydney.

Our only family group - HendersonsTriumph Heralds

Ruby Henderson with daughter Julie 1943Business card

Above, Julie 2, with mother Ruby May Henderson (nee Harris) 1943. The doll was a celluloid one called “Pollyanna”. She still has it as at 2013!  Julie at right in 2010.

026d Tom and Julie 1949  Grandpa Harris (W.J.) & Dad (Tom Henderson) working on fish nets

William Joseph Harris with son & grandsons copy

William & Marjorie Harris

Marjorie & William had a son, Russell and a daughter, Lurlene.  We hope to catch up with this branch of the family in future.

Living off the land was a way of life. copy

Living simply and as much as possible directly from the land and sea was a way of life back then.   Fishing, growing fruit & vegetables, preserving them for out of season use, pot-shotting the occasional rabbit, keeping chooks for eggs and meat, making one’s own clothes where possible.   Only basics would be purchased:  flour, butter, powdered milk, sugar, golden syrup (cocky’s joy), worcestershire and tomato sauces, tea. Packaging was paper or calico bags and string bags or baskets were used to carry shopping home. Perishable items had to be eaten within a day (or 2, if cooked) as there was no refrigeration.  


Now below a much more current photo of Central Coast NSW descendants: Julie Duell (nee Henderson) with family – partner Tony, son Scott Warren Ferguson with wife Michelle & baby Madeline Ann. Also  Julie’s daughter Melissa Joy Ferguson & grand-children Amelia Joy Honor, Julia Claire Honor and Kyan James Roberts.

Family group 2012 copy 2

Descendants pictured Jan.2013: Tom  Henderson’s (1931-2012) family: LtoR:  Leanne Rachel Dent & Peta Samantha Dent, Tom & wife Carole Dent (nee Henderson) & Julie Duell (nee Henderson) at right. Missing from the photo is great-grandson, Finn.


Here is our family tree in 2 halves, linked by the marriage of Thomas Henderson and Ruby May Harris in 1930.

Fam.tree Harris for web

Fam.tree Henderson for web