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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sonoma County


Richard J. Harris

The branch of the family to which Richard J. Harris belongs originated in Ireland, and it was there, in county Kildare, that his father, Richard Harris, was born in 1815. In 1840, at the age of twenty-five, he left his immediate home surroundings and located in Dublin, where he engaged in the manufacture of two staple household necessities, indigo and starch. Notwithstanding the fact that his business outlook was the best considering the time and place in which he lived, he became a victim to the attractions of the United States at this time, 1849, on account of the finding of gold in California in that year. Closing out his business interests in Ireland, the same year found him among the immigrants who landed at Castle Garden eager to make their way to the gold fields. Upon his arrival in New York he found death and destruction on every hand, due to the prevalence of cholera, and in order to escape being held in quarantine he lost no time in leaving the east. Going to Galena, Illinois, he remained there until the spring of 1850, when he started on the overland route to California. The six months journey by ox-teams was a succession of hardships and suffering, and it was with thankful heart that he finally reached his destination. The mines of Placerville as well as those in Sierra county engaged his attention for a number of years, but with what success the records do not state; however, in 1857 he gave up that calling and came to Sonoma county, settling on a ranch on San Antonio creek, four miles south of Petaluma. Here he engaged in dairying, milking as high as sixty cows, and with the proceeds of his labor he made investment in land from time to time, all of which is now very valuable and is still in possession of the family. His purchases were included in two excellent ranches, one comprising three hundred and eighty-six acres, and the other three hundred and twenty. In 1882 Mr. Harris turned his property over to the care of tenants and removed to Petaluma, living here retired from active business cares until his death, May 18, 1892. His marriage, February 1, 1863, united him with Miss Catherine Keller, a native of Cork, Ireland, who at her death, in January, 1907, left two children, Catherine, who resides on Howard street, Petaluma and Richard J.

The younger of the two children comprising the parental family, Richard J. Harris was born on the family homestead near Petaluma January 23, 1868. The schools of the locality furnished him with a good fundamental education, and to this he has continued to add by the reading of well-selected literature, and as a result he is well informed on all general topics of interest. Having been born and reared upon a ranch he early imbibed a knowledge of its duties and responsibilities, and when eighteen years old was competent to run his fatherís ranch alone. This he continued to do until 1894, when he located in Petaluma, the ranch being placed in the hands of tenants. Since coming to Petaluma Mr. Harris has been engaged in buying and selling cattle and horses, a business in which he started on a small scale, but which has since grown to enormous proportions, shipments being made to all parts of the county and state. He is an active member of a number of fraternal orders, notably the Eagles and the Foresters of America.

History of Sonoma County, California
Biographical Sketches of The Leading Men and Women of the County Who Have Been Identified With Its Growth and Development from the Early Days to the Present
History By: Tom Gregory
Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, California (1911)

Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011