Eldon House

John Harris, the builder of Eldon House, was born in Devon, England and, after a brief service in the merchant marine, was “impressed” (ordered) into the Royal Navy in 1803. Through active service on several ships, he rose to the rank of Master which in 1813, when serving aboard H.M.S. Zephyr the ship’s company was ordered to “particular service in North America.” The task preformed by the crew was in connection with the War of 1812, transporting British troops from Kingston to Chrysler’s Farm in November 1813. On August 15, 1814, John Harris was severely wounded in an attack on Fort Erie. On October 4, 1814 he was appointed Master of H.M.S. Prince Regent, based out of Kingston, where he conducted topographical surveys of the great lakes. In this capacity, he met his future wife Amelia the daughter of the Port’s founder, a United Empire Loyalist named Samuel Ryerse.
The war of 1812 had greatly affected the Ryerse clan and the settlement in which they lived. In a retrospective paper in 1859, Amelia would clearly write about the burning of the Ryerse farm in 1814 by American invaders. From this context, John and Ameila Harris emerged as a dynamic couple who would be actively engaged in the growing settlement of Upper Canada and the London District.
After retiring from the British Navy and establishing himself in civil service, John Harris was appointed Treasurer of the district. The district capital had been in Vittoria, but in 1826, royal assent was given to a provincial bill, designating London at the Forks of the Thames the new administrative and legal centre of the London District. Harris bought eleven acres of land just outside the town limits of London, north of the forks of the Thames River and contracted a builder to erect “Eldon House.” The family moved into the house in September 1834, when the population of London was approximately 786 people. This residence would remain the Harris family home for 125 years. In 1960, the family donated the house with its acreage and majority of its contents to the City of London. The property was divided to create Harris Park by the Thames River and Eldon House, which opened as a historical museum housing the varied furnishings and collections of the family.

Posted from London, Ontario, Canada.

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