John Hyde Harris

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John Hyde Harris
John Harris (New Zealand).jpg
John Hyde Harris
4th Superintendent of Otago Province
In office
2nd Mayor of Dunedin
In office
Member of the New Zealand Legislative Council
In office
In office
Personal details
Born (1826-11-24)24 November 1826
Deddington, Oxfordshire
Died 24 July 1886(1886-07-24) (aged 59)
 New Zealand
Spouse(s) Annie Cunningham (m. 1851, d. 1881)
Kate Philomena (m. 1881)
Relations William Cargill (father in law)
William Cutten (brother in law)
Children three daughters and six sons
Profession Lawyer, judge, run holder, politician

John Hyde Harris (24 November 1826 – 24 July 1886) was a 19th-century New Zealand politician. Born in England, he came to Dunedin as a young man and practised as a lawyer, and was then a judge. He entered provincial politics and was elected as the fourth Superintendent of the Otago Province. He then became Mayor of Dunedin and was called to the Legislative Council.

Early life[edit]

Harris was born in 1826 in Deddington in Oxfordshire, England. His parents were John Harris and Ann (née Hyde). He trained in law and came out to New Zealand in September 1850, arriving in Dunedin on the Poictiers.[1]

Private life in New Zealand[edit]

Harris married Annie Cunningham on 3 September 1851.[2] She was the daughter of William Cargill, who was to become the first Superintendent of Otago in 1853. Harris and Cargill had different political views, but Harris often agreed with William Cutten, who was married to another of Cargill's daughters.[1][3][4] Annie Cunningham died on 18 January 1881, aged 51.[4] They had three daughters and six sons.[1]

Harris remarried on 3 November 1881, to Kate Philomena, daughter of William Wallis Dunphy.[1]

Professional life[edit]

After his arrival in Dunedin, Harris practised as a lawyer for several years and was in partnership first with John Gillies and, in addition, since July 1857 with his son Thomas Gillies. In 1858, he was appointed judge at the District Court and he held that position until 1862 when the office was abolished.[1][5]

Harris speculated with land. He had extensive holdings in Waihola, Otokia (south-west of Mosgiel), Lee Stream (inland from Outram), and West Taieri. He lost £28,000 over a four-year period and this was a major reason for his resignation in 1865 from the Superintendency.[1]

After his political career had finished, he continued working in the legal profession. He never recovered from his financial losses and was even imprisoned for one year for his debts.[4]

Political career[edit]

John Harris in his later years

Harris was elected onto the Provincial Council in 1853, representing Port Chalmers until 1859.[6] He was a member of the executive in 1858–59.[1] In 1862, he was elected Deputy-Superintend for Otago Province.[7] He was Superintendent of Otago Province from 16 April 1863 until his resignation on 23 June 1865.[8] He claimed significant differences in opinion with his executive, as well as a need to devote more time to his private financial affairs, as reasons for his resignation.[9]

During his Superintendency, he championed the first New Zealand Exhibition and was its chairman when it was held in Dunedin in 1865.[6]

In 1867, he contested the Dunedin mayoralty. There were four candidates running for the second time that the mayor was elected. Harris, James Turner, Thomas Birch and John Millar received 340, 273, 200 and 101 votes, respectively.[10] He served for one term and was succeeded in 1868 by Thomas Birch.[11]

He was twice called to the Legislative Council. His first term was from 1858–64. During his second term from 1867–68, he was a member of the second Stafford Ministry (from 9 September 1867), holding the role of Solicitor-General from 26 October 1867 until 13 May 1868.[1][12]

Harris was a man of influence and standing in the community. According to Bernard Foster, if it had not been for his financial difficulties, Harris "would probably have played an even more important part in provincial and colonial politics".[1]


Harris died in Dunedin on 24 July 1886, aged 59 years. He is buried in the Northern Cemetery.[4]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i McLintock, A. H., ed. (23 April 2009) [originally published in 1966]. "Harris, John Hyde". An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 5 October 2010. 
  2. ^ "Married". Otago Witness (16). 6 September 1851. p. 2. Retrieved 6 October 2010. 
  3. ^ McLintock, A. H., ed. (22 April 2009) [originally published in 1966]. "Gillies, Thomas Bannatyne". An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 6 October 2010. 
  4. ^ a b c d "HARRIS, John". Southern Heritage Trust. Retrieved 5 October 2010. 
  5. ^ "Dissolution of Partnership; Co-Partnership". Otago Witness (295). 25 July 1857. p. 4. Retrieved 6 October 2010. 
  6. ^ a b Cyclopedia Company Limited (1905). "The Hon. John Hyde Harris". The Cyclopedia of New Zealand : Otago & Southland Provincial Districts. Christchurch: The Cyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 5 October 2010. 
  7. ^ Cyclopedia Company Limited (1897). "The Hon. John Hyde Harris". The Cyclopedia of New Zealand : Wellington Provincial District. Wellington: The Cyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 6 October 2010. 
  8. ^ "Provinces 1848–77". Retrieved 16 September 2010. 
  9. ^ "Resignation of the Superintendent of Otago". Colonist. VIII (801). 30 June 1865. p. 3. Retrieved 6 October 2010. 
  10. ^ "The Mayoralty Elections". Otago Witness (817). 26 July 1867. p. 2. Retrieved 7 October 2010. 
  11. ^ "Mayors of Dunedin". Otago Witness (2298). 17 March 1898. p. 62. Retrieved 6 October 2010. 
  12. ^ Scholefield, Guy (1950) [First ed. published 1913]. New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840–1949 (3rd ed.). Wellington: Govt. Printer. pp. 33, 58. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
John Richardson
Superintendent of Otago Province
Succeeded by
Thomas Dick
Preceded by
William Mason
Mayor of Dunedin
Succeeded by
Thomas Birch