John was born in 1820, the son of a miner, and grew up in a cottage at Bolenowe, near Carn Brea; in one of his most famous works 'A story of Carn Brea - essays and poems', he descibes his birth in:
'a straw-thatched, boulder-built cottage, locally known as the six-chimneys on the top of Bolenowe Hill'. - Ref.1
John worked at Dolcoath Mine from the age of around 10, first on the surface and, from the age of 12, underground. The contrasts between the dark, dangerous conditions in the mine, and the bountiful nature he observed walking to and from work with his father, inspired him, and he continued to educate himself by reading in the evenings, and began to write poetry (Ref. 2)
Around the age of 25, while still working as a miner, he married a local girl - Jane Rule from Troon - and they had two daughters in the first five years of their marriage. The youngest, Lucretia, died of pneumonia aged only 6, in 1855, devastating John and his wife. His distress prompted others in the community to encourage him to change from the physically arduous work underground, and around 1856 John secured an income as a Scripture Reader in Falmouth, and the family moved. One of his most famous works - 'A Story of Carn Brea' - was published in 1863 - and while living in Falmouth he met and befriended the peace campaigner, John Gill of Penryn - a printer and stationer.
Around the time that the family moved to Falmouth, their eldest son, James (John) Howard was born, followed two years later by a second son, John Alfred, who unfortunatley suffered from a deformity of the spine. But John Alfred was a talented woodcutter (a pre-digital way of adding illustrations to manuscripts) and he was employed by John Gill to illustrate numerous of the Peace Tracts/Pages that John Gill distributed far and wide, in an attempt to promote peace and diminish the 'glory' of joining the military.
A major change for the family occurred in 1871, when their eldest child, Jane, left the family home to marry a local leatherworker, Jonathan Worsdell, who worked alongside his father. Three children were born to the couple while they lived in Falmouth but the end of 1876 saw a dramatic turn of events: Jonathan was declared bankrupt, absconded from his debts and emigrated to America! Jane followed him, and the couple seem to have reunited, as evidence from online records (Ref. 3) and Find A Grave (Ref. 4) show that at least two other children were born to the couple - in 1878 and 1882 - and that they settled together in Brooklyn, New York, for perhaps the last twenty years of their lives.
John's eldest son, James (later known as John Howard) stayed more local, marrying in Tuckingmill church, near Camborne, in 1881, and working as a schoolteacher in Porthleven, where he and his wife raised their four children. James/John later wrote a biography of his father - John Harris, The Cornish Poet. The Story of His Life - published in the year after his death (pub. 1885?). Their youngest son, John Alfred, lived in Falmouth with his mother, Jane, until he passed away in 1892. He is laid to rest in Treslothan churchyard, alongside his father and younger sister. Jane lived for almost another 10 years, probably in Falmouth, before she passed away in her 90th year, though I have been unable to find the location of her burial.
Many of John's siblings emigrated from Cornwall - principally to the US - and I've created a GoogleMap that shows some of the locations where members of John's family lived (and are buried): it can be accessed by clicking on the image here:
John Harris published 15 volumes of poems between 1853 and his death in 1884 (Ref. 5), many inspired by the natural world he observed around Bolenowe, not far from Camborne. Appropriately, the first three lines from 'Honeysuckle', published in 1866(Ref. 5), are used on a decorative entrance to the Rosewarne car park in Camborne:
'Sweet honeysuckle, trailing where
The Summer walks in green,
Come, let us hold a colloquy...'
More information about the life and poetry of John Harris, and how to join the John Harris Society - run by two great-great nephews of John Harris - can be found at: www.johnharrissociety.org.uk.