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Harris Family Histories

Opie Family History

William & Mary OPIE

The Opie family is said to have come from Brittany. The story is that they were smugglers and were ship-wrecked off the coast of Lands End and decided to stay in Cornwall. There are many variants of the name OPIE. Some are - OPIE, OPY, OPPY, OPRIE, APPAY, OPPIE, OPPEY.

The story of the Opies starts in a small mining town in Gwennap, Cornwall. Gwennap is a part of Redruth. This was the place where the first house in the world was lit with gas. The old village stands apart now from the busy town. Sycamores shade the green, and there are old cottages, a house of grey and orange-tinted slate, and a farmhouse which was once a rectory. At the little well here Redruth's first famous preacher, St. Uny, baptised his converts.

It was in the mines of Redruth that William OPIE and his family worked ...... A scene then probably unique in the world. In all directions lay clay pits, round and oval ones; square pans filled with liquid clay; overhead launders (long wooden troughs for carrying liquid) attached to pumps forming a skeleton roof; the constant passage of bonneted and aproned women carrying clay blocks to reeders, drying sheds or drying grounds. Children, who earned seven pence a day, collected moss to fill the joints between the granite blocks of the pans which allowed moisture to pass through. The creaking of pumps, of horse whims and the rushing of countless water engines.

In 1821, in the hamlet of Gwennap in the Duchy of Cornwall, the first child of William and Phillipa (nee BARRETT) was born. On the 16th February 1832, he was baptised William, in nearby Redruth.

William OPIE's Bible

At an early age young William went to work with his father in the copper mines, being followed later by his sisters Mary, Ann and Elizabeth. They were living at 89 Buller's Row, Gwennap.

While living in Cornwall, William taught in the Redruth Wesleyan Association Sunday School and it was during that time that the copper industry began to fail and William, hearing of the fortunes being made on the gold fields in Australia decided to try his luck in a new country and set off at once on the ship 'Standard', which arrived in Adelaide SA on the 18th December 1854. William had married Isabella COCK, daughter of Joseph & Sarah COCK while still in Cornwall and on leaving the Wesleyan Sunday School was presented with a Bible. William's wife Isabella died on the 16th October 1856 at Ballarat after giving birth to a daughter, Sarah Anne who also died in 1856.

It was quite some time before William met another Cornish girl, Mary Gill REED and married her on 26th February 1860, making their home at Suburban Street, Clunes. William's mother Phillipa also came out to Australia and her address was Roses Lane, Clunes.

William & Phillipa's first daughter, Mary, married James Chissman JANE in 1854 in Redruth and they came out to Sydney NSW on the 'Lady Ann' on 29th September 1854. They lived at Newcastle. Mary and James had a daughter in 1855 and in the same year James died. Mary then made her way to Victoria to live in Clunes with her brother William. It was there she met her second husband William Martin QUICK and they were married on 10th April 1858 at Ballarat.

William & Phillipa's fourth daughter, Phillipa married James WILLIAMS and they were in New Zealand when their son John WILLIAMS was born in 1865. James died in about 1878 and Phillipa came to Australia and married Richard UREN on 26th March 1888 at Collingwood. She also went to live in Clunes where her next two children were born. They then moved to Bendigo where another brother Archelaeus was living.

The last of William & Phillipa's children, Archelaeus came to Australia and married a widow, Jane PENGALLY nee RICKARD in 1871 at Clunes. In 1876 they were living in High St. Bendigo.