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The Harris Family

Ely Harris (1755-1813) and his wife, Lucretia Ransom (1756-1836)arriving in Oxford County in 1802, were typical of the Yankee settlers brought in by Thomas Ingersoll. The Harrises “though physically small of stature were characteristically persistent in holding their own opinions, especially on moral or religious matters and lacking perhaps a keen sense of wit were persevering in the accumulation of wealth.” They flourished and acquired a considerable amount of land in Oxford and nearby Dereham.

Grandson of Ely & Lucretia: James Harris (1823-1885), together with his wife, Julia Ranney (1824-1880) went on to expand the family empire. James built a cheese factory in West Oxford Township and with the Ranney family were the architects of the Mammoth Cheese, prepared for the New York State Fair in 1866 and eventually, Paris World’s Fair in 1867.

Ingersoll Chronicle, 10 August, 1866. Making of the Mammoth Cheese


Many of our town readers have heard of the big cheese being manufactured at the Ingersoll Cheese Factory by Messrs. Ranney and Harris. It is the largest ever made. It measures six feet eight inches in breadth and three feet in thickness; the milk used in its manufacture weighed 35 tons, and was furnished by [800] cows; the weight of the cheese itself is three and a half tons. For the sole use of this cheese a house has been built sixteen feet by eighteen, very substantial, and so constructed that the cheese can be turned over in three and a half minutes. We had the pleasure of inspecting the monster on Tuesday. Those of our readers who can make it convenient should visit the Ingersoll Cheese Factory and inspect this “wonder of the age.” The proprietors, we learn, intend exhibiting this biggest of all “big things” at the Provincial Exhibition to be held in Toronto next month, and at the New York State Fair to be held at Saratoga early next month. The cheese will afterwards be sent to England and will probably be exhibited at the Paris Exhibition next year.

above, James Harris (person #1) stands to the right of the wagon. To the left of the wagon, with white vest, is Adam Oliver, Mayor of Ingersoll (Person #3); on Mayor’s Oliver’s right is Charles Chadwick (person #2), a banker and a champion of the big-cheese project and Daniel Phelan, a retired merchant and gentleman capitalist (person #4). Between Chadwick and Phelan (Persons # 2 and 4) are Hiram Ranney and his wife Lydia Chase Ranney, pioneer cheese makers – with Lydia peering over Hiram’s left shoulder.