About this website

This website is the online home of the Harper family. It collects family stories, photos and recordings, making them available to everyone in the family. It also helps connect the family by providing information and booking for our family reunion events and related artifacts.

Harper Family History

The Kilkenny Militia was re-established on the 15th March 1803, due to the increasing threat of a French invasion of England by Napoleon via Ireland. Robert Harper (born 1769) son of Edward Harper, Aghavea, Co. Fermanagh was recruited to join. He married Elizabeth Duncan and they had a family of 7 sons and 2 daughters. He eventually settled in Coon, Co. Kilkenny in 1825, as a tenant farmer.

Six of their sons emigrated, leaving son Robert who married Mary Stone on the farm at Coon. They had a family of two sons and three daughters. The family in Coon were mainly self-sufficient. All cooking was done on the open fire. The bread pan used at Coon is still in the family, a treasured artifact. This family witnessed the Great Hunger (an Gorta Mór) from 1845 – 1849. It was a period of mass starvation and disease in Ireland during which 1 million people starved to death, and another million emigrated. The worst year being 1847 and is still remembered as Black 47. 

Ireland was over dependent upon the potato to feed its population of 8 million, and when blight (phytophyhora infestans) struck, the consequences were disastrous. The Harper potato crop in Coon also failed, but Aunt Bessie’s (1868-1962) answer to a young boy’s question regarding how the Harpers survived the famine was that they were fortunate to have a bag of Indian meal (maize) behind the door in Coon. Her parents would have had vivid memories of that time.

Robert and Mary’s eldest son Edward (25) eloped and married his sweetheart Margaret Bolton (23), in Tramore, Co. Waterford on 15th September 1862. Edward and Margaret rented Cramer’s Grove in Kilkenny leaving brother Robert to inherit the farm in Coon. Edward and Margaret had thirteen children, eleven of which reached adulthood. 

Cramer’s Grove was a dairy farm in 1865 and the “white gold” of then was churned by hand, on the farm into butter, and then sold on the market.  To date, the dairy tradition continues with the cream now producing the delicious Cramer’s Grove ice-cream by Nigel and Carol, who are the fifth generation of Harpers to farm at Cramer’s Grove. The annuities of 19 pounds sterling were paid twice yearly for one hundred years until 1980 when Sam R. Harper (Victors son) made the last payment on Cramer’s Grove and became the first freeholder of the title.

As in previous generations, three sons of Edward namely Robert, John and William emigrated to Canada, leaving their youngest son Sam to inherit Cramer’s Grove. Sam and his wife Mary Jane Leech had a family of ten; nine boys and one girl. Farms were bought for six sons who farmed extensively in close proximity to the city of Kilkenny. They were George and Tilly at Annamult, Bob and Sylvia at Cantwell’s Court, Jack and Mabel at Ballyfoyle, Sam and Annie at Sandford’s Court, Victor and Alice at New Orchard with Cramer’s Grove and Leonard and Bertha at Balleven. Consequently the  Harper family were anchored to the land of County Kilkenny. Fourth son Reverent William Harper married Elizabeth and lived in Belfast, and the only daughter Edith married Joe Poole and farmed at Ballybeg, Co. Wexford.