Hester Brown and the Art of Living Well on Nothing (#52Ancestors Week 4 – Invite to Dinner)

Just a short blog post today.


In 1900 at the age of seventeen, my great grandmother Hester Brown became the mother to her eight younger siblings.  She was well able for the role.  Hester was a warmhearted girl with the ability to turn a house into a home.


Corn and eggs

For the next three years, Hester looked after the family while her father worked as a farm labourer. She wasn’t alone in the task. Hester had some maiden aunts – Hannah and Esther Cox.  The aunts helped a great deal. They showed Hester how to cook and grow vegetables in her garden.

In 1903, Hester married a widower with an eight year old son and a five year old daughter.  Thomas Reading was twenty years older than she was.  She moved from her father’s house with eight younger siblings, to her own house with its ready-made family.  Hester then had nine children of her own.

Thomas and Hester lived at Apsley on a property called Parki. The house isn’t there any more.  They lived in a two bedroom house, Thomas and the boys in one room, Hester and the girls in the other.  Money was scarce.


The house where Thomas and Hester raised their children was on this property near the trees behind the mailbox.

Hester had a recipe book which did not come down to me, but I remember some of the recipes.  There was rhubarb trifle and rabbit stew.  Grilled bracken fern was had with every meal. They had one milk cow and several pigs, but Thomas used the pigs to clear blackberries so it was rare to eat pork. They had a lot of chickens and ate eggs for breakfast every day.  The boys took scones to school for lunch, but they rarely had butter.  Hester tried to grow berry fruits but their house had no attached water so in dry times the plants died.  She did have a successful lemon tree.

The girls were given sheep’s tongues and sheep liver to eat, to ward off anaemia, and they made soup from the hocks.  The sheep belonged to the owners of Parki who occasionally employed Thomas, but much of the time the family was self-sufficient on their own lease-farm. Although self-sufficient, they sometimes went hungry. They then went out to catch rabbits.  Rabbits were plentiful in that decade in Tasmania.

They ate tapioca when there was nothing else. To the end of her days, my grandmother hated tapioca pudding from eating it so often in her childhood.

They may have hated the food, but the nineteen children that Hester fed in her mothering years all became healthy, long-lived adults.  Hopefully someone still has her recipe book, it would be very interesting to see.

Dorothea Hunt 1744-1838 – ‘Longevity’ – #52ancestors

The 18th century in Limerick is truly fascinating to study. After the Irish Rebellion of 1641, Cromwell came in with the New Model Army and did his thing.  Fifty years of fighting ensued, culminating in the Limerick Siege of 1691.  After this, Irish Catholic Ireland returned to British Protestant control and matters sort of quietened, at least as far as England was concerned.  The decades passed with rebellion flaring up in small pockets across Ireland constantly, like the aftermath of a forest fire that is still too hot to completely die out.

This was the world of my 6x great grandmother Dorothea, who lived till her 95th year.

I chose Dorothea because she lived at a time when women did not commonly reach her years, especially not a woman who raised a family as large as hers. She qualifies in the theme of ‘longevity’ as one of the longest living of my ancestors.  I should warn you all – this post probably qualifies also on the grounds of its own length.  There was a lot to put in.

It is easy to be satisfied with the dry basic record one gets through peerage records and military notices, but as I sat down to write this post, I was determined to get beyond this. Those ancestors of mine were real people who lived full lives that I would love to know about.  Dorothea was born in Limerick and died in Cork, but she experienced a lot between those two events.

So I asked myself, what was life really like for Dorothea?

The city of Dorothea's childhood

SARSFIELD BRIDGE AREA OF LIMERICK by William Murphy, taken 09 Jun 2014, no alterations. Used here under Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

She grew up in a place justifiably proud of its role in the war against Protestant Britain. The greatest resistance to British rule came from the city of Limerick, which was attacked and besieged again and again between 1641 and 1691.  The fortified garrison was an inspiration and a symbol of strength to the Irish armies.  Even Thomas Leland, a man firmly set against the “Romish” barbarians, refers to Limerick in his ‘History of Ireland’ (1814), as ‘the great and final refuge of the Irish’ (1).

The citizens of Limerick city knew just how to survive a siege.  In 1691 they settled themselves in as so often before, repelled attacks, patrolled and repaired heroically and masterfully.  They nearly won the war, too, but starvation and disease broke them just a few days too soon. They came to terms with the aggressors shortly before a French army arrived with new resources for the Irish resistance.  The entire history of Ireland could have been quite different had they lasted another week.  As it was, the 1691 Treaty of Limerick became the guiding document for the Irish people.

This event and its aftermath were defining features in the lives of everyone who lived in Limerick county in the following decades.  The treaty itself was memorialized in stone and set into main square of the city.



‘Limerick City – Treaty Stone’ by William Murphy accessed via Flickr. No alterations. Used under Creative Commons CC BY-SA 2.0. See conditions of use here: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

After the treaty, a lot of influential men of Ireland were attainted and removed from their positions.  Reparations were nothing to do with religion but entirely based on which monarch each person had allied themselves with.   Irish troops were given the option of emigrating permanently to France.  The historian Maurice Lenihan (1866) states that about 21,000 soldiers  took up the offer and left Ireland without their wives and children (2).  His history includes poems and songs of woe, apparently composed at this time.

Very heavy restraints against Catholics were introduced too. They were basically under curfew, not allowed to leave their district or entertain guests.  The restrictions were deemed a betrayal perpetrated against the Irish, definitely not a condition referenced in the Treaty of Limerick.  Daily life resumed, but tension was constant.

All of that occurred fifty years before Dorothea was born, but by 1744, Limerick was still trying to recover.

Dorothea’s family were Protestants, so she was not impacted by the Catholic restrictions. But she was still born into a climate of suspicion and danger.  Most likely she was never allowed to wander alone.  The servants were probably what was known as retainers – multi-generational family servants on unofficial tenure.  There was no knowing when war would erupt again, when a new administration would look over the business and private activities of every family to seek out ‘traitors’. It mattered very much whom one associated with, whom one was seen with, who was seen coming to one’s door.  Dorothea undoubtedly led a heavily sequestered childhood, only associating with trusted family and friends, only playing with the children who it was safe for her to know.

The obvious result here is a lot of intermarriage within a small social circle.  This part of my family tree is more like a family spiderweb with tendrils flying everywhere, hooking on to other strands in complex and confusing ways.  The strands never came too close for comfort, but  there is a noticeable amount of pedigree collapse.  Dorothea is right in the middle of that.


‘Portrait of a Young Girl’ by William Hogarth. Public Domain image of a girl of about the same generation as Dorothea. Maybe – perhaps – she looked something like this?



The Hunt family had lived in the county of Limerick for a hundred years by the time of Dorothea’s birth.  Her great grandfather was Vere Hunt, an officer in Cromwell’s army who received extensive lands around the garrison city of Limerick in the 1640s (3). His son Henry, her grandfather, married Aphra Aylmer of Croagh in Limerick, a land-owning family who had been there apparently long before Cromwell’s arrival.  In later years, the Aylmers declared a strong tradition of support for Irish independence, but they seem to have avoided any penalty after the Limerick siege.

Thus the children of Henry and Aphra, including Dorothea’s father Henry, were quite wealthy and well-connected.  Henry Hunt the younger was a privileged young man of good prospects when he married Margaret Widenham in 1730.  It was on the occasion of his marriage that he bought the large house and property at Friarstown, where Dorothea was born in 1744.

I don’t actually know how many children there were in Dorothea’s family.  The peerage books all mention Vere, the eldest.  The GUI Landed Estate Index (3) says that his third son Henry lived at Clorane in Ireland.  So we have Vere, an unidentified second son, Henry – and somewhere later on comes Dorothea. There were probably a lot more.


‘Entrance Curragh Chase Forest Park’ . Limerick outside of the city was a very rural place in Dorothea’s time. Image by Peter Gerken [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Dorothea’s position in society was the same as that of the lower aristocracy in England. She was well-born, well-connected, her family had a tradition of local rule and hereditary manors and they had money.  But in other ways, her life was quite different.  She had a knowledge of cruelty and danger that her British counterpart lacked – no matter how sheltered her life was, this could not have been avoided.  The atrocities of the 1641 Rebellion were barely out of living memory, the sieges had been experienced by people she knew, and the city of Limerick still bore many scars of battle in its buildings and walls that she would have seen any time she visited the city.

Most likely there were fewer governesses of quality to teach her to dance, to play the piano and to speak French like a princess.  There were no hunting parties, no London season, no Hyde Park to go to in a carriage. She daily witnessed the regiments stationed permanently on guard at all public areas of Limerick city, keeping the peace in a way that was not required in England.  There were very few bridges, very few roads.

She probably had lots of things though – Limerick’s shipping port was very active with trade.  There might have been silks and jewellery and books, writing compendiums and lip paint, if her parents approved.   She may have had a doll’s house, she may have had a hobby horse. But childhood was short in 1750 when children were thought to be mini-adults, children in a physical sense only.


1762 ship, the type of ship which Dorothea may have seen in Limerick. By Anonymous (18th century) (Postcard) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In a family of civic importance, the public duties may have started early.  It was common for the daughter of a prominent townsperson to pass medals to soldiers in military ceremonies, to present business awards while standing beside the town mayor, and at other times to sit quietly  –  with an expression of interest and respect through interminable speeches by businessmen who loved an opportunity to demonstrate their oratory skills.

The Irish class system was also different to England’s.  The Irish aristocracy lived more familiarly with their clans, not seeing themselves as unreachably superior.  There  was class mobility.  Ireland in that century operated more on a patronage system, something England was trying hard to stamp out.  Positions of importance in Ireland were available to any man with the right skills who was verified by someone of suitable authority.  If that person met with trouble, their patron and his friends would come instantly to their aid.  It seems that if the person failed in their trust, the one who had vouched for them was obligated to take the blame and repair the damage, so the whole business was taken very seriously.  The entrenchment of societies such as Freemasons was a natural progression, as were the banditry fraternities such as the White Boys and the Rockites.

To be a Protestant in the 18th century in Ireland was almost a guarantee of a comfortable life, financially speaking.  To be landed gentry gave even more privileges.  It would have been hard for a landed Protestant not to succeed in all ways; financially, in his career and in his land acquisitions.  England desperately needed the Protestants to stay, to take charge so that the Catholics could not gain dominance.  After the wars, many English landowners had moved on.  They went back to England, to Barbados or to Virginia where it was safer.  England threw a lot of incentives and resources at those who stayed.

The British Protestant settler in Ireland braved the emotionally charged threat of the disenfranchised Irish.  They weathered the deprivations of war-ravaged agriculture and the absence of infrastucture.  The benefits might be great, but the risk was that a raging mob might charge into your house and slash everyone’s throats at any time, or one might be shot dead by snipers on the way into town.  It did happen.  This was a scenario that no genteel English young lady had to face.


18th century cannon and soldiers, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=156768


John Ferrars’ history of Limerick adds colour to the years of Dorothea’s childhood. His history was based on the manuscripts of the Reverend James White, a long time favourite of mine.  I’ve read John Ferrars’ book many times now.

History of Limerick by John Ferrars 1767

History of Limerick by John Ferrars 1767, page 128 (4)

Dorothea was fourteen at the time the ship blew up.


From John Ferrars’ history of Limerick 1767 p 129 (4)

Dorothea was sixteen years old and probably attended, since her parents were important members of local society.

In 1762 when Dorothea was eighteen, the White Boys first appeared in Limerick, perhaps an indication that many people were experiencing tough times.  The White Boys were a society of rebels/bandits who attacked the Protestants and those who worked with them,  in revenge for atrocities committed against the Irish Catholic. Some of their acts were very vicious.

When she was aged nineteen, Dorothea married twenty-four year old George Bowles (Boles), a cornet in the 7th Light Dragoons who was stationed at Limerick at the time.  He was a distant relative of hers.

In fact:

Dorothea and George

Relationship between George and Dorothea in my family tree

The relationship finder actually found fifteen different ways in which George and Dorothea connect, but these are the closest. Dorothea’s great grandfather Thomas Maunsell was the brother of George’s great grandmother Aphra Maunsell. The relationship was barely worth noting, but it meant that George was safe for Dorothea to know, and that it was safe for the two families to be united.


Grenadier, 40th Regiment of Foot, 1767 . An example of a soldier of almost the exact year that Dorothea met her husband. Each regiment had their own uniform and this is not the correct regiment, but the basic style was the same. By Inscribed “PWR” [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

George was a son of the respected Boles family.  According to Burke’s Peerage, the spelling of his name was entered erroneously on his commission papers and he decided it was simpler to keep it.  It is also possible – subtly implied by Burke, I think – that he chose the more English spelling deliberately but allowed the story to proliferate to save his family’s pride.  After all, some of the Boles family had lost their privileges by taking the wrong side in 1691.  It might have been prudent to not remind his senior military officers of the connection, in any way.  I’m just speculating here.

They married in Limerick on 13 November 1764 and moved to the Bowles family property of Mount-Prospect in Curriglass, Cork. This is where their children were born.

Burke’s Peerage and the GUI Landed Estates both state that George and Dorothea had three sons.  This is true.  They also had nine daughters, something which is rarely mentioned.  This was actually a large family.


Children of George and Dorothea Bowles of Mountprospect


There is a gap in children between Henry and Anna which I can’t yet explain.  I do know, however, that George Bowles purchased a commission as Lieutenant in 1767 (6).  It was announced in Military Notices as follows:

War Office Feb 14, 7th Regiment of Dragoons, Cornet George Bowles to be Lieutenant, vice Lieut. Samuel Bayley, by purchase.

He then exchanged from full pay to half in 1769 (7).

George was appointed a Justice of the Peace in Curriglass sometime before 1770.  He was appointed a Justice of the Peace for Tallow in 1776.   Curriglass and Tallow are geographically very close to each other.

In the 1790s when Dorothea was aged about forty eight, the family travelled to India where George was referred to as ‘General George Bowles’ (8).   While in Bombay, India in 1792, Dorothea’s daughter Dorothea was married to Major Henry Oakes.  It seems that the whole family were there at that time.

Perhaps he really was a General, but there is usually enough documentation regarding military Generals to confirm it.  I’m not convinced, I suspect someone was making an advantageous marriage sound even grander.

I haven’t found another mention of George Bowles anywhere. Although many sites say that he died at Tallow, I am beginning to think he actually died in India.  This is based on his daughter Harriet’s marriage in Bombay in the year of George’s death.  Why would the family still be there if he wasn’t?


George died in 1802 – supposedly in Tallow, Waterford – leaving Dorothea as executrix of his will. Dorothea returned on a date unknown to Mount-Prospect, where she lived comfortably surrounded by extended family including her Widenham cousins.

In 1830 when Dorothea was 86, the property was advertised to let (9).  I don’t know where Dorothea lived during this interval .  The house being new is a surprise also.  After George’s death, the property was inherited by Dorothea’s son George, but given to Dorothea for her use through her lifetime.  Maybe George the younger or his wife were not willing to live in an outdated place?   Or maybe they did preferred to live in their own way, separate to Dorothea.

The ‘Mrs G Bowles’ referenced in the advertisement could have been either Dorothea or her daughter-in-law.



The HOUSE And DEMESNE of MOUNT-PROSPECT, with OUT-HOUSES and an excellent GARDEN, near the village of CURRIGLASS.  The House is a new one, and fit for the reception of a large family.

Applications to be made, if by letter (post-paid) to Mrs G. Bowles, Mount-Prospect, Tallow.

About the only other reference I have found to Dorothea in her own right is a court appearance she was required to make in 1833 regarding the particulars of a lease of land which had been allocated in her husband’s will thirty years earlier. She was aged 89 and probably did not actually appear in person.

Dorothea passed away in Ahern, Rathcormack, Cork in 1838. Unfortunately despite all the searching I have not located her actual death date, simply the probate record which gives the year and location of her death.

Thus ended the life of a woman who saw a lot in her time, who birthed twelve children, travelled to India and spent thirty years in widowhood managing her own affairs.  Even this long blog post just skims the surface of her life, but it is a closer and hopefully an illuminating look at someone who is entered in all the peerage records only as ‘Dorothea, daughter of Henry Hunt of Friarstown, county Limerick’.


(1)   The History of Ireland from the Invasion of Henry II by Thomas Leland, 1812 via Google books https://books.google.com.au/books?id=UAVaAAAAcAAJ&pg=PA364&dq=history+of+limerick&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjKnd6O3tjYAhWGybwKHQKKBTw4KBDoAQhRMAg#v=onepage&q=history%20of%20limerick&f=false

(2)   Limerick: its history and antiquities by Maurice Lenihan, 1866 via Google books https://books.google.com.au/books?id=YwwHAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA1&dq=history+of+limerick&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjFttDB3djYAhUGbrwKHQfKBZ0Q6AEINDAC#v=onepage&q=jonathan%20&f=false

(3)   http://landedestates.nuigalway.ie/LandedEstates/jsp/estate-show.jsp?id=2636

(4)   The History of Limerick, Ecclesiastical, Civil and Military by John Ferrars, public domain via https://books.google.com.au/books?id=0YY2AAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=history+of+limerick&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjFttDB3djYAhUGbrwKHQfKBZ0Q6AEIKTAA#v=onepage&q=friarstown&f=false

(5) Southern Reporter and Cork Commercial Courier 26 February 1829 – Advertisements

(6) Leeds Intelligencer 24 February 1767 – Notices via FindMyPast.com.au

(7) The Scots Magazine Military Notices 1769

(8) Biography of Major Henry Oakes https://www.mq.edu.au/macquarie-archive/under/research/biographies/oakes.html

(9) Cork Constitution 24 August 1830 Notices via FindMyPast.com.au

Ned Dillon (1878-1958) – Farmer of Gardner’s Bay : #52Ancestors Week Two – ‘Favourite Photograph’

In the 1850s, three convict brothers surnamed Dillane completed their term of servitude and were let loose on south-eastern Tasmania as new settlers.  They settled on the eastern bank of the Huon River in a heavily wooded, very hilly  area. It was almost inaccessible from Hobart Town, the colony’s main town.  There was a push to open up this region but the difficulty of  access was a major obstacle.

The Dillane brothers grew up along the western border of Limerick in Ireland where the war against the British invaders was still going strong.  Roads, bridges and shops had never been part of their world.  Nor was oversight by local authorities. Their new home suited them very well and they made a roaring success of it.  They cleared some land but only what they had to.  They didn’t worry too much about property boundaries.  They worked hard, married second wives and raised large families.

Two of those Dillane brothers were the grandfathers of Edward (Ned) Dillon pictured here in the photograph I have chosen to feature.  Ned was my great grandfather. It is the only picture I have ever seen of him. I don’t know who took this picture, but it was taken in his later years probably at Gardners Bay.

Ned Dillon photo

Edward (Ned) Dillon 1878-1958

Transportation had transmuted the surname Dillane to Dillon, and it never changed back.  Therefore, Ned was Edward Dillon from birth.

By the time of Ned’s birth there were 44 Dillons in the Huon.  This count does not include the family of Ned’s aunt Johanna Dillon who had become Mrs John Thorp.  If we add the six children she had produced by the year of Ned’s birth we have a total of 50 Dillons where a mere twenty years earlier there had been 3, all still living in that one isolated corner in the Huon.  It’s quite astounding.  Apart from a few tragic early deaths, the family were healthy and vigorous.

Fifty individuals and only about twelve Christian names among them, but while from a distance the duplication of names is daunting, at the local level there was much less confusion.  To illustrate this, here’s a map of the area they lived showing Ned’s birthplace, Gardner’s Bay.

Map of the Huon

Showing the area of settlement for the original Dillane brothers. Edmund and John remained at Gardners Bay, Timothy and his family moved to Bruny Island.

On the map the distance looks quite small, but even when I was a child it still took an hour and a half to travel that 60 kilometres. The road to Hobart was a windy, narrow hill-hugging sealed track involving much cooperation where one car met another coming the other way.   Just over a century earlier when Ned was born, the way to Hobart town involved taking a boat up the Huon as far as Franklin and travelling up from there.  It wasn’t travelled much.  They were quite self-sufficient.

By modern standards the above map looks like a small area, but even this map encompasses a much larger world than that of Ned Dillon.  He lived very much within one community.  The background of the photograph shows his world.

I couldn’t find a good map of the region in the public domain so I made my own.  It’s a bit messy, but it perfectly shows the world of Ned Dillon.  The watercourses are labelled in blue, the land in white. The distance from Gardners Bay to Cygnet (formerly named Lovett) is just under 10km, or about 6 miles.  At the time of Ned’s birth, Lovett did not exist. There was a small administrative township there named Port Cygnet.

Cygnet region rough map

Very basic map of the regions around the township of Cygnet.

Edward Dillon was born on 18th Nov 1878.  His father John Dillon was the son of the convict Edmund Dillane to his first wife Maria Woulfe. John was still a child when his father was transported, but he, his brother Edmund and his sister Johanna joined their father a few years later.

Mary Teresa Dillon was born in Glazier’s Bay on 15th April 1860, the daughter of convict John Dillane and his second wife Bridget Behan.

Mary was aged 17 when she married her 35 year old cousin on 11th May 1877 at Port Cygnet. Their first child John was born four days later.   The family then settled at Gardners Bay where the rest of their children were born.

Ned had no chance to meet his older brother. Young John died two months before Ned’s birth. A new brother John was born just after Ned’s second birthday.

The children kept coming, in the usual Dillon way.  Andrew, Christopher, Bridget, Johanna and Mary had been brought into the world by Ned’s twelfth birthday. The family were orchardists and Ned worked on the property from a young age with all his cousins. Very frequently, the Dillons all worked together.  There were certainly enough of them, they didn’t need to bring in outside labour.

Sandrock Bay Tasmania

Sandrock Bay near Randalls Bay in the region the Dillons have lived since the 1850s. This is how it looks today.

It was all shaken up when Ned’s father died on 26 October 1891 leaving a rather large young family.  Ned took over as the man of the house, working full time on the family’s farm. He was sixteen when his mother, then aged 35, remarried.  I’ve had a lot of trouble finding her second husband.  The oral history in the family – which I’ve grown up knowing – is that Mary Dillon married Pretty-boy Cowen.  The place is full of nicknames.  A search in the vital records show him to be Albert Cowen aged 20 at the time of marriage, but there is no birth record for an Albert Cowen of similar age.

I suspect his birth is the one registered as Alfred Cowen in Gardners Bay 13 Aug 1874, son of Joseph Cowen and Harriet Devereaux.

Ned became an adult and met his future wife.  Well, in that region it doesn’t make sense to say that.  They all grew up together.  He was probably around when she was born since she was nine years younger than he was.  Patience Victoria Bone was born on 16 April 1888 in Garden Island Creek, but by her teen years her family had moved to Port Cygnet.  At the time of their marriage Ned was 25 and Patience was 16.

Patience’s father Richard was the son of James Bones and Mary Ann Cowen.  Mary Ann was the sister of Joseph Cowen, probable parent to Mary Dillon’s second husband.  So Mary’s second husband was probably the cousin of her daughter in law’s father.  But now I’m getting distracted.  Back to Ned!

Page break

Ned and Patience were married on 11 September 1904 in Cygnet, which had finally come into existence as a proper town. They settled at Gardners Bay where Ned was an orchardist and small fruits farmer.  It seems to have been a happy marriage.  My grandfather remembered Patience as being an ‘unusual’ woman, one with a quirky sense of humour and a love of novelty.  Eight children were born to Ned and Patience between 1905 and 1922.

Patience was tragically struck down by an inherited health condition and died at the age of 41 on 05 Feb 1930, leaving Ned with his young family.  He did not remarry. He continued farming until a year or two before he died when he moved in to Cygnet.  The 1954 electoral roll is the last one to show him living at Gardners Bay.

Ned passed away on 12 Apr 1958 in Cygnet and was buried in the Catholic Cemetery there. He was a quiet man who lived a very quiet life, but having a photograph keeps him with us a unique individual.







#52Ancestors Week One – Stella Morey


Emily (Stella) Peard nee Morey 1887-1984


The little township of Bethanga in north Victoria (Australia) was in its boom years when Emily Morey was born in 1887.  She was the fifth child in her family, with two elder brothers and two elder sisters.

Her proud parents were William and Fanny.  At the time of their marriage, William had been a drover and Fanny a domestic servant, but now they were settled into farm life with William taking labouring work where he could find it.  Bethanga was a mining town and in the 1880’s there was great hope of a big lode somewhere in the hills, just waiting for the right prospector to find it.  Inns, boarding houses and eating establishments lined the main street and many new homes were still popping up on the farmlands around the town.  Churches were opened and the burning issue in town in the year of Emily’s birth was the proposed site for a much needed official state school.

The topic for this week’s #52Ancestor blogging challenge is ‘Start’ and Emily (Stella) Morey was the one who got me going on what has been almost a lifetime of family research.  She was my great grandmother in a direct maternal line, known to us all as ‘Ma’. She passed away in 1984 when I was in high school.  Stella taught me through stories which brought the past to life for me that behind every dry name and date was a whole world that someone had lived.  Not only that, but when I came to research her I found that her personal story bore very little resemblance to the individual who emerged from her vital records.  It was a salutary lesson to look beyond the official account whenever possible.


The township of Bethanga from the western approach Dec 2014

The confusion begins with her birthday.  Nobody ever knew, she told us, if she was a winter baby or a spring baby since she was born at midnight on the 31st August – or maybe it was just past midnight on the 1st September?  Through the years, both dates had been used on various official documents.  She also lost a year in age somewhere, believing herself to be born in 1888.

The official birth registration gives her a birth date of 27th August 1887, but the birth was not registered till a few days later so we can’t be completely sure.  I have placed the official date in my tree, but were she alive I suspect she would dispute this vehemently.

The next confusion is her name.  Registered and baptised as Emily, she quickly became known as Stella.  She told me that it was because she had a cousin of the same age named Emily and so one of their names had to change.  I have not yet discovered a cousin named Emily.  Another relative says she used to help care for some children and they had difficulty calling her Emily.  I only learned her true name in the first place by looking at the family bible with her.  It was never used.

Stella’s birth family did not make it into many records, but some aspects of their lifestyle can be inferred.  They moved often, but stayed in the same area, the mining and farming district which had spread out from the banks of the Murray River.  Stella’s brothers William and Charles were born in Bethanga in 1880 and 1881.  Frances was born in Granya in 1883, and Louisa was born in Lockhart in 1885.  Come 1887 and the birth of Emily (Stella), the family was back in Bethanga.

William Morey’s large birth family was nearby, so Stella probably knew many of her cousins. Her father had been born in the goldfields of New South Wales, and he knew no other home than rural Australia. Fanny, on the other hand, was an orphan from England, raised to be say her prayers, do her work diligently and to appreciate refinement enough to take a domestic position with a good family.  From all accounts she took to motherhood like a duck to water.  She loved her brood of youngsters and everyone knew her as a happy, warmhearted women.  Fanny was heavily involved in the local church and all her children attended church also.  As a child in a large family who were just one step up from itinerant, Stella was quite fortunate in having stable, healthy parents who cared about the future of all their children.  Certainly, she never perceived any lack in her own childhood.

Three more sisters were born over the next decade, named Rachel, Amy and Olive.  Stella was eleven years old when her youngest sibling was born and died within just a few weeks.  Matilda Mignonette Morey was the only child lost to William and Fanny and her death came as a shock to them all.


Cemetery at Bethanga

In the years of Stella’s childhood, Bethanga changed.  The big gamble had not paid out for either businesses or miners.  Despite some moderately successful mines, most townspeople had not become rich.  Some residents were even beginning to move away.  In 1895, the mail service was reduced from a daily delivery to one every third day.  Funds ceased to be available for local repairs.  In the late 1890s, Australia was moving into a time of financial recession and the rural towns were beginning to feel it, especially where the occupants had relied too heavily on credit.

Stella had her fourteenth birthday in 1901, Australia’s year of Federation.

Stella’s movements through her teen years are still unknown, but her parents can be found on the electoral roll in 1903, 1905 and 1906 still living in Bethanga.  The two boys, now young adults, were living at home so it is likely that the girls were there also.

Bethanga suffered a few bad setbacks at this time.

20 Aug 1904
A great crash in the mines occurred on Friday when between fifty and sixty men were dismissed without respect to persons. Married and single had to go, and things look very black for the present.
Some are gathered on one street corner, some on another, asking where they’ll go, what will they do, and so forth. Hard luck seems to stand in the way. The only thing is to keep smiling and hope for better days to come. (1)

Things did not improve in the town.

09 December 1905
from our own correspondent.
Once again we are led to believe that the unsatisfactory state of affairs existing in Bethanga at the present time will be brought to a close. The A.M. A. are now taking steps on behalf of the miners to obtain wages due to them over 12 months ago. The liquidation has now to take final steps in regard to winding up affairs.
If this had been done in the first place, who can say but that Bethanga would have by this time been on its feet again. There is one thing about the Bethanga people — they all have a large stock of hope, otherwise they — especially the business people — would have begun fishing long before the season was open. (2)

There were other problems too.  Cattle were mysteriously dying and crops were failing. These issues at first were deemed to be local farming problems but in 1907 were found to be due to serious pollution from the mines in some of the local watercourses.

Finally, sometime around 1907, the whole Morey family left town and moved north to the Snowy Mountains to make a fresh start as a share farming family in a community called Manus.


MANUS (Letters to Uncle Jeff)
14 December 1906
Dear Uncle Jeff, — Manus is a station situated on the Manus Creek, four miles from Tumbarumba, where sheep raising is still carried on. But of late the owners have gone extensively into the cheese making industry, which is now a flourishing concern. The factory, also belonging to the station, is a fine building, situated on the creek near the Manus bridge.
Milk is supplied by a number of dairy farms, each milking a large number of cows at present. And one of the dairies has of late been installed with milking machines, which are said to be a vast improvement on the old style of milking.— D. HASH. (3)
The Children’s Page in the Albury Banner and Wodonga Express is a source of rich local information like no other, and a great asset to researchers of the greater Albury region which includes both Bethanga and Manus.  The letters were actually written in school under the auspices of a teacher, but the content was something of relevance to the child.  This letter manages to describe perfectly the situation at Manus just before the arrival of the Morey family.
TumbarumbaTownship Early Morning

Main street of Tumbarumba Dec 2014 about 7AM

Manus Station was established by Robert McMicking in 1856 and even in the 1970s the McMickings were remembered as important people in Manus.  On each visit to the district we went to see the McMicking graves.  I assumed as a young child that they were related, but they are not. However, their influence on my family was so great that the next generation took on as much reverence for them as their forebears had felt.

In about 1900 Robert McMicking suffered a serious illness which left him invalided. Unable to focus on the labour-intensive sheep industry, he built a cheese factory and introduced dairy share-farming to ensure a supply of milk.   The new operation required a large number of new workers.  The call must have gone out somehow, because William Morey and his family took heed, as did several other farm workers from the Albury region.

At the age of 20 Stella lived at Manus and worked as a dairy maid.  I don’t recall her talking of the milking machines, but she spoke of going to work in a stiff morning frost just before dawn.  Here she met Burley Peard, a farm worker from Albury who travelled regularly to Manus on his bicycle to work on the property.  Burley was 28, a quiet man, a very hard worker who made a success of almost everything he touched.  He probably came to Manus first to observe either the cheese factory or the milking machines.  Stella had something to do with his decision to remain.


Burleton Peard 1879-1973

It was less than a year after they met that Robert McMicking passed away, and a suggestion was made that Manus be selected for a ‘closer settlement scheme’, which meant opening up land in 100 acre lots rather than the expansive stations of the 19th century.

Burley Peard and Stella Morey were married on the 18th November 1908 in the little church of St Judes at Tumbarumba.  They settled on land at Manus and called their property ‘Toronto’.

The eight share-farming families who moved to Manus in circa 1908 have remained very close to this very day.  Most if not all of them are now connected by marriage.  They came from very different places but forged a permanent community which has seen a little village grow up in Manus, and also watched that village disappear.  William and Fanny’s house stood for decades after their demise, unoccupied, but has finally fallen down.  Burley and Stella’s house still stands but in a partially dismantled state.


Home of Burleton and Stella Peard 2014

William and Fanny Morey's home

Remains of William and Fanny Morey’s home from the road circa 1986

Only two children were born to Burley and Stella, one of whom was my grandmother.  They lived at Toronto from 1908 until Burley’s death in 1974, after which Stella moved in with her son and daughter in law in a neighbouring property.

Stella passed away on 6th July 1984 in Mannus, and is buried in the Tumbarumba Cemetery.

(1) 1904 ‘BETHANGA.’, Ovens and Murray Advertiser (Beechworth, Vic. : 1855 – 1918), 20 August, p. 9. , viewed 07 Jan 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article199677204

(2) 1905 ‘BETHANGA.’, Ovens and Murray Advertiser (Beechworth, Vic. : 1855 – 1918), 9 December, p. 8. , viewed 07 Jan 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article200140622

(3) 1906 ‘MANUS.’, Albury Banner and Wodonga Express (NSW : 1896 – 1938), 14 December, p. 11. , viewed 07 Jan 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article100676015