10a — Stray stories of family and Australiana — 3

This entry, originally January 23, 2014,  breaks the strict chronological arrangement I had been following, but nonetheless is worth posting now. We will be back with convict Jacob  and his son William before too long.

Mystery 1 – Jacob the convict (arr. 1822)


But compare those rather rosy last lines with my post Respectability achieved–and rapscallions left behind?

Mystery 2 – how many on the “Thames” (1826)?

Putting together the above with what Bob Starling has found out, it appears likely that Jacob’s wife Mary died c1826, and of the kids Mary (married Daniel Sweeney), Catherine, Judith and William survived but 12 year old James died on the voyage in February 1826, as did 9 year old Ann in March 1826.

Mystery 3: When did the family get to Picton?


So around 1846 – but without William’s father Jacob.

Mystery 4: When did Braidwood come into the picture?


So, originally to Araluen after gold, and well after the family settled in Picton.

And finally, what about my great-grandfather William Joseph John Whitfield?


Quite a man!


Not him, but what he did…


The bridge he built over Stonequarry Creek

And the extract above goes on to say that he supplied timbers for wharves in Sydney Harbour during the 1890s.


That’s linked to source, and is from the 1920s, but surely gives an idea…

These wharves went from smallish to huge structures such as those at Walsh Bay, Jones Bay and Woolloomooloo Wharf which remain (mostly).  All the wharves were built using timber, mostly Australian hardwood turpentine trees.  Impervious to marine borers, they were perfect.  Long and straight, the trees grew to between 12 and 35 metres long.

Cut into piles and spaced 3m apart, beneath the wharves resembled a giant, drowned forest.  As most wharves extended on average 35m from the shore, they needed upwards of 240 timber piles, or 240 trees each.  At the peak of the timber wharves in Sydney in the 1950′s, it was estimated that there were 40,000 timber piles in Sydney Harbour…

The framed extracts in this post are from my library research yesterday: Australian biographical and genealogical record series 1, 1788-1841, with series 2 supplement, 1842-1899 / series 1 edited by John T. Spurway, assistant editor Allison Allen; series 2 edited by Kenneth J. Cable and Jane C. Marchant.

10b — Stray stories of family and Australiana — 2

This entry, originally January 22, 2014,  breaks the strict chronological arrangement I had been following, but nonetheless is worth posting now. We will be back with convict Jacob  and his son William before too long.

You will recall that the slightly mysterious Jacob – horse thief, apparently – arrived involuntarily in 1822.  He was briefly in Hyde Park Barracks – in fact it was there that some years ago now I first encountered his name listed on their database.



But the true progenitor of my tribe seems to have been his boy William, who arrived at 14 on the immigrant ship Thames out of Cork via Brazil and Cape Horn – a voyage which must have been quite horrendous, not least in terms of his losing two siblings and, some think, his mother on the way.


The “Pamir” was the last commercial sailing ship to take the Cape Horn route – in 1949!

From William and Caroline’s 14 children the family spread from a start in Surry Hills to Picton and Braidwood and on to places such as Shellharbour, Wollongong, Coolah, Wellington, Gunnedah and heaven knows where! I am still not absolutely sure whether Picton or Braidwood came first, or whether they were overlapping.  I did meet a number of the Picton Whitfields but have never been to Braidwood! I did however hear tales about Braidwood, and Araluen, and other places between the South Coast of NSW and Monaro.

I was interested to find this on the Millpond Farm site.

Australia’s Millpond Farm is located at Jembaicumbene, 10kms south of the New South Wales Southern Tablelands village of Braidwood. The property has a rich colonial history, and over the past two centuries has produced prize winning wheat, sheep & cattle. Gold was discovered at Jembaicumbene in 1851 and a variety of important historic gold mining sites and 19th century buildings survive  within our spectacular natural wetland in the middle Jembaicumbene valley.

Braidwood tray sulky by William Wentworth 1892


Dated 1892 Town Sulky by William Whitfield, Braidwood
$2,500        SOLD

My personal town sulky for the past three years, this was recovered from the original owner’s farm and restored by us three years ago. It is a beautifully balanced full size long tray sulky with dated axles, and has had new axle stubs and boxes, new Amish hickory wheels with iron tyres, new shafts, all new wood in Kauri pine, all original iron with reset springs, brass fittings and leather upholstery. Painted dark green with black, white and red fine lining, it is fitted with lamp irons, wingboards, stitched leather apron and boot. Very correct with every nut and bolt replaced using square nuts and all the right clips and straps. Stamped WW on many iron parts for William Whitfield, a Braidwood blacksmith shop operating 1860s to 1940s.

Seems a few in the family were highly skilled in trades such as this. My own father was originally a carpenter, and not a mere wood butcher either. I have a memory of seeing the metal tyres fitted to a cart wheel at Picton some time, but I was very young…

The Braidwood district was discovered by the European community in 1822. Dr Thomas Braidwood Wilson (1792 – 1843), a highly respected pioneer of this district, gave his name to the town. A Surgeon Superintendent of convicts transported by the Royal Navy, Dr Braidwood Wilson was a humanitarian and during his several voyages, tried to teach all to read and write.

Cattle and sheep properties developed in the area in the 1820s and 1830s. In the 1850s, Braidwood’s population exploded as “gold fever” hit the surrounding region; but, as the gold ran out, the numbers declined and today, Braidwood is listed by the National Trust as an historic town with a population of 1,100.

Nineteenth century architecture dominates the undulating townscape, from workmen’s cottages to the larger public buildings. Preservation and restoration are encouraged by the local council and guided by the NSW Heritage Council.
Many of the beautiful early Australian buildings have been restored to their early glory, and now house a variety of businesses, hotels, galleries and sophisticated eating houses. Many writers, quilters, potters and ceramicists call Braidwood home.
The National Theatre Community Centre in Wallace Street, Braidwood, is thought to be the oldest operating picture theatre in Australia. The Braidwood Visitor Information Centre is housed at the Wallace Street entrance to the National Theatre Community Centre.

Braidwood celebrates its historic past each April, at the annual Heritage Festival. Visitors are made aware of Braidwood’s diverse past, the turmoil of the gold mining era, the influence of Chinese settlers and the hardworking farmers. Locals and visitors alike are encouraged to dress in period costumes to add to the festivity of the day.

Following the discovery of gold in the Araluen Valley in 1851, the infamous bushrangers Ben Hall, the Clarke brothers and the Connell family played their part in the fascinating history of the Palerang Shire.

The Clarke Gang, also known as the “Jingera Mob”, held up stores, hotels and homesteads, and shot policemen and “special constables”. In January 1867, when the Braidwood Police found the bodies of the four “specials”, they wrapped them in bark and buried them nearby. After a few days, Premier Parkes ordered that the bodies be exhumed and brought to Braidwood. Today, a memorial to the four constables can be seen in the Braidwood Cemetery.

Having survived those wild days, Braidwood is now listed by the National Trust. The beautiful buildings from the second half of the 1810s form Braidwood’s historical streets cape and interesting original settlers’ cottages can be found in the lanes and in the outlying villages.

The old gold mining village of Majors Creek now plays host to “Music at the Creek”, held on the first weekend in November. And, while in the vicinity of Nerriga, the adventurous can thrill to the excitement of white-water rafting.

Visitors now enjoy horse riding, bush walking and scenic drives through the very same countryside that was once frequented by the wild colonial boys of bygone days.

You can learn every historical fact there is to know about the local area at the excellent Braidwood museum, which resides in a lovely old stone building opposite the pleasant tree-filled park.

The collection includes over 2100 artefacts and 900 photographs of local origin. A unique attraction is the Nomchong collection consisting of items from the Nomchong family (Chinese traders in the town from the 1870s …).

Update 4.30 pm

A visit to Wollongong Library today has resolved some of my questions. You may recall the post Family history–some news on the Whitfield front.

The cousin who wrote to me wanted to point out that Bob Starling   — referred to in my page at the head of this entry — also has not got everything perfectly correct. Here is that cousin, the granddaughter of Susan Caroline Whitfield:


She is the one on the left and she is over 90 years old. As she gave her phone number I rang her last night and she sounded fantastic – as bright as a button. She could recall my father as a blonde god of a lifesaver at Shellharbour in the early 1930s!

She referred me to Australian biographical and genealogical record series 1, 1788-1841, with series 2 supplement, 1842-1899 / series 1 edited by John T. Spurway, assistant editor Allison Allen; series 2 edited by Kenneth J. Cable and Jane C. Marchant. It is in Wollongong Library and I will surely check it.

Which I have now done – and for all of you here are the relevant pages:

10c — Picton — Stray stories of family and Australiana — 1

This post was first published on  January 21, 2014.

Been to several funerals at both these locations, particularly in the 1950s and 60s.


Anglican Church, Picton. Comes complete with ghosts.


Cemetery in Upper Picton


My great-aunt Annie’s first husband. There is a back story there well worth exploring – and Bob Starling has: Unravelling the mysteries of the Janzen – Owen – Hooke – Vacchini families : who are these three men?


Ann Elizabeth Whitfield and Tiberio Janzen Vacchini:
Marriage: 1 Oct 1902


Picton Station 1870

1863: Extended line from Campbelltown to Picton and Picton railway station are officially opened. Historians believe the Antill family’s influence and desire to bring more people to Picton prompted it to be built. It was designed by John Whitton

Those Antills pop up all over the place: see Camden Remembers, Picton NSW – The Early Years.

Three generations of the Antill family of Picton are central to this paper: Henry Colden Antill (1779-1852), John Macquarie Antill senior (1822-1900) and John Macquarie Antill Junior (1866-1937). Henry Colden was born in New York of British stock, his great grandfather Edward Antill having migrated from England to America in 1680. His father John Antill had fought in the war of American Independence. The family migrated first to Canada; Henry was in the British army in India; he migrated to Sydney on 1 January 1810; he married Eliza Wills in Sydney in 1818; settled near Liverpool, N.S.W.; in 1825 settled on his estate near Picton, named Jarvisfield; and, in 1844 he subdivided part of his estate on the north of Stonequarry Creek, as the result he made possible the founding of the town of Picton (originally known as Stonequarry). He died and was buried in the family vault at Jarvisfield, in August 1852, survived by six sons and two daughters…



My dad pointed the place out to me, and there were stories about it too – but I didn’t really listen or have forgotten…