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John Wilson

This page of information on John Wilson is a work in progress. Until now, very little biographical information was known about John's life. An interesting email inquiry prompted some further investigation. John Wilson is the ninth child of James Wilson and Catherine Boak. John Wilson was born on the 6 July 1801 -

John, lawful son to James Wilson and his wife Catharine Boag in Curriehill was born July the 6th and baptised the nineteenth instant before the congregation. 1

When where and how John arrived in Van Diemens Land has not been definitively discovered. There are several possible arrivals that may be him during the period immediately prior to his land grant being issued. 2 John's land grant of 1,280 acres in the parish of Bath (later Newick), county of Monmouth, is recorded on 27th June 1831, the property which he would later name "Springfield" -

Bounded on the S.E. by a grant to George Wilson near the Blue Hills & extending North westerly to a grant to Foord. 3

Copies of John's land grant application letters have yet to be discovered. The most likely arrival that would fit with known information is that as a passenger on the Brig Mary which arrived on the 7th September 1833 -

Arrived on Sunday the 8th instant, the brig Mary, 244 tons, Capt. Turcan, from London 1st May, with a general cargo. Passengers, Mr. Geo. Tasker, Richard Seal, coach-builder, W. Watson, currier, and John Wilson, wheelwright ; also, for Sydney, Mrs. Wood and 5 children. Rebecca Cass and Sarah Last. Mr. George Wood, a passenger for Sydney, died of consumption during the voyage. 4

This is supported by -

The second youngest of the Wilson brothers, John, born on 6 July 1801, arrived from Ratho, Scotland, on 10 September 1833 on the Mary ... 5

John's arrival is yet to be definitively confirmed. Other than his 1831 land grant notice, one of the earliest recorded public references to John in VDL, is when John and his brother George are signatories to an address presented to Gov. George Arthur on his impending "retirement" as the Governor of Van Diemen's Land.

On Wednesday a deputation of gentlemen from the inhabitants of the Campbelton district, waited at Government House with the following address. CAMPBELTON, July 4 1836.-Sir,- We the undersigned Inhabitants of the district of Campbelton, having heard of your intended retirement from this Government, wish to express to your Excellency the high sense we entertain of the unremitted and successful endeavours of your administration to promote the welfare of this Colony ; also our sincere esteem for, and good opinion of your private, as well as public character, We, with regret, at your approaching departure, respectfully have the honor to remain, Sir, Your Excellency's obedient servants. ... John Wilson, George Wilson, Robert Thirkell, ... James Brock ... 6

According to the leading Wilson family researcher, Margaret Rackham, 7 John Wilson married at the age of 37, to widow Elizabeth Calvert on 19th October 1838 at the residence of and by the Minister of the Scots Church the Revd. John Mackersey of Kirklands, in the Avoca district. 8 Witnesses were John Lyall and John Calvert. It is reported that John's wife Elizabeth, left him after only two months. 9 The witness, John Calvert, is (possibly) the overseer to Captain John Bell, 10 his brother-in-law, and who had a property named Annan or Annandale on the Blackman's River in the Tunbridge district. The census of Hobart in 1837 11 shows (Capt) John Bell and his wife and John Calvert and a relative, Elizabeth Calvert, residing at the Belle Vue property in New Town, now the Runnymede property. John and Elizabeth Calvert are family relatives, through John's sister, Mary Calvert, who married Lewis Bell, brother of Capt John Bell. 12 It is possible that John Wilson's older brother, Thomas Braidwood Wilson knew Capt John Bell personally, as both were involved in the transport of convicts to VDL and this is how he came to meet and romance Elizabeth Calvert. Elizabeth was a widow at the time of her 1838 marriage. her maiden surname and the name of her first husband are, as yet, unknown. John Calvert eventually moved to Victoria to pursue agricultural interests in partnership with his nephew "Big John" Bell. No further trace of Elizabeth Calvert has been found in Tasmania post her 1838 marriage and it is possible that she moved to Victoria with her relative John and may have re-married there. This separation of John and his wife Elizabeth would appear to be confirmed -

Notice. I Hereby caution the public, more especially in and near Campbell-town, not to give credit, nor in any way to harbour my wife, Elizabeth Wilson, as after this notice I will pay no account or accounts whatever, but what I contract myself; and those harbouring her will be dealt with as the law directs, for her home is here, where I will provide food and clothing for her according to her station in life, and pay the same myself, for I do not allow her to transact any business whatever. JOHN WILSON. Blue Hill Side, Feb. 13. 13

Did the two brothers have a "falling out ?"; as is also about the same time, that John and his brother George dissolved their "business partnership" -

Notice to the Public. THE partnership hitherto carried on between John and George Wilson has been this day dissolved by mutual consent, John Wilson leaving off farming pursuits. JOHN WILSON, GEORGE WILSON. Witnesses - JAMES BROCK, J. ANDERSON. Mount Seymore Side, Feb. 13. 14

John may have also been assigned convict labour ...

Assignments. From Oatlands - P. Harrison, John Wilson, W. Nicholls, John Carter, Thomas Salmon. E. Dixon, R. Jones, Thomas Barbury, Thomas McRa, Henry Morley. 15

Could this witness, a "J. Anderson" possibly be a Captain John Anderson, a previous master of the ship Minerva that captain John Bell sailed with convicts on board to VDL in 1818 ?. At a predetermined period after a land grant was allocated to free settlers, the Land Commissioners would examine the improvements made on the properties in order that the grantee be given "final approval".

Commissoners' Office. 9th December, 1845. NOTICE is hereby given, that the following Claims for Grants will be ready for examination, by the Commissioners appointed for that purpose, upon or immediately after the 9th day of February next, on or before which day any caveat or counter claim must be entered: John Wilson, Newick, Monmouth, 1300 acres ; originally located to John Wilson - Bounded on the north by 140 chains 60 links westerly along locations to Henry Bilton and John Murray respectively now occupied by or belonging to Henry Bilton commencing at the south east angle of the first-mentioned location and crossing a road leading from Oatlands, on the west by 57 chains 50 links southerly along crown land, on the south by 171 chains 35 links easterly also along crown land and along land located to and now claimed by George Wilson recrossing the before mentioned road ; on the east by 160 chains 30 links northerly along crown land and along a location to Anne Howe since granted to Peter Roberts, again on the north by 31 chains 10 links westerly along an additional location to John Mawle Hudspeth, and thence again on the west by 103 chains 40 links southerly along the aforesaid location to Henry Bilton to the point of commencement. George Wilson, Newick, Monmouth, 1545 acres ; 1500 acres originally located to George Wilson - Bounded on the east by 130 chains 50 links northerly along lot 473 purchased from the crown by George Wilson and along crown land commencing at the south west angle of the aforesaid lot, on the north by 165 chains 10 links westerly also along crown land and along land located to and now claimed by John Wilson crossing a road leading from Oatlands, on the west by 23 chains 32 links southerly along crown land, on the south west by 149 chains 50 links south easterly also along crown land and along lot 154 purchased from the crown by William John Turner Clarke, and thence on the south by 57 chains 70 links easterly along crown land lo the point of commencement. 16

John and a constable assisted his brother George in the capture of a bushranger in the vicinity of their farms at the Blue Hills.

The PROBATION System. - We have learnt some circumstances which will convey an idea of the working of the system, and the nonchalance with which the lives of the free colonists are treated. At the Eastern Marshes about 90 men from the Oatlands gang are employed to split wood for fences and to carry it to Oatlands - these 90 men employed in the performance of this work are spread over a bush track of seven or eight miles, under the superintendence of one free overseer. As may be supposed, the men do precisely as they please, and may absent themselves from the gang without the possibility of detection for many hours to come. In the beginning of February last, one of these men was taken by Mr. Wilson, of the Blue Hills, in the act of absconding, and kept during that night on the farm in charge of a constable and servant ; during this time he possessed himself of the constable's gun, and attempted to shoot his keepers, but was prevented, and ultimately conveyed to Oatlands. About ten days since Mr.Wilson again met with two absconders from the same gang on his farm, and after a desperate scuffle, with the assistance of his brother and a constable stationed near his house, secured them. They, however, refused to walk, and Mr. Wilson had to send them to Oatlands in a cart. One of these fellows threatened to serve that gentleman out, though it were twenty years hence, but the other expressed a hope to do so within three weeks; moreover they admitted to the constable afterwards, that when Mr. Wilson met them they were on their way to serve out another settler in the neighbourhood who had offended them. The visiting Magistrate at Jericho sentenced the men to nine months hard labour, and recommended their being sent to Port Arthur. But while the confirmation of this sentence was awaited, these two men, instead of being kept in prison, were, as usual, sent out with the gang in custody of a constable, but even he was soon afterwards ordered away from his charge. The consequence was, that on the 18th instant these two desperate characters with another, took again to the bush, and Mr. Wilson and his family are thrown into the greatest state of alarm. This gentleman is constantly losing sheep, and to secure his flock has been obliged to remove it from the neighbourhood of the gang, so that the land there is quite useless to him. 17

John and his brother George and other prominent citizens of the community were supportive in efforts to improve the infrastructure of their local municipality -

Oatlands, 1st December, 1852. SIR,- We, the undersigned Landholders and Householders residing within the District of Oatlands, request you will have the goodness to convene a General Meeting of the landholders and Householders of the district for the purpose of soliciting the Lieutenant-Governor to proclaim the unappropriated portions of the said district a Road District, under the Act in Council 15 Viet. No. 8, with such modifications as, under His Excellency's Notice, No. 90, of 17th August, 1852, the meeting may be disposed to suggest in carrying ihe said Act into operation. We have the honour to be, Sir, your obedient servants, Henry F. Anstey - P. Harrison - T. J. Harrison - Edward Bisdee - J. Maclanachan - Samuel Page - Dennis Bacon - James Weeding - Edward Barwick - W. Barwick - James Brock - T. Burbury - C. M. Cogle - T. Nichols - John Wilson - Joseph M'Ewan - George Wilson - Charles Madden - J. C. Hudspeth - Joseph Wright. To John Whitefoord, Esq., Police Magistrate, &c., Oatlands. In compliance with the foregoing requisition, I beg to invite a MEETING of the Landholders and Householders of the district for the purpose ubove-named, at the Court House, at Oatlands, on SATURDAY, the 18th December instant, at eleven o'clock in the forenoon. John Whitefoord, P.M. Oatlands, 8th December, 1852. 18

John is recorded as having signed an address to John Whitefoord Esq., Police Magistrate, upon his removal to the district of Launceston. 19 Bush-rangers in the area were a continuing threat to life and limb -

LONG MICKEY. - 'If any possible doubt could exist,' writes an Oatlands correspondent, 'as to the parties who murdered poor Sturgeon, it has been settled by the discovery of the gun which one of the witnesses (Knibbs) saw in the possession of the bush-rangers. The clothes worn by Long Mickey upon that occasion were found shortly after the murder. On Thursday last Mr. John Wilson and his brother were burning off, (in the same locality as the hut where the clothes were found) and picked up the gun. The nipple had been blown out as described by Knibbs and other witnesses. It was found about 150 yards from the place where the clothes were discovered, and is now in the possession of Mr. Quinlan.' 20</blockquote>

John also took an interest in his local community's ability to travel for business and recreational purposes -
<blockquote><strong>COUNTRY DISTRICTS - OATLANDS.</strong> (From our Correspondent.)
The Road Trustees, notwithstanding some obstacles they had to encounter, seem to be progressing favourably with regard to clearing the line of Road, from the Township of Oatlands to that of Swanston, and the Swanport Road. On riding along the projected line a few days ago, we were gratified to find that a most substantial wooden bridge had been thrown across the Creek, which separates Mr. Bacon's land from the Township of Oatlands. The Bridge is composed of the best description of timber cut for a number of years, and well seasoned, and the whole well secured in every respect. The greatest credit is due to <strong>Mr. John Wilson, of Mount Seymour,</strong> (who superintended the work gratis,) for the workmanlike manner the Bridge has been completed, and we can have no doubt if a similarly constructed Bridge be thrown across the York Rivulet, on the same line, that the road in the direction of Swanston, through the Eastern Marshes, will bear a good appearance before the end of the ensuing summer. 21

John was the foreman of a jury empanelled for a coronial inquest into the death of a local teenager -

A Youth Shot. - On Tuesday last a jury, of which John Wilson, Esq., was foreman, was empannelled at the Blue Hills, distant twelve miles from Oatlands, before Thomas Mason, Esq., Coroner, to inquire into the circumstances which led to the death of a youth 16 years of age, named John Ireland, eldest son of Mr. John Ireland, of Wood Bank. From the evidence of Michael Ireland, brother of the deceased, it was proved that last Sunday afternoon witness accompanied the deceased to a paddock of wheat, about a quarter of a mile from their father's dwelling, to shoot some birds. The deceased, who was carrying a gun, came to two cross-logs, and while in the act of getting over them the gun slipped out of his hand, the hammer of which struck against one of the logs, which discharged the contents of the piece into the abdomen of the unfortunate deceased. He lived to undress himself, and to be conveyed to his father's house, but, after suffering an hour and a half, expired. Dr. Macnamara deposed to having made a post mortem examination of the body, and stated it as his opinion that the deceased died from a gun shot wound. Verdict, ' accidental death.' 22

John's younger brother George was very supportive of the Scottish Church and its congregation in the Oatlands and outlying areas, even to the point of providing a Church Manse as a wedding present for his daughter. John himself, funded the entire cost of the construction of the second Presbyterian Church in Oatlands. The foundation stone for the new 'Campbell Free Church' of Scotland was laid in an elaborate ceremony on 19th July and duly reported in the local press.

FREE CHURCH PRESBYTERY OF TASMANIA. This Court held its half-yearly meeting in Chalmer's Free Church, Hobart Town, on Tuesday last the 10th inst. There was a full attendance of members. The Rev. John Downes, Moderator or Presbytery, opened the meeting with devotional exercises, He then intimated that his period of office had expired, and the Rev. James Lindsay of Chalmers Free Church, Launceston, was elected Moderator for the year. The Communion rolls of the different congregations were made up, given in, and attested by the Moderator. It was reported that the Church and manse or parsonage were in progress of erection at Oatlands, and that the Church, which promises to be a handsome structure, would be ready for opening in the course of two months. 23

The official opening of the church was extensively covered in an article in the Hobart Town Daily Mercury newspaper on 11 May 1860. 24 The opening of the church was further, briefly announced the following month -

Free Church or Scotland. - The new church erected in Oatlands, on the site of the building which fell in August, 1858, was opened for divine worship on 6th May. The Rev. W. Nicolson, of Chalmers's Free Church, Hobart Town, preached from Ps. 122, v. 1. The site was given by Mr. George Wilson, of Mount Seymour, and the entire cost of the building was borne by his brother, Mr. John Wilson, the congregation paying the balance of debt for the old church. In addition to these magnificent and voluntary gifts, a spacious manse is being erected at the sole cost of Mr. George Wilson. 25

In Tasmania, the Wilson family prospered and multiplied. Unfortunately, so did the rabbits, much to the chagrin of John Wilson, who wrote to the newspapers about it in late 1871.

THE RABBIT NUISANCE. TO THE EDITOR OF THE MERCURY. SIR,- It is with great reluctance that I again beg to intrude on your valuable space, but I cannot refrain from publicly acknowledging the joy and gladness produced by the promptitude displayed by parliament in introducing a measure at this early stage of their proceedings, having for its object the abatement of the rabbit nuisance; and, Sir, it appears I was right in not believing that foolish report that there were some hon. members who were opposed to the introduction of such a measure, for the bill has, it appears, passed its first reading without a dissentient voice. That speaks volumes for the earnest desire on the part of hon. members to promote the best interests of the colony. Nor is it easy to conceive a measure fraught with greater interest to the colonists generally than the extirpation of this great nuisance. Nor can it be doubted, now that Parliament has shown its earnestness in this matter, that hon. members will give this measure all that consideration which its importance demands, so as to make it as effective as possible. Springfield, near Oatlands, November 25th, 1871. JOHN WILSON. 26

It would seem that John was not only active in local road building, but that he also took an interest in the possibility of a railway line being constructed in his neighbourhood.

DAYS GONE BY. TO THE EDITOR OF THE MERCURY. SIR,-It must be highly gratifying to those persons who took part in the survey of a projected Main Line Railway, upwards of twenty years ago, to find that in this more advanced state of the colony, their efforts will have become useful. Time makes wondrous changes. One of our oldest colonists, Mr. John Wilson, of Springfield, Oatlands, was present when we started on Sprent's first surveying expedition for the Main Line Railway, and he it was who struck the first tree on the line at Mount Seymour. No doubt the above will be interesting to many of your numerous readers, who would wish to care for such reminiscences of days of yore. I am, Sir, ONE OF THE PARTY. 27

John Wilson died on 3 February 1877 in Oatlands, Tasmania. The cause of death was recorded as softening of the brain, and debility as a result of old age. James Wilson of Ashgrove, his nephew, registered the event. 28 John was laid to eternal rest at the Presbyterian Cemetery in Oatlands, Tasmania.

WILSON. - On 3rd February, at Mount Seymour, John Wilson, aged 75. The funeral will arrive at the burial ground, Oatlands, THIS DAY, 6th inst, at 3 o'clock p.m. friends are invited to attend. 29

There is still more of John's life story remaining to be discovered ....

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Lynda Rudd writes -

I'm interested to hear of any history related to John Wilson born 06.07.1801 - 03.02.1877 (son of James Wilson & Catherine Boak) and Barbara Brown. I'm a descendent of their son John Albert Wilson (1833 - 20.07.1893 Kempsey). I'm not sure whether John Wilson and Barbara Brown married in Scotland or Tasmania or if they were married at all. John Wilson apparently arrived on the ship Mary on the 10th Dec 1833. I have found no record of his wife arriving in Australia or a marriage record. On John Albert's wedding certificate (Son of John and Barbara) it lists both his father and mother's names and Van Dieman's Land as his place of birth. There is reference to John Wilson's wife leaving him on page 168 of the diary of Mary Mowle after a brief marriage. There is no date stating when this happened and no record of John Albert's birth. Barbara Brown did take John Albert to Kempsey at some stage where he spent the rest of his life. I would dearly love to piece together a bit more about John Albert's life, and what happened to both his parents. Hoping someone can shed light on the mysterious brother John, in the Wilson family who appeared to stay under the radar. John is buried at Mt Seymour. Barbara's burial is unknown, John Albert is most likely buried in Frederickton Cemetery NSW. 1

  • 1. Contact form inquiry of 1 Aug 2019