Meet my Great Great Grandfather Thomas Waters 1829-1913
My Great Great Grandfather Thomas Waters was born at Newton Bury, Dunton, Bedfordshire, England on 5 October 1829. There is much to write about his life in England, but that’s for another post. He arrived in South Australia in 1854. On 12 January 1857, he married Elizabeth Ann Cock. They went on to have 12 children. Their son, Earnest Welfare Waters is my Great Grandfather. He was featured here in an earlier post.
A few years ago, I was given a transcribed copy of letters Thomas wrote home to England. Written from Kyneton to his family in Bedfordshire, these letters detail the difficulties of an ordinary immigrant in a strange country without family or economic support. During the 12 years, that these letters covered, with five children to support, Thomas and his wife worked very hard, she taking in washing, he, as a labourer, a solicitors clerk and bailiff. He often spoke of his homesickness and his wish to see his family again.
In 1860 Thomas left South Australia to start a life for his family in Victoria. They followed shortly after. Here is an excerpt from his letters, where Thomas tells the family of his first few days in Victoria.
“When I had made up my mind to go to Melbourne I was going with another married couple that was fellow servants of mine on a station and it was settled they should sail from Adelaide a week before me as I could not leave the Court business for a few days and they were to wait with my wife in Melbourne until my arrival the following week but as bad luck generally attended me the boat had sailed when I arrived in Adelaide and therefore I was compelled to wait another week. I went to Mr. Birt’s and stayed with him until another bot saild during this time the Family that went to Melbourne with my wife proceeded to Inglewood diggers and left my wife in Melbourne for us to follow after them. When I arrived in Melbourne but much to my sorrow when I arrived in Melbourne I met my wife at the railway station with the youngest child in her arms most dangerously ill and she had that day paid the last of her money to the Doctor for advice. I had a few pounds by me and the Doctor took every farthing from me trying to save the Child but all to no …… The child died and then I was left …. Get the child buried without money of friend and then obliged to give the Doctor a promisary note for two pounds for a certificate of his death before I could get it buried which managed at last in a government grave at the Melbourne Cemetary, and then in a strange country strange people and no money and no work to be got of any kind in fact hundreds of people walking about out of Employment with hard struggling I manage to get as far as Kyneton a distance of 60 miles from Melbourne I walked that in one day and a person paid my wife’s Fare to go by coach and I have remained in Kyneton ever since”.
A few years later, shortly after the birth of Thomas & Elizabeth’s 5th child they were again visited by bad luck.
from THE OBSERVER, TUESDAY JUNE 13 1865 (page 2, column 4)
DESTRUCTIVE FIRE: The town was startled between eight and nine o’clock on Saturday evening last, by the cry of fire resounding through the streets, and it was discovered that the row of wooden premises in Hutton street facing the Independent chapel were on fire. The smoke was first seen issuing from a two storey wooden building occupied by a person named Waters, and before any attempt could be made to save the building it was in full flames. Simultaneously with the flames bursting for the from this house, they were also seen issuing from the house adjoining, an empty one, and which was part of the same building but divided by a stone party wall. The wind was blowing strong at the time and it soon became evident that it would be a matter of impossibility to save any of the wooden buildings, adjacent to those on fire. By the time the two houses were on fir, a large crowd had assembled and every effort was made to save the furniture and other effects in the blazing houses. A right of way divided the two houses now on fire from another row of wooden cottages occupied by Miss Moresby, as a ladies seminary, and these very soon fell victims to the devouring element, while on the other side of the buildings where the fire originated the house and shop of Mr. Humphries quickly shared the same fate. All being of wood it was impossible to save them, and the wind which was very strong during the whole time the fire was burning, blew the flakes of fire fiercely about and rendered it a difficult matter for those around to attempt to save the furniture within the burning buildings. By considerable perseverance, however, nearly the whole of the furniture and other effects in Miss Moreseby’s place were saved and were taken over to the Catholic schoolroom opposite, but very little, if any of the other sufferers – Mr. Waters – were rescued from the place. At one time, wt was feared that human life had fallen a sacrifice to the devouring element, some one shouting out that Mrs. Waters’ children were still in the burning house, but it appeared that Constable McBride had rescued one child from the house before it was altogether enveloped in flames. The poor little thing was standing in the front room naked and too frightened to make any movement for its own safety. Besides the cottages which were destroyed – five in number – there were several others at the rear thereof mostly occupied by poor people, and fortunately the wind changed in sufficient time to prevent their taking fire. It was also fortunate that no wooden buildings immediately faced the burning pile, as had there been any they must not only have been destroyed but formed a connecting link to have carried the fire further on. One house on the opposite side of the way but at a considerable angle with the houses on fire caught several times, and it was only by the continued application of wet blankets it was saved from destruction. From the time the fire first broke out to the destruction of the entire group of buildings, scarcely an hour elapsed, but during the time it lasted, the heat was most intense, and the entire town was lighted up. The actual origin of the fire appears at present to be involved in mystery though there is but little doubt in was in the rear of the empty house referred to that it originated, and it is supposed that the workmen who were at work therein carelessly left a light burning. There were altogether five houses totally destroyed, and of course, a considerable quantity of both Mr. Humphries and Mr. Waters’ furniture, etc. We understand that Mr. Humphries, the owner of the two houses where the fire first broke out, as well as the one adjoining was insured for the first 85/- and for the latter 50/-. The others which belonged to Mr. Ellis, were uninsured. But little, if any, water was obtainable during the whole time the fire was raging, nor was there any attempt beyond individual effort at saving property. Several townspeople, as well as the Rev. Father Geoghegan, Mr. Stiles, of the Bank of new South Wales, and other gentlemen did good service, and materially aided in the removal of such things as were saved. Miss Moresby had recently taken the Crown Hotel as an academy, so that, fortunately, beyond the unavoidable loss, by the removal of her furniture, she suffers no material inconvenience.
The fire of Saturday night, again recalls our attention to the miserable plight Kyneton is in when such calamities occur. Without a fire engine, a brigade, or a supply of water, once a fire breaks out, the block of buildings in which it occurs is literally at its mercy. We are aware that in saying this we state no new fact, that we have advanced the same statement a dozen times before, and urged on our fellow townspeople to take some action in the matter, but though the subject were worn threadbare, we should deem it our duty still to refer to it, and more especially after such occurrences as the one on Saturday night. It is impossible to say how soon another fire may break out, how quickly some among us may find themselves homeless, nor can we tell who may be the first victim, whose lot it may be to be deprived of house and property. It is therefore a matter that concerns us all alike, and is one in which we have, or should have, a common interest. There is perhaps, less excuse at the present moment for apathy in this matter than ever there was before. As we all well know the most determined and energetic efforts at a fire are comparatively valueless if a supply of water be wanting, though much may be done by combination and discipline. We may assume therefore, that the chief desideratum is a water supply, and hence we say there is less excuse for apathy than at any of the previous occasions when this subject has been under the public notice. Our reasons for this opinion are twofold: First, Kyneton, as part of a Shire is in a much better position to expend a sum of money to procure a water supply than it was as a Borough, and secondly, inasmuch as the Government are about borrowing a large sum of money to supply the country towns with water, Kyneton has a perfect right to participate in the benefits to be derived therefrom. But for our object to be accomplished by either means, the mere writing or talking about the matter will be no good. If we desire to obtain Government assistance, we must take steps to bring our wants under their notice, and have our claims for their assistance persistently pressed upon them. The Ministry, we may rest assured, will not ask us as a favor to allow them to supply us with water, nor will they pay any attention to our wants if they see we pay no attention thereto ourselves. They will very correctly argue that if the matter is not of sufficient importance to us, it certainly cannot be to them; and until we express some intention of helping ourselves, we may rest assured, we shall receive no assistance from the present or any future Government.
We are at a loss to understand what excuse the Shire Council can offer for not having previously taken some action in this matter. It may be that the making of roads and footpaths in the limit of their ambition, that the converting a yard of swamp into a bit of metalled road accomplishes all the business they deem a Shire Councillor should be asked to trouble himself about. But ratepayers will, we imagine entertain a somewhat different opinion, and will think it the duty of the Shire Council to take action in the matter, and we trust they will themselves yet see the propriety of doing so. It is now tolerably certain that this evening the Assembly will be asked to consider the Coliban Water Scheme question, and with it the desirability of borrowing money to carry on the works, and if we are to participate in the loan, speedy action must be taken. It is quite possible there may be some difficulty in the matter, that we may have to combat some objections on the part of the Ministry, to undertaking the supply of the town with water, but nothing is accomplished without a little trouble, and the greater the difficulties there may be in our way, the greater should be out determination to overcome them. We do not in the least imagine they are insurmountable, and they should not therefore deter us in the task, it is our duty to undertake. To the Shire Council the public look to take action in all matters of public import, and assuredly nothing of greater importance could be found to engage their attention.
But pending steps being taken to endeavor to obtain a supply of water, we would once again urge on our townspeople to form a Fire Brigade. Had we such an Institution it would take this matter up and urge the question of supplying us with water upon the Government. And presuming that we obtained a water supply, it would take a brigade of amateurs some little time to get accustomed to the duties required of them. There is therefore no excuse for their delaying on that account. Nor need we add that a Fire Brigade would be useful at a fire, even though it were without a regular water supply or an engine. A well disciplined body acting with authority at a fire, although able to do perhaps but little towards putting it out, can materially assist in staying its progress and saving valuables. As all are equally interested in this matter, then, we again urge on our fellow townspeople to take action therein and not allow apathy any longer to characterize their movements.
Thomas & Elizabeth and family moved to Rochester in about 1875, where they spent the rest of their lives. Thomas passed away 28 June 1913, age 84 years
from ‘The Rochester Express, Tuesday, July 1, 1913′
On Saturday morning, at his residence, Rochester East, Mr. Thomas Waters died in the 84th year of his age. Deceased had lived in Rochester for about 40 years, but of late, old age and a break up of his system had confined him to his room. The funeral took place yesterday. The Rev. G.R. Rogers, officiating at the grave. Messrs. Humphries Bros. conducted the funeral.
This is just an outline of a full life, lived well. More to come.