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J: Jephtha Freeman #AtoZChallenge

April 12, 2021

The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge is an annual challenge put out to bloggers, to publish a post from A-Z, every day in April, except for Sundays. April 1 is A, and so on throughout the month. Participants can post on a chosen theme or just do random posts with no theme at all. The theme I have chosen for 2021, is Newspaper Articles About My Family Found in Trove. Trove is the electronic archive for newspapers, books, magazines, photos and much more.

Jephtha Freeman is my partner’s three times great grandfather. He was born in Yorkshire, England in 1829. There is much research to be done yet on Jephtha’s arrival to Australia, but I do know that he had a huge impact on our lives today. Jephtha was one of the pioneers of the eight hour day.

Eight Hour Day

A colour-tinted drawing of a parade watched by crowds of people.
An eight hour day parade in Bourke Street Melbourne 1907

On 21 April 1856 stonemasons in Melbourne downed tools and walked off the job in protest over their employers’ refusal to accept their demands for reduced working hours. This brought the employers to the negotiating table and led to an agreement whereby stonemasons worked no more than an eight-hour day. It was the first of a long, hard-fought series of victories that led to Australia having one of the most progressive labour environments in the world by the early 20th century“. – National Museum of Australia

Jephtha Freeman

Jephtha Freeman passed away at Sunbury, Victoria, on 23 August 1904. Following is his obituary

From: The Sunbury News, 27 August, 1904, page 2.

DEATH OF MR. J. FREEMAN. One of the oldest and most respected residents of Sunbury, passed away on Tuesday night, in the person of Mr. Jephtha Freeman, who had resided in Barkly Street, for a great many years. The cause of death was heart disease and dropsy, from which the deceased gentleman had suffered for some months, being confined to his room during that time, although up to near the end, he was occasionally able to take his accustomed seat by the fireside.

No one was more esteemed in this district than Mr. Freeman, who, although he took no part in public affairs, was distinguished for his strong and unwavering principles, not less than for his invariable kindness and good nature; and he was undoubtedly a man of more than ordinary capabilities in various directions.

He was of a progressive turn of thought, always looking ahead, and welcoming any change in political or other affairs which seemed to promise advancement in social prosperity or amelioration of the general condition of humanity. His sympathies were easily enlisted on behalf of suffering, and he did a great deal of charitable work, which he preferred should pass unnoticed.

Mr. Freeman was in the Government service for 37 years, as an Inspector of Works, and was in his time regarded as about the best mathematician in the department, showing remarkable aptitude for calculations the most difficult and intricate. Besides this, he was remarkably gifted in music, drawing and carving. It is not generally known that Mr. Freeman drew up the plans for the present Church of England building, and also for the stone house at ‘ Ben Eadie.’

He retired from the Public Service on a pension, some ten years ego, and since then lived quietly, at his home in Barkly Street, his chief occupation being fruit-growing. He was a genial host, and his many friends will long cherish the memory of evenings passed in his society. Latterly his chief pleasure had consisted in driving periodically to Mr. F. F. Bubeck’s ‘ Schlossberg ‘ estate, where he was always warmly welcomed, and it was a great trial to him to have to discontinue these pleasant excursions.

Mr. Freeman will be greatly missed by his friends, and especially by his immediate relatives, with whom much sympathy has been expressed in their sad bereavement. He was a colonist of 51 years, and had entered the 75th year of his age. He leaves two daughters (Mrs. Jas. Duncan, of Coburg, and Miss Freeman, organist of St. Mary’s C. E,), and a son, Mr. H. Freeman. His wife died about ten years ago, and a daughter (Mrs. W. Johnston) died four years ago.

Mr. Freeman, who was a native of Yorkshire, was one of twins, and his brother survives him. During his whole life, Mr. Freeman was an enthusiastic advocate of the eight hours principle, and he had the distinction of being on the original deputation that first approached the Government on the matter. He was almost the last survivor of these pioneers, there being only one other living, Mr. Anderson, President of the Eight Hours Pioneers’ Association, who, with Mr. Harris, secretary was present at the funeral.

Mr. Freeman abhorred industrial strife, and on one occasion it was by his advice and persuasion that a disastrous strike was averted. In politics he was a Liberal, but he had an open mind for anything that seemed manly and honest, and his watchword was always ‘ Progress.’

The funeral took place yesterday afternoon, when the remains were conveyed to the Church of England, where a short service was held, and thence to the Sunbury Cemetery, and were followed by a large concourse of friend’s and relatives. By a kindly and fitting thought, the old original Eight Hours banner, the first that the adherents of the principle marched under,was sent up from Melbourne, to be used as the pall. This showed perhaps better than anything else could have done, how highly the services of such men as Mr. Freeman are estimated by those who know how to honour them. (In sharp contrast to this, we regret to state that the workmen engaged on the new church went on plying their trowels as the funeral passed.)

Amongst the relatives of the deceased who were present, were his twin brother, Mr. Jabez Freeman, and his nephew, Mr. George Freeman, who has been twice Mayor of Richmond, and was returned to the council on Thursday by a large majority. A large number of beautiful wreaths, crosses, floral tributes, etc., were sent. The Rev. C. E. Gayer officiated at the the grave ; and he will also conduct a memorial service at the Church of England tomorrow evening.

Eight hour banner & pioneers
The original Eight Hours Banner that was sent from Melbourne, to be displayed at Jephtha Freeman‘s Funeral
Pioneers of the Eight Hour Day Movement. Jephtha Freeman is on the top row on the right. – National Museum of Australia

*Please note Punctuation and paragraphs have been added to the above transcription for ease and speed of reading

DEATH OF MR. J. FREEMAN. (1904, August 27). The Sunbury News (Vic. : 1900 – 1927), p. 2. Retrieved February 9, 2021, from

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  1. I think the eight hours movement is very civilised and am very grateful to Jephtha Freeman and others for advocating for it.
    Jephtha is an unusual name. Googling found that Jephthah appears in the Book of Judges as a judge who presided over Israel for a period of six years. His twin was named for Jabez or Jabes is a character in the biblical Books of Chronicles.

  2. What an unusual name. Good on him for being an advocate of the eight hour day….and now we’re slipping backwards.

  3. mollyscanopy permalink

    What an inspiring post! Before retiring, my career was in the U.S. union movement, so Jephtha’s role in pushing for the eight hour day speaks to me. Such a well-deserved honor for the eight-hour-day campaign banner to be used at his funeral.

    • With your interest in unions, I’m so pleased you read this post. My Dad was a very keen union man. Unfortunately he passed away before I started researching Jephtha. He would have loved to hear the story. My partner also often says that he wishes his father was here to read about Jephtha

      • mollyscanopy permalink

        And in tribute to them all, the eight-hour day lives on.

  4. At least with a name like Jephtha he should be easy to find.

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