Family history–some news on the Whitfield front

Yesterday I had an email sent via Family stories 3 — About the Whitfields: from convict days from a granddaughter of my grandfather’s older sister – if you can work that out. The list as in William Joseph John Whitfield (b. 14 Aug 1836, d. 22 Jun 1925) on the Bailey Family of Ireland & Australia family tree is:

Children of William Joseph John Whitfield and Elizabeth Ratcliffe are:

  1. Joseph Ratcliffe, b. 18 Jul 1860, d. date unknown.
  2. Susan Caroline Whitfield, b. 23 May 1862, Picton NSW Australia, d. 13 May 1954.
  3. John Whitfield, b. 24 May 1864, Picton NSW Australia, d. 21 Nov 1956, Burwood NSW Aust.
  4. +Thomas Daniel Sweeney Whitfield, b. 21 Dec 1866, Picton NSW Australia, d. 21 Jan 1948.
  5. +William Joseph Bent Whitfield, b. 7 Oct 1868, Picton NSW Australia, d. 21 Aug 1957.
  6. James Albert Whitfield, b. 18 Aug 1870, d. date unknown.
  7. Sara Brittania Whitfield, b. 24 May 1872, Picton NSW Australia, d. 16 May 1967.
  8. +George Richard Whitfield, b. 10 May 1874, Picton NSW Australia, d. 20 Apr 1953.
  9. Ann Elizabeth Whitfield, b. 25 Dec 1875, d. 24 Jun 1978.
  10. Eliza Mary Whitfield, b. 5 Apr 1878, Picton NSW Australia, d. 4 Feb 1930.
  11. Jane Amy Bent Whitfield, b. 27 Feb 1880, Picton NSW Australia, d. date unknown.
  12. Jessie Winifred Ethel Whitfield, b. 21 Mar 1882, Picton NSW Australia, d. 29 Aug 1912.

The only ones I really remember myself in that list are TDS (#4), my grandfather, William Joseph Bent (#5) and Ann Elizabeth (#9). BTW the Bailey tree, while an amazing ongoing effort. has errors and omissions in it. For example, the list of TDS’s children omits one of my father’s brothers, Colin, and his sister Ella.

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:

lilianlee

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.

William Joseph John Whitfield was the son of William Whitfield and Caroline Philadelphia West. For the first time ever I have found her portrait!

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Caroline Philadelphia West

She arrived on the Grecian as a free settler on 16 April 1832, marrying my ancestor William Whitfield in Sydney on 20 June 1836. (The Second Officer of the Grecian drowned in Sydney soon after the ship arrived.)

William Whitfield

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Henry Curzon Allport, George Street, Sydney, looking south, January 1842, Watercolour 

I see they resided at Elizabeth St, Alexandria, Sydney, New South Wales from 1836-1846. That means in the parish of Alexandria, but in fact in Strawberry Hills or Surry Hills according to other sources. In 2008 I did a series called Looking for Jacob – William’s father — and the following picture is as close as can be to where William and Caroline Philadelphia lived, or perhaps Jacob.

… and why would I like a “Time Team” dig around it? It runs from Wentworth Avenue Surry Hills to Foy Lane, where I took this photo…

See :-Surry Hills: Looking for Jacob 12: Zeroing in

That was posted on my new photoblog earlier this week.

You will recall that we “found” Jacob, my convict ancestor, or we at least found the part of Sydney where he is known to have resided in the second half of the 1830s through early 1840s. By the 1860s the family had moved on – Braidwood, Picton… My grandfather was born in Picton in 1867. Him I remember. Just. He died in 1948. His brother William I remember more clearly, because he survived well into the 1950s. That William – son of William, the son of William, the son of Jacob – was still riding horses and ploughing his orchard almost to the year of his death. I remember his house, with its (to citified me) rather magic rural air, and tales of this one and that one, and timber getting, and horse breaking, and blacksmithing, and bullock teams… And Sao biscuits with tomato and cheese…

The tales never went back more than about one generation…

I think I can see why, for several reasons. Sometimes my father would mutter about the Old Testament curse on “the sins of the fathers”… Perhaps too, given what the area they had left behind in Surry Hills had become by 1900, you will see why it didn’t figure in the stories… Anyway, it was not part of my grandparents’ generation’s personal memories. They had become country people.

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That whole Wentworth Avenue area was one of the centres of the Bubonic Plague scare of 1900, after which it was largely razed and then reorganised and rebuilt, giving us the streetscapes of the “Looking for Jacob” series. See Purging Pestilence – the Bubonic Plague from the State Library of NSW. Visit that site for bigger pictures.

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Left: Elizabeth St; Right: Exeter Place off Market Lane 1900

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Campbell Street 1900

And here is William Joseph John Whitfield, the great-grandfather of both myself and my correspondent Lilian Lee.

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On this blog there have been this year several substantial additions to my understanding of or memories of the Whitfield family. Do check them, as they are also, I think, of general historical interest. You will find on some of those posts cross-references to my earlier posts.

An interesting insight into why William and his family would have moved to Picton in the 1840s is to be seen at Picton NSW – The Early Years.

Though much discussion has been held over the years as to who named Picton and for whom, it is believed the name was probably decided on by Governor Brisbane perhaps in honour of an old soldier friend Sir Thomas Picton. In 1840 George Harper decided to take advantage of the natural development of the private town on Major Antill’s land. He advertised in April 1840 that 45 building allotments in the township of Stonequarry would soon be for sale by auction. They would be from one half to one acre in size and situated on his land on the southern side of Stonequarry Creek on either side of the main road.

His private town never took off. Mr Harper unfortunately died in March 1841 and the property was leased in full. George Harper’s property “Abbotsford” extended from the Stonequarry Bridge out along the road that led to The Oaks. The remains of the house are still on the property just past the Abbotsford Bridge. Major Antill, in July 1841 advertised in the Sydney papers, the auction of his sub-division to be called the Village of Picton, late Stonequarry in August that year. He stressed that many blocks had frontages to the main road up which all the wealthy owners from the south travelled with their wool clips.

In 1845 the government made moves to lay out its own town just south of the private town. Surveyor Galloway was employed to survey the area and make half acre blocks for purchase. These blocks were first offered for sale in 1847. They were all sold by 1855. Land was held back for grants to churches and for the school and courthouse. The government town was also called Picton. This led to confusion and it was re-named Upper Picton in 1847.

A petition was made to the government to name its village Redbank but the government decided it was to be called Upper Picton. Even to this day, over 150 years later, local residents still often refer to the area as Redbank. On a number of occasions when money was allocated for a public building, arguments developed on where it was to be located. It seemed each time the government called tenders on a site in its town, the Antill family would offer land in its private town and that was where the building would ultimately be erected.The Upper Picton residents who had purchased land in Upper Picton naturally felt cheated. Unfortunately they had no friends in government and though they fought for the government’s support in its own town they were unsuccessful.

For many years, the resentment between Upper and Lower Picton festered. It lay like a boil beneath the surface of life. When an issue arose where Upper Picton residents felt they were being placed second to Lower Picton, it would erupt and once again cause disagreement and division. As the years passed, the private town flourished and the government town languished. Though it had some businesses, churches and a school, eventually it subsided into an existence as the poor relation. To-day, those resentments have totally disappeared and many people are not even aware of its happening.

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