William John Reeves and Mary Anne Gill

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LITTLE is known about William John Reeves. Both his marriage and death certificates indicate that his parents were William Reeves, a labourer, and Maria Crook .

William Reeves is a very common name and there are a number of possibilities.

There is a record for a William Reeves marrying Maria at Plymouth on 16 May 1827.

Another record shows that William John Reeves was born on 4 July 1828 at East Stonehouse, Devon and was baptised on 24 August 1828. This person’s parents were William Reeves, a Private in the Royal Marines, and Maria, both of Stonehouse .

A further record exists for the birth of two children to William Reeves, a Marine, and his wife Marie. Both Amelia Ann Reeves and Thomas Reeves were baptised on 13 July 1834 at St Andew’s, Plymouth. They could have been twins and at least Thomas is said to have been born on 10 February 1831. In both cases the parents were listed as William Reeves, a Marine, and his wife Marie. Their residence was given as High St., Stonehouse . This couple may or may not have been the same as William and Maria.

To confuse things there is another record exists for Maria Reeves’ burial at the church of St Andrew’s at Plymouth on 15 August 1832. She was aged twenty six . However if the Marie and Maria mentioned above are the same person then this Maria would not have been the wife of William Reeves. If Marie and Maria are not there same then this may have been Maria the wife of William. There is no conclusive evidence.

There is another record for a William Reeves of the Royal Marines a Superannuated Cook who died on 4 April 1846. The executor’s of his estate were seeking payment of money owing by the Navy .

William John Reeves eventually made his way to Australia – either directly to Port Phillip or to New South Wales. But again there may be several possibilities.
There is a record for a William J. Reeves aged 21 arriving at Port Jackson, Sydney on board the 383 ton barque Emma Eugenia on 9 June 1849. It had left Plymouth under the command of Captain Winter on 4 February 1849 . The age of 21 places his birth year around 1828.

Another record indicates that a William John Reeves, a collier, had been tried on 19 October 1846 at the Stafford Quarter Sessions. He was convicted of stealing some clothing from a house. He had a prior conviction and his sentence was that he would be transported for a term of 10 years to Van Diemens Land and given a conditional pardon upon arrival.

He was admitted to Pentonville on 31 December 1846 and taught the trade of a tailor. He could both read and write. William John Reeve’s date of birth is given as 1830.

After spending fifteen months in Pentonville Prison, William John Reeves left England on the Anna Maria bound for Hobart, via Geelong. It had been scheduled to leave on 12 February 1848 but left Woolwich on 9 March 1848. The Anna Maria, a 421 ton barque built in Calcutta in 1836, made record time from Woolwich to Hobart - only 90 days under the Master Edward Smith, arriving at Geelong on 22 June 1848 where 163 male convicts were landed. A further twenty seven were taken on to Hobart and eight went on to Sydney .

This William Reeves was what the settlers around Melbourne and Geelong would have called a Pentonvillian. However William John Reeves was not a convict but an exile – and there was a significant difference.

Originally the exile scheme had been set up to address a labour shortage in Van Diemen’s Land and was targeted at people who were of generally good conduct and had committed a relatively minor offence. Those selected for the scheme underwent a period of ‘seclusion’ of up to twelve months while they considered their predicament and demonstrated a desire for rehabilitation. They would be given training in a trade and then recommended for Royal Pardons.

By the time the first exiles were ready to come to Australia in 1844 the labour shortage in Tasmania had been resolved and the governors of the other colonies were asked to agree to accept the newly reformed and retrained candidates.

Most ships carrying exiles would call at Hobart to disembark normal convicts then go to Launceston until it was decided which of the other colonies would accept them. Between 1844 and 1849 Victoria accepted nine ships and turned away another four, which had to go on to Sydney or Brisbane.

Exiles were provided with government support for housing and employment but could choose to make their own arrangements if they wished. Upon disembarking from their ship the pardon took effect and they were free to do what they wished. The only restriction was that they were not to go back to the United Kingdom until after the term of their original sentence had passed .

After arriving in Australia, William John Reeves was found work with a Mr Boyd of Sydney .

Which of these immigrants is the William John Reeves who married Mary Anne Gill?

William John Reeves’ death certificate, completed by his son in 1888, indicates that he spent three years in New South Wales and 36 in Victoria. Both candidates spent time in New South Wales. After arriving in Victoria around 1852 he travelled to the Amherst goldfields where he met Mary Anne Gill.

Mary Anne Gill had been born in 1830 in Cumberland, England, her parents being William Gill, a coalminer, and Mary Scott .

Mary Anne Gill’s arrival in Australia, like William Reeves, is the subject of a number of possibilities.

One record indicates that on 5 June 1854, aged twenty four, with her fourteen year old sister, and the Smith family, Mary Anne left London on board the Brilliant. Four months later, in September 1854, the ship and its twenty six passengers arrived at Geelong .

Another record indicates that the Gill family arrived at Adelaide on board the ship Shakamaxon on 19 January 1853. The Shackamaxon was an American ship of 1090 tons and had left Liverpool under the command of Captain West on 4 October 1852 .

The passenger list for the Shackamaxon includes John Gill aged 28, a miner; Mary Gill age 48, a Housemaid; Mary Gill, age 23, a dairymaid; and Jane Gill, age 26, also a dairymaid. All were from Cumberland and John was listed as a single male passenger and the women as single female passengers.

It would appear that Mary Gill senior’s husband had died prior to the 1851 United Kingdom Census and Mary and the children came to Australia. John Gill was present at Mary Gill’s funeral at Majorca in 1888 .

Many years later Mary Anne Gill told her grandson, Leslie William Matthews, that they had been required to bring all of their provisions, bedding and food, including hens, for the voyage. In 1856 the Ships Passengers Act specified that in addition to, and irrespective of any provisions the passengers may have brought for themselves, the master of every ship had to provide 'pure water' and 'sweet and wholesome' food. Three quarts of water had to be provided for each day of the voyage for each passenger, in addition to water for cooking. Each adult passenger was to be allowed the following weekly provisions:

Bread or biscuit 3lbs 8oz
Wheaten flour 2lbs 0oz
Oatmeal 1 0
Rice 0 8
Peas 1 8
Potatoes 2 0
Beef 1 4
Pork 1 0
Tea 0 2
Sugar 0 2
Salt 0 1/2
Ground Pepper 0 1/4
Vinegar One Gill
Lime Juice 0 6
Preserved Meat 1 0
Suet 0 6
Raisins 0 8
Butter 0 4

There were various substitutions specified and certain medicines, medical instruments and other medical items were to be provided .

It is not known what Mary Anne Gill did between September 1853 when she arrived at Adelaide, and 1858 when she married. Friends back in England wrote of their pleasure in receiving a letter from her in 1855 having "long given up thoughts about one". The pleasure was even greater as Mary Anne had managed to write the letter herself . Eventually Mary Anne found herself in Amherst where she met William John Reeves.

Mary Anne Gill's sister Jane married John Martin a miner and remained
in SA with her family. Their mother, Mary Gill senior, came to the goldfields and died at Amherst, as did the brother John Gill. Their sister Ann appears to have remained in Cumberland.

Letter to Mary Gill 1855Letter to Mary Gill 1855
A letter received by Mary Gill in 1856

William and Mary Anne married at the Church of England, Amherst, on 3 August 1858. On their marriage certificate they indicated that William was a bachelor, aged 29; that his birthplace was Plymouth, England; he was a miner; lived at Emu; and that his parents were William Reeves, a labourer, and Maria Crook. Mary indicated that she was a spinster, aged 29; also living at Emu; and that her parents were William Gill, a coal miner, and Mary Scott .

They were married by William McFennett, following the rites of the Church of England. The witnesses were James Arrally and Samuel Stephens.

At the time of their marriage Mary Anne still had great difficulty writing, but for this special occasion, with a very uncertain hand, she signed her name on the marriage certificate. She later signed her childrens' birth certificates with a simple cross.

After their marriage William and Mary Anne lived and worked mainly around the small settlements of Emu and Cockatoo, a few miles east of Amherst.

Emu, commonly called Emeu, and Cockatoo, were hardly worthy of being called towns for most of their existence. However, at times thousands of people congregated in search of gold. In 1857 there were over ten thousand diggers at Emu and a main street of shops, over a mile long, sprang up almost overnight. At one time it was reported that sixteen brothels and a large number of hotels were doing a brisk trade. One of the hotels was called the Emeu Hotel and it was from this that the place gained its name.

Another hotel, the London Inn, became notorious as a site for hold-ups, murders, fights and all kinds of criminal activities. According to some accounts the rush to Emu in 1857 was without justification as little gold was to be found. Nevertheless it attracted over ten thousand people, and if gold was difficult to find the population, which reputedly contained "some of the worst types in the colony", could easily be entertained by "rival belles from opposition brothels fighting all-in battles in the streets which were roped off for the encounters. They fought stripped to the waist." Apparently the drinking never stopped at Emu. Nor did the gambling. Death by violence was common and often ignored .

Cockatoo did not enjoy, or suffer from, the same reputation as Emu, and perhaps that is why William and Mary Anne moved there after their first brief encounter with the other place. Cockatoo was a tiny village which came into existence on the Amherst to Carisbrook road at a time when several large mines were operating nearby. Nothing remans to suggest its existence today. They later moved to Narrigal, another small settlement nearby on McCallum's Creek.

William and Mary Anne had five children. William was born in 1859; John Thomas in 1860; Maria in 1862 and Mary in 1864. Jane Reeves was born at Cockatoo on 27 November 1866. Mary Anne did not register Jane's birth until 5 January at the Registry Office in Talbot.

Just over nineteen years later, on 27 June 1886, Jane Reeves married James David Matthews. David Matthews was a very close friend of Jane's older brother William and later went into partnership with him in a mining venture on the Jubilee Reef.
The second son, John Thomas, always known as Jack, later married Louisa Bishop. Maria married another of William's close friends, Charles Marr, and moved to Koreek to live. Maria and Charles faced tragedy on Boxing Day 1893 when their house burned down and their three year old son lost his life .

William John Reeves died in 1888, aged fifty nine. He was buried in an unmarked grave at Majorca .

At the time of his death his son, also William Reeves a miner working at the Major Line, Kooreh, indicated that his father was a miner. He died from haematuria and intercurrent pneumonia from which he had suffered for 7 days. William John Reeves’ parents were given as William Reeves, a plasterer, and Maria Crook. The undertaker was William Clarke. The minister was the Revend Joseph T Piercey of the Primitive Methodist Church. It was indicated that William John Reeves was born in Plymouth, Devonshire, England and had lived in New South Wales for 3 years and Victoria for 36 years.

Mary Anne Reeves lived with her daughter Jane and David Matthews at Ararat after the death of William. When she died she was buried in an unmarked grave at the Ararat Cemetery .


dawn said...

William J. Reeves was born in Devonshire England, March 28, 1826 and died in Hull, Wisconsin (Marathon County WI USA) October 09, 1888. At eleven years of age William Reeves, left his home in Devonshire, England to begin his life as a seaman. He was a seaman for over eleven years. Then, moved to Marquette County, Wisconsin in 1848 and began farming (Marquette County Census, 1855). In December, he married Eliza Griffin. The Colby Memorial Cemetery records state they were married April 20, 1857. In the 1870 census, they were living in Mecan, WI. Mecan is located in the central part of Wisconsin with the cities of Oxford on the west and Green Lake on the east. As stated in the Montello News Express 1875, William Reeves was elected as county board member for Mecan, Wisconsin.

In 1877, the family moved to Colby, WI. Eliza left Colby WI around 1902 and finally settled in Edgemont, SD where she died April 20, 1919. Her body was brought back to Colby WI and buried with her husband William. Both William and Eliza are buried in the Colby Memorial Cemetery in Colby WI. Although I have been unable to find the tombstones.

At the time of Eliza’s death, her son William was living in Lake Bay, Washington, Henry A. was in Colby, Wisconsin, while John E. was living in Belleham, Washington. John lived in Bath Dakota around 1888. Henry married Catherine Waterpohl in Colby WI. At this point, no further information has been uncovered for John E. and William.

I was researching marriage records at the Green County Courthouse in Monticello, Wisconsin. I found the original handwritten Marriage Certificate of William J. Reeves and Eliza Griffin. This certificate named Williams' parents- John Reeves and mother Agnes (no last name). I would love to find more information on John and Agnes in Devonshire, England or wherever.

dawn said...

My 3rd generation grandfather was William J. Reeves from Devonshire, England.