The Wright Family by John Power
Joseph 11/2/1792 – 6/4/1862 = Sarah Griggs
Seven Children (see rest of story)
Robert 15/6/1794-27/1/1835 = Mary Ann Holland
Mary 1797? = Robert Allen
Robert 1819? =
John 1800? = Sarah Higgins
Sarah 12/3/1802-? = Robert Hobbs
Samuel 25/12/1805-23/9/1879 = Elizabeth Carr? (The family Research says Elizabeth Pierce)
Thomas 12/3/1809-24/5/1861 = Mary Ann Harcourt
Joseph (ii) and his family
Joseph, the first born of Joseph and EleanorWright, was apprenticed as a wheelright. He apparently completed his indentures because when he married in 1811 his occupation is shown as wheelright.
Joseph married Sarah Griggs,the illegitimate daughter of Sarah Griggs, a second fleet convict transported for seven years for stealing a speckled apron from her employer, and John Townson, the then, Lieutenant Governor of Norfolk Island.
Joseph and Sarah were married in St.Phillips church Sydney, on the 4th March 1811. Joseph was 19, Sarah was 16. Sarah already had a daughter, Ann Jane. She was born in Sydney on the 13th April 1810. Her father was named as Nathaniel Collins. In Van Diemans land, at the age of 15, she married Thomas Fleming. He had served seven years for stealing a watch. He later built the Tunbridge Wells Inn. They were married at Longford in 1825. They had fourteen children. Ann Jane Fleming died at Oatlands in 1880. Many of her descendants live in Victoria.
Joseph and Sarah’s first child, also Sarah, was born on the 9th April 1812.
In 1814 The family left Sydney and moved to Van Diemans Land where Joseph became the licensee of the Red Lion Inn in Hobart. He was not there for long. In 1815 he was granted 50acres(20hectares) at Scantling Plains, later known as York Plains. Here he erected a stone and masonry building which served as an inn. The Hobart Town Gazette of 17th May 1817 commented that Mr Wright should be thanked for providing accommodation for travellers. Governor Sorrell, in a despatch to Governor Macquarie, informed him that he had despatched an NCO and 12 men to York Plains where an inhabitant, named Wright, had a house.
At that time York Plains was on the main route from Hobart Town to Fort Dalrymple (Georgetown). Today the Midlands Highway bypasses York Plains by some distance.
Meanwhile the Wright’s family had steadily been increasing. Joseph Garth, born 1814, John 1816 and James 1818. Information shown in the 1819-21 muster of Van Diemans Land show that Joseph had become quite prosperous and indeed, in 1821, they had the honor of a visit from Governor Lachan Macquarie himself. He spent the night with them and suggested that the property should be named “Meadowbanks”. The next morning, after riding from the Wrights, Macquarie selected the site for and named the town of Oatlands.
The family continued to grow with the birth of Eleanor in 1820 and Thomas in 1822.
Two more children were born to Sarah and Joseph, Robert in 1925 and Eliza in 1830. But during these years things began to go wrong and the family fell upon hard times. They were forced to sell all they had and it was recorded about 1828 that the family was living in great distress. Sarah died on the 4th May 1839. Her death was described as “The visitation of God”. What exactly befell her is unknown. Prior to this, her father, John Townsen had recognised her in his will, but whether she ever received her inheritance is a matter of some conjecture.
Meanwhile Sarah, the eldest daughter, married Charles Sutton. His occupation was given as Innkeeper. Charles and Sarah ran the Wilmot Arms hotel at Kempton . This building, with National Trust status, still stands today. They had one son, also named Charles, bornin 1831. Charles Sutton snr died in 1855. In 1856, Sarah remarried to John Newby, also listed as “Inkeeper”. He died in 1876. It was here, in 1862, that Joseph Wright snr died aged 70. Both Sarah and Joseph were buried in the Oatlands Cemetery but traces of the graves have long since vanished. Sarah Sutton died in 1884. She was 76 years old.
Soon the family began to spread their wings. Joseph Garth remained in Oatlands all his life. He married Jane Higgins on the 8th August 1839. They had no children. Years later when Joseph Wright , the son of James and Jane was a boy , he lived with his uncle for some time. Joseph Garth died on the 16th January 1867 and Jane died on the 26th May 1903.
Sarah and her husband too remained in Tasmania, as it was to be known. But the other members moved much further afield.
John went to the Mudgee district of New South Wales. He married Mary Ann Tew in Sydney on the 19th February 1857. They had five children. John died on 26th August 1895 at Buckaroo near Mudgee. Some of his descendants are living in Gippsland today.
James and Thomas moved to South Australia and it is their story that we shall follow next.
Eleanor married John Felmingham. They had three children, After the birth of the youngest, Eliza, Eleanor died. John remarried Sarah Ann Ashton Myers. But that is another story.
Their son William and Eliza survived to adulthood. Descendants of William can be found today around St Helens and in Launceston. Little is known about Eliza’s descendants.
Of Joseph and Sarah’s two younger children, Robert and Eliza, little is known.
Robert apparently had a child, Eliza Sarah, who lived three weeks. Who the mother was and if he was married is not recorded in the information that I have.
Eliza is recording as being married to a William Flynn at the Court House, Oatlands on the 9th June 1846. No other information is recorded.
James and Thomas
Thomas appears to have been the first of the two brothers to move to South Australia.
He arrived there sometime in the mid 1840’s. It seems that he may have first worked as a teamster, carrying supplies along the gulf road to the copper mine at Burra. He later worked in the mine.
In 1840 a Welshman, John Thomas, brought his family out to Adelaide on a ship, the Waterloo. Being a miner, he moved his family to Burra following the discovery of copper there in January 1844. John and his wife Mary (nee Morgan) had a family of three boys and three girls. The eldest, Mary was twelve years old when they arrived in Adelaide. In 1843 another boy was born.
Although today the area is collectively known as Burra, in those days it consisted of six settlements; Kooringa, Redruth, Aberdeen, Hampton, Copperhouse and Leuyeh.
The miners came originally from Wales, Cornwall, Chile, Spain and Afghanistan.
They mostly lived in little dugouts cut out along the banks of the creek. From time to time there were floods and they would be washed out. Some miners lived in little cottages, but these were all owned by the mine. If a miner died , or was killed or injured and unable to work, the family was immediately evicted. Yet this was one of the richest mines in the world producing five million pounds sterling or $12.5m in present day Australian currency.
Sometime during those years Thomas Wright met Mary Thomas and they married in the schoolhouse in Kooringa on May 15th 1848. Their first child, Thomas, was born the next year and a daughter, Sarah in 1851. During that year major gold discoveries were made in Victoria, first at Clunes and then at Ballarat. This led to a major exodus of miners from Burra to the goldfields. In fact it was so great that the mine almost ceased to function. Among those who left were Thomas Wright and his family.
PHOTO: James and Jane Wright
Meanwhile back in Van Diemans Land, James Wright had also married. He and Jane Burt were married at Oatlands, where James was now living, on the 17th January 1848.
Later that year their first child, Edward was born. Soon after they too left for South Australia, probably to join Thomas. Their second child, Joseph, was born in 1849. Thomas the third son was born about 1851.
James and his family appeared to have remained in South Australia much longer than Thomas for we do not here of them in Victoria until 1857, when he took up land at Spring Hill in the Smeaton district. They had been at Burra for some time. Their first daughter, Sarah, known as Sally, may have been born there in 1852 and their second daughter Ellen certainly was, in 1856.
The plan of the district shows that James had selected 162 Acres (66 hectares).
While at Smeaton more children were born to Jane and James; James in 1858, John in November 1859, lived one month, Charles in 1861 and Smeaton, named after the town, in 1863. Sarah, the oldest daughter died suddenly in 1858 at the age of nine. In 1865 another daughter was born and named Sarah in her memory. Jane and James youngest child, also named Jane, was born in 1867. In 1870 the family , moved to Flynn in Gippsland where James third son, Thomas, had taken up a selection in 1868. This property known as”Willowbrook”is still in Wright hands and today James great grandson, Clyde and his wife Evelyn, own it.
James died on October 20th 1901, and Jane died in 1911.
After Thomas and Mary moved to Ballarat they were on the diggings for some time. My paternal grandmother was born on the Eureka goldfield on the 28th December 1853. She was given the name Eureka. In later years she used to say she was one year old at the time of the uprising. She sometimes mentioned Peter Lalor, who she had seen as a girl and also Bakery Hill. Soon after the Eureka affair they must have left the diggings for we next find them at Dowling Forest, near Creswick, where their third daughter Mary was born. They appear to have remained here for several years. Mary was born in 1856 and Alice Rebecca(Bec.) in 1858. They then appeared to have spent some time at Spring Hill, near Smeaton, before moving to to Mt.Bolten, near Lexton, probably about 1860. The area were they settled was known as Bald Hill. The Pether family were close neighbours.
Another three children were born during the years at Spring Hill and Lexton. John was born at Mt Bolton on the 26th July 1861. Ada , on the 23rd October 1864 and Joseph on the 31st August 1867 at Mt. Bolton. In 1869 Sarah Wright married Thomas Stuckey. they were married at Christ Church Ballarat on the 14th June 1869.
PHOTO: Thomas and Mary Wright
On the 2nd November 1868 Thomas Wright took up a lease for 137acres (55 hectares) of land at Flynns Creek in Gippsland. Henry Pether, his father Rueben and Margaret Stuckey, the mother in law of Sarah Wright took up land at the same time.
About two years later, Thomas and Mary, with Thomas Stuckey and his young wife, Sarah,Thomas Stuckey’s brother-law Henry Pether and his wife Lillia, and Ruben Pether, Henry’s father, left the Ballarat district and moved by bullock wagon to Gippsland. The trip was said to have taken three weeks. It is believed that James and his family shifted to Gippsland at the same time.
They each began the task of turning the wilderness they had selected into prosperous farms. The Pethers did not stay for long . Henry moved to New South Wales, and his father went back to South Australia. But descendants of Thomas and Sarah Stuckey and James Wright still own these original farms today almost 130 years later.
The sons and daughters of James and Thomas Wright married into pioneering families. Edward married Lydia Ann Perry, who came from Geelong. Joseph Wright married Mary Ann Costin and his brother James married Edith Farley. This was a double wedding and the first to be held in the small red gum church at Flynn’s Creek.
Ellen Wright married Albert Missen.
Another Missen brother married Lillian the eldest daughter of Edward and Lydia Wright.
Smeaton Wright married Elizabeth Bosustow. Sarah married Joseph Pearce and Jane married William Thomas. Charlie and Thomas never married.
The family of Thomas and Mary: Sarah Wright had married Thomas Stuckey prior to them coming to Gippsland. Thomas jnr married Mary Sophia Threadgold. Eureka married Walter Power. Mary married married Thomas Sutton Powell. His mother was Mary’s cousin. Rebecca married Thomas Smith and Ada married Edward (Ned) Missen, a brother to Albert and Bill. John and Joe never married.
MAP: Pioneers Selection at Flynn’s Creek
Albert and Ned Missen and Walter Power selected land at Willung South. Joseph, James and Smeaton Wright all moved to the Gormandale area.
Joe Pearce had selected land at Willung South and Bill Thomas had selected his land in the Parish of Tong bong just across Merrimans creek, and to the north, of Joe Wright’s property.
Jane Thomas died at the age of 28, leaving Bill with two young children.
Thomas and Bec.Smith also moved to Gormandale.
So by the 1890’s there was a large community of the Wright family in the area. Some of them were to remained there for most of their lives while others moved to other areas.
We will first look at the paths followed by the family of James and Jane.
Edward the eldest son and his wife, Lydia, only stayed in Gippsland a short while. They moved to a small locality near The Rock in New South Wales. Some of their descendants still live in the Holbrook and Walabundrie areas while many live in Gippsland and other parts of Victoria.
PHOTO: Mary Wright at home, Joe, Mary, Ada, and John
Joseph and Mary Ann settled on the creek at Gormandale. The property they owned was part of the original selection of Timothy O’Conner. They remained there until 1896 when Joe returned to Flynn to take over the hotel from his cousin Thomas. In the early 1900’s they moved to Glengarry where they farmed for several years. From there they moved to Apollo Bay. They remained there for the rest of their lives. Joe died in 1936 and Mary in 1946. They had fourteen children. Their youngest child, Mrs. Gwen Yorke is still living. She is 93 and the only member of the fourth Australian born generation still living.
Ellen Wright after her marriage to Albert Missen made her home on his selection at Willung South. They lived there for a number of years before purchasing part of the Greenmount estate , near Yarram. Their grandson, Morrie and his wife Marge still live there. Albert died in 1937 and Ellen in 1945. They had a family of four, one daughter and three sons.
James Wright and his wife Edith also lived at Gormandale . Their property was in the region of the first school , which was originally known as Willung South although it was several miles from the true area known by that name. James set up a Eucalyptus property and when the crossover Creamery and Butter Factory came into being James became a director. When the first hall was built he supplied the blocks, 42of them, for two pounds ($4-00). In 1894 They moved back to Willowbrook to take over the running of the property. Edith died in 1927 and James later remarried. He died in 1932 aged 74. Edith and James had seven children, two sons and five daughters.
Smeaton also selected land at Gormandale and he and Elizabeth lived there for some years after their marriage. Their selection was very close to that of his brother James. He was one of five members of the original committee of the Gormandale Mechanics Hall. The building was built by his father in law, Mr. Henry Bosustow, who also built the Toongabbie Hall which has been restored in recent years. The family later moved to Toongabbie and farmed on Eaglehawk Creek. About 1902 they moved to Rosedale. Smeaton worked for a time at Burley’s mill and while there, sustained a serious injury. Smeaton died in 1923 aged 60 and Elizabeth died in 1954 aged 82. The couple had a family of five, three girls and two boys. One son, Vernon, died of injuries received in World War 1.
Sarah and Joseph Pearce lived across the road from her sister Ellen on the highest point in Willung South exposed to the wind from all directions it would have been very cold and snow would have not been uncommon in the winter. Josephs brother Dick had an adjoining block.
Joe died in 1919 and Sarah took her family into Gormandale where she ran a boarding house for a time. Later the family moved to Calrossie where they took up a share farm. Sarah retired to Yarram where she lived until her death in 1943 at the age of 78. Sarah and Joseph had nine children, six girls and three boys.
Jane as mentioned earlier died at the age of 28. She left two children William and Elsie. Her husband William owned the land the Gormandale factory was built on. The board of Directors purchased the land from him for twenty pounds ($40).
Thomas and Mary’s eldest son, also Thomas, had a property known as the “Eighty acres” on the main road between Flynn and Rosedale. He also held the license for the Flynns Creek hotel from 1875 until 1878. The family then moved to land in the area known as Bucketty Hill. About 1900 they moved to Traralgon to a block about opposite where Dahlsens is today. Thomas ran teams to Walhalla. He was seriously injured in an accident and became bedridden. He died on 28th August 1919. Mary moved to a house in Bridge street where she lived until her death in 1940.
Sarah and Thomas Stuckey settled on Thomas’s selection of 72 acres at Flynns Creek .When they came from Ballarat, Thomas brought one hundred bullocks with him. In the early days he used these bullocks to clear land, haul logs to the sawmills etc. In this way he was able to keep his family until the farm was workable. Eventually his farm was to become one of the finest in the district.
In time the Stuckeys acquired more land, buying out the selections of Henry and Rueben Pether.
The Stuckeys raised a family of ten children, three girls and six boys. One boy, Ernest, died in 1907 at the age of twenty one. Thomas Stuckey caught pneumonia and died in 1899 at the age of 54.
His funeral was said to have been attended by 80 horsemen and 40 carriages.
Sarah remained at her home “Fairfield” for most of her life. In her declining years she suffered a stroke and became blind. Her son Arthur continued to run the property and his son Robert still owns it today.
Eureka’s first home was on Walter Powers selection at Loy Yang. They had been married on May 3rd 1876 at her parents home. The first three children were born at Loy Yang. When my father was one year old they moved to Walters selection in the hills to the south of Gormandale, in the area later to be known as Willung South. Eureka was to live here for the next sixty years. During that time they raised a family of seven, three girls and four boys. One son, Robert, was killed at Broonsiende Ridge during the third battle of Ypres on 4th October 1917. Walter played a very large part in the local community for most of his life. He was chairman of the hall committee, director and chairman of the Gormandale Butter Factory, Alberton Shire councillor and President for one year. Eureka was mostly a home person but in 1939 when electricity was provided to Gormandale , she had the honour of switching it on. Walter died in 1932 and Eureka in 1944 in her 91st year.
Mary and Thomas Powell took up their selection at Traralgon South. After Thomas Powell died in 1922, Mary continued to live at Traralgon South with her son, Tom, and daughters, Maud and Grace until 1937. In that year she had a house built in Morrison Street Traralgon.Here she lived until her death in 1947, in her 92nd year. Like her sister, Eureka, she too had the honour of switching on the power when it came to Traralgon South. Ten children were born to Mary and Thomas Powell. Unlike the other families, none of their descendandts live in the area today.
Rebecca, or Bec as she was known, resided at Gormandale with her husband, Tom Smith, from about 1890 until her death in 1929. She was a kind and caring person and it is said that for many years she acted as the local midwife, despite having nine children of her own to care for, she would go to settlers homes any hour of the day or night if called. Her family consisted of six girls and three boys, two of whom died in infancy. Thomas Smith died in 1937. For a time, one of their daughters, also Bec, and her husband Fred Steward carried on the farm. Another daughter, Elsie, married but had no children. Their son, John, also married but had no children. None of the other daughters ever married. Bec and Fred had one son, Tom. He and his family are the only descendants.
Like the Powell family ,none of the descendants live in the area.
John and Joe stayed with their mother at Flynns Creek for most of their lives but they both selected land at Gormandale.
Joe took up the area known as “The Nob”overlooking MerrimansCreek about 11 kilometres west of the township.
John selected the very steep country between “The Sisters” and “Monkey Pinch”. He used to graze cattle on it but it was terribly steep. Today it has reverted to Pine Plantations.
Joe took ill and died in 1923 at the age of 58.
John remained on the original selection at Flynns Creek until 1937, when he sold the property to his nephew Arthur Stuckey and retired to Traralgon. He was a great philanthropist and left large sums of money to many institutions. He gave the Grey Street School in Traralgon two hundred pounds towards a library($400). At todays values that would probably amount to several thousand dollars.
Ada lived with her mother and brothers, John and Joe, until about 1890 when she married Edward(Ned) Missen. They moved to his selection adjoining that of her sister and brother in law Eureka and Walter Power. They lived there until about 1910 when they purchased a property on the flats at Hiamdale. They sold most of the hill property to their nephew,William Power, but retained a portion for a turnout paddock. But unfortunately the moved proved somewhat tragic for Ned died suddenly on 1st January 1912. Ada continued to live on at the home, with her daughter Annie, for the rest of her life. She died on the 14th January 1946 at the age of 81. Ada and Ned had a family of five , three girls and two boys. One of the Girls, Hermania, known as Topsy, choked at the age of two. There is a gravestone to her memory in the Traralgon Cemetery, but she was actually buried on a little flat on the side of the hill just below the Power home. For many years a forlorn little picket fence used to mark the spot.
This story has covered 162 years of the story of the convict Joseph Wright, his wife Eleanor, also a convict, and one branch of their family . But the death of John Wright, “Uncle Johnny” as he was known, in 1951 did not end the story. Today, almost at the end of the twentieth century we can look back on 212 years of Australian history. From those humble and tragic beginnings the family has grown and prospered and today the eighth generation begins to live their chapter, which will mark the third century since Joseph and Eleanor began their family who are all now part of the web of history of this great land, Australia.
Two Hundred Years on the Wright Side, J.F.Power 1988
Family of Joseph and Eleanor; Information supplied to author by Eric Newton Morphet, NSW
in 1988, from First Fleet Families of Australia by C.S. Smee
Information supplied to author by Bruce Wright of Elanora QLD, re family of Samuel Wright
Copy of Townsens Will; Archives NSW, courtesy Lorraine Davies
[Note: Part 1 of the Wright family by John Power has been abstracted. The abstract can be found in the Bulletins link.]
Copyright © 2016 Traralgon & District Historical Society Inc. All Rights Reserved
ABN: 83 077 806 233 || Incorporation Number: A0012134B