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Friday, May 6, 2011

Early Residents - The Wiggins Family

Wiggins Farm Bee Farm Road Springwood

Elisha Wiggins forefront in greenhouse of Greenheyes

Thought to be Bill Wiggins
Joseph Wiggins sailed into Sydney Harbour aboard the full rigged sailing ship named Illawara in July 1883. The Illawara was built in 1881 by Dobie & Co. Glasgow for Devitt & Moore London. In 1883 she was under the command of Captain D.B. Carvosso.  During the years 1889 to 1907 she served as a cadet training ship and in 1912 she was abandoned at sea after capsizing when the cargo of coal shifted or caught fire. 
Accompanying Joseph in 1883 was his son Elisha, together with his son’s wife Sarah and the couple’s two sons. Their names were William Thomas and Elisha jnr (Walter Elisha). Joseph was listed on the ship’s manual as being a gardener aged 68. He may have been a widower as no wife accompanied him. Elisha was also listed as a gardener aged 34. Sarah’s age was given as 25, while William and Elisha were aged 4 and 1 respectively. The family religion was noted as Church of England. Elisha, Joseph’s son, was born in Great Malvern Worcestershire, and at some point in time he married Sarah Jane Jones who came from Pontypool in Wales. 
However, the voyage into Sydney Harbour in 1883 was not the first time that Joseph had made that voyage. In 1827, Charles Sturt, as a soldier in the Royal Anglican 39th Regiment of Foot, commanded the first voyage. Sturt gained great prominence at Waterloo and in Spain fighting Napoleon’s army, and later gained the rank of Captain. Sturt and the regiment were sent to Australia and first saw service in Hobart, then Sydney, Bathurst and Western Australia. The regiment finally left in 1832 to serve in India. Joseph’s earlier experience with Charles Sturt may have been the inspiration for migration.  Sturt returned to Australia in 1835.
According to anecdotal information given by Joseph’s granddaughter May, the trip aboard the Illawara was extremely rough until the ship reached the Cape of Good Hope. But an epidemic of measles broke out before they landed which forced officials to quarantine the ship, her passengers and crew. The delay was unfortunate for Elisha because he had been contracted to work for Mr. Gidley King of ‘Goonoo Goonoo’ station. The property, located near Tamworth, had associations with Henry Dangar, and the Australian Agricultural Company. Goonoo Goonoo, which is said to mean ‘plenty of water’, was an important sheep station. In 1853 when gold was discovered at Nundle the A.A. Company was reformed into the Peel River Land & Mineral Company with Philip Gidley King acting as its first superintendent. He later became the first Mayor of Tamworth.
Elisha, who served a nursery apprenticeship in England, contacted a solicitor to see what could be done about the broken contract. Fortunately all was not lost, and due to the Gidley King’s kinship with the Macarthur family, Elisha found a position at Camden Park, the then home of the Macarthur Onslows. He stayed there for a period of two years. The family moved to Springwood c1885 spurred on by the knowledge given to them by a family friend that the district had potential. This possibly may have been the Frenchman named Honore Marie because, according to May Wiggins, Madame Marie worked as a governess for the Macarthur Onslow family at one time. Honore and his wife also took up land at North Springwood. Mrs Marie then taught at the school that was directly opposite their property, operated by Miss Hooper in the home now called Hartfields. 
Several more children were born to Elisha and his wife. They were Frances May (May) who was born at Camden Park c1883, James Joseph c1885, Edith Violet (Violet) c1892 and Jack c1895. The last two children were born at Springwood. James Joseph was the first recorded baptism in the register of Christ Church, Springwood and the service was conducted in the conservatory of Moorecourt. When the Wiggins family first arrived in the area c1880s, May remembered that Mr Deemer was the landlord of a wayside inn, which predated the Oriental. This was named the Springwood Hotel, and was different to the Springwood Inn run by Thomas Boland. The family initially lived in a sapling and stringy bark hut along Hawkesbury Road until Elisha purchased 4 acres of land on the southern side of Springwood in the area that is known today as Bee Farm Road.
In those days Springwood had only just begun to develop as a township and Rayner’s store was located in the main street. The first railway line had already gone through the area. An earlier paper written by S. Bentley suggests that Elisha worked, at times, for William Rayner and in fact laid out the tennis court that Rayner built behind his store. He also assisted J.T. Ellison setting out his gardens and orchard that was located along Hawkesbury Road. During this time Elisha built another home on his Bee Farm Road property and cultivated fruit trees, flowers and vegetables. The produce was later sold to local residents in the area. An Explorers Tree article written by Bentley in November 1995 said that he was known for expertly clipping the fruit trees in the form of vases or fans.
Elisha established bee keeping on the property, hence the name. But a hot dry summer in the early 1900s put paid to this line when bushfires destroyed several and then starvation killed the remainder. According to a paper written for the Springwood Historical Society the apiary stands still existed on the property until that time. The fires destroyed his livelihood, so thereafter Elisha worked for various people, assisting residents about the town to establish and maintain their gardens.  He assisted Captain Taylor with the design of his garden at Greenheys, as well as attending the orchards, and grape vines that grew across a wire netting enclosure. The local studies picture collection holds photographs that attest to this fact.
This paper also mentioned that a visit to the old property in 1995 unearthed parallel terraces, and stone hive stands that were attributed to James Joseph Wiggins who became an excellent stonemason. Mr Jack Proctor, another family member, could remember an old family story that told of the honey being exported to England c1883.  
The papers of Joseph Jackson MP, held in the local studies section of Springwood Library, also suggest that Major Baines (Baynes) of Linden visited the Wiggins family to discuss old army campaigns. No doubt these campaigns would have been connected to Joseph. According to Miss May Wiggins, Elisha tried to get the Progress Association to promote water connection to the area. He believed that the area would take off once a reticulated system was connected. May said the only person to share this belief with her father was Mr William Johns the local postman. When the Association left his words unheeded Elisha proceeded to ensure the safety of his property and water for his family by putting in two wells. To supplement this, he obtained a large galvanized tank and a smaller one that ensured that in drought conditions the family would not go short of water.
A Gazette newspaper article dated 19 October 1983 mentioned that ninety years previously May – as she remembered – had been hanging over the schoolyard fence while a drover drove his sheep through the main street of Springwood. She said that the noise was so deafening lessons had to be abandoned. May worked as a housekeeper for Captain Taylor for a period until her mother took sick and she was required to take over the family duties. She shared the honour of being Springwood Public School’s oldest pupil in 1983 with Mr Bert Honeysett. A paper written by May attested to the difficulty faced by women in the early days. She remembered that having no copper meant that they were forced to boil clothes in old kerosene tins, fashioned with wire handles, over an open fire in the yard. A large galvanized tub was used prior to this to wash the clothes.  Miss May Wiggins died 20 March 1984 aged 101.
Family members are mentioned in the Nepean Times newspaper regularly from 1893 as performers in benefit concerts, school concerts, football matches and so on. The 1894/5 electoral roll has Elisha listed as a Springwood gardener.  However, the 1891 census lists Elisha Wiggins as a storekeeper with four males and two females living on the premises. The 1903 electoral roll listed Elisha as an orchardist, Elisha Walter – his son – as a labourer, Sarah Jane, and William Thomas a labourer. A Henry Wiggins also appeared on the roll and he lived at Faulconbridge.
William, James and Jack followed their father in his occupation as gardener and handyman. At the time of the great depression, in the mid 1930s, William worked for Blue Mountains Shire Council assisting with the layout of the gardens of Buckland Hospital. He also worked on the duplication of the railway line. Jack and he returned to Bucklands eventually and maintained the gardens they helped to lay out. James worked in the quarry that is now known as Yellow Rock Quarry, and assisted in building the retaining wall located in front of St Thomas Church on the corner of Hawkesbury and Macquarie Roads.  The wall is still there today.
Walter was employed for many years by the firm Lamson Paragon which was a firm of stationery manufacturers in Sydney. He and his brother James were members of Springwood’s first ever rifle club, and Jack was one of the local men who joined Hitchen’s ‘Coo-ees’ when they marched through Springwood from Gilgandra. They were going through to Sydney during the time of World War 1. He served two and a half years in France. Only three of Elisha and Sarah’s children married, they were James, Violet and Walter. James married Ida Bertha Nordberg c1910 and had five children whose names were James, Fred, Bertha (Mrs Davis), Edith (Mrs Davies) and May (Mrs Herbert). Violet married Norman Proctor c1916 and they had five children too whose names were Ann (Mrs Charlton), Jack, Norman, Tim (who died as a POW in World War II), Jean (Mrs Ison) and Peter, who was accidentally killed whilst employed by the Blue Mountains City Council. James or Jim started the first bus service in the area in 1942 and operated a taxi service in conjunction with his brother-in-law (Archibald Frederick Davis). Later, Jim operated a service station on the corner of Raymond and Macquarie Roads, Springwood and later still, Faulconbridge taxis. Jim was a member of the Garden Society that worked on Buttenshaw Park. The society won awards in the Herald Garden competition. The bus service was later taken over by Stan Johnson c1946, then F.J. Spellacy, and later still Horrie and Vera Pearce.
Joseph died c1888, Elisha died at the age of 89 in 1936 and Sarah Jane died in 1924 aged 69. Aaron James Wiggins died in 1988, Walter aged 69 in 1951, Jack at the age of 65 in 1960, James Joseph at the age of 65 in 1951 and William Thomas at the age of 78 in 1957.

Pamela Smith
Taken from The Making Of A Mountain Community: A Biographical Dictionary of the Springwood District

* Additional research has been carried out since this article appeared in the above publication and it now seems highly unlikely that Joseph Wiggins had ever been to Australia before he arrived in 1883.  It would seem that he married Elizabeth (?) prior to 1844 and the 1851 English Census listed their children as Sarah 7, James 6, Thomas 5 and Elisha 1.  Joseph is listed variously as a chimney sweep and an agricultural labourer.  Sophia  12 and Charles 8 had been added to the family by 1871, and Elisha (aged 21) was still living at home.  Sometime after 1871 and before 1881 Elizabeth died because the 1881 census listed Joseph as a chimney sweep living with Elisha (gardiner) and Charles 17 and William aged 2. The NSW unassisted immigrant shipping records listed Joseph (born Oxford), Elisha (born Worcester), wife Sarah (born Monmouth) and their children William and Elisha (born Worcester), arriving aboard the Illawarra in 1883. 

Elisha and Sarah Jane Wiggins were featured in Peter Barrett's The Immigrant Bees 1788-1898.  Barrett stated that Elisha had 'Langstroth' style bee hives set out on terraces but a visit to the property showed no evidence of the honey extracting equipment, boilers or honey tanks.  Fred Wiggins, grandson of Elisha still owned the property when Barrett visited the property in 1995. 

Various Census Records. 
Peter Barrett, supplement in The Immigrant Bees 1788-1898, A Cyclopedia on the Introduction of European Honeybees into Australia and New Zealand, Peter Barrett, Springwood, 1995, pp. 8-9

1 comment:

jacqui said...

My name is Jacqui Wiggins, thought you may be interested to know that we still live on the property at Bee Farm Road Springwood, I am so thrilled I found this site - Thank you :) 0439 883 277