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John Mills was born in 1829 in Tidworth, Wiltshire, to James Mills, a farmer and his wife Charlotte nee Mackrell. John was a cigar manufacturer but was listed as a clerk when he came to the colony of Victoria. He arrived on the Nepaul at Port Philip Bay on 20 October 1852, while on 24 November 1852, Emily Stidolph (20 June 1826-27 June 1887) arrived on the Chalmers. John and Emily were married on 14 January 1853 at the Lonsdale Street Congregational Church and were to have eight children: William Mackrell (1854-1931), Caroline Eliza (1856-1914), Stephen (1857-1948), Emily (1862-1940), Lucie Ellen (1863-1948), Arthur John (1865-1916), Evelyn Clara (1867-1954) and Sylvia Hannah (1869-1927).The Mills soon moved to Sydney and lived firstly at 11 Botany Street and then at 78 Albion Street, Surry Hills, from at least 1862 until 1872 when they moved out of the city to the semi-rural setting of ‘Elston Villa’, Alt Street, Ashfield. In 1879, the impressive ‘Casiphia’ was constructed in Julia Street, Ashfield, and was occupied by the family.
John Mills died in 1880 at the age of 51, leaving Emily with eight sons and daughters aged between 11 and 26 years. He was buried in the cemetery adjacent to the Dobroyde Presbyterian Church. Emily moved from their home ‘Casiphia’ in Ashfield to ‘Aurelia’ in Liverpool Road, Croydon, where she died in 1887 aged 61.
The Wholesale Grocer
When and how John came to be employed in Sydney is unknown. He may have placed an advertisement like the one below for it fits him well; he was at that time 24 years old, married, and he did end up working in the grocery business. It is known that he was in Sydney by June 1853 but not if he was employed in the grocery trade by that time.
The first ‘grocery’ reference to John Mills is in December 1854 in Sydney where he was, as a grocer’s assistant, in the employ of William Terry, Wholesale Grocer. John, along with 34 other grocer’s assistants, had petitioned their employers to rationalize the business hours that they were expected to keep.
Their argument was that
… we need not enumerate the many advantages that would be derived by us, in allowing more time for moral improvement and healthful recreation, and after carefully studying our employers,[sic] interest and making that our great desideratum, we must respectfully submit for their approval the following proposal: …
Their proposal was to restrict business hours so ‘That business be closed every night at seven o’clock, except Saturday, on which night close at ten o’clock. To commence January 1st, 1855’.
John worked for William Terrey as his shop man and he was conscientious. One incident in his life as a shopkeeper made the newspaper in 1855. On entering the shop, Mills had noticed a boy leaning over the counter with his hand in the till. As soon as he saw Mills he took off as did his companion cockatoo who was meant to give a warning. Mills gave chase and finally caught them both. The young thief admitted to taking 10 shillings and offered to return it on condition he be let go. This was not agreed to but the 10 shillings was handed over anyway and off to the Police he was taken. On searching him, a florin from the shop was found. As there was not enough evidence to convict the cockatoo he was sent home. The young thief, however, since it was his fifth offence in less than a year, was given three months jail; he was ten years old.(more…)
Henry Brougham Richard Lee (1831-1883) The City Night Refuge and Soup Kitchen Manager
The name of Henry Brougham Richard Lee, abbreviated to H B Lee, became synonymous with the work of the Sydney City Night Refuge and Soup Kitchen in the period 1868 to 1883. His great gift to the organisation was not just his ability to relate to the ‘down and out’ of the community, but his skill in convincing merchants and business people to donate goods and food stuffs to this philanthropic work.
Lee was born at Finsbury, England, on February 26, 1831, to a shoemaker named Thomas Lee and his wife, Sarah Beal, and he came to the colony of NSW on the Plantagenet, arriving in July 1853. In 1860, he married Harriet Miller (1833-1878) and they had four children: Florence Mary Ann (1861-1909), Eveline Maud (1863-1937), Grace Hannah (1865-1867) and Alfred Ernest (1869-1953). It appears that Henry ‘had the misfortune to be deformed and short of stature’, but this did not impede him as he was frequently described as being energetic and indefatigable. In England he had been apprenticed to a nautical instrument maker, and went into partnership with Thomas Drinkwater in 1854 after his arrival in Sydney. They operated as Drinkwater and Lee, engineers who specialised in brass fittings, but the partnership was short-lived and was dissolved in April 1856. This was to be the first of a number of such short-lived and unsuccessful business and professional positions in which Henry was involved.
In January of 1856, Lee published the first volume of The Australian Band of Hope Review and Children’s Friend which was a journal for the promotion of temperance. It was to be published fortnightly, cost three pence, and was to be a children’s magazine consisting of anecdotes, stories and poetry, and often promoting the temperance message. Over time, it changed its emphasis from children to a more general audience and changed its title to The Australian Home Companion, but it remained a temperance advocate. Whatever else the newspaper may have done, it had the distinction of being the first newspaper to publish a Henry Kendall poem in February 1859. The poem was entitled ‘Oh Tell Me Ye Breezes’ and was on the disappearance of Ludwig Leichhardt, the explorer. It is clear the newspaper was not a commercial success for as early as 1857, after only fourteen months of publication, it was in trouble as its circulation was just 1,000 copies. The paper was barely covering its expenses and attempts were made by the public to raise £100 to defray its expenses. By October 1859, the circulation had increased to 1,900 but the paper still struggled financially. Lee remained the proprietor until December 1860 when he was forced to sell the paper to cover his debts.
In 1860, Henry became the first teacher for the Sydney Ragged School, the school founded by Edward Joy. Joy had advertised for a special sort of teacher who was more than just a teacher of reading and writing, but also someone who ‘has a truly Christian interest in the welfare of the class of children for whom the school is intended and who has at the same time the gift of winning the attention and securing the affection of such children.’ Lee was engaged as a teacher and his (more…)
Sharp Hutchinson Lewis (1830-1921), Glover and an early Secretary of the YMCA Sydney
Sharp (Sharpe) Hutchinson Lewis was born in 1830 at Ramsgate, Kent, England, the son of John Lewis and Ann Hutchinson and died September 6, 1921, at Petersham, Sydney, Australia. In 1858, he married Mary Morshead Gypson and together they had five children: Mary Ann (1859-1937), William Arthur (1861-1955), Mortimer Kent (1866-1867), Agnes Fanny (1868-1941) and Lillian Eleanor (1870-1932). Before his marriage, Sharp was employed as a Clerk with the London house of the Sydney firm of David Jones and Co in Fenchurch Street when it was decided he should go to NSW to join the company’s staff in Sydney.
Lewis arrived in Sydney in 1854 and went to work with David Jones and Co as planned. In January 1857, Jules Pillet, a highly successful glover at 10 Hunter Street, advertised that he wished to retire and was willing to dispose of his business, The French Glove Depot, with a lease of his premises for six years. On January 1, 1858, Sharp took over the business which, despite some early financial difficulties, he ran successfully for some 16 years. The shop was considered ‘a very fashionable place’ and was just opposite where Henry Parkes had his shop. Sharp said of Parkes that ‘many a chat I used to enjoy with him in those days. He was a clever fellow’. In 1861, Sharp opened a
branch in Brisbane advising his customers that he had made arrangements with his predecessor, Jules Pillet, to select the stock which covered a wide range of quality goods from gloves and umbrellas to haberdashery in Paris and London, ensuring thereby that ‘nothing would be lacking in taste and quality’. He finally disposed of the business to his sister Frances Johnson (nee Lewis) and his assistant Edward Carroll in March 1874.
Lewis later accepted an invitation from James Woodward to return to the firm of David Jones, but he did not remain long with his old employer for in 1879 he sold the family home ‘Kentville’ in Petersham for £1,100 and went, it was said, on an extended trip to England. But this information is incorrect as he, his wife and three of his children, went to live in Dunedin, New Zealand, where he worked for Hallenstein Bros and Co at the New Zealand Clothing Factory as an Inspector of Branches. During his time in Dunedin, he involved himself in the local YMCA as a committee member and also became the secretary of a company to set up a Coffee Palace which sought to ‘combine all the advantages of (more…)
Charles Nightingale (1795-1860), Edward Ramsay (1818-1894) and James Druce (1829-1891) Charity Collectors
Obtaining funding for the work of the various nineteenth century philanthropic organisations was always a challenge. There was little government financial assistance available, and the various organisations were dependent upon the generosity of the public for financial support. In order to gain that support the many charities who wished to collect money from the public engaged in a number of activities and strategies. Prominent among their activities was the public annual meeting, often chaired by a socially important person, where the activities of the organisation were reported and supportive resolutions passed. At the meeting someone, usually the secretary of the committee, would read a report detailing what had been achieved in the year past, often giving encouraging examples of success as well as underlining the difficulty of the task which the charity had undertaken. Such reporting made the committee that ran the charity accountable to the public and to its subscribers. It also showed what had been achieved through public financial support, educated the community on the continuing need for the charity, and gave hope for success in the future so that there might be continued interest and increased financial support given by individuals.
Nineteenth century newspaper editors, at least up until the 1890s, gave very sympathetic treatment to such organisations and often printed extensive reports of the meetings which gave further publicity. Printing the annual reports of these organisations and circulating them to their subscribers was also a vital part of the strategy. Such documents contained the secretary’s report, a financial statement, the lists of subscribers and the amount of their subscription, and newspapers often printed subscriber and donation lists as well. It has been suggested that the existence of these subscriber lists is evidence that nineteenth century philanthropy was a morally approved way of self-aggrandisement. Motives are difficult to determine and it may well be that, for some, giving was motived by being seen to have done the ‘right societal thing’ or by a desire to gain praise for the size of a donation. For others, however, such support was undoubtedly a response to need and a desire to help without any ulterior motive. From the organisations’ point of view, it was an effective means of giving a receipt and perhaps a means of encouraging (more…)
Joseph Paxton (1828-1882) Miner, Musician, Philanthropist and Churchman
Joseph Paxton was, to a remarkable degree, both a financial and a governance philanthropist. He was born on 10 May 1828 at Dunbar, Scotland, to James a journeyman boot maker and Margaret (nee Greig) Paxton. Though a brass founder by trade Joseph was a gifted singer and musician and he taught music and also led the singing in one of the Edinburgh churches for some six years. He married Elizabeth Bennett in 1853 and they left for the colony of NSW arriving in Sydney in early 1854. Their daughter Margaret born in 1854 died in 1855 but two further children, James Alexander (1856) and Elizabeth Bennett (1860) were born to the family at Tambaroora (Hill End).
Initially Paxton earned a living in Sydney by giving performances of Scottish Songs and he also toured giving concerts in the Hunter Valley. His singing was appreciated and was compared in style to the famous Scots singers Wilson and Templeton with ‘interest being sustained by anecdotes and explanatory remarks illustrative of the songs’. It would appear that Joseph, as an entertainer, was comfortable being a public figure and throughout his life was willing to express his opinions on various subjects. These public skills and attitudes would later lead him to often be chosen to chair public meetings of various organisations.
The Gold Miner
In late 1854 the family left for the Gold Diggings on the Turon River in NSW where Paxton took up a miner’s right on Hawkin’s Hill at Hill End. By 1866, Paxton entered a partnership with William Holman and some others to form Paxton, Holman and Co whose purpose was to mine a claim on Hawkins Hill. There were some 32 men employed on the site working both day and night and probably six days a week and after thirteen months of extremely hard work the first ore was crushed in March 1869. In the period June 1870-May 1871 the mine was producing some £16,000 (approximately $2 million current value) worth of gold and the value of the area was shown when, in 1872, one nugget was found which on its own was worth £16,000. Paxton was involved in numerous other mining ventures and partnerships at Hill End as mining required considerable capital to exploit the deposits. There were 255 Companies on the Hill End goldfield in 1872-1873 and they had a combined nominal capital of £3,673,937 of which Paxton’s company was the biggest by far with a nominal capital of £160,000. As a miner and mine owner, Paxton was concerned for the safety of mining and was part of a deputation to the Minister for Lands to seek the appointment of a mines inspector for gold mines. He said that many accidents which had taken place on the gold-fields were due in many instances to the incompetency and utter ignorance of men appointed by boards of directors as mine managers. He had no patience with those mine owners and companies that cited cost as a deterrence to the appointment of a mines inspector for such miners who were under capitalised had no right to exist if they did not have the funds to protect the lives of their men. He thought that by such an appointment the Government might incur the displeasure of some but would at the same time earn the gratitude of thousands of miners. (more…)
William Druce (1827-1925) Sydney City Missionary & Temperance Advocate
Hannah Druce (1829-1909) Sydney Night Refuge & Reformatory Manager
William Crickmer Druce (7 Oct 1827-3 May 1925) was born at Bury St Edmonds, Suffolk, England and died at Lakemba, NSW, Australia. He was the third son of Thomas Charles Druce and Elizabeth Crickmer and married in Sydney in April, 1854. His wife, Hannah Church (1829 – 2 Oct 1909) was born in Deal, Kent and together they had three daughters. Fanny Elizabeth (20 Apr 1855 – 10 Jan 1924) was born in Sydney and married Thomas Pankhurst in 1877. Roseanna Jane (1858-23 Jul 1936) was born in Yackandandah Victoria and married George Daniel Clark in 1875, while Diana Harriet (24 Feb 1861 – 20 Oct 1905) was born in Yackandandah, Victoria, and married James Hirst in 1879.
Hannah arrived in the colony of New South Wales (NSW) in December 1852 on the William Kennedy and her occupation was listed as a general servant who could also read and write and was of the Church of England. William had been apprenticed to a master mariner at Great Yarmouth, England, but he and his bother George came to the colony of NSW sometime prior to 1854 and by 1861 William was a miner on the Yackandandah goldfields in Victoria. By 1865 he had returned to the sea being the master, for a short while, of the Orient, a schooner carrying coastal cargoes, a quartermaster on the Rakaia, sailing between New Zealand and Sydney in 1867, a member of the crew of the mission ship the John Williams when it was wrecked in 1867 and a seaman on the John Wesley, plying between Sydney and the South Sea Islands in 1868. 
William had an interest in the Christian faith, mission work, temperance and the welfare of seamen and he became a missionary with the Sydney City Mission (SCM) in 1871, a position he held until 1879. The SCM employed him to work specifically with seamen which he did with considerable zeal and effect as recorded by the Rev Thomas Gainford of the Bethel Union, with whom he worked: (more…)