Philanthropists and Philanthropy

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John Mills (1829-1880) wholesale grocer and governance philanthropist

John Mills was born in 1829 in Tidworth, Wiltshire, to James Mills, a farmer and his wife Charlotte nee Mackrell.[1] John was a cigar manufacturer[2] 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[3] and were to have eight children: William Mackrell (1854-1931), Caroline Eliza (1856-1914), Stephen (1857-1948),[4] Emily (1862-1940),[5] Lucie Ellen (1863-1948),[6] Arthur John (1865-1916),[7] Evelyn Clara (1867-1954)[8] and Sylvia Hannah (1869-1927).[9]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.[10] In 1879, the impressive ‘Casiphia’ was constructed in Julia Street, Ashfield, and was occupied by the family.[11]

John Mills died in 1880 at the age of 51,[12] 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.[13] Emily moved from their home ‘Casiphia’[14] in Ashfield to ‘Aurelia’ in Liverpool Road, Croydon, where she died in 1887 aged 61.[15]

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.[16] It is known that he was in Sydney by June 1853[17] but not if he was employed in the grocery trade by that time.

SMH 7 November 1853, 1

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’.[18]

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.[19]

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Andrew Bell Armstrong (1811-1872)

Founder of the Sunday Morning Breakfast for the Poor

Andrew Bell Armstrong was born in Ireland around 1811 and died in Sydney on 17 June 1872, at 61 years of age.[1] Andrew married Barbara Iredale on 20 July 1844 in Sydney[2] and they were to have three children: Mary (b 1846), Thomas (b 1849) and John (b 1851). Barbara was to prove to be a willing partner in Andrew’s philanthropic efforts. Barbara Iredale was 28 years old on her arrival in the colony in 1842. She came with her mother and father, and she had with her a daughter, Sarah, from a previous relationship who was born in 1841. Sarah would later marry WS Buzacott who would be Andrew’s business partner. 

Military Background

Andrew came from a family with a military tradition, and he said he descended from ‘a long line of British soldiers’. All his uncles were in the army and his father was a volunteer[3] and so he uncritically followed the family tradition when he joined His Majesty’s (HM) 80th Regiment of Foot (also known as the Staffordshire Volunteers).  Later in life he was to rethink his attitude to soldiering. HM 80th Regiment of Foot had a proud history with extensive overseas engagements but, prior to Armstrong joining the Regiment, it had been stationed from 1831 in various parts of England and Ireland. This is most likely when Andrew, being Irish, joined the Regiment.[4] A detachment of the Regiment sailed from England on 23 May 1836 for Sydney with the task of accompanying a group of convicts. The remainder of the Regiment with its colours, and presumably Armstrong who was a ‘colour serjeant’, did not leave until 6 March 1837 and arrived in Sydney on 11 July of that year. The Regiment’s duties meant that,

During the stay of the 80th in New South Wales, it has been divided into a great number of very small detachments, distributed over nearly the whole colony, chiefly guards over prisoners at stockades – a duty harassing to the soldier and prejudicial to discipline.[5]

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Thomas Parker Reeve (1824-1913) Methodist, financial, governance and spiritual philanthropist

Thomas Parker Reeve was born on May 6, 1824 at Deptford in Kent, England, to Isaac Reeve, a mathematics and classical scholar and teacher[1] and his wife Elizabeth Parker. While living in Norwich, Thomas attended the St Mary’s Baptist Chapel where, aged 17, he was received into membership on December 1, 1841. He later recalled that:

in my youth while attending the ministry of the Rev W Brock of Norwich, my mind gradually opened to a sense of danger as a sinner, and of my need of a personal interest in the Great Atonement of Christ, but it was not till sometime after that I could realise a sense of God’s pardoning love.[2]

Thomas married Lydia Pepperday (1825-1898), a Methodist, in 1848 at St Ives in Huntingdonshire, England. Having travelled in steerage aboard the Calphurnia, they arrived in the colony of NSW on September 17, 1853,[3] with their two sons John (1849-1911) and George (1851-1951). Further children were born to them in the colony: Emma (1853-1863), Annie (1855-1943), Thomas (1857-1938), Lydia (1860-1946), Frederick (1861-1940), and Ada (1864-1867). The marriage was a happy one and on their 24th anniversary Thomas wrote ‘I think I can say we love each other more as we grow older and we are an [sic] happy yea, happier in all senses and I trust far nearer to God than we were years ago. I thank God for a good and affectionate wife’.[4]

 

Thomas Parker Reeve

Thomas Parker Reeve

Business

Thomas was a teacher like his father, but in November 1853[5] he set himself up in George Street, Sydney,[6] as an importer and ironmonger. He sold goods ranging from shoes, galvanic pocket generators (which purported to remove pain) to a wide range of ironmongery which included saucepans, boilers, knives and forks. It was said he remained there until ‘aided by his good wife, he amassed a modest competency, and then retired to Stanmore to enjoy the fruit of his honest toil.’[7] It would seem that he moved to Cavendish Street, Petersham (later Stanmore), around June 1873,[8] but continued working for some time probably retiring from active involvement in the business around 1880. By 1888, his son Thomas Henry had assumed control of the business as an ironmonger and organ importer.[9]advet smh nov 21853

Sunday Schools

On arrival in the colony, the Reeves immediately associated themselves with the Wesleyan (Methodist) Church and its activities.[10]  Thomas began his long association with the colonial
Christian education of children by becoming first Secretary and then Superintendent of the Hay Street Sunday school.[11] By 1855,[12] he had become General Secretary of the Wesleyan Sunday Schools of the South Sydney Circuit which embraced Chippendale, Hay Street, Glebe and Mt Lachlan.[13] This was a position he held until 1873[14] and in this capacity he visited local Sunday schools and sought to improve the communication skills of the teachers. With his move to Petersham (Stanmore), he opened a Sunday School class in a cottage at Stanmore saying ‘I hope and pray that this may be the nucleus of a large and prosperous Sabbath School’[15] and he became Superintendent of the Stanmore Wesleyan Church Sunday School from 1875 until 1879.[16] Something of his interest and zeal for the work is seen in a meeting he organised for the Rev William Taylor to address a group of Sunday School teachers. He did this because he was concerned that ‘the spiritual success in the way of conversions was not commensurate with the labour and zeal thrown into Sunday School teaching’.[17] His interest in Sunday (more…)

James Start Harrison (1837-1902)

James Start Harrison (1837-1902) Accountant and Governance Philanthropist

At his death it was said of James Start Harrison that

JS Harrison

James Start Harrison

many benevolent and philanthropic institutions that today are in a flourishing state owe their existence to his energies and valued labours.[1]

The nineteenth century saw the development of many important community services which were commenced and conducted by interested individuals and financially supported by the community. Harrison is an example of one of the many citizens of New South Wales (NSW) whose names have largely been forgotten but who gave voluntarily of their time and effort in the governance of various charitable organisations in order help those in need. As with so many such citizens his commitment arose out of his Christian faith which found its expression in using his gifts and abilities to help others.

James Start Harrison was born in London in 1837 the youngest son of Layman Harrison (1799-1882) and Honor Pitt Curtis (1796-1860). In January 1849, Layman and Honor and their family of six children arrived in Sydney after a voyage of 157 days[2] on board the Penyard Park.[3] After living for a short time in Glebe,[4] the family took up residence in Abercrombie Street, Chippendale.[5] In 1866 James, aged twenty-nine, married Angelina (nee Macdonald), aged thirty-nine and the wealthy widow of Thomas Cooper[6] whom she married in 1852, and prior to that the widow of Edward Henry Gregory whom she had married in 1847. In 1868, Angelina gave birth to her only child, a stillborn daughter,[7] and Angelina herself died in 1873. Her striking death notice testifies to the relationship of Angelina and James and of their shared Christian faith (more…)

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