Family folklore had us believe that Edwin STONE (1863-1945) had arrived in Melbourne Australia as a young man sometime in the late 1800’s. After careful examination of Birth, Death & Marriage Records in the UK, Victoria and Queensland that belief was proved wrong. Edwin arrived as an infant with his parents John and Harriet STONE nee LOWDER1 in August 1865. There were 3 children – William Henry, Emma and Edwin. There was a stillborn child (we have not been able to determine whether in England or Australia) and three subsequent daughters Elizabeth Anne and Harriet both born in the Colony of Queensland; later in 1869 Amy STONE was born in Collingwood Melbourne in the Colony of Victoria.

I’m the daughter of a digger who sought the mother lode The girl became a woman on the long and dusty road I’m a child of the depression, I saw the good times come I’m a bushy, I’m a battler, I am Australian.2

John was most likely recruited early on to work on the Toowoomba railway. Perhaps working on the wharves of Plymouth he saw the ships coming and going to Australia. One can reasonably assume that around the inns and alehouses that populated the port city there would have been many stories told of the new land on the other side of the world. Perhaps John listened to the stories, talked it over with Harriet and made a decision. Whether he was an assisted passenger or paid his own way we cannot determine. John’s father Nicholas Goad STONE may have assisted him, a master carpenter he may have had the means to do so notwithstanding he had started a new family following the death of his first wife and John’s mother Mary Ann. Similarly Harriet’s father John LOWDER of Honiton where the couple married was also a master carpenter and perhaps he helped.

The STONE’s arrived in Queensland before the coordinated immigration campaigns of QLD and the later efforts of the Colony’s immigration agents. Further their arrival in Australia predated the agricultural depression of 1876 to 1893 which added to the destruction of village life in England. Presumably the STONE migration from England to Queensland had been motivated by other considerations.

Having first documented John and Harriet’s presence in Queensland through the birth of Elizabeth Anne in June 18673 and Harriet in March 18684 the mystery remained as to when and how the family arrived in Australia. I found their passport Applications made in 1860 – both John and Harriet are registered together. There were a number of possibilities to consider. First whether the family had arrived in Sydney before heading to Queensland – a not uncommon route; second whether they went direct to Queensland from England. A more remote possibility was that they travelled to another port – perhaps Melbourne, Adelaide or Perth – before travelling to Queensland. Alternatively they entered Queensland through Maryborough to the north of Moreton Bay.

By way of a process of elimination I undertook an online search of NSW Unassisted Immigrant Passenger Lists 1826-1922 and NSW Assisted Immigrant Passenger List 1860-1879. I did not find a John STONE of the right birth date or demographic range. A search of the Queensland Index of Assisted British Immigrants 1839-1871 and Index to Un-assisted British Immigrants 1852-1923 did not turn up a John STONE.5

Queensland Archives suggested a search of Land Orders between the period May 1863 (when Edwin’s birth was registered in Plymouth by his mother so presumably the family was still in country) and Elizabeth Jane aka Annie birth in June 1867– a period of a little over 3 year thereabouts. Shipping records for Queensland – both assisted and unassisted immigrants – are incomplete and many records were destroyed in the Brisbane floods of 1893. A search of Land Orders appeared as a sensible start point.6

‘Land orders were granted to immigrants by the Government to allow them to select or purchase certain categories of land to a specified value. The scheme was designed as a means of inducing immigrants to settle in Queensland. The conditions under which they were issued changed substantially over time, with changes to the relevant legislation. In general, they were available to persons paying their own passage in full or to persons (such as shipping agents) paying the passage in full for someone else. In certain times and under certain conditions, they were also granted to the following categories of persons: nominated or remittance passengers, persons nominating immigrants, indentured passengers, employers contracting indentured passengers and assisted passengers. The value of the land orders varied. In some cases, a first land order was convertible immediately after arrival and a second land order was available after a period of residence in Queensland, usually two years. Records of land orders issued usually give name of immigrant, name of person to whom the land order was issued, and in some cases details of the ship and date of arrival. Details of the land purchased or selected using the land order are not given’.

We located a John STONE arriving Moreton Bay on the Young Australian on 21 August 18657. The Young Australian was a clipper of the Black Ball Line contracted to colonial governments to deliver new migrants to Australia’s shores. The Young Australian had left Plymouth on 29 May 1865. The entry for John STONE in the Schedule of Land Orders states his age at 30 years (an accurate call for our John as is the point of embarkation). Once at anchorage the ship was ordered into quarantine as there was illness aboard. Working from the Land Order Schedule I was able to locate a number of medical reports prepared by the Colony’s Health Officer for the Colonial Secretary.8 The crew and passengers placed in quarantine did not disembark until early September. The Health Officers Report dated 22 August 1865 provides a range of information. 1. The vessel was named the Young Australian, a 766 ton clipper of the Black Ball Line; 2. The Masters name was Charles Greulis(c)h (indecipherable); 3. The ship departed Plymouth on 29 May and arrived Moreton Bay on 21 August 1865 - a 3 month journey; 4. They did not ‘touch’ any port on the way nor receive any passengers or cargo en route; 5. 35 crew and 320 passengers comprised the ships company; 6. They communicated with another ship out of Bombay en route; 7. The ships surgeon was Marshall Bobster (indecipherable); 8. There was various illness and 5 deaths en route - the deaths occurred between the 6th and the 17th August, 1865 towards the end of the journey; 9. There were 20 sick onboard when the ship docked; 10. On arrival the Health office took the view that due to circumstances of which he had become aware he had formed a view that it was ‘expedient to place the ship and people in quarantine’; 11. There were no births during the voyage. The Health Officers name is also indecipherable however he signed his report with the post nominal MD, further he made his assessment onboard on 21 August 1865 at 8.00 am. I have not been able to locate a passenger list for the Young Australian.

I sought to eliminate all other possibilities based on exhaustive research of other early colonial records for the period 1863 to 1867. I located one other (E. STONE) in the Land Order Registers for the period 18689. Queensland Archives advise that Land Orders were sometimes granted to children but not consistently. Further the Schedule of Land Orders where we located John STONE listed under Young Australia does not account for all the 320 passengers which in unremarkable given that not all would have qualified for a grant. The Land Orders appear to reside mainly with individual males where the grant ‘to whom delivered’ refers to ‘self’. There are however exceptions with other passengers wife and what appears, (although indecipherable) named adolescent children.

Further a search of Assisted Migrants turned up a John STONE10 aged 19 years in 1866 and a John STONE aged 22 years in 1867 – neither fit the demographic range of our John STONE.11 A search of Queensland BDM records for the period confirms one John STONE in the context of the birth of his two daughters Elizabeth Anne and Harriet thus on the balance of probabilities supporting my contention that we have the correct person.

Other useful information is that there were no births during the journey hence the unnamed infant of John and Harriet identified on both Elizabeth Anne’s and Harriet’s birth certificates was born either in England or QLD but not in transit. There is no birth record for another STONE child belonging to John and Harriet at Queensland BDM. I have not been able to establish whether ‘still born’ deaths were recorded in Queensland12.

Having arrived August/September 1865 I have assumed John, Harriet and their young family travelled inland to commence work on the railway. Peter Collins from Garrison Communications13 wrote in response to my request for information about that time:

‘Upon arriving in Australia as a Holbeton carpenter’s son - with a young family (including two sons) - John Stone would have found employers lined upon the docks willing to give him a start (especially on the big runs out west, for example). He was darn unlucky to turn up in wild and woolly Queensland in the mid ’60s and take up a platelayer job on the rail line then being built west from Ipswich to Toowoomba. Only by February 1866 did it become possible to travel between Brisbane and Toowoomba (about 100 miles) in a day! Cobb & Co.’s coach departed Toowoomba at 5.30am for Grandchester (near Ipswich) and the connecting coach from Ipswich was due in Brisbane at 5.15pm. Three trains a day plied the line back then. Poor John and Harriet Stone - the daughter of Honiton carpenter, John Lowder - were expecting their fourth child in June of 1867. On July 11, the Railway workers on the Dalby line in the 1860’s year before, the Queensland Government’s finances collapsed. After this, navvies and gangers who had been on wages of seven shillings and sixpence for a 10-hour shift - and wanted that to become eight shillings for an eight-hour shift - rapidly became desperate to accept sixpence an hour! Many public works were halted and hundreds of men were soon out of work. Things were so bad late in 1866 on the Toowoomba Main Range line construction project that some 135 starving navvies marched on Brisbane and there was a riot that needed a bayonet charge to suppress. Those that kept a job made it possible for the first train to travel from Ipswich to Toowoomba by April 12 1867, on a line that was built by the firm of Peto, Brassey & Betts (most likely John Stone’s private, not government employer; again no records). The line west of Toowoomba, through to Dalby and beyond was commenced immediately but a dispute between the new contractor and the Government meant navvies weren’t paid their wages again. This was right at the time John Stone was about to have an extra mouth to feed. The railway reached Oakey Creek by October 1867 and on December 2 it reached Jondaryan. It reached across the legendary black soil plains from Toowoomba all the way to the outskirts of Dalby by the time Harriet Stone was born on March 7, 1868 - indeed she would have heard the whistle and been among the excited crowd that met the first train to pull into Dalby terminus on March 28. How the Stone family, staying under canvas in the trackside camps, survived at all is testament to their pluck. No doubt, once gold was discovered at Gympie in 1867 and on the Palmer River in 1873, the urge would have been to quit and head for the diggings. There’s no indication in the Queensland Government Gazette that John Stone was either a public servant, a railway employee (as opposed to a railways sub-contractor’s employee), or had taken out a gold miner’s licence ’.

What we do know for certain is that Elizabeth Jane aka Annie STONE was born 28 June 1867 near a railway line, Toowoomba in the Colony of Queensland (John STONE is described as a ‘railway plate layer’) and Harriet STONE was born 7 March 1868 in Dalby in the Colony of Queensland (John is described as a ‘labourer’).

Workers bark hut at Dalby Western Queensland mid 1860's.

The family appear to have remained working on the railway between late 1865 and for an indeterminate short time thereafter. The earliest record of the family’s arrival in Victoria is the 1869 following John’s death and the birth of Amy in Collingwood, a suburb of Melbourne.

Many years later the Death Certificate of Edwin14 claims 2 years other than Melbourne which could be a reference to the UK. Harriet’s Death Certificate15 specifically states 2 years in Queensland and since she died in Melbourne in 1912 and predeceased her mother I would have expected that to be a reliable fact but it is at odds with her mother’s death certificate. Edwin lived in Collingwood with his mother for many years so presumably they would have spoken about Queensland. Edwin would have limited personal recollection given that he was 2 on his arrival and possibly 6 on his departure from QLD – hardly a reliable witness. Harriet’s Death Certificate16 in 1930 (the mother) claims 4 years. One of her sons from her subsequent relationship post John is the informant/registered agent and he lived with his mother Harriet for an extended period so presumably he would have been a more reliable witness.

Given that Elizabeth Jane was born June 1867, Harriet in March 1868 taken together with an arrival in August 1865 I am inclined to believe that on the numbers it was closer to 4 years in Queensland. Hence what appears to be a brief stay in Queensland in or around Toowoomba and Dalby the STONE family subsequently travelled to the Colony of Victoria. What is not clear is whether John had been recruited by another railway company or whether because of the continuing uncertainty in Queensland he and Harriet decided to try their luck elsewhere. This would have been a period of extraordinary hardship and adjustment and far removed from the life they had in Plymouth surrounded by family and friends.

The STONEs can claim to have been among the first families of Queensland albeit they chose to move on. Some would mount the argument that I cannot make such a claim given 1865 post dates the establishment of the Colony in 1859 and that at best I can claim a Queensland pioneer family. What caused their move to Victoria and how they travelled to Melbourne remains an unknown.

  1. At times spelt LOADER/LODER/LAUDER/LANDER/LOUDER/LADD in subsequent records; often the case of what the clerk or writer heard further complicated by the fact that Harriet we discover was illiterate and not able to sign her name in the early years of her life. I am most appreciative of Maureen Kenchington’s assistance

  2. “I am Australian” (also known as We are Australian) which was written in 1987 by Bruce Woodley of The Seekers and Dobe Newton of The Bushwackers

  3. BDM QLD Birth Certificate 28 June 1867 No. 749

  4. BDM QLD Birth Certificate 16 March 1868 No. 195

  5. The indexes for the 1860’s are incomplete by reason of flood damage in 1893, also these indexes don’t cover those who paid their own way

  6. Queensland State Archives Brief Guide No. 16

  7. Queensland State Archives STONE, John 1865/831 p. 48 IMM/248 (Microfiche Z2516)

  8. Queensland State Archives COL/A870 65/2161, 2162 (Microfiche Z6550); COL/A870 65/2357 & 65/2436 (Microfiche Z6554); COL/A871 65/2522 (Microfiche Z6554 & Z6555)

  9. Queensland State Archives STONE. E TRE/N5 p. 283 68/3802 (Microfiche Z7069)

  10. We tracked this particular John STONE from his Land Order to his ultimate acquisition of the land in 1888 when he exercised his right to purchase - he resided long term in Toowoomba

  11. Queensland State Archives COL/A References to Immigrants and Crew 1866/1867 unfortunately contains no surviving reference to the Young Australian, John STONE or his family

  12. Variable practice in different Australian State and Territory jurisdictions

  13. Garrison Communications Family History Research Services Website link

  14. BDM Victoria Deaths 1945 No. 7202

  15. BDM Victoria Deaths 1912 No. 3878/14642

  16. BDM Victoria Death Certificate 1930 No. 4889

Next: Chapter 5: Victoria and Collingwood