Monday, March 11, 2019

The story to be told

Many years of research will be presented in a book to be released in September 2019.  All proceeds will benefit the Royal Engineers Association.

As such, some of the background research has been included in the family web blog, however that information has now been archived until the book is released.

Kristine Herron

Saturday, December 31, 2016 Margaret McConnell and her boys with George Bills and Charlotte Durnford her daughter

Margaret McConnell and George Bills had two sons

William Bills born 1875 at Gulgong  He died in 1966 buried at Kogarah NSW
John George Bills  born 1878

William Bills married Jessie Florence Watson and they had

Edward George Bills        b 1910  d  1997
IrIs Francella Bills            b 1912  d  1985  m  Arthur J Baldwin
Colin William Bills          b  1914  d  1999   m Marcia Hilda Miller

Jessie was born 1885 and died 1956, she was the daughter of Edward Watkins and Emma Pike

They were married at St John's Parramatta, on 25th January 1909

On the certificate it states his father was a carpenter, as was George Bills researched on the previous post.

He also mentions the name of his mother Margaret Francella McConnell deceased.

Perhaps then Francella was her second name!

John George Bills born 1878 married Bessie Goyen   He was a fireman in Sydney at St John's Road at Glebe as shown on the 1913 census

He married Bessie Campbell a widow in 1921.   Bessie was the daughter of Nicholas and Martha Goyen.

Nothing can be sourced after this date.  From a family story, the marriage may not have lasted.

And then there was Charlotte.

There is quite a bit of intrigue with Charlotte.  She wrote poems and it seems that when she wrote them she included snippets of her life.  But did she recall the facts correctly, for certain some of it was what she was told.

She wrote this poem:

New Chums in Australia

We landed in Australia
In 1869 or 70
And father being a builder
Worked in Sydney
With plenty of work to do
Till father got gold fever
As men were prone to do
The Gulgong rush was on
And father like many other men.
Packed up and went along
Left Mother and me in Sydney
To stay there for a while
It would not take our Father long
To make a great big pile
Some of his mines were duffers
Others would only pay
The next one showed a profit
So it went on day by day
Mother kept a Ladies School in Sydney
Just to bring little in
Taught young ladies to play the Piano
or taught them how to sing
So time passed without event
for a year or more
Until a wire came one day
Saying Husband had an accident
Come without delay
Mother sent a wire back
Coming right away.

That night the train left Sydney
Took us to Wallerawang
Cobb and Co coach took us the rest
With many a bump and bang
It was wonderful the distance
Those strong old Horses, could travel in
We reached Home Rule diggings
On the evening of that day
Yes father was very ill or that there is ..
And took some months before
He cold again, walk about
When we arrived at Home Rule
On the Coyal
A miner lent us his tent
So we had no house at all
When we lit a candle to undress
It threw our shadow on the tent wall
Me a little Pigmy
Mother straight and tall
We undressed in the dark
To keep our shadows off the wall.
We arrive there on Friday
A supposed unlucky day
We inspired sympathy in Dame Fortune
She turned her wheel the other way.
For on Saturday the miners came
to see what they could do
Saying do not worry mate
We will help you through
Till you sell your home in Sydney
And see what you can do

Analysing the poem, provides an insight into where they were working and living, coupled with the known factual research.

Unfortunately Charlotte did not know of her brothers and sisters, and that is also displayed in one of her poems.  For some reason, her belief was that they arrived in Australia in 1869/1870.  That information gels with the death registration of her mother.  (born in Charleston, USA).  Her mother in describing her husband Montague John Felton Durnford, also believed he was born in USA, as she called him in her desertion announcement.

The family lived along the gold routes, and Charlotte was born in Hill End in 1867.
Her younger sister Harriet was born in Musswelbrook in 1871, and at that time Montgaue was purporting to be a famous coach builder.

To refresh her life, and the life of her mother, this sourced information is repeated.


Timeline of the family 1868 - 1872

Then in 1868  Montague John Felton Durnford deserts Margaret and the Children.

On 6th May 1868 there was a warrant out for his arrest, on a charge of deserting Margaret and the children.

He is described as 5ft 7in tall, fair 
with fair hair, a beard and a moustache, a native of British America, with a shot gun wound on one wrist!

British American?

A shot gun wound!, wonder what sort of a fight he must have been in, but there are no police records at all for him under Durnford or Dunsford or Dunford.  Perhaps that is why he needed to be called John Felerton, (the name he used to record his son's birth).

He is missing for the period May 1868 - to the beginning of 1871.

By 1871 he must have returned home, but where was he, in between and what was he doing?

You probably will enjoy the following information!

From the Mussellbrook Newspaper of 1871.

 Isn't that priceless?  He is an American from Boston, and he fought in the Civil War, for four years, and received an injury which he wears with pride and retains as a memento of his patriotism!

But it gets better.  He advertises for work as per the ad.

Lewis Downing, a wheelwright from Lexington, Mass., arrived in Concord on a mild May morning in 1818 with a set of tools and $60 in his pocket. Downing was “endowed with courage and optimism,” and made his first carriage for Benjamin Kimball. Downing prospered as a wheelwright, setting up a small factory that had more than a dozen employees.  He joined forces with carriage builder J. Stephen Abbot in 1826, and the first Concord Coach was built in the following year.     (Abbot died 1871)

The American Civil War, widely known in the United States as simply the Civil War as well as other sectional names, was a civil war fought from 1861 to 1865 to determine the survival of the Union or independence for the Confederacy

Then in 1871 Harriet is born again with the surname Dunsford

Name:Harriet A Dunsford
Birth Date:1871
Father's name:John Montague F Dunsford
Mother's name:Margaret B
Birth Place:New South Wales
Registration Year:1871
Registration Place:Muswellbrook, New South Wales

Harriet was born in October 1871 and died in December 1871, registered as Harriet Dussford

By 1872, he is declared Bankrupt.

Then guilty of assault and spends a bit of time in jail, again.

Hope you are also following the surname changes - take your pick!
In 1872

He is bankrupt, but how did he get the money to start his coach building venture?
Did he strike it lucky on the gold fields?

Did they then go to the town of Gulong?.  Since his arrival in Australia he has followed the gold, either as a contractor, or with coaches.


Back to Charlotte's life as per the poem.
Her mother must have left Montague before he went to prison, or perhaps when he was declared bankrupt. 
In 1872 the family were living in Gravesend, in Northern New South Wales.  Perhaps George Bills rescued her from the difficulty life she had, but what about her children?The boys left home aged 13, perhaps in the period 1871/1872.  They left due to their father's treatment of them and for threatening to take them to England to join the Military.  They added the "s" to their name, and it appears they did have contact with their mother.Clearly they had gone by the time he opened the coach building business, otherwise they would have been put to work.

There is no evidence of her running a Ladies School in Sydney, however she may have worked in one of the many that had sprung up, or she may have changed her name completely.
George Bills must have met with a serious injury, and there were so many that most just didn't make the newspapers. 
Then George and Margaret have a son, William born in 1875 in Gulgong.  Another son John George Bills is born 1878.
In 1879, the family are living in Newcastle, in Bullocks Island, as per her death certificate.

The link below deals with the History of the area, the map is from the online resource.

There is of course an area of Newcastle called Charlestown.
Originally granted to the Waratah Coal Company, the area was the site of the company's first shaft, sunk in 1873. Officially called South Waratah, the pit was variously known as Charles' Pit, Raspberry Gully or The Gully Pit. These names all applied to Charlestown in its early days and the surviving name seem to have been derived from that of Charles Smith, the company's manager. The first settlers were miners from the pit.
The company had the area surveyed on 29 April 1876; the first subdivision later became Ida Street, Pearson Street, Milson Street and Frederick Streets. Harry Wright bought the first lot when it was auctioned later in 1876.
This Cobb and Co coach is in a shed in Sofala
They travelled by rail to the Wallerawang station, then they went by Cobb and Co to Hill End

Wallerawang deviaton

As the towns of Lithgow and Wallerawang grew in importance with coal mining and as the railways were now located there, traffic increased to these towns, the route via Rydal was also quite steep in parts. As early as 1848 a group of prominent members of the Bathurst community surveyed and proposed a new route. The new route deviated from the former at a point south of Lithgow (old Bowenfels) and proceeded past the outskirts of Lithgow and alongside the mining and railway town of Wallerawang, joining the previous Mitchell's route near Mount Lambie.

 Another of Charlotte's poems is interesting.  No doubt the miners built them a home to live, while George was injured.

She wrote about a house built for the family 

The Royal Hotel in Hill End opened 1872

Charlotte was 12 years old when her mother died.  Her father had another relationship and married Agnes Ryland in Sydney in 1875.  He had two sons, one born 1876, another 1878.  He apparently deserted Agnes in 1877, before the birth of the baby.

And she never knew of her sister Francella.

Charlotte went to school at Sofala, according to her great granddaughter.  Perhaps she attended the Catholic School, as the state school did not open until 1878, unless they were living there at that time.

Life on the diggings

Sofala old store

Christ Church in Sofala
The cemetery

The Gaol now Coffee shop with museum worth a look
The General Store in 1872

The Royal Exchange Hotel Sofala

Copy of an historic photograph taken in Gulgong in 1872, courtesy of David Rutherford of the famous Cobb & Co Rutherford family. The photo shows miners, a police officer and a publican on the corner of Herbert and Mayne Streets waiting for the Cobb & Co coach to leave.

Home Rule was a gold digging area, on the Coyal River.

Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 - 1893), Tuesday 9 July 1872, page 2

(From the Western Post, July 6.)

The scene at Home Rule is a busy one, and very few people con form an idea of it unless they go and see for themselves. A township is in rapid formation, and streets are being made close to the golden holes. One digger refused £500 for a share in a claim on the right spot. Everyone appears sanguine The storekeepers and publicans look remarkably pleasant, as if they anticipated rich harvests, and even John Chinaman smiles graciously on meeting you. It would almost be an impossibility to give an account of the different claims, as they extend for miles; and until the dispute as to the frontage and block system is settled, many men will prefer to be idle. On some other occasion I hope to give a longer account of the Home Rule diggings, coupled with Gulgong.

On Mr Lowe's property at Wilbetree, two shafts have been sunk, one to a depth of 130 feet. As yet only the colour has been found, but it is in contemplation to sink other shafts.

In the Eagle Hawk Gold Mining Company, the work lately done has proved very satisfactory. The water is now being baled out. The sinking is far easier, and in consequence of this, a fresh contract is to be issued, as the former one applied to boring through the rock. The men have lately come upon a beautiful soft blue slate and a good deal of mundic. The promoters, from these signs, expect soon to reach something better, and they feel every confidence in placing it before the public.

The No 1 Old Gulgong is getting good gold, and there are three or lour other claims on the same line also producing average returns, but most of the men have left for the Home Rule Rush

Our correspondent at Cudgegong writes -The prospecting of the Cudgegong reef is progressing, the} ore now in about thirty feet working still on a face, na the ground is not solid enough to dnve From the top to the floor of the cutting is about l8 feet, consisting of hard slate with quartz leaders running through it, but as vet shewing no gold Some of the stone from the surface in No 5 claim north from the Prospectors has been crushed, and the average was 6 ozs 7 dwts to the ton, none of this stone had gold visible in it before crushing, also some Etone from the adjoining, No 4, was crushed, and the average was 12 ox l0dwts to the ton, this stone liad a fair quantity} of fine gold visible before crushing.  A meeting of the claimholders was held nt Mr Ward's Hotel, Cudgegong, on Saturday, the 29th ult, for the purpose of making arrangements to assist the prospectors in defraying their expenses. It was agreed that all claimholders on the reef should pay one shilling per week each from the tune of commencement until the reef should be developed From the nature of the stone there is little doubt but this reef will turn out a good one £50 has already been offered for a share There is one great advan-tage, its being near to the Cudgegong River, there-fore a good supply of water can be
depended upon.

On Mondav, July 1st, some ground belonging to Mrs Thomas Newell, of Riversdale, about two miles from Cudgegong, was thrown open to the public Several claims have been pegged out The sinking is about 10 feet, with from 8 to 18 inches of washdirt One hole was bottomed with 5 grs. to the dish The nature of the ground is a loose sandy drift, and needs much care m securing

photograph taken c.1872 of shops at Home Rule, New South Wales. Part of Holtermann Collection.

Home Rule is a 19th-century gold rush town in rural New South Wales, Australia. It is 290 km to Sydney.

On 9 July 1872 The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser reported that "the scene at Home Rule is a busy one, and very few people con form an idea of it unless they go and see for themselves. A township is in rapid formation, and streets are being made close to the golden holes. One digger refused £500 for a share in a claim on the right spot. Everyone appears sanguine. The storekeepers and publicans look remarkably pleasant, as if they anticipated rich harvests, and even John Chinaman smiles graciously on meeting you. It would almost be an impossibility to give an account of the different claims, as they extend for miles; and until the dispute as to the frontage and block system is settled, many men will prefer to be idle.

Gold stamping Hill End 1870

Hill End 1870

Life at Hill End in the 1870's -  Amazing photos, as now the whole area is nothing more than signposts on each location which identifies who lived/worked/ on the same land.


Charlotte and David Henry Tasker


Charlotte Durnford who married David Henry Tasker and her daughter Emma Francella Tasker
And the family resemblance is very strong, this is her niece, my grandmother Maud Miriam Durnford
In fact there is a huge family resemblance with the facial structure of Emma!

Charlotte and David (Henry) were married 29th December 1883, in Newcastle.  He was a mariner, and in 1883 he was living at Bullocks Hill, the same area that George Bills was living in 1879.
Her address was Bolton Street, Newcastle, the same place that the McConnells lived.

Charlotte died in 1957 and Henry died in 1934.  In 1930 they lived in Mascot.

Their children were
Henrietta Charlotte Tasker    1885  -  1909
William George Tasker          1886  -  1968  m  Florence Wall 1908  Annie Loise Marxen 1917
Margaret Susannah Tasker     1890  -   1972  m  William Benham 1911  (also known as Francella)
Emma Francella Tasker          1892  -   1983  m John Archibald Evans  1919
Charles M Tasker                    1895  -   1896
Eva C Tasker.                           1897  -   1901
Mary Eleanor Tasker                1900 -     1994
Henry J Tasker                          1904  -  1966
Archibald Samuel Dunsford Tasker  1908 - 1947

Henry died in 1934


Archibald died in 1947.  Little did he know that his cousin lived so close to The Grange.

Most intriguing was another family of Bill/Bills who lived at Goulbourn, between 1860 and 1887.

This was the family of John Hodgson Bills, who was a convict and who arrived on the Asia in 1837. He was pardoned in 1851.

John had a son, William who called his son William Montagu Bates Bills, he was born in 1881.