Thursday, 19 March 2015

Ellis Brothers - Reuben Ellis (1874-1951) early days

Following a recent email from Rosemary Noble, researching the Dugmore and Timms family, I have returned to my earlier research on one of the Ellis brothers, namely Reuben Ellis. Reu was my grandfather Edgar Ernest Ellis's brother, and the son of Charles Ellis and Sarah Elizabeth Howlett.

I will talk about Reu's early life first and some of his earlier family relationships.

Reuben (Reu) was the firstborn of seven children to Charles and Sarah, followed by Charles Alfred (Charl), Mary Ellen (Nell), Herbert Charles (Herb), Edgar Ernest (my grandfather),  Florence May (Flo) and Lucy Inez.
Home of William Joseph Maidment

His parents were married in 1872 at the home of William Joseph Maidment at Finnis Flat in South Australia. William J Maidment was the brother of Charles' mother Sophia Ransom Ellis (nee Maidment).

Charles was a miner at the time of his marriage, and I believe he previously worked at the nearby Wheal Ellen, a silver-lead-zinc mine at Scrubby Hill Road Woodchester some 7km east of Strathalbyn.  The Wheal Ellen mine closed in 1861 so this may have influenced the decision of Charles and Sarah to move to Moonta Mines in early 1874, some 200 km away.

Moonta at that time was an extensive copper mining area which became known as "Australia's Little Cornwall" with the arrival of hundreds of Cornish miners, and Charles found work there as a woodcarter. The Howlett family were involved in the copper mines through Sarah's father William Howlett's connections with Sir Walter Watson Hughes. William Howlett had worked as a crewman and later a shepherd for Hughes, and Sarah's older brother Henry worked as a shepherd for Hughes's brother as a lad of thirteen.  Henry Howlett and his wife Mary (nee Watson), Hughes's niece, were residing at Moonta at that time.  Also in Moonta was Sarah's brother Charles William Howlett and his wife Emily, and her sister Susannah and her husband Alfred Jesse Williams, were in the same area so there was family support there.

The Moonta Registers (from Marilyn Philbey) record their first child Reuben was born on 22 April 1874, at Moonta Mines to Charles Ellis, woodcarter, Moonta Mines, and Sarah nee Howlett.  Also born that year at Moonta Mines was his uncle Henry Howlett's sons, Thomas Herbert.

According to my notes from Bill Howlett (now deceased) "Charles William Howlett and his wife Emily, resided at lot 1531 near Waterhouse Road, and his sister Sarah Elizabeth and her husband resided on lot 1528 on Newland Street, at East Moonta. Jim Harbison of the Moonta National Trust provided the map notated as "The map is the location of home of Charles Ellis and Sarah Ellis at Moonta".  Perhaps this is where Reu was born.

Map of Moonta - Ellis home location circled
Bill Howlett also noted that "The first seven settlers at Agery were  ... Henry Howlett lot 317 and George Matters lot 318".  George Matters is another Hogben family connection.

From Moonta in South Australia, Charles Ellis set out in early 1875 with his son Reuben, then only a small boy,  to drive to Carisbrook in Victoria by horse and cart.  It would have been a long journey, almost 730 kms in today's terms. Carisbrook is near Maldon and Castlemaine, a gold mining area.  Sarah must have followed later.

Charles Ellis, a carter and residing in Carisbrook, lodges an application 13 March 1875 under the Land Act 1869 to lease "319 acres, 0 roods, 12 perches or more or less" in the Parish of Moe.
Application by Charles Ellis 13 March 1875
Application page 2
Brother Charles Alfred was born in1876 at Grange Farme near Carisbrook.  Charles' birth certificate states his father's occupation has changed - he is a farmer. The informant at his birth was uncle C W Howlett, his mother Sarah's eldest brother, who had been residing there for some time - two of his sons, Ernest Herbert and Alfred  Edwin, were born, and son Alfred Herbert died, at Carisbrook  in the years 1874 to 1877.  Another family connection to Carisbrook is Sarah's uncle Frederick Howlett married there in 1858.

Seeking excellent rainfall, good soil and plentiful timber, the Ellis family's next move is to Gippsland near Trafalgar, some 300 kms from Carisbrook.  Reu's sister Mary Ellen was born at Trafalgar in 1878.   Together with Charles's brother-in-law, Charles William Howlett, the families later moved to Narracan where they were to take up adjoining selections, with Charles selecting almost 320 acres (Lot 97 312.0.12 and Lot 98 318.0.30 respectively).  Charles Ellis cleared the land and farmed it for 30 years, but he never took up the title.  This fact would probably impact later on the outcomes for the Ellis siblings as adults.
Land selection at Narracan - Charles Ellis

Also nearby at Narracan was William Hogben, Sarah's maternal uncle and his wife Elizabeth Burnbridge Hogben (nee Maidment) Charles' maternal aunt.  So that families are very well supported by each other.

Narracan East was becoming quite a settlement with Charles Ellis conducting the butcher's shop, and Charles Howlett, his brother-in-law being in partnership with Samuel White in the store and blacksmith's shop (Thorpdale, Narracan, Childers - Centenary 1876-1976, Thorpdale and District Centenary Committee, 1976, p9, p49; So Tall the Trees: a centenary history of the southern district of the Shire of Narracan, John Adams, Shire of Narracan, 1978, p61).   The two brothers-in-law were obviously in partnership as "... at this time "Howlett and Ellis", of Narracan, over 30 miles away,  used to call once a fortnight on the settlers with a piece of good fresh meat, together with a quantity of salt junk.  They also brought letters and papers and took letters back for posting.  Of course everything was packed in on horseback and along very narrow Turton's and Lydiard's tracks respectively." (Land of the Lyrebird - A story of Early Settlement in the Great Forest of South Gippsland, Gordon and Gotch (Australasia) Ltd, 1920, p141).

"On 26 June 1877 eight Narracan residents signed a letter to The Minister of Education requesting a school be built, as the nearest one was 20 miles away. Thirty children ranging from three to fourteen years old were included in the petition. The signatories were William Riggs, C W Howlett, Peter Thomson, Charles Ellis, Peter Mills, J Gibson, S Nickell and C Atkin." (Coach News, Moe and District Historical Society Inc Newsletter, Volume 36, No 1, September 2008, The Forgotten School of Narracan - The early years at Moe South School 2213, Max Garner) 

Map from Coach News Volume 36, No 1 September 2008 by Max Garner
The Narracan East School #2295 (later #2012A) opened on 15 April 1878 in the Narracan Mechanics' Institute with a roll of 10 pupils.  Mr Elijah J Stranger was the first teacher and also an early selector. The numbers soon increased to 20, some coming long distances along a bush track through the timber.  The Ellis and Howlett children attended the school obviously making up a large proportion of the enrolment. I am presuming that Reu and his siblings would have attended school here given the application of which his father Charles Ellis was a signatory. The school closed in December 1892 (Vision and Realisation.  A Centenary History of State Education in Victoria, Ruth Hill, Volume 3, Education Department of Victoria, p1215).  The Narracan East Mechanics' Institute is now located at the Gippstown Heritage Park in Moe.

Coach News Volume 35, No 3 March 2008 by Walter Savige
It was here at Narracan that Reu's siblings Herbert Charles was born in 1880, as was my grandfather Edgar in 1882, and sister Florence in 1885. 

Sadly youngest sister Lucy Inez born in 1888 at Moe South only lived eight hours and she was buried by her father on his property (Lonely Graves of Gippsland Goldfields and Greater Gippsland, J G Rogers and Nellie Helyar, 1994, p40).  Noted on the margin of her death certificate - "Delivery at home Mary Howlett".  For many of the Ellis, Howlett and Hogben children their grandmother Mary Howlett (nee Hogben) acted as a midwife for their births.

Ellis children - Charles Alfred, Herbert, Reuben and Mary Ellen, Edgar not present
I do know, however, that my grandfather Edgar, eight years younger than Reu, also attended Narracan State School #2295 in 1889 and 1892, having earlier attended Trafalgar South State School #25257 in 3rd grade in 1888.

Reu's maternal grandfather, William Howlett, aged 65 passes away suddenly from apoplexy in Woodchester in 1884, and his widowed grandmother Mary remains there for a short time supported by her daughter Susannah and her husband Alfred Williams.  This was short lived as you can see by the Court Case in 1885.  Grandmother Mary Howlett as a consequence moves lock stock and barrel to Gippsland in December 1885 to live with her eldest son Charles William, who are on the adjoining property to Reu's parents.  Susannah and Alfred also move nearby to Morwell not long after arriving in 1886.  Sarah's youngest sister Mary Ann Temperance Howlett marries Robert James Wilson in Sale in 1888.  Reu now has a large extended family of his maternal grandmother, maternal and paternal great uncles and aunts, uncles, aunts and cousins in Gippsland.

Charles Ellis appears to be doing rather well as by 1888 ".. his land is valued at 8 pounds an acre and is particularly adapted for grazing purposes, to which, with dairy farming, he devotes it.  He has 30 head of cattle and 25 pigs" (Victoria and its Metropolis past and present Vol II The Colony and its People in 1888, McCarron Bird and Co Melb, p372).  Reu is now around 14 so I am not sure if he is helping his father on the farm or in the butcher's shop.

In 1892 Charles is managing the creamery established opposite the Narracan Railway Station which was providing substantial quantities of cream to the Trafalgar Factory (So Tall the Trees, p139).

Times are to soon to become difficult for the Ellis family if they had not already been so, as their mother Sarah suffered with an ovarian tumour for some 12 years.  Sadly Sarah passes away on 12 November 1895, at the home of her sister, Mrs. A Williams at Morwell, from operation exhaustion, and she was buried at Hazelwood Cemetery (Death Notice, Morwell Advertiser, 15 November 1895). At that time, her six surviving children were Reu 21 years, Charl 19, Nell 17, Bert 15, Edgar 13, and Flo 10 years.
Headstone Sarah E Ellis

Grave Sarah E Ellis - Hazelwood Cemetery

Hazelwood Cemetery Burial Register - Sarah Ellis

OBITUARY .-We regret to have to announce the death of Mrs Sarah Ellis. which sad event took place at the Gippsland Hospital on Tuesday last. The deceased lady suffered from a tumor for the past twelve years which caused her constant suffering. On 14th June she became worse, and was sent to Sale where she lingered in the hospital for twelve weeks, and had to undergo no less than five operations. During her life Mrs. Ellis was a constant worker for the church and was a genial favourite with all who knew her, especially with children. The funeral, which was largely attended, took place on Wednesday afternoon when the Rev. T. Stanley, Wesleyan minister of Warragul officiated at the grave.
(Obituary, Morwell Advertiser, 15 November 1895).

I presume that sister Nell has taken on a lot of responsibility in looking after the family and her younger siblings during her mother's extended illness and after her death. Around this time Eliza Davies helped care for the younger children when Sarah was ill and for a while after she died. Whether the older lads Reu, Charl and Bert are working on the farm or in the district is unclear.

In early March 1900 it is reported "NARRACAN - We will be losing two more of our old residents shortly.  Mr C Ellis having sold his farm, will be leaving the district. (Morwell Advertiser, 2 March 1900).  A Farewell Social was held at the Narracan East Mechanics' hall.  He conducts a successful clearing sale disposing of his cattle and pigs, and working plant.

Later that month, father Charles, farmer residing at Trafalgar remarries on 21 March 1900 at the Wesley Church, Lonsdale Street, Melbourne.  His bride is Barbara Fanny Steel, aged 32, also of Trafalgar.  Significantly one of the witnesses is Eliza Davies.   Father Charles and their stepmother Barbara move to Germantown, now known as Grovedale, a suburb of Geelong.  Regretfully, after 19 days following a difficult labour, Barbara passes away on 29 October 1900. Their unnamed stillborn son delivered on 10 October was buried with his mother Barbara at the Geelong Eastern Cemetery.

Charles places his Germantown property, a 5 acre orchard and vineyard,  on the market soon after in early November citing family bereavement.  He then held a clearing sale in late November after the sale of the property.

Time passes and four years later, father Charles, a farmer at Korumburra marries again on 4 October 1904 to Eliza Lisle Davies at her home at Wesley Hill, near Castlemaine.  Eliza was the witness at his previous marriage so she was no stranger to the Ellis children.  Welcoming a sister, Alma Essie on 20 December 1905 at Kardella near Korumburra, their father returned to South Australia in 1906 with his wife and his youngest daughter, residing for a short time in Clarence Park, before relocating to Lockleys to undertake dairy farming.  The youngest Ellis sibling, Gwenda Ivy was born on 16 January 1908 at Westbourne Park.

So now there were ten surviving Ellis children. All the children from Charles' first marriage remained in Gippsland, their ages ranging from Reu aged 30 down to Flo aged 23.

1 comment:

  1. Hello Robyn, I am very interested to see your blog as my great grandfather was Henry Howlett, son of William Howlett and Mary (Hogben). My grandfather was Samuel James Howlett, son of Henry Howlett and Mary (Watson). I have just recently begun looking into my family history and have read Bill Howlett's book. Sam and some of his brothers moved to Western Australia some time around the1900s, where I live now.