Under the Southern Cross- Robert Stone Gransden

This chapter is under extensive review and will be updated over the next few months. © Tina Bean 2014


Robert Stone Gransden was the eldest son of Robert Wood Gransden and Mary Anne Stone. His second name, like that of his father before him was the name of his mothers maiden name.

Not much is known of Robert’s early life, he was born around 1813 and was baptised in St. Johns Church in Portsea Hampshire. By 1841 Robert was being sent letters in Australia so he had arrived but exactly when and how he arrived is unknown, as is his occupation when he first arrived in Australia.

Robert lived in Sydney for at least two years. Sydney in the 1840’s was a bustling metropolis with trade coming from all around the world to the Sydney’s wharfs. Sydney had grown at a startling pace its infrastructure and government was finding hard to keep pace with the changes to this new colonial city. Water was a constant source of contention, by this time the Tank Stream- Sydney’s main water source, was undercover but the quality of the water still left much to be desired, with stories abounding of shrimps and other aquatic animals coming out of pumps and taps. There was no organised system to deal with waste, sewerage and rubbish. With the result that it was all dumped in the streets and in many cases just walked over. The wealthy often solved the problem by simply dumping their waste in poorer areas of the city. This resulted in further contaminating Sydney’s water supply and causing many health problems.

Many of the houses in the Rocks- where Robert’s sister had worked earlier, were still the huts and shanty’s that had been built by the early European settlers when they had arrived in Australia. The higher areas around the rocks had some lovely houses but the lower areas were populated by the poor and infirm. The roads and footpaths were in poor repair, Argyle Street was totally overrun with filth and it was often impossible for both pedestrians and carriages to safely pass on the roads. The stink meant that the cities more wealthy residence would often go miles out of their way rather than have to pass through the fetid air surrounding the Rocks.

This is the Sydney that Robert would have arrived at. It is probable that he was either sponsored to come to Australia by family and friends or he was able to pay his own way across- this would explain why it has been so difficult to trace his immigration. Robert had definitely reached Sydney by August of 1841 because his name was listed in the government gazette has having not picked up his mail. It is very easy to imagine how his family would have looked forward to responses to the letters that they had written to him.

At this stage it has been impossible to find out what profession Robert was engaged in either back in Portsmouth, before he left, or in Sydney once he arrived. However it is likely that he worked as some sort of labourer. Some of the earliest evidence that is available for Robert’s occupation describes him as a labourer. There were plenty of jobs available in Sydney for labourer’s but the pay was low and the conditions were bad. 1840 was a time of expansion for Sydney and it is probable that Robert worked on some of the many building projects that were to be found throughout Sydney and its nearby suburbs. Alternatively Robert may have worked as an agricultural labourer in one of the more outlaying areas such as Parramatta. However in early 1843, like his sister before him Robert decided to take a trip across the Blue Mountains and make his home in Bathurst.

Little had changed in the four years since Mary Anne and her husband and daughter had crossed the Blue Mountains to Bathurst. The trip was still long and dangerous with the risk of bushrangers and stampedes of cattle an ever present threat. However Robert seems to have made the trip to Bathurst between January and May of 1843, as on Monday the 8th of May Robert was married at O’Connell Plains/ Ralph Plains near Bathurst, to Sophia Stapley. Sophia Stapley had arrived in Australia in 1839 with her first husband Isaac Hoadley. Sophia had married Isaac Hoadley in Sussex England and the couple immigrated to Australia the same year they were married. On their immigration records Isaac was described as a labourer and Sophia as a servant.

Sophia had lived in Sydney for a number of years and then moved to Bathurst with her husband and family of two children, both girls, Emma and Elizabeth. Other members of Sophia’s family the Stapley had also made their home in the Bathurst area. Unfortunately after she arrived in Bathurst Sophia’s husband died leaving her with two young children in a remote and harsh land.

Robert Gransden and Sophia Hoadley’s occurred on Monday the 8th of May 1843. The wedding was witnessed by Henry Stapley of Ralph Plains, Sophia’s brother, who had travelled to Australia some time around 1839-1840 and settled in Bathurst. It is unknown if Sophia and Robert had met in Sydney but considering how fast the trip to Bathurst was and how fast they were married once Robert arrived it seems likely that Robert and Sophia had at least met before he arrived in Bathurst.

It is impossible to know who was at Sophia and Robert’s wedding but it is nice to think that Mary Anne and her children were there, with a couple of the children maybe acting as flower girls or ring bearers. Sophia’s brother Henry would probably have also had his wife Emma and their first child Sophia, probably named after her aunt, at the wedding. Neither bride or grooms family was very wealthy but they would have all done their best to make this a day of celebration. Unlike modern day weddings the bride did not often wear white for a wedding, they dressed in their best clothes- often the clothes that they would wear to church on a Sunday. This wedding taking place on a Monday it is also likely that all the participants then had to go back to work as soon as the celebration was over.

Later that same year Robert had once again forgotten to pick up his mail. The next time he would respond to these letter he would have had so much to tell his family about his trip to Bathurst, his wedding and about meeting up with his younger sister, he may well have not seen her since she had left Portsmouth over 10 years ago in 1833. So much would have changed since those days. Mary Anne by this stage had married and been widowed and she now had two children from her first marriage and two child by her lover, the convict William Russell. It would be another four years before William was granted his conditional pardon and the two of them would be able to get married. Plus of course Robert would have been able to write back home about his new wife and what it was like to become an instant father to two girls both less than four years old.

Robert and Sophia seemed to have moved around in the early days in and around Bathurst. At the time of their first child’s birth- Matilda in 1846 the couple were living in Bathurst and Robert was working as a labourer. There was a large convict contingent in the Bathurst area but the amount of work was unending and a labourer could find work in most of the area’s around Bathurst.

Bathurst and the surrounding district were by this time well established as farm land for producing food and other products for the rapidly expanding colonies. Between the birth of Roberts first two children Matilda, probably named after his own sister Matilda, and Robert, carrying on the Robert name for the third generation of Gransden’s, Robert and Sophia moved from Bathurst to Mudgee. In Mudgee Robert worked as a Shepherd. This was an incredibly lonely job with family’s often living days away from the nearest person and from any help if they need it. Occasionally families would get together when a priest was coming by or for some other reason. It may have been this distance that meant that Robert and Sophia’s daughter was not christened for over a year after she was born. She was christened in Bathurst, possibly on one of their rare trips to a town and to see other family members. Unfortunately, and possibly because of the distances involved Matilda didn’t live very long. It seems that some time between March 1846 and May 1847 Matilda died. Only vague family memories give the approximate date and it seems that with the huge distances that the Gransdens had to travel it is unlikely that the death of their daughter was ever properly registered.

Life as a shepherd would have meant that the Gransdens would live in a small, probably single room dwelling, usually made with slabs of wood and a bark roof. Shepherds huts would have had none of the luxuries of life, the floors would have been hard packed dirt and the windows closed only with shutters. It was common for shepherd’s huts to leak in the rain, smoke during the winter when the fire had to be lit and bake during the summer months. Robert may well have had to build this himself or it may have been built for him by labourers working for the person that Robert would have been working for.

Henry and Sophia’s final child, Henry was born in 1849. At this stage Robert was still working as a shepherd although the couple had moved further north to Lahy’s Creek, the other side of Mudgee.

On the sixth of April 1851 James and William Tom and John Lister found gold at Lewis Ponds Creek, now known and Ophir. When James and William presented their find to their father William Tom also known as Parson Tom he was said to have quoted the line “And they came to Ophir and fetched from thence gold” Kings 1, Chapter 9, verse 28 of the Bible. Making Parson Tom the namer of the first “payable goldfield” in New South Wales.

Exactly what this find meant to Robert Gransden is hard to know, as once again information on what he was doing and where becomes very difficult to find However it could hardly have failed to have some impact on his life, living as he did in an area that was surrounded by goldfields. Mudgee was the centre for several goldmining area’s including Hargraves, the name of the man who originally claimed that he was the person to find gold thus robbing the Tom brothers and Lister of the credit until they won a court case in 1890.

Mudgee was established around 1838 and was primarily an agricultural district. By the time cold was found there was a population of only about 200 including the Gransdens. On the 30th of June 1851 gold was found just 25km west of Mudgee “within a week 150 gold seekers were on the spot and some splendid finds recorded” The exact spot was not recorded. (The Glint of Gold, Garvey and Cook) With the increasing wealth and traffic from the gold fields Mudgee flourished. New stores and houses were put up and regular traffic occurred between Mudgee and Bathurst and from there to Sydney. Although cold was not found right next to where the Gransdens were living until 20 years later they could hardly have been unaware of the mines and it is probable that Robert mined for at least a part of his time in Mudgee. The only thing known for sure is that around this time he was able to purchase his own property back in Sydney and his occupation changed from shepherd to farmer.

The property that Robert owned between 1857 and 1864 was Lot 3 Section 6 Burton St, Village of Longbottom, Parish of Concord, Sydney. It is unknown why Robert decided to buy property in Sydney. Maybe he had visions of moving to Sydney later in life or maybe he was traveling between his home in the West of New South Wales and Sydney on a regular basis and decided that he wanted to own a house rather than stay in hotels when he was in town. All that is known is that for some reason Robert didn’t buy land where he was living for the majority of the time and in 1868 he was a farmer. One possibility was that the house was for Sophia’s two daughters. Elizabeth and Emma both married in 1861 and their marriages both took place in Sydney. It is possible that Robert bought the house for the two girls to live in for a short while.

 Unfortunately the hardship of Robert’s life caught up with him in Carlton on the 4th of October 1868, in Carlton NSW after a three week struggle with pneumonia like symptoms, Robert died at the age of 55.

 Robert left behind his wife Sophia now a widow for the second time and his two sons Robert aged 21 and Henry aged 19. Sophia also still had her two daughters from her previous marriage Emma and Elizabeth, both now married and with children of their own. As well as his wife and sister Robert also died before his father who would have heard months later that his eldest son had died. They probably had not seen each other since Robert immigrated and it is doubtful if Robert Wood Gransden ever met the grandchildren of his eldest child.

 Sophia continued to live in the Bathurst area for another 37 years. By the time Sophia died she had settled in Toogong where her sons had lived for some years and then later she had moved in with her daughter Elizabeth who lived at March near Orange. At the time of her death Sophia had 25 grand children and 35 great great grandchildren. Looking at the photo of Sophia that was used on her funeral card it would be easy to imagine a stern matriarch who ruled her children with a steal hand. However there must have been much affection to as her son Henry, who did not marry was later interred with her and family memory seems to hold her in some affection.

 Sophia was 85 years old when she died, she had come to Australia as a new wife at the age of 19, lost her husband and moved to the interior of NSW. Life was brutal and rough but she was a survivor. By the time Sophia had died she had experienced the gold rushes, and watched her family grow. Bathurst was no longer a remote outpost and in 1876 the new railway line was opened as far as Bathurst. This would have enabled much closer association with those living in Sydney. Sophia would have watched the outlying towns grow and as the gold rushes ended she would have seen them settle down back to agricultural pursuits. Sophia’s youngest son Henry was only 19 when his father died and Sophia herself only 48 when she was widowed for the second time. The next 37 years can not have been easy but Sophia seems to have prospered and lived her life happily.

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