Family History – My Grandfather Mewett


                                          Ted Mewett and first wife, Emma Lloyd

Edward John (Ted) Mewett, born in South Australia in 1863, fathered 7 children with his first wife, Emma Lloyd, in Victoria; and 9 children with his second wife, Elsa Ruslena May, daughter of George Christian Geiger who came from a wine-producing area called Grantschen in Wurttemberg, Germany to work at St Hubert’s vineyard near Yering and Lilydale, Victoria. It was there at St Hubert’s that Elsa was born in 1887 to George’s wife, Caroline Geiger.

Ted was what we now would call a control freak, a hard, dominating father. As a railway ganger he won prizes for the best maintained line in the district but was an exacting overseer of his gang. If a worker reported for work but was too ill to carry on, Ted would threaten him with the sack if he did not get on the rail trolley to travel up the line. Approaching lunchtime the men would watch Ted closely because he was in the habit of downing tools after glancing at his pocket watch and starting his lunch without them.

At home he would set tasks for his daughters, to scrub the wooden kitchen table, to sweep the floors especially the corners where dust accumulated; he would leave a list of jobs to be done before he returned from work. And there would be no excuses! His young sons once evened the score by using a gimlet to introduce ants into his locked tool box where he kept his own delicacies, such as butter, denied to the rest of the family.

He was unreasonably jealous of his 22-years-younger wife and it was in the railway town of Wycheproof, their home town for years, that the retired railway worker threatened Elsa with a gun in a fit of jealousy. His sons rebelled and threw him out. The rejected father travelled to Melbourne and lived with each of the married children from his first marriage. On the farm with Ruby and Will Weaver he spent his days sitting on the ground under the gum trees facing the east towards the Sydney Road (now the Hume Highway) 2 miles away, and the main north-south railway line 3 or 4 miles away where he could hear the steam trains, perhaps knowing from the sounds if they were passenger or goods trains, the type of locomotive, the speed, the condition of the tracks, and whether the trains were on time. But Will was a hard-working farmer and expected others to help with jobs on the farm. Ted came to Seddon, a suburb of Melbourne, to stay with his eldest son, Perce, my father. My mother thought him a strangely quiet old man who was content to sit on his own under a tree and not talk. He then travelled to Bendigo where he stayed with his daughter Emily for a time, correcting his son-in-law’s gardening practices, a day-to-day battle to heap soil up at the base of plants only for it to be raked away next day.

Finally, nobody really wanted him; the love he denied them over the years was, in turn, denied him, perhaps when he needed it most. He died of senile decay and heart failure in a Salvation Army Old Men’s Retreat in Blackburn at age 71 and was buried in an unmarked grave at Springvale cemetery. The death certificate was as uncommunicative as he was in life: parents, unknown; if married, unknown; issue, unknown; birthplace, Mount Pleasant, South Australia. Just one clue to research his family history. We now know it all and future postings on this weblog will give the details, the knowledge that Ted denied his family.

– almewett –

Published in: on June 28, 2011 at 4:37 pm  Comments (7)  

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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hi Al,
    My nans last name was Mewett, and she was from Wycheproof. Her name was Elsie May. She married Benjamin James Darby, and then moved to Heyfield, that is where my dad was born. I didnt know much about her family.just wondering if it is just a coincidence?
    She loved to clean, and everything was always shining!
    All of your posts are very interesting, hope to hear more.

  2. Hi Lucinda,
    Benjamin James Darby was my grandmother’s brother (Doreen Mavis Darby. Any information you have on his family and your other family members would be so fascinating to learn about…
    Stephanie Gilmour

  3. Hi Al,
    My nan was Gwendoline, daughter of Mona (Monica Adelaide) who I believe was your aunt. I only met my great grandmother a couple of times, she was a stern woman who was not too fond of children! I had previously only seen names and dates of the Mewett family so it’s fantastic to read the family history you have compiled. I had wondered about Edward (Ted) and his 16 children!

    Best regards,

    • Hello Kristy,
      Thank you for your comment re Monica Adelaide
      on my blog Who Were They. That was almost 3
      months ago! I have had a bout of shingles since
      late November which left me without the energy or
      desire to attend to everyday matters.
      I knew your great-grandmother pretty well for she was
      a visitor to our house from time to time. My lasting
      impression of her was her voice; she was well spoken
      and spoke with care and deliberation. She once corrected
      my pronunciation of garage “grarj” to “gar’ arge” with
      accent on the first syllable and a long soft “g”. Her voice
      was low, beautifully modulated, with a ‘break’ between
      her middle and low voice. Her sister, Ruby, also had a
      beautiful voice and was much admired by me.
      Down through the Mewett generations has come a fastidiousness
      which, I think, reached its peak with Monica. Her brother-in-law
      Will Weaver used to say that you could eat your dinner off
      Mona’s kitchen floor. At the tailor’s shop in Reservoir Uncle
      Tom would exit through the shop entrance and walk down the
      sideway to the rear lavatory to avoid leaving a trail of threads
      through the house.
      When the threshing machine was operating at Weaver’s farm
      Monica helped Ruby prepare 3 hot meals a day for the team of
      itinerant workers, serving them with her usual grace.
      Monica was serious rather than stern, and expected children to
      be on their best behaviour as my brother and I knew well.
      Her father, Ted, was a control freak, almost tyrannical, and
      Monica feared him. In later years when I asked her about Ted,
      she would shake at the very thought of him.
      My wife Mary remembers that Monica used to test knitting
      patterns for Patons for mistakes before they were published.
      I can only think kindly of Monica for she opened my eyes/ears
      to speech and words, to gentleness and refinement. Her Christmas
      pudding recipe is still used in our family and we remember and
      acknowledge her at that time.
      Regards from your cousin Alan Mewett

  4. Hi Uncle Alan

    Sorry to hear you have been unwell. Wishing you a speedy recovery.

    Love Susan M.

  5. Hi Alan – I’m also sorry to hear you were unwell and hope that you are now fully recovered. Thank you so much for the reply and description of Monica. It certainly paints a picture I can identify with, and it seems some of her traits are very much present within our family to this day.
    I’m really pleased you have such fond memories of her.

    I only recently discovered that my Aunty Sandra corresponds with you and has asked you to enquire into some other matters. Nan’s background has always been quite mysterious so any insights are treasured. She was a big part of my childhood, and very much loved.

    Thank you to Mary for the mention of Mona’s knitting – my brother and I spent many Saturday nights with our nan teaching us the basics of knitting. She was always making something or another and all the while picking up our lost stitches.
    We also use the famous Christmas pudding recipe! The mantle was passed to me by my mother just a few years ago and my husband and children all help with the preparation, with mum double checking everything we do to ensure the quality isn’t compromised! It’s my favourite part of the Christmas meal, and it’s nice to know the wider family are also enjoying the same tradition.

    Thanks again for sharing with me
    With best regards to you

  6. Hi Al!
    I have just discovered your blog. I want to congratulate you on a wonderful job on the Mewett family. I decended from Samuel and Martha Mewett, from their daughter Charlotte who married Thomas Barber. Their son Richard is my Great Grandfather. I went to Adelaide 2 weeks ago, and visited Samuel and Martha’s grave in Kersbrook Cemetery. I was not sure whether I would find anything, so imagine my surprise to find the lovely memorial that has been erected! I had started to write up what I had found out about Samuel and Martha, but how wonderful to find that you have done an outstanding job already! If I can help in any way, let me know, as I don’t think duplication serves any purpose. At some stage I hope to find Thomas and Charlotte Barber’s graves in Victoria. I hope to find photos of them as well. Once again congratulations on doing such a wonderful job and sharing these stories.
    Kind regards,


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