Family History – The Giddings of Gumeracha

                                                 Mrs Wm Giddings (nee Ann Lee)

The only great-great-great-grandparents of mine to emigrate to Australia were John Giddings and Mary Whitwell who were married on 26 May 1811, at Sawtry, an English village in the county of Cambridgeshire – a bicentenary I failed to observe recently on this weblog!  (You might notice my practice of naming married women by their maiden names in these histories; I do this to indicate the spread of families as we go back through the generations, the sources of our present-day genes and DNA.)

John and Mary’s son, William, was married to Ann Lee in 1834 at the same village church in Sawtry. Twenty-one years later John, aged 67, and Mary (64), and their son, William (42) and Ann (37), emigrated aboard the Punjab bound for South Australia. Accompanying them were their eight grandchildren/ children: Rhoda (19), Mary Ann, William, Elizabeth, John, Benjamin, James, George Butler . The One Pound cost of their passage was paid by Edward McAllister, a landholder in South Australia, the grandparents’ fare being 11 pounds each.

William and Ann first settled at Kersbrook but later moved to close-by Kenton Valley. It was here that he carted the stone used in building the Methodist Church at Gumeracha of which he was one of the first trustees. From Kenton Valley the Giddings family moved to North Gumeracha (Forreston) where they rented land from the South Australian Company. In 1872 they purchased an adjoining farming property upon which they remained until their retirement to a cottage in the township of Gumeracha.

Since their arrival in South Australia in 1855, another daughter, Sarah, was born; and the eldest daughter, Rhoda, was married to Jesse Mewett in 1856 at Samuel Mewett’s property, Park Farm, near Kersbrook..

The Giddings family was held in high esteem in the Gumeracha district, and they took an enthusiastic interest in church matters. William possessed a mighty faith in God and the ‘Good Book’ which led him to a heated debate with William Hicks in the saddler’s shop when he was most emphatic that Pharoah’s heart was actually hardened because the Bible said so. William was also involved in some heat generated by an incumbent minister’s plan to instal a communion rail for the chuchgoers to come forward and kneel while receiving the Sacrament as they would have in High Church and the Catholic church.

At this point in the story I must quote in full from Gumeracha 1839 – 1939,  A Centenary History edited by J. E. Monfries and published by Lynton Publications in 1939, and from which the previous paragraph was extracted:

  • And what of this old pioneer’s wife? The writer altogether fails to imagine what that dear old lady would think of the representatives of so many of her sex today, with their painted lips and lacquered fingernails and their cocktails!  The writer readily recalls the picture of that fine specimen of her race in her little home in Murray Street, where in snowy white apron she busied herself in a kitchen that was spotless in its cleanliness, and where upon the mantelpiece coffee and mustard tins shone with a brilliance that lacked nothing by comparison with a jeweller’s shop of today, and where there was unshakeable character and absolute thoroughness in everything that had to be undertaken. 

I am proud to claim Mrs Wm Giddings, Ann Lee, as my great-great-grand-mother; in spirit, she lived on in her great-granddaughters, my Mewett aunts, one of whom, Monica, was so fastidious that my uncle Will Weaver claimed you could have eaten your dinner off the kitchen floor. Hark back to my weblog posting where I described my aunts as girls scrubbing the kitchen table, cleaning the silverware and thoroughly sweeping the floors under the strict supervision of their father, my grandfather Ted Mewett.

If you should visit Gumeracha and nearby towns on a pilgrimage, then see the old cemetery behind the Methodist Church in Kersbrook.  John and Mary were buried there in 1864 and 1871; William and Ann in 1897 and 1899. The inscription on the latters’ headstone reads:

The forms we used to see / Were but the raiment they used to wear / The grave that now doth press / Upon the cast off dress / Is but the wardrobe locked.                        They are not there.

                                                                                                                                          – almewett

Published in: on June 29, 2011 at 1:05 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. Hi Jesse Mewett is my great great grandfather. My father was the son of Laurel Eva Mewett, Daughter of David William Mewett, son of Jesse Mewett and Rhonda Giddings.
    My father due to some interesting circumstances was adopted – to a family called Coulter ( Semaphore/ Adelaide)… Hence my surname. We only found out about all of this when my father died last year.
    So I guess we are very distant cousins…
    Best regards, Keryn Coulter.

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