Samuel and Martha in South Australia


 Top photo: Memorial –  Kersbrook Cemetery

 Second photo: Said to  be of  Samuel  Mewett

Third photo: Said to be  of  Martha  Mewett

Fourth photo: Geoffrey G Mewett and Ed (Gustav Edwin) Schubert at 1976 reunion

Fifth photo: Bob Mewett in the 1970s,  his son Robert atop load

A Mewett Family Reunion was held at Williamstown, South Australia, on 16 April, 1976. It was initiated and organised by the late L. Robert (Bob) Mewett of Noradjuha, Victoria, who had been assiduously researching the family history through letter-writing, interviewing members of the older generation at that time and picking the brains of fellow-members of his local historical society.

Geoffrey Gordon Mewett, father of our present-day researcher Darryl Mewett, was a resident of Williamstown and he helped with details at that end and was instrumental in obtaining a stone from the area and a plaque to be placed as a memorial at the then unmarked grave site of our pioneers, Samuel and Martha Mewett.

I prepared and edited A Digest of Mewett Family History for distribution to the descendants who paid homage to our pioneers by attending the reunion. I wrote then that descendants were scattered over Australia, that some still lived and worked in the Kersbrook-Williamstown district, others lived in Western Australia, Alice Springs, Sydney, Victoria including Gippsland and Melbourne; the farmers were strongly represented by Bob Mewett who worked the land selected by his great-grandfather almost 100 years before, and Park Farm was being worked by Adrian and Thomas Mewett.

We assembled at the Williamstown sports/show grounds for the reunion, Kersbrook Cemetery for the unveiling of the memorial, and then at Park Farm under the old oak tree (said to be planted there by Samuel) to exchange stories of life there, at the Williamstown hall at night for a dance-cum-concert at which we sang Sussex By The Sea with substituted references to the Mewetts, and at a Kersbrook church on Sunday to hear the biblical story of Samuel, Jesse and David.

Samuel and Martha had arrived at Port Adelaide on 9 February 1839 aboard the Platina accompanied by their children: Robert aged 10, Susanna aged 8, Charlotte aged 6, Jesse aged 4, and Harriett aged 2. The colony of South Australia had been established just three years and it is not hard to imagine the improvised nature of the accommodation available to immigrants. Elizabeth was born the next year. In the 1841 Census the Mewett family were listed under “Out Stations” on page 11 and again on pages 68 and 69 under “Albert Town – District A”. Both entries gave the spelling of their name as “Muet”. Ruth’s birth registration in 1845 also gave the name as “Muet”.

In 1841 Samuel purchased five acres of land on Dry Creek at Modbury. The land was part of Section 840 and it was sold to Samuel by James Cronk of Adelaide. It was 210 feet wide and 1050 feet long, north to south, sloping gently from the north-west corner down towards Dry Creek. Forty years ago I visited the site describing it in The Digest as being off St Peter’s Drive which in turn is off Wright’s Road near the Main North East Road. Alas! Development in the area has eradicated St Peter’s Drive and any hint of the old fence line on the eastern boundary. (Nearby a Bunnings warehouse now stands as a great monument to progress!)

Opinions differed on the probable use of the land at Modbury. Bob Mewett, a farmer himself, believed that Samuel would have used it as a holding paddock for livestock which he would depasture from time to time. The lack of any sign of a dwelling at the site strengthens Bob’s opinion. The editor, no gardener or farmer himself, believed that the land would have been used for subsistence farming and that the family lived under canvas, a not uncommon circumstance in the early years of the colony. Samuel sold the five acres in March 1846 to William Mortimer for 14 pounds sterling, a loss of one pound on the original purchase price. Without further documentation we can only guess that the family then moved to the Gumeracha district to work as tenant-farmers for the South Australia Company. The registration certificates of John’s birth (January 1852) and Charlotte’s marriage to Thomas Barber (February 1852) confirm that the family was living at Gumeracha in 1852. In that year Samuel purchased 80 acres at nearby Kersbrook naming it Park Farm; he and Martha lived there for the rest of their lives. More about life at Park Farm in my next post.

– almewett

Published in: on September 26, 2011 at 2:43 pm  Comments (3)