John Baptist Austin, South Australia

John Baptist Austin

John Baptist Austin, the first, practised in London as a surgeon. His son John Baptist Austin, the second, was born on Christmas Day, 1799, and he too, received training as a surgeon. He married Margaret Young in 1826 and a year later opened a school at Hastings, in Sussex. In 1836 he was ordained a minister of the Congregational Church. It was at Hastings that his son John Baptist Austin, the third, was born 28 March 1827.

John and his seven siblings came to Adelaide with their parents the Rev John Baptist and his wife Margaret. They left England on 23 September 1843 in the barque Augustus, commanded by Captain John Hart. After a short stop at the island of St Jago, collecting fresh supplies, it was smooth sailing all the way to South Australia. The family sighted Kangaroo Island on 29 December and disembarked at Port Adelaide on 1 January 1844.

They spent their first Sunday in Adelaide among the congregation worshipping under the pastorate of Rev. T. Q. Stow, in Freeman Street. Their first move was to a cottage on East Terrace, organised by Captain Hart. After having unloaded all their belongings they were ready for the next move.

The Rev. Austin, teacher, preacher, scientist, doctor and farmer, took his family to Macclesfield where they were looked after by Samuel Davenport and his wife. Home for the time being was a large tent while covering all their belongings as best as they could.

Their first job was erecting a slab hut of three rooms, the four boys stayed in the tent, on the 500 acre property which he had bought before leaving England. The property later became known as Lashbrooke. On 20 November 1856, his 19 year old son Thomas Henry died after his horse ran into a tree. His daughter Anne Elizabeth died at Lashbrooke on 19 March 1870, aged 31 years.

On 29 August 1865 the Rev. Austin performed the marriage between his second son Edward and Emily Mary Harris, the daughter of another Reverend. On 1 October 1872 the Rev. Austin married again, this time to Phoebe Davies Hinton, the fourth daughter of the Rev. J. Howard Hinton, MA of Clinton, England. The Rev. J. B. Austin died at Unley Park on January 31, 1882. By this time there were 3 surviving sons, 2 daughters and 43 grandchildren.

His 25 year old son John Baptist married 23 year old Susannah Scrutton on 8 April 1852. They were to have four children. The first one, Margaret Rebecca was born on 2 May 1854 at Burnside followed by John Alexander on 9 July 1855 also at Burnside. John Baptist became interested in, and involved with, the South Australian mining industry and was soon regarded an authority on mining matters in South Australia. This passion lasted for the rest of his life. In 1856 he became a member of the Burnside District Council but did not get to attend any meetings as he left for Victoria.

John became interested in and involved with the South Australian mining industry and was soon regarded an authority on mining matters in South Australia. This passion lasted for the rest of his life. In 1856 he became a member of the Burnside District Council but did not get to attend any meetings as he left for Victoria.

He gained a considerable experience on the Victorian goldfields between 1856 and 1859. While in Victoria a daughter, Mary Elizabeth Conquest, was born at Beechworth. She died 26 July 1859 at Geelong. However on 21 March 1860 they had a third daughter, Annie Elizabeth Kate, named after John’s sister, at Greenhill. Sadly she died of bronchitis only seven months later at Kensington on 18 October.

After his return to South Australia he made an extensive tour visiting all its mines in 1862 and published his book The mines of South Australia; including also an account of the smelting works in that colony, together with a brief description of the country and incidents of travel in the bush.

In 1863 Austin gave a lecture to about 200 people on the north of South Australia and its mines, which he had visited to write his book. His Excellency the Governor, Sir Dominick Daly, who chaired the evening, was pleased to attend and hear about a subject of vital interest to South Australia and its people. At the close of the lecture Austin was warmly applauded after which he showed some of his sketches by means of the magic lantern.

That same year he bought land in the Moonta area and became secretary of several mining and other companies including the Adelaide Mining Company, the West Kanmantoo Mining Company and the London and Lancashire Life Insurance Company. He also got to know Robert Fiveash and Henry Martin who were both involved with mines in the northern Flinders Ranges.

Austin was impressed by the Bremer Mine’s operations and praised its manager, Alfred Hallett, for his development which he considered to be the model Mine of South Australia. He also became secretary of the Wallaroo Railway Company. While at Wallaroo his wife Susannah died on 7 December 1865. Frank Austin, son of JA and ID Austin, is also buried there.

On 24 August 1867 Austin married 33 year old Ellen Heard Beamish at the residence of Captain Drew at Wallaroo. The ceremony was performed by the Rev. J. Leslie Smith. They were to have three children. On 5 August 1869 they had a daughter, Mary Ellen, at Gawler. On 10 October 1874 twins Annie Elizabeth and Ellen Elizabeth were born at North Adelaide. Sadly Ellen Elizabeth died four weeks later on 8 November. The Austins lived in Burnside from 1876 until his death in 1896.

Early in 1869 Austin set up the Gawler Times and Goldfield Reporter and the first issue appeared on 5 March. In 1875 he stood for election of the House of Assembly but was narrowly defeated by Johann Wilhelm Albrecht Sudholz, who in an article outlining his political views did not even mention mining.

Austin continued his interest in, and support for, the mining industry. While in Gawler he was the local agent for the Royal Association for Promotion of the Fine Arts in Scotland, the Equitable Fire Insurance Company and other companies. During his time with the Gawler Times and Goldfield Reporter, the paper could, and maybe should have been known as the Gawler Times and Goldmining Supporter as he contributed numerous articles in support of mining and the mining industry.

After he left the paper there were no more lengthy editorials devoted to the benefits of mining, in particular gold mining, to the Barossa Valley and South Australia in general. No more complaints about government or private hindrance or inactivity to matters dealing with the mining industry either. Nor were there as many pleas for government assistance.

Soon after leaving Gawler, Austin had an office at the Adelaide Exchange where he worked as a Stock and Sharebroker, Commission Agent and Loans negotiator. Moreover, he attended government land sales and sold wheat and other produce.

In his spare time Austin wrote regular reports about South Australian mines, and mining in general, for the London Mining Journal, from as early as 1863, and the New York Mining Journal as well as the Australian Mining Standard and the Mount Barker Courier. He had been and still was secretary of numerous mining companies and director of several others.

When gold was discovered at Waukaringa in October 1886 he reported on it in the Advertiser. Three years later, in December 1891 he visited the Yudanamutana gold find and stated that the gold had been found in the old Sir Dominick copper mine. He brought with him some samples for a more careful test.

As late as 1 April 1892, he acquired gold lease 329 on section 220 at Wadnaminga and on 5 January 1893 he applied for a reef claim at Chapman’s Gully. One of his last appointments was a directorship of the Leigh’s Creek Coal Mining Company in 1893.

Austin died 11 September 1896 aged nearly 69. His largely attended funeral took place in the quiet little cemetery of Mitcham on Sunday afternoon 13 September 1896. His father the Rev. Austin and Emily May, wife of his brother Edward, share the same burial plot in the old cemetery.

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Mitcham Cemeteries

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