Thomas and Walter Axford

Thomas and Walter Axford

Thomas Axford who was born at Thorpe, near Bothwell Tasmania. He was sent home to England when 10 years of age to be educated, and spent the next 7 years at a school at Bath. On his return to Tasmania he remained with his father, who was engaged in sheep-raising and milling until 1855, when the latter met his death under tragic circumstances, being cruelly murdered by Rocky Whelan an escaped convict, near Constitution Hill in the Green Ponds District whilst journeying to Hobart. Thomas Axford went to the Victorian diggings at the times of the gold rush in 1851, like many other Tasmanians, and subsequently proceeded with his family to Ballarat where he indulged in various occupations.

In 1874 he took charge of Sir William Clarke's station near Invercargill, New Zealand, and four years later came to South Australia to take charge of the Hon. JH Angas' Hill River station, near Clare. When the great rush set in to the north on the opening up of new farming Hundreds, Thomas Axford preceded with his family to the Hundred of Bendleby where on 27 April 1880 he bought section 156 of 383 acres and section 146 of 489 acres and remained for the next 18 years trying to make a go of it. His son Walter Richard bought section 109 of 387 acres and section 110 of 345 acres at the same time.

Register, 21 March 1882

During his time at Bendleby he took considerable interest in public matters and for many years acted as a Justice of the Peace. He was a recognised authority on wool and wheat and was formerly a frequent prize taker at English and Continental Exhibitions. He was listed as a JP and farmer at Belton from 1890-1893. When his health started failing, friends induced him to move to Tarrawatta where his last days were spent amidst pleasanter surroundings than would have been obtainable in the arid north. Thomas Axford, one of the oldest settlers in the Hundred of Bendleby died on 23 September 1899 at Tarrawatta near Angaston, at the age of 73.

Thomas Axford left a widow, two daughters, Mrs R. M. Osborne of Adelaide and Miss Axford of Castlemaine V. and four sons Messrs Walter Richard, F.T. and C.E. Axford of Coolgardie, and Mr M.L. Axford of Port Pirie. Three of the sons attended the Hutchins School in Tasmania.

His son, Walter Richard Axford who was also born in Bothwell, Tasmania before his family moved to Victoria, had worked for some 20 years for the Ballarat Hardware Company and for several years was an active member of the Ballarat City Fire Brigade before he took up farming at Bendleby where he got married. After his father's health failed and farming not being very remunerative, Walter changed profession and worked as an auctioneer and commission agent at Carrieton. In April 1884 he was elected secretary and treasurer of the Johnburgh branch of the South Australian Farmers Mutual Association and was appointed Town Clerk and Justice of the Peace in 1885. A year later he became Patron of the Carrieton Racing Club and in 1887 was listed as a JP.

In April 1888 he was appointed Lieutenant of the Volunteer Forces Mounted Rifles and Chairman of the Local Board of Health for the District of Eurelia. However the lot of the struggling farmers was closest to his heart. In October of that year he chaired one of the many meetings to discuss the Land Bill or any other issue related to the improvement of the farmers or the town. In 1889 he was Chairman of the Eurelia District Council. A lot of his time was taken up attending Court cases. He was regularly asked to act as a judge on show days or at the Catholic Sport Days.

On 9 November 1888 the Advertiser published one of his long and often detailed letters about his views on the proposed new Land Bill. Six months later he chaired a meeting at Carrieton to promote a railway line from Carrieton to Mannahill or Winnininnie to accommodate the Barrier Trade. During 1890, while still farming at Bendleby and in 1891 he was working hard in his capacity as auctioneer selling houses, furniture and large sections of land from farmers who were leaving the district.

T Burgoyne 1900 (SLSA)

With the coming elections for the South Australian House of Assembly in 1890, Walter was listed as supporting T Burgoyne and T Playford, the candidates for the Newcastle electorate. However he also nominated himself as a candidate. One of the other nominees was Patrick Boyce Coglin, a Catholic from Brompton. When the final votes were counted Burgoyne had received 777 votes, Hancock 481 and Walter only 171. Coglin who had been successful twice before, now barely had any votes, he got a paltry 39. Naturally only the first two were successful. A few months later though Walter became secretary of the Carrieton Implement and Foundry Company.

At the age of 37 Walter Richard married 22 years old Margaret Ann Helena McQuillan on 25 November 1890 at the Archbishops Court in Adelaide. On 12 December 1891 his wife gave birth to a daughter, Lucy who on 2 May 1913 married Harold Rosewarne at St Mary's Church Kalgoorly. In 1892 he became a member of the Carrieton Agricultural Bureau. On 19 January 1893 Margaret and Walter had a son, Harry Arnold who was followed by another son on 18 June 1894. He was named Thomas Leslie, and would become one of the best known VC heroes in Australia.

By the mid-1890s the drought in the North had really taken a hold. The dust became 'unendurable' and 'desolation reigned supreme'. Once again Walter did his very best and attended or chaired meetings attempting to get the government to do something for the farmers. From 1894 onwards he was listed as an accountant, clerk, auctioneer, agent and Registrar of dogs. Two more sons were born; Harold Dow on 9 September 1895 and Laurence Walter on 18 October 1896.

As the drought became more severe, resulting in a general downturn of his business and no hope of improvement in the foreseeable future, Walter did what many other farmers and unemployed workers already had done. In November 1897 Walter and his wife and children moved to the Coolgardie goldfields in Western Australia where he found work as an accountant. Before departing a number of residents of Carrieton assembled at O'Grady's Hotel for the purpose of saying good-by to Walter. Mr Gleeson spoke in complimentary terms of the good work Mr Axford had done in the district and presented him with a Gladstone bag, suitably inscribed, as token of the esteem in which he was held. Other speakers endorsed Mr Gleeson's sentiments.

For the next 12 years he worked on and off at Coolgardie or other nearby mining towns as a clerk and later auditor. In November 1900 Walter became the Coolgardie correspondent for the Kalgoorlie Miner. A few months later he applied for the position of town clerk and treasurer at Coolgardie but withdrew it in March. On 24 December 1901 Walter was charged with being the occupier of premises used as a common gaming house. He pleaded not guilty but was found guilty anyway and fined one shilling plus costs. That same week he was offered, and accepted, a position as accountant.

In May 1902 he resigned his position as auditor but in July 1903 registered as a Bookmakers' Clerk. In May 1904 he became secretary of the Leonora District Hospital and kept that job for a few years. In 1905 he added the job of auditor for the hospital as well. In between these duties he was involved in several other activities, among them Juror in a Magisterial Enquiry.

Walter was still at Leonora in 1906 but now strange things were happening. On 26 July 1906 the newspapers reported that 'Rumours have been in circulation today concerning an alleged shortage in connection with the accounts of the secretary and collector of the local hospital (W.R. Axford), who has not been seen in town since yesterday afternoon. When interviewed this afternoon the president of the committee stated that he received a letter last night from the secretary, admitting defalcations of 58, which he had spent in gambling, and stating that he was leaving, not to escape justice, but because he was ashamed to meet his friends. No tidings have so far been received of the whereabouts of Axford. The police are in communication with other stations, and a warrant has been issued for the arrest of Axford'.

The next day they reported that; Up to a late hour tonight no tidings were received of the missing hospital secretary and collector, W.R. Axford, for whose arrest a warrant has been issued, on a charge of embezzling 58. His early arrest is anticipated by the police. On opening his office, three cheques and 12 shillings in silver were found on the table, all belonging to the hospital. The bicycle belonging to the institution was also in the office. Axford was last seen walking towards Gwalia at about 5 p.m. yesterday. The police, on visiting his camp on the residence areas, found everything in order, and from appearances surmised that he had not slept there the previous night.

Whatever happened after that is unknown at this stage but it must all have turned out satisfactorily. No convictions were recorded and when an election was held for a new auditor it was recorded that 'Very little interest was taken in the election held today to fill the vacancy caused by the retirement of Mr. W R. Axford as a municipal auditor'.

Shaw Street 2015

On 10 November 1910, while the family was living in Shaw Street, Coolgardie, they had another son. Shortly after the family moved to Kalgoorlie where Walter again worked as an accountant for several businesses.

Although still fairly young, Walter had problems with his health and when he died, at the age of 65 on 26 August 1918 at 29 Bourke Street, all members of the family were at his bedside, except his son Jack who was in France with the AIF. His funeral was attended by a large number of people whom included the Kalgoorlie Mayor and Councillors in their official capacity. Walter was survived by his wife, and all 9 children, Lucy, Harry, Thomas Leslie, Don, Gertie, Aileen, Nora, Wallie and Robert. A tenth child had died at infancy.


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