The Rowe families

The Rowe Families

Like members of the Campbell families, many of the Rowe family members also contributed to the development and history of South Australia. Among the first members of the Rowe families to arrive in Australia were 42 Rowe convicts, including a John Rowe who was convicted at Middlesex in 1813 and transported on the General Hewett. He arrived on 31 March 1814 to make his contribution to Australia.

John Harris Rowe, born in Cornwall, the extreme south-western county of England, in 1842, came with his parents to South Australia when only seven years old. His father William bought 400 acres at Port Gawler and successfully farmed there until his death in 1876. John worked with his father until 1867 when he bought his own property.

However in 1880 he sold it all and started a contracting and carrying business at Two Wells. In 1907 he handed his business to his sons Peter and Josiah. John was a long-time member of the local Institute and Loges. He was also a member and Warden of the Church of England at Virginia. After his marriage to Catherine O’Loughlin of Thebarton they had six sons, three of whom were blacksmiths around Two Wells.

Josiah Rowe left England for South Australia in 1852 and started farming near Angle Vale. Later he also bought land at Port Gawler and continued his farming very successfully. At the time of his death on 17 April 1878 he left some 3000 acres to his family. His son John, born in 1857, got the homestead block. Later he bought more land as well.

During his life he was at times a member of the Port Gawler District Council, the Two Wells Amalgamated Agricultural and Horticultural Society, Methodist Church and a teacher and Superintendent of the local Sunday School. There are a large number of Rowes buried at the Two Wells Cemetery.

Cornish migrants though are much better remembered for their connections with and contributions to the mining industry as well as their mobility. Members of different Rowe families not only travelled to South Australia but once there they moved to the different colonies, New Zealand, America, Cuba, India and many other countries.

The Rev John Rowe in 1850 thought nothing of walking between Burra and Kapunda to look after the miners’ religious needs. Another Rev TM Rowe moved to Blinman in 1872 to support its miners there for a number of years while the Rev G Rowe went to Streaky Bay in 1914. William J Rowe worked at the Kanmantoo mine in the Adelaide Hills but died at Marree on 13 January 1866, aged 66.

Thomas John Rowe, born in 1853 came to South Australia with his parents when only one year old. As a young boy he started work at the Burra mine but was later hired by Captain Warmington of the Wallaroo mine. After some years he turned his back on mining and became a salesman in Perth. After 20 years in the West he returned to Kadina where he died in April 1933.

John Henry Rowe departed for Australia from Plymouth on 30th September 1865 on the Gosforth and arrived in Port Adelaide on 25th December 1865. Within a short time he made his way to Moonta, where copper had been discovered in 1861. John Henry sent numerous letters to his family in Cornwall, praising the virtues of Moonta and South Australia.

When his father died in 1872, his mother Elizabeth decided to take advantage of the free immigration scheme and join her eldest son in South Australia. The death of her little daughter, Diana, early in 1873 may have been another deciding factor. In mid-April 1873, Elizabeth said farewell to her family and departed from Plymouth on the City of Adelaide.

Travelling with her to South Australia were her daughters Elizabeth Jane Rowe, Christiana Penberthy Rowe and her sons Isaac Penberthy Rowe, with his wife Charity Carbis Rowe and their daughter, two years old Elizabeth, and Richard Nicholas Rowe as well as William James Rowe and Stephen Thomas Rowe. They reached Port Adelaide on 3 July 1873 and proceeded to Moonta to join John Henry.

An example of both geographic and social mobility within one family is shown by the Rowe brothers whose parents John Rowe, born on 6 August 1791, and Joanna Symons, born about 1789, were married on 28 May 1814 and lived at St Agnes, Cornwall. They eventually had six sons and three daughters.

Their first born was John in 1816, followed by William in 1819, James on 5 May 1822, Alice Symons in 1824, Abel in March 1825, Joanna in 1828, Nanny in 1831, Francis on 1 September 1833 and Samuel in 1836. According to the 1841 UK Census, the whole family, including Joanna’s 85 year old mother, was living at Goonvrea.

All but two members of this family eventually moved to South Australia but once there several of them moved to other colonies, including Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia. Some even went to New Zealand, either for a short time or permanently.

William Rowe

William Rowe born on 10 October 1819 worked in the mines from the age of 10 and was the first to leave home and country. After having been recruited by Captain James Ninnis to mine copper in New Zealand he, his wife Susanna, nee Cocking, and daughters Susan, born 8 September 1843 and Priscilla, born 20 April 1845 sailed from Falmouth for Sydney on the Agostina on 23 July 1845. From Sydney they continued on to New Zealand.

The following is taken from a letter written by James Ninnis. ‘The weather has again been fine for several days and today we were again privileged with Divine service, then Mr Rowe gave us a very excellent discussion on the characters of ‘The Righteous and the Sinner’. He is often called the Parson but not always out of respect, but he does not seem to care for what men do say, he preaches Christ to all as the sinner’s friend, and pounds out in plain language the fearful consequences of a life of sin and open rebellion against God’.

After nearly six months, on 14 January 1846, they arrived on the island of Kawau where William would start work at the Kawau Mine at £10 per month. While at Kawau their two daughters died during 1846. However four more children were born on the island. Susan on 19 December 1846, William on 10 February 1848, James on 13 December 1849 and John on 12 October 1851.

By 1847 William had joined the local Abstinence Society. On 26 June, 1847, The New Zealander reported the minutes of the first Annual General Meeting of the Kawau Total Abstinence Society, extoling the benefits of membership and attributing it success to William Rowe’s untiring efforts. A small Chapel was built, where William preached generally twice every Sunday.

In 1854 he stood unsuccessfully for the Provincial Council. In 1856 William and Susanna were living at Wakefield Street, Auckland. During their time in Auckland they had a further five children. Priscilla was born on 8 September 1853, Joanna on 2 August 1855, Mary on 28 June 1857, Elizabeth in January 1861 followed by Francis Thomas in October of the same year.

William later managed numerous mines, including the famous Caledonian Mine in Thames, one of the richest gold mines in the world at that time. He also became a well-known identity and was elected Member of Parliament in Auckland where he represented the Thames electorate from 1876 until 1879. After his parliamentary career he went back to developing and managing mines. William died on 1 July 1886 after contracting pneumonia while developing a new mine at Waihi.

That same day the reporter for the Evening Post wrote, 'William Rowe, formerly M.H.R. for this district, died this morning. Mr Rowe was in his younger days a fine stamp of the Cornish miner. He arrived in the colony upwards of 40 years ago, taking up his residence in Auckland, where he laboured for some years as a working man, in which capacity he led a very exemplary life.

He was greatly esteemed as a leader of the higher class of the working element in Auckland city. He was and continued to be for many years a Wesleyan Sunday School teacher and a local preacher, and though rough in exterior was a well-informed man, and was respected for his many estimable qualities.

About the year 1860 he was placed in charge of the Drury coal mines, and continued as manager of the workings until the gold fields broke out at the Thames in 1867, when he went to that district, and was engaged by several Auckland capitalists to mark out ground for them. He selected several claims which afterwards turned out to be immensely rich. He became manager of the famous Caledonian mine, the Moanatairi, and other claims.

He continued in the successful management of these mines for several years and eventually becoming possessed of considerable wealth, he retired from mining life as a worker. He was reported to be worth £1600 a year, and had a number of valuable properties in Auckland, but continuing to speculate; he ultimately lost the bulk of his means, and of late years has been employed as a labourer in various mines in the place where he had accumulated his wealth.

Mr Rowe for many years took an active part in politics, and was at one time a leading member of the Auckland Provincial Council, to which body he was elected about the year 1865, remaining a member until the Abolition of Provincialism took place. He was elected for the Thames seat in the House of Representatives in 1872, and sat as member for that district during two parliaments. The deceased leaves a wife, several sons and daughters and grandchildren’. His wife Susanna died five months later on 7 November 1886 at Thames.

John Rowe

William’s older brother John born in 1816, and christened on 23 February 1817, at St Agnes became a tin miner like his father. He married Eliza Richards, born about 1813, at St Agnes near Truro, Cornwall on 20 August 1846 and also left Cornwall for better prospects. He decided on South Australia instead and left with his wife from Plymouth on the David Malcolm on 13 October 1846. While at sea, and unbeknown to them, John’s father died on 12 November 1846, aged 56 years.

After the death of his father, John’s brother Abel, born 1825, together with his mother Joanna and siblings Alice, Joanna, Nancy, Francis and Samuel also migrated to South Australia. They sailed on the ship Samuel Boddington on 12 January 1849. James decided to stay in Cornwall where he married Thomasine Scantlebury. Their lot was not a happy one. Thomasine died in December 1851 while James died at Liskeard, Cornwall in 1866.

After arriving at Port Adelaide on 23 January 1847 John and Eliza made their home in Pirie Street Adelaide. Here John assayed mineral samples from all over South Australia. In June 1848 he gave a good report on samples from the Port Lincoln Mines as well as for those of the Burra mine. On 11 August 1848 John and Eliza had a son at Chesser Lane, off Pirie Street, Adelaide. They named him John and he was baptized by the Rev. DJ Draper at the Gawler Place Wesleyan Chapel in Adelaide. On the 24th May 1879 he would be married by B Hussey to Emma, second daughter of Samuel Bosher of Adelaide.

One of John’s first major jobs was his appointment at the Wheal Watkins at Glen Osmond, opened in 1843. During 1850 John managed Wheal Barton after his resignation in 1849 from the Apoinga Smelting works near Black Springs. He soon showed an interest in politics and during the 1851 elections he supported Francis S Dutton. In 1852 John was living at Gilles Street but by 1854 John and his young family where living at Kapunda. Here he took up the position of Chief Assayer for the mine.

During the mid-1850s John and his brother Francis, as well as Nanny’s husband, were part of a large number of Kapunda men who tried their luck on the Victorian Goldfields. Not having met with great success John returned to Kapunda whereas his brother Francis went on to New Zealand joining his brother William in Auckland, who was working as a carrier, after the Kawau mining operation had passed its peak. In 1869 they were joined by Abel, his wife Elizabeth and their two children, and John and Francis’ brother Samuel with his little son Samuel.

Francis Rowe

On 10 May 1857 Francis married Mary Trevarthen, born in 1835 in Cornwall, in Auckland. Their first child Francis was born on 1 January 1858 followed by John on 7 November 1859 and Elizabeth on 20 August 1861. By 1862 Francis returned to Auckland permanently and bought a property and started a forwarding business at the harbour. They were to have a further eight children.

In 1917 the New Zealand newspapers reported, ‘After sixty years of happy married life, Mr and Mrs Francis Rowe today attained the Diamond anniversary of their marriage. The ceremony was performed in the High Street Wesleyan Church on March 10th, 1857, by the Rev, Joseph Fletcher. Today is also the 84th birthday of Mr Rowe while his wife has reached 81 years. Seen today at their residence, Codrinton St, Arch Hill, Mr and Mrs, Rowe kindly furnished interesting recollections of occurrences and conditions in the early days.

Mrs Rowe is probably one of the oldest residents in Auckland, as her parents arrived in Wellington in the ship Bolton when she was little more than a baby. They bought a section, at Official Bay at the Government auction of the first lots in Auckland.

Mr Rowe said that his family came from St, Agnes, Cornwall, to Adelaide, when he was a lad. For some time he worked at a smelter which was managed by his eldest brother, John Rowe. Men were getting 16 shillings per week in those days, and first-class hands 20 shillings he said. The owner took a fancy to me and gave me 20 shillings, although I was little more than a lad. After that I worked at the smelting works at Burra Burra.

Then the diggings broke out, and my brother went to them. Soon afterwards he sent for me, and I was at Ballarat at the time of the Eureka stockade fight. No, I was not in it; I knew that the miners had decided to burn their rights, but my mates advised me to keep away. When we heard there had been a riot I went to the Eureka stockade the day afterwards and saw the charred bodies of ten miners who had been killed. I saw Peter Lalor in Auckland, not long before he died. Mr and Mrs Rowe have eight children alive, forty grandchildren and eight great grandchildren’. Francis died on 14 September 1921 and his wife May on 16 July 1929.

Back in Adelaide John and Eliza had another son, James Richard born on 10 May 1853. He became involved with the postal service and started as a messenger at Kapunda in 1868. He did well and was promoted to operator in 1873. He married Elizabeth, fourth daughter of William Allen of North Adelaide on 20 March 1880 at the Wesleyan Church, Archer Street. This was followed by another promotion to Post and Telegraph Station Master at Morgan.

While at Morgan they had four children. Ethel May born on 21 January 1881, Hilda Maude on 14 October 1882, James Percival on 12 November 1884 and Herbert Lawrence on 7 October 1887. They remained at Morgan for more than 20 years. In 1905 he was transferred to Streaky Bay and later to Large Bay and finally to Henley Beach where he drowned on the morning of 27 September 1911. At the inquest it was his son Herbert Lawrence, draper of Henley Beach, who identified his body.

After the birth of James Richard, John and Eliza had two more children, Elizabeth on 30 July 1855 and Samuel at Kapunda on 16 February 1857. In July 1859 John took up the management of the Mochatoona mine in the northern Flinders Ranges. A few weeks later he left Kapunda, via Burra, for the mine with 13 men and eight drays loaded with 12 months' provision.

In June 1860 the Advertiser reported that 'the skin of a carpet snake has been exhibited to several persons here. It measures between seven and eight feet long, and is nine inches in circumference. It was killed at the Mochatoona Copper Mines by Captain John Rowe'.

Not everything turned out the way he had expected. There had been some problems with the Adelaide directors of the mine. On 17 March 1860 John had written a letter to the editor of the Register about some allegations made against him, which were totally unfounded.

This, and the extreme drought in the north, had prevented most of the cartage of ore to Port Augusta. Even Joseph Curnow later admitted freely that the roads were so bad in some places, that it would be impossible to make the mine pay. Not only that, but due to the road's terrible condition, two horses could pull only one ton of ore).

There had also been the lack of labour due to Mochatoona’s isolation. Finally there was the simple fact that the mine had looked good at the surface, but had given out at depth. Other mining 'experts' later gave similar opinions. For instance, according to Pascoe Carbiss, a practical miner of thirty years, both in England and Australia, the copper had simply run out and 'no trial was made to find out where the lode went'. Very little was done at the mine after this meeting.

Ultimately it was probably an accumulation of all these unforeseen circumstances which led to John Rowe’s resignation as Captain and Resident Superintendent of the Mochatoona Mines in April 1860. After this less than pleasant experience John returned to Kapunda where he continued his work as assayer.

In 1862 he became a Member of Parliament after winning a by-election on 8 May as Member for the District of Light. This, according to the Kapunda newspaper, was to be expected as he could hardly have failed to catch the Cornishman’s vote, being a man skilled in minerals and mineral prospecting and well up in his political catechism.

John was a radical and promised to have the mineral leases altered to allow a poor man to search for 12 months without having to pay rent. He was in favour of secular rather than denominational education. He opposed pensions but was all for free distillation. According to him every man had the right to make the best of his products.

Very little came of it as his political career came to an abrupt end when parliament was dissolved on 22 October of that year. It was during these hectic months that his mother, Joanna died on 6 July 1862 in Adelaide at the age of 73. She would have been proud of her first born child doing well in his adopted land and becoming a Member of Parliament.

While at Kapunda Captain John Rowe did assays for third parties too and in November 1864 called in at the Kapunda Herald office to show some very fine specimens of malachite from the newly opened Lacamore mine, about nine kilometres from Kapunda, in which he had the utmost confidence. He was later appointed Captain of that mine. Some of this extra income he saved and by 1862 he had bought a house in Main Street Kapunda which he rented out.

By the end of November 1869 he was in New Zealand where his brother William was mine manager at Grahamstown. On 22 January 1870 and again on 16 February John made it known via the Daily Southern Cross that he was a Practical Mining Manager and Assayer, with years of experience in both England and Australia, including Queensland, and was now located on the Thames Goldfields.

He was prepared to accept the management and direction of claims, inspect and report on them, and assess all kinds of mining labour. He also flattered himself that his long and varied experience would enable him to give satisfaction to those who employed him. After an absence of some eight years he once more returned to Kapunda.

By the 1870s a sizeable number of adults with the name Rowe, listed in the Adelaide Almanac, lived in and around Adelaide. In 1872 there were 29, the next year there were 40, and in 1876 this had increased to 48 while in 1878 their number was 54 including that of John listed as assayer of Kapunda. Other Rowes lived as far away as Crystal Brook, Strathalbyn, Streaky Bay, Mintaro, Port Wakefield and anywhere in between.

At Kapunda the foundation stone for the Kapunda Hospital was laid, with Masonic Honours, on 9 January 1877 by HT Morris. After its official opening on 1 November 1877 John Rowe became its first patient after fracturing his leg at the door of his own home. In 1878 John was listed in the South Australian Directory as Assayer at Kapunda and in 1882 as Mine Agent of Ford Street, Kapunda.

In 1886 he was living at 27c Coghill Street Kapunda. Now aged nearly 70 he advertised that he had resumed the duties of his profession in Kapunda Street as assayer of gold, silver, lead, copper and any other mineral at the usual fee of 10 shillings and sixpence.

John Rowe suddenly died on 17 December 1886 at his home of a heart attack. He left a wife, three sons, John, James and Samuel, and a daughter Elizabeth, born on 30 July 1855. She had married John Charles Luscombe Chapple of the Great Northern Hotel at Marree. John was buried at the Kapunda General Cemetery. His wife died on 5 April 1893 at Goodwood.

Abel Rowe

John’s brother Abel, born in 1825, married Elizabeth, daughter of Cornish miner Henry Crougey and his wife Grace Willmott, at the Wesleyan Chapel in Pirie Street on 25 February 1854. They settled in Moonta and were to have six children, all born in South Australia. Elizabeth, born in 1854, only lived for two weeks. Their next child was another daughter on 27 January 1856 named Elizabeth as well but better known as Bessy. A son, Abel was born in 1858 followed by another daughter, Esther Ann also in 1860. Four years later, in 1864, John Henry was born.

The year 1864 turned out to be a disastrous one for Abel and Elizabeth. On 25 April four years old Abel died of croup. A month later, on 20 May, they lost four months old John Henry followed by Esther Ann on 24 May. They were buried at the Moonta Cemetery where there are now 46 Rowe family members laid to rest, including a William who arrived in South Australia in 1867 and died on 3 September 1916, aged 68. On 6 July 1867 Abel and Elizabeth had another child. Being a boy they named him Abel.

Sufferings like these were not unknown in the Rowe family. As far back as 1846 William Rowe lost his two little daughters Susan and Priscilla. Naturally Abel and Elizabeth had heard from their brothers in New Zealand about some of the fabulous gold discoveries there. After discussing it with his recently widowed brother Samuel they decided to make the move to New Zealand where they arrived in 1869.

In 1870 Abel and Elizabeth had a son and called him William Wesley. Esther Ann's birth in Grahamstown, Thames was celebrated by Abel and Elizabeth two years later on 5 October 1872. John Henry, their last born son arrived in March 1875 but sadly passed away just eight months later.

Abel secured the management of the Prince Imperial mine in New Zealand and in 1872 it was reported that he had attained ‘a success thoroughly merited by the skill and patient attention he has bestowed upon the mine’. In May 1874 daughter Elizabeth, born in 1856, married Henry Goldsworthy, son of Cornish miner, John Goldsworthy and Elizabeth Richards.

John’s, 1816, sisters Alice, Joanna and Nanny also travelled around Australia. Alice Symons Rowe married Thomas Courteney on 5 July 1852 in the Holy Trinity Church, Adelaide and they had five children. Alice died on 29 April 1887 at the Adelaide Hospital.

Joanna, born in 1828 married Thomas Dober on 29 October 1850 at Kooringa (Burra). They had two children in South Australia and five more in Victoria. Thomas died in Bendigo on 5 January 1867. A year later Joanna married Thomas' brother Richard and Rose Emmeline was born to them in 1869. Joanna died at Golden Square, Victoria in 1911.

Nanny, born in 1831, married Thomas McGrath and had eight children, all born at Bendigo. Thomas died on 18 June 1867 at Bendigo after a mining accident at Huntly, near Bendigo. Nanny died at Stonehenge, Queensland on 16 November 1922. Her youngest son Albert, born two months after his father's death would later own a hotel and be a member of the Barcoo Shire Council.

After the death of brothers William on 1 July 1886, John on 17 December 1886 and sister Alice in 1887, followed by Samuel on 17 June 1892, Abel on 6 November 1902, Joanna on 18 July 1911, Francis on 14 September 1921 and finally Nanny on 16 November 1922, the Rowe contribution to mining had not ceased at all. Several of their sons continued to be involved with it while others went on to make their way in different fields, both in Australia and New Zealand.

With special thanks to Julie J Simpson for photographs and information.


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