Elizabeth Wearne

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St Just, Cornwall, 2016. Ballarat Heritage Services Picture Collection
Boscaswell, near St Just, Cornwall, 2016. Ballarat Heritage Services Picture Collection


Elizabeth Patience Wearne was the daughter of James Wearne and Patience (White) who were married in 1847. Elizabeth and her parents emigrated with a group of Cornish people from Boscaswell Row, near St Just, Cornwall. Some of their party were arrested on the Eureka Lead after the Eureka battle. Others like Peter Ellis gave evidence at the Eureka Trials. Her grandparents were James Wearne and Elizabeth Davey, on her paternal line, and Thomas and Elizabeth White on her maternal line. She married John Grylls (born 2 December 1844) around 1875. They had the following issue:

Ethel Eveline Grylls (29 March 1876); John Grylls (9 March 1878 - died when 5 years old); William Thomas Grylls (7 September 1879); Marion Patience Grylls (26 April 1881); Charlotte Patience (22 June 1882); Mary Ann Grylls (20 June 1884); John Grylls (10 June 1886); Florence Emily Grylls (25 February 1888).

1854 Goldfields Involvement

Elizabeth Patience Wearne wrote a diary after the Eureka event some of which follows. Spelling is transcribed as it was written.

My Father and Mothr were married at Trewellard Methodist Church, Trewellard, June 1847, and settled in a house in Boscas Well Row, where they remained for some time, but feeling that the prospect was not good enough they decided to come to Australia, and as the Burra Burra Mines where offering good wages they sailed from Plymouth in a vessel called the ‘William Money’ about Sept. or Oct 1848. I was then about 6 months old, and the vessel was rather old and the passage slow. It took over four months on the voyage, the Dr. on board declared that the fat healthy babies could not bear the heat when nearing the Line, so started to reduce their weight; under this treatment several died, and I felt the effects for years. I could not walk for two years.

Work was plentiful so parents got on nicely for some time, and then Father took Colonial Fever and it was twelve months before he was quite well. To help resources Mother opened an Infant School and so helped along.

Gold had not been discovered in Australia. There was a man there who had relations in California, and they sent him a few grains in a letter. An old shepherd from Victoria saw the gold and said if that’s gold I know where there’s lots in Victoria and immediately sailed. Just a few months the gold rush was declared, and nearly all the younger men left their families and sailed for Victoria, my father amongst them. In the meantime I had a little sister, and a baby brother; first the sister Charlotte died, then the baby brother James so Mother sold out and come over with some friends. Father was then in Bendigo and it was summer, and no rain for some time: drinking water was 1/- or (sic) bucket. The wash dirt, as they called it which contained the gold had to be taken to Bullock Creek to be treated, and conveyances being scarce, treatment was costly. This was alluvial, reefs had not been discovered. When word came to him, he came down, James accepting walked; accepting a lift on a bullock dray occasionally. While he was in Melbourne, the winter rains started and no dray could be got to take us up for six weeks; you understand there were no roads only in the main streets of Melbourne. (I don’t remember coming to the diggings, as I was only about four years old) [1852-53?]

We settled down near Castlemaine, a place called Moonlight Flat. I remember while there I had slight sunstroke, and pneumonia, and I also remember the friends of Fathers giving me little specks of gold; some were little nuggets, altogether (sic) I had 2 ounces, but by some mistake they were sold, and soon after we all packed up and removed to Ballarat. We packed our tent and our belongings on a dray; I remember crossing the Jim Crow Creek, near Daylesford. We camped all night there, I thought it pretty and green. I was nursing a little puppy some on had given me while riding along, and to my great grief, a jolt sent it off my lap and the wheel went over it. We settled at Specimen Hill, Ballarat; the two events I recall were the birth of a brother called William; the other incident was the police riding down the gully to try and find miners working without a licence. About six or eight horsemen galloped along, and if a man could not produce a licence he was taken off to police camp and given 3 months. There were many who went below, or ran into the bush. It was things like this that helped bring on the riots. The gold diggers suffered, and were subject to very harsh conditions. The conditions were made by those who did not understand what was best, so the discontent grew, and a few other matters at last brought on the riot. Some miners with all the other discontents built the Stockade, there was a long gully, the gold lead deep, so it was agreed that one claim should go down to test if it was worth working, and others marked out their claims, dug down 2 feet, and were on the spot for two hours each day, that held the claim. My Father’s was near the blacksmiths shop, and this was the centre for discussions. Father and his mates (5) took no part in the lawlessness, and discreetly kept away as much as they could. One Saturday, or perhaps a day or two earlier those that were for taking the law into their own hand, took al the slabs and built a barricade, and had the blacksmith sharpening weapons, and the leaders matialled their men, and prepared for defence. Word was sent to Melbourne and in the Saturday night, Mother and Father could see the soldiers, (I was awakened to see the soldiers passing) with guns, riding along, and things were arranged to start the attack early on the Sunday morning. Work was carried out, and in a short time the rioters were beaten, and marched up to the camp, as the Government Quarters were called. Before, my parents heard men being chased, men, who ventured out to see. One man, a neighbour of ours, was caught and had to go to prison with the others, some one swore that he saw him shoot an officer, and he was one of the twelve condemned to death, however after being kept in gaol for twelve months, they were let off. Father and Mother’s mate went to Melbourne as witness for him, but could not convince the authorities that he had not been out there near the place. Very shortly after the lead proved to be very rich and the workers were well repaid. Our party were nearly all neighbours in Cornwall and had their wives and children there, so there was a hurry to get off and bring them along. One man went off the next day & after a bit also took a trip to England, Father thinking to buy land and settle down there. We had berths in a vessel called “The Beamah”, rather a small sailing vessel, and we had rather a quick passage for the times. The trip was very pleasant and enjoyable to me as the officers and sailors were very kind to me, giving me a skipping rope, and the officers gave me lollies and nuts. (there were only 14 children on board) I celebrated my eighth birthday on board, and the Captain called me to the cabin and gave nuts and lollies, and ordered that we should have a birthday cake with icing. The cook baked it very nicely and all went very well. That was the first birthday cake I had had, and the novelty of having a party in a ship kept in my memory. We sailed away down around Cape Horn, and found it rather cold for a day or two. We saw several ice bergs, and everyone was on deck. They were getting rather thick, though not very large and the Captain ordered north, and by the next morning we saw no more. We sometimes saw large fish a ta distance, but were never near enough to see land, as far as I remember. The next event, the landing at Liverpool; it was a drizzly day, I said “if this is England, take me back to Australia”. The wharf was crowed with all manner of conveyances, and the place very muddy and disagreeable; however, when we reached our lodgings, and by the next it was bright and clean. Just down the street there was a boy selling apples, so I asked him for six penny worth. He gave me one penny worth, and five pence change. I said to Mother he must have made a mistake, to give me so much change. I had been used to buying them at 1/- a pound. We stayed a short time and were at Birmingham on May day. 1/5/56 I had a primrose ball, which was wonder to me. There was a procession in the afternoon of milkmaids and chimney sweeps, they were dressed in character, I was very interested. From Plymouth we took a steamer, did not enjoy it as much as the ocean trip, as we were all sick.

We reached Penzance safely, and next morning took the van (as they call it) and went to St Just, were my grandparents lived. It is a mining district and the evidence of shafts and mounds were everywhere about. The houses were all built of stone, two story generally, and were comfortable. I thought them very nice after only living in a tent; and looking out form the upstairs windows amused Will and myself often. Grandparents were very pleased to see us alive and well, as when they first started off some said, “I am sure the blacks will eat you, and you will never return.” The first exhibition was on in the crystal Palace, so Father and Mother went up to see it, and left Will and I with Grandmother White, and Aunty who lived adjoining. They both had nice gardens, vegetables and flowers, great bunches of Elderberry and hydrangeas. There was a rocky hill near, and the cousins and I used to go up sometimes. There was a beautiful view of the sea from there; in fact, one could see it from any eminence. Of course I enjoyed the times very much as there were two cousins near my own age, and both Grandmas made very much of us; there was always someone to give us just what we wanted. When (my) parents returned, they brought three big Dolls from London, which were quite treasure, besides presents for others, and after Father furnished a home in Penzance at Werrytown (a continuation of the Promenade). The children just about there used to go to things in groups; we made a great fun of it, and in winter there were torched and fireworks on the Promenade. I went to the Church of England; it was a good distance, and I was scolded if I was late. We used to be taken for nice long walks and on one I heard the cuckoo. The coast appeared to me to be rocky, with bushes growing up between them. I remember once seeing an apple orchard, the trees were like the oak tees in size, but the sea was our favourite playground.

The next event was the appearance of a baby brother called James; a very fair child, and after about 2 months Father had failed to find a place to settle in (he intended to have bought a home with land) so they prepared to get ready for returning to Australia, so berths were taken in a vessel called “The Herald”, which brought us along safely and slowly. Our baby brother James died on the voyage out and was buried at sea. We were about two years away. Mother and children were left in Melbourne while father spent 2 months looking around; he went to Ballarat, and all the chief mining districts. A friend, Mr BROKENSHIRE and he decided to try Maldon, and 7 friends took up a claim and called it the great Western. They took charge of different parts, and also crushed for the public at that time. I was about ten years old. Father has a two roomed cottage built, but shops and dwellings were mostly built of canvas. There was a large tree in the middle of the main street where drunks and prisoners were fastened till they were taken to Castlemaine gaol till they were tried; but soon afterwards there was a log ho (sic) built for them, and one Chief Magistrate tried the cases. Maldon is a pretty place on the slope of Mount Tarrengowwer, at first the gullies were worked for loads of gold, but later the reefs proved to be very good too. Two that I remember the South German and Oswalds had not long stopped, in fact the Oswald changed hands, and lately has gone on again. I was sent to Kyneton to a boarding school when about eleven, there only being primary schools in Maldon. It was not the best for commercial knowledge, but what some would call finishing; fancy work and things not done now at schools were considered of much importance, writing; they were particular about, also reading. While I was at home for the second holiday there was a baby brother called James Thomas. Mother not being very strong, I was kept at home. Then the school changed hands, and I did not go any more; but by that time a Ladies School was opened at Maldon and I went there. Father bought a piano and I had to learn music, which seemed a task, after a time I got on better and could play for the house. In the meantime I was not too strong, and had to leave school and could not take up anything strenuous, but used to help make the childrens clothes, and later Father bought a large brick house out nearly a mile; the change there and being sent for a time to Creswick helped make me better, and I grew quite strong by the time I was twenty, but my Mother grew weaker and was not able for much exertion. During these times there were 5 children added to the family. 1865 story.

When I was about 18, a friend Miss Fullarton and I went to town, (Melbourne) on the first Railway Excursion on the recently finished railway line (Melbourne to Bendigo). We drove the 11 miles to catch the train. There was an encampment of the citizens forces near, we met several we knew, and Miss Fullarton had friend where we stayed part of the time; part time at St Kilda, and quite enjoyed the trip. We did a little buying at a warehouse for here sister’s shop. It was the second time I had been to Melbourne since we left for the diggings. One afternoon we went to the Botanical gardens by boat, they were very good then; now some visitors say as good as any in the world.

In Bendigo we have a nice park called Weroona, a lake with parklands at the lower part of town, and there are public gardens at White hills for picnics, also baths and sports grounds in the upper reserve, and several other sports and picnic grounds further out. I could not tell you how many tennis courts, public and private, and in the country where there are young people you’ll see tennis, or cricket pitches.

After the last one called Alfred E Henry, Mother failed rapidly, and left us after 8 months, to our great sorrow, as she was always kind and good and treated me like a companion. I had to gradually take charge of the household for some time. I was then 21 years old, and my baby brother 8 months. The others were William, Emily Jane, James Thomas, Charlotte, Richard, Alfred. Father very kindly helped me out where he could, and for some years we kept help. I found it very sad to be without Mother in the house, but having to look after the baby kept me busy. We had a large fruit garden, and the children could help themselves, and quite enjoyed it as fruit was rather scarce and dear then. My eldest brother was at Wesley College. Just before this Father bought a sewing machine and I used to work it; I found it was a great help as there was very little made up clothes to be bought. First meeting with my husband.

My friend, a Miss Fullarton, whose Mother and brother had a farm about 10 miles from Maldon; and there being no post office near, I used to ride out her important mails, one time we stayed all night, and next day went out walking. A gentleman rode up to the house and went in, as there was no sign of his leaving we thought we would go in and see who it was; and we were introduced to a Mr J Grylls; he did not seem in a hurry, and was invited for tea. He was in search of stray horses, as most of the country between there and the Loddon (6 miles away) was open country. I was telling them at home about this, when father said he knew Mr Grylls Snr very well in England, but had not seen him since he had been in Australia. Sometime later there was an Agricultural Show at Castlemaine; the Grylls family had gone; and passed by our door. Coming back, as they were near our home, something went wrong with the buggy, and Father naturally went out to see if he could be of any assistance, and found it was his friends form England, so they came in, when the buggy was repaired, and also promised to call down sometime.

The farm was sixteen miles from Maldon, on the banks of the Loddon. Later again, the first Prince, Alfred Ernest Edward, who had ever come to Australia was to pass through Castlemaine, and Mr John thought I might be persuaded to go along; but I had lent horse. As I had seen the prince land in Melbourne, I did not go. Sometime after I had gone to Creswick for a holiday Father came down for as arranged, and brought a letter which had come in my absence; it was from the same Mr J. Grylls. After that he used to call when passing and were …… [1]

Post 1854 Experiences

  1. Transcribed by Chrissy Stancliffe