Wednesday, 20 February 2013

How did John Ebbott acquire this wealth of Mining knowledge?

John migrated to Australia when he was 11 years old and although his father may have dabbled as a Mine Manger on the side, essentially he was a farmer.  John eventually became a successful mine manager well respected amongst his peers and it would seem his reputation was known well enough that he was even able to secure a position later in life in India as a Mine manager for a couple of years.
So the question is how did he acquire this wealth of knowledge?  It would seem that his management style was adventurous, from reading the papers it seems that when he took charge of a mine things began to move, he would start to develop the mine, call for tenders, build a large water wheel he never seemed to shy away from the challenge.  So how did he learn the art of being a mine manager?

The possibilities:
  • School of mines
  • The Mine Managers Association
  • Mechanics institute
  • Learning from his father in law, John Thomas, who was a professional mine manager from Cornwall
  • Learning from Michael Thomas (brother of his wife Margaret) who also sits on various mine boards and is himself the son of a mine manager

We know that John thought that getting a qualification was important because he ensured that his son went off and got his technical certificate of mine managing from the School of Mines. His son is listed amongst the successful candidates for first class mining managers' certificates was" Mr. J. Ebbott. junr.. son of Mr. J. Ebbott, manager of the Forest Creek Gold Reefs mine, Castlemaine" 1905 'THE HIGH COMMISSIONER BILL.', Bendigo Advertiser(Vic. : 1855 - 1918), 10 November, p. 4, viewed 21 February, 2013, I have found no record of John getting a similar qualification, this could have been because the first school of mines was not established until after he was established as a mine manager.
My understanding also is that the mine managers association wasn't established early enough to give any initial grounding to John.  The Bendigo Mine Managers Association, a different entity, was a significant distance away from Chewton and didn't start till much later.. 
Post & Telegraph Offices & Mechanics Institute, Castlemaine Date(s)[1862] 
If he did any independent learning it was probably through the local Mechanics institute.  The importance of the  Mechanics Institute to the family can be seen by the later involvement of his younger brother Frederick who sat on the Board of California Gully Mechanics Institute (1890 'THE SCHOOL OF MINES AND THE DIRECTOR.', Bendigo Advertiser (Vic. : 1855 - 1918), 21 April, p. 2, viewed 21 February, 2013,   There must have been prior involvement to Frederick sitting on the Board, he was nominated for a position in 1888, Michael Thomas was also a member at this time(1888 'EAGLEHAWK.', Bendigo Advertiser (Vic. : 1855 - 1918), 21 January, p. 5, viewed 21 February, 2013,  The mechanics institute ran talks and seminars on topics of interest to the locals, this may have well have include various mining topics as this was a major gold-mining area.
His most likely source of professional support was from family and friends, networking as we know it today.  I found one reference to his father being a mine manager, but I believe that calling oneself a mining manager was common place and his father was probably predominately a farmer and as such most likely had no real contribution to his career.  On the other hand both his father in law and brother in law were successful mine managers.  

An interesting podcast on the history Mechanics Institutes in Australia  archived on  Local ABC radio 

Friday, 15 February 2013

Understanding John Ebbott's foray in the world of mining

Poster - Chronological Tree of Victorian History, James McKain Meek, Melbourne, 1873
 © Museum Victoria and 
Curriculum Corporation 

In 1870 John's world looked very different to what it would look today if he were still alive, speculative activity was the norm and anyone with cash could easily be involved as companies looks for cash to fund their operations.  Initially mining companies on the Goldfields would issue a few shares of high value which only needed to be partly paid for.
“The ability of gold mining companies to make calls was particularly useful given the nature of quartz mining with its continual exploration and development costs. In the gold mining industry, very few mines were continuously profitable as deep leads changed course, ran into a neighbouring lease or yields fell, possibly rising again at greater depth. When a rich ore body was found, this generated speculative activity in the share market. Calls on shares would be made by companies that owned the mines where ore bodies were discovered”(Melbourne University Law Review Vol 31 p. 814 ff A HISTORY OF COMPANY LAW IN COLONIAL AUSTRALIA: ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND LEGAL EVOLUTION PHILLIP LIPTON IV THE TRANSPLANTING OF THE COMPANIES ACT 1862, 25 & 26 VICT, C 89)
In the early days John didn't seem to be himself, the stable and well respected citizen that is evident in the records, his behaviour almost seems erratic or at the very least irresponsible. He was probably one of the “inexperienced shareholders who started with inflated hopes of enormous returns and immediate dividends become disheartened and forfeit their shares by refusing to pay calls” (GETTING GOLD A PRACTICAL TREATISE FOR PROSPECTORS, MINERS, AND STUDENTS. By J. C. F. Johnson, F. G. S., Member of the Aust. Inst. of Mining Engineers; Author of "Practical Mining," "The Genesiology of Gold," etc. (1896)accessed atg 14/2/2013)

He brought and forfeited shares frequently, and it wasn't just John but it was also his brother Philip and once even his mother. The gold rush was a heady time for opportunity and, its flip side of disaster, was everywhere. Everyone wanted the possible profits but no-one want the losses. This notion of the inexperience investor and company owners may help us to understand John’s behaviour as directors were appointed not 
“because of any special knowledge of mining they may possess, but as a rule simply because they are large shareholders or prominent men whose names look well in a prospectus.” (GETTING GOLD A PRACTICAL TREATISE FOR PROSPECTORS, MINERS, AND STUDENTS. By J. C. F. Johnson, F. G. S., Member of the Aust. Inst. of Mining Engineers; Author of "Practical Mining," "The Genesiology of Gold," etc. (1896)accessed atg 14/2/2013)
Because of the difficulty of raising initial funds for a potential mining venture the industries response
“was to include provisions in the memorandum of association that enabled the forfeiture of shares on non-payment of a call. The forfeited shares could then either be purchased by existing shareholders or sold at auction.” (Melbourne University Law Review Vol 31 p. 814 ff A HISTORY OF COMPANY LAW IN COLONIAL AUSTRALIA: ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND LEGAL EVOLUTION PHILLIP LIPTON IV THE TRANSPLANTING OF THE COMPANIES ACT 1862, 25 & 26 VICT, C 89)
But let’s consider all this in the context of John Ebbott who arrived in goldfield the son of a farmer in an area where there were no schools (yet) and who grew up during his teen years on an unsuccessful cattle farm. He could read and write well his learning however was most likely limited to the bible, religious publications and the weekly delivered newspapers that didn't always arrive. At around 26 he falls in love with the girl next door and suddenly the door of opportunity opens, his father-in-law is an experienced mine engineer/manager from Cornwall, consequently John’s world view begins to change, but he has no experience although many contacts mostly of Cornish origin through the Wesleyan church.
John was a frugal man he didn't drink, he was a member of the Temperance movement, he didn't gamble and although life was very expensive on Goldfields he didn't want for much, with the support of his mother and father in law he began to dabble in speculative market of gold mining shares, which is where his future occupation of Mine Manager was beginning to be forged.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Position in the Family

John was the eldest in the family, one of five, it was almost as if his parents had a family in two parts. The first portion of the family had been born in Cornwall and had come across to Australia on a ship and was made up of the three eldest children John, Philip & Emma.  The second portion had been born in Australia and began with Frederick who was 19 years Johns junior closely followed two years later by the youngest member of the family Helen Harriet.  Helen was turning 8 when her brother John had his first child.
The boys, John, Philip and Frederick, were close in spite of their age difference.  John worked closely with Frederick in the Francis Ormond Mine (1881 'EXPLOSION OF LITHOFRACTEUR AT CALIFORNIA GULLY.', Bendigo Advertiser (Vic. : 1855 - 1918), 11 July, p. 2, viewed 12 February, 2013, All the boys had learnt a trade as they were growing up, John had learnt butchering, Philip had learnt carpentry and Frederick had learnt engine driving. With these trades they could join the world of work anywhere in Australia. Later when John changed his profession and become a well established mine manager in the area. Even after John became a well regarded mining manager in the community himself, he insisted like his father had done, that his own son become qualified in his profession 
“Amongst the successful candidates for first class mining managers' certificates was Mr. J. Ebbott. junr.. son of Mr. J. Ebbott, manager of the Forest Creek Gold Reefs mine, Castlemaine.” (1905 'THE HIGH COMMISSIONER BILL.', Bendigo Advertiser (Vic. : 1855 - 1918), 10 November, p. 4, viewed 12 February, 2013,
Education and a solid education were highly valued and priced in the Ebbott Family.
The youngest Helen who was only 6 when her father died, and had spent those years on the family farm and in the bosom of their tight knit church community.  When Helen & John’s father died thier mother moved the family into town a place that she found an exciting and bustling. A few years after arriving in town when she was 9  her only sister got married, leaving only her mother, Frederick and herself in the house.  Both Frederick & Emma went to school, being much younger than the others they both went to the newly established local school. Their father had thought education very important and had even been involved in setting up the school.(History of Chewton State School SS1054 (Published for Centenary Celebrations Saturday, October 20, 1962))
1853 'MOUNT ALEXANDER.', The Sydney Morning Herald(NSW : 1842 - 1954), 2 February, p. 2 Supplement: Supplement to the Sydney Morning Herald, viewed 13 February, 2013,

Sunday, 10 February 2013

A town without structure
Ironically although thousands of miles away from their home country the Ebbotts moved to an area in the Victorian countryside that was populated with a large number of Cornish. Together these immigrants formed the basis of a tight knit, but not exclusive, society bringing with them not only their Methodism and cultural identity but also their mining skills. John’s father wasn't a miner but his cultural heritage and involvement in the local church would have helped to solidify his place in the community, his profession would have given him stability when he wasn't inevitably dabbling in the search for gold. His Cornish contacts within the church would have helped point him in the right direction.  

“Those who were most successful at mining in this area were either Cornish people, who had experience at mining, or ex-convicts, who had been taught by the British Government how to use picks and shovels. Both classes of people were physically ready for the strenuous work required for winning the gold. The Bendigo area required dry mining procedures, but some water was still needed even for this. So, the population rose and fell according to the yearly rainfall pattern. Any new discovery of gold in some other district would lead to a new rush., This could cause a greater part of the population in a district suddenly to disappear. So, if even a large community existed in a certain place, very little of it might exist three months later.”(Robert Evans, EARLY EVANGELICAL REVIVALS IN AUSTRALIA A Study of Surviving, Published Materials about Evangelical Revivals in Australia up to 1880 Research in Evangelical Revivals 2007 last accessed 11/2/2013

The landscape was unforgiving, hot, dry and dusty with floods and fire, those that survived were strong, tough and at times fierce.  There was an ebb and flow of population due to the gold fields and the presence of water which made establishing community a little bit harder than it may have been otherwise.  
The importance of churches and schools was not only as the hub of community life but to ensure that fabric of the community was educated and strong.  The church also provided

“about the only recreation for the steady part of the diggings' population, and served to counteract in others, in some degree, the attractions of the dram shop and the dancing and gambling saloons.” (Robert Evans, EARLY EVANGELICAL REVIVALS IN AUSTRALIA A Study of Surviving, Published Materials about Evangelical Revivals in Australia up to 1880 Research in Evangelical Revivals 2007 last accessed 11/2/2013
When the Ebbott’s arrived in area there was already the beginning of the Methodist church community as there were four places
“occupied as Churches on the Creek, two being only tents and other two weatherboard”(W.L. Blamires and John B. Smith, The early story of the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Victoria, A jubilee volume. Published 1886 by Wesleyan Book Depot in Melbourne. Accessed 11/2/2013 at

so work began in earnest to establish a spiritual base which came to fruition in 1856 when a new Church was built of stone at Chapel Hill.  John’s father wasn't just raising and lending money to the church (Accounting Records Wesleyan Church Chapel Hill, Fryers Creek 1856) he was listed on the Wesleyan Preachers' Plan for Castlemaine Circuit 1854 He also worked assiduously as a as local preacher and class leader.  
These activities became a dominating feature of the Ebbott’s family life.  Later both John, and his brother Philip and Frederick all became heavily involved in the ongoing church movement and would later become very influential members, and leaders.  Membership numbers in the church were bolstered by revivals both at a local and state level that swept through the area regularly.

Friday, 8 February 2013

The Move into Town

John’s grandfather left no will, however the land records reveal the land that he bought in 1858 was sold for  “The sum of £100 due and occurring by John Ebbott deceased to the said Joseph Dawe and the sum of £10 to the said John Ebbott party here to”, some land had been sold the previous year in 1866 (Vendors Books, Victoria (Land Victoria(Natural Resources and Environment)), Book 157 Memorial 538),  ten pounds isn't very much to survive the rest of your life on, particularly if you have dependants   But John's grandmother wasn't beaten, she up stakes and moved into the nearby town of California Gully Eaglehawk.  It’s difficult to know what it would have been like during these difficult times, when there was no widow's pension or child support.

Sarah would have been dependent on her older children if she was unable to find some source of income to support herself and those of her family still at home including her two youngest children who were only 7 & 8 years of age at the time.  Her 2 eldest boys got married within a year after their father’s death Philip married on the 13 Apr 1868 in Chewton and John married Margaret Thomas 12 Nov 1868 in Sandhurst.  Her eldest daughter Emma married another year after that  on the 24 Nov 1870 in California Gully, Eaglehawk to Andrew Malcom.
Sarah's certificate of title for the land she brought
On 1 Oct 1867 Sarah purchases land in California Gully (Land Title, Volume 238 Folio 12 Jul 1873)   Later she mortgages the property (Land Title, back of Title Vol 238 Folio 47448   Reference 8433) to enable her to invest her money in a local mining company, it is an unusual step for a woman to become involved in the establishment of a local mining company.

Sarah must have been a strong woman, she never remarried indicating that she must have had some sort of independent income to support herself and the remaining children and buy a house and land

The launch of the company is announced in the Victoria Government Gazette 1870 (Gazette 56, Page 1276) the CLARA GOLD MINING COMPANY (REGISTERED).  Those involved in the venture, including Sarah Ebbott with 700 shares, were her two sons -  Phillip Henry Ebbott with 2800 shares and John Ebbott, with 700 shares.
Sarah is one of the few women that I have come across in this period of history to be involved in such a venture, she had to mortgage her house to raise the funds..  Perhaps the move was to help her sons, or to ensure that there was some money coming into the home via dividends.
Acouple of years later the following advertisement comes our in The Bendigo Advertiser (1872 'Advertising.', Bendigo Advertiser (Vic. : 1855 - 1918), 2 November, p. 3, viewed 9 February, 2013,

“CHARLES C. WHITE will sell by Public Auction, at half-past two p.m., on Saturday 2nd November, at the Victoria Hotel, the following forfeited Shares, unless the calls due with expenses thereon be paid to me before noon of the day of sale:-
S. Ebbott, 500, 14,901 to 15,400
Albion Chambers, Sandhurst, 1st November, 1872” 
Of the original 700 shares she may have only needed to have paid for 200, leaving 500 to be paid at a later date, payment for which is now due.  Sarah didn't sell the family home until 9 July 1873 (Land Title, Back of Land tilte Vol 238 Folio 47488. ) so I'm not sure if was able to pay for the remaining shares or if she had to forfeit them - Obviously more research needed!

Johns marriage to Margaret Thomas

In 1866 it was rumoured that John Ebbott was to engaged to be married to a local girl, she wrote to Aunt to tell her about he happy event but unfortunately something must have happened as the next thing we know John’s father dies in 1867 and in 1868 he is marrying Margaret Thomas The marriage was announced in the Bendigo Advertiser on the 7 Dec 1868
“On the 12th ultimo, in the Wesleyan Church, Forest street, by the Rev William Hill, Mr John Ebbott to Margaret, youngest daughter of Mr John Thomas, all of California Hill”

Margaret Thomas was baptised on the 5 January 1848 in the St Blazey Parish church, Cornwall, the daughter of John Thomas & Margaret Smith. 
Extract for the parish register.
The worlds of John Thomas a miner and Margaret’s eventual father in-law John Ebbott, a Farmer may never have crossed in England, but in Australia things were different, it was a land of possibilities. 
The couple married only 4 years after Margaret arrived in the colony travelling with her mother and older sister Sarah on the “Forest Rights” in 1865, to join their father who had already been in the colony since 1861. By the time they arrived he owned several houses which he was renting out.

When he married John was working as a Mine Manager however a year earlier in 1867 he was a member of the Victorian District Independent Order of Rechabites Cobden Tent No.39 and listed as  John Ebbott aged 27 a butcher with his brother Philip Hy Ebbott aged 24 a carpenter.
Perhaps his marriage to Margaret had resulted in a career change. 

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

The Mysterious Unclaimed Letter

Post Office, Melbourne [picture] / Thomas Ham
On the 31 st July, 1850 at the Melbourne post office there is a letter for a Mr Ebbott waiting for collection[i].  A lone letter sitting uncollected in Melbourne, it’s all very intriguing. I'm not aware of any other Ebbott families coming out to Australia during this time period, could it be that John’s father after recovering from Typhus came out to Australia before returning and bringing his family with him?  He might have wanted to do reconnaissance work, to pave the way for the family, and assure himself that this was the best thing to do, after all, his siblings had gone to America.  Of course I am assuming that no one would write to a person in Australia if they weren’t there(?)
“In the year 1852, accompanied by his wife and children, he reached Adelaide. After a few months' residence there, he removed to the goldfields of Victoria, and settled first at Fryers Creek.”[ii]  Not much is known of this period until 1858 when we find John’s father purchasing land in Fryers in 1858 where he is identified in the documentation as John Ebbott of Glenluce[iii], he must have been living there at the time, and perhaps by adding where he came from it helped to the authorises to identify him from another John Ebbott , his son, who is the centre of this story. It is believed that John’s father John Ebbott (Snr) bought land for farming purposes, the land is sold when his father dies. John Ebbott (Jnr) would have been 18 years of age when the family moved to Fryers.
Somewhere between 1859 and 1861 there was a terrible disaster while “farming on the Kyneton-Bendigo Road just south of Faraday when his farm and all the surrounding countryside was completely burnt out leaving the family with only what they were able to throw down the well. At one stage his cattle were also devoured by plague.” [iiii]
It sounds like a lot of very hard and back breaking work, perhaps the families sustaining religious values helped to keep them together, and strong and got them through these difficult times.

[ii] The Wesleyan chronicle. (Publisher/Date: Melbourne : Shaw, Harnett & Co., 1857- ;  Location: Microfiche ; LTMF; Call Number: 131' Volume/Item: 1857:Oct. 1- 1875:Apr. 20;), 1867 page 8 Fiche 30. 
[iii] Vendors Books, Victoria (Land Victoria(Natural Resources and Envirnonment)), Book 184 Memorial 602. 
[iiii] Early families of Shepparton and district : book two - Ebbott family p50-51 (compiled and edited by Eileen Torney, Betty Foster and Brian Emmett from written contributions by the families of our early settlers. [Shepparton, Vic.] Shepparton Family History Group, c2000.) 
[i] Port Phillip (N.S.W. : District)., Port Phillip government gazette (Melbourne, New South Wales: Govt. Printer, 1 (Jan. 2, 1844)-no. 34 (July 9, 1851)), No 32, 7 August 1850, 526 - Page 530