|25 May 1791 at Bodmin, Cornwall, England.|
|12 June 1791 at Blisland, Cornwall, England.|
|28 September 1883 at Springfield, NSW|
|John Tom (1751-1819)|
|Mary Olver (1762-1837)|
|Ann Lane (1796-1870) on 31 December 1817 at St. Cleather Parish (3 miles from Blisland)|
|Mary Tom (1818-1912)|
|John Tom (1820-1895)|
|James Tom (1822-1898)|
|William Tom jnr (1823-1904)|
|Thomas Tom (1825-1900)|
|Henry Tom (1827-1896)|
|Nicholas Tom (1829-1888)|
|Charles Tom (1831-1904)|
|Emma Fletcher Tom (1833-1872)|
|Helen Wesley Tom (1833-1916)|
|Selina Jane Jones Tom (1835-1929)|
|Wesley Tom (1837-1898)|
|Annie Tom (1840-1872)|
|Grazier and Lay preacher.|
William Tom, Excise officer, Farmer, Miner and Wesleyan lay preacher, was born on 25 May 1791 in Blisland, Cornwall, on the edge of Bodmin Moor, and was baptised on 12 Jun 1791. On 31 Dec 1817 in St. Clether Parish (5 km across the moor from Blisland), he married Ann Lane (1796-1870), who had been born in Bridgerule, near Holsworthy, in Devon. The couple had 13 children: three of these were born in Cornwall; one at sea before their arrival in New South Wales in 1823; and nine in the Bathurst district of N.S.W. William Tom died on 28 September 1883, at the age of 92, at his property
Springfield, near Orange N.S.W., and is buried in the nearby Byng cemetery.
A New Life: To a grandson, William Tom recounted that he had been in the
Excise Servicein Cornwall, but he came of farming stock. (He was a strongly-built man, said to be 180 cm tall — well above average for the times.) Economic conditions in England at the time were very harsh and, with his young and growing family, daughter Mary (4 years) and sons John (3) and James (2), William Tom set out for Australia in 1823, at the age of 32. They were accompanied by William Lane (brother of Ann), with his wife and 2 children.
The ship on which they were travelling, the Betty Ann lost its steering gear in a storm while trying to navigate the mouth of the Derwent River in Tasmania. The ship was being driven onto the rocky coast. It is said the Captain knew that William Tom was a deeply religious man and told him of the plight of the vessel, drifting with two lifeboats gone, both masts, rudder and the cook’s deckhouse smashed; Tom went below to pray. The wind is said to have changed direction soon after and sent the vessel into the mouth of the Derwent River.
The Toms and Lanes, and Anne Tom’s nephew who travelled with them stayed with a Rev. Mansfield in Hobart for a couple of weeks and then were able to procure a passage on
a very small craftnamed Jupiter and so they arrived in Sydney. During the five day trip, Ann bore another son, William Tom Junior, off Point Disappointment (?).
The family arrived in Sydney in November 1823, and after three months at Parramatta, the Toms crossed the Blue Mountains in a bullock dray to take up a 680-acre selection on the southern bank of the Fish River at Tarana. However he found that the trees were hard to burn and moved to Sidmouth Valley and thence to Wallaroi, near Bathurst, where he managed for John Hassall.
By 1829, the ban prohibiting settlers selecting land west of the Macquarie River (the Western District) was lifted and in 1830 William Tom took up a grant of 640 acres (259 hectares) shown in an 1828 map on the left bank of Lewis Ponds Creek, where the Sheep Station Creek joins. He called his property
Springfieldand became the first inhabitant of what was to become the Cornish Settlement, as more of Tom’s countrymen, with names like Glasson and Hawke, came to settle there. Cornish Settlement was later called Byng, after an eighteenth-century British admiral who was unjustly court-martialled and shot.
ParsonTom’s first home,
old Springfield, was a simple wattle-and-daub structure with four rooms and a loft for the boys and their tutor George Hawke, and has now disappeared, but the
newhomestead, built of local sandstone in 1847-54, presumably with convict labour, is still in fine condition. It is in this house that Tom was visited by Edward Hargraves, who showed the Tom boys how to make a cradle. (George Hawke was paid £5 and two cows per year to tutor the Tom boys.)
In the early 1840s the older ones among William Tom’s eight hardy sons began droving stock west and south-west. John (1820-1895) and William (1823-1904) drove cattle to Gippsland and took up a run known as Tom’s Camp. In 1847 Henry (1827-1896) and Nicholas (1829-1888) bought cattle at Mudgee to drove to Adelaide but met James Tyson, who persuaded them to squat at Booligal, where they remained in occupation with their father as a partner until 1858 when they sold out for £25,000. At various times the brothers also held Tom’s Lake, Borambil, Huntawong, Gunningbland, Wilga and Cowl-Cowl.
In the parlour of the Springfield homestead about 150 years ago William Tom, his wife Ann and their 13 children gathered around a pipe organ for their nightly session of hymns. It is said that William would pump the pedals enthusiastically and lead the singing in his strong resonant voice. The problem was that William did not always stick to the right key and his wife would make a quiet protest that he was putting them all out. The story goes on to record that William would invariably reply:
Well, my dear, I must praise the Lord and thank Him for all our blessings.
Parson Tom was a lay Wesleyan preacher; he preached to local copper miners from
Bethel Rockon his property, and travelled to other towns preaching, until a small church was built in May 1842. A plaque on Bethel Rock proclaims this to have been the first church west of Bathurst; its foundations are still visible just across the road from Bookannon homestead. A sign on the
newchurch says it was erected in 1872 to replace the 1840 (!?) Wesleyan chapel built 800 metres to its NE. Another plaque on Bethel Rock, entitled
The Cornish Settlement 1829, indicates the old homesteads
Pendarves, as well as directions to Bathurst (20 miles), Orange (10 miles) and Ophir (12 miles). Other notable names in the settlement, besides Tom, were Glasson and Hawke.
William Tom lacked the business acumen that enabled other Cornish farmers, including two sons-in-law, to make fortunes in the west in his lifetime. He was a patriarch who won in the new land what he wanted: sturdy children, a house of stone, with his land and flocks around, and a following of devoted Christians.
William Tom died on 28 September 1883, at the age of 92, at his property
Springfieldand is buried in the nearby Byng cemetery. On his death certificate, his occupation is given as
Gentlemanand the cause of death as
Matches: I was fascinated to find the following paragraph in Geoffrey Blainey’s book
Black Kettle and Full Moon, 2003. He is describing the effect of the coming of the safety match to Australia.
The matches were brittle. In exasperation a person would take a clump of matches and hold them tightly so that the chance of striking a light was higher. As a large box of the newfangled wax matches cost the high sum of about half a crown in 1860, the expense of striking a light could be high. When one of these fickle boxes reached an old pioneer namedAnother commentator saysParsonTom, living on the inland side of the Blue Mountains, and he tried to light a candle, two boys heard him strike every one of those matches, and finally go to bed in the dark.
And he didn’t swear once!— SC
On the 50th anniversary of Parson Tom’s death, a clergyman read the following remembrances of him at his grave:
The late Mr William Tom, commonly known as