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Harris Family Histories

TIN TO GOLD
Stephens Family History

For centuries, St.Austell has been famous for its tin and now it is famous for its clay. It was here that William Cockworthy found his first examples of the clay which was to give Cornwall a new industry. He found it in St.Austell before he discovered the huge deposits at Carclaze mine, one of the sights of Cornwall two miles away. Open to the day, the great Carclaze mine has been quarried for tin from time immemorial. It must have been yielding tin when the Phoenicians came this way.

The moors are honeycombed with mines and quarries. There is a wishing well on the Bodmin Road, an old stone by the church where traditions say a witch was burned alive.

The fine church in the heart of this busy town stands among palm trees, rising from a lovely lawn. Its tower can be seen from far away standing on a hillside among the trees.

St.Austell flourishes on china clay, whether you walk or sail to St.Austell, you will become aware of a strange unearthly landscape, such as we imagine the Mountains of the Moon to be before men actually got to them: a kind of distant white fairyland, or magical country of sugar candy.

This is the scene that greeted the Stephens brothers on arrival in Ballarat.

At times they saw, half mad men throwing sovereigns like halfpence into the streets. Some threw dirty bank notes and would deliberately tear them up and trample them to pieces into the mud under their feet.

Chinamen with pigtails and loose trousers, aborigines with solitary blankets flung over them. Pickpockets with cunning eyes & loose fingers.

There would have been the occasional "gent" from London, newly arrived who would stare with disgusted eyes at this scene. All around were people from a vast amount of lands all hungry for gold. Californians, Cantonese, London lads, men from Dublin & Rome. Negro sailors and Irish peasants; no matter what their background was, the bait was the same.


George STEPHENS

For the Stephens brothers, the next few years luck was to decide their futures.

By the time they arrived in Ballarat most of the alluvial gold had run out so they started work for one of the large companies. Their first task was to procure a licence which cost 30/- a month. This was quite an outlay for them before they even started work.

Many diggers did not buy licences and took the risk of being caught by the "traps" or "Joes" the goldfields police. Young George Stephens was too young to go down the mines with his brothers. But one day the police stopped him and asked him for his licence. George had been to see his brothers and was spotted playing near the mines. As George didn't have one, the policemen thought they would make an example of him and chained him to a tree. Some of the townsfolk heard of this and caused a big commotion. Eventually George was released.

After their mother's death George & his brothers travelled from Geelong to Ballarat by train. The line had opened in 1862. The trip was dirty and not particularly fast. But to the people of Ballarat it spelt progress.

Ballarat had changed dramatically. Among the shallow holes and heaps of panned earth, huge constructions began to appear. Roads and bridges were built to remote areas and toward the end of the century the railway enabled large pieces of machinery to be taken to the goldfields. Before this of course, horse and bullock teams had performed amazing feats of strength, and massive boilers and batteries had to be hauled over the rough and precipitous tracks.

Some of the services on the goldfields were haphazard for many years; postal services were at the mercy of circumstances and were often interrupted. Letters, parcels and newspapers could be held up by the state of the roads, bushrangers or general disorgaization.

Jonathan STEPHENS born in St.Austell Cornwall married Catherine ROWSE. Only two children have been found, William married Rebecca COUCH & Catherine. After the death of her husband, Rebecca STEPHENS nee COUCH came out to Australia on the "William Money" which left Plymouth on the 19th September 1848 and arrived in South Australia on 3rd January 1849. Rebecca had five of her children with her leaving two behind who later came out with their families. Thomas married Julia HARRIS in Ballarat Victoria, William married Susan LOWER in Liskeard Cornwall, Elizabeth married Nicholas DAVY in Cornwall, John married Ann Couch MARSHALL in Geelong Victoria, Jonathan, Rebecca, Jonathan, (these three born and died in Cornwall), Henry born Cornwall died Claremont Western Australia, George married Mary Hannah VIVIAN at Ballarat & Jonathan married (1) Isabel MORRIS in Melbourne (2) Agnes Caldwell WILLIAMSON nee THOM.

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