The Saul Family on the Macleay
by John Slaughter
This article was originally published in the December 2002 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society
Gwen Hackett drew my attention to and obtained for me a copy of the March 1995 journal of the Macleay River Historical Society that told the story of two Saul brothers that emigrated from Norfolk to Australia and settled on the Macleay River. The Macleay River Historical Society has kindly given permission to publish extracts from their journal.
By way of background the brothers concerned are James Saul and William Saul who were baptised in Cawston, Norfolk on 20 September 1829 and 6 January 1833 respectively, the first and third children of William Saul and Mary Ann Lowe. The Cawston line can be traced back to a Thomas Saul and Elizabeth who first appear in the Cawston registers when they baptised a son John on 28 November 1762.
“William Saul and Janet Gray were married on the 20th June 1861 in the school house at East Kempsey. The witnesses to the marriage were James Saul, brother of William, and Ellen Clarke. The schoolhouse is believed to be where the little church of St. Albans was situated in Innes Street. The young couple began their married like at Seven Oaks, the estate of the Oakes family.
Jane Gray was born in Newton, Mearns near Busby in Scotland in 1845. She was the eldest of four girls born to John and Janet Gray. The Gray family emigrated to Australia in 1855 on the “Golden Era”. They left Liverpool, England on the 21st March and arrived in Sydney on 16th June 1855. The family later moved to the Macleay where Janet found a position with the Oakes family as nursemaid to the children. This would have been the family of Henry Richard Oakes, son of Major Oakes who was running the property at Seven Oaks at that time.
At Seven Oaks she met her future husband William Saul who was also employed by the Oakes family as a farmer. William was born in Cawston, Norwich in 1833. He is believed to have arrived in Australia in 1859. His brother, James was already employed by Oakes, as an overseer in charge of tenant farmers. It is known that James had been given assisted passage to Australia in 1855. At the time skilled farmers were in demand. William then was most likely to have been encouraged to come to the Macleay by his brother. Within two years he was to be married to Janet Gray, twelve years his junior.
William and Janet’s first child was born two years after the marriage, a girl Mary Anne. Within twenty-three years there were ten children born to them, eight boys and two girls. They all reached adulthood. The family never moved from the Macleay and most became farmers.
Tragedy struck on 8th February 1892 when William Saul died. He had been ill for some months, he was fifty-nine years old. At the time Janet was forty-seven and their youngest son Douglas just five years old. William was buried in Frederickton cemetery.
After William’s death, Janet was left with a great responsibility. She must have missed her married daughters and needing more help, she advertised in the Macleay Argus on 4th September 1897 “Wanted a girl for general housework. Apply Mrs W Saul Snr, Seven Oaks.” It appears she was an astute businessperson for in 1907 she purchased the Seven Oaks property from Thomas Oakes. Up to this time, the land must have been leased. The original house at Seven Oaks burnt down and Janet’s son Thomas rebuilt on the same site. He farmed the land until his death in 1917.
Mr James Saul came to Australia in the ship “Rose of Sharon” in 1855 under the engagement to Mr Oakes, then owner of the property at Seven Oaks, as foreman of a staff of practical farmers who had been hired after the employment of convict labour ceased.
James married Jane Stone who was governess to the Oakes children. Jane had emigrated from Ireland. Family papers reveal that James took up farming on his own account at Seven Oaks and then decided on trying to purchase a place of his own. He selected at Kinchela Creek. There he experienced a series of floods and was forced to return to Seven Oaks. He followed farming and dairying pursuits for twenty-three years during which time he was baffled by more floods. On one occasion he lost all he had in the way of stock.
The ownership of the land at Seven Oaks changed hands and James was forced to seek fresh fields and settled at Clybucca. The wrench of leaving his old home at Seven Oaks and declining years forced him to give up active work. The family moved to South West Rocks where Jane opened a store.
Clara Saul was the daughter of James Saul. Clara became one of the unsung heroes of local history… a teacher in small schools before the turn of the century. She attended school at Seven Oaks and it was there that the teacher Frederick Lewis late in 1885 set her feet firmly on the educational ladder. From Mrs Lewis she learned French language and sewing. Clara excelled and did hours of extra homework under spluttering candlelight.
Appointed as a pupil teacher in 1888 and then only thirteen years of age, Mr Lewis warned her to refrain from giving her proper age to officials as fourteen was the qualifying age. Clara continued to teach at Seven Oaks until 1893 when she applied successfully to be appointed at Macleay Heads, the site of the old pilot station.
Conditions at Macleay Heads were almost impossible. The building was little more than a leaky shed. She asked for removal to become an assistant teacher anywhere on the river when a vacancy occurred. Clara was still there in 1896 but finding the going tough because her pupils were not passing exams despite her efforts.
In 1897 she resigned to marry Robert Jamieson, the son of the Pilot Captain Jamieson. She and Robert were engaged in the sawmilling business of Jamiesons in Frederickton.”
To be continued…
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