Thomas Greenway and Elizabeth
Thomas Greenway Burge and Elizabeth (Wheeler)
Painted portraits circa 1865 - click on each
(The background image is also Thomas, taken
some thirty years later)
Thomas Greenway Burge
bpt. 12 June 1831 Batheaston UK. d. 23 December
1900 Redbank, Vic
son of William
and Mary Burge
b.1831 Short Street, Wiltshire, UK. d. 29
October 1895 St. Arnaud Vic, buried
Redbank, daughter of William
and Martha Wheeler.
Marriage 1 May 1853 at Christ Church,
Parish of St. Marylebone, London.
Thomas and Elizabeth Burge arrived in Australia
on the ship Neleus on 23 October 1854. They and 396 other passengers
arrived in Port Phillip Bay, Melbourne on a grey afternoon, the ship battling
a strong east-northeasterly wind as it ran up the bay. The Neleus was among
the fastest clippers on the run, and had taken 71 days 13 hours for the
voyage. The run had not been uneventful, before Thomas and Elizabeth embarked
four passengers had died of cholera between Gravesend and Southampton.
The ship had hit the dockhead at Southampton and been considerably damaged.
Luckily, the worst of the cholera had been contained during the lengthy
stay for repairs, and only one further death occurred after Thomas and
Elizabeth's departure from Southhampton, on a fine day of 68 degrees on
August 10. Other than the one death, the most notable events of the journey
were five healthy babies born en route. Other ships were sighted along
the way - the Dutch Ondermening off the coast of the Canary Islands,
and Sappho, 900 miles off the Guinea coast. (Information from Florence
The Somerset Years*)
Thomas was the eldest child of twelve, the
son of William and Mary Burge of Batheaston, Somerset, England. His date
of baptism was 12th June 1831. The family were mostly carpenters, and this
was also the trade taken up by Thomas, following in his fathers footsteps.
William had been born in Frome, but all twelve of his children were born
in Batheaston. More may be found on William and Mary's family
Elizabeth Wheeler had been employed as a domestic
servant in the home of George Parsons in Batheaston. Her sister Ruth Wheeler
was also employed there. Elizabeth was born in 1831 in Short Street, near
Dilton Marsh, Wiltshire, the daughter of William
and Martha Wheeler.
The young couple were married at Christ Church,
Parish of Marylebone, London on 1st May, 1853. The address given by both
at the time was 'Huntworth Terrace' in London.
Soon after their arrival in the colony of
Victoria, on 20th November 1854, Thomas went to work for William Plummer
in Warnambool on a three month contract, on a wage of 80 pounds per annum.
William Plummer was one of the earliest settlers in the Warnambool area,
and had started a flour mill there in 1850.
Within the year, Thomas and Elizabeth and
family were to move to Redbank, near Avoca, Victoria, where the pair stayed
until their deaths. Their eldest child, Caroline Elizabeth, was born in
Warnambool in 1855. By the birth of their second child Mary Anne on 20th
February 1856, the family was in Redbank, where all ten of the younger
children were born. The two above were followed by Sarah Ellen in 1859,
Thomas William 1862, twins Alfred Augustine and Albert James in 1863, John
Henry (my grandfather) in 1865, Edward Benjiman 1867, Martha Ellis in 1869,
Selina 1872, and Rhoda in 1875. All survived to adulthood, but Sarah died
young at the age of 23.
Redbank was a gold mining area, and gold was
the major reason for Thomas and Elizabeth's journey to the other end of
the world. The Australian gold rush, having started in 1852 to the north
in New South Wales, was at it's peak in 1854, and young men from all over
the world had made their way to the colony to make their fortune. Like
most, making a dazzlingly large fortune was not to be the outcome for Thomas.
He certainly found considerable amounts of gold, but supplemented this
with a grant of land under Section 42 of the Land Act. This entitled miners
to a holding of land which, when combined with their takings of gold, would
make them self-sufficient.
Thomas was one of the earliest to seek land
under this scheme, and 20 acres of land was made freehold by the issue
of a Crown Grant to him on the 18th December 1855. This 20 acre block of
land fronted the main road between Redbank and Stuart Mill. This small
holding began what grew into the 'Burge Bros. Consortium', as my father
described it, I'm not sure if this was an actual company - or if dad was
once more exhibiting the rather bombastic style he tended to write in sometimes!
Regardless of whether there was actually a company involved in land aquisition
by Thomas and his sons or not, the result was the same. Large tracts of
hundreds of acres of land between Redbank and Stuart Mill belonged to the
Burges (particularly Alfred) within the next fifty years, and Burges are
known as one of the more prominent pioneering families in the district.
The term Burge Bros. Consortium may have been a misnomer, however, because
large areas also belonged to 'M E Burge', and the only family member with
these initials is Thomas and Elizabeth's daughter Martha Ellis (Alice)
Burge. I hope so.
Thomas also 'selected' a further, very small,
area of land near what was known as 'The Forty Foot' in 1884. It is obvious
from the size of this allotment that it was intended as the means to the
'dazzlingly large fortune' in gold spoken of above - but if this happened
the knowledge was never shared! I did, however, grow up on tales of 'Old
Tommy Burge' sneaking out of town being sure never to be followed and coming
back with nuggets - which fired my childhood dreams and allowed me to find
numerous golden specks along Redbank Creek at the back of our land when
I went to visit - avoiding 'diggers holes' all the way!
Elizabeth passed away from 'chronic dyspepsia'
on 29th October 1895, and Thomas was to follow her two days before Christmas
1900 - regretfully dying of pneumonia following nine days diarrhea.
The last section of Burge land in Redbank
was to pass out of the family in 1996, when myself, my sister and brothers
decided it was time to let go. I regret it still, and would not make the
same decision today if I had it to make again.
Links will be added to these with all the information
I have on them and their families as I get to them. If you have a query
about any of them, please feel welcome to email
me.I'll slowly plug away building more pages, but there's an awful lot
of them needed!
Martha Ellis (Alice)
|DOB & death
1855 - ?
20 June 1856 - 25 June
1859 - 1883
15 June 1862 - 12 April
6 April 1863 - 22 Feb
6 April 1863 - 4 May
16 March 1865 - 22 Aug
1867 - 1933
21 Nov 1869- 27 Feb
1872 - 3 April 1943
29 March 1875 - 1935
Tommy and Bessie, my great grandparents, and
their family were to share joys, tragedies and scandals, but mostly the
days rolled on into what is now exactly a century and a half of gentle
change, and their Australian descendants eventually numbered in the hundreds.
As time goes by I'll attempt to add all I know of my family on here.
Any input will be greatly appreciated from anyone attached to us. Please
feel free to email me if you'd like to tell me family secrets, ask questions
about bits I've not put on here yet - or just say hello.
John Henry and Mary Louisa Burge
and McLean Index
* Florence Chuk: The
Somerset Years. Pennard Hill Publications, Ballarat.