William ("Parson") Tom (1791-1883)

Parson Tom

Blisland map - 150 KB William Tom, Excise officer, Farmer, Miner and Wesleyan lay preacher, the author's great-great-great-grandfather, 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 (9 miles - 15 km - as the crow flies across the moor from Blisland), he married Ann Lane (1796-1870), who had been born in Bridgerule, near Holsworthy, in Devon.

William Tom and Ann 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. On his death certificate, his occupation is given as "Gentleman" (this presumably means "retired"). He died of "old age".


Blisland in Cornwall was the home of the Tom family from time immemorial. Baptismal and other parish records reveal the following:

John Tom Blisland grave
The grave of John Tom, "Parson" Tom's father,
in Blisland cemetery, Cornwall, England

The parents of Ann Lane, wife of the "Parson", were James Lane (1756-1842) and Joanna (or Johanna) Brimacombe (1754-1820): James Lane, the author's great-great-great-great-grandfather, appears in the 1841 census in South Petherwin, Cornwall, living with a Samuel Lane, yeoman, presumably his son. James seems to have died here the following year. Joanna Brimacombe is said to have been the daughter of Richard Brimacombe and Susanna Jewell, to have been born in Holsworthy, to have resided at Basil (= St. Clether?) and to have died in St Clether in August 1820. The children of James and Joanna seem to have been:

A New Life

To a grandson, William Tom recounted that he had been in the "Excise Service" in Cornwall, but he came of farming stock. (He was a strongly-built man, said to be 180 cm [5'11"] 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. His wife would have been about 27.

The ship on which they were travelling, the Belinda, was wrecked in a tempest in Storm Bay, Tasmania, near the mouth of the Derwent. 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. Thus saved, as they believed, by the Providence of God, the family transferred to the Jupiter to continue their journey to Sydney. The Jupiter had arrived in Hobart on 6 November; she sailed for Port Jackson on 16 November. During the five day trip, Ann bore another son, William Tom Junior.

[James Tom says William Jr was born during a great storm, but he may be confusing two separate events - or there may have been a second storm. JCC]
The Hobart Town Gazette of 15 November 1823 carried the following story:

SHIP NEWS. - Arrived last Wednesday from England, via the Cape of Good Hope, the brig Belinda, Captain Coverdale, with merchandize & passengers; namely, Mr. Lee, Mrs. Archer and 2 children, Mr. Gribble, Mr. Roberts, Mr. Ord, Master Stedmann Potter, and Mr. Moss Hart; together with the following steerage passengers – Mrs. Page and 3 children, Mr. and Mrs. Lane, Mrs. Hannah Davis and child, Mr. and Mrs. Tom, Mr. James Bray, and 3 children, Mr. W. Liney, Mr. George Whitcomb, Mr. John Leg, Mr. James Greenfield, and Mr. Josiah Snelgrove....

In latitude 42' South, off the Island of St. Paul's, the brig Belinda experienced a most tremendous gale of wind, in which she lost both her masts, all the boats on deck, and the caboose. Two seamen and a boy, named John Grunner, William Ramsay, and Joseph Noel, were washed overboard at the same time, and unfortunately drowned. In the caboose, the cook was also swept off the deck, but luckily saved by holding on to the caboose.

The family arrived in Sydney on 25 November 1823. The Sydney Gazette of 27 November 1823 reports:
SHIP NEWS–On Tuesday last arrived from England and Hobart Town, the ship Jupiter, Captain Park. She sailed from London the 2d of June, and called at the Cape, which she left on the 18th of September; and sailed from Hobart Town on the 18th instant. She brings a number of women and families who have been kindly sent out by Government to join their relatives in these Colonies; together with 12 females from the Guardian Society; and 15 pensioned non-commissioned officers and soldiers of the Roval Artillery, to occupy the situations of superintendents, &c. in New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land. Surgeon Superintendent: Dr. Walker, R. N.
No mention of the Toms, but they appear in the records of departures from Hobart, accompanied by their three children: Mary, John and James. Travelling on the same ship, Jupiter, were William Lane, Ann Lane Tom's brother, with his wife Catherine (who was also Parson Tom's sister) and the first two of their children, Mary Tom Lane and John Tom Lane b. 9 September 1822, along with Hannah Davis, her child and James Bray. From the above Hobart newspaper report, we deduce that they, too, had transferred at Hobart from the wrecked Belinda. [William Lane (1792-1855) was a pioneer settler at "Orton Park", Bathurst, and one of the first land owners in the Orange district. He purchased land at Frederick's Valley Creek in 1836, 1837, and 1838, but his first selection there, "Rosehill", is shown on an 1832 survey. His son John Tom Lane made a name for himself in the colony, holding a number of important public offices. Hannah Davis resided with the Lanes at "Orton Park".]

The Belinda sailed for Port Jackson on 18 February 1824. The Sydney Gazette of 26 February 1824 announced:
SHIP NEWS.-On Monday last arrived from England and Hobart Town, the brig Belinda, Captain Coverdale. This vessel, it may be recollected, made the latter Port some few months back, in a dismasted and otherwise wrecked condition. Her cargo comprises sundries, Passengers, from England and Hobart Town, Mr. Edward Lee, Supercargo; Mr. Edward Spark and family; Mr. Crook, Mr. J. Harpur, Mr. Wm. Lundin, Mr. James Kiernan, Miss Mary Hosking, Master W. Hutchinson, and Ann Jamieson and child.
The Toms crossed the Blue Mountains in a bullock dray. The General Muster List of NSW of 1823/24/25 (a kind of compendium census) shows William Tomm (sic) (CF="came free", Jupiter 1823) employed by Mr Hassall in the Bathurst district. His wife Ann and five children are also recorded. In the 1828 census, we find William Toms (sic), 37, CF Jupiter 1823, P (=Protestant), Farmer at Sidmouth Vy, Bathurst, with his wife Ann, 32, and children Mary 10, John 8, James 6, William 4, Thomas 3 and Henry 1. The family worked a 680-acre selection on the southern bank of the Fish River at Tarana, between Lithgow and Bathurst. The low-lying land turned out to be unsuitable for sheep, large numbers of which succumbed to foot-rot, but the family struggled on for some six years.

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. [33°20'39.92"S, 149°15'13.92"E] He called his property "Springfield" and 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 court-martialled and shot for failing to carry out his orders, which were to defeat the French at Minorca and protect Gibraltar! (Byng subsequently became something of a cult hero, as people realized he was a scapegoat for the government.)

"Parson" Tom's first home, "old Springfield", was a simple wattle-and-daub structure with five rooms, and has now disappeared, but the "new" homestead, built of local sandstone in 1847-54, presumably with convict labour, is still in fine condition.

Springfield 1888

The family's pipe organ was recently traced and repurchased by his descendants for the Orange District Historical Society. It was around this organ in the parlour of the Springfield homestead about 150 years ago that William Tom, his wife Ann and their 13 children gathered 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".

Springfield 1960s

Parson Tom was a lay Wesleyan preacher; he preached to local copper miners from "Bethel Rock" on his property, 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 "new" church 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 "Springfield", "Bookannon" and "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.

The graves of "Parson" Tom's relatives are still in quite good condition in the cemetery across the road from the "new" church.

"Parson" Tom had 13 children, as shown in the table. The comments in inverted commas are those of James Tom, eldest son of John Tom who was in turn the eldest son of "Parson" Tom. Some further family news is provided by a letter of Ann Tom to her sister, dated 28 May 1857.

Born Married Died Buried Notes
Mary 9 Oct 1818, Blisland;
baptised St Breward, Cornwall, 12 Nov 1818
John Smith of Gamboola b. 19.5.1811 St. Keverne, Cornwall; m. 12.9.1842 at Byng; d. 1.1.1895 16 Jul 1912
Bathurst NSW
- -
John 20 Apr 1820
Ann Elder (1821-1902)
Had 7 children of whom
4th was Emily Australia
1 Aug 1895
Ophir NSW
Wesleyan Cemetery
Drover, farmer, miner
Author's G-G-Grandfather
See photo
24 Mar 1822
Marion McCaw b. Scotland
Had 8 children
7 Aug 1898 of influenza On his property "Chentin Grange", Wallan, Vic. Guided early Hargraves expedition
"Good businessman"
Moved to Victoria
William Jr ("Bill") 20 Nov 1823
At sea between Tas & NSW
(Susanna) Sarah Lister on 21 Jun 1851
[2 months after gold discovered]
Had 10 children
3 Jul 1904
near Guyong NSW
Byng Cemetery
[see picture below]
Gold discoverer
"Well-read, entertaining man"
Thomas 16 Aug 1825
Bathurst, NSW
Wilhelmina ("Minor") Elder
[sister of Ann who m. John Tom]
Had 8 children
4 Apr 1900 - "Typical squatter;
very musical"
Henry 4 Jun 1827
Emma Coleman
Had 2 children
14 Jul 1896 - Pastoralist
Moved to Qld
Nicholas 11 Mar 1829
Tarana NSW
Eliza McGaw (1833-1906)
Had 6 children
12 Oct 1888 Byng Cemetery "Quiet retiring man;
well liked by all"
Charles 1 Apr 1831
Louisa Coleman
[sister of Henry's wife?]
Had 2 children
11 Jul 1904
- Spent years in Qld
Helen Wesley 27 Jul 1833
George Henry Tempest
Had 8 children
23 May 1916 Rookwood Cemetery
Twin of Emma
Emma Fletcher 27 Jul 1833
Thomas Geake Webb
in double wedding with sister Selina, 18/1/54
Had 12 children
2 Dec 1872 Byng Cemetery Twin of Helen
Selina Jane Jones 28 Aug 1835
Edmund Webb, Merchant of Bathurst
in double wedding with sister Emma, 18/1/54
Had 5 children
1929 - -
Wesley 16 Aug 1837 "Late in life", in England - - Early graduate of Syd Uni (1857)
Practised law in England
Annie 29 Feb 1840
Richard Gustavus "Gus" Glasson
Had 3 children
8 Dec 1872 - "A real Australian girl"

Wm Tom Jr grave

The author at the grave of William Tom Jr, "Gold Discoverer", in Byng cemetery, N.S.W.

"Bethel Rock" is on the hill in the background.

Further information about the Tom family is available on the website of the Cornish Association of New South Wales. See also John Rule's text in The Cradle of a Nation.

Elders & Smiths

As can be seen from the above table, two Tom brothers, John and Thomas, married two Elder sisters, Ann and "Minor", respectively. Ann Elder the author's great-great-grandmother was the daughter of James Elder and Mary Smith, as shown in the diagram below. She was the eighth of Mary's 12 children. The colourful stories of the Elder and Smith families are told on separate pages.

Toms & Elders

Ann Elder, was born at "Elder House", Parramatta, on 27 June 1821, was married to John Tom on 25 March 1845 at St. John's, Parramatta by her brother John, brought up a family of seven children in country NSW, and died on 7 November 1902.

The seven children of John Tom and Ann Elder are shown in the table:

Born Married Died Buried Notes
Wilhelmina ("Mina") Ann19 Feb 1846 Frank Montgomery
Had 5 children
- - -
Fanny Jane 15 Jun 1849 - - - Unmarried
James ("Jim") Dunlop 28 Sep 1853
- 1948
- Unmarried
See "Reminiscences"
Emily Australia 29 Mar 1856
Thomas Sydney Lister
on 24 Sep 1879
at Wesleyan Chapel,
Guyong NSW
by Rev. J. A. Nowlan
Had 11 children
18 Jun 1938 Methodist cemetery
Orange, NSW
The author's great-grandmother
See photo below.
This marriage represents,
for the author's family,
the confluence of the
Tom and Lister lines.
William John 18 Apr 1859
- 2 Jun 1942 - -
Catherine ("Katie") Lane 5 Jun 1862 - 1946 - Unmarried
See photo below
Hamilton H 1865 - In infancy - Another brother also died young
("2 males deceased" on father's death certificate)

Emily Tom Kate Tom

Toms & Listers

Emily Australia Tom was educated at Methodist Ladies' College, Burwood, apparently at her Tom grandfather's expense. She and Thomas Sydney Lister, who married in the Wesleyan Chapel in Guyong NSW (near Byng) - 33°23'40.68"S, 149°13'59.23"E - on 24 Sep 1879, had 11 children, as shown in the table which follows. They farmed at "Woodstock" on the Cargo road some 15 km SW of Orange, close to Mount Canobolas - a very cold part of the country. [The name of the property is said to have changed to Coffee Hills and to be a vineyard. The homestead has long been a ruin. The area is or was called Paling Yard Creek, "on the right side about 10 miles out from Orange".]

In retirement, they lived at 32 Day Street, Marrickville - an old Sydney suburb. This is where they were when their son Sid went off to the Great War. Thomas Lister died in May 1920. Emily subsequently lived in Orange with her sisters but, to escape the cold, wintered with the Crawshaws in Thirroul. Her death is recorded at Clinton St., Orange, in June 1938.

Born Married Died Buried Notes
Annie ("Una") 29 Jun 1880 - 1919 Rookwood Cemetery, Sydney Died of "Spanish 'flu" post WW I.
Ida Elder Pymble 16 Aug 1881 Alfred Harold ("Harold") Hogg
Had 1 child
9 Aug 1955 Methodist section
Woronora cemetery, NSW
Baptised 18 Dec 1881 in Byng
Fanny Ina ("Dot") 6 Sep 1883
Byng nr Orange, N.S.W.
Conrad Kraushaar/Crawshaw
Had 5 children
10 Dec 1961 Northern Suburbs Cemetery, Sydney The author's grandmother
Emily Olive ("Ollie") 25 Feb 1885 Charles Randolph Hamilton Moulder, in 1907
Had 8 children
6 Mar 1973 - -
Katie Maud 13 Oct 1886
"Woodstock", on Cargo road near Orange, NSW
John Henry Glasson
Had 5 children
2 Jun 1973
Blayney, NSW
Orange, NSW Lived at "Stanfield"
Pansy Ruperta 20 Nov 1888
Molong, NSW
- 1893 - Died of diphtheria
Lucy Lina Amy 29 Jan 1891
Cargo, NSW
- 1891 - Died of diphtheria
John ("Jack") Hardman Australia 11 Jun 1892
Orange, NSW
Catherine Mary Ima ("Ima") Beacroft
Had 5 children
27 Aug 1958 - Lived at St. Mary's.
Stationmaster at Blayney;
later at Blacktown
Sidney Harold T ("Sid") 11 Oct 1895 - 14 May 1918 Dive Copse British Cemetery, Somme, France Railway booking clerk;
Died in battle in WWI
Norman Lisle 16 Oct 1899
Orange, NSW
Mavis Lilian Holdorf
Had 6 children
14 Feb 1976 - Tramway workshop employee
Clarice Ethelwyn 7 Feb 1901
Orange, NSW
John Paull ("Paull") Glasson
No children
1982 at "Gresham" nr Newbridge NSW Canobolas Crematorium, Orange -