The question mark concerning the origin of my Great Great Grandfather, Jesse Wallace loomed over me for some time. It wasn’t until my visit to Fremantle Cemetery that I obtained my most valuable clue (read about it here) and finally began to uncover the details of his past prior to arriving in Australia.
The son of Thomas Wallace and Bathsheba Handscombe, Jesse was born on 1 November 1848 in Cheshunt, England. The third eldest of 12 children from the marriage, Jesse’s childhood was spent living with his family and going to school in the town of his birth.
With Cheshunt being fairly close to the Royal Small Arms Factory in Enfield (his father would eventually become foreman of the factory) it’s not surprising to find that Jesse grew up and chose to become a blacksmith. In 1871 he was still living with his family but perhaps it was his new found trade and a calling for adventure that led to his decision to travel. On 1 August 1871 he sailed out of Liverpool onboard the ship “Germany” and seventeen days later arrived in Quebec, Canada listing his occupation as a labourer.
From this starting point, he worked around the city of Hamilton, down through to America and eventually made his way to Sydney where he managed hotels. Later he travelled from Sydney to Melbourne where he took up managing a soap factory.
Moving once again, this time from Melbourne to Adelaide in the 1880’s, it was here that Jesse met his future wife, Esther Mary Mather (who was 17 years his junior) and on 18 July 1886 they were married in St Ignatius Church in Norwood. Jesse and Esther continued to live in South Australia until the 1890’s and brought three sons into the world: Henry Thomas Wallace born on 8 May 1887, George Wallace born on 12 March 1891 and Alexander Charley Wallace born on 1 September 1893. Sadly, George never survived past infancy.
With the onset of the depression in the 1890’s and the discovery of gold in Western Australia, Jesse once again gathered his family and his belongings and moved for the final time in his life.
They settled in East Fremantle and lived at 152 Sewell Street. Jesse went back to his blacksmith roots and worked as a foreman boilermaker for the railway workshops. In their new home three more children were born: Grace Esther Wallace born on 6 June 1899 (my Great Grandmother), Edith Alice Wallace born on 5 May 1901 and Edwin Arthur Wallace born in 1904.
A visit to Western Australia’s State Records Office and a viewing of Jesse’s Probate documents led to the discovery of his Death Certificate, Will and most interesting, a plan of his residence on Sewell Street.
Sadly, Jesse never saw most of his children reach adulthood. Suffering for some time from valvular heart disease, he eventually succumbed to his illness and passed away at his home on 14 April 1909.
He was buried in the Anglican section of the Fremantle Cemetery and his funeral was attended by members of the Boilermakers’ Association, WA Government Railways, the United Ancient Order of Druids – Westralia Lodge and of course, his family and friends. The article further states “a large number of wreaths and floral tributes were received”. He was obviously a man of great social standing within the community and was probably greatly missed by all who knew him.
- Ancestry.com. England & Wales Christening Records, 1530-1906 [database on-line]. Place: Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, England; Date Range: 1831 – 1869; Film Number: 1040802.
- Ancestry.com. 1851 England Census [database on-line]. Class: HO107; Piece: 1704; Folio: 168; Page: 39; GSU roll: 193612.
- Ancestry.com. 1861 England Census [database on-line]. Class: RG9; Piece: 802; Folio: 33; Page: 15; GSU roll: 542703.
- Ancestry.com. 1871 England Census [database on-line]. Class: RG10; Piece: 1347; Folio: 44; Page: 28; GSU roll: 828288.
- Ancestry.com. Canadian Passenger Lists, 1865-1935 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2010.
- South Australian Marriage Registrations (1842-1916).
- South Australian Birth Registrations (1842-1906).
- Ancestry.com. Australian Electoral Rolls, 1903-1954 [database on-line].
- Metropolitan Cemeteries Board index (http://www.mcb.wa.gov.au/default.php).
- 1909 ‘Family Notices.’, The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879-1954), 16 April, p. 1, viewed 21 January, 2011, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article26225688
- 1909 ‘Family Notices.’, The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879-1954), 20 April, p. 3, viewed 21 January, 2011, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article26225955
- State Records Office of Western Australia (Item No. 1909/093).
- Information contained in letters from Jesse Wallace’s granddaughter, Betty.
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