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Dadswell Family History

Generation 7
Edward Dadswell (1811-1851)

On this page:
Ancestors of Edward Dadswell
Edward Dadswell's story
Key family dates
Further information

Ancestors of Edward Dadswell

Robert Doudeswell 1560 > Robert Doudeswell 1606 > Edward Dodswell 1659 > Edward Dodswell 1679 > Edward Dadswell 1715 > William Dadswell 1773 > Edward Dadswell 1811

Edward Dadswell's story

Edward Dadswell, the sixth child of William and Barbara (Colban) Dadswell, was baptised at Buxted, Sussex on 1 September 1811. Among his siblings were two older sisters, Barbara and Anne.

All three migrated to Australia. On 27 September 1839, Anne - aged 30 and described on shipping records as a "finishing governess" and Edward - aged 28 and listed as a farmhand - arrived at Sydney Cove aboard the 477-ton barque Amelia Thompson, a sailing ship that was being used extensively to ferry migrants from England to Australia and New Zealand.
Advertisement for Amelia Thompson sailing ship
Family stories suggest that Barbara, then aged about 31, was also aboard the same ship, although her name was not included in the passenger list of 208 emigrants. It is possible she was employed by a family travelling in cabin class, as servants aboard this ship were not named in the passenger list.

On this voyage, the ship had left England on 11 June, making the voyage in 108 days or about 3½ months.

Edward appears to have married before he left England, to Ann (family name unknown). Registers show a daughter, Mary Jane Dadswell, baptised on 13 April 1830. No records of Edward's wife have been found but the 1841 English census shows a Mary Jane Dadswell, then aged 12, living with school mistress Hannah How at Uckfield and this may have been Edward's daughter. But no evidence has emerged to show that she or her mother migrated to Australia.

About 10 years after arriving in Sydney, Edward was still working on farms and had some sheep and bullocks of his own in the Yass district where he was a carrier. In 1851 he made the 600 kilometre (380 mile) trip to Melbourne with Yass friend John Smallwood and Smallwood's wife. They were travelling by bullock-hauled dray (a wooden wagon) and had almost made it to Melbourne when disaster struck.

The previous year had been one of exceptional heat and drought - newspapers reported that pastures had withered, creeks had dried and water holes had disappeared. As the summer progressed, the temperatures became oppressive and on the morning of 6 February 1851 a fierce northerly wind developed the strength of what some witnesses said was that of a tornado.
Artist's impression of 1851 bushfires
It wrapped much of Victoria in a vast sheet of flame. The air was darkened by smoke, forests were ablaze, and houses, farm buildings, stock, bridges and wildlife were destroyed by fire. An estimated 12 lives, one million sheep and thousands of cattle were lost.

At the time of the fires, Edward Dadswell, John Smallwood and Mrs Smallwood had reached the area of the Plenty River, only 20 kilometres (12 miles) short of their destination of Melbourne, but they found there was little to protect them from the ferocity of the fires. As The Argus (Melbourne) reported on 17 February 1851:

Sufferers from the Bush Fire
A carrier from Yass, named Edward Dodswell (sic), was brought into the hospital on Thursday last, whose burns are of a very serious nature, extending the whole length of his back and over the greater part of his chest. He was brought from the ranges near the Plenty River, where it appeared he had camped with his wife and a bushman in his company. The whole team of bullocks and the dray, &c., were burnt. The other man saved himself by running until he had gained some ground that had been previously burnt. Dodswell and his wife laid themselves down in a creek, which had but about six inches in depth of water, but fortunately it was running fast, and by turning themselves over in it for about six hours, they escaped with difficulty from being burnt to death. As it was, all their clothing was burnt off them, and he was injured as previously described.

A subsequent report, on 24 February 1851, reported Edward's death and made clear the woman was John Smallwood's wife. The Argus reported:

An inquest was held on Saturday last upon the body of Edward Dodswell, whose case was detailed in our issue of Monday last, who expired early on Saturday morning, the 22nd instant, in the Melbourne Hospital.

The evidence of John Smallwood, of Yass, was that on the 6th instant, the witness and his wife were in company with the deceased, encamped by the side of the Running Creek, in Plenty Ranges, that they had early that morning observed that the bush fire was near them, but thought that it would pass by at some distance from their position, in which they were deceived. Through a fruitless endeavour at saving their bullocks and horses, witness lost sight of his wife and the deceased, and was himself almost miraculously saved by a shift of the wind when nearly surrounded by the fire.

He could not find his companions again that day, but fell in with them the next morning at Mr Patten's premises. The deceased was severely burnt. Every assistance that could be expected was rendered to all of them, and Dr Ronald attended daily to the deceased, who, at his own request, was removed to Melbourne.

Mr James Stone, Resident Apothecary of the Melbourne Hospital deposed, that when the deceased was admitted into the hospital, he was suffering from severe burns on the back, shoulders, and chest, and was then delirious; that every attention had been paid to him, but he gradually sank under his injuries, and expired at about half past six of that morning (Saturday).

A certificate from Dr Turnbull was handed to the coroner, stating that Mrs Smallwood (the female previously alluded to, and who, from her great attention to the deceased, had been supposed to be his wife), was unable to attend the inquest.

The jury, after a brief consultation, returned a verdict, that the death of Edward Dodswell was caused by burns received on the 6th instant, by the great conflagration in the neighbourhood of the Plenty River.

Edward's will (NSW Probate Office, Series 1, No. 2243) was drawn up in Melbourne after his admission to hospital and not long before he died. It states -

This is the last will and testament of me, Edward Dadswell, carrier, Port Phillip, son of the late William Dadswell of the Parish of Bucksted (sic) in the County of Sussex England, dated this 12th day of February, Eighteen hundred and fifty one. Being perfectly sound of mind, I will and bequeath to my sister Barbary Dadswell now Mrs Thomas Hyder the whole of my sheep, half the increase and all the wool now in the care of William Brown, Gunning. I also bequeath to my sister Barbary Dadswell whatever money is coming to me for my last years wool. I also will and bequeath to my friend John Smallwood carrier the whole of my cattle in the District of Yass branded ED/D also bullocks and the remains of the dray and all my cloaths (sic) and in consideration the aforesaid John Smallwood will see my remains comfortably and respectably interred in the Burial Ground in the City of Melbourne, Port Phillip and moreover the said John Smallwood will also erect a stone over my grave to my memory.

Signed and witnessed this present 12th day of February 1851. Signed Edward Dadswell. Witnessed: Wm Hy Hornan, Benjm Hilton, William Graham.

The William Brown referred to in the will was, along with his brother Tom, well-known in Yass district. They had both lived at Buxted, Sussex, had migrated to Australia in 1838 (a year earlier than the Dadswell siblings), had farmed at Camden near Narrellan, and at this time were farming in the Yass area close to where Edward and Anne had lived. Tom was also known as a fiery preacher, and the common birthplace, church connection, and Narrellan and Yass farming association all suggests Edward would have known them over many years.

It is unclear where Edward was buried or if a stone was erected over his grave. At the time of his death, Melbourne's cemetery was on the site of what is now the Queen Victoria Market in the city's north but it was already almost fully used with little space for further graves. Edward may have been buried there and later interred at Melbourne General Cemetery which opened in 1853, but no record has been located.

Key family dates

Abbreviations: bap = baptised; b = born; d = died.

Edward Dadswell
bap 1 Sep 1811 -
d 22 Feb 1851
married Ann _________
b ? -
d ?
Child -

1. Mary Jane Dadswell bap 13 Apr 1830 - d ?

Further information

Edward Dadswell's siblings Barbara and Anne who also migrated to Australia
William Dadswell (generation 6, father of Edward Dadswell)


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