Brad Mitchell's Family, from Hawton
Note Hawton's document has been
edited to remove information covered in other pages and
information about living or recently
living people.. It stops with Brad's death in 1918
Mitchell married Margaret Burton .The family lived at
Ventadon, which is close to Stoke Climsland, in Cornwall. It is
interesting to visit Stoke Climsland today and to go round all the
headstones of the old graves which have been set up around the grounds
of the Church (of England) in the small village . Here you can read of
our ancestors with many Mitchells and Hawtons on the engraved
headstones, and from the dates of the deaths it is possible to follow a
lineage from one generation to another.
We have a Diary written by Braddon Mitchell which
covers the period from 1871 up to 1906 and it is from this diary that I
have been able to put together a somewhat sketchy story of the Mitchell
family as they established themselves in North-West Victoria in and
around the small township of Bethanga..
We can only guess that the
early years at Osborne Flat must have been tough for the growing family
, but at some stage William B must have moved them to another place
called Hillsborough because that is where Braddon’s diary begins. (
Baillier’s Victorian Directories--1868 have an entry : Osborn
Flat -Mitchell,William B., farmer ).
Hillsborough was about 10 km.
south of Beechworth and was the centre of a gold mining area. So it
would seem that either William B found that he couldn’t make a living
out of butchering or farming, at Osborne Flat or that the lure of gold
had got into his system. It is more likely the latter, as you will see
from Braddon’s diary that he worked in the several gold mines
around Hillsborough. . There is also another factor which may
explain his interest in mining , and that is that he came from Cornwall
which is well known for their tin miners. At that time Beechworth was a
rich gold mining centre and as well as several gold reefs at
Hillsborough, there were other reefs between Yackandandah and
Beechworth and another rich goldfield at El Dorado which was18
km. west of Beechworth.
Today Hillsborough is
non-existent, it doesn’t show up on any present road maps. However a
book of the history of the Beechworth Goldfields does include a map of
that region which shows Hillsborough and its local gold mines as well
as many other mines, and this helped to follow the movements of William
B and his sons William and Braddon as set out in Braddon’s diary.
( see ‘Beechworth .. A Titan’s Field ‘ by Carole Woods. first published
The following is a summary Brad Mitchell's diary,
from the start of the Dairy on 7-1-1871 to the final entry on 14 March
At the start of the diary,
Braddon was 17 years old and his brother William was 20 years. The
family was living at Hillsborough , and the diary tells how William B
and the boys would obtain work either at mines around Hillsborough or
as far away as El Dorodo on the other side of Beechworth. The
would be away for several months at a time and return home when the
work ran out.
During 1872 and 1873 they
would be working at the local gold mines or following a ‘rush’ to a new
find of gold or tin in the area even as far north as Koetang or
Bethanga. Several times they would work a lease for gold or tin but had
to abandon it because there was insufficient ore in the lease to make a
On 13 March 1876
William Mitchell registered a mining claim at Bethanga in the name of
four men-himself, his father William B., and Braddon . It is not clear
if the fourth man was younger brother Fred (who would have been 14 yrs
at that time) or whether it was a requirement for registering a claim
that at least four men had to be working a claim . The Mitchell family
worked their claim for two years until they sold it on 1 March 1876 to
a company Harris and Hollow for 3000 pounds (stg). During this period
they took out 644 tons of ore from the mine, and the yield of gold was
923oz13dwt5gr,for which they received 2800.6.1Pounds. (i.e the price
received was at the rate of 3.1Pounds per
The Mitchell claim was one
of the richest at Bethanga and was situated on the North Gift
Lode. I always wondered why they gave up gold mining but the reason can
be found in the book ‘A Poor Man’s Diggings ‘ by Dr. June
Philipp , published in 1987. It is the story of the Mining and
Community at Bethanga , Vic. 1875-1912. On page 36 reference is made to
the Mitchell’s claim and the returns of gold that they had taken from
the mine. In August 1877 the Mitchells found that the grade of gold in
the ore had started to reduce and at the same time they had begun
to strike a copper ore. They sent samples of this ore to Adelaide for
assaying and the results came back showing grades of 20%, 32%,40%, and
41.25% copper. These are very high grades for copper and for a
while they must have considered carrying on and mining for copper
instead of gold which had by this time had reduced to a grade of around
18dwt. to the ton. (these days such grades would be regarded as being
very rich indeed).
However nearly all the other
claims were running out of gold and the copper ore was showing up in
their diggings. This ore was called ‘blackjack’ and was regarded
as valueless as it was hard to process. It was later seen that the
whole Bethanga goldfield was a common type of orebody consisting of an
overlying cap of gold rich gossan with a rich copper orebody beneath.
This copper ore nearer to the surface was a copper oxide mineral ,black
in colour, and therefore a dirty ore to work, hence its name blackjack.
Below this is the main orebody of copper sulphide which is
usually quite rich in copper. The Mitchells probably sold their
claim because the gold grade was falling or it could have been
that they had been made an offer they couldn’t refuse by Harris and
Hollow of the Great Eastern Copper Smelting Co. After taking over the
claim the new owners found that it contained a rich body of copper
ore. Three nuggets of gold extracted from the claim at Bethanga
are now held today by members of the Clarnette family.
Braddon’s diary doesn’t have many entries during the
time they they were working the gold mine. However William B. must have
brought his wife Margaret and the younger children to live at Bethanga
. In the book by June Phillips, referred to above, there is a reference
to William (the son) being part of a local committee to try and
have a new building built for a school. .The diary resumes in
April 1878 immediately after the sale of their claim.
On 1 April 1878 , William and Braddon left Bethanga for
Gippsland reaching Drouin on 10th, Brandy Creek on 11th, and Little Moe
on 12th April. They went on to ‘the Sarwick ?’ where they pegged three
blocks. Presumably these were prospecting claims as the area is not far
from the Walhalla gold mines . At any rate the claims did not reveal
any signs of gold and they returned to Bethanga, arriving back on 4th
May. The two brothers spent the next seven months looking around
the Bethanga region pegging clai ms at various places along the Mitta
Mitta river without success.
On 5th July Brad injured an eye and left for
Melbourne the same day to get treatment. He returned to Bethanga on
29th August. The costs of his visit were 35 pounds.
On 12th Sept. he wrote ‘Mother and his sister Dinnah
moved back to Hillsborough’, so we can assume that the whole family had
been living at Bethanga during the time that they had been working the
On 9th Jan.1879 he wrote ‘left Bethanga
- for good’, so by then the whole family had returned to live at
On 13th Jan79. William started out for
the New England district in New South Wales to carry out prospecting.
Braddon went to Melbourne on 18th Jan. and caught a boat called the
‘Cheviot’, and sailed to Sydney. He then sailed on the ‘City of
Grafton’ to Grafton in northern N.S.W. and then headed inland for Glen
Innes arriving there on 12th Feb.Braddon then spent the next six months
prospecting in northern N.S.W. looking for gold, tin, and
copper-needless to say without any great success. He returned home on
17th July 1879. He had been away 25 weeks and 4 days, he had travelled
1000 miles by ship, 24 miles by horse, 858 miles on foot, 713 miles by
rail and 169 miles by coach. The total cost of his trip was
39pounds,6shillings,8pence. Braddon doesn’t mention whether he met up
with brother William in N.S.W. and carried out any prospecting together.
In Dec.1879 William Burton and the sons
William and Braddon went to Bethanga to look at land owned by a man
called Finlay with a view to buying some of it. They had a good look at
all of it and although they thought some of it was poor they attended
the Sale on 12th. Dec. William bought 325 acres at 4pounds 6sh.
per acre (1340pounds), and then the three of them bought Section B of
418acres at 4pounds,12sh.6p.per acre.(1933pounds). Brad took 200 acres,
Will took 90 acres, and Father took 128 acres. In the next few days
Brad pegged out 80 acres of crown land along the river frontage of the
Mitta and applied for it at the Lands Office at Beechworth. The
family bought cattle and put them on their land over the next few
Braddon had to go down to Melbourne on
25th Dec to see the eye specialist Dr. Grey the next day. The eye was
alright but he was given a prescription for glasses.
During 1880 the diary describes how
Brad and Wiliam pegged out many claims for blocks of land and how
they had to appear before various Lands Boards to support their claim
or to fight off other claimants. At times Brad had to go to Melbourne
to fight his appeal but usually ended losing his case.
On 16 August 1880 Brad shifted down to his
paddock near Bethanga to live and to work his property.
The diary has many entries during 1880,1881
1882 showing that he fenced his land, bought and sold cattle, pegged
more land and applied for leases. During this period the family home
was still at Hillsborough where Margaret lived with Minnie. It is
not known whether William B. worked his land near Bethanga or whether
he spent most of his time at Hillsborough.
Braddon worked his ‘paddock’ during 1882, 1883
and 1884 until on 10th Nov. of that year he set off prospecting
again down into Gippsland . This was only a short trip as he returned
to Bethanga on 29th Nov.. Before he left Bethanga he leased his paddock
to David Mitchell for one year and ten months at 145 pounds per year,
so he had probably become tired of farming or he wanted to try his hand
again at gold prospecting. On 6th Dec, he ‘shifted my traps’ to
Hillsborough. He seems to have been a bit unsettled then, for over the
next year through 1885 up until early 1886 he went back and forth to
On 23rd. Feb.1886 Brad left Hillsborough
for a prospecting trip through N.S.W. This trip took him through
Cootamundra, Gundagai, Wagga, Goulburn, Blayney and eventually to
Parkes. Somewhere in the Parkes area Brab pegged a claim, worked
it until it bottomed out ,then took shares in another claim , worked it
until it proved useless, and so on. He left Parkes on 20th July and
headed home to Hillsborough, which he reached on 24th July. He’d been
away 21 weeks, and his expenses were about 23 pounds.
He stayed at Hillsborough till 11th Jan. 1887
with visits back and forth to Bethanga, and one prospecting trip to
Splitters Creek. Then on 11th Jan, 87 he left home for Wood’s Point
down in Gippsland. He reached Wood’s Point by 16th Jan. and on 21st
Feb. registered the Lady Mary claim on Gooley’s Creek. He crushed
30cwt. quartz ore on 21st March from which he obtained 26oz.1dwt.14gr.
of gold. He sold 5oz.9dwt.14gr. to the bank for an advance of 20/11/0
pounds. the cost of getting the crushing done was 3/13/9pounds.
He left Wood’s Point on 28th April and moved
around around Jamieson, Alexandra and other places until he
arrived back at Hillsborough on 22nd July. This trip had taken 27 weeks
3 days and the cost 23.18.10pounds.. Brad then appears to have decided
to become a farmer again. He went to Bethanga on 2nd August to help put
in fruit trees.
On 12th Oct.’87 Mother and Min shifted to the
Paddock to live. ( they had been living in Hillsborough since late
1860’s , except for a short period between 1876 and 1878 when the
family were working the gold mine at Bethanga .)
The Paddock which is referred to in Braddon’s
diary, is the land bought by William B. , William, and Braddon on the
banks of the Mitta Mitta close by Bethanga from the Finlay brothers in
Dec 1879, (which was 19 months after they had sold out of their
gold mine in 1878.)
Braddon’s diary shows a
summary of their costs and receipts for farming on the Paddock over the
period 23 July 1881 to 16 August 1901, and how they split up the net
surplus between the three of them. These figures show that distribution
to William ceased on 6th Nov 1889, although he died on 11th July of
that year. A letter written by my Mother states that William sold his
share of the paddock to Braddon and bought land near to Tallangatta.
. By the time that Brad’s mother and sister
moved moved to the paddock in Oct.1887 his father William B. would have
built a home for them to live in. Brad’s younger brother Fred
would also have been living at home with the family and it is also
likely that Margaret’s brother Samuel would have lived with them too.
During the years from 1888
through to 1891 Brad’s diary shows that he spent his time working the
family property, although there was a short period between 28th Nov.
1890 and 27th March 1891 when Braddon went off to the Dart river,
registered a claim, and mined five and a half tons of quartz ore . When
crushed this ore yielded 20oz.18dwt. of gold. This appears to be the
last time that he went off prospecting for gold.
By 1895, Braddon who was 41yrs old, began to
think it was time he found a wife and as he had heard at the Wodonga
sales of a Matthew Parnaby with six sons and seven daughters, he
decided to invite himself out to their home. The Parnaby property was
called ‘The Grange’ and was about 5 or 6 miles out of Wodonga. He
didn’t take to any of the girls on his first visit but 12 months later
on a second visit he met Hannah Elizabeth Parnaby who had been away on
his first visit. Hannah and Brad were attracted to each other and Brad
courted Hannah,having to ride 18 miles on his horse to see her. They
were married in 1896, he was 42 and Hannah was 29. There is no
mention in his diary of his marriage.
In the period before his marriage
Braddon built a separate dwelling on the family property for his wife.
At some time in the ensuing years
Braddon bought his Father out of the property. Braddon and Hannah
farmed ‘Climsland Park) and brought up a large family. The first
children were twin boys born in July 1897. They were named Frederick
Summersgill Mitchell and Matthew Hawton Mitchell.( the name Summersgill
was Hannah’s mother’s maiden name and Hawton was Brad’s mother’s maiden
Braddon’s diary has an
entry on 1st Sept 1897 ‘brought Annie and the boys home from
hospital’. This is the only reference to his wife or family in the
whole of his diary.
The name of the property was ‘Climsland Park’
and this may have been given to it by William B. when they first moved
there to live, or by Brad after he had acquired all the other shares
and consolidated it into one property.
Following the birth of the twin
boys Fred and Hawton in July 1897, Brad and Annie had four more
children --- James Clifton , born 1899; Douglas Harold,
born 1901; Olive Rosa Muriel, born 12 Oct 1904 (my mother) , and Roy
Braddon born 1906.
Brad and family lived and worked
the property through to about 1918.
In 1915 the twin boys Fred and Hawton
enlisted in the Army in August and were drafted into the 8th
Reinf. 24th Battalion in Dec. 1915 before sailing to Europe. They
arrived in Egypt in Jan 1916, where the A.I.F . was recouperating
after having been evacuated from Gallipoli in Dec. 1915. As
reinforcements, the 24th Batt was transferred to the 8th Battalion to
bring it up to full strength again. (The story of the 8th battalion in
WW1 is told in a book ‘Cobbers in Khaki’ by Ron Austin published
recently in the 1980’s)
On 27th March 1916 the 8th Battalion and other
Australian soldiers sailed for Marseilles and then on to the
battlefields of France. The 8th Battalion were engaged in the
opening battles of the new Allied push which began in late June. Fred
was wounded in action, transferred to hospital and died on 1st July
1916. He was buried in Bailleul Cemetry. Hawton was also engaged in the
same opening battle as Fred, but was not aware that Fred had died of
wounds at that time. He did not learn about Fred until 26th August when
he was on leave and staying with his relatives in Cornwall. He suffered
from ear trouble in that early fighting and in August ‘16 spent a time
in a hospital in Warrington England. During the rest of 1916, through
1917 and up to August 1918, Hawton was with the 8th Batt. in France
with several leave periods back to Cornwall as well as a few periods in
I have some of his letters written back
home and these show how sick and tired he was of the war.
In August 1918 the 8th Batt. were engaged in
the final attack by the Allied Armies which ultimately led to the
defeat of the German Army. The 8th Batt. were finally relieved from the
front line being exhausted after such a long campaign. Unfortunately
Hawton was wounded in action and died on 1st Sept ‘18 in 1st South
African Hospital. He was buried in the Abbeville Community Cemetry
In 1992 I obtained from the
Army War Records Office the Service Records of Fred and Hawton. As well
as giving details of their movements in France , the documents include
copies of their enlistment with the letters of consent from their
father Braddon. Also their are letters to the Army from Braddon asking
for details about Fred’s personal effects after his death. It is also
interesting to see the letters written back to Braddon by the Army,
which unfortunately were not able to give him any more
information. Fred’s early death and the
death of Hawton so near to the end of the war weighed heavily on
Braddon and may have contributed to his death later in 1918.
During the war Braddon worked his farm
with the help of his next son Jim , who would have been about 16 or 17
when the twins went off to the war. In 1917 Braddon had decided
to move off his farm, and on his next visit to Melbourne he looked for
a house and eventually bought a home in New St. Brighton. The
reason for his decision to move off the farm is not clear, but it is
possible that Braddon’s health was one of the factors, he
suffered from diabetes and this could have prevented him from being as
active as he once was.
While Braddon was in Melbourne, his wife
Hannah asked Len and Ernie Mitchell if they were interested in leasing
Climsland Park when Braddon and his family moved to Melbourne. The two
brothers and their wives agreed to take on the lease and presumably
moved into the home on the property. Len and Ernie were William’s sons,
who since the death of their father in 1889, had probably grown up at
William’s property ‘Whiteford’ near Tallangatta, and possibly had been
working the farm between up to that time.
returned home from Melbourne, he held a Clearing Sale to sell off all
the farm equipment and chattels. This Sale was highly successful as it
attracted a large number of interested farmers from all round the
district. The family must have moved to Melbourne about mid 1917.
At some time in 1918 when it seemed that the War might be coming to an
end Braddon began to plan for Hawton’s future when he came home.
Consequently he decided to buy a farming property at Sunbury on the
North-West outskirts of Melbourne. This property was called
‘Goonawarra’, and was right next to a property owned by Rupert Clark
and is now called ‘Rupertswood’ . Muriel recalled that it was a large
home built in the generous traditions of that time, and the land sloped
down to a creek flowing through the property, which allowed swimming
during the hot summer. This property is now a large vineyard and
winery of the same name-Goonawarra. Of course Braddon sold the Brighton
home when they moved out to Sunbury, which took place possibly in the
autumn of 1818. This must have been some what disruptive to the
schooling of the children, as they appear to have moved out to Sunbury
with their parents. Muriel was not unhappy to leave M.L.C. and
presumably she went to a school in Sunbury.
Unfortunately for Braddon,
Hawton was badly wounded in action at the end of August ‘18 and died of
wounds on 1st Sept. after having had one leg amputated. This was a
great shock to Braddon, and his health deteriorated from then on until
he died a few days before or after Armistice Day, 11th. Nov.1918.
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