Brad Mitchell's Family, from Hawton Clarnette

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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
    Thomas 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 1985.)
    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 1907.
        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 living.
        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 oz).                     
        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 gold mine.
      On 9th Jan.1879 he wrote ‘left Bethanga - for good’, so by then the whole family had returned to live at Hillsborough.
      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 weeks.
      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 Bethanga .
      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 name)
         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 hospital.
     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 Extension, France.
       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.
          When Braddon 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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