Reuben Gatward migrated from England in 1852 and two of the letters he wrote home provide insights into the working life and struggles of a mid-nineteenth century settler, including one who worked on the Victorian goldfields.
Reuben Gatward was born on 31 May 1826 in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, England and was christened on 4 May 1827 at the Bethel Independent Chapel in Welwyn, Hertfordshire (England, Births and Christenings 1538-1975 Index n.d.). He was the seventeenth child of Benjamin Gatward (1767-1837) and the tenth child of Elizabeth Cherry (1781-1833), Benjamin's second wife (Campbell Family Tree).
According to information in the 1851 UK Census, Reuben Gatward was working as a Shopman/Draper's Assistant in Luton, Bedfordshire, England. It states that he was 24 years old, born in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, England and boarding in a house at 5 George Street, Luton.
Both of Reuben's letters held by Museum Victoria are addressed to Polly/Mary. Polly is a nickname for those called Mary but, despite investigations, there is no evidence of who Polly/Mary was or why the letters sent to Luton, Bedfordshire were part of a deceased estate in Wales (Common Nicknames & Their Given Name Equivalents 2013).
In 1852, Reuben Gatward (spelt Gatwood), listed as a farmer, arrived in Australia as an unassisted passenger (Statesman Passenger List 1852; PROV Immigration Index Victoria 1852-1923 n.d.). He travelled on the Statesman from London, via Portsmouth leaving London on 22 June 1852 and arriving in Melbourne on 23 September 1852 (Syme 1987, p. 125).
The partial letter held by the museum (HT3534), is undated but, within the letter, Reuben refers to a letter arriving '...yesterday morning April 5...' so this partial letter was written on 6 April. It was probably written in 1853 based on the amount of detail Reuben provides about his shipmates; his references to his potential earnings had he opened a shop on his arrival rather than heading for the diggings; and his description of the poor road conditions he endured on his lengthy trip from the diggings to Melbourne (Transport 2013; Overland Gold 2013). Both Reuben's physical and emotional hardship is clear throughout this partial letter as he describes the wretchedness of suffering from scurvy and the misery of longing for home and familiar surroundings. He also provides glimpses of the conditions of life in early Melbourne and on the gold fields.
Reuben's other letter (HT3535) is clearly dated 11 October 1858 and was written from the gold fields of Tarrangower, near Maldon in central Victoria. The Tarrangower diggings were at the foot of Mt Tarrangower and began in 1853. The site of the nearby township of Maldon was surveyed the following year, with the area being declared a municipality in 1858 (Williams 1979, p. 7). In this letter, his homesickness is still obvious as he pleads for a letter from Polly and news from home. He also provides brief snippets of information about mining techniques and life on the diggings.
Between writing the first and second letters, there is no information to indicate where Reuben lived or worked apart from a reference to the Castlemaine Post Office in his second letter. However, given that in both letters he refers to his life as a miner in central Victoria and that on 10 October 1860 he was responsible for opening the Corella (also known as Korella) Reef near Wedderburn, also in central Victoria, it seems reasonable to suggest that he had probably spent most of his time since arriving in Australia in that area (Gray 1981, pp. 44-45; Korong Historical Notes History: Wedderburn/Inglewood/St Arnaud Division n.d., p. 13).
In September 1861, Reuben travelled to New Zealand aboard the Oscar I and returned a month later, in October 1861, aboard the Oscar II. He travelled to New Zealand again in March 1867 aboard the Otago but there is no public record of his return (PROV Immigration Index Victoria 1852-1923 n.d.). He is, however, noted in an 1874 Melbourne newspaper article as a witness in the remand hearing of a Thomas Sullivan who was arrested in Wedderburn, Victoria ('The Murderer Sullivan' 1874, p. 6). In his evidence, Reuben states that he was in New Zealand in late 1867/1868 but he is obviously back in Wedderburn by the time of Sullivan's arrest and hearing in December 1874.
Following his return from New Zealand after the 1867 trip, Reuben was living in Wedderburn and working as a miner. During that time he was also librarian and superintendant of the Wesleyan Sunday School as well as a member of the tee-totaller group, the Rechabites of Wedderburn, with whom he had held an important position ('Obituary' 1900, p. 2).
Subsequently, Reuben moved to East Charlton, where he worked as book-keeper and manager for Mr Peter Johnson, first in Mr Johnson's 'Melbourne House' and later in the 'Bridge Store' on High Street ('Johnson's Melbourne House' 1879, p. 3; 'Bridge Store, High Street' 1883, p. 3). On a more personal note, a newspaper notice from 1882 states that Reuben was Chairman of the Charlton Debating Society ('Charlton Debating Society' 1882, p. 2).
Following Mr Johnson's death in 1884, Reuben acted on behalf of the executors of Mr Johnson's estate ('Notice re the Estate of the late P. Johnson of Charlton' 1884, p. 3). He also began his own Fancy Repository business in 1884 and was granted a Tobacconist Licence in 1885 ('Obituary' 1900, p. 2; Victorian Government Gazette 28 January 1885, p. 26; Wise's Victoria Post Office Directory 1884-1900). Five years later, on 3 July 1890, he married Sarah Jane Pyers ('Marriage: Gatward-Pyers' 1890, p. 2).
Reuben and Sarah had no children but, at the time of his death, on 2 February 1900, Reuben's great-nephew and great-niece were living with them ('Obituary' 1900, p. 2; 'Reuben Gatward's Funeral' 1900, p. 2).
Upon his death, at the age of 73 years, Reuben left all his worldly goods to his wife, Sarah, an estate worth approximately £200 (Will and Probate Documents of Reuben Gatward 1900). His obituary describes him as one of the oldest residents of Charlton and an unassuming man who, although never prominent in public affairs, was well-respected in the community ('Obituary' 1900, p. 2). Reuben is buried in Charlton General Cemetery ('Reuben Gatward's Funeral' 1900, p. 2).
'Bridge Store, High Street' 1883, East Charlton Tribune, 8 December 1883.
Campbell Family Tree, Ancestry.com, viewed 21 February 2013, <http://search.ancestry.com.au/search/db.aspx?dbid=1030>.
'Charlton Debating Society' 1882, East Charlton Tribune, 29 November 1882.
Common Nicknames & Their Given Name Equivalents 2013, About.com Genealogy, viewed 8 February 2013, <http://genealogy.about.com/library/bl_nicknames.htm>.
England, Births and Christenings 1538-1975 Index n.d., Family Search, viewed 21 February 2013, <https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/V5VS-92Y>.
Gray, J. R. 1981, History of the Wedderburn Goldfields, Queensbury Hill, Melbourne.
'Johnson's Melbourne House' 1879, East Charlton Tribune, 1 January 1879.
Korong Historical Notes History: Wedderburn/Inglewood/St Arnaud Division n.d., State Government of Victoria, Melbourne.
'Marriage: Gatward-Pyers' 1890, East Charlton Tribune, 16 August 1890.
'The Murderer Sullivan' 1874, The Argus, 15 December 1874.
'Notice re the Estate of the late P. Johnson of Charlton' 1884, Bendigo Advertiser, 20 September 1884.
'Obituary: the late Mr Reuben Gatward' 1900, East Charlton Tribune, 3 February 1900.
Overland Gold 2013, Cornish Association of Victoria, viewed 15 March 2013, <www.cornishvic.org.au/overlandgold/setting-the-scene.shtml>.
PROV Immigration Index Victoria 1852-1923 n.d., Macbeth Genealogical Services, Melbourne.
'Reuben Gatward's Funeral' 1900, East Charlton Tribune, 7 February 1900.
Statesman Passenger List 1852 [Microfilm], Public Records Office of Victoria, Melbourne.
Syme, M. A. 1987, Shipping Arrivals and Departures - Victorian Ports 1846-1855, Roebuck Society Publication, Melbourne.
Transport 2013, State Library of Victoria, viewed 15 March 2013,<http://ergo.slv.vic.gov.au/explore-history/golden-victoria/impact-society/transport>.
UK Census 1851, Ancestry.com, viewed 21 February 2013, <http://search.ancestry.com.au/search/grouplist.aspx?group=1851uki> .
Victorian Government Gazette 28 January 1885, Government of Victoria, Melbourne.
Will and Probate Documents of Reuben Gatward 1900, Public Record Office of Victoria, Melbourne, viewed 1 March 2013, <http://prov.vic.gov.au/search_details?searchid=54&id=86723>.
Williams, A. J. 1979, A Concise History of Maldon and the Tarrangower Diggings, (reprint of the 1953 edition), Keffrey Zilles, Ballarat.
Wise's Victoria Post Office Directory 1884-1900 [Microfiche], State Library of Victoria, Melbourne.