James Davey was born in Bristol, England and came to Victoria in 1850, spending a year at a place then called Fiery Creek, now Beaufort, before returning to England. He returned to Victoria in 1857. Records held by the Public Records Office of Victoria (PROV) indicate that a Jas. Davey, aged 30 years, came to Victoria on the 'South Carolina' in November 1857, and that on the same ship were Matilda (22) and Thomas James Davey (10).
He soon established a general store 'The Gippsland Mart' in Foster Street, Sale in partnership with a Mr McKenzie. The partnership, "was later disposed of and (Davey) carried on alone for a time, and it was during this period that he issued the tokens," (Gardner, 1911). In 1865 he sold the grocery, crockery and ironmongery sections of his business to his brother-in-law, Mr Sprod, and moved the Drapery business next door to a building named 'Bristol House' which he had constructed for the purpose. In late 1866 Bristol House was in receivership and closed on 2nd February 1867. But in March Davey found himself able to buy his stock back and re-open the business. He had further financial difficulties in 1867.
Davey played a significant part in the development of Sale and of Gippsland and was an original councillor in 1863. In 1867 he ran for the South Ward of the municipality against Mr. P. Platt, the serving member, Davey was defeated by eight votes. On December 10th, 1867, Davey and his family had a day with a Mr Buckley of 'Prospect Station.' After lunch the family and two ladies from the station went walking and Davey asked them all to go on ahead, saying that he would follow on later. It seems that Mr Davey decided to bathe in the creek. It is recorded that he drowned in the Merrimans Creek and that it appeared to be a case of suicide. The family discovered his clothing, but his body was not recovered until the following day. His funeral left the family's residence at 3pm on the 13th, for the Sale Cemetery.
After his sudden death at the age of 42, his widow, Matilda Davey, carried on the business with indifferent success, until June 1879. By this time property values had fallen considerably, and 'Bristol House' and the land was sold for 67 pounds, a considerable loss as Davey had paid 20 pounds/foot for the land in 1865.
The business passed to D. McWilliams, a draper in Raymond Street, and later to John Hattam, whose family became famous in the clothing and drapery trade. Several of their stores were subsequently sold to 'Fossey's' now 'Target', a division of Coles-Myer. A number of their stores continued under the name of 'Hattam's'
Matilda died on 17th May 1890 at the Champion Hotel in Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, at the age of 58. She was buried beside her husband at the Sale cemetery.
Davey's token was one of the many struck by Thomas Stokes in 1862.
Gardner, F. (1911). 'Trade Tokens and the Firms who Issued Them', The Australian Storekeepers and Traders Journal, 22 December, p. 9. (photocopy)
Sharples, J. (1993). 'Catalogue of Victorian Trade Tokens' in Journal of the Numismatic Association of Australia, Vol.7, December, pp.50-51.
VPRS 7666, internet Index of Unassisted Immigrants to Victoria, 1852-1923.
Hope, John (2005). 'Biography of James Davey', unpublished MSS, 2pps.