THE CROW FAMILY IN AUSTRALIA

John Crow was born in County Suffolk, England in 1832. He was the son of Benjamin Crow and Susan nee Dockery. John migrated from England some time during the 1850's. The 'Branch of Crows' was not able to establish the exact date, ship or port of John's arrival in Australia. A letter later written by John Crow to his sister Mary Bailey (nee Crow) in 1878 indicates he had been in Australia for 23 years. An extensive search of Immigration Passenger Records between 1850-1860 for the John Crow name, age and occupation, returned three possible arrival dates into Australia:


- The ship Echunga in August 1857

- The Ship Saldanha in September 1856, or

- The ship Orwell in January 1855 (no passenger list available)


The reason why he decided to emigrate to Australia is a matter for speculation. Perhaps he was attached to the Victorian goldfields? His ability to purchase land in the 1860's indicates that he could have been prospecting for gold. Another possible reason for his decision to migrate was his relationship with his father. The Crows have exhibited a tendency down through the generations to disagree with, indeed to sever all ties with their fathers and families. There is nothing to indicate that he already had a relations in the colony and that he came to join them as did so many other new arrivals.

In the ten years after 1850 the Australian population nearly trebled. This was largely due to immigration prompted by the discovery of gold. Gold fever was at it's height in eastern Australia in the years 1852-1853. Nearly 100,000 immigrants disembarked at Sydney and Melbourne in 1852

The lure of gold, status and wealth attracted many hopeful migrants to Australia. Nothing is known about John Crow's life until he married an Irish girl, Anne White at St. Mary of the Angels Catholic Church, Yarra Street Geelong, on the 15th January 1859. John was 26 years old and gave his occupation as a labourer. Anne was also 26 years old and gave her occupation as a servant.

This marriage was an unusual one. John was English and Protestant, Anne was Irish and Catholic. The Irish migrants had a strong of their religion and the family. Hence the Irish tended to marry other Irish, a situation which contributed to their reputation for being clannish. Perhaps John Crow's family originated from the County Clare Crows and hence his acceptance into the Irish community?

Single Irish women who chose to emigrate were not highly regarded. The newspapers of the day, reflecting colonial opinion, condemned these young girls before they arrived - virtuous single women did not emigrate. The Melbourne Argus on the 24th of January described the single Irish female emigrants as;

... a set of ignorant creatures whose whole knowledge of household duties barely reaches to distinguishing the inside from the outside of a potato, and whose chief employment as hitherto, has consisted of some such intellectual occupation as occasionally trotting across a bog to fetch a runaway pig

In Victoria between 1855 and 1860 80% of Irish men married Irish wives, but only 48% of Irish women acquired Irish husbands. For many Irish girls marrying outside their race often meant severing ties with their family, friends and church. Fortunately this was not the case for Anne White. She and her husband John remained in Victoria and were joined by Anne's sister Eliza and her husband Connor Sheehan, sometime between 1858-1859. John and Anne spent the next few years in the colony of Victoria. Their eldest son, George Thomas was born at Geelong in 1862. The Sydney Morning Herald of the 30th May 1849 reported an page 3 the following;

News from the interior - Goulburn May 26 ...We understand that a surveying party, headed by Mr. Armstrong, of Sydney, and which is under the auspices of the Government, has commenced laying out small agricultural farms at Crookwell, and will measure out small farms on which homesteads have been erected, with the view of putting them up for sale; it is also necessary that a number of these possessed of a little means and, who may be directed to the localities where small farms are for sale, without waiting for months till they are surveyed.

The Crookwell area really opened up following the Selection Acct of 1861. From the 1st January 1862 any person could purchase between forty and three hundred acres of crown land at twenty shillings per acre, providing he paid one quarter of the price as a deposit on the day of selection and paid the balance over eight years at two shillings and sixpence per acre per year. The selector was required to cultivate one acre in ten, or to erect a habitable dwelling or to enclose his selection with a substantial fence. One quarter of the money raised by land sales was to be used to pay the passages of immigrants.

Historian Manning Clark describes the conditions that many of these selectors lived under;

Some lived in bark humpies where the rooms were partitioned off by bark and bag, with the beated earth as their flooring, bushel bags stretched between poles for beds, packing cases for the dressing tables, rough slab tables on stakes driven into the ground, seats made the same way as their furniture, and cuttings from old numbers of illustrated London News and family albums as the sole decoration on the walls.

This land act enabled those of limited means to have access to land and offered them the opportunity to establish themselves. Areas such as the Crookwell district was rushed by tree selectors, all anxious for land, the first on the scene picked the choicest land. Many selectors prospered, many did not as Manning Clarke describes;

Vagaries of the climate and prices, the lack of agricultural equipment and capital, ignorance, and inadequate or expensive transport to market, contributed to their penury. Some obtained stock, seed and supplies from stock and station agents, or local owners of the general stores, who sometimes charged interest rates as high as eighty percent. When they were unable to meet their commitments, the creditors foreclosed.

Fortunately this did not happen to John and Anne. They obviously had some of the prerequisite elements that enabled a selector to prosper. Knowledge of the land and farming techniques, sufficient capital to establish a property and a certain amount of good luck.

John Crow 1832-1884 with son George Thomas 1859-1917
Photograph taken C1860.


On the 12th March 1863 John Crow selected land in the Crookwell district of NSW. He selected portion number 14 of 100 acres on Spring Creek in the Parish of Romner, County King. This was the same block of land, at Wheeo, that Anne's brother James White had settled on when he first arrived in the district. After James White moved further up the hill, John and Anne Crow moved into the hut James had previously built.


Parish Map of Romner dated 27th April 1925
Click on the image to view in a larger size


John Crow was so proud of his 100 acres that he used to walk his boundaries every day. He acquired his first stock for the property from a passing drover. The Wheeo Binda road crossed Spring Creek along side John's property and John acquired from the drover all the sheep that were in too weak to complete the journey. The Goulburn Herald of the 28th February reported;

Since Christmas 72,000 sheep have passed along the Binda road, besides those that gone by Crookwell, and Goulburn so that at least 100,000 sheep have passed through this neighbourhood, within the last three months.

On 2nd October 1864 John and Anne's second son, James Andrew was born at Wheeo and a third son Francis Sylvester was born on the 25th of November 1866. For them and their young family it was a hard basic existence. The land had to be cleared for cultivation. Single furrow ploughs were used to break up the ground, these early farmers were quite adept at ploughing between trees and stumps that remained in the paddocks. Wheat was sown, threshing in the early days was primitive, the grain being seperated from the ears by tramping by horses and rolling. Threshing machines were introduced into the idstrict in the early 1870's. The wheat was still cut by hand with sickle and fed into the machine which delivered clean grain to be bagged.

Goulburn was the nearest big town, the journey there and back could take a week or more using a bullock dray along a bush track that was not even cleared and according to the old timers, the dust from the bullock drays was something to remember. Corduroy roads were laid down on the boggiest portions of the road. Logs were laid crossways side by side over the bad patches, covered with earth. An American idea that never really worked. These early settlers were dependant on their own resources and they developed a fine spirit of neighbourliness amongst them. They tended one another or other transaction contemplated. In particular the women had a hard life. They were brave and devoted wives and mothers with few comforts and nothing to ease the burden of household chores. They cooked mostly in the camp ovens and cared for large families in an isolated environment.

Communication with the more settled areas was limited. A Post Office was established at Wheeo on the 1st of May 1856. In 1867 John Crow is listed as receiving his mail from the Wheeo Post Office that was located at the postmaster's, Mr. Thomas Glennan's home, 'Woodbine Park'. The newspaper was an important mail item in those days. From the earliest times Sydney newspapers were carried free to subscribers by whatever mails operated, as was the first paper to be published in the idstrict. 'The Goulburn Herald'. It was established in July 1848. The arrival of the newspaper was eagerly awaited and was usually read after the evening meal. It was read out loud, by candle light, to those members of the family who couldn't read.

As the Crows were striving to establish themselves they experienced the lose of their only daughter, Susan Jane. Her death was reported in the Goulburn Herald on the 23 February 1870;

Sickness has been very prevalent about Wheeo of late. No less than four funerals have taken place in the last week. The first was that of a young woman of twenty who had been married about three months, a daughter of Mr. James Selmes. The next was Susan, nine years old daughter of Mr. John Crow, of Spring Creek. The other two funerals were children from Grabben Gullen.

Susan was buried in the Wheeo cemetery. Four years later Anne's brother, James White, lost three of his children after they contracted whooping cough Anne and John's neighbours were predominately Irish settlers and no doubt Anne had a lot in common with them. John Crow would have been somewhat isolated racially. Anne Crow and Mrs McCormack had some memorable 'disagreements'. It is remembered that they had a big row the day Anne died. Anne died on the evening of the 7th of March 1881. John is remembered as riding around his neighbours that evening and yelling in the window "Anne's dead" and riding on into the night. Anne was buried in the Wheeo cemetery with her daughter Susan.

After Anne's death John's relationship with his sons deteriorated and the boys were known for their dislike of their father. One incident that is remembered around the district is the fact that the Crow boys hung their fathers dogs one night. What prompted this bizarre act is not known. A transcript of a letter written by John Crow in 1878, to his sister Mary Bailey (nee Crow) in Lincoln England, provides some insight into the relationship John had with his sons. (Click here to read)


Headstone of Anne Crow and her daughter Susan, Wheeo Cemetery NSW 2013
Wheeo cemetery Latitude/Longitude Ref; -34.517422, 149.301613


In a survey of properties conducted in NSW in 1884 John Crow was recorded as occupying the holding of 'Spring Creek', 1000 acres stocked with 10 horses, 6 cattle, 900 sheep and 2 pigs.

On the 16th of October 1886 the Sydney Mail ran a feature on the Crookwell district and it reported;

...The Crookwell district, less than most places, owes little to capital. The men who today are substantial farmers, owning farms averaging 500 acres each, are typical colonists who axe in hand have manfully cut their way to the possession of the soil and the other than that which, after all is the best of capital, viz health, strength, and stout hearts.

John continued writing to his sister Mary in England, another written to Mary the year before his death. (Click here to read) John Crow died in 1884. The Goulburn Herald reported his death on the 19th of April 1884;

Another old resident has passed away, Mr John Crow died at St. Vincent's Hospital on Wednesday last. Mr Crow was one of the earliest selectors in the neighbourhood. He was a widower, and leaves a family of three sons, two of whom are grown up.

John Crow was buried in Sydney at Rookwood cemetery on the 11th of April 1884. Today the grave is unmarked, perhaps the headstone has not stood the test of time or his sons did not erect one?

On the 21st of May 1884 Administration of the estate of John William Crow late of Wheeo, who died interstate on the 9th April 1884 was granted to George Thomas Crow, eldest son. This was the first document to record John's second name, William.


Descendents of John Crow and Anne White


On Friday the 10th June 1887 the following advertisement appeared in the Crookwell Gazette.

CROOKWELL - FARM FOR SALE George McDonald has been favoured with instructions from Mr. Geo. T. Crow, administrator of the estate of late John W Crow, to sell by auction On the Ground At Noon On Wednesday June 22, 590 acres C.P., Conditional Purchased Land, having 1 1/2 miles frontage to the Wheeo and Binda Road. Two creeks of permanent water run through the property, which is subdivided into conveniently sized paddocks. 100 acres have been under cultivation. The buildings consist of a four roomed House and Kitchen, Stable, Sheds etc. There is also an Orchard in Full Bearing. After the farm, there will be sold - 200 Mixed sheep, Cattle Horses, Drays Etc Etc. This is a splendid opportunity for anyone in search of a well situated Dairy, or Agricultural farm, the value of which will be greatly enhanced by the proposed railway to Crookwell.

The Goulburn Herald reported on the 5th July 1887 the following;

Land Sale - On Wednesday last Mr. G. McDonald of Crookwell sold the farm known as 'Spring Creek', the property of the late Mr. J. W. Crow, to Mrs. Henry Anderson of 'Mount Pleasant', for one pound four shillings per acre. Some sheep and cattle were also advertised for sale, but were not forthcoming. In 1988 the same property sold for $600 per acre.

When John Crow died his sons were established on properties of their own in the Wheeo district. There was some discord between the brothers with George Thomas leaving the district for the Cowra district and Francis Sylvester changing his name to John White, and moving to the Canberra district.

Some time in the 1880's the sons of John Crow added an 'e' to the surname. The reason for this is not known but the 'e' has survived through the generations.