The History of the Coombe Family

The Complete History of Arthur and Rose

The Martin, Jacka, Crougey and Coombe Families
in Cornwall and South Australia

The Complete History of Arthur and Rose
The Martin, Jacka, Crougey and Coombe Families
in Cornwall and South Australia.

by Tony and Wendy Edwards


In the 1840s, the Martin, Jacka, Crougey and Coombe families made separate and independent decisions to emigrate from Cornwall to South Australia. Two of these families came together on 29 June 1850 when William Jacka Jnr married Jane Coombe at the St James Church at Blakiston.

All four families and their stories came together in 1894 in the small town of Hammond with the marriage of Arthur George Martin and Rosalie Blanche Jacka. Their marriage united these four families of relatively humble people, miners, farmers and blacksmiths.

Migrating to South Australia between 1847 and 1849, they took a great leap of faith to achieve better lives. For them South Australia provided the opportunity to make good in a freer, less socially stratified society than existed in Cornwall.

To get an assisted or free trip across the oceans some of the different family members ‘fiddled the books’ by giving false information about their financial or employment background. Henry Crougey lowered his age by as much as 13 years. All managed to make the voyage to South Australia between 1847 and 1849 as assisted emigrants. Several of their fellow emigrants, many of whom were literate, kept on-board diaries, and these have become great sources of information.

By late 1849 when most of the four families had arrived, conditions in Adelaide, with a population of 13,000, were excellent with plenty of employment available. There were hotels, banks, shops, workshops, warehouses, churches and auction rooms. The high demand for domestic servants made it possible for several of the younger females among them to find employment in a very short time. The Burra and Kapunda mines also provided numerous opportunities, as did the wharves in Port Adelaide, even for the unskilled.

Central to this well-set out book are three generations of these families. The grandparents who decided to leave Cornwall, the parents who were young adults in 1849 and saw themselves as colonists, trying new ventures to create a different way of life and the third generation of Arthur and Rose choosing to consolidate what had been achieved so far, or set their own directions. Even though the story takes more than 500 pages it is easy to work through as it has a detailed contents list and an extensive index which makes it stress-free to find any person, town or general topic.

The main group of the Crougey family arrived on 3 October 1849. They found accommodation near West Terrace and within a few months Henry Crougey had found work at the Tungkillo mine near Palmer. Elizabeth Crougey married Abel Rowe in 1854. Abel became a miner and smelter and worked at North Rhine, Moonta and eventually New Zealand as did Caroline Martin after her marriage to James Wright Sawle.

Henry Martin, father of Arthur George, also arrived in 1849 and later went to the Victorian goldfields where he had some luck. On his return he opened a grocery business in Brown Street Adelaide in 1856 and in 1857 married Anna Maria Crougey. They had five children while living in Brown Street. In 1863 Moonta seemed to offer much better options so the whole family moved and Henry bought a block of land and built a new shop and house in George Street. Here they had a further nine children.

Moonta expanded quickly as more and more copper was found providing increasing numbers of jobs. Still life was hard; water was not always available and when it was it could be contaminated. The Moonta cemetery provides ample evidence of deaths of diseases, especially among children and of fatal mining accidents. Henry managed to prosper and in 1882 he was able to buy the Moonta Gas Works. He became a member of the Moonta District Council and later Mayor. In 1886 he visited England and in 1907 Henry and Anna Maria celebrated their Golden Wedding anniversary.

Throughout the book the fortunes and choices of the four families reflect themes common in the history of 19th century Cornwall and South Australia. In Cornwall most of the Martins had been miners or farmers or both. Captain Henry Crougey had been a miner for more than forty years before migrating to South Australia with his wife and six daughters in 1849. The Coombe family too consisted mainly of miners, including some of their women.

The authors have explained some of the push and pull factors and why these families made the monumental decision to emigrate. As the mines in Cornwall were coming to their natural end or were becoming too expensive to operate a large number of miners would face unemployment and severe hardship. The potato blight struck the Cornish crops in 1845-47 affecting farmers and agricultural workers who found it almost impossible to feed their families. Food riots were common. At the same time farming was becoming more mechanised and commercialised, reducing the need for workers.

On the other side of the world, South Australia provided the pull factors as mining was producing solutions for anyone willing to work. Mine owners advertised heavily in Cornwall for experienced hard rock miners offering higher wages and secure employment. A Burra miner could earn more in a week than a Cornish miner in a month. In South Australia a farmer, miner or anyone could become a land owner, even a home owner. The weather was better and passage was often free or subsidised. What man would not take such an opportunity to provide for the betterment of himself and family? The only problem was the long voyage by sailingship which could take three months or more.

William Jacka Snr wasn’t a miner but he also saw, and took, his chance to provide a better life for his family. He arrived on the Rajah on 6 January 1849 among 189 other migrants, including some of the ancestors of Bob Hawke and Don Dunstan. Within six month he had set up a blacksmith and stove-making business in Light Square and became a successful businessman. His son William Jnr was also a blacksmith but later, when the need arose, became a stove maker, brewer and publican.

After his marriage to Jane Coombe the couple lived in Paringa and then moved back to Adelaide where he had a shop in Rundle Street. Soon they had a house full of children who brought pleasure and sadness. Their son Samuel born in 1854 died within three weeks. By 1862 the family moved to Auburn and started farming. William was now 36 and Jane 29. By 1866 they diversified and opened a bakery and shop in the town’s main street. William also built a soft drinks factory and catered for local events, capably assisted by his wife Jane who now had nine children.

In 1870 he started a brewing business with his two eldest sons and opened the Phoenix Brewery. At the 1874 Mintaro Show William’s Ale won a prize and an honourable mention at the 1875 Auburn Show. Following the opening up of more land in the north the family moved once again, this time to Melrose where William ran the North Star Hotel. With the help of William’s money, his sons William John and Joseph Henry opened the Melrose Brewery on 3 January 1877. Their ale was delivered as far away as Broken Hill and Adelaide.

With the possibility of an extension of the railway line north to Hawker and beyond, William, Jane and their five daughters moved further north to Willochra in 1880. The sons remained in Melrose where the brewery was the mainstay of life for more than 50 years. In Willochra, William was the hotel publican presumably providing an outlet for his sons’ brewery. A year later he bought land at Hammond and built another hotel for the same reason.

By the mid-1880s the good times for the northern settlements beyond Goyder's Line began to wane. The weather was changing, which in this case meant back to normal, and rain was not following the plough anymore. Wheat harvests became smaller almost every year and after a six year drought, which lasted until 1902, many farmers were leaving the land, their houses and equipment as there were no buyers. The decrease in population resulted in the closing of many businesses. Many of the towns never recovered and died a slow death. Goyder had been right after all.

The Hammond Hotel later provided the perfect place for the double wedding of Adelaide Jacka and Edward Berry and Hettie Jacka and Joseph Thomas Ragless. While operating a store at Hammond Arthur George Martin married Rose Jacka in 1894 and unwittingly became the main subjects of this book. Hammond became home for them and their nine children. During 1916 they left Hammond and moved to Adelaide. Regardless of the difficult and sometimes hard times and isolation, several of the nine children, when grown up returned to the country either as a married woman or because of job opportunities.

When William Jacka died in 1888 Jane took over the hotel. William had achieved much and became an influential figure in Hammond, which was made possible by his wife Jane, a woman of considerable physical and mental toughness who had assisted him in all his adventures. After many years of hard work Jane died in 1914 having born 12 children and raised nine to adulthood.

The four families contributed to the young colony in mining and slate-production, retailing, education, blacksmithing and stove-making, brewing and hotel-keeping. Their stories are intertwined with the histories of Adelaide, Moonta, Willunga, Auburn, Melrose, Willochra and Hammond. Following thousands of other hopefuls, many members went to the Victorian goldfields, with varied success. Thomas Martin came back with two kilograms of gold, got married on 3 December 1853 to Elizabeth Polkinghorne and bought his own slate quarry in Willunga. By 1880 he was selling slate to all Australian colonies. Other Martins were involved in agriculture.

John became a teacher at Tungkillo which had a population of 350 in 1851. He was offered the headmastership at Pulteney Grammar School but declined it as he had just started his own school in Angas Street. At the age of fifty he retired from teaching and became involved with the production of blasting powder and moved to Melbourne with his family. He died in 1876. In the next generation Julia Catherine Martin, born on 2 October 1874, also became a teacher and one of the best ever. Many students, who went on to secondary and tertiary education, owed it to the thorough groundwork they received under Miss Martin’s tuition at Moonta Primary School.

After 1860, the Moonta mines and the northern expansion of agriculture drew several members of the four families to the north, reflecting themes in South Australian history. Most, but not all, of their children followed the usual mining or farming occupations. Grace Crougey at 22 married Frederick Williams Thomas, a baker and widower with six children on 25 December 1850 and had a further fourteen children by him. They prospered and eventually lived at Prospect Villa in Barnard Street, North Adelaide.

Moonta, where many of the descendants grew up, retained many of its traditional Cornish features, including Wesleyan Methodism. This didn’t mean that time stood still in Moonta, far from it. From 1870 onwards they played Australian Rules Football and Cricket. Unfortunately no mine lasts for ever and when the price of copper decreased and wages were cut or the lode worked out miners and their families moved to Broken Hill or Western Australia.

Using many different sources such as letters, contemporary newspaper reports and family reminiscences, the authors have been able to flesh out the characters, motivations and family relationships of the individuals behind the bare facts of their history. There are many births, deaths and marriages – some weddings with very pregnant brides. There is a potato famine, mighty winds and crashing waves, many droughts, a few floods and plagues of rabbits and sparrows.

There are also some assaults, the breaking down of doors and death by tramcar. There are career changes, medal-winning achievements and frustrated ambitions. There is the heart-rending loss of several much-loved children, a young man dead on the way to his wedding, marital infidelity and reconciliation - in short, a typical two centuries of family life in the new colony and later State of South Australia. The book is a Family and General History all in one, far more interesting and different from the usual run of the mill accounts of one family’s births, marriages and deaths.

Because of the authors’ different approach the book is not only of interest to the direct descendants of Arthur and Rose or to members of the extended families but to anyone interested in South Australian history. Descendants of these families can be proud of their forebears who risked everything to set up a new life in a new colony and in anyone’s language did well in its economic, social, religious and cultural development. The families have come to live against the background of their time as migrants, enterprising colonists and born and bred South Australians. With the authors detailed footnoting it will be much easier to continue further research into the families and the towns they once called home.

Review by Nic Klaassen

The Complete History by Tony and Wendy Edwards,
PB 525 pp, with numerous colour and B/W photographs, end notes, maps,
bibliography, genealogical charts and index is available at $25.00 from
T & W Edwards


Best Family History book for 2016! Congratulations to Tony & Wendy Edwards. Their family history book, The Complete History of Arthur and Rose, won the Alexander Henderson Award at the Australian Institute of Genealogical Studies. The Alexander Henderson Award has been made annually since 1974 and is awarded for the Best Australian Family History. The award criteria includes presentation elements such as layout including page numbering, chapter organisation, style and syntax as well as an easy to read format and good use of material.

If you would like to find out more,
please go to HOME PAGE for more information.
Thank you for visiting Flinders Ranges Research,
We hope you enjoy your stay and find the information useful.
This site has been designed and is maintained by FRR.