John Lewis

John Lewis

James Lewis, born 1814 in Wales, arrived in South Australia on the Rapid in 1838. In May 1841 he married Eliza Bristow, who also had arrived on the Rapid with William Light in 1836. James and Eliza eventually had thirteen children. Having sailed the oceans for a number of years before his arrival in South Australia, Charles Sturt decided that he was just the right man to come along on his journey to 'the Inland Sea' (1844-1846). After 'sailing' the sand dunes of inland Australia James settled down to farming at Richmond, just outside Adelaide but later moved to Balaklava to take up a much larger farm.

His second son John was born at Brighton on 12 February 1844. At the age of twelve his schooling came to an end to work on his father's property at Richmond. After two years of looking after bullocks he ran away from home with sixpence in his pocket. He worked as an apprentice blacksmith at Meadows, drover, station hand and finally station manager.

At the age of twenty-eight he set off for the Northern Territory with his brother Jim planning to 'farm' buffaloes on the Cobourg Peninsula. While en route, Charles Todd commissioned him to act as estafette between the construction parties of the Overland Telegraph Line between Tennant Creek and Daly Waters. On 22 August 1872 John Lewis was present at the joining of the Line near Frew's Pond, just north of Newcastle Waters.

Before finally arriving in Darwin, Lewis had seen the start of the early gold rushes. Not one to miss out on a good opportunity he was soon involved in supplying the miners with all their daily needs. He also discovered the rich Eleanor Reef at Pine Creek in 1872. Lewis later bought a large parcel of shares in the Telegraph Prospecting and Gold Mining Company and eventually managed it.

Two years later John Lewis was in search of lost African explorers, Permain and Borrodale. During this search his interest in the roaming buffaloes, left behind when the Victoria Settlement was abandoned in 1849, was rekindled. It led to the establishment of the Cobourg Cattle Company, which did not turn out as successfully as some of his mining speculations had done. It was mining, share dealing and supplying the mines and miners which kept him occupied most of the time and where he made enough money to build a house at Port Essington and finance some of his later pastoral interests at Dalhousie Springs and Newcastle Waters.

When mining prospects declined and after five years of hard work in the Territory he decided to return to South Australia in 1876. He 'settled down' for the next twenty years at Burra where at first he joined the firm of Liston & Shakes which later became Bagot, Shakes & Lewis. During his time at Burra he married Martha Brook and had six children. One of his sons, Essington, would later become one of the most important men at the Broken Hill Proprietary. John also was Chairman of the Agricultural Bureau, President of the South Australian Horticultural and Floricultural Society, polo player and for twelve years President of the Burra Polo Club, only resigning after his election as member of the Legislative Council.

The Lewis family moved to Adelaide in 1906 where John continued to work for the agricultural and pastoral interests of South Australia. He maintained his interest in Aboriginal welfare and botany and somehow still managed to have time to breed two Adelaide Cup winners, remain President of the Royal Geographical Society of South Australia for seven years and write a book about his life experiences which he called Faught and Won. He died on 25 August 1923.

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