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Peter Stewart

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Wilson Family

James Sullivan/Sweet/WilsonMy Wilson family begins with my great grandfather James Wilson, who around 1897 ran away with Mary Agnes Best to Broken Hill and changed their surname to Wilson. Why they chose that name is unknown, though it may have been simply because it was a common name. The reason for them running away eluded those in the family that had been researching for some time, though eventually we pieced together the puzzle.
James Wilson had originally been James Sweet. He was married to an Annie Sweet (nee Bottomley) and had several children. They lived in Adelaide except for a short time when they went to the new Waikerie settlements, particularly the Gillen Settlement. This is probably where he came in contact with John Henry Best and children. Although his future wife Mary Agnes Best was probably not there at the time, the two families would have known each other quite well, as the settlement was small. It seems that both the Sweet family and the Best family returned to Adelaide only after a few years and must have kept in contact. It is probably at this time that James and John's daughter Mary would have struck up their relationship that would eventually see them run away, possibly with Mary pregnant with my grandmother at the time.

Mary was only 19 and James 11 years her senior, and from family oral history probably first went to Silverton then on to Broken Hill where they were to spend all their so called married lives. I say so called because although they stated they were married in 1895 in Melbourne on their children's birth certificates no such marriage exists. Their eldest daughter Ethel knew she was born out of wedlock in 1897 and made no secret of it, however she believed her parents were married some time after. This is incorrect and is substantiated on James's will when he used Mary's maiden name stating she was also known as Mary Agnes Wilson. It probably would have been too hard or risky for them to marry since James had a warrant for his arrest and the Wilson name was false.

James, known as Ironbark Jimmy, worked as a miner and in later life a gardener for one of the mines. They had 12 children, 3 of which died all in succession. This was around the time that some disease was running through the town and many children died. Many years later Mary wrote in a letter to her son Vernon of her loss.

After James's death in 1926 Mary continued living there with some of her children until around 1950 when she sold her house to one of her sons and moved to Adelaide with her son Charles (Chook) who had returned from the war with some health problems. It's known they lived with her brother Walter Best and then for some time in Prospect. After Charles died in 1961 she moved around staying with different family until ending back in Broken Hill and lived the rest of her years with son Walter and his wife Loveday (Lovey).

It appears that Mary Agnes did not have much, if any, contact with her family in Adelaide until James had died. After that she seemed to renew her family ties and visited them as well as many of them visiting her in Broken Hill. Mary Agnes (Sis) Wilson died in 1965 at the age of 87, some 39 years after her husband James.

 

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Last file update 12th June, 2002
 

These records are under constant revision.
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