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Peter Stewart

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Sweet Family

My connection to the Sweet family is an intriguing investigation into a man and family who had hidden pasts, multiple marriages and few records to go on. It started with my great grandfather, James Wilson. Originally he was born James Sullivan, to parents James Sullivan and Emma (nee Cramp). However sometime after the birth of his brother William in 1867, Emma was with a John Joseph Sweet and having children to him. It is uncertain just what happened to her first marriage, but it is likely that James deserted her as there is an entry in the Deniliquin Pastoral Times 21 Apr, 1866 showing that a charge of wife desertion was dropped against a James Sullivan. This seems to be the right place and time to be the same James Sullivan. After this time both sons and all future children were given the surname of Sweet. Based on marriage records of some of the children and lack of family knowledge it is quite possible that they were never told of the Sullivan connection. There is no record of John and Emma ever marrying, however they used the year of Emma's first marriage on their daughter Amelia's birth certificate.

John Joseph Sweet (sometimes referred to as Joseph John and nicknamed Jo) was born about 1833 supposedly in Portsmouth England. A book about Samuel White Sweet a famous Adelaide landscape photographer and ships captain entitled 'Captain Sweet's Adelaide', tells that Jo was the younger brother of Samuel and had run away from his strict family life, jumping ship to come to Australia after his family tried to send him to Naval Academy, probably sometime before or around 1850. Where in Australia he arrived is unknown, but he ended up around Gundagai or Deniliquin as this is where James seemed to have deserted Emma. The book tells that Jo, Emma and family travelled along the river from Gundagai, New South Wales headed for Goolwa, South Australia which was the end of the Murray River and then across land to Adelaide. They stopped along the way to have children, Amelia and Emily in Wentworth and John Joseph Jnr (also nicknamed Jo after his father) somewhere on the banks of the Murray and the third and last Samuel in Adelaide. The book tells how Jo worked for some time as a travelling green grocer and it was this trade that inadvertently caused the meeting of him and brother Samuel, both of whom had not known each other had come to Adelaide. It was not a happy meeting and the brothers were never to have any contact again. At Samuel's funeral Jo followed the procession on foot all the way to the cemetery with a hand made wreath.

Unfortunately there is no evidence that Jo was the brother of Samuel. There was a brother named John, but he was married and having children back in England at the time Jo was in Adelaide. Also, there doesn't seem to be a record for any John Joseph Sweet (or variant) born in Portsmouth around that time. The information of Jo's journey and life in the book was from the son of Jo Jnr who recounted stories told by his father, so how much was accurate is unknown. Certainly details and specific recollections suggest there was some connection, but it is uncertain what that was.

As for my line, it starts with the eldest child James Sullivan/Sweet who was born in Wagga Wagga NSW. In 1888 at the age of 22 James married Annie Bottomley in Adelaide. They had six children together, two of which died. They were, Sydney James, Edith Emily May, Thomas Shedrick Percy, William Harold, Mary Christina and Walter Stanley. James's trade was listed as a tanner and currier (someone who works with the leather after the tanning process). Sometime in the early part of the 1890's they spent time in the Gillen Settlement, part of the Waikerie settlement which the government had started in the attempt to lower unemployment and open up the country. It would have been here that James met the family of his future second wife, Mary Agnes Best. Mary was only at Gillen for part of the time, spending some time living with her Aunt in Adelaide. The Bests and Sweets both returned to Adelaide to live after only a few years, probably because of the harsh conditions. James was 31 and Mary only 19 when they ran away together to Broken Hill, Mary pregnant at the time with what later that year became my grandmother, Ethel. A warrant was issued in 1897 for James Sweet, however James and Mary Agnes changed their surname to Wilson. They spent the rest of their lives hiding the past even to the extent of falsifying records. Although they never married they told their family they had and Mary even wore a wedding ring, shown on several photos. This is where my Sweet family ends and my Wilson family begins.

The second child was William Sweet (who was also born Sullivan). William was born in 1867 in Deniliquin NSW and like James was named Sweet after his mother took up with Jo. William married in Adelaide in 1887 to Elizabeth Hailes and had 5 children, Samuel Shedrack William, Emily Ethel May, Kathleen Muriel (Lena), John Gillen and Florence May. Like his brother James, William deserted his wife and children only months apart of each other. They both had warrants for wife desertion and were reported in the Police Gazette in 1897 as probably headed north looking for work. James headed to Silverton and then Broken Hill and William to Mildura and Lake Victoria Station (near Mildura). It is a rather strange co-incidence that both would do this around the same time and both be suspected of travelling north. It might suggest they knew of each others plans.

The third child was in fact the first child fathered by Jo Sweet and also names John Joseph, nicknamed Jo Jnr. According to the book Captain Sweets Adelaide, he was born on the banks of the Murray River near Wentworth which is quite possible since this story came from his son William (Bill) and there is no birth registered for him. He is also the one who passed on the story of his father meeting his brother Samuel. Jo Jnr married Agnes Norman in 1893 in Adelaide and had 8 Children, Frederick John (who died age 1), Serena May, Ada Ellen, Norman Harold, Rhoda Evelyn, Lila Maude, William George(Bill) and Cyril Alfred.

The fourth child was Amelia Henrietta Sweet born 1872 in Wentworth NSW. She married John Hebson in 1890 and married a second time in 1905 to Overton Leeds Whittaker. This marriage had three children, Ada Emily, Ada Amelia and James Thomas.

The fifth child was Emily Edith Sweet born 1876 in Wentworth NSW. Emily married William Musgrave Thornton and had one child Alfred William Shedrich.

The sixth child was Samuel Shadrach born 1883, the only one born in Adelaide. He married Amelia Thornton in 1911 who was possibly the sister to William Musgrave Thornton (brother and sister married sister and brother). They had two children together, Leonard Overton Leed (assumed to be named after his uncle) and Myrtle Ivy.

The name Shadrach and many spelling variants seemed to continue down the Sweet family line, though where it got its origins is unknown. This may be the clue to John Joseph Sweets "real" origins?


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Last file update 1st February, 2006

These records are under constant revision.
If you have additions, corrections or questions please contact me.