Monday, August 7, 2017

Poor Man's Preacher - Thomas Gainford

I have been agonizing over how to write about Week 1's prompt for National Family History Month.  At first, I was going to write about the McLoughlin family in Orange. Whilst not in Surry Hills, they were Irish Catholics.  But the pickings were slim in terms of I turned to other sources.  I am sure stories do exist- I just couldn't find them or make them stick, so to speak.

Going through my family records I noticed that a couple of my ancestors were married in Surry Hills so I decided to pursue that angle instead.

Introducing George Henry Carrett and Sarah Stores.  These two are effectively my paternal grandmother's paternal grandparents - got that?  Or my great-great-grandparents on my father's side of the family.  

So - who were George Henry Carrett and Sarah Stores?

Well, according to their marriage certificate, George was a bachelor.  He was 21 years old and born in England and his occupation was bricklayer.  His parents were George Henry Carrett (cause we like to keep things simple) - also a bricklayer and Mary Ann Pasby.

Sarah was a spinster from Newtown.  She was a servant and aged 21.  Her parents were Edward Stores, a Labourer and her mother was Mary Ann Nobbs.  

George and Sarah were married by Thomas Gainford according to the rites of the Congregational Church and their marriage was witnessed by George Preston and Mary Stores (I'm assuming that Mary Stores was Sarah's Mother).

So, why did they get married at 145 Foveaux Street in Surry Hills?  Their usual place of residence is shown on the certificate as Sydney (most unhelpful).  I know that Sarah Stores was born in Newtown.  Her father died at his daughter's residence at Riverview Road Marrickville in 1905 according to this In Memoriam notice in Trove.

But let's get back to Surry Hills.  Who lived at 145 Foveaux Street?

The Sands Directory for 1879 shows that Rev.George Preston lived there.  Remember he was one of the witnesses? Maybe Sarah was a servant in his household.  Maybe we will never be able to confirm that but it's a thought.

When I searched for "George Preston" on Trove I found lots of articles.  There was this one in 1876

1876 'Advertising', The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), 14 December, p. 1. , viewed 06 Aug 2017,
and, very importantly

1878 'The Government Gazette.', The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1871 - 1912), 7 December, p. 912. , viewed 06 Aug 2017,

So I guess you could say that George Preston was learning how to officiate at marriages under the tutelage of Thomas Gainford.  And Thomas Gainford himself was an interesting chap.  Keep in mind that I am trying to work out why my ancestors would have married this way or chosen this minister to marry them. Let's go back a bit again.  

Sarah's paternal grandparents were Edward (called Ted) Stores and Sarah Parkes and her maternal grandparents were John Hobbs and Mary Boswell.  These people were not insignificant players in the region of Earlwood or Undercliff where my father grew up.  

If you read some local histories for Earlwood (Parkestown to Earlwood by Ron Hunt and/or Earlwood's Past by Brian Madden and Lesley Muir) the picture begins to pull focus.  

Sarah Stores' grandmother, Sarah Parkes, was the second daughter born to Margaret Southern and John Parkes - both ex-convicts.  John Parkes was from Worcesterhire's Black Country - named after ts iron-ore.  He was a nailer by trade and worked at the Government Dockyards for many years before moving on to the land.  

One of twelve children Sarah and her husband Ted Stores lived at Parkes Camp (now Earlwood) - a "timber-gatherer's Camp..destined to become the vanguard of three generations of sawyers."  according to Ron Hunt.  Her brothers William, Isaac and Thomas were boxing champions; Bill earning the title of Australian middleweight champion in 1845 before travelling to England to fight Nat Langham the middleweight champion there.  

Here is a map of John's Estate. 

Madden and Muir's history advises us that the 1870s were the beginning of a building boom for Sydney and that the Parkes and Nobbs families made their money from supplying sandstone from the Canterbury Quarry in River Street.  George Henry Carrett III, my grandmother's father and his father before him, were bricklayers and made their living from building many houses in the inner-western suburbs. So the Stores and the Carretts really were a match made in heaven, all things considered.

You can see my great-great-grandfather's home in 1886 at 7 Fairfowl Street Marrickville as it was in 2014 when Google took their photo.  It looks very dilapidated doesn't it? I don't know if it's improved since then.  According to the Sands Directory he called it Brixton Villa, after his birthplace Brixton in England, no doubt.

Obeyed Call from Beyond the Grave (1933, September 10). Truth (Brisbane, Qld. : 1900 - 1954), p. 22. Retrieved August 6, 2017, from

But back to Thomas Gainford.  How did he fit in?  Well I haven't found any direct links but having read his biography in the Australian Dictionary of Biography and a lengthy obituary in the Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners Advocate, he seemed to share many of the Parkes/Stores and Nobbs interests and life experience.  Born in Workington, Cumberland in 1823, by the age of 19 he was a champion wrestler for Cumberland - a couple of years before Bill Sparkes (the Parkes family has many monikers from Parkes to Perks to Sparks) was fighting Nat Langham.  

Thomas Gainford then went on to study shipbuilding and became a master mariner.  His experiences at sea, witnessing the uncertainty of life, motivated him to convert to Christianity and he became variously known as the "praying sailor" and the Black Preacher because of his physical appearance and his fortitude in all weather.  

In 1853 he migrated to Australia and co-owned a sawmill on the banks of Duck Creek on the Parramatta River.  It was so successful that another branch was formed on the Richmond River.  He sojourned to the Victorian goldfields and then to Newcastle before he returned to Sydney in 1867 and then became minister of the Mariners Church in 1870.  

So whilst it seems strange that a bricklayer and a servant would be married by a preacher in the Mariner's Church, I feel certain that their paths would have crossed somehow given their shared interests and Gainford's concern for those who felt isolated through their occupation or the trials and tribulations of life. 

I am now a bit wiser about one of the witnesses on George and Sarah's marriage certificate and have a greater understanding of the times from having researched Thomas Gainford and the area in which they lived. I did not realise until now how deeply embedded the roots of the Carrett family were in the area of Earlwood/Undercliffe.


Anne Young said...

Your great great grandfather's home could certainly benefit from a lick of paint. Be fascinating to see the changes when Google drives past again. The latest view of our house is 2017.
I must say I am struggling with the theme. I don't have Sydney in our family history nor many Catholics from that era.

Cassmob (Pauleen) said...

Your story shows how following up leads about witnesses and locations can both inform and enrich our family history.

Alex Daw said...

Dear Anne - I agree. I roared with laughter when I saw it but I guess the important thing is that it is still standing. I don't know if he built it but if so, I guess it is a testament to his bricklaying skills! :) Yes that meme was more difficult than I realised.

Alex Daw said...

Dear Pauleen - thanks for your feedback. I can't believe (yet again) how long it took to write that blog post. All the ruminating and the thinking and the going back trying to find the particular Trove article I had been reading. But I definitely feel much better informed about that side of the family now.

Crissouli said...

An interesting twist to the story... if that's what you present when you really didn't have much, I'll have to book a lounge chair for a week to read what you present when you have a lot! I love looking behind the scenes, as it were.

Alex Daw said...

Dear Chris - you are very kind. It was a bit tortuous but in the end I did find out quite a bit.

Kaypilk said...

Great read! and that little house certainly is a renovators delight.