Collecting information about Absalom Tonkin (1827 - 1892), of Wentworth and Callington :: Genealogy
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Collecting information about Absalom Tonkin (1827 - 1892), of Wentworth and Callington

Article by anne_tonkin54

Went travelling down the River Murray by small boat, from Yarrawonga Weir downstream to Boundary Bend (so far), with plans to continue at a later time. Saw a lot of evidence of the old loggers along the riverbank, and started wondering about my great grandfather, Absalom Tonkin, who spent part of his life on a paddle steamer.

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by anne_tonkin54 Profile | Research | Contact | Subscribe | Block this user
on 2013-01-01 23:33:20

anne_tonkin54 , from Adelaide, has been a Family Tree Circles member since Jan 2013.

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by TonkinFamily on 2013-01-13 00:50:37

Hi Anne,
I don't often check back here so it was a nice surprise to spot your post. Do you have an ancestry account? I have some information about Absalom on my tree. It is set to private, at the request of other family members, but am always willing to share. Absaloms son, Cecil Wentworth Tonkin, is my great grandfather.
Cheers TonkinFamily

by anne_tonkin54 on 2013-01-13 07:06:47

Hi TonkinFamily,

I have only just got started on this, and don't have an ancestry account. How do they work? My late father, David Tonkin, who was reasonably well known in the late 1970s-early 80s as a politician, compiled quite a lot of info in terms of names and dates, and family links. It is all written in ink on a very large piece of thin cardboard. I have your great grandfather Cecil Wentworth on it, with his children listed as Archie Graham (1913), Madge May (1915), Leslie (?date) and Colin Prisk (1917). Is that correct? Cecil's brother, Oliver Athelstone Prisk Tonkin, was my grandfather - the generations got a bit long here, as Oliver was 50 when David was born. I can give you more about Oliver's family if you'd like. What I mainly want to find out is a bit more about what Absalom did, particularly in relation to the river trade. If you have anything more on that, I'd be very interested.

Cheers, anne_tonkin54

by janilye on 2013-01-13 07:48:13

I'm not related but decided to have a look about and found these two notices published on the same day in the same newspaper which I found intriguing.
The Advertiser Adelaide, SA, Saturday 18 June 1892
TONKIN.On the 16th June, at Callington, the widow of the late Absolom Tonkin, of a son.
TONKIN.On the 16th June, at Callington, of dropsy, Absalom Tonkln, aged 63 years. His end was peace.

Then this amongst other articles in TROVE most in the South Australian newspapers.
The Advertiser Adelaide, SA, Friday 12 August 1892
In the TRUST ESTATE of ABSALOM TONKIN, late of Callington, Storekeeper, Deceased. TENDERS for the STORE and DWELLING-HOUSE, GOODWILL. STOCK-IN-TRADE, WORKING PLANT, FITTINGS. BOOK DEBTS, &c, together with a PADDOCK containing ten acres or thereabouts, will be received till 12 o'clock noon on MONDAY, the 16th inst. The above business is a splendid opportunity to a pushing man. All information may be obtained and stock-sheets inspected at Messrs. John Martin & Co. Limited, Rundle-street, Adelaide, and also at Mr. David Martin's, of Hannon-street. Adelaide, grocer (executor of the said deceased.) &c...

by janilye on 2013-01-13 07:58:59

I assume the child born on the 16th June was William Norman Wellington TONKIN to Absalom's second wife Sarah PRISK 1841-1925.

by janilye on 2013-01-13 08:27:48
by anne_tonkin54 on 2013-01-13 08:47:28

Hi janilye,

Thank you very much for the info - I have seen the photo in a book of South Australian History published in 1890, but I wasn't aware that Norman was born on the same day his father died. That is intriguing indeed!

Poor Sarah was left with 8 children aged 14 and under.

How did you find so much information so quickly?

THanks again, Anne

by TonkinFamily on 2013-01-13 18:18:59

Hi Anne,
You can go to and join and start a tree for free. It guides you through and is very easy to use. It is a convenient way to store information and see your tree laid out as a diagram (printable)
My fathers name is also David Tonkin. Yes I know of your father, I remember asking if we were related to him when he was on the news when I was very young!
I have the same details as you for Cecils' children. (Leslie William b.1919) Colin is my Grandfather.

You are right Sarah (and her family) certainly faced some tough challenges. Sarah's mother Mary Prisk (nee.Rowe) gave birth to triplets on the 5th of April 1857.

BIRTHS-On the 5th inst, at Strathalbyn Mines, the wife of Captain Prisk, of two sons and a daughter. Mother and infants doing well.

Sadly the babies died over the next two weeks, followed by Mary on the 19th of April 1857. She was 39 years old. The babies names were Nathaniel,Josiah and Alma. Sarah was only 6 years old.

Her children, as far as I have researched were;
Mary 1839-1895
Elizabeth Jane 1841-1929
Constance 1842
Stephen David 1844
Thomas Tungkillo 1846-1927
Emma and Sophia (twins) 1849
Sarah 1851-1925
Ellen 1853
Alma,Josiah and Nathaniel 1857

PRISK Thomas,Mary nee ROWE,John,My,Eliz Jane,Constance,Stephen David arrived 1846-01-18 on Kingston from London 1845-09-20 v Falmouth 1845-10-05

by TonkinFamily on 2013-01-13 19:29:04

(Sorry about the length of these messages)
The death of Sarah's father.
PRISK. On the 23rd September, at the Great Cobar Mine, New South Wales, after a short illness, Thomas Prisk, Manager of the Great Cobar Mine, and formerly captain of the Bremer Mine, Callington, South Australia, aged 63 years. A respected colonist of 31 years. His end was peace. English papers please copy.

If you go to you will find information about Captain Thomas Prisk and Absalom Tonkin in Absaloms earlier mining days.
There is also a picture of the headstone for Absaloms first wife Charlotte Fuller.

At Mount Barker, on the 11th instant, by licence, by the Rev. R. C. Flockart, Absalom, son of Mr. William Tonkin, to Charlotte, eldest daughter of Mr. Benjamin Fuller, both of Mount Barker.

Notices- Council chose the following persons to serve as constables for the year, viz, Messrs. W. A. W. Carr, John Asheton, and Robert Marsh, for Nairne; William Jacka and Henry Jackson for Kanmantoo; Absalom Tonkin and Alfred Sexton for Callington.

(Is William Jacka, Kanmantoo, your great grandfather,father of Lily May Jacka?)
I have a record - Lily May JACKA, dau of William John JACKA. Enrrolled at Burra School (prev.Melrose) 6 Feb 1888, age 9.

TONKIN PRISK. On the 5th September, at Callington, by licence, by the Rev. J. H. Williams, Absalom Tonkin, to Sarah, sixth daughter of T. Prisk, Esq., Manager of Great Cobar Mine, New South Wales.

THE REGISTER (Adelaide)11Feb 1907
TONKIN JACKA. On the 28th December, l906, at Melrose, by the Rev. W. A. Millikan, Oliver, son of the late Absalom Tonkin, of Callington. to Lily May, eldest daughter of W. J. Jacka, of Melrose.

by TonkinFamily on 2013-01-13 19:52:27

More about Absalom Tonkin.


Messrs. Tonkin, Fuller, & Martin's : new boat Paringa was successfully launched on Saturday, the 18th instant, at Mannum, in the presence of a numerous concourse of spectators.' The weather was delightful. There was a splendid display of bunting, people came from far- and near, to witness the launch, and everything assumed a holiday appearance. The christening was performed by Miss J. Randell, who bade goodluck to the Paringa, and with the usual ceremony of breaking a bottle on her bows sent her on her way amid the cheers of the spectators. The vessel itself reflects the very highest credit on her builders, Messrs. Hooker & Davis, and is one of which her owners should feel justly proud. No time or attention has been spared, and under the immediate superinten dence of Mr. Davis, who drew all the lines, &c, she has been turned out an undoubted success. The dimensions of the craft are as follows : Length of keel, 105' ft. ; overall, 110' ft. ; beam, 20 ft. on the frame ; depth of hold, 6 ft. 6 in. ; sheer forward 12 in., aft 10 in. ; 6-in. cumber in her deck ; angle iron frame of 2 1/2 x 3/8", each frame giving through 7x4 redgum flooring, every 18 inches 3 ft. of 1/2-in. iron all round, properly rivetted ; angle iron of 2 1/2 x 3/8 rivetted to the iron and fastened every eight inches, through the planking; three gum kelsons running through the vessel ; two iron water tight compartments and well ; and decked with 3-in. kauri pine, having iron topsides of 1/2-in. plate. Her owners intend using her as a barge for the wool season, after which she will be properly fitted up as a steamer. After the launching those interested in the river trade met to' wish success to the owners of the new boat, Captain W. R. Randell being voted to the chair. Mr. R. H. Jones proposed 'The Health of Messrs. Tonkin, Fuller, & Martin and Success to the Paringa.' On the occasion of such an interesting event he thought it only right that a few words should be said in reference to the river trade. It was now many years ago since the first boat was built and launched at Man num by the worthy Chairman, the pioneer of the Murray. Things then in regard to shipbuilding were in a very primitive state, but rapid strides had since been made, and in strict conformity to the go-ahead principle they now saw before them as beautiful a craft as ever floated on the Murray, and another on the stocks, and when completed he was sure they would all agree that two better boats never left a builder's hands. The river trade was a largely increasing one, and to meet its requirements they must have boats properly constructed in every way ; and with this object in view Messrs. Tonkin, Fuller, and Martin had spiritedly entered into the building of the grand vessel they had seen launched that day, and he was sure they all wished them the prosperity they deserved. Mr. Tonkin, in responding, thanked the meeting on behalf of the firm for the kind manner in which they drank their health. He was well pleased with the contractors of the Paringa for the manner in which they had per formed their work; he believed she was a good boat. Their firm had been trading on the river for a good many years, and although they had had their share of misfortunes and mishaps they were not yet disheartened, but would now take the opportunity of thanking the squatters and settlers on the river for the patronage they had always accorded them, and which he trusted they would continue to accord. Captain 'W. R. Randell (the Chairman), in proposing 'The River Trade,' said it might not be amiss to give a short statement of its history in that place. About 22 years ago he had a small steamer built called the Mary Anne (sic), the first that ever navigated the River Murray ; she was framed in Gumeracha, then carted down and completed here. She was only a small boat, carrying about 40 tons, but large enough to do what was required, viz., to prove the practicability of the navigation of the Murray. This she did, steaming as far as Moama, or as it was called then Maiden's Punt, about two miles above where Echuca now stands. Many difficul- ties had to be encountered in the starting of this enterprise; the Government of the day had fixed upon Goolwa as the river port, and they seemed quite disposed to discourage goods being shipped from any other place. He was com pelled to steam with his goods shipped here to Goolwa, just for the purpose of getting them cleared. This he felt to be a great hardship and injustice. On one occasion he determined to risk going up the river without going to Goolwa for a clearance. The consequence was his boat was seized, and he was fined 20 or 30 for his hardihood. He, however, persisted in shipping goods there, and after repeated re- presentations and remonstrances to head-quarters, in which he was greatly assisted by Messrs. Elder & Co., that state of -things was altered, and he was allowed to ship there by paying the expenses of a Custom House officer to attend while the goods were being put on board. Now they could ship what they like and clear at Blanchetown. As a proof of the growing importance of the river trade it was only necessary to point to the fact of the past 21 years' trade having commenced from nothing ; now our Government are paying New South Wales 35,000 yearly as an equivalent for duties on goods shipped from South Australia to that colony. That was on dutiable articles alone, so taking into account the large quantities of flour, produce, and other non-dutiable articles, some idea could be formed of the growth of this trade. The Mary Anne was a small beginning ; now they had some 20 steamers and a larger number of barges. But notwithstanding that he believed the river trade was only in its infancy; and, although Victoria had taken away a large por- tion of the trade' that once was ours through her superior energy and far-sightedness, still if we made the best of our geographical position and followed on perseveringly we should get back most of what we had lost. The railway in course of construction to the North-West Bend though he believed placed much too high up the river must do a deal of good and would be trusted materially help to bring about that desirable state of things. Mr. 'Whttfieid briefly responded to this toast, saying that in course of time he trusted they should see a railway line to the Murray Bridge. ' The Contractors' was proposed by Mr. Hesel- tine, who spoke of the able manner in which the work had been carried out. Mr. Davis, on behalf of the firm of Hooker and Davis, responded. He said nothing should be wanting on their part to always give every satis faction in work they undertook. As for himself, he had taken great interest in turning out the present boat, which he thought was a success. He had spent the whole of his life from 15 years of age in qualifying himself for a shipbuilder. The healths of the fair lady christener, the Press, and the Chairman having been drunk and suitably responded to, the meeting broke up.

SOUTH AUSTRALIAN REGISTER, River District News, 13 Oct 1881
Our Wentworth correspondent, under date October 10, writes : ' The Darling is falling here at the rate of one inch in twenty-four hours, and is now nine feet ten inches above the summer level. This town still keeps busy, consequent on the increasing arrivals and departures of teams from and to the Upper Darling. The Upper Murray as well as the Murrumbidgee are falling, and if they continue to do so for a few weeks longer it is to be feared that supplies will have to be carted from or near the South Australian Border to the town. It is reported that a rise of four or five feet is apparent at Walgett on tbe Barwon River, but unless considerably higher it would not effect the river here. The gauge here at noon shows a tendency to a rise which must be caused by backwater from the Murray. Messrs. Tonkin, Fuller, and Martin, having purchased the steamer Princess Royal, intend running her in connection with the Paringa from Morgan to Wentworth fortnightly, until the Darling is navigable, when the former will run on that river as far as Wilcannia. No Stock movement to report.

*Some of the boats Absalom owned/part owned were P.S Princess Royal, P.S Paringa,P.S Britannia and P.S Moolgewanke.

Keep in mind when you continue your research, Absaloms brother Joel and his wife Susannah Butcher had a son, also named Absalom Tonkin (1854), living in the same area. There was also an ABSOLOM TONKIN getting around about the same time, so it pays to double check the spelling.

I hope some of this helps.
Warm Regards

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