JOHN EATHER 1804-1888
The sixth child and fourth son of Thomas EATHER and Elizabeth LEE was born at Green Hills in the Hawkesbury district on 3 October 1804 and was named John. Two days previously his twin brothers, Charles and Thomas, had turned four. John had been a family name amongst Thomas's ancestors since 1647. Early in August 1805 Thomas and Elizabeth had their infant son John and the twins christened. These baptisms were recorded at Parramatta on 11 August 1805. In all 42 baptisms were recorded in the Parramatta register that day. In none was the place of the baptism recorded, but from a survey of the names it is obvious that most, if not all, of the baptisms were of Hawkesbury district children. Their birthdates ranged from 1798 to 1805. It is believed this is how the birthdates of the twins Charles and Thomas were given as 1805 to records at NSW BD&M. Obviously a minister of the Church of England had made a rare tour of the Hawkesbury district, which still had no Church, and residents had made use of the occasion to catch up on the christening of their children. When John was an infant his father was farming fifteen acres, apparently half of the land that he had been granted in 1797 on Rickaby's Creek at Green Hills. The family home was on higher land above the farm and it was there that John lived until he was about sixteen. When he was three his sister Rachel was born, and when he was six his brother James joined the family. One of the experiences of his childhood which might have become indelibly etched upon his memory , was the sight of the 1809 record flood, when all of the lowlands around Green Hills were submerged and the Hills rendered into a temporary island. In the hard year for the EATHERS that followed, John was one of their children victualled by the Government store.
John was about seven when Governor Macquarie visited Green Hills; decided that it would be the site of a town named Windsor, and supervised its layout. In the years that followed, the town gradually developed. As a child in a community that was largely illiterate, John grew up without the benefit of formal schooling. As a teenager, he undoubtedly gained experience as a farm labourer, while assisting his father in the various chores on his farm. He saw the gradual growth of the town as new shops, hotels and dwellings were erected. When he was about fourteen he saw his brother-in -law, Joseph Onus, carting loads of bricks in his dray to the site on the hill where the new St Matthew's Church was slowly taking shape. In the early 1820's, when John was in his late teens, his father Thomas EATHER purchased a rectangular allotment on the south-eastern side of George Street, the main street of Windsor. In due course the members of the EATHER family still living at home, took up residence in an L-shaped house on the north-eastern corner of the allotment, close to George Street . After 1824, when his brother Thomas was married, John and his younger brother James were the only EATHER children living at home with their parents. On 22 March 1827, when John was 22, his father died. On the following day John was one of the group of mourners who gathered in the churchyard of St Matthew's to see the old man laid to rest. The only member of the EATHER family who was probably missing from the family group on that sad occasion was John's elder brother Thomas, who was establishing himself as a farmer on land far away over the ranges at Wollombi Brook and was most likely unaware that his father had passed away.
Thomas EATHER left a will which had been written at some time during the last two years of his life, after the birth in 1825 of his grandson, Henry Charles the son of his son Charles and Ann HOUGH. Under the terms of this will, the 'three messuages or dwelling houses situate in George Street in the town of Windsor ... together with all horned Cattle, Carts, Ploughs, Harrows and all the implements' were beqeathed to his 'beloved Wife Elizabeth', along with 'all household furniture, goods and effects'. The will further decreed what was to become of the houses, property and effects upon Elizabeth's death. Under the sixth clause John was to receive ''the three back rooms of the house in which I now dwell also situate in George Street aforesaid with all my working Bullocks, Carts, Ploughs, Harness, Harrows and other Agricultural Implements I may be possessed of at the time of my decease''. John was also to share with his younger brother James the household goods and any other effects not already allocated. James was to receive the front two rooms of the house and one cow and calf. Why John should have been singled out to receive the working bullocks, carts and farm machinery can be readily understood. His three older brothers, Robert, Charles and Thomas, were already out in the world with occupations and families of their own. James was still a teenage lad. John was the single adult amongst the sons. Thomas's decision to divide the house in which he dwelt between John and James, while the other two houses were divided amongst his grandchildren, is also logical. John and James were the two sons still living at home, and therefore they wouldn't have to move out of their home upon the demise of their mother. In real terms the content of his father's will had little immediate impact upon John. He continued to reside at home with his mother. He had probably been the member of the family who had made the most use of the carts and farm machinery during the last few years of his father's life, and he probably continued to do so. Judging from the contents of his will, Thomas EATHER owned no land other than the George Street allotment after 1825, and the farm machinery and working bullocks would have been idle except when John used them in labouring jobs or contracts in the district. He would have shouldered increased responsibility with the passing of his father, as his mother would have become dependant upon him in many ways, ranging from transport to maintenance of the family home. When the census of New South Wales was taken in 1828, John was the only one of Elizabeth EATHER's children residing at home with her. James EATHER was then seventeen and still single, but was away from home at the time that the census was taken. John's occupation then was that of a labourer. Elizabeth had decided to supplement her income by taking in boarders, and in the years that followed, usually had a few lodgers staying at her house. This may have thrown more responsibilities upon John. Unlike his four brothers, John remained a bachelor throughout his life. How much this was due to his feeling of responsibility to his widowed mother, we shall never know.
Little is known about his life after 1828, when he was 24. Research has not revealed any application in his name for a land grant, although his brothers Robert and Thomas both applied for such. He evidently had no interest in squatting on the Liverpool Plains, as had both Robert and Thomas. There is no record of his ever having taken out a licence to depasture stock 'beyond the limits of District'. If he ever did ride up the Hunter Valley to the Liverpool Plains it would have been in the minor role of a stockman or drover. He does not appear to have owned any land in the Hawkesbury district. His name does not appear amongst those enrolled on the electoral roll in 1860. Perhaps he rented land for farming purposes, but whether he was concerned with farming we do not know. Possibly he became skilled in one of the trades as a blacksmith, harness-maker or wheelwright and plied those skills in or near Windsor. Perhaps, being without family responsibilities, he was content to earn a living as a labourer, either in town or on the farms. After 1836 when his brother James married, John was the only single member of the family. It is likely that he continued to reside at home and was a companion to his mother as she got older. Elizabeth had a long widowhood of 33 years and probably continued to live on in her George Street home until the frailties of old age forced her into the care of one of her daughters, all of whom resided in or near Richmond. Elizabeth passed away on 11 June 1860 after having attained the age of about 90. John was then 55 and was almost surely one of the mourners who gathered in the churchyard of St. Matthew's Anglican Church at Windsor to see her laid to rest in a grave beside that of her late husband. With the passing of his mother, John inherited the three back rooms of the George Street house and half of the household possessions. The carts and farm machinery, if they hadn't been disposed of in the intervening years, were his property at last. His father's working bullocks weren't around to be inherited. Age and hard work had gradually claimed their lives over the years. Following Elizabeth EATHER's death the EATHER allotment in George Street, Windsor was surveyed and sub-divided into six small allotments, each approximately fourteen and one -sixth perches in area, with a frontage of about thirty feet to George Street and a depth of about 128 feet. As the result of some agreement amongst those who were to share the land, John was allocated the second of these. The L-shaped house, which he was to share with James, was on the first allotment, which had been allocated to James. A year later, in June 1861, James mortgaged his allotment to a grazier, John HOSKISSON, for £250. He evidently came to some arrangement with John to compensate him for his half of the family home, which was on the allotment mortgaged. John EATHER retained his small allotment for over nine years. What he did with it in that period we do not know. It is unlikely that he had a cottage erected on it. Judging from the low price at which he eventually sold it, there were no improvements on it. At last, on 9 September 1869, shortly before he turned 65, John sold his allotment to John HOSKISSON for the sum of £40 sterling. On the same day, HOSKISSON became the owner also of James EATHER's allotment. James had never paid off the £250 for which he had mortgaged it in 1861. Instead he had borrowed another £200 from HOSKISSON on 17 August 1867. Thus, on 9 September 1869 an Indenture was drawn up , under which HOSKISSON obtained possession of the house and allotment for the sum of £480 sterling. James had in effect sold his property for the £450 he had borrowed, plus interest of £30 that had accrued over the eight years. How John EATHER spent his later years is a matter for conjecture. The likelihood is that he continued to live in or near Windsor, as he had done for the rest of his life.
The only later information about him is that revealed by his death certificate. On 5 November 1888, a month after he turned 84, he died in the Windsor Hospital. Perhaps he died a lonely man. The informant who registered his death was unable to provide the name of his parents. His three sisters and his brothers Robert and Thomas had all predeceased him. His younger brother James was living far away at Narrabri on the Liverpool Plains. The other brother to survive him was eighty-eight year-old Charles, who was living at Richmond . John had numerous nieces and nephews residing in the Hawkesbury district. Perhaps some of them were present at his funeral when he was buried in the same Churchyard as his parents. John EATHER never married and left no descendants - he died at Windsor hospital and the informant for his death certificate had no knowledge of his family.