Who lived here?….Part 1 – John Kelly

Ancestor Detective was asked to research the previous owners of a little cottage in Primrose Street, Violet Town after the current owner discovered that the cottage was built in 1895 and once owned by a German family. She became intrigued about how a German family came to be living in a small rural town. Ancestor Detective traces the families who owned the property and writes of their lives living in Violet Town.

Violet Town is 174 kilometers (or 108 miles) north east of Melbourne in Victoria and at the base of the Strathbogie Ranges. Originally names ‘Violet Creek’ the inland town was one of the first to be surveyed in 1838. The town is renowned for being a stop over for Major Thomas Mitchell who on his Australia Felix exploration camped on the banks of what was then called Violet Creek and became Honeysuckle Creek. At the time Major Mitchell noted that the swamps and marshes had a profusion of wild violets and he named the district Violet Ponds.

Settlement in Violet Town was slow initially but once the first hotel, the Royal Mail Hotel, was built by Thomas Clarke. With this development and the movement of people using Sydney Road, later called the Hume Highway, as a thoroughfare between Melbourne and Sydney that land started to sell.

John Kelly was born in about 1832 to Samuel Kelly and Jane Satermaite (Saterwaite) in Melbourne. In 1872, aged 30 years, John married Mary Jane Block, aged 18 years at the time and the daughter of Samuel Block and Margaret Kincaid. Not long after their marriage, John and Mary would settle in Violet Town where their first son, Samuel John Kelly, was born in 1873. Mary Jane would go onto have eight more children consisting of five sons and four daughters.

Public Records Office Victoria, 1882, Certificate of Title

Around this time on 10 December 1878, the notorious Kelly gang held up the bank in nearby Euroa. In the ensuing weeks that followed, local Police and residents scoured the land surrounding Euroa and Violet Town for the gang members but were unsuccessful in finding the bush ranges. I was during this time that newspaper articles were reporting that the Kelly gang were housed up in Violet Town, much to the disgust of locals who argued that Violet Town was one of the most honest communities in the colony and to accuse townsfolk of harboring the fugitives was outrages.

It makes you wonder with the Kelly gang in the local area and known to have stopped by in the town of Violet and nearby Euroa, whether there was an association with John Kelly. We may never know?

The Leader, 18 December 1880

In 1882 for fifteen pounds a local store keeper, John Kelly, became the first owner of the allotment 11, section 19 in Primrose Street, Violet Town. The block of land being two roods and eight perches (or half an acre). In his publication, What it was like then, Darryl Parker describes that bark huts were built to house the growing population and it is likely to be the first home to be built on the lot 11.

Public Records Office Victoria, 1875, Violet Town Parish Map

In the late 1880’s John Kelly became the local publican of the Traveller’s Rest Hotel in Sydney Road, Violet Town for some time. In February 1887, an advertisement instructing the offer for sale by auction two shops, dwelling houses, and allotments of land situated in Cowslip Street, Violet Town and the property of Mr Kelly.

Euroa Advertiser, 4 February 1887

Again in July 1898, John Kelly advertised for the let or sale of the Traveller’s Rest Hotel. The advertisement described the property to be located on Sydney Road near the railway station and consisting of a three parts furnished hotel, stablings and outbuildings, two and half acres to 12 and half acres of land.

Euroa Advertiser, 1 July 1898

While no advertisement of sale references lot 11 in Primrose Street, Violet Town a record of title the Certificate of Title for the property transferred ownership to Maria Tuckett on 1 October 1884.

The Kelly family remained in Violet Town until about 1894 when there youngest child, Theodore Phillip Kelly was born. Soon after the Australian electoral roll finds the Kelly family living on a farm in Boho not far from the township of Violet Town. Up until his death on 13 August 1911, John Kelly resided in his farm in Boho. In his final will and testament, John Kelly left considerable farming property along with stock, farming equipment and dwellings to his wife Mary Jane Kelly.

Mary Jane Kelly died in 1923 leaving her estate to her sons, Joseph Edward and Theodore Phillip.

In the next edition of Who lived here, Ancestor Detective introduces Albert and Maria Tuckett as the next owners of lot 11, Primrose Street, Violet Town.


Violet Town Centenary Celebrations Committee, 1949, Violet Town Centenary Celebrations, Matthews Publishing Company, Melbourne.

Parker, Darryl, n.d, What it was like then, Parker, Darryl.

Birth Index. Australia. Victoria. 1842.  KELLY, John. Australia, Birth Index 1788 – 1922.

Marriage Index. Australia. Victoria. 1872.  KELLY, John and BLOCK, Mary Jane. Australia, Marriage Index 1788 – 1950.

Birth Index. Australia. Victoria. 1854.  BLOCK, Mary Jane. Australia, Birth Index 1788 – 1922.

Euroa Advertiser, 26 February 1909, Sticking up the Euroa Bank, Euroa, p. 2.

The Leader, 18 December 1880, To The Editor of the Leader, p. 6.

Australia Birth Index. Victoria. 1873.  KELLY, Samuel John. Australia, Birth Index 1788 – 1922.

Public Records Office Victoria, 1875, Violet Township Map, County of Moira.

Euroa Advertiser, 4 February 1887, Fortnightly Stock Sale Day, Euroa, p. 3.

Euroa Advertiser, 1 July 1898, To be let or sale, p. 3.

Public Records Office Victoria, 1884, Certificate of Title Lot 11 Primrose Street, Violet Town, Melbourne.

Death Index. Australia. Victoria. 1911.  KELLY, John. Australia, Death Index 1787 – 1985.

Public Record Office Victoria; North Melbourne, Victoria; Victorian Wills, Probate and Administration Records 1841-1925; KELLY, John.

Death Index. Australia. Victoria. 1923.  KELLY, Mary Jane. Australia, Death Index 1787 – 1985

Public Record Office Victoria; North Melbourne, Victoria; Victorian Wills, Probate and Administration Records 1841-1925; KELLY, Mary Jane.

Trove Discoveries….Part 2: Little Girl Burnt to Death

Genealogy is more than just locating vital records to identify your ancestors.  This journey is also about bringing our ancestors to life through their stories, lifestyles, occupations, land and communities. 

For Australian genealogists, Trove, provides a valuable resource to uncover the stories of our ancestors.  This online platform has digitised archives from numerous sources, including newspaper articles, books and photographs.  As the name suggests, the more you trove through these archives, the more stories and records you can uncover, I call these little gems that without these, our ancestors just remain the vital events of their lives; births, deaths and marriages.

Ancestry.com and other online genealogical databases provide other records that can add more to your ancestors history, including immigration records, land titles, wills and probate records, criminal convictions, some family notices, and then there is the little gems that you find on other family trees with ancestors related to your own.

Ancestor Detective showcased the use of Trove while telling the life of Marwood Samuel Kingston Smith, you can read this narrative here.  While researching my 3rd great grandparents, William Slade and Sarah Lo’vanberyl, I came across some articles from Adelaide newspapers during the late 1880’s linked to their son, Thomas, and grand daughter, Elizabeth.  What you will read in this edition is not the gems you expect to find while delving into Trove, unfortunately they are not always good news stories, they are stories that despite being many years ago, will touch your heart and give you a different perspective on the lives your ancestors lived.  This was the case when I started reading about Thomas Slade and Mary Jane Talbot’s daughter Elizabeth.  These articles are not for the faint of heart, the details are somewhat gruesome, and you can only feel for young Elizabeth who suffered considerably in the lead up to her death.

Thomas Slade was born in about 1848, the third child of William Slade (1822 – 1880) and Sarah Lo’vanberyl (1825 – 1903) in Harrogate, South Australia.  In 1873, aged 25 years, Thomas married Mary Jane Talbot, aged 22 years, at Mount Pleasant in South Australia.  

Mary Jane Talbot (Reed) was baptised on 9 March 1851 in Kingsbury Epicoscopi in Somerset, England and was the daughter of Benjamin Talbot (1825 – 1901) and Delilah Reed (1829 – 1916).  Benjamin and Delilah immigrated to South Australia on 29 April 1855 on board the ship “Bermondsey” with their daughters Mary and Louisa.

On 25 December 1873, Mary Jane gave birth to a daughter, Martha at Tigers View in South Australia.  Two more daughters would follow; Elizabeth born 2 May 1875 and Hannah born 13 July 1876.  At the time of their births, Thomas was a farmer in Harrogate and by 1883 he was farming at Salt Creek near Monarto.  

On 31 May 1878, Mary Jane died at just 27 years of age leaving behind her young daughters aged 5, 3 and 2 years old.  Just one year later on 25 August 1879, Thomas married Mary Ann Dunn, aged 23 years, at her father’s home in Talunga, South Australia near Mount Torrens.  

Mary Ann Dunn was born on 15 October 1855, the daughter of George Dunn (abt. 1827 – 1906) and Mary Williams (abt. 1834 – 1915), in Adelaide, South Australia.  Step mother to Thomas’s three girls; Martha (1873 – 1959), Elizabeth (1875 – 1888) and Hannah (1876 – 1958), Mary Ann would give birth to three children; John (1881 – 1954), Ellen (1884 – 1965) and William (1886 – 1962).

Tragedy hits the Slade family

Nearly ten years after the death of her mother, Elizabeth was sent to the home of Wilhelm Kuchel and wife, Pauline, in Murray Bridge as a servant when her older sister Martha was unable to do so.  In May 1887, Elizabeth was in their home alone when her dress and undergarments caught fire while attending to the home’s fireplace.  Shortly after the fire started Mrs Kuchel returned to the home to find young Elizabeth’s clothes burning from the waist down, after rolling her in the sand outside, she placed Elizabeth on the couch and treated the burns with lard, starch and red precipitate powder. 

Despite pleas from Elizabeth to send for her father, the Kuchel family did not do so and it was not until Wilhelm passed Thomas on his farm on the 30 May that he mentioned that there was an accident and ‘clothes had caught fire’, but commented that she would be okay in a week or so.  Concerned for Elizabeth’s welfare Thomas and Mary Ann traveled to the Kuchel’s property in Murray Bridge and found Elizabeth lying on a couch with a cup of water beside her but out of reach of the young girl. 

Thomas and Mary Ann put Elizabeth in their cart and drove home to Mount Torrens where they removed the putrid bandages, which did not appear to have been changed since the 27 May.  They then telegraphed for Dr Esau who attended the following morning.  The doctor found Elizabeth to be in a ‘deplorable condition‘, with severe burns from the waist down and the start of gangrene on her back and abdomen ‘from being grossly neglected‘ and with no hope of recovery.   Elizabeth in incredible pain tragically died on 7 June, some ten days after the fire.

On the 8 June, an inquest began at the Mount Torrens Hotel before Mr Lauterbach, J.P and a jury who took statements from Thomas and Mary Ann Slade and Dr Esau.  The Kuchel family were called before the jury on the 13 June where they contradicted the statements of the family and doctor who attended to Elizabeth until her death.  They stated that Elizabeth was fine following the incident, did not require medical aid and was ‘walking about the house days after she was burnt‘ and denied that she had been neglected during that time and that they had treated her burns ‘as if they would treat their own child‘.  They also denied that they refused to send for Elizabeth’s father and that she had pleaded for them not to do so.

On the 13 June 1887, the jury found Mr Wilhelm Kuchel ‘guilty of gross and culpable neglect with respect to the treatment of the injuries‘.  Following the guilty verdict, pleas from jury members for Wilhelm’s actions to not go unpunished seemed to be ignored.  One juror stated in a letter to the editor of the local paper that “that for the honor of the community it is hoped that such another case may never be recorded.  With all expressing their sincere wish that the authorities will not allow the matter to pass without punishing those connected with such a piece of inhuman barbarity as the persons who had charge of the girl are guilt of“. 

Another member of the jury wrote “I trust in the interest of justice the papers relating to the above inquest will be carefully pursued by the authorities and not quietly shelved as there is reasons to believe is often done.  The evidence of the various witnessed under examination seems to me to have warranted a far strong verdict than that returned, and I am of opinion that just and humanity will not be satisfied if the Kuchel family are allowed to go scot-free owing to the many pressing questions engaging the attention of our public men at present“.  Despite this, it appears that no further action was taken and Wilhelm was allowed to continue living in the community. However, the family did sell their land and move to Dimboola where they went onto have six more children before moving to Murray Bridge.

Just a few months after Elizabeth’s death on 9 September 1888, the Slade family would again experience death when Thomas Slade would die from tuberculous.  Thomas would leave behind his wife, Mary Ann and their young family and a farm to operate.

As genealogists looking into the lives of our ancestors, we all recognise that the conditions in which they lived where hard times, often living in poverty and little access to medical help but we often do not expect to come across detailed accounts of how they died, particularly for children.  The circumstances leading to the death of Elizabeth Slade and the details written on the inquest proceedings into her death was hard to read and left me feeling sad for such a young girl who would have gone through incredible pain and for her family who would have felt helpless in seeing her dying in such an horrific way. 

It is these stories of our ancestors lives that move us, they certainly allow us to see our ancestors from a different perspective and while it is many years ago it still leaves you with a sense of loss and heartache.  While I do not know the circumstances for her father, Thomas’s death, I have no doubt that a broken heart after the death of Elizabeth contributed.

There are many newspaper articles on the inquest into Elizabeth Slade’s death that you may wish to read but they are hard to read, hence why some of the details have been left out of my account of what happened to little Elizabeth.


The Biographical Index of South Australians 1836-1885, Author: SA Genealogy & Heraldry Society, Year: (1986, 1990) 2007, Publisher: Archive Digital Books Australasia

Birth Index. Australia. South Australia. 1851.  SLADE, Thomas. Australia, Birth Index 1788 – 1922.

Somerset, England, Church of England Baptisms, 1813-1914. 1851.  TALBOT, Mary Jane. Somerset Heritage Service; Taunton, Somerset, England; Reference Number: D\P\K.EP/2/1/3

Marriage Index. Australia. South Australia. 1873.  SLADE, Thomas and TALBOT, Mary Jane. Australia, Marriage Index 1788 – 1950.

State Records Authority of New South Wales; Kingswood New South Wales, Australia; Persons on bounty ships (Agent’s Immigrant Lists); Series: 5316; Reel: 2137; Item: [4/4792]

Birth Index. Australia. South Australia. 1873.  SLADE, Martha. Australia, Birth Index 1788 – 1922.

Birth Index. Australia. South Australia. 1875.  SLADE, Elizabeth. Australia, Birth Index 1788 – 1922.

Birth Index. Australia. South Australia. 1876.  SLADE, Hannah. Australia, Birth Index 1788 – 1922.

Death Index. Australia. South Australia. 1878.  SLADE, Mary Jane. Australia, Death Index 1787 – 1985.

Marriage Index. Australia. South Australia. 1879.  SLADE, Thomas and Dunn, Mary Ann. Australia, Marriage Index 1788 – 1950.

Birth Index. Australia. South Australia. 1855.  DUNN, Mary Ann. Australia, Birth Index 1788 – 1922.

Birth Index. Australia. South Australia. 1881.  SLADE, John. Australia, Birth Index 1788 – 1922.

Birth Index. Australia. South Australia. 1884.  SLADE, Ellen. Australia, Birth Index 1788 – 1922.

Birth Index. Australia. South Australia. 1886.  SLADE, William. Australia, Birth Index 1788 – 1922.

Mount Barker Courier and Onkaparinga and Gumeracha Advertiser. (1887, June 17). Girl Burnt to Death. Mount Barker, South Australia, Australia. (SA : 1880 – 1954), Friday 17 June 1887, page 3.

South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 – 1900), The recent Inquest at Mount Torrens on the body of Elizabeth Slade. To the Editor. Saturday 18 June 1887, page 6.

Express and Telegraph (Adelaide, SA : 1867 – 1922), General News, Saturday 18 June 1887, page 2.

Death Index. Australia. South Australia. 1888.  SLADE, Thomas. Australia, Death Index 1787 – 1985.