JOHN SEAMONS the Fifth

Born 18 November, 1800, Weedon, Bucks., England.
Married Anna Maria Billington, 27 September, 1826 at Hardwick.
Emigrated to Australia in 1850.
Died February 1890, at Franklinford, Victoria, Australia.
John and Anna Maria had 5 Children:

  • William, Christened at Hardwick on 12 December 1826, married Mary Hedges, arrived in Australia on the ship "Thetis" on 27 May 1848, died in 1915;
  • Joseph, Christened at Hardwick on 18 November 1828;
  • Mary Anne, Christened at Hardwick on 17 October 1830 and died in her youth;
  • Charles, born 1832, and died in 1845;
  • James, born 3 December 1835, emigrated to Australia with his father in 1850, married Elizabeth Anne Roberts in 1871, died at Franklinford, Victoria, on 24 November 1905.

John was born on November 18th, 1800 at Weedon, Buckinghamshire, the 5th child of William and Anne (nee Brooks) in a family of 10 (seven sons and 3 daughters). He was Christened at the Hardwick Parish church on December 31st, 1800.

John was named in tribute to his Grandfather, who was born in 1720 and was still living at the time of John's birth. The house where he was born, (probably erected in the late 1500s) faced south, looking across the Vale of Aylesbury, to the highest point in the Chiltern Hills. The field across the road in front of the house was named "Penwick", and is still called that to this very day.

A memorable incident in John's boyhood was the flight of the King of France (in the face of Napoleon) to England. The King was befriended by a family which at that time, owned half of Weedon, including the house where John was born. Until settled accommodation was found for the King and his entourage on the South of Aylesbury, the Seamons' family gave shelter to one of the refugees, named Boniface. Fearful for his safety, Boniface carved a bolt and fixed it on the inside of the door at the foot of the stairs, and thus with bolt drawn, felt he had security when sleeping. The bolt remained in place until the house was renovated in 1969. John and his older brothers had their stories to tell of Boniface.

The Seamons' boys (brothers Charles, William, John, Joseph II, Edmund and James) all had the standard education of their class for those times. They learned to read, write, and mastered the elements of arithmetic. Not all mastered to any considerable extent, the art of spelling, and often this was roughly phonetic, and reflected the dialect speech. For example, his brother Joseph, who was a very capable business man , would seldom write the final "g" in words ending in "ing", such as "plowin", instead of "ploughing".

Although they lacked the more aristocratic education enjoyed by kinsfolk from Hulcott (a few miles away), they succeeded in the farming enterprise at least as well.

The house of William and Anne Seamons in Aston Abbotts Road, Weedon, photographed circa 1910.
It was in this house that William and Anne raised their 10 children, including John.
The house was originally built in the late 1500's, and renovated in the 1920's. The house was eventually demolished in the late 1960's.

John was a youth of fifteen years, when Napoleon was finally defeated at Waterloo. The family scene had changed much, in that his aged Grandfather John, had died in 1805, and the freehold farmstead and land known as "Snugge" had passed to the older brother of William, who was known as John of Quarrendon. The farm stock however, passed to William.

There were enough, even more than enough, sons in the "Penwick View" farmstead to work all available land. The eldest son Charles, was fourteen years old; the second, William was nearly eight, by which age boys were employed in farm duties; there was a rapidly increasing population in the Weedon village, and unemployment had raised its ugly head. For a few years, John of Quarrendon had no need to return to Weedon, nor were his sons of an age where they could farm "Snugge's" acres.

The shadow over the Seamons' home however, was the decline in the father's (William) health. By the time of Trafalgar in 1815, it was the eldest son, Charles, on whom the family depended, and it was certainly no easy team to manage; brother William was coldly calculating, John himself was as independent as his Grandfather, and appears to have resisted the developing influence of Methodism in the home, and when war finally ended and the father's health finally collapsed, Joseph, at ten years, also showed John's independent spirit.

At the end of the war, the task that Charles at the age of 22, had to face was not merely to manage the farm, but to manage brothers who were all individuals, and to provide for parents and sisters and the very young brothers (aged between 17 and 2). This would have been a daunting task under any conditions, but in the terrible agricultural depression which followed the war, it must have been seemingly impossible. Conditions at the time became so poor, that at one point every farm in Aylesbury parish was untenanted.

Through all of this however, the quiet genius of Charles found a way. The older brothers were granted a share in the farm stock, so they had a personal interest in its success. Ten years after the war had ended, and in spite of everything, there had only been one break in the family, and that was when, in 1820, Sarah left to marry William Judkins and live in Aylesbury. The second break in the family came in 1826, eleven years after the war had ended and the great agricultural depression gripped the farming industry. This time it was John who left home and with him he took his share in the "co-operative" venture. Probably, he was never in tune with his family in one respect, and that was the strong Methodist influence which had developed.

But that was not the immediate cause of the family break; on September 27th, 1826, John had married Maria Billington (who was carrying his child at the time ) at Hardwick Church, and they needed their own home. The details of Maria’s background is obscure; the Hardwick -Weedon parish was not her native place, and indeed the parish registers from 1560 onwards never show the surname at any other time. A reasonable conjecture is that she had come to Weedon as a member of the domestic staff in the large mansion known as "The Lilies", occupied at that time by Lord and Lady Nugent. (This would not have been the only occasion when a member of the domestic staff at "The Lilies" married a Weedon farmer's son. It had happened in the Rolls family in 1815, when the Grandfather of Edmund Rolls married a member of the "Lilies" staff).

From that time, and for several subsequent years, John's occupation was given as a butcher. For a few years, his movements are not clear. His first children were christened at Hardwick, but at some time he moved to Aylesbury and lived there. Three of their children were christened at Hardwick Church in the years 1826 to 1832. The first was named William; the date was 12 Dec. 1826, and the father's occupation was given as butcher. The mother's name was stated as Maria. The second child was Joseph, who was born in 1828, and the third child was Mary Ann, who was born on 17 Oct. 1830. At Mary Ann's birth, the father's occupation was still given as a butcher. The fourth child was born on 28 Jan 1832, and was named Charles, undoubtedly in tribute to that oldest son in the family who held all together when adversity befell.

What happened to Joseph, Mary and Charles has been forgotten in England, and official records have not yielded any further information. If they died in infancy or childhood, there would not be any Somerset House record before 1837. A fifth child, to be named James, was born in December 1835. This, as far as information is to hand, completes John’s family picture.

At some point, John changed his occupation, as one record in the 1840s, names him as a Beer Retailer. The ambition of younger sons of small farmers for whom there was no family land, often found its fulfilment as the licensee of an Inn. Frequently, the Inn had a few acres of land attached to it, which provided the opportunity for farming on a small scale. John's brother Edmund, had found just such an opportunity at Thame, on the borderline between Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire.

John however, does not seem to have fared quite so well; he was a beer retailer, rather than an inn-keeper, at a public house in Aylesbury. This was a regular meeting place for the younger sons of the farmers in the area.

Two influences gathered momentum in the 1830's and 1840's which had a profound influence on the family story. The first was Methodism. John's grandfather's house at Weedon had been licensed for worship in 1772, and from that date there had been a continuous Methodist witness in the Aylesbury area of Buckinghamshire. The main centres had moved to larger places on a main route, but the Seamons' family had never lost touch. Every member of the family of ten was involved by the 1830's, except for John. There is no trace of his involvement, and his son James was positively in opposition.

John's brother Edmund became a local preacher and his brother Charles established the first Chapel in Weedon and founded a Sunday School. Among the most positive of supporters was John's sister, Sarah, whose husband William Judkins, was a leader of the Methodists in the county town of Aylesbury. Her oldest son, named Charles in tribute to her oldest brother, followed in his Uncle Edmund's footsteps and also became a local preacher. Also, when the Wesleyan Methodists established a day school at Whitchurch, five miles to the north of Aylesbury, he was a member of the original staff. Even John's cold, calculating brother, William, joined the Whitchurch Methodists and found his wife, Mary Judge, from among their members. In varying degrees, the whole family, from Charles to James, became involved, with the one exception being John, who kept himself aloof.

He was a sturdy independent. This exception to the tale however, has a strange twist, as through a particular family arrangement, a descendant of John's youngest son, James, became a strong Methodist local preacher because of the influence of the Judkins family descendants, and the influence of Methodism was once again introduced into John’s family line.

The second, and lasting influence, was emigration to distant lands; details on how this influence impacted on other members of the Seamons' family can be found in The Call to Australia.

In the case of John, at the age of nearly fifty years, he made the great decision to follow both his eldest son, William, and his own younger brother Edmund, to Australia, taking with him his wife and their young teenage son, James.

Gold had previously been found in the State of Victoria by shepherds and pastoralists who had not recognised its significance. The first major find however, sent thousands flocking to central Victoria, where they set up tent cities and lived on hope and rumour. The gold rush at this stage was well on its course, and John knew of at least one other from Weedon who had joined in it. As the word was being received in England of the gold being discovered, John had already resolved, and was well on his way, to join in the search for the prosperity that it could offer. Though fifty years of age, he was still planning for a continuing life. The five month voyage, and the life after that voyage, promised much danger and misery, but for many, the slim chances of riches was worth that gamble.

After arriving in Australia, and establishing a home, John left his wife in Adelaide, and with "young James" went to the region of the Ballarat gold fields. Bravely he wrote to his wife, "This is no place for a woman", and told her not to come until he gave the word. He wrote of a long trek in intense heat, in which his teenaged son had acquitted himself manfully. The same letter shows that with his son, James, who was 17 years old at that time, he was at the gold diggings at Mount Alexander, Victoria, in March 1852. At the time of writing that letter, John indicated that he had not seen, or heard anything of brother Edmund.

It can only be assumed that the dream of finding the golden wealth in the Australian gold rush never eventuated for John or his son, James. The great gold rush ended in the early 1860s, by which time the colony of Victoria had a greatly stimulated economy through the large number of English immigrants who shared that same dream of gathering untold riches.

John and Anna Maria (centre) with members of their family. This picture was believed to be taken, at Franklinford, on the occasion of John and Anna Maria's 60th Wedding Anniversary, in 1886.

John, together with his son James, remained in central Victoria, and farmed in the Franklinford area during the period 1869 to 1880; on his death in 1890, his death certificate shows that he was a miner, and it is likely that during his period of farming he continued to take an interest in his quest for finding gold.

John, along with his son James and his brother Edmund (and his wife Mary), were all laid to rest in the small Franklinford cemetery. A plaque, as shown below, was placed at the Franklinford gravesite of John, Anna Maria, James, Elizabeth and Albert, in 1999.