Historical Happenings | February 20

From the 1870s, George and Dinah Osborn played a vital role in the newly established community at Jordan’s Crossing, renamed Bundanoon in 1881.

EARLY EDUCATION: Teacher Dinah Osborn and pupils at the Jordan’s Crossing school, 1870s. Photo: Bundanoon History Group

EARLY EDUCATION: Teacher Dinah Osborn and pupils at the Jordan’s Crossing school, 1870s. Photo: Bundanoon History Group

They purchased a 200-acre property near Jordan’s Crossing railway station, established a dairy farm and built a residence and shop. For 14 years George served as postmaster, operating a postal agency at his shop from 1876.

More about their life is presented here, including details from family research by historian Linda Emery and from Bundanoon History Group’s “A Place of Deep Gullies”.

George Wilson Osborn was born in London in 1832, the son of George and Jane Osborn. He joined the mercantile marine and in 1857 sailed from England on the ship Lady Ann as second officer. Amongst the passengers were Mary Ann Widgery and her daughter Dinah. They were bound for South Australia to join Dinah’s sister Thirza who had emigrated with her husband Henry Dicker two years earlier. After arriving in South Australia, Dinah and George married in 1858.

The two sisters, Dinah and Thirza, with their mother Mary Ann and accompanied by their husbands, sailed around to Sydney on the schooner Vanquish in May 1858. Dinah trained as a teacher at St James School in Sydney and in they 1860 moved to Collector for her to work as a teacher.

They moved to Jordan’s Crossing in 1870 where Dinah was appointed the first teacher by the Council of Education when the school opened in January 1871, a position she held until 1880.

Dinah served as a local supervisor for the NSW State Children’s Relief Board, visiting children who were being boarded or apprenticed in the Bundanoon area. Her interest in the welfare of children probably came from her own experiences as a child. She was born on October 10, 1832 near Barnstaple, Devon, the daughter of Mary Ann and James Widgery. By 1841, she and her younger sister Thirza (aged 7) and brother James (aged 4) were in the Union Workhouse in South Molton, Devon, their parents obviously unable to support them. Ten years later, listed in the 1851 Census, Dinah was working as a lace mender visiting, or working for, a family of lace makers in Tiverton, Devon.

In 1882 George sub-divided part of his 200 acre landholding into 16 lots, extending down Church Street from the public school. On the remainder of the property he continued his dairy and farming activities.

Dinah was a driving force in raising money to build Bundanoon’s Holy Trinity Church of England and for many years George was a warden at the church. They had no children of their own but took a lifelong interest in the welfare and education of children in their community. George conducted lessons at his home for older boys and young men who until then had no access to formal education.

George, who passed away in 1915, was buried at Holy Trinity cemetery where, in 1900, his mother-in-law Mary Ann Widgery had been laid to rest. Also buried there are Dinah Osborn and her sister Thirza, who both died in 1919.

Mary Ann Widgery was aged 96 when she died in 1900 and the Goulburn Evening Penny Post noted her as one of Bundanoon’s oldest residents and much respected throughout the district.

Her son James also emigrated and settled in Sutton Forest, where she joined him and served the district as a midwife. In later life she lived at Bundanoon with Dinah and George, who built her a house she named Devonleigh. There is a memorial window in Holy Trinity church to her memory.

Mentions of the Osborns in “A Place of Deep Gullies” include that George, as well as postmaster, was a trustee of the Recreation Reserve and a founding member of the Cricket Club. In 1890 he sold his shop business to John Slatter, who then became postmaster.

In 1892 George and Dinah, both aged 60, built The Knoll, a large residence and gardens on a high point overlooking the township. They soon accepted guests and converted the residence into a superior quality boarding house. It long outlived them and today, much enlarged, is the Solar Springs Health Resort.

BUNDANOON GEM: The Knoll, built for Dinah and George Osborn in 1892. Photo: Bundanoon History Group

BUNDANOON GEM: The Knoll, built for Dinah and George Osborn in 1892. Photo: Bundanoon History Group

  • Berrima District Historical & Family History Society – compiled by PD Morton. Part 1 of a two-part series. To be continued.
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