Highlands History | The Missingham family settle in to Robertson

The eastern area of Wingecarribee Shire was not settled until the 1860s, being covered with almost impenetrable rainforest between the Illawarra escarpment and Wingecarribee Swamp. After the Robertson Land Act of 1861, which provided for conditional free selection of Crown Land, settlers took up and cleared the fertile land, known as the Yarrawa Brush. Villages were established at Robertson, Burrawang, Wilde’s Meadow and East Kangaloon.

One early family significant to the area were the Missinghams. Although the surname itself has almost entirely disappeared, seven generations have now lived around Robertson, where Missingham Parade, a street in the village, preserves the name.

The family are descendants of David Missingham (originally Messingham), born in 1804 at Headley in Hampshire, England. He was a farm labourer who, at age 31, was transported to NSW as a convict, having received a seven-year sentence at Southampton in 1834. His crime was stealing a bushel of barley grain, worth 4 shillings. It was his second conviction. He was short, blind in the right eye and with contracted (‘claw’) hands. Also sentenced to transportation at the same court was his nephew, William Messingham, a farmer’s boy, aged 17 years, whose crime was stealing two gallons of potatoes. Although he had no prior conviction, his sentence was 14 years.

Both came out on the ship Hooghley, arriving at Sydney in November 1834. After gaining his ticket of leave in 1841, William Messingham married and had five daughters. He was jailed at Goulburn in 1854 for horse stealing, with a second ticket of leave in 1857.

David Missingham was initially assigned to work in irons at the Goat Island quarry. He received his ticket of leave in 1838, is listed as being in the Illawarra in 1839, gained his certificate of freedom in 1845 and then moved to Sydney. According to a family researcher, in 1855 at age 51 he married Priscilla Noble who was aged 17, born in Sydney in 1839. Her mother Sarah had emigrated from Scotland and her father, John Noble, had been transported from Ireland for stealing a sheep. Sarah and John worked in Sydney for a doctor, with whose children Priscilla was educated.

FAMILY PIONEER: Priscilla Noble, pictured in later years, married David Missingham. They moved to Jambaroo in 1863. Photo: W O’Sullivan

FAMILY PIONEER: Priscilla Noble, pictured in later years, married David Missingham. They moved to Jambaroo in 1863. Photo: W O’Sullivan

How David and Priscilla met is unknown. Once married, however, they moved to the Illawarra where he found work, perhaps as a farm labourer/carter on Alexander Berry’s estate. Despite his impairments, he must have been as capable as other workers.

The couple then moved to the Kiama area, where in 1857 their first child David was registered, then sons John in 1859 and James in 1861. The family moved in 1863 to Jamberoo where David took up a farm, Hillside, and drove a bullock team between Kiama and Jamberoo as a business. They had five more children: Priscilla (1864), George (1866), William (1868), Jane (1871) and Robert (1874).

ON THE MOVE: A typical 1860s bullock team with loaded dray, this one at Joadja. Photo: BDH&FHS

ON THE MOVE: A typical 1860s bullock team with loaded dray, this one at Joadja. Photo: BDH&FHS

Prior to Robert’s birth in 1874, David died, aged 71 years. He is remembered by descendants for his great knowledge of the bush. His widow Priscilla remarried two years later at Kiama but most likely remained at Hillside until her children had established their own lives.

David, the eldest, moved to Queensland. His younger brother William went to northern NSW, served as a councillor and was elected in 1922 to the NSW Legislative Assembly as the member for Lismore. He was NSW Country Party Deputy Leader for seven years. George, a blacksmith by trade, married and remained at Jamberoo, advertising a new shop in 1889.

Second and third sons, John and James, separately purchased farm land near Robertson in the 1880s. James and his wife Sarah then moved to Albion Park where from 1891 he ran a successful tannery business and where, at their residence in 1907, his mother Priscilla died of heart trouble, aged 68, after perhaps living with them for some time. One of her other sons later recalled that, when misbehaving as boys, it wasn’t wise to be on her wrong side as she had a good aim with kitchen implements, and they often had to duck!

John married Mary Turner of Jamberoo in 1880. After the birth of two sons, in 1883 they moved to the farming property he purchased at Pheasant Ground outside Robertson. They had five more sons and a daughter, and played a significant role in Robertson’s development. More about them to follow.

  • Berrima District Historical & Family History Society – compiled by PD Morton. Part 2 of a 4-part series. To be continued. 

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