William Henry Jones
Born: 13/5/1852; Died: 1/1/1922; Married: Eva Annie Southwell
William Henry, born in Sydney in 1852, was the third child of eleven born to Thomas and Isabella Jones (nee Donaldson). Thomas Jones Snr was born in Westminster in 1812, and transported in 1832 on the ‘Portland’ for stealing metal. Getting his Ticket of Leave in 1836, he was granted a Certificate of Freedom in 1840. In 1847, described as a a ‘sawyer’ of the Parish of Cavan, he married Isabella Donaldson of Yass – daughter of Scottish migrants James and Margaret Donaldson. By 1850 the family has moved to Ginninderra, for this was where second child James was born. According to Shumack, Thomas built one of the first fences on the Ginninderra Estate at Emu Bank. (Shumack p.87) In 1875 he was paid ₤278/9/0 for timber, shingles and laths used for building work at St John’s Parsonage – a substantial contract.
William Henry (‘Bill’) was a good carpenter and handyman and was engaged for some years in contract fencing and building in the Ginninderra district. Complimentary references can be found concerning a number of building jobs undertaken, including a ‘handsome extension’ to Benjamin Southwell’s business establishment in 1894 (the Hall store). He built an addition to the Ginninderra store in 1888 for the new proprietor H L (Harry Lewis) Jones, won the contract to fence the Hall school grounds in 1911, and was reported to be erecting a weatherboard building near Curran’s blacksmiths shop in 1912.
William married Eva Annie Southwell, the elder daughter of John Southwell and Louisa Southwell (nee Smith) in 1893. Their marriage was to produce two boys, Victor Leo (1894) and Rockleigh Donaldson (1896). William bought land, both rural and village lots. He purchased two village blocks in 1892 and two further lots of 2 acres for ₤6 each in 1906. In 1890 rent was assessed at ₤1 per acre for his 120 acres at Ginninderra. He built a home – ‘Evadell’ - on the land he had bought near One Tree Hill, but only lived there a relatively short time in the 1890’s, before returning to live in Hall and establish the home and store which they ran for some sixteen years.
Eva had worked with her father John, and then her brother Albert, in the first Hall store from 1888 to 1893, when she married. She became a storekeeper again when she and William opened their own store in 1897. The store was eventually incorporated into a residence which they called ‘Avoca’. William also held a hawker’s licence for a number of years in the nineties, and later employed his brother-in-law Albert Southwell to do the rural run for the store. W H Jone’s was known as the ‘top store’ due to its location on the road rising out of Hall towards Yass.
When Hall storekeeper and postmaster Arthur Flower went into receivership in 1901 Eva wrote to the Postmaster General – “I beg to make application for the charge of the post office to be conducted on my husband’s premises adjacent to the premises on which the post office is at present conducted…..being permanently established here as store-keepers and being quite competent to fulfil all the conditions required as postmistress, owing to the fact that I filled the position of assistant post-mistress for five years in the present post office” [27 February 1901, p.76].
She was rather bluntly advised that there was no intention to move the post office, and that Mr Morgan Williams ‘who has charge of the assigned stock on behalf of various Sydney businesses’ had been appointed postmaster. A couple of months later Williams conveniently resigned and Eva’s cousin, Charles William Southwell returned to Hall and took over as postmaster, on a salary of ₤15 p.a.
William and Eva got on with the business of running the ‘top store’ – a living supplemented by William’s various building activities. ‘The Rambler’ advised readers in 1906 that Mr W H Jones ‘can supply you with anything from a needle to an anchor…’ [Queanbeyan Age 19.9.1905]. The Age in 1906 described it as a ‘large and well-equipped store’, and announced later that year that William Jones “is prepared to buy rabbits at highest prices. Mr Jones has stocked large quantities of rabbit traps to which the attention of trappers is called”. [Queanbeyan Age 27.4.1906] A newspaper advertisement of that year advises that there is a ‘choice supply of groceries on hand’ and that Jones is a ‘cash buyer of all kinds of produce, skins, etc.’ In 1910 William was one of the two telephone subscribers in the village.
Having failed earlier to take the post office over, William agitated over many years for an official post office, in place of the existing allowance office, that would level the business playing field in the village. In February 1913 he wrote at some length to Federal Member Austin Chapman, complaining at the unfairness of having the post office conducted by a competing business:
“….we are storekeepers also and are compelled to send and receive all telegrams and telephones etc. through our contemporary storekeeper, thus people (would be customers) who would ring and phone orders to us are compelled under present conditions to ring up the other storekeeper first, and transmit the order through him to us. Also, we do a lot of trading in skins etc. and when a business firm in Sydney wires us of a satisfactory sale or perhaps a decline in the market, the telegram with our business secret is known to our opposition before it even reaches us”. [NAA:SP32/1, Hall. pp 27-28]
The Department acknowledged the problem, but pointed out that the annual revenue (₤129) did not warrant an official post office, and decided to let sleeping dogs lie….
In 1914 ‘owing to the expected resumption of his property by the Federal Government’ William announced ‘a great clearance of all his store goods’. The Wizard reported that the Jones were bound for Illabo (near Junee) where they planned to continue in the store-keeping business.
‘Mr W H Jones who has for many years past carried on business as a general storekeeper at Hall has I understand decided to relinquish his business and other interests to take his departure for pastures new. This is a matter of keen regret amongst the residents of the village and the district where both Mr Jones and his wife are very popular’. [Wizard’s Notes, Post 7.3.1914] When acquired by the Commonwealth in 1914 ‘Avoca’ was described as having a house, a store, a cottage, two storerooms and stables. The house was a weatherboard building of seven rooms.
They did indeed open a store at Illabo, but according to Smith it proved unsuccessful, although Bill was a good carpenter and readily found employment as a builder in the Junee district (Smith, p.42). Their final move was to Sydney in 1916.
- Gillespie, L. L. 1992. Ginninderra: Forerunner to Canberra. The Wizard (Canberra local history series): Campbell
- Shumack, S. (ed. J. E. and S. Shumack). 1967. An Autobiography, or, Tales and Legends of Canberra Pioneers. Canberra, p.87
- Smith, L. R. 1975. Memories of Hall. Roebuck: Canberra
- National Archives of Australia. Hall Post Office file. 1888-1958. NAA:SP32/1, Hall.