Henry James JARVIS

HENRY JAMES JARVIS (1848 - 1917)

Born on February 29th 1848 at Lambeth, England, he was the fourth child and eldest son of Henry and Ann (nee Dibben) Jarvis. At the age of six years with his mother and four other children, he sailed from Plymouth to Australia in the barque "Historia". Arriving at Melbourne on August 7th 1854, the family were re-united with their father who had emigrated two years earlier.

At first they lived in Carlton, Victoria, but in 1857 the family moved to Hurdle Flat, where we presume Henry, now nine years old, attended Mr. Barry's private school, as we know his sister Harriet did.

We do not know when he began to learn his trade as a blacksmith; most surely at a very early age with Mr. James Black at Stanley. Later he was employed in Beechworth at both the Star Lane Shoeing Forge owned by Mr. William Williamson, and the local foundry. It is interesting to note that the "Ovens Directory" of 1857 listed twenty-two blacksmiths within the area of the Beechworth goldfields. (This of course does not include Stanley.) The blacksmith's art of forging metal by hand into any desired form has sadly become a dying expertise, but during that era the blacksmith was a much needed and very important person.

Henry Jarvis was a very successful blacksmith. We find him listed in Bailliere's Post Office Directory of Victoria for 1868 as blacksmith, Newtown (though incorrectly spelt Jervis), and again in the 1875 and 1880/81 edition and as residing at Spring Creek Road, Beechworth, and also in the 1884/92 Wise's directory. On his death certificate his occupation is cited as "retired coach builder" - an allied trade to that of blacksmith.

He commenced his own business as a blacksmith and wheelwright (which must have proved very remunerative) on the corner of Spring Creek Road (now Albert Road) and Lower Stanley Road, Beechworth. This location would have been adjacent to Spring Creek which originally ran through the gold diggings which were flooded to form Lake Sambell.

In 1875, he married Ida Faulkner, the daughter of a local baker; the ceremony probably taking place in the Faulkner's home in Melbourne Road, Beechworth. They began their married life in a house beside the business in Albert Road where they lived for many years.

They had five children, three sons and two daughters, all of whom were born in Beechworth. Their first child Ida, lived for only one day, then followed Henry Herbert in 1877, Alice Gertrude in 1880, Frank in 1883 and Allan Edwin in 1889. Sad to relate the youngest son Allan was killed at Strezeele, France in World War One, when he was a Sergeant Major with the Australian Infantry Forces.

Henry was a very successful businessman for in 1893 at the early age of forty-five he retired and with his family went to live in Newtown in a fine big house, "Nithsdale", which he had purchased. His daughter-in-law, Lillie Jarvis (nee Harvey), often spoke of this home in highly ecstatic terms, for she loved it. She also spoke of their "comfortable circumstances". When first she was a guest at a meal in that home, she had been horrified to see the family spread butter, jam and cream on one slice of bread; for she came from a home where only one spread was permitted, and never butter, always dripping. She became very fond of her future father-in-law and in later years always affirmed that "Tappy" (as his family called him) was the kindest man she had ever known.

Physically, he was rather short in statue, very neat and dapper and wore a goatee beard. His entire appearance seemed to reflect the French influence reputed to be part of the ancestral history.

He was a gifted musician, being an excellent violinist and the possessor of a very good trained baritone voice. These gifts he shared with the community, filling prominent positions in the Beechworth Leidertafel, the Philharmonic Society and various choirs and orchestras. He took a leading part in many local concerts. Quoting one of the later - "The Stanley Concert and Ball", held on March first 1873, which was reported with incredible detail in the Ovens and Murray Advertiser. (It was in aid of the Stanley Athenaeum.)

The Beechworth Concert Party travelled by Crawford's horse drawn coach - a full hour's ride to Stanley. This is written in minute detail as also is the entire program. Each item is criticised or commended. We find Henry Jarvis singing both duets and solos for which he is duly praised. After a long program supper was partaken, then the dancing began. It does not state when the final note was sounded, after which the concert party made the return trip to Beechworth. It does state that the Athenaeum funds would benefit by twenty pounds - an excellent result considering admission charge was two shillings; proving two hundred tickets would have been sold.

Henry's most valued material possession was his beloved hand crafted violin, on which he performed at many concerts. While living at "Nithsdale" a very fierce bushfire threatened the house. Attempting to save his violin he placed it in a bucket and lowered it down a dry well near the house. Although the house was saved, ironically the fire burnt the windlass on the well which in falling on the violin destroyed it. A long time passed before Henry could make the decision to replace it, but he finally did so with a lesser factory made German violin bought from a travelling German salesman. This violin was handed down to his granddaughter, Verna Jarvis, in later years.

Sad to relate "Nithsdale" did fall victim to a later bushfire (between 1908 and 1912), when it was totally destroyed. It was then Henry and Ida moved to a house they owned in Kars Street next to the Town Tennis Courts, where they resided until Henry's untimely death on May 20th 1917 at the age of sixty nine. He was buried in the Beechworth Cemetery.

A very copious obituary in the Ovens and Murray Advertiser and a shorter one in the Victorian Argus provide us with an excellent profile of a man whose vision extended far beyond the periphery of his own business and personal life. From these sources we learn he had implicit faith in the local town and placed much capital in houses and land in Beechworth being at one time the largest individual rate-payer in the Borough Riding. He was a director of, and had large interests in the Rocky Mountains Dredging Company. He held financial interests in several other mining companies, the Beechworth Gas Works, many local industries and was liberally supportive of any venture for the advancement of the town. He made large land investments in Melbourne during the Victorian Land Boom of the 1880's, any thereby lost much money in the financial crash which followed.

A director of the Third Beechworth Building Society, a trustee of the local Rechabite Tent of which he had been a member for forty years and also a member of the Beechworth Oddfellow's Lodge were but a few of his commitments.

From 1905 he held continuously a seat on the Beechworth Shire Council representing the West Central Riding and was Shire President at the time of his demise.

He was also president of the Free Public Library and deputy coroner and official visitor to the Hospital for the Insane as well as a Justice of the Peace and a prominent member of the Congregational church.

'His obituary in the local paper describes him thus:- "A man of quiet manner, he was esteemed by all who worked with him on committees and directorates and was always tolerant of the opinions of others. He was very companionable, a great worker and a gentleman who's word was his bond."