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        Thomas SIMPSON

Thomas SIMPSON was one of the first people to establish a business at the site of Hay in the western Riverina of New South Wales.  He was an energetic entrepreneur and prominent citizen of Hay whose influence profoundly shaped the business and social-life of the developing township and district.

Thomas SIMPSON was born in about 1835 in Yorkshire, England, probably in the village of Kildwick (between Skipton and Keighley), the son of John SIMPSON and Elizabeth (nťe WHITAKER).  Thomas' father was a blacksmith.  John and Elizabeth SIMPSON had a large family of at least 13 children, born between 1817 and 1841.  On 28 June 1837 Thomasí parents had each of their six youngest children, including Thomas, baptised into the Wesleyan Methodist Church at Ickornshaw, in the parish of Kildwick.

Thomas Simpson
Thomas SIMPSON
( photographed in 1869 )
Thomas SIMPSON, aged 19 years, emigrated to Australia in company with his elder brothers, William and Joseph, aboard the Red Jacket.  They arrived at Melbourne in March 1855.  The three brothers were blacksmiths by trade.  By 1857 they had made their way to Deniliquin in southern NSW, where William and Joseph SIMPSON settled with their families.  In 1857 SIMPSON was induced by settlers to set up his business at Langís Crossing-place, north of Deniliquin on the Murrumbidgee River.  The site, in a deep bend of the river, had become a popular crossing-place for drovers moving stock to Victoria, and carriers servicing the surrounding pastoral holdings.  In December 1857 Thomas SIMPSON took up residence at Langís Crossing-place and commenced the erection of a cottage and blacksmithís shop.  The entrepreneur and steam-boat owner Francis CADELL was building a store nearby at about the same time, and soon afterwards Henry LEONARD began construction of a hotel and punt in the vicinity of SIMPSON's buildings.

On 29 October 1858 Thomas SIMPSON and Mary Ann STOWELL were married at Deniliquin.  Mary Ann STOWELL was from the village of Keighley, next to Kildwick where Thomas had been raised.  Records indicate that just prior to her marriage Mary Ann STOWELL had arrived at Port Phillip aboard the Red Jacket, accompanied by her three-year old son John and James SIMPSON (Thomas SIMPSONís younger brother).  Thomas SIMPSON could possibly have been the father of John STOWELL, who, after the marriage was known as John Stowell SIMPSON.  After they were married Thomas and Mary Ann SIMPSON had the following children:

Thomas W., born in 1860 (registered at Balranald); married Priscilla Collerson in 1886
                   at Walgett.
Elizabeth A., born in 1861 (registered at Balranald).
James Arthur, born in 1863 (registered at Balranald); married Mary Garnaut in 1883
                   at Wilcannia; died in 1903 at Hay.
Sarah Jane, born in November 1865 at Hay; died on 12 May 1867 and buried at Hay.
Emily, born in 1867 at Hay.
Clara (?)
Drusilla M., born in 1873 at Hay; married Walter Male in 1894 at Broken Hill.

By mid-1859 the Department of Lands had proclaimed reservations on either side of the river at Langís Crossing-place, and by October "Hay" had been chosen as the name for the new township, and land-sales were organised.

Thomas SIMPSON built "a commodious brick hotel", completed in 1860, which he named the Argyle Hotel, and a publicanís license was granted to him in October that year.  Early in 1861 Thomas SIMPSON was fined by the local Police Magistrate for failing to allow Chief Constable BRADLEY access to his hotel, claiming he didnít recognise the policeman (even though BRADLEY had been stationed at Hay for two years).  Soon afterwards two Italians were involved in a fracas at the Argyle Hotel and two constables were stabbed during the incident.  On 30 April 1861, when the bench of magistrates met to renew hotel licenses, SIMPSON was reprimanded for "misconducting his house at times" and was only granted his license by a majority vote of the bench.

In June 1861 Thomasí younger brother James SIMPSON took over at Thomas SIMPSONís blacksmith shop, now known as "Simpson & Myers, Blacksmith & Wheelwright".  James SIMPSONís partner was probably Jacob MYERS, brother-in-law to the SIMPSON brothers.  Jacob and Drusilla MYERS had arrived at Hay in about 1859.

In March 1862 Thomas SIMPSON put the Argyle Hotel on the market.  Shortly afterwards SIMPSON wrote to the Surveyor-General asking to be permitted to purchase (without competition) the two acres on which he had erected his original buildings.  The land he had built on had been proclaimed a reserve, known as the Wharf Reserve.  Eventually, after an exchange of correspondence and a petition in SIMPSONís favour by fifty Hay townspeople, the Government relented and advised in August 1867 of their approval for him "to purchase so much of the land as might be absolutely necessary to embrace the buildings."

Meanwhile SIMPSON continued to buy land at Hay and built a row of cottages, which he rented out.  He entered into partnership with Elliott C. RANDELL.  They built a store in Lachlan Street, and in 1866 a steamer, the Pearl, was built for them at Mannum (on the Murray river in South Australia).  The partnership of Simpson & Randell was dissolved in March 1867, with RANDELL retaining the Pearl.

From late 1866 until February 1869 (after which he left Hay for a trip to England) Thomas Simpson regularly performed the role of undertaker at burials in the Hay cemetery.

In May and June of 1867 there was a measles epidemic in Hay, which resulted in a number of infants dying, including the 19 month-old Sarah Jane SIMPSON, Thomas and Mary Ann's daughter.  She was buried in the Hay cemetery in a zinc-lined coffin within a brick vault.

Thomas SIMPSON continued to carry on business as a blacksmith and coach-builder.  In February 1869, after further negotiations with the NSW Government regarding what land he was entitled to, SIMPSON paid £17 for the land where his buildings stood within the Wharf reserve.

Soon after this matter was settled Thomas SIMPSON, accompanied by his wife and youngest daughter, travelled to England for a short period.  On his return in early 1870 it was announced that SIMPSON had purchased a controlling share in the Excelsior Brewery (established at Hay two years before by Albert ELLIOTT and John MENNON).  The brewery was enlarged and fitted with an imported traction steam engine, purchased on SIMPSONís trip to England.  By November 1870 "fine ale" was being produced from the brewery at the western end of Moppett Street.

In July 1872 the Wesleyan church was opened at Hay.  Thomas SIMPSON had contributed £25 towards the cost of the church and he was thanked at the opening ceremony "for the gift of the bell and use of the harmonium".

Thomas SIMPSON was an unsuccessful candidate at the first Municipal elections in August 1872.  In September he established the "Enterprise Saw Mills" at Hay, for the supply of sawn timber.  In December 1873 he disposed of his interest in the Excelsior Brewery to George ELLIOTT and H. L. LINDSAY (who had been SIMPSONís manager), and the name was changed to the Red Lion Brewery.  Thomas SIMPSON's blacksmith and coachbuilding business continued operations during this period.

During 1873 and 1874 SIMPSON was contracted to construct approaches to the new bridge being built at the end of Lachlan Street, and for work on footpaths and gutters in the township.  During the period 1874 to 1877 Thomas SIMPSON progressively sold his numerous real estate interests in the township, probably in order to raise money for his grazing venture.

In December 1876 Thomas SIMPSON entered into a mortgage with the Union Bank to purchase "Wirlong" station, near Cobar, NSW.  However, after a series of set-backs attributed to bad seasons, the bank foreclosed on the mortgage in February 1879 and forced the sale of "Wirlong".  SIMPSON, apparently still living at Hay, was declared to be insolvent, with bad and doubtful debts totalling £423.  During 1879 Thomas SIMPSON's blacksmith partnership was wound up.

In April 1880 Thomas SIMPSON and his family left Hay to settle at Wilcannia, on the Darling River.  Hayís newspaper, the Riverine Grazier, commented:
We are sorry to lose an old identity like Mr. Simpson, who has been in Hay for about 24 years, and has ever supported an energetic and affable character during that period.

By September 1880 SIMPSON had established the Black Horse Brewery at Wilcannia.  Thomas SIMPSON was appointed a Justice of the Peace while in Wilcannia.  In 1883 he sold his interest in the brewery and left Wilcannia to settle at Walgett, where he started another brewery, called the Castlemaine Brewery.  In 1887 SIMPSON sold his brewery at Walgett to two Narrabri store-keepers who changed the name to the Waratah Brewery.

Thomas SIMPSON settled in Western Australia in about 1896.  At the time of his death in March 1903 SIMPSON was living in Kalgoorlie, possibly in Hannan Street.  His occupation was recorded as "brewer".

Thomas SIMPSON died on 25 March 1903 in Hannan Street, Kalgoorlie, aged 68 years.  The cause of his death was recorded as "decay of nature".  He was buried the next day in the Kalgoorlie cemetery.

No details are known of Mary Ann SIMPSON's death.  Descendants of Thomas & Mary Ann SIMPSON, or anyone with details of their whereabouts after 1887, are encouraged to contact the Hay Historical Society Inc.  An extensive research file on Thomas & Mary Ann SIMPSON, giving full reference details, is available from the Society for $Au10 (to cover postage, printing & research costs).

Major references:

Pastoral Times newspaper (Deniliquin)
Hay Standard newspaper (Hay 1871-1873)
Riverine Grazier newspaper (Hay Ė from 1873)
Sydney Morning Herald newspaper (Lower Murrumbidgee Correspondent).
Death certificate - Thomas Simpson (Kalgoorlie 1903).
The Breweries of Australia: A History by Keith M. Deutsher, Lothian Books, 1999.


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