John Moss (1842 – 1903) & Sarah Ann Varcoe (1844 – 1922). First generation Melbourne son and the Methodist family connections.

John Moss was born in the fledgling settlement of Brunswick, Australia in 1842; the son of Thomas Moss and Mary Ellis.  Assisted bounty immigrants from Manchester in England.  John’s siblings were, Thomas Moss b. 1829, Richard Moss b. 1834, Mary Moss b. 1835, William Moss b. 1845 and Emma Jane Moss b. 1850.

John married a newly arrived assisted Cornish immigrant Sarah Ann Varcoe on the 31st of January 1865.  Sarah was born on 6 July 1844 in St Stephen’s in Cornwall and had come as a domestic servant from England only two years before on the 26th of February 1863.  Sarah had embarked from Southampton aboard the Stagenhoe.  Other siblings of hers would also come at different times from England to settle in Australia however her parents remained in England along with some of her siblings.

Sarah was the daughter of Richard and Mary Ann Varcoe of St. Stephen’s in Cornwall who had eight children.  She had been born in St Stephens, Cornwall in England.  In England, her father’s occupation was given as an Auctioneer.  Of her siblings Richard (1) b. 1833 remained in England and married Jane Dyer.  They lived in Cornwall.  Jemima (3) b. 1837 married John Cox and later in life, they would move to the US where they lived in Iowa and then Nebraska where Jemima and her husband are buried.  James (5) b. 1841 lived his whole life in Cornwall.  Their sister Louisa (6) b. 1844  married William Durant and they moved to Shebbear in Devon where he was from.

Bound for Australia as colonists:

William Edward Varcoe (2) b. 1835 was the first of several of this branch of Varcoe’s to leave Cornwall.  He arrived in Australia in 1856.  He married Emily Buckingham and they would eventually move to South Australia where they lived out their lives.  Click here for a picture of the gravestone.

Sarah Ann was next in 1863.

Mary Ann (6) b. 1845 would come in 1864 and would marry Joseph Williams in 1875.  They also moved to South Australia finishing at Cross Roads.

Thirza (7) b. 1847 followed in January 1869 (as a servant) and married Sarah’s brother-in-law William Moss in 1870.  Thirza and William would eventually make their way to Edmonton in Cairns in the top north of Queensland.  When Thirza died in 1923 her funeral was held in the Methodist church, a nod to her Methodist upbringing. A picture of their grave Click Here

Absolom (4) b. 1839 also moved to Australia and married another Moss, in law to Sarah, Emma Jane Moss.  He arrived on the 20th of April 1863 aboard the Mary Shepherd from Plymouth.  They lived their lives around Toorak in Melbourne.   Of the Varcoe siblings Sarah, Absolom, and Thirza would marry three Moss siblings.  Suffice to say relationships between the Moses and Varcoe family must have been cordial.

Livingstone House Moss Varcoe

Livingstone House. Emma Jane Moss VARCOE.  Sarah’s sister.

The Varcoe family were of the Methodist faith and were devoted adherents to the faith.  This is not hard to understand as they were families from Cornwall in England and non-conforming Methodism (brought by Wesley) was particular to Cornwall at this time as was the particular brand of Methodism adopted by the miners and farmers of Cornwall.   This largely incorporated roles of influence for women in active services to their communities and churches.  Sarah’s sister Emma Jane Moss (who married Absolom Varcoe, (brother of Sarah’s husband), was a founder and the first Matron of  Livingstone House, a temporary home for destitute children. She was one of the committee members of the Central Dorcas Society who managed the home.  The home was opened by Emma Jane in 1888 at the corner of Richardson and Drummond Streets, North Carlton.  By 1891 Livingstone House was moved to Nepean Highway in Cheltenham.  At this time it became a home predominantly for destitute boys.  From around 1905 the Methodist church took over the running of Livingstone entirely and it was renamed The Methodist Home for Children which it remained until 1953.  The home was then closed and the care of the children transferred to a new location in Burwood known as Orana Cottages (still run by the Methodist Church) and these remained open until they closed in 1988.  Read here.  Sadly it would appear that Emma’s daughter Ada who was working at the home, would contract an infection (probably from the home) and die as a young eighteen-year-old.  One of Emma’s other sons, Stanley died of accidental drowning aged 21 in Beverley, West Australia where he was working as a train fireman.

Sarah and John would make their way from Melbourne to Daylesford where there was an emerging mining industry.  Daylesford was first settled by white settlers in 1838.  Prior to this time, the Djadja Wurrung tribes had been its inhabitants.  The area was first known as Jim Crow Creek or Wombat. It formed part of the gold diggings around what would become Daylesford in time. Gold was first discovered in the area in 1851 -1852 and Jim Crow Creek quickly became a popular area for the diggers seeking gold as part of the now well-documented Victorian Gold Rush.  The gold mined out of the area was not particularly plentiful, nor was the lead that was also found  What did open the area up for more experienced miners from across the world was the discovery of rich seams of quartz. Useless to the alluvial diggers but highly profitable to well-financed and organised mine owners.  The area eventually became known as Daylesford and nearby Hepburn Springs. The region is situated on the northern fringes of the expansive Wombat Forest.  At the time that John Moss brought his wife Sarah and small family to Daylesford (around 1872) mining was still a thriving industry in the area.  John is listed on his son John Henry’s birth register as a Miner. Mining at places like Cornish Hill was so named because of the many Cornish miners who came and brought their many skills in mining to the area.   Now I’m following a hunch here but John and Sarah had had their children in the Daylesford area and a Mining Surveyors Report put together in 1881 for the government included in its reporting that a Moss & Co. held a granite mine at a place called Foord’s Reef.  Now granite was something that the miners from England were particularly skilled at managing.  It is highly possible that our John Moss was involved in this mine.  Let’s not forget that his wife was from mining areas of Cornwall and John himself was from a mining background.  So it would all make reasonable sense.

John and Sarah had a good-sized family for the time.  Thomas Richard known as Tom Moss was born in Happy Valley in Victoria in 1865.  Tom worked for many years on the Victorian railways as a Railway Officer.  He lived with his mother at 102 Orrong Road in Elsternwick/Armadale until his death aged 79 in September 1944.  Tom left behind a modestly comfortable amount in his will ‘mainly to relations’ (24 Nov 1944, The Age). It is likely that Tom never married.

Alfred John (Alf) Moss was born in 1867 in the Ballarat district (as most of his siblings would be).  By 1927 when his mother died it appears Alfred had been living many years in South Africa.  I’ve had difficulty tying Alfred exactly to different locations as my access to SA records has been moderate.  I did not know until recently that Alfred had been in SA as my own great-grandfather, his brother John was also living there for some years. As it appears Alfred got there before my ancestor, mine must have followed Alfred over. Why they went to SA I’m not sure.  I know that my great-grandfather John Moss carried on businesses there. I would like to know more about how and why these two Moss fellows were in SA.  Alfred must have lived out his life there as to date I’ve found nothing to indicate his permanent return to Australia.

Mary Ellen (Nellie) Moss was in 1888 also in Ballarat.  In 1899 she was living in Albert Park, Melbourne.  At the age of 31, she was a bridesmaid at her sister’s wedding and was recorded as Miss Moss. Nellie died in 1947. She did not marry.   MOSS.-The Funeral of the late Miss MARY ELLEN MOSS will leave our Chapel, at 1217 High st. Malvern. THIS DAY (Tuesday. January 7). after a service commencing at 11 a.m….. for the Brighton Cemetery.  The Argus.

Arthur Moss was born in Ballarat, in 1870.  Arthur married Gertrude Eleanor Bower on the 12th of November 1900 at the Albert Park Wesleyan Church.  From the newspaper, 15 Dec 1900 Moss-Bower (Emerald Hill), One of the prettiest weddings celebrated in Albert Park took place on Wednesday last at the Albert Park Wesleyan Church. The bride was Miss Gertrude E Bower, eldest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. W.E. Bower of 227 Cecil Street and the bridegroom was Mr. Arthur Moss of Albert Park, youngest son of Mr. and Mrs. J.E. Moss of Johannesburg. The church was tastefully decorated with floral designs, with a large arch of lillies over the altar, and white bell and over which were the initials of the bride and bridegroom. The ceremony was conducted by Rev. A.E. Gifford, assisted by the Rev. D.J. Flockart of Brunswick. On the bridal party entering the choir sang an appropriate hymn. Miss Agnew of Brunswick presided at the organ, and placed the “Wedding March”. The bride wore a lovely dress of white silk trimmed with lace and chiffon, with a long train and veil and wreaths of orange blossoms and carried a shower bouquet and was escorted to the altar by her father and was assisted by three bridesmaids. Miss Alice Thistlewaite and Elsie Groube (cousins of the bride) and Miss Dorothy Bower (sister of the bride) all with beautiful bouquets and dressed in white silk trimmed with lace. Mr. Thomas Moss (the bridegroom’s brother) acted as best man and Mr. Harold C. Bower (brother of bride) as groomsman. The church and roadway were crowded with people, and great interest was taken by the public in the proceedings. After the ceremony, the guests (to the number of about 100) assembled in the lecture hall adjoining, where the bride’s parents held a reception. The hall had been beautifully decorated, one part being divided into a huge drawing room and the other used as a tea room. After the reception, the company sat down to a wedding tea when a limited number of toasts were given.  My research (newspapers) indicates that Arthur may have been engaged in mining interests in Johannesburg, South Africa with other Moss relatives, but I haven’t enough solid confirmation of this to prove this speculation completely.

By January 1930 they were living at Treasury Reserve in inner Melbourne. I suspect this would have been near what we now call Treasury Place so near State Parliament. Arthur must have been doing quite well for himself as on the 4th Nov 1910 it was reported in the Midlands Advertiser (Moora) in West Australia, that Arthur Moss of Elsternwick had disposed of 1000 odd acres of land at a satisfactory price to a Mr. Duncan Campbell.

Emma Maude (Em) Moss was born in Ballarat, in 1872.  Emma married Charles Neil on the 28 March 1899 at the Albert Park Wesleyan Church. Emma was living in Albert Park and Charles Neil in South Yarra. The bride was given away by her brother TR Moss. Emma died in 1948 in the beachside suburb of Sandringham.

John Henry (Jack) Moss was born in Daylesford in 1874.  John would go on to have two marriages.  One to Dorothy Mitchell in South Africa.  He would later meet his second wife there (Mary Alice Mohan) and they would return to Australia with one of his sons from his first marriage, her three children from her first marriage, and their two sons from their marriage one born in Ireland (when she’d gone back to get her other children, and one born in South Africa (my grandfather). John Henry was my great-grandfather. He died in 1943 and is buried in the Brighton cemetery in the Methodist section.

Is this our John Moss?

In the March of 1895 a John Moss of 114 Coventry Street, South Melbourne and Alma Road, St Kilda (near the High St end) a produce dealer of wood and coal etc, had declared bankruptcy with the causes of insolvency being depression in trade.  Also he was reported as having had a long sickness with an inability to collect debts because of this.  The business was reported to have been an old-one of established value. The assignee charged with disposing of the business assets was a Mr. Cohen. The accountant who managed the final sales was Bernard Michael and Co. Public Accountants. 30 Elizabeth St, Melbourne.  The property was again assigend later in May (in an attempt to recoup sales), to Bernard Michael & Co, Trade Assignees.  30 Elizabeth St, Melbourne.

Prior to falling on hard times,  John Moss advertised in The Jewish Herald 18 May 1894. Wood, coal and general produce stores, 21 Alma Road St Kilda, coal, wood, coke, charcoal, bone, dust, guano, etc. Hay, straw, chaff, wheat, oats, maise, peas (whole or crushed). Large supplies always on hand at lowest rates.
 Sources: 22 March 1895.  The Age, 14 May 1895, The Argus.  20 May 1895, The Age.

I don’t know if the above is our John Moss.  After months of searching and researching it is about the only John Moss of the time and at this location that makes sense. However, at this time I can’t definitively prove this is our John.

On the 5th of August 1903, John was reported in the Australian Newspaper to have died in Johannesburg, South Africa aged 60 years.  His obituary read, MOSS- on the 5th of August at Johannesburg (Transvaal) John the beloved husband of Sarah A. Moss and father of Tom, Alf, Nellie, Arthur, Emma, and Jack Moss of Albert Park, aged 60, at rest.

Sarah Ann Moss died in 1922.  MOSS, On the 27th March at her residence at 102 Orrong Road, (Elsternwick/Armadale).  Sarah Ann relict of the late John Moss, the loved mother of Tom, Alf (South Africa), Nellie, Arthur, Em, and Jack.  A colonist of 60 years.  (Privately Interred).  The Argus, Melbourne, 30 March 1922.

In 1903 The Evening Star a West Australian newspaper was reporting that Australians and New Zealanders coming to Johannesburg and the Transvaal region of  South Africa were being welcomed with open arms to the tune of about 5000 souls per day.  Mining of gold and diamonds was a drawcard for those coming to the Transvaal. South Africa had come through recent annexation and the subsequent Boer War and Boer guerilla campaigns with the British subjects seeking to push out German-Dutch settlers (the Boers), who were predominantly farmers, residing on these lucrative land areas.  Around sixteen thousand Australians had taken part in this campaign in soldiering.  Click Here

Following the Boer War, there were Australians who chose to come to and those who chose to remain in the Transvaal and similar states.  Wages were higher than in Australia and New Zealand.  1893 had seen a collapse of banking and financial crisis in Australia with many prosperous ventures entirely wiped out.  The 1880s had seen a spectacular boom in the development of cities and towns in the eastern Australian colonies following the highly productive gold rushes. The weather conditions in South Africa were similar to those at home in Australia.  Australians were not put off by the heat and dry conditions as many of their northern European counterparts were having found the land and weather too inhospitable.  Speculators rushed to South Africa with plans to make their fortunes in the mines, albeit over the backs of the traditional owners of the land.  By this time in history, the beginnings of a separatist system that would support marginalising and profoundly impoverishing black communities was developing.  By 1948 the apartheid system would be fully in place in South Africa where it would wreak havoc on communities and civil rights.

2 thoughts on “John Moss (1842 – 1903) & Sarah Ann Varcoe (1844 – 1922). First generation Melbourne son and the Methodist family connections.

  1. Pingback: John Moss and Sarah Ann Varcoe. New Page. – Yews to Eucalypts

  2. Unlikely – Jewish/Methodist connections here. Moss was a fairly common Cornish name featuring in the oPc BDMs from the mid-1500s-1900. Also, the few Jewish families who migrated to Britain from Europe, usually married within their own Race. As for Old Testament names used by Cornish people – they loved them, but so did most Protestant folk. My Uren, Varcoe, Johns, Williams lines are chocker with Ephraim, Ezekiel, John, Moses, Abraham etc. etc. But they also loved the Gaelic names like Robert and the Roman names. I don’t know why some people fantasies with Jewish connections – I personally think this situations promoted by certain genealogical programs emanating from Israel and/or have tight connections with the LDS Church. I prefer to feel there is only race in this world – the Human Race, and I’ll leave it at that.

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