Three Wheatleys

In family history research, you often come across the problem of having multiple descendants of the same name. That almost no longer existent custom of naming the first son (or at least one son) after the father. This was the case for the descendants of my maternal grandfather (Frederick Otho Alchin). His mother was the descendant of three generations of John Wheatleys.


Well really, she (and I) are the descendants of at least five generations John Wheatleys in a row, but my researching custom is to stop at the descendant who immigrated to Australia. It is possible that there were more Johns above this, but I have thus far resisted the urge to look.


The trouble can be, when multiple generations share the same name, that records and detail can become confused and blurred. This was not so much the case with the three John Wheatleys detailed here as they all lived different lives albeit with a common ideology. That common link was the Methodist Church.

Our first John, John Wesley Wheatley, appears to have come to Australia in 1838. Although definitive records are yet to be obtained it appears that he and his family may have travelled on board the William Metcalfe which arrived in Sydney on 31 August, 1838. The Australian Dictionary of Evangelical Biography has this to say on John Wesley Wheatley’s early life;

“Lacking a religious training in early childhood, at the age of twenty years John was converted under the ministry of the Rev Dr Adam Clarke and joined a Wesleyan Methodist class. He began preaching in neighbouring villages and towns….After brief sojourns at Parramatta and Camden, he settled at Collector in the Goulburn district. He was a pioneer preacher in the Goulburn and neighbouring circuits, zealously seeking to win people for Christ. On occasions he walked 37 kilometres to Goulburn to preach”

After a short period in the Camden district, the Wheatley family move to a property called Waggallalah, between Gunning and Collector (see more details on Waggallalah here). It was while living here that John Wesley Wheatley died in 1872.


His son, our second John, middle name unknown, would have been 15 year old when the family arrived in New South Wales, and 28 by the time the family relocated to the Gunning district and when he married Emma Louise Stead (1851). It appears that this John Wheatley carted goods for a living in his early years and, according to one source, he is considered the pioneer of the Hay to Sydney track (going via Cootamundra rather than through Gundagai and Wagga Wagga). The Riverine Grazier of March 7 1916 claims that “he accordingly started round [from Hay] by Old Junee and Coinbaning, via O’Brien’s waterhole, and by this route cut off considerable mileage [to Sydney]”. Like his father before him he was involved with the Methodist church and was also a Justice of the Peace and present at many local hearings in the Gunning court. It seems that this second John was also very business minded and tried his hand a several ventures. Later in life, after a second marriage to Christina Margaret Shaw, following the death of first wife Emma during childbirth in 1856, he relocates to Adelong, near Tumut. John and Christina were in the Tumut district between 1859 and 1862 (at least) when three children were born to the couple. While here it is reported that John Wheatley had some success in the Ovens goldfields. It may have been this recently found wealth on the goldfields that allowed John to purchase a number of town allotments at the first auction held for land in the new town of Dalton, New South Wales in 1862. He and his family relocated to Dalton and it is here that he is credited at having served as local post master, general storekeeper (store pictured in header image) and later erected a grist mill in the town. John was also caught up in a local bushranger incident (a story on this can be found here), and he died in 1916. Although he appeared to have made great social and economic contributions to the area, his grave in the local cemetery is unmarked and its exact location unknown.

Image from ‘Jerrawa, a village that was’ by R.Bush

Our third and final John, John Frederick Wheatley, was known to some as Fred. Like his father and grandfather before him, he was involved in the local Methodist Church. The only photo that I have of him comes from a group photo of the Methodist Jubilee Celebration Committee in Dalton (shown below). In the same photo is his father and his daughter, Annie Wheatley, who breaks the line of five John Wheatley that make up my Wheatley ancestry. This last John was born in Collector in 1852 and would have been with his father while in the Tumut district and its surrounding gold fields. John Federick Wheatley is later recorded as living at ‘The Jangler-near Gunning’. ‘The Janglor’ was once a travellers inn near the family property of Waggallalah. This John married his step cousin, Ellen O’Donnell in 1880 in Gunning. At the couples golden wedding anniversary in 1907 the pair are reported as living in Gunning Street, Dalton. I know little else on this third John, or Fred, but some small press clippings tell that he was, for a period, the treasurer of the Dalton Progress Committee and trustee of the Wesleyan portion of the general cemetery. He may have had, or lived at some land near Broadway, outside Dalton, because an advertisement for his property was placed in the local papers in 1900. He died in 1918, just two years after the death of his father.

Methodist Jubilee Celebration Committee, Dalton. (image and name credits from the collection of Edith Medway, Crookwell)

Note: I acknowledge that the women and wife’s voices in this story have been silenced, which I regret having to do. Like so much of our short histories in Australia, our rural woman have too often been unrepresented and their stories not as well told or discoverable in our national records. I have uncovered next to nothing on the wife of first John, Philadelphia Wheatley (nee Ashby), however Emma Louise Stead, wife of the second John has an interesting family story (which can be read here). Ellen O’Donnell, wife of the third John ‘Fred’ Wheatley, also has a story which will be told in a later post.

See the Wheatley family tree for further details.

Comments, contributions or corrections? Please get in touch or comment below.

‘Properties for Sale’, Goulburn Evening Penny Post, 22 Sept, 1900, p.3.
‘Gunning Correspondence’, Goulburn Evening Penny Post, 2 Mar, 1916, p.4.
‘Death of John Wheatley’, Riverine Grazier, 7 Mar, 1916, p.4.
‘The History of Goulburn’ by R. T. Wyatt.
Australian Dictionary of Evangelical Biography


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