Looking at the occupation of many of my direct male relatives, I find that farmer and miner were the most common. Those who were miners were either in the north east of Tasmania or on the west coast of Tasmania. This week I will look at one person in the north east where you can find a trail of the tin dragon between Launceston and St Helens.
Tin was the main mineral found in this area of Tasmania but there was some gold and coal as well. By the mid 1870’s, there were over a dozen towns built up around tin mining. The most important of these was Derby and the Briseis Tin Mine which closed in 1956. But in 1929, there was a terrible mining disaster in Derby.
In the 1870’s, tin was fetching £40 – £50 per ton. In 1927 it was up to £297/18/11 but a year later had dropped to £227/11 per ton. Prosperous tin mining was now in decline.
Whenever our family stayed at St Helens for holidays, we would always head to Derby for the day to look over the school house museum and check out the history of mining in the area at the tin mine centre. Or we would check out Gould Country and the Blue Tier, bashing our way through ferns and scrub to where dad thought some mining equipment, especially stampers, could be found.
Relatives in the North East at Lottah
But for my family history it was the area of the Blue Tier and Lottah township that was important as that is where my supposed great great grandfather Thomas Somers/Summers worked as a miner according to the birth certificate of my great grandmother Nellie Somers and her siblings. Georges Bay is now known as St Helens in the district of Portland.
The only time Thomas is mentioned in person is on the above certificate; the siblings certificates do not have a fathers name mentioned except Kate’s. So there is some confusion as to who might be the true father of Nellie’s siblings – is it Thomas Somers or John West Clark? What happened in the four years between Nellie’s birth in 1889 and Kate’s in 1893? Why the name change for father?
- Kate Clarke born 4 Feb 1893 parents as West Clarke and Alice O’Keefe Clarke then baptised as Kate Clarke on 28 March 1893 with parents John Clarke and Alice Clarke
- William Henry Somers born 6 Dec 1894 but baptised as William Henry Clark on 28 Jan 1895 parents as Wes Clark and Alice Somers
- Jessie May Somers born 15 May 1897 but baptised as Jessie May Clark on 14 Dec 1898 parents as John West Clark and Alice O’Keefe
- Joseph Edward Somers born 30 Oct 1898 but baptised as Joseph Edward Clark on 14 Dec 1898 parents as John West Clark and Alice O’Keefe
- Herbert Francis Somers born 4 Feb 1901 with mother as Alice Somers O’Keefe and her having been married in 1885 in Melbourne but no father for Herbert.
DNA has proved my father is related to William Henry Somers/Clark and at least four of his descendants as full 2nd cousins or 2C1R or the amount of cMs also mean they could be half cousins. So with Alice O’Keefe/Somers/Clark as the common parent we still can’t be sure of the fathers.
I can’t find any marriage for Alice O’Keefe to either Thomas Somers/Summers or John West Clark(e) in Melbourne or anywhere else in Australia.
According to Kate Crellin nee Clark’s death notice she had 4 sisters and 3 brothers. So who are Alice Clark, Mary Clark and Emily Clark? Who are their parents and where were they born?
Present day Lottah
Lottah nowadays is a ghost town, seen here in this ABC radio article. But at one point in time the wheel at the Anchor mine near Lottah was the largest in the world and the actual township had about 40 houses, hotels, churches, school and a thriving community.
All photos are copyrighted to my father.
Readers: Have any of your relatives been miners? Where and when?