The oldest immigrant?

Was Guy COLE the oldest immigrant to the colonies before 1850?

Would you have left Harrow, Middlesex in September 1848, at the age of 75, on a four-month 20,00km voyage to a settlement just beginning to flourish called Melbourne ?

Guy was the second son of John and Sarah (NUTT) COLE and was baptised in Oakham, Rutlandshire, England on 13 Jun 1773. His siblings, baptised at Oakham, were John (1770), Ann (1771), Cornelius (1774), Richard (1776), Sarah (1778), Frances (1779), Edward (1782), James (1784) and Frances (1786).

After 1773, the next record of him is his marriage to Elizabeth NUTT in Montrose Scotland on 10 Jul 1803. Was it his brother Cornelius COLE who married Ann LAIRD at Montrose in 1797 ? Presumably Guy and Cornelius grew up in the family profession of gardeners and went to Scotland for work.

Guy and Elizabeth had a son Guy about 1805 and a daughter Frances about 1808 in Scotland, but I have not found any baptism records, and a another son Thomas Cornelius, born at Sudbury, Middlesex on 4 Aug 1810. Elizabeth (NUTT) COLE died aged 35 on 27 Jan 1813 and was buried at St Mary, Harrow-on-the-Hill on 31 Jan 1813. Thomas was baptized in 1818, so perhaps the older two were never baptized.

Guy married Martha GEARING (born Wallingford, OXN about 1786 ?) at Ealing MDX, on 29 Aug 1814. Guy was then 41 years old and Martha 28 and they had six children of their own – Robert, Charlotte, Martha Elizabeth, George, Richard Charles and William Henry, all baptised at St Mary, Harrow-on-the-Hill. Only Richard Charles did not survive to adulthood and is buried in Harrow.

The 1841 census shows Guy (70) and Martha (55), George (19) and William (13) living in Sudbury, and a few streets away, Thomas (Cornelius) COLE (30) and his wife Elizabeth (WHITMORE) (33) and their four children Thomas (5), John (3), Frances (2) and William (3months). Next door lived William and Frances (COLE) BAILEY and their children Elizabeth (4), Frances (2) and William (1).

Thomas and Elizabeth and their children, and George, Charlotte and Martha all migrated together on the ship “Himalaya”, arriving at Liardet’s Beach (Melbourne) on 26 Feb 1842. They were joining their cousin John COLE (b1816 Oakham RUT), who had arrived in December 1839 aboard the “Westminster”.

Very soon, John and Thomas Cole were in partnership, leasing land for a nursery and/or market garden along the banks of Merri Merri Creek near present-day Coburg.
This makes me realize that although Guy lived in Scotland some years and did not return to Rutland, the families must have maintained some contact. John must have written to Harrow telling them how well things were going in the new colony – he does not seem to have persuaded any of the Rutland COLE family to join him.

Later Thomas went into partnership with his brother George in a nursery and orchard along another part of Merri Merri Creek, near Northcote.

Life seemed to be prospering for the Coles, and they sent news home to Harrow, prompting the rest of the family to undertake the move to Melbourne. Only the BAILEY family remained in Harrow, two sons migrating later.

When I started research, a note from my father-in-law, said “Guy and Martha – to Adelaide 1849, with two sons”. But knowing the scarcity of shipping records, I was resigned to having to visit the library in Adelaide and search the newspapers of the day. All I knew was they did not settle in Adelaide and could not possibly have qualified as assisted migrants.

A response to one of my many internet messages, resulted in the passenger list for the ship ”John Woodhall “– “G.Cole and wife, R.Cole and wife and four children, W.Cole – in the steerage”.

When the barque “John Woodhall” arrived in Adelaide on 17 Jan 1849, Guy was almost 76 years old. He was accompanied by his wife Martha and their sons Robert and William, Robert’s wife, Elizabeth (nee WEBSTER) and their four daughters – Ellen Elizabeth, Martha, Mary Charlotte and Emma. On 31 Jan 1849, the family and several others from the “John Woodhall” boarded the ship “Halcyon” and completed their voyage to Melbourne.

Robert and Elizabeth COLE’s fifth daughter, Phoebe was born at Yarra Banks on 22 May 1849. According to newspaper reports, Merri Merri Creek flooded the families out of their homes 3 times in 13 months, not a particularly encouraging welcome for the new arrivals.

All the others married and settled in Melbourne, George, Martha, Charlotte and William. Except for Charlotte, they all had many children and grandchildren.

Guy spent four years in his new homeland and died on 6 Jan 1853 at the Merri Merri Creek residence of his son George. By that time, he had 31 grandchildren; Martha died on 6 March 1869 at Cheltenham.

Very little is known of Guy Cole Junior. A note from Frank Cole, born in 1888, is the only record I have of him, born in 1805 and died in Madras India in 1842.

A large memorial in Melbourne cemetery commemorates many family members.


© Dicole 2007