Mid North Coast Pioneers - Newcastle to Lismore and beyond

Breckenridge - Ship building

Shared note

Breckenridge - Ship building


Excerpt from the Great Lakes Manning River Shipping NSW Flickr Group located on the Flickr web site.


The involvement of the Breckenridge family in shipping is closely linked with the family’s interests in sawmilling and timber. John Wylie Breckenridge (1818 – 1899) was born in Scotland and emigrated to Australia in 1859, settling in the Port Stephens District where other members of his family were involved in sawmilling. Accompanying him from Scotland was his wife, Lillias Reid (1826 - 1870) and their two children , John (born 1846) and Agnes Keyes (born 1849). They had six more children between 1850 and 1870. His first wife Lillias died in 1870; he then married Maria Croker in 1872 and they had seven children; in total John Wylie Breckenridge had 15 children.

In February 1868, John Wylie Breckenridge, in partnership with a Mr. Joseph Barling of Stroud, established a saw mill on a 5-year crown lease at Cape Hawke in the area now known as Forster. John's wife Lillias died in April 1870, not long after the birth of their eighth child.. After operating the mill for over three years, the partnership of Barling and Breckenridge was terminated; the saw mill and lease were sold in November 1871 but the business was continued as J. W. Breckenridge and Son. The mill and the lease of the land was purchased by John Booth - John Booth’s financial involvement in the mill is not known but John Wylie Breckenridge and his son John Breckenridge continued to manage the mill and appear to have purchased it around 1873.

After purchase by John Booth, the mill was then operated by John Wylie Breckenridge (1818 - 1899) and his son John Breckenridge (1846 – 1917) and by 1874 the business was known as John Breckenridge and Sons.

Around this time the firm started building up a fleet of ships to provide direct access to markets for the sawmill at Forster. The first vessel ("Hoolet" of 30 tons) was built at Forster by Richard Phegan in 1875; she was unfortunately wrecked in 1876. A second vessel was commissioned from Leonard Steinmetz but details are unavailable. By late 1876 another vessel (also known as "Hoolet") was completed by William Piper (also of Forster) for Breckenridge and Son. The new "Hoolet" was a 30 ton vessel and it is plausible to think that materials salvaged from another wreck earlier in the year were used to construct the new "Hoolet".

Boatbuilding was commenced with the large punt "Forster" being constructed by William Breckenridge (John Breckenridge's uncle) in 1874.

The Forster sawmill was sold to Messrs. Josiah and Thomas Miles in 1884.

John Breckenridge then set up a larger sawmill at Failford on the Wallamba River and became a key player in both the sawmilling and boatbuilding industries of the Great Lakes.

John Wylie Breckenridge, who has been referred to as the “Founder of “Forster”, lived in Forster until his death in 1899. He is buried in Forster cemetery.

John Breckenridge married Mary Miles in 1872 and had twelve children: John Wylie (1873), Henry Miles (1875), Robert (1876), Elizabeth (1878), Lily (1880), Forster (1882), Agnes (1883), Tom (1885), Mary (1886), Hugh (1888), Emily (1890) and Minnie (1893).

While John Breckenridge owned the sawmill at Failford he employed two of his sons – John Wylie (J.W.) Breckenridge (kown locally as Wylie) and later Henry Miles (H. M.) Breckenridge – as managers and all three were involved in shipbuilding activities; it seems most likely that John Breckenridge and his son, John Wylie Breckenridge, were involved in some way in the construction of the Commonwealth in 1901 (John Wylie was then aged 28).

Other members of the Breckenridge family were also involved in shipbuilding including John’s uncle (William Breckenridge) and John’s brother Hugh Breckenridge (1867 – 1950).

John Breckenridge moved to Drummoyne in 1909 and set up John Breckenridge and Sons, Ltd. in 1911; John and his two sons, J.W. and H.M., were directors. John died on 8th July 1917 is buried in Failford cemetery. In front of his headstone is a memorial to his son, Hugh, who died on 3rd May 1917 at Bullecort in France.

References:

Purchase of sawmill at Cape Hawke by John Booth - Illustrated Sydney News Saturday 23 November 1872.

Launch of the “Commonwealth”. The Sydney Morning Herald. Tuesday 11 June 1901

False alarm. The Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 - 1929) Monday 16 September 1901

Coastal Steamer Founders. Northern Star (Lismore, NSW) Monday 28 August 1916

The "S.S.Commonwealth" in the Gale. Excerpts from the Manning River Times - published by Bob Mann, February 1971.


On 20 September 2018 Roslyn, who did not give her surname or email address, contacted me through the MNCP web site and advised:

"In February 1868, John Wylie Breckenridge, in partnership with a Mr. Joseph Barling of Stroud, established a saw mill on a 5-year crown lease at Cape Hawke in the area now known as Forster. John's wife Lillias died in April 1870, not long after the birth of their eighth child.. After operating the mill for over three years, the partnership of Barling and Breckenridge was terminated; the saw mill and lease were sold in November 1871 but the business was continued as J. W. Breckenridge and Son. The mill and the lease of the land was purchased by John Booth - John Booth’s financial involvement in the mill is not known but John Wylie Breckenridge and his son John Breckenridge continued to manage the mill and appear to have purchased it around 1873."

Given names Surname Sosa Birth Place Death Age Place Last change
John Wylie Paton BRECKENRIDGE
between April 22, 1818 and April 24, 1818201Carluke Lesmahagow, , Scotland, United Kingdom15October 31, 189911981Forster, , New South Wales, Australia