- Thomas Bruce (1830-1912) - Life Events
Thomas Bruce followed his father, Alexander, into the wool trade and was recorded as a wool dyer in the 1851 census.
It is not known how or when he left Scotland for Australia but by 1865 he was working as a butcher in Young, NSW. Up until 1863 the town of Young was known as Lambing Flat and the goldfield riots of 1861 may have been a reason for the name change. It is not known is Thomas was living there during that turbulent time.
At Young, Thomas was working as a butcher when he married a young widow, Sarah Murray (nee Goodburn) and had two sons: Thomas and Alexander. The family met disaster early when in 1868 Sarah died of typhoid in 1868 at just 25 years of age leaving Thomas with two sons under five.
Thomas remarried after a couple of years to Jane Bond in Grenfell where the couple had a daughter Jane but disaster struck again when the young girl died aged four years.
Some time later Thomas, Jane and the two boys moved to Hillgrove, about 32 kms east of Armidale, where Thomas worked as a miner. In 1897 Jane passed away and in his final years Thomas lived with his son Thomas.
Records of Thomas
An Old Man Robbed.—We (Hillgrove 'Guardian') regret to chronicle a most dastardly act which occurred at Hillgrove during the early part of this week. Thomas Bruce, a typical Australian miner, age 74, came to this office for advice about claiming. an "Old Age Pension." Having for years been the old man doing his best to earn his living at tailings, tributing, and prospecting, he found no difficulty in getting the application form filled in and declared to. Then he made a supplementary statement to the effect that his hut-had been broken into and all his savings taken, even his clothing and few; private belongings; some miscreant had cleared him of every thing that he possessed, and though willing to work, and had worked up to the presept, he was now out of employment, so was compelled to take advantage of. the " Old Age Pension Act." It is to be hoped that his application will find speedy attention.
- The Armidale Chronicle Wednesday 17 April 1901
Thomas was past 80 years when...
"On Monday morning last an old man named Bruce wandered from the home of his son Mr. Thos. Bruce, and as he not returned at dusk, it was feared something had happened to him. A large number went in search, but it was not until late that he was found a short way down the Falls. fortunately the veteran was not injured in any way."
- The Armidale Chronicle, Saturday 15 July 1911
Thomas died in 1912 but his age is in dispute because we do not have an exact birth date (although it is believed to be around 1830). His death certificate and a newspaper notice gives 96 years old whereas his grave shows 85 years (which is probably closer to the mark).
Before 1888 the town of Hillgrove was known as Eleanora Township.
Small amounts of alluvial gold were discovered at Bakers Creek as early as 1857 and antimony was discovered at Hillgrove in 1866 however it was difficult to access [because of the deep gorge] and large-scale mining did not commence in the area until the early 1880s.
The Aussie Towns website tells us that:
"A town rapidly developed reaching a population peak of 3,500 persons in 1898, at which time there were two banks and a mining exchange, six hotels, two billiard saloons, four churches, two schools, six general stores, a courthouse, butcher, baker, police station, a cottage hospital, school of arts, cordial factory, racecourse, cricketing oval, a number of boarding houses, a masonic lodge, debating society, pharmacies, temperance league, oyster saloon, technical college and two local newspapers (the Hillgrove Guardian and New England Democrat)."
Today "it is a town of a few people and a few buildings... [with] ...only two original buildings of genuine significance are the post office and school which has become the local museum."
For a decade, from the late 1880s to the late 1890s, Hillgrove was the richest gold-producing site in NSW.
The last of the mines (Bakers Creek Mine) closed in 1921 and most of the buildings were dismantled and removed to Armidale and surrounding towns.T he mines did open some years later and still operate today.
(New England Historical Resources Centre, University of New England)
- Thomas Bruce (1866-1937) - Life Events
Thomas spent almost all of his life in Hillgrove and is buried in the cemetery there.
He married Amelia Maude Roach the daughter of another miner, John George Roach, who immigrated from Wales early in the New South Wales gold rush, living at Rocky River near Uralla. Amelia was one of twelve Roach children and part of a close family. Despite this, Thomas and Amelia only had one child in Clyde Alexander.
Thomas was an active member in the Manchester Unity Independent Order of Oddfellows Friendly Society Lodge No. 151 New England District, becoming a Noble Grand and in 1910 he was the recipient of a Member's Commemoration. Men's lodges played an important role in the community at the time in terms of welfare as well as being fraternal and social groups.
In 1917 Thomas made an application to the Dumaresq Shire Council for licence for a car, which appears to coincide with son Clyde training as a motor mechanic. The love of all things mechanical certainly continued down the generations.
A Hunting Party
Standing at right, Amelia and Thomas Bruce and niece Ruby Dummer