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    A Campbell Town Family With Musical Talent

    Jabez Bartlett was a ropemaker from Ratcliffe Cross Shadwell in the East End of London. As the Christian name implies, he was of Jewish extraction on his mother's side and it is believed that the family may originally have been Hungarian Jews who fled from persecution and settled in London. His mother was known to be musical and to play the harp.

    He came to Van Diemen's Land in 1850 on board the ship "William Jardine" and worked in the Tunbridge, Avoca and Barton districts. He earned his living as a peddler.

    He met an Irish woman in Campbell Town, one Mary Ellen Alcock, whose husband had recently gone to prison for burglary leaving her with a small child to rear and no means. Bartlett eventually married her on the death of her husband and they had seven children.

    She found time to run a haberdashery business, where Marty's Restaurant (now Banjo's) stands today, and he travelled up through the Fingal Valley (particularly Mathinna in its hey-day) peddling goods and purchasing skins and hides. He must have been successful at his trade because he quickly acquired a house and shop, three other houses and a four-acre block.

    His children were encouraged to be musical. One son, Charlie, was accidentally blinded in one eye when he was eight years old at school and was sent to the Royal Victorian Institute for the Blind and Deaf where he received a sound education and became an accomplished flautist and singer. At seventeen he was chosen to be a member of a concert party for the blind and toured country towns in Victoria. In January 1893 the concert party toured Tasmania and made a profit of $265, which was a considerable sum in those days.

    Shortly afterwards Charlie and three other blind musicians formed a group called "The Blind Musical Students Company" which toured the mainland states, New Zealand on one occasion and Tasmania. Charles' brother, William, (known in Campbell Town as "Jaggy" or "Merchant Bartlett") managed the company for a time. They travelled as far north as Darling Downs and Northern NSW. Indeed on such a tour William ("Merchant") met and married a girl from Mudgee, who for many years taught piano to the youth of Campbell Town.

    Music seems to have run in the blood of the Bartlett family for generations, as some of Maud's (Charles' sister) children & grandchildren did well in this field, one teaching harp at the Albert Street Conservatorium in Melbourne.

    Upon his father's death, William and his bride moved into the family home which was attached to what is now Marty's Restaurant and which was only demolished in recent years.

    After the completion of Lake Leake and the assurance of a permanent water supply flowing through the town, James Gray, an enterprising tradesman installed a water wheel and pumped water to a reservoir on top of the hill behind what is now known as Elizabeth Close. On 20/10/1905 two sons of William Bartlett, one aged four and the other two years of age wandered into the reservoir, (there being no safety fence) and drowned. To make matters worse they were discovered by their distraught mother.

    Mr. Bartlett campaigned strongly after this tragedy for a proper water supply to township homes and the local council purchased the water rights and millpond from the Coombe Family and constructed a pump-house in Foster Street, which still stands.

    Mr. Bartlett was ultimately elected to council where he served for some years.

    Upon his death in 1943, the direct family connections with this district came to an end.

    Excerpt reprinted from tourism publication "History of Campbell Town"   (Pages 65-66)


  • History
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