Webber Family

The Webbers were stonemasons and builders who arrived in the Mount Barker area in 1861. They were amongst the families who made a notable material contribution to the construction of the Mount Barker township. As was common in the period before antibiotics and vaccinations, they endured the deaths of a number of children in infancy, as well as the loss of several family members from diseases including measles, influenza and pneumonia.

Read their story

The Webbers were stonemasons and builders who arrived in the Mount Barker area in 1861. They were amongst the families who made a notable material contribution to the construction of the Mount Barker township. As was common in the period before antibiotics and vaccinations, they endured the deaths of a number of children in infancy, as well as the loss of several family members from diseases including measles, influenza and pneumonia.

Thomas Webber (1825-1895) was a Bristol-born stonemason and builder who emigrated to South Australia aboard the Stebonheath in 1849 with his Wiltshire-born wife Maria (née Beard, 1823-1904) and their infant son, also Thomas. Thomas senior erected the first miners’ cottages at Burra before working at the Preamimma mine near Callington and at the Wheal Ellen mine near Strathalbyn. In 1861 the family settled in the Mount Barker area.

The Webbers had seven children, four of whom died in infancy. Their two surviving sons, Thomas Webber junior (1847-1932) and Robert Henry Webber (1850-1931), followed their father’s trade as stonemasons, carpenters and builders, and played an important part in the physical construction of Mt Barker township. Together and separately, they were prominent in tendering for substantial new buildings, renovations of significant houses, and the construction of public works such as bridges. Based in Long Gully, they used stone from quarries in Wistow.

Amongst many other works, they extensively modified Gray’s Inn, extended the Institute building (the current Town Hall), constructed the masonry in the choir vestry at the Dunn Memorial Church, and renovated the Baptist Church.

In the late 19th Century, before the advent of vaccinations and antibiotics, the spectre of infectious disease was ever-present. The very young and the very old were most at risk, but nobody was immune. Thomas Webber junior lost his wife, Sarah Emily Webber (née Underwood), in the measles epidemic of 1893. She was forty years old and left behind nine children.

Meanwhile Robert Henry Webber (brother of Thomas) and his wife Louisa Jane (née Underwood, 1855-1923) had 11 children, four of whom died in infancy, including their youngest, Harris, who died in 1899 when he was two years of age. Three years later eldest son Albert suddenly succumbed to influenza aged 21, followed by the eldest daughter Ethel Louisa, who was a victim of pneumonia at the age 24.

The deaths of both Albert and Ethel in the prime of life were greatly lamented by the Mount Barker community. Albert had been active in the Mt Barker Football Club, as well as in Church and youth clubs, and was described as having been “of a bright disposition, very highly esteemed by all who knew him.” The Courier newspaper commented on the sorrow caused by the “sudden termination of a young life full of promise.” Ethel, who had been “of a retiring disposition,” was described as a model daughter, and her untimely demise was “deeply regretted on every hand.” Her funeral cortege extended to forty vehicles, while “the crowd of sympathizers at the cemetery totalled between 200 and 300,” and there was a wealth of floral tributes.

Eight of the Webber family are interred in three adjacent plots. Albert and Ethel, and their parents Robert Henry and Louisa Jane, lie together in the plot marked by this post, memorialised on three faces of the obelisk. Thomas junior and Sarah Emily are in the plot to the right. Thomas senior and wife Maria are in the plot to the left, together with granddaughter Edith Emily Webber (1878-1965), daughter of Thomas junior and Sarah.

 

 

 

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