The Elson Family
in South Australia

Compiled by Robert Elson

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William Elson

 The first Elson in South Australia, William Elson, arrived on 20th June 1849 on the Florentia from England. William, born just outside Manchester in Royton near Oldham 14th October in 1824, was the oldest of three children born to John, who was a green grocer at the time, and Mary Ann Elson was christened on 9th July 1826 at Manchester Cathedral, Lancashire.

Royton Oldham
Manchester cathedral

                                                 Royton                                                                      Oldham                                               Manchester Cathedral

John Elson's parents and family lived in Oldham near Manchester and according to the 1841 census forty seven members of the Elson Family lived in Oldham at that time including William's parents, William who was fifteen and his sister Ann, who was twelve. William's mother, Mary Ann Midford descended from a very old and noble English family, the Mitfords or Midfords of Northumberland, the daughter of  Michael (born in 1780) and Hannah Barten, was born in the village of Church Lawton also known as Lawton in Cheshire on 20th  January 1804, and christened at Christchurch, Alsager in the same region on 31st January 1804. John Elson was born in Chadderton, near Oldham in about 1805 and died in 1873 at Ashton Under Lyne near Manchester. John and Mary married on 6th  January 1824 at St. Giles Parish Church, Newcastle under Lyme, Staffordshire and lived for a while at the Lawton Salt Works before moving to Oldham. During their marriage John and Mary lived at various places around the Manchester area, including Dukinfield, where they were living at the time of the 1861 census, and Ashton Under Lyne. William's siblings were Michael Wutter, christened on 14th October 1827, also at Manchester Cathedral and Ann. William was a devout Anglican and before sailing to South Australia was a teacher at the Trinity Church of England Sunday School in the town of Salford which is now part of Greater Manchester. The staff at the school presented William with a copy of Cruden's Bible concordance as a farewell gift with the following inscription in gold lettering inside the book - " Presented by the teachers of Trinity Church Sunday School. Salford, to Mr.William Elson as a Memorial of their Regard Towards him in assiduously promoting the Cause of Christian Education in the above school. January 30th 1849" ( Curtis, Pat. Provis Family 1854-1984, p. 33). On arriving in South Australia he continued his work promoting the Christian faith by becoming a Church of England lay reader. According to the Florentia's passenger list, however, his occupation was postmaster and he did in fact become the postmaster at Port Lincoln some years after arriving in South Australia. William also taught school during the voyage to South Australia, but was sea sick for most of the time.  One source refers to his sister accompanying him on the voyage to South Australia, but this is not the case as his sister, Ann, remained in England, marrying  Henry Edward Patten, who was born in Newington, Surrey in 1827, in 1850 at Newington a year after William sailed for South Australia and according to official records in 1851 she, together with her husband, Henry, as well as Henry's mother, Mary, who was born in 1797, were living at 13 Windsor Street, The Palace, Brighton.

Frances, son & daughter

Click image to enlarge

From Left First Son: Midford Elson, Mother: Frances Ann Elson (nee Provis), First Daughter: Mary Vaughan (nee Elson)

(Possibly taken in 1883 at the funeral of  husband and father: William Elson)

Frances Provis

Frances Ann Provis was born in a village near Bath called Foxham, in Wiltshire on 24th December 1831 and was the daughter of the teacher at the village of Atworth, Joseph Provis, who was a friend of the parish priest, the Reverend Hale. When the Rev'd Mathew Blagden Hale ,who later became Bishop of Perth and eventually Brisbane, decided to follow the first Bishop of Adelaide, Augustus Short, to South Australia as archdeacon, after the deaths of his wife and mother in 1845, Joseph Provis probably suggested that Frances accompany Hale and his two daughters, Amy and Mary, as their governess, since Frances taught alongside her father Joseph and sister Matilda at the Atworth school. Pat Curtis in her Provis Family history states, however, that Frances Ann was Bishop Short's children's governess and according to John Hale, great grandson of Walter Hale, Maria McKenzie of about the same age as Frances Anne, who later married Walter Hale, a cousin of Archdeaon Hale, was the governess of  the Archdeacon's  two daughters. The governesses sailed with the households of Bishop Short and Archdeacon Hale to South Australia on the Derwent, arriving at Port Adelaide in 1848


Frances Ann Elson 1880s/1890s

William & Frances

William met Frances Ann in Adelaide through their common involvement in the Church of England soon after arriving in the Province and they married on 27th October 1851 in St. John's Church, Halifax Street, Adelaide. At that time St. John's was in a very isolated part of the city surrounded by paddocks. The original St. John's Church building was moved to Moore Street, Adelaide in 1880 to become St. Mary Magdalene's Church. The couple settled soon after in the village of Unley which was just over the Parklands from the church. SA state records (GRG 45/43 and GRG 5/30) indicate that William was digging for gold on the gold fields in Victoria not long after his marriage, sending "6 oz 5 dwt of gold to "ELSON F A" which arrived by escort 2 on 5-5-1852". Elson FA was Frances Ann, his wife. The records indicate that he went to the gold fields with his brother-in-law, Frederick Gregory Provis, who also sent some of his gold to Frances Ann with the gold from William on 5th May 1852.

They had fifteen children altogether, four of whom were born in Unley: Midford born in 1852, Janetta in 1853, Mary in 1854, Alice in 1856 and Frances in 1857, Their second child, Janetta, named after Frances Ann's mother, died at 15 months old in 1854.

In 1860 they went to Port Lincoln where William worked as the Postmaster for twelve years. After settling in Port Lincoln the remaining ten children were born: Wilberforce in 1862, Mathew also in 1862, Frewer in 1863, Christopher in 1864, Gertrude Amelia in 1868, Joseph, John, Lydia Maud in 1867, Naomi and Walter John, born in 1869.

William worked as a shoemaker in Port Lincoln after being postmaster. William and Frances Ann later moved to Cleve where three sons had children and had already established themselves and some of their daughters were teachers. William had a stroke at his home, Shardleigh Farm, Cleve and went into a coma dying there five days later on 29th August 1883 at the age of 58 before the doctor arrived . Frances died in Cleve 14 years later in 1897 at the age of 65.

  William and Frances Grave
  Click image to enlarge
Grave of William and Frances at Cleve Cemetery


Sources of information include : Curtis, Pat  Provis family history 1854-1984, [Port Lincoln, S. Aust. : P. Curtis], 1984. ,  Geneaology SA databasesTrove website,, 

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