William Arthur Dawes

William Arthur Dawes

William Arthur Dawes was born on 22 September 1863 at Pekina. He was the second son of James and Anne who were both 32 years old at that time and had settled at Pekina. During the early 1860s, the Dawes family lived at Pekina, which was being opened up and settled by many Irish migrants. On 20 April 1866, James and Anne had a daughter, whom they named Elisabeth.

Little is known about William's youth, but in 1889 he was listed as a mail driver in the far north, calling in regularly at such places as Blanchewater. As early as 1864 William Carruthers had secured the mail contract between Angepena and Mt Margaret and also between Yudanamutana and Blanchewater. for the next three years for £629.

Dawes was one of several drivers who supplied the isolated stations with mail and other necessities. Among these drivers were A and C Bralla, JA Townsend and Plunkett.

In 1891, William was listed as having delivered mail at Murnpeowie on the Strzelecki Track when a post office was opened there. During that year he was hampered several times by floodwaters between Innamincka and Montacollina. Later when William did the Montacollina run it was Josh Pedlar who became his “gate boy”.

At the age of 29, William Arthur Dawes married Mary Ann Pedlar in Broken Hill on 11 August 1892, at the Church of England. She was the eldest daughter of Sarah Jane Pedlar, nee Kelly and eldest granddaughter of Joseph and Margaret Hisgrove from Cordillo Downs. They would eventually have eight children during the next twelve years.

Mary Ann Pedlar was born at the Prince Alfred mine, north of Belton, where the family lived in the early 1870s and where they had several other children, including Charlotte on 7 March 1872.

On 3 March 1893, William and Mary Ann had a daughter, Gladys May at Port Pirie. After her birth, it seemed that William was looking for a permanent home for his family as he bought some land (block 62) at Hopetown (Innamincka) on 1 September 1894. A year later, they had a son, Arthur, born on 17 July 1895 also at Port Pirie.

After his birth, the family was on the move again, as Arthur died in 1896 in Wilcannia. William Arthur sold his land on 16 June 1897 to John Alexander Donaldson of Innamincka. In 1898, William Arthur was listed under the heading of 'Sundry Persons' on the Murnpeowie pay sheet. That same year Mary Ann must have moved north as well as their daughter Linda Vera was born in the district of Frome.

Murnpeowie Homstead 1898. (SLSA)

While listed as living at Innamincka during 1899 and 1900, William travelled with a camel team between Murnpeowie, Innamincka and Farina until 1904. On 16 July 1900 Joshua Dawes was born but died on 20 December 1901 at Murnpeowie. A few months later, William bought town lot 271 on Third Street Farina. One wonders if William knew the Thomas Dawes who had died in 1888 at the age of 56 at Farina.

Murnpeowie Homstead today

While Mary Ann was still at Murnpeowie, she gave birth to a daughter named Nellie Blanche on 25 November 1901. On 31 January 1903, son James was born at Murnpeowie but he died two months later on 1 March 1903. Both Joshua and James are buried somewhere on the station. See Murnpeowie lone graves

Son Alfred Laurance, born 22 May 1904 at Farina would eventually become the father of Rev James Arthur Dawes, OAM. In July 1904, William Dawes was in charge of a flock of 12,000 sheep, belonging to Kidman, on the way to Adelaide.

Sheep crossing Cooper Creek 1923.
Man at far right possibly WA Dawes.

Although infant mortality was high during these years, the Dawes family really suffered from it. Son Norman Alexander Giles was born on 4 December 1905 in Quorn but he too died after only three months on 13 March 1906. William was not home. He was battling flood waters with his camel team from Murnpeowie and finally arriving at Cordillo Downs.

Dawes at Murnpeowie next to driver.

Between 1906 and 1910, he worked most of the time at or from Murnpeowie. In 1907, he sold his block of land at Farina to Thomas Edward Kite. In 1912, he became manager of Clifton Hills until 1920. This was followed in 1921 by being overseer at Cordillo Downs.

During these years, while William was working in the far north of the state his wife Mary lived in Adelaide. First at Regent Street, then from 1918 in Carrington Street and from 1920 in Grote Street. On 30 January 1915, William's eldest daughter Gladys May married David Graig, eldest son of David Graig of Paisley Scotland, at St James Church.

William Arthur Dawes died at the Durrantie waterhole while employed by the Beltana Pastoral Company as overseer at Cadelga but mostly living at Cordillo Downs. He was moving a large flock of sheep to Mount Lyndhurst, when he became ill and passed away within a few hours at his camp, leaving a wife, three daughters and one son to mourn their loss. After 78 years, descendants of WA Dawes were successful when Rev James Dawes found his grave. A plague was organized, sent up and fixed at the grave

Durrantie Waterhole today.


With special thanks to Russell Dawes for his information and pictures.


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