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THOMAS NICHOLS and MARTHA JOHNSON

It seems very likely that Thomas, John and Ann Nichols' ninth child, was born after his family left Prospect in 1814/5, as if he had been born there he would almost certainly have been baptised at St. John's Church Parramatta, as his older sisters Amelia and Susannah had been. The 1825 Muster suggested he was born about 1818, and the age given on his death certificate about 1817.

However, on the 1828 Census he was said to be aged 14 and living in a family situation with his brother Joseph, aged 12, and a Catherine Nichols aged 20. Nothing is known about Catherine other than that she had been born in the colony about 1808. However, the fact that she used the surname 'Nichols' even though there was no Catherine Nichols recorded as born in the colony before 1828 seems to indicate that she may have been living with one of the two Nichols boys. They were said to be living at Petersham and all three were Lime burners. This was a most unpleasant and arduous job; but one that required little skill or capital investment. Born at a time when family fortunes appeared to be declining, probably neither Thomas nor Joseph had the opportunity to learn a trade.

On 5th April, 1850 Thomas married Martha Johnson at Scots Church: Pitt Street, Sydney. He is described as Thomas Nicholson, bachelor of Jamberoo, and she as Martha Johnstone of Sydney; Thomas signed the register by mark 'X'. The witnesses were Jane Johnson of Sydney, the bride's sister; and John Philp, the grooms nephew, of Johnstone Bay, Balmain (who also made his mark 'X').

Martha had been born at Patricks Plains, New South Wales on 3rd October, 1835. She was the daughter of William and Martha. Her father, William Johnson, came to Australia as a member of the Royal Staff Corps in 1826. When the Corps was disbanded in 1828, he decided to stay in the colony and carry on his occupation as a blacksmith. His family lived in several places in N.S.W. before settling in Sydney. We know that William and Martha were still in Sydney in 1851 because they signed the marriage certificate of daughter Jane, who married Robert Smith. For more information on William Johnson's family go to the Royal Staff Corps page.

In 1851 Thomas and Martha Nichols, with Robert and Jane Smith, went to Victoria presumably in search of gold. It seems possible that most of the Johnson family went to Victoria as the Ballina Pioneers web page has information that William was in Ballarat during the Eureka Stockade in 1854. The Smiths went to Ballarat, and the Nichols family to Geelong.

A son, Thomas John, was born on 1st April, 1852 and died on 11th January,1853. In 1854 Thomas and Martha were still at Geelong, where another son named Thomas John was born on 15th July. On 8th November, 1856 a third son, named simply John, was born at Ballarat, where the family remained for at least the next four years. Son Joseph followed on 15th August, 1858, and a daughter, Elizabeth Ann (as Nicholson') on 17th September, 1860 then William on 8th November, 1862 Louisa on 30th November, 1866, and Charles on 10th April, 1868. A daughter, Sarah Jane was born at Werribee on 9th June, 1870.

When daughter Annie was born on 25th March, 1873, Thomas and his family were at Barkstead. Seventh son James was born there on 27th March, 1877, and his elder brother John died at Daylesford on 27th August that same year. Thomas and Martha's youngest child, another John, was born at Barkstead on 28th March, 1879.

From 1876, Thomas Nicholls (sic), farmer appears in the Ballan Shire rate books, initially as the holder of a tenement and 20 acres at Korweinguboora, Moorabool East; from 1879, of a tenement and 30 acres; a further acre was added in 1880, and two more in 1881. Thomas disappears from the records after 1881-2, and is replaced by his wife, Martha.

In 1882 Thomas was staying with his brother Joseph at 78 Duke Street, Woolloomooloo, a two-storey terrace. Their unmarried nephew Charles Nichols probably lived there as well, while nephew Joseph and his family lived next door at 76. He died on 24th April, 1882 from pneumonia, from which he had suffered for ten days. His occupation on the death certificate is given as farmer; he was said to be aged 64, and while Sydney is given as the place of marriage, no details of wife or family were known to the informant, Joseph. Thomas was buried by the Kinsela firm in an unmarked grave at the Church of England cemetery at Rookwood. No details of his death were entered in the burial register, and in fact the plot was never paid for. A death notice was placed in the Sydney Morning Herald:
"Thomas Nichols. Brother of Joseph, uncle of Charles, Joseph and John".
This would seem to confirm that recent contact with his family had been confined to his brother Joseph and the family of his dead brother Charles.

Back in Victoria, Martha Nichols, widow, applied for the transfer of her dead husband's lease (dated 1878-9) to herself on 10th July, 1885; she was too poor to administer Thomas' estate, and her family consented to the transfer of what was described as 31 acres.

Martha died at Korweinguboora near Daylesford (about 30 kilometres from Ballarat) on 7th October, 1911, the last of the generation of John Nichols' children. The following notice appeared in the Daylesford Advertiser on Tuesday, 10th October, 1911:

Mrs Martha Nichols, an old resident of Korweinguboora, passed away at her residence on Saturday after a long illness. The deceased was 76 years of age, Mrs Noel Davey of Frazer Street, Daylesford being a daughter. Remains were interred at Daylesford Cemetery on Sunday, the funeral being well attended. The bearers were K. Boyd, D. Ady, D. Courting, J. Suckling, T. Lynch and H. Edwards. The Rev. A.H. Constable read the burial service and Mr. Fred Verey conducted the Mortuary arrangements.

Research by Kaye Purnell, Pauline Waghorne, Gwen Rodgers, Jim and Jean Nichols, Michael Andrews-Reading, and Pearl Loller.

© 2002 John Nichols Family Society.  For more information or for research sharing please contact Thomas Nichols Family Coordinator.

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