Thomas Bruce (c1833-1912)

ON THIS DAY, September 5, in 1865 Thomas Bruce married Sarah (Goodburn) Murray at Young, New South Wales.

Thomas was the first in our Bruce family to come to Australia. Born in Perth, Scotland, his father Alexander is believed to have been a wool weaver who shortly after the death of Thomas’s mother Helen (nee Addie), remarried in 1837 widow Jessie (Gourlay) White and later moved the family to Galashiels. The family lived in Roxburgh Street for many years and Thomas is recorded as a wool dyer there in 1851, but no more records have been found of him in Scotland,

Sarah Murray was the eldest daughter of William Ambrose Goodburn and born at Kissing Point on the Parramatta River in 1843. William was from Folkestone in Kent and arrived in New South Wales in about 1835 and shortly after married Mary Jane Cavanagh from Armagh, Ireland. In 1860, at the age of 16 and with her father’s permission, Sarah married Peter Murray in Chiltern Victoria. Peter was a native of Monaghan in Ireland and it is suspected he joined the Victorian gold rush in the Chiltern area. Shortly after their marriage the couple moved to Young (or Lambing Flat as it was then known) coinciding with the discovery of gold there.  However within three years Peter died of hepatitis leaving Sarah pregnant with their son James.

No details are known of Thomas’s life until he married Sarah in Young but it is likely that he was also lured there by the prospect of gold riches, however at the time of his marriage he was working as a butcher. At Young a son, also named Thomas, was born in 1866 and two years later after the family had moved to Grenfell, another boy Alexander was born. Within six weeks of Alexander’s birth Sarah contracted typhoid fever and was dead six days later.

Several generations of Bruces at Hillgrove

At Grenfell, Thomas worked for a time as a wool classer, probably using early skills developed with his father in Scotland, and with two young sons he remarried in 1870 to Jane Bond. The young James Murray died that same year at Binalong (maybe with relatives), however Jane gave birth to a daughter, also named Jane, the following year.

In this story, gold now raises its head again. At Bakers Creek east of Armidale, alluvial gold had been discovered in the late 1850s but serious mining commenced only in the late 1870s. It is not known exactly when he moved there, but in his death notice Thomas was said to have been one of the earliest arrivals at what became the town of Hillgrove. Thomas and his two sons (Thomas and Alexander) were all miners at the Hillgrove mines for many years. His wife Jane died at Hillgrove in 1897, but Thomas lived on  surrounded by the rest of his family until his death in 1912, even as the mining industry tapered off and the town of Hillgrove had started to declined.

Thomas’s exact birth date is unclear as various ages between 79 and 95 have been given for him when he died.

Maybe he exaggerated his age…