HENRY GRIBBLE – Pioneer of Blackwood.

Some family history of  a Blackwood Pioneer buried in the Blackwood cemetery- from my unpublished book – ‘The History and Pioneers of Blackwood’, by Margot F Hitchcock.


by Margot Hitchcock, Historian for the Blackwood & District Historical Society, (B.D.H.S.) April, 2019.   Information and photos courtesy of Margot Hitchcock and copyright unless permission from the author. ©

gribble henry

“To the memory of Henry Gribble who was killed at the claim of the Crown Quartz Company on November 2nd 1866, Aged 35 years.  Watch therefore for we know neither the day nor the hour when the Son of Man cometh.  God the Redeemer lives, and ever from the skies, looks down and watches all my dust til he shall see it rise.” ©

Photo courtesy of Margot Hitchcock B.D.H.S.

Some family Information from Ray Viall – (R.V) and Ian Gribble (I.G.)

The 1851 Census of Cornwall shows that as a nineteen‑year‑old, Henry Gribble was living with his parents and those siblings that remained in Bolenowe Crofts.  (I.G.)

Within three years Henry was to lose both parents, gain a small inheritance from his father, marry, become a father and migrate to the great Burra Copper Mine in South Australia and lose his second child to illness in his new country.

Both his parents, William and Elizabeth Gribble, were dead by early 1852. (I.G.)

His Inheritance  – 

Henry and his brother Charles Gribble were appointed by their father to execute his estate. After paying out various sums to his sisters, Henry was to have a half share in the estate with Charles. However should he leave England he could not sell his part, but his share was to be rented from him by remaining family members.

Charles Gribble born 1820

Charles Gribble born 1820, brother of Henry Gribble, died 1887.  (Photo courtesy of Ian Gribble)

Charles Gribble grave

Grave of Charles Gribble died 1887 and his wife Ann (Bawden) died age 97 and their daughter Jane Gribble, died age 56 in the Blackwood cemetery. Photo courtesy of Margot Hitchcock B.D.H.S.

Specifically he was to receive a clock, a house currently occupied by Ann Ivey and his brother Charles was to pay him twenty shillings a year.

By then Henry had married Julia Cundy of Camborne in 1851 and their first son, William Cundy Gribble was born on 16th September 1852. (I.G.)

Almost two years to the day after William’s birth, on 4th September 1954, Henry [22] Julia [20] and son William arrived in Adelaide on the sailing ship, ‘Thetis’.

Henry and Julia Gribble and their son William Cundy Gribble arrived in Adelaide in 1854 (from Camborne, Cornwall) and went to the Burra Copper Mines in South Australia.  (R.V.)

(The author went to visit these mines in Burra in the 1980’s and they are typical of the Cornish built mines of the days when the Cornishmen built round towers and the Welsh square ones.

burra (3)

Photo of Copper mining in Burra S.A.  Photo courtesy of Margot Hitchcock B.D.H.S. 1985.

Migration and Hardship

Henry is recorded, probably incorrectly, as a labourer, selected from Middlesex. The sailing ship, ‘Thetis’ left Plymouth on 19th May 1954. The boat carried many Cornish families and it is most likely that Henry and family was recorded inaccurately amongst a few Middlesex individuals. A relative, Narelle Trembath, believes that the record showing Henry and Julia from Middlesex is simply a case of the shipping clerk being carried away with the dittos. A check of the record shows a number of preceding passengers were from Middlesex.

From Adelaide it would appear that they proceeded directly to the great Burra Copper Mine some 100 miles Northwest from Adelaide.

Shale Chambers has information to suggest that this was not Henry’s first visit to Burra. He might have first accompanied his brother James Gribble to Burra when a fifteen year old.

James Gribble 1855

James Gribble born 1855  – brother of Henry Gribble (Photo courtesy of Ian Gribble)

Henry was probably contracted to work at the mine from Camborne, but it is unlikely that no‑one would have advised him of the arduous trip, unless an earlier visit had informed him of the impending hardship.

Whether this was his first or second visit to Burra it was most certainly a hot and dusty 100 mile trip, probably undertaken by coach or wagon.

Julia was pregnant during the voyage and their son Henry Jnr. was born shortly after arrival in South Australia, in September 1855. Julia, William and baby Henry made the long trip from Adelaide during mid summer. Young Henry, weakened by the long trip would not have been comfortably accommodated upon the family’s arrival at Burra.

But in spite of all they could do, their baby son Henry, died at Burra on 17th February 1855, some 23 weeks after they arrived in SA.     (I.G.)

Copper had been discovered at Burra Burra in 1845 and by 1850 was the largest metalliferous mine in Australia and up to 1860 produced 5% of the world’s copper.

In 1851 there were 1000 men working at the Burra Mine. After the Gold discoveries at Bendigo and Ballarat there were barely 300 remaining. Henry Gribble may well have been recruited for the mine during this period to replenish the ranks of the miner thus making him part of the rejuvenation of the Burra mine in 1855.

Well‑established families would have lived in the Cornish section of the town in respectable stone and timber dwellings but Burra was notoriously short of accommodation so that most newcomers were forced to live in unhygienic caves dug in the soft banks of the creek until the occasional flood forced them out. It was probably his lot to have lived in such poor conditions.

(The author photographed these cave dwellings in the sides of the river banks when she visited there in the 1980’s)    

burra SA (2)

Photo of cave dwellings Photo courtesy of Margot Hitchcock B.D.H.S.1985.

Miners' Dugout, Burra Heritage Passport

Photo of dugouts which have been restored by the National Trust in Burra S.A.  (Courtesy Burra Heritage Passport ) – of https://www.weekendnotes.com/burra-heritage-passport/  

burra post card

Post card I bought in Burra S.A. showing goal built 1856, dug out homes, old migrant workers cottages, Cornish miners engine houses. 1985.

Below Information gratefully acknowledged to Ian Gribble (I.G.)

“In 1851 it was estimated that 2600 people were living in dugouts. A horrified visitor observed that infantile diseases are greatly prevalent “

However the death of Henry junior is not attributed specifically to disease.  The record of his death reads as follows:

” Henry Gribble died 17. 2. 1855, aged 11 weeks; Cause of death ‑ Atrophia.” Father signed with X, (showing he could not write his name) No. 563, Page 1 Book 6.  Baby Henry  is recorded as being buried two days later but no gravesite or headstone can be found.

Medically, Atrophia describes the wasting of the body or a limb with lack of nourishment being the cause in the case of body wasting. This form of death suggests the family was experiencing hard times at Burra and that possibly Julia couldn’t feed him. Perhaps he was diseased. If they were living in one of the famous creek side holes which housed up to 3000 miners at times, with no sewerage and little protection from the elements, life would have been difficult to say the least.

After this sad occurrence their movements are unclear. However the 1856/57 Electoral Roll for Victoria records Henry Gribble at Frenchman’s Point with a Miners Right in the Mt Blackwood Division: with his brother, Charles Gribble  who had most likely moved to Blackwood from Ballarat in March 1852, a month after Henry Jnr’s death.

We could speculate that after the death of their son Henry, contact was made with Charles Gribble via his wife Anne Bawden who may have remained at Ballarat whilst the Blackwood field proved itself.

Later events point to Charles Gribble having success at alluvial mining in the creek below Golden Point, Blackwood,  and most likely Henry and Julia Gribble hastened to join Charles as might have cousin Charles Dunn and his wife. However he was told about Charles’ success, the fact remains that the family had to get to Blackwood.

With heat still in the air, in late March or early April Henry and Julia would have started for the colony of Port Phillip from Adelaide. As there is no record  found of them travelling by ship, we assume that they made the trip of some 400 miles, (possibly by Bullock Wagon or Coach). They faced a long ride through the ninety‑mile desert, the crossing of numerous streams and nothing but rough tracks before fighting their way down to the banks of the Lerderderg River.

Henry and Julia Gribble were destined to live by a stream for a further two years. The steep and heavily treed banks of the Lerderderg River would have strongly contrasted the dry undulating plains that surround Burra. Timber was in plentiful supply and instead of opting for unhygienic holes in the riverbank, Henry and Charles quickly erected roughly built houses for their families.

Though the newly formed township of Blackwood (then called Mt. Blackwood)  numbered some 13,000 at the peak of the gold rush, the Gribbles were located well out of Red Hill and Golden Point, some miles further down the Lerderderg River at Frenchman’s Point. A place where today on some maps a sharp valley called Gribble’s Gully joins the river. On other maps Gribble Track runs down to a site on the river known as ‘The Tunnel’. (near O’Brien’s Crossing)  The Tunnel and Sardine Creek hike commences at O’Briens Crossing in the Lerderderg State Park. Walk up the steps past the toilet blocks and follow the steep ridge following Byers Back track. The trail crosses Amber Lane then continues along to Gribble Track. Turns right at the Gribble Track junction and descend the steep track down to the Lerderderg River and the Tunnel. – courtesy Trail Hiking Australia –  https://www.trailhiking.com.au/the-tunnel-and-sardine-creek/

 Apparently the brothers had success enough to take a trip to New Zealand to visit their sister Susan Viall. (I.G.)

The Author  had a letter from a Ray Viall in 1981, from New Zealand whose Great grandmother was Susan Gribble and sister of Henry Gribble.  Susan Gribble married Samuel Viall in 1844 and went to Australia in 1847 and then onto N.Z. in 1848.  Samuel worked in the Kowou Copper Mine in N.Z.

Henry and Julia Gribble went to New Zealand in 1860 where his sister Susan Viall was living with her husband Samuel Viall. Henry and Julie  then returned to Victoria and went to the goldfields of Muckleford  six months later.  They moved to Mt. Blackwood, Victoria during the Gold rush of 1862-63. (R.V.)

With this prosperity Henry and Julia Gribble produced five more children during the next 10 years.

Children of Henry Gribble and Julie Cundy were –

William Gribble born 1852 Cornwall   – went to live in NZ in 1875.

Henry Gribble born 1854, died 8 mths (in S.A.)

Susanna Gribble born 1856 (Frenchman’s creek, Blackwood) Victoria – went to live in NZ in 1875. age 19 yrs to housekeep for her brother William Gribble.

John Gribble born 1858, (Maldon), Victoria  – went to live in NZ

Edward Gribble born 1860 (Blackwood)

Julia Ivera Gribble born 1862 (Blackwood)

Helen (Ellen) Gribble born 1865 (Blackwood)

During 1858 their fourth child, John Gribble, had been born at Maldon, a gold field some fifty kilometres away from Blackwood. This suggests that despite the permanent dwellings that Henry and Charles Gribble had earlier built down the Lerderderg river at ‘Frenchmans’, the search for gold there was short lived and Henry, at least, had begun to look elsewhere.

At the time of their arrival back in Blackwood from New Zealand in 1860 the town was a hive of industry. The alluvial gold was much diminished but by now quartz reef mining held considerable prospects. Henry and Charles Gribble must have recognized the excitement and optimism in the air as the talk of good crushings from each of the mines was bandied around “The Reef”.

After finding New Zealand not  to their liking, they became shareholders in two mining ventures ‑ the ‘Lerderderg’ and the ‘Crown’ (in Simmons Reef, Blackwood), both deep quartz mines, the latter came to provide good long term earnings to the six shareholders. (For greater detail refer to Gribble in my book – ‘History and Pioneers of Blackwood’ and ‘Some History of Simmons Reef’.)

One report has the claim containing the Crown Quartz Mine having been worked for about 8 years by 1866, suggesting that it first commenced in about 1858 although no official record indicating its beginnings has been currently found.

In his report on the Blackwood Division during 1866, Mining Registrar, Mr E. G. Magnus stated that 1030 alluvial and 280 quartz miners were working the district. Of these 430 were Chinese. There were 126 miners at Simmons Reef.

A considerable amount of machinery was in use on the gold field. The alluvial miners were using 3 water wheels and one steam engine. The quartz miners were using 10 steam engines and 11 water wheels amongst other types.

At this particular moment in their marriage, life must have seemed very good to Henry and Julia Gribble. All the risks and hardship must have seemed to be behind them. Their family was established. Money was plentiful. They had property and their new country was becoming comfortably familiar and comfortable.

But tragedy struck the family, when Henry Gribble was accidentally killed whilst mining at the Crown Quartz Company mine at Simmons Reef, Blackwood on the 2nd November 1866 aged 35 years, leaving a wife and 5 children living to mourn his loss. ©

On Saturday 10 November 1866 the ‘Bacchus Marsh Express’ carried a sad announcement. It read:

Death: On the 2nd inst. At Simmonds reef Blackwood Mr. Henry Gribble, aged 35 years, from the result of an accident which happened whilst working in a quartz claim leaving a widow and six children to mourn his loss”

Sadly, Henry had died in an accident in his own mine whilst working with his older brother Charles and other men when he slid down a 45‑degree slope of stones into a 20‑ft. deep shaft. He lay head down covered by quartz. After his prompt removal from the shaft by Charles and Thomas McGuire he showed only feeble signs of life. Dr Plews attended two hours later and Henry died in his presence. A post mortem showed a broken neck [1st and 2nd vertebrae]”

By comparison with today’s grinding legal system, just five days later on the 7th November the same newspaper reported the inquest into his death as follows:

Another inquiry [inquest] of a similar nature was held by Mr. Lawrence on the following day [Sunday] at Simmons Reef, relative to the death of Henry Gribble, a miner and share holder in the Crown Quartz Company.

From the evidence adduced, it appeared that the deceased was working at that company’s claim on Friday last. He was in the act of drilling a hole with the view to detaching a superincumbent of auriferous quartz and earth. He was working on a steep incline, and it is supposed that he must have either dislodged the ground upon which he was standing or, in trying to get out of the way of some stuff which he had loosened, he must have stumbled in the act, and fallen.

 His brother, Charles Gribble, who was working in another portion of the claim, was the first to witness the catastrophe. His attention was arrested by hearing the deceased call out in a loud tone and looking up he saw his brother in the act of slipping down the declivity on his back, feet foremost and arms extended. Deceased descended about twenty feet in this way, to a point, where the incline became next thing to perpendicular.

 On reaching this portion of the gradient, he shot from it with accelerated force, to the opposite side of the mouth of a shoot which receives the wash‑dirt, immediately under the hanging wall, striking the opposite side of the surface aperture with terrible force, his body reversing its position and he was propelled with increasing momentum head first down the shaft a further distance of thirty feet”.

Detached pieces of quartz which broke into fragments as they bounded and rebounded down the incline mixed with debris of loose dirt and stone fell in company with the poor fellow and all that debarred the hope of extricating him alive.

 Thomas McGuire, with prompt and laudable courage, allowed himself to be lowered with a rope, when he discovered the unfortunate man with his feet upper most, and the rest of his body nearly immured in the mass of stuff that had closed in upon him. On freeing him from the pressure of rubbish [a matter of no little difficulty, under the circumstances] McGuire was unable to discern any symptoms of life, but on his being hoisted to the surface he partially rallied under the stimulants applied to restore animation, but not to the extent of consciousness. Medical aid was not long in being at hand, but to no avail; the poor fellow remained in a comatose state and finally sank in a few hours.

Dr. Plews called upon as witness, as to the cause of death, and the Magistrate recorded the following opinion, vis :‑‑‑” I find the deceased Henry Gribble aged thirty five years, died at Simmons Reef, on Friday, the 2nd day of November,1866, from dislocation and compound fracture of  the neck, the result of  an accident which happened to him whilst working in a quartz claim.

 Poor Gribble was a native of Camborne, Cornwall, England, and was a very respectable man in his sphere of life. He has left a widow and six children to deplore his loss. His remains were deposited in the cemetery here on Sunday, and were followed by one of the largest attendances which ever paid respect to the obsequies of the departed in this locality, the number being estimated at three hundred or more.” ©

This unfortunate accident happened just at the time when the Crown Mine was proving very efficient and productive.

According to Mr. Magnus, during the fourth quarter of 1866 at the time when Henry Gribble was killed, the Crown Quartz Co. [Simmons Reef] crushed 2900 tons of quartz for a yield per ton of 0 oz. 1 dwt 14.89 gr. for a total yield of gold of 235 oz. The quartz was obtained between 50 to 110 feet.

Magnus commented that: “The Crown Company’s claim is yielding a very low average per ton, but owing to their systematic mode of working, and the thickness of the reef, they are earning very good wages.” 

Earlier in his 1864 report Magnus reported that the Crown Company’s Claim was paying particularly well.

Henry died intestate and left property worth some £250 which was claimed by his wife Julia Gribble with Matthew Rogers, merchant, and brother Charles Gribble providing surety. ©


Henry’s death in 1866 was a great blow to the family.  Julia now faced the raising of her 6 children by herself. William the eldest was now 14, Susanna 12, John 8, Edward 6, Iveria Julia 4, and baby Ellen was only one year old. ©

Inscribed on Henry Gribble’s tombstone in the Blackwood cemetery is –

“To the memory of Henry Gribble who was killed at the claim of the Crown Quartz Company on November 2nd 1866, Aged 35 years.  Watch therefore for we know neither the day nor the hour when the Son of Man cometh.  God the Redeemer lives, and ever from the skies, looks down and watches all my dust til he shall see it rise.” ©

Henry Gribble

    Photo courtesy of Margot Hitchcock B.D.H.S.     ©                                       

 The Ballan Shire rate Book reveals that Julia Gribble continued to pay the rates on their dwelling for the two years after Henry’s death. We can only guess that she may have retained her shareholding in the Crown Mine.

Two years passed before Julia Gribble remarried in 1868 to Samuel Rogers born Cornwall who was also a miner according to the above rate books, so their continued use of the mine as a reliable source of income would not be surprising.

We have no proof as yet that Samuel Rogers was related to Matthew and Mary Rogers of Simmons Reef, Blackwood but it is thought highly likely as it is also worth noting that Mathew and Samuel Rogers were both born and came from Cornwall, but to date there is no evidence to show that they are closely related. But Mary Rogers co-incidentally was also a Rogers before marriage. A plaque in the St. Erth cemetery, Cornwall reads:  “Abraham Rogers died 14 June, 1876 [89] also Elizabeth d. 24 June 1844 [60]. Erected in remembrance by their daughter and son in law M. and M. Rogers of Simmonds Reef, Blackwood, Australia” (M and M Rogers = Matthew and Mary Rogers.)

So perhaps Samuel Rogers  [Julia Gribble’s second husband] was related to Mary Rogers. If a relationship were to be found it would lend a support to the theory of adoption.  Henry Gribble died intestate, thus requiring his friend Mathew Rogers and brother Charles Gribble to act for Julia Gribble as sureties whilst she administrated his estate.  Above Information written by Ian Gribble (I.G.)

This union of Samuel Rogers and Julia Gribble produced four more children in Blackwood: Samuel Charles Rogers 1869, Harriet Rogers 1872, Sarah Ann Rogers 1875, and one un‑named boy who arrived in 1877 after the rescue of Samuel Rogers in an accident in 1875.

Julia Rogers (nee Gribble nee Cundy) lived her final years in Melbourne and died in 1895 in Hotham, Melbourne.

Their children grew to adulthood in Blackwood before taking their own direction in life.

Of Henry Gribble’s daughter, Susanna Gribble we now know where she fits into the family of Matthew and Mary Rogers, and the connection between them in adoption Susanna’s illegitimate daughter..

Elizabeth Susan Rogers was born Elizabeth Susan Gribble to Susanna Gribble in 1872, the illegitimate daughter to 16 yrs old Susanna Gribble and an unnamed male.  see Matthew Rogers.

From the Digger Birth records was found under the surname of Grible – Susanna Grible born 1856 at Mt. Blackwood to Henry Grible and Julie Conte (sp. should be Cundy and Gribble) – reg no. 12060.  Making this there 3rd child who lived.  This Susanna Gribble was the teenage daughter ( age 16 yrs) who gave birth to an illegitimate  daughter in 1872 who became the adopted daughter, Lizzie (Elizabeth) Rogers to Matthew and Mary Rogers. (Susannah, Gribble born October 19 1856 at Kangaroo Flat, Blackwood.(see info on Matthew Rogers).

Susanna Gribble, daughter of Henry Gribble and Julia Cundy, was born on the 19th October 1856 at Mt. Blackwood, Victoria.  She went to New Zealand in 1875 (aged 19 years) to housekeep for her brother William Gribble, after first having an (apparently illegitimate) baby daughter in Blackwood in 1872 . (no father was named on the birth certificate and the child was named Elizabeth Susan Gribble, with mother Susan Gribble  reg. no. 21636.  So apparently Susannah after giving birth age 16 yrs to her baby daughter she kept her until she was 3 yrs old or put her in the adoptive care of Mary Rogers, and then sailed to live In N.Z.

Susanna met and married Alfred Trembath on 21 October 1875.

Susanna Trembath nee Gribble died on the 27th  July 1916 at Waihi, N.Z.

a Narelle Trembath of N.S.W. contacted the author and she is related to this family of Alfred Trembath. 

Their two brothers, James and William Gribble came to New Zealand in 1875.

William Gribble  went to New Zealand and married Lucy Dunne.

John Gribble married Mary Thomas Bennett in Mt. Egerton, then drifted around the Victorian goldfields before settling in Mt. Egerton. Then early in the 1900’s he took his family to New Zealand.

Julia [Ivera] Gribble married Joe Skinner and remained in Blackwood. [This contradicts Beryl Burnetts account of the 6 children going to NZ]

Ellen Gribble married Harry Levy in 1883 but nothing (at this stage) is known of Henry and Julia’s youngest son Edward Gribble born in 1860.

Vivian Gribble, in a letter to his sister Haidee, states that a daughter of Henry and Julia Gribble married James Terrill. Birth records reveal that an Elizabeth Rogers married James Terrill at Simmons reef in 1895 and that she was in fact the adopted daughter of Mathew and Mary Rogers, the wealthy owners of ‘The Big Hill Mine’ just up from ‘The Crown’, whose large headstone today still dominates the Blackwood cemetery.    Their land occupied the area now well known by today’s Victorian gardeners as the ‘St. Erth Garden’. ©

Lizzie rogers-1

Left to right – Ivy Mary Parkinson, (Elizabeth) Lizzie Terrill (nee Rogers) Ernest Matthew James Terrill and Jim Terrill.   (Photo courtesy of Linda Owen and copied by Margot Hitchcock B.D.H.S.  ©  

Lizzie Rogers & Jim Terrill & family 3

Jim Terrill, and wife Lizzie (Elizabeth Rogers)  with children Ivy Mary Terrill and Ern Terrill.  (Photo courtesy of the late Nell  Matheson and copied by Margot Hitchcock B.D.H.S.) ©

For more family information contact the author at the B.D.H.S. or email at – margothitchcock@bigpond.com