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John Ball 1817 - 1866 AUSTRALIAN EMIGRANTS

This is a draft about a John Ball who was the brother of my direct ancestor. Please do send me additions and amendments on

1 John Ball (1817 – 1866)

John Ball (1)

Abt1817 - 1866

Sarah Smith Clark(e)

Abt1820 - 1902

John Sparks (2)

Abt1841 - ?

Elizabeth Ball

Abt1842R – 1882

George Daniel

Abt1848R - 1920

Jeremiah John

Abt1851 – 1902

William James

1859 - 1860


Ebenezer Thomas

1861 - 1922


None together

Sarah abt 46 at time of wedding



In a family tree littered with John Balls I struggled, for many years, to find the details of this one’s later life. He was born in about 1817 to John Ball and Sarah (nee Burkett). The Parish Registers record that he was baptised on May 18th 1817 in Ringstead Parish Church. They also record that he married Sarah Smith Clark (e) on 21st November 1841. I believe that the 1841 Census records him with his brother Thomas staying with his mother and her second husband John Cheney who she had married some 10 years after the death of her husband in a fire at Denford. (They are sometimes transcribed as John and Thomas Bull.) 

Sarah Smith Clark(e), daughter of Jeremiah and Elizabeth Clark, was baptised at Barnwell St Andrew, 2 miles south of Oundle, in Northamptonshire on the 11th June 1818. She may be the farm servant Sarah Clark living in with Ringstead farmer Richard Freeman, his wife Elizabeth and their family in the 1841 Ringstead Census. Unfortunately this Census does not record places of birth. 

They had two children baptised in Ringstead Parish Church, Elizabeth, on 11th November 1842, and George Daniel on 11 August 1848. I could find no further trace of them and some Ancestry trees had the deaths of John and Sarah locally in 1891 and 1901 respectively. In November 2015 I finally found some details on various websites of a family which matched this one very well, but who had lived in Australia, so I began to hunt around and now I believe that I have a much clearer answer as to what happened to John and his family.

At this time the use of Australia as a dumping ground for convicts was coming to the end and the demand for immigrants to provide labour was being encouraged. Below is a typical advertisement from the Northampton Mercury of 8th January 1848:

EMIGRATION TO AUSTRALIA. – FREE PASSAGES to NEW SOUTH WALES and SOUTH AUSTRALIA are granted by HER MAJESTY’S COLONIAL LAND and EMIGRATION COMMISSIONERS, in first-class ships, sailing at short intervals in succession, from London and Plymouth, to persons strictly of the working class. The Emigrants most in demand are agricultural labourers, shepherds, and female domestic servants, and dairy maids. A few country mechanics, such as blacksmiths, wheelwrights, carpenters &c. are taken for each ship. Undoubted testimonials, both as to character and ability in calling and occupation are indispensable.

At the time of the last advices, the demand for labour in both colonies was urgent, and the rate of wages considerably higher than in England. On the other hand, provisions generally were at a much lower rate. Clothing was about the same price as in this country.

On arriving in the Colonies, the emigrants are received by an officer of the government, who will give them information as to where they may obtain work: and they are at perfect liberty to engage themselves to any one willing to employ them and t make their own bargain for wages. No repayment is required of any part of the expense of their passage out.

For further information apply to [Among the list are Mr. C.W Ibbs*, Thrapston, Mr, J. Strange, Kettering].

                                                                By order of the Board

                                                                                S. Walcot, Secretary.

Government Emigration Office, 9 Park-street,

                Westminster, Dec, 1847.

*C.W. Ibbs was a printer and stationer and later s postmaster


John and Sarah, perhaps, saw these advertisements or the various letters sent by emigrants who had settled in Australia extolling its virtues ,(one wonders if they were “ghost written" by the Emigration Office) or perhaps most likely by word of mouth, for, soon after the baptism of George Daniel the family emigrated. It seems very likely that they are the ones described as “John Ball, wife and family” who arrived on the Stebonheath a 926 ton, three-masted ship that had sailed from London, via Plymouth, which it left on 31st January 1849. Besides a few “cabin passengers” it had 373 “government emigrants” aboard in steerage (the poorest accommodation) including 106 children, some of them born during the voyage. As we have seen, these emigrants would have had much of the cost of the voyage paid for them, subsidised by the sale of land in South Australia to rich farmers and developers.

Besides the families there were some 56 single men and 39 single women. In an 1858 voyage of the Stebonheath to Adelaide a sick pregnant single woman was taken ashore and died in hospital. This led to the revealing of life on board showing a lack of discipline and moral standards with much debauchery between some of the sailors and single men and some of the single women. We can only surmise if conditions were the same in 1849.

Port Adelaide painted by Samuel Thomas Gill c1848.

Gill was employed by the South Australian Commissioners to paint pictures to promote the province in London. It is a view across the Port River to the Port settlement and the ships berthed at the wharf. The large building on the left is the South Australian Company warehouse with the Customs House in the middle and the British Hotel on the right. The Stebonheath would have berthed in the middle of the picture near the Customs House.

Information kindly provided by Meredith Blundell of the Port Adelaide Enfield Public Library Service.

Image courtesy of the State Library of South Australia

 They arrived in Port Adelaide, South Australia on the 11th May 1849 after a journey of about four months (some records say 114 days). For those in steerage it would have been an unpleasant, smelly, tedious and sometimes dangerous voyage. When they arrived in Port Adelaide conditions had improved somewhat compared to the first immigrant voyages. Many Irish families were being assisted to flee the Great Famine (emigration being seen as a cheaper long term option for the government and landowners than poor relief) and the Bishop of Adelaide wrote a letter on July 30th 1849, printed in various newspapers, including the Manchester Guardian, and the Ballina Chronicle in Ireland on December 5th of the same year, in which he gave the following advice to immigrants:

 I will now detail what steps are taken in the colony for the assistance of the emigrants. Captain Brewer is the emigration agent, whose duty is to board the vessels as they arrive, and after examining the conditions and discipline of the passengers, to offer such counsel as may be needed for their guidance. In the case of persons destitute of means he is empowered to pay the expense of the journey to Adelaide (eight miles) and transport of their baggage, There is a row of cottages, built by the government, at Port Adelaide, for the temporary accommodation of emigrant families, should they fail to procure situations before compelled to quit the ship. Fourteen days are generally allowed on ship board, after reaching the port, during which time they are provisioned.

In the report of John’s death in Mintaro 1866 it states that the family had been living there 17 or18 years so it seems that the family moved there soon after arriving in South Australia. If this was the case they would have been some of its earliest settlers. On the other hand their first child born in Australia was Jeremiah John who was born on the 16th January 1851 “On the Wakefield” I am not sure if this means Port Wakefield or has some other local meaning. 

Mintaro had been established about this time as a staging post along the Gulf Road, which was a bullock trail owned by the Patent Copper Company to take smelted copper from its mines in Burra to Port Wakefield for shipping. The bullock teams soon left for the richer pickings of the new gold fields and were replaced by mule trains. Then in 1857 the town declined, for with the coming of the railways and a terminus at Gawler the trail was rerouted through Riverton. The town was saved by the finding and exploiting of good quality slate locally and the increasing importance of agriculture. 

We do not what type of work John first took up but we do know that by 1866 his eldest son (George) Daniel was a labourer in a Steam Flour Mill established in Wakefield Street in Mintaro in 1859 by John Smith a substantial local property owner. It seems that his father, John, also worked there. This mill was used for grinding and dressing grain. On the morning of Thursday 26th April 1866 John, with the help of his son Daniel, was taking a cartload of bran and pollards (a finely milled blend of bran and wheat middlings used for horse feed) from the mill to Burra.

The team of four horses had stopped at a creek on the edge of the Mintaro township and was unwilling to continue on up the hill. Finally John and Daniel got the team moving up the cutting but again, half way up, the lead horses refused to go any further. They unhitched the lead two horses and tried to turn the other two around with the cart to go back to the creek at the bottom of the hill. John struggled in the confines of the cutting but told Daniel to go and wait beyond the creek out of harm’s way. The horses suddenly swerved round and galloped down the hill knocking John over and the cart wheels passed over his lower body and also hitting his head. He was terribly injured and was carried to the Mintaro Hotel where he died soon after.

John was buried at 4o’clock on Friday 27th 1866 and most of the Mintaro residents and many people from further afield were present at his funeral. The service was held at the Primitive Methodist Chapel which could not hold all those wishing to attend. The South Australian Register reported, “He was a quiet man and lived amongst us for the last 17 or 18 years respected by all”.

Less than six months later, on 19th November 1866, Sarah married John Sparks, son of Simeon, who was some 20 years her junior, at the Primitive Methodist Church in Mintaro, where John’s funeral service had been held.  In the marriage registration, Sarah’s father is given as Jeremiah Clark, perhaps the final proof that this is the family who came from Ringstead. Sarah lived to be 83 years old and died on 20th September 1902 in Eurelia in South Australia some 105 mile north of Mintaro. She was registered as Sarah Clark Sparks. 

The Children

Elizabeth (Bessie)

One of the men who helped carry John to the Mintaro Hotel was called Jesse Smith. He was probably the man who had married John’s daughter Bessie (Elizabeth) at Penwortham, some eight miles west of Mintaro) on 7th February 1859. Bessie was 17 years old. Jessie Smith died on 1st March 1869 in Mintaro aged just thirty years. Bessie remarried to James Greer Quinn still in Mintaro. Bessie too died young, not long after the death of her 15-month-old son Thomas, on 7th November 1882 aged 39 and was buried on 9th November 1882 in Tarlee Cemetery where her gravestone can still be seen. 

George Daniel Clark Ball, son of John Ball, married Frances, daughter of Joshua Jenner on 28th November 1877 at the residence of his stepfather, John Sparks, in Watervale, South Australia (Wakefield Registration District). Frances died, aged 27 on 27th July 1886 at Walloway in the Frome District. As was far from unusual, Daniel (or Dan) as he was usually known then married her sister, Susan, on 21st May 1888, again at John Spark’s house but this time in Eurelia ( 5 miles north of Walloway)in the Frome District. When George’s daughter, Frances Sarah, married Thomas Whittaker Vaughan on 27th December 1915, the marriage place was given as the residence of G.D.C Ball at Orroroo (14 miles south of Eurelia )in the Frome District. The Adelaide Chronicle of 27th March 1920 had a short notice in its Deaths Column:

BALL – On the 18th March at his son’s residence, Broken Hill, George Daniel Clarke (Dan) Ball, the beloved father of S. Vaughan, E. Tate and E., G., F., J., A. And F. Ball, late of Orrero, S.A.

Some of Daniel’s children had died young. One of them, probably signified by the single "J" in the death notice was Joshua John Ball who died on 14th April 1918 at the battle of Amiens and was buried in the Bonnay Communal Cemetery Extension (A. 9). He had been in the 43rd Battalion (7th Reinforcement) of the Australian Infantry, enlisting on 9th November 1916 and embarking at Adelaide on 23rd June 1917, he had been a blacksmith's striker before joining up.

Jeremiah John was born in Little Para (On the Wakefield?) on 16th January 1851 in the Adelaide District. He married Hannah Chapman, daughter of William, on 10th March 1875 at the home of Robert Smith in Manoora. Some trees have him dying in 1880 and Hannah remarrying but a John Jeremiah Ball born in 1851 died on 10th June 1902 aged 51 in Mintaro. Could it be that they divorced for the Adelaide Advertiser of 14th June 1902 reported:


June 11. - Mr. John Ball, 51 years of age. and an old resident of the locality, in the employ of Mr. Skewes. was found on Monday morning with his throat cut. The deceased had been very melancholy of late, and on the preceding Sunday had informed a resident of his intention of committing suicide, giving as his reason that he was without a home or friends, and tired of life. An inquest was held yesterday, and a verdict of suicide during temporary insanity was returned.

William James was born on 17th July 1859 in Mintaro in the Registration District of Clare. He is shown as the son of John Ball and Sarah Smith Clark. He died the following year.

Ebenezer Thomas was born to the same parents on 24th May 1861 in Mintaro. I believe that he married for in his will he left his estate to be divided equally among his three children: Herbert David; Marjorie Clarissa Clark; Alexander Thomas. He appointed his son-in-law Archibald Clark as his executor so Marjory once again carried her grandmother’s surname.  Unusually he asked that the photos and family relics be divided between the children. There is no mention of his wife Edith (nee Edwards), whom he had married in1888, because she had died on 13th October 1922. She left him her interest in the weatherboard, iron (?) and stone six-room house in Mica Street in Broken Hill. He died on 21st October 1926 in Broken Hill, New South Wales (some 240 miles north east of Mintaro). He was registered as a “Stableman” at his death


Ringstead Parish Registers (transcriptions on Australia Birth Index 1788 – 1922: Australia Marriage Index 1788 – 1950: Australia Death Index 1787 – 1985. English Census 1841. South Australian Register 28th & 30th April 1866. details of passenger lists and article from Ballina Chronicle on Emigration to Australia.

Sacred to the Memory. An Archaeological Investigation into Emotion and Ideology within Two Regional Cemeteries Zandra K. Farrell. Flinders University Oct 2003 (online).

Family tree by dannye1956 on



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