52 Ancestors #33 – Non-Population – James Herbert [1820-1875]

The counting of people, a Population Schedule or the Census, is used to locate families in a given 10 year period. There are additional schedules used to identify and quantify resources and needs. These schedules are called Non-Population schedules, statistics on agriculture, mortality, manufacturing and social statistics. A little-known resource available to anyone researching US Ancestors. e.g., an agricultural schedule could tell you a whole lot more about a farmer and how big his farm was, the crops he grew and what animals he had. Wouldn’t that be amazing to have!? For more information on what the Non-Population Census is, you can read about them HERE.  As this prompt isn’t going to fit into my newsletter for this week, I’m giving it a twist to tell the story of my Great Great Grandfather, James Herbert, who lost his life at sea at the tender age of 55. I thought my own mother, Patsy Cripps nee Herbert was young at 59, but her great-grandfather and grandfather (aged 52) were also very young.

The Herberts of RockinghamWe read in an earlier newsletter that James Herbert arrived in Western Australia with his 2nd wife Mary Conroy and his two children, James Albert and Helen Herbert, by his first wife Susanna Barwell, in 1853. Their baby daughter Elizabeth died on the voyage.

James purchased Lot 71 on the Rockingham-Mandurah road in 1857 for the sum of ten pounds sterling. He built the “Bush Inn”  or Rockingham Inn, which became known as the Rockingham Arms when his son James Albert took over the liquor license in 1862. It has been said that Lord Forrest (John) spent his honeymoon there! It later became known as the Chesterfield Inn and was heritage listed in 2013 with recent restorations bringing it back to look as it would have done in the 1850s.

In the 1860s, the settlers in the East Rockingham district subscribed to the building of a school. Amongst the scholars attending the school in 1863 were the Herbert children, James Albert and Helen Herbert. The Old School was gutted by fire in 1966 and was demolished soon after.


Another property purchased in 1867 by James Herbert was Wheatfields Cottage. The land was part of the first wheat producing farm in WA. This plaque above is about the cottage is on the Rockingham Waterfront Pioneer Rotary Walk in Rockingham, Western Australia.

1870_Herbert, James_Advertising Aerated Soda Water

James was well on his way to building a reputation in the liquor trade when he became publican of the Freemasons Hotel in 1866. During this time he manufactured Aerated Water under the name of Herbert’s Fremantle, WA and supplied hotel-keepers and private families with Soda-water, Lemonade, Ginger Beer and other aerated water. Besides running his hotel businesses, James had a fulfilling life playing cricket and being involved in politics. However, all was to come to a sudden tragic ending one day in September of 1875.

James Herbert commissioned a builder by the name of Jackson to build him a schooner. When it was half built there was a dispute with the builder and work was stopped for about eight years. Then, with Jackson’s three sons, he again took on the job and finished her, but James did not launch her. There was again a dispute and it was the leading hand, Fred Jones, who did the launching or tried to. James predicted she would never see water. He was not quite right, but near enough, as she broke down in the slipway, just as his wife Mary broke a bottle of wine over her and called her the Mary Herbert, after herself. The boat was on the water’s edge for several weeks before they finally got her into deep water, where she was rigged and completed and got ready for her first voyage to Hobart.

Source: The West Australian (Perth WA), 10 April 1841, pg 13; The Herbert’s of Rockingham and Fremantle by Raymond John Herbert jnr.

The Mary Herbert departed on her maiden voyage to Tasmania, on the 12th May 1875 and arrived safely the 1st June. Her first passengers were the Governor’s wife, Lady Weld and her two daughters, the owner, James Herbert, a Mrs Bedloe, Miss Stone and S. Gregg. (Samuel Gregg was the husband of Helen Herbert, James’ daughter). Governor Weld met his wife and they were taken by carriage to Government House for a reception. The passage over was reported as very rough but no ill effects were experienced by the passengers.

On her return journey back to Fremantle, the Mary Herbert stopped by the ports of Melbourne and Adelaide via King George Sound with 6 passengers, Mr and Mrs Hughes and family, Messrs G Oran and Crowdy. On the 31st August 1875, The West Australian newspaper reported: “The Mary Herbert  overdue from Adelaide has not yet turned up.” Then on the 7th September, the same newspaper reports the ship left Albany on the 3rd September for Fremantle at 9.30am.

On the 24th of September, “great anxiety is felt for the fate of the schooner, having left Albany for Fremantle three weeks since and has not yet been heard of. Shortly after she left Albany, heavy Nor-west gales set in, and as she did not run back to Albany it is presumed she has been driven as far eastward as the Bight and possibly the first news of her safety may reach us from South Australia.”

More reports come in that the ship has not been heard of. She has either met with adverse winds and been driven very far to sea, or it is feared something must have happened to her. By October 20, 1875, The Inquirer & Commercial News reports that reluctantly and sorrowfully, we are to accept the conclusion that the vessel has either foundered in a storm or been wrecked on the coast between here and her last reported call, Albany. The Government were asked to lose no time in organising an expedition to search for the missing ship which all told had a dozen human beings on board when she left Albany. November 3, 1875, no tidings have been received of the schooner Mary Herbert, from Adelaide, via King George’s Sound, to Fremantle, reported missing. She has now been fifty-six days at sea; and as the weather was unusually boisterous soon after she left Princess Royal Harbour, the general supposition is that she has foundered and that all on board have perished. Besides her enterprising owner – Mr Herbert – there were several other passengers in the vessel, some of whom had relatives in this colony.

The Resident Magistrate of Vasse, J.S. Harris, wrote on the 17th November 1875 that searches were made along the shore as far as the Gardiner River in search of the wreck of the Mary Herbert – supposed to have been lost between Albany and Port Augusta. Between the debouches of the Donnelly and Warren Rivers, some items were found but were later discounted as not belonging to the missing vessel. However, a year later in November 1876, a police constable travelling between the mouths of the Warren and Donnelly Rivers, found washed up on the beach, a cask of Bass’ ale, a topsail-yard of a schooner of about 100 tons, being about thirty-six feet long, quite sound, and the ironwork upon it complete. The spar probably belonged to the ill-fated Mary Herbert.

Mary Herbert nee Conroy was left a widow on or about the 4th of September 1875. She was noted in the newspapers of the time as attending stalls at Bazaars in aid of Roman Catholic Orphanages. Helping out in this type of work we hope, helped her in her grief. Mary was 86 years old when she died on the 26th December 1910, outliving her son James Albert who was 52 when he died in 1893. Mary is buried in the Fremantle Cemetery, in the area marked as Heritage Trail, Position 0114.

Additional Information regarding the Mary Herbert: Very few figureheads were actually made in Western Australia, and a total of only five are recorded in the ship’s registers from 1856 to 1900. The first was described as “a woman” fitted to the 85ft schooner NEW PERSEVERANCE built in Fremantle in 1857; the next a “man full figure” was fitted to the 90ft brig CHAMPION the following year.  The remaining three were all female figures fitted to the MARY HERBERT in 1875, the IRIS in 1876 and the JANET in 1878.

Source: Maritime Heritage Association Journal, Vol 6, No. 2, June 1995.

Many thanks to my cousin John Herbert for the research you have put together on our Herbert family history. I hope I have done yours and Uncle Ray’s research justice in this latest newsletter.

About Jenny MacKay

Just a person who is looking forward to retirement and enjoying the golden years!
This entry was posted in 52-Ancestors-52-Weeks, Blog, Herbert and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to 52 Ancestors #33 – Non-Population – James Herbert [1820-1875]

  1. Losing family at sea must have been very difficult -waiting and waiting for news. And not to ever knowing the full story. My 3x great grandfather was drowned at sea off Adelaide in his own boat on a fun afternoon sail- but at least his death was known immediatley his body recovered. And we do do learn more from every post… I didn’t know the word “non-population” census either. Most interesting.

    • Jenny MacKay says:

      Imagine not knowing if they would swim ashore, or find their bodies washed up somewhere. I think of this whenever I do a tour of the HMAS Sydney II memorial.

    • Jenny MacKay says:

      And Non-population is a new word for me, but maybe worth looking into sometime. Now to take a break from blogging for a bit. I could have scheduled them, but decided to just let them go as I finished them. Bombarded everyone a bit.

  2. Pingback: 52 Ancestors #34 – Family Legend – John Snook [1818-1887] | jenealogyscrapbook

  3. Jenny MacKay says:

    Thanks Kathy. I realised I was a bit too quick with this one and missed ‘family legend’. Might get time to get that one done and then pack it away for a while. I know I can schedule them, but why not let them go!

  4. tstatton says:

    Another interesting look into your ancestors’ lives. Jenny you have an amazing number of “special” ancestors that have also helped their new country, especially Western Australia, in some way. You certainly make the blogs interesting. Well done.

  5. Eilene Lyon says:

    What a tragic tale. It’s so sad to lose someone at sea in the prime of life.

I hope you enjoyed reading my blog. I'd love to hear your comments.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s