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Eaton, Robert

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Fast Facts
Type of person Individual
Date of birth 1841
Place of birth Coppingford, Huntingdonshire, England
Date of arrival 1853
Principal occupation Labourer, carrier and farmer
Date of departure 1888
Date of death 1930
Place of decease Warracknabeal, Victoria

Robert Eaton was born on 8 May 1841 at Coppingford, Huntingdonshire, England. He was the son of John Eaton (1816-1899) and Elizabeth Gale (1817-1890). On 13 July 1853, twelve year old Robert, his ten year old sister, Sarah Anne, and their parents arrived in South Australia aboard William Stewart from Southampton. The family settled at Willunga. Robert became a labourer, carrier and farmer, first at Willunga and later at Warracknabeal in Victoria. He was Wesleyan Methodist.

Robert worked as an agricultural labourer for farmer Joseph Allen of Aldinga for about three years (1858-1860). At the age of 20, he gave evidence as a witness in a case, held in the Supreme Court (Civil side) in June 1861, for seduction against his former employer. At that time he was described as a ”youth employed at the slate quarries, Willunga” and may already have been working for his future step-father-in-law, Sampson Bastian junior. In 1863 he was fined under the Roads Act for not having control of a bullock dray in Morphett Vale.

Robert, aged 23 years, married Mary Jane Dawe (1847-1910), aged 17 years, on 6 November 1864 at the residence of her brother, William Henry Dawe in Adelaide. Mary Jane was the only daughter of William Dawe (1814-1850) and Mary Anne (nee Gregory) (1816-1889) and the step-daughter of Sampson Bastian junior. Robert and Mary Jane Eaton eventually had 14 children, including two who died young:

  • Mary Ann Elizabeth (1864-1865) was born and died as an infant aged 3 months at Willunga. She is buried in the Wesleyan Methodist (Uniting) Cemetery, Willunga.
  • William (1866-1867) was born and died as an infant aged 1 at Willunga. He is buried at Willunga.
  • Annie May (1868-1923) was born at Willunga and baptised in March 1876. She married Moses Male (1864-1938) on 11 October 1891 at Lah in Victoria. Annie died at Warracknabeal, Victoria.
  • John (Jack) (1870-1947) was born at Willunga and married Phoebe Carter (1875- ) in Victoria in 1894. He died at Ballarat, Victoria.
  • Clara (1872-1950) was born at Willunga and married Robert James Mahon Reynolds (1881-1962) on 21 August 1907 at Lah in Victoria. She died at Warracknabeal, Victoria.
  • Catherine (1874-1956) was born at Willunga and married Arthur Marshman (1865-1947) on 2 March 1893 at Lah, Victoria. She died at Leongatha, Victoria.
  • Ada Rose (1876-1959) was born at Willunga and died at Brighton, Victoria.
  • Robert Gregory (1877-1948) was born at Willunga and married Kathleen Agnes Miller (1904-1954) on 23 March 1932 at Footscray, Victoria. He died at Melbourne in Victoria.
  • William Henry (1879-1957) was born at Willunga and married Myra Elizabeth Hatcher (1879-1973) on 12 October 1905 at Goyura, Victoria. He died at Geelong, Victoria.
  • Maryann (1881-1960) was born at Willunga and married Hugh Alexander McVicker (1869-1925) on 21 September 1904 at Lah, Victoria. They had 6 children. Maryann died at Leeton, NSW.
  • Elizabeth Ruth (1882-1963) was born at Willunga and married Robert Leonard Ewing (1868-1946) on 25 March 1903 at Lah, Victoria. They had six children. She died at Colac, Victoria.
  • Nina (1884-1942) was born at Willunga and married Robert Benjamin Alendale Hatcher (1882-1932) on 26 March 1920 at Warracknabeal, Victoria. She died at Warracknabeal.
  • Bertha (1885-1983) was born at Willunga and married Adam Lindsay Featherby (1888-1964) on 8 June 1921 at Warracknabeal, Victoria. She died at Warracknabeal,
  • Joseph Alfred (1888-1955) was born at Warracknabeal, Victoria and married Doris May Dunn (1902-1976) on 23 March 1921 at Donald, Victoria. He died at Queenscliff, Victoria.

The Eaton family were resident in Willunga for more than 20 years, from 1864 until 1888, and thirteen of their children were born there. From the late 1860s, Robert paid rates on Willunga township allotments, perhaps lots 14, 15 & 16 in St. Peters Terrace. From 1870, Robert Eaton paid rates on 60 acres and a house in section 257, probably being the house at 9 Methodist St. From 1880 he also paid rates on 80 acres and a house in the adjoining section 256. In September 1882, Robert Eaton purchased 9 Methodist St from his step-father-in-law, Sampson Bastian junior.

In July 1887, Robert Eaton was refused land by the Nhill Land Board. By September 1888, he had moved with his family to Lah near Warracknabeal in Victoria when Robert Eaton and Robert Dawe (his wife’s uncle) jointly took over the lease of a 3.5 square mile mallee allotment in the county of Borung. They became successful farmers.

Mary Jane Eaton, aged 63 years, died from “an affliction of the liver” on 5 March 1910. Robert Eaton, aged 77 years, retired in 1918 to live in Warracknabeal where he died on 6 April 1930, aged 88 years. He left more than £7,000 to his children and there is a glowing obituary for him in The Warracknabeal Herald of 8 April 1930.


  • Passengers in History Database – South Australian Maritime Museum
  • South Australian Births – Index of Registrations 1842-1906
  • South Australian Marriages – Index of Registrations 1842-1937
  • South Australian Deaths – Index of Registrations 1842-1972
  • Ratepayer List Willunga & Aldinga Councils 1850-1888
  • South Australian Register 11 June 1861:3
  • South Australian Advertiser 11 June 1861:3
  • South Australian Register 25 Sept 1863:3
  • Evening Journal 17 May 1873:1
  • The Horsham Times 11 Mar 1910:5
  • The Warracknabeal Herald 13 Oct 1916:4
  • The Warracknabeal Herald 8 April 1930
  • The Horsham Times 11 April 1930:3
  • The Horsham Times 8 July 1930:4

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