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National Trust Willunga branch.

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National Trust of South Australia


Watters, Mary Ann (née Holman, formerly Thomas)

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Fast Facts
Type of person Individual
Date of birth 1829
Place of birth Perranzabuloe near Crowan, Cornwall, England
Date of arrival 1851
Principal occupation Publican, wife and mother
Date of death 1904
Place of decease McLaren Vale

Mary Ann Holman was born on 25 April 1829 at Perranzabuloe near Crowan in Cornwall. She was baptized at Crowan on 17 May 1829. Mary Ann was the daughter of Francis Holman (1795-1861) and Elizabeth Sleeman Pearce (1803-1873).

Mary, aged 20 years, married 23 year old William Tyrick Thomas (1826-1855) in January 1849 in Redruth, Cornwall. They had three children:

  • Elizabeth Pearce (1849-1912) was born in Devon. She married William Waye (1847-1878) on 15 July 1868 at the residence of her mother, Mary Watters, in Willunga. They had five children. Elizabeth died at McLaren Vale.
  • William Wilfred (1852-1900) was born in Adelaide. He married Mary (Catherine) Kolges (1864-1957) on 20 January 1882 at Hillston, NSW. They had four children. William died at Granville, NSW.
  • Mary (1853-1932) was born in Adelaide. She married Martin Owen Vallentine (1838-1907) on 6 November 1871 at the residence of William Waye, Willunga. They had four children. Mary died at Adelaide.

William (24), Mary (22) and their infant daughter, Elizabeth (2), emigrated to South Australia aboard Marion. Near the end of the voyage, on 2 August 1851, the ship ran ashore on the Troubridge shoals and the passengers had to be rescued.

On arrival, William was described as a miner but, by 1853, he had received a land grant and was farming on section 260, located to the west of the Willunga township. Unfortunately, he employed a farm hand, called William Smith, who slept in their kitchen. Smith stabbed 29 year old William Thomas to death in a drunken rage on 24 January 1855. Smith was captured, tried and convicted of manslaughter. He was sentenced to penal servitude for the rest of his natural life but, with credits, he served only ten years.

A short time after William’s death, 26 year old Mary remarried, to her cousin, 31 year old William Watters junior (1824-1879), on 12 July 1855 at the Pirie Street Chapel, Adelaide. William also had been born at Crowan in Cornwall and was the second son of William Watters senior and Lenora Holman who was also Mary’s aunt. William’s father was also one of her first husband, William Thomas’, executors. Mary became pregnant shortly after the marriage and gave birth to twin girls, Johanna and Sally, in early 1856. Unfortunately, both babies died within 3 months of their birth. Mary and William Watters had one more child, William, who also did not survive his first year:

  • Johanna (1856-1856) was born and died at Willunga.
  • Sally (1856-1856) was born and died at Willunga.
  • William (1857-1858) was born and died at Willunga.

William Watters left Willunga to go to the Victorian gold fields in 1857. He never returned and he is thought to have died near Castlemaine, Victoria in 1879.

Deserted by her second husband, Mary took up the publican’s licence at the Cornwall Inn and held it from 1875 to 1879. However, her request to renew the licence in 1879 was rejected on the grounds of lack of accommodation.

Mary died at her daughter, Elizabeth’s, home in McLaren Vale on June 7, 1904 and was buried in the Wesleyan Methodist (Uniting) Church Cemetery in Willunga.


  • 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 27 Jan 1855:3
  • South Australian Register 21 March 1855:3
  • Adelaide Observer 24 Nov 1855:8
  • Adelaide Times 5 March 1856:3
  • South Australian Chronicle and Weekly Mail 17 March 1879:8

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