CIC Singleton - 148 Years of History is now available in PDF.
Compiled By Lynne Gray
venture into Australia proved very successful. By the turn of the Century
there were groups throughout NSW, Victoria, Van Diemans Land and South
Australia. Below are short summaries given of the history, the numbers of
members of each group and whether the group is still in existence or not.
Click on the map
of Australia for each State/ Territory, or scroll down:
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License.
The group at Sydney, NSW was the first to be established in Australia. Sydney was the base used for the Traveling Preachers to travel into the inner parts of Australia and tell people of the Church. The first meetings in Sydney were held at the house of one of the members, John Beaumont, in Castlereagh Street, Sydney. Later they would be held in a small meeting room in Pitt Street, Sydney. On John Wroe’s first visit to Australia in 1843 he spent some time in the Sydney – Penrith area.
The early members in Sydney were generally shopkeepers, tailors and businessmen from the central Sydney area.
On 29th January, 1851, David Roberts, Trustee of the Society, wrote to the Colonial Secretary (No. 51/1105 and 51/1799) requesting an allotment of land for the Israelite’s to erect a Sanctuary (Church). The application was rejected on the grounds that the Christian Israelites were not one of the denominations entitled to property under HM’s instructions, and it is not usual to make grants of land for religious purposes to any other than the denominations specially named therein. This decision was based upon Governor Richard Bourke’s Church Act of 1836 wherein precedence was given to no single religious denomination. The Church Act allowed for the clergy’s stipends to be paid and church-building programs subsidized. The government agreed to grant up to 1,000 pounds to match private grants for the erection of churches and to pay a minimum of 100 pounds and up to 200 pounds per annum for the supplementation of stipends. The amount was dependent on the number of adults willing to attend on the man’s ministry. This count of adults was to include convicts and servants, and at least one sixth of the seating of such aided churches was to be reserved free of cost for the poor. After the adoption of Burke’s Church Acts the following were the recognized denominations: The Church of England, the Roman Catholics, the Baptists and Congregationalists and the Presbyterians.
By 1853, a block of land had been acquired. How has not yet been established, but most probably through member donation as was usually the way. A Sanctuary was erected in Campbell Street, Darlinghurst which Sanctuary is still being used today and is under a Heritage order because of its age.
Over time the Sydney group tended to absorb the smaller outer groups, such as Liverpool and Dural. Between 1854 and 1899 the Sydney group had at least 225 members.
Pitt Town, NSW
This group incorporated some of the families of St. Albans and Wilberforce, so it had much the same make up as these other groups – generally farmers, labourers, children of convicts, etc. This group had at least 70 members between 1849 and 1879. This group, as with the other smaller groups, was eventually absorbed into the Sydney group.
Liverpool, Dural, Penrith and Camden, NSW
This group tended to incorporate the following areas with groups in these areas meeting at one of the member’s homes. There is no record of a Sanctuary ever being purchased or erected for this area. Between 1845 and 1846 there were at least 45 members in this area. Gradually, though, with members relocating, this group was absorbed into Sydney and Mittagong. The local preacher responsible for this area was Joseph Holgate. Members in these areas were usually farmers, sawyers or occupations to do with farming, such as harnassmakers, saddlers, etc. This area also had its share of first generation Australians born to convicts. Examples such as Isaac Easterbrook, son of Thomas Easterbrook who had been transported per ‘Prince of Orange’ arriving in 1820 and settling, after his sentence had finished, in the Liverpool, Penrith area and Thomas Frost of Penrith, who was himself transported in 1810 per ‘Indian’. He had been Freed By Servitude to become by 1828 the Constable of the Penrith area. Only in Australia and the US could convicts become Constables. He joined the Christian Israelite Church in December 1844.
Although only small, the group at Wilberforce was active from 1847 to the mid 1850’s. Many of the members of this group moved up the Putty Road to the Patrick Plains area, later to become known as Singleton and started the Christian Israelite Church in that area. Members in this area were farmers and labourers.
The Goulburn group was only ever a small group, with many of these members being absorbed into the larger Mittagong/Berrima group. The Church was active in this area from 1853 – 1867 having at least 20 members whose occupations ranged from Shoemaker to Farmer, Labourer.
Paddys River, NSW
Paddys’ River is near Goulburn in NSW. This group was also in a farming community and was only ever small. The length of time this particular group ran was unique for a small group – from 1851 – 1895. There were at least 35 members of this group and they were generally farmers and carriers. Because of its proximity to Mittagong, this group tended to be absorbed eventually into the Mittagong group.
St. Albans, NSW
Only ever a small group of about 40 members, this group is interesting in who made up this group. There were the children of First Fleeter Anthony Rope and the children of one of Australia’s first free settlers, Richard Rose. Richard and Thomas Rose are credited with being the first free settlers to come to Australia per ‘Bellona’ in 1792. The two brothers settled in the Windsor district eventually, with Thomas becoming the more well known because of his cottage, Rose Cottage, which is on display in Wilberforce, NSW. Richard and his family also settled in Wilberforce and his children were instrumental in taking the Christian Israelite message up the Putty Road to the Patrick Plains area of Singleton – David Gardiner (Travelling Preacher) was married to one of Richard Rose’s daughters.
The history of the Maitland Christian Israelite Church dates back to the mid 1840’s when a Travelling Preacher named Joseph Holgate did mission work in the Hunter Valley area of NSW. There was quite a sizeable property at that time named “Bolwarra” owned by Richard Jones MLC who was a major landholder and Sydney merchant. Richard Jones bought the estate of Bolwarra in 2 lots on 21st September 1833 and 11th July 1845 (total price 3158 pounds). The estate was lost in 1843 due to bankruptcy. It has also been rumoured that Richard Jones was a member of the Christian Israelite Church but I have yet to find evidence of this. It was through Richard Jones that many of the early Maitland Israelite families joined the church for they were tenant farmers on his property.
In 1847 the Australian Trust Company purchased Bolwarra and had 60 tenant farmers working small farms with Mr. F.J. King as the property manager. This Mr. F. J. King would later go into business with Charles Gould (one of the early Maitland Israelites) and move to Singleton to start a Timber milling business together.
The members of the Maitland group were made up of Farmers and Shopkeepers from the Maitland area. Many of the families were also heavily involved in music with 2 families having music and piano tuning businesses.
At its peak between 1854 and 1899 the Christian Israelite church at Maitland had upward of 200 members. The last member of the group at Maitland died in 1943 (Elias Paskins).
Meetings for the group were held in the form of “Camp Meetings” - “Camp Meetings” were a feature of the Primitive Methodists and other revivalist groups as well - on the old Pitnacree Road to Bolwarra/Largs – the property is now owned by Lyle Paterson and is the last on the right hand side on Pitnacree Road heading from East Maitland
Grahams Town, NSW
Grahams Town (sic) or Grahamstown, is located near Gloucester in NSW. This group was particularly active from 1862 – 1863 having at least 25 members. Occupations of member in this rural area was farming and labouring. This group was eventually absorbed into the Maitland Christian Israelite group.
Cockfighters Creek near Wollombi, NSW
Cockfighters Creek group in 1857 numbered 15 members who all signed between 4th July 1857 and 23rd August, 1857. David Gardiner, Travelling Preacher originally from St. Albans was the preacher responsible for these Hunter Valley conversions. This was another area that John Wroe did not visit. This group would later be absorbed into the Singleton group.
CIC Singleton - 148 Years of History:
The first members were gathered in Singleton around the year 1858. David Gardiner, a member from St. Albans near Windsor, traveled as a Travelling Preacher up to the Singleton area (obviously utilizing the Putty Road route) and moved to the Singleton district starting the Christian Israelite Church in this area. His preaching must have been very effective for groups of believers were found in Singleton, Wiley’s Flat and Cockfighters Creek, as well as a few from Wollombi. By July of 1858 the Cockfighter’s Creek and Wiley’s Flat groups had 32 members. David Gardiner was corresponding from Singleton to John Wroe in December 1859 and the number of members given was 26.
Originally meetings would have been held in the houses of members and records of these meetings are recorded in the local Minute Book as having been held in a home in Hunter Street, Singleton, this building was later made into the early Primary School which some early members attended. The only advertisement found regarding the original Christian Israelite Church in Singleton was found in “The Singleton Times” of December, 1862.
Opening of the Christian Israelite Sanctuary,
THIS PLACE of WORSHIP will be opened for DIVINE SERVICE on SUNDAY, December 28th, 1862, at half-past 7 o’clock pm. When a SERMON will be preached by WILLIAM BULLEY, preacher from Melbourne.
Subscribers and all others are invited to attend.
Sermons will also be preached on CHRISTMAS DAY, by DAVID GARDINER, and WILLIAM BULLEY, at the New Bridge.
Service to commence at 4 o’clock pm.
Unfortunately there are no records, public or private, to show where this original Sanctuary existed. The Municipal Rate Book of 1866 lists an Israelite Chapel as standing next door to the block of land owned by Charles Gould. It is generally believed that the original church was part of the house of Mr. Charles Gould. This is also supported by the added allotment given by Charles Gould to the church in 1894.
Singleton Christian Israelite Church sustained constant growth in the 19th Century. Members occupations ranged from those associated with a Timber Mill, to shop proprietors, farmers and labourers.
Wiley’s Flat, NSW
Wiley’s Flat was a small farming community located just outside of Singleton. Today it is known as Gouldsville. There was a small community of Christian Israelites here from 1857 onwards. From 1857 – 1860 the group numbered 15 members. The members of this group were farmers. This group at Wiley’s Flat would be absorbed into the Singleton Body by the 1880’s.
The Christian Israelite Church at Mittagong, NSW was active from 1851 through to around 1930. The group had at least 120 members between 1851 and 1899. Members occupations were generally farmers, labourers and shopkeepers. Mittagong absorbed many of those in outlying areas such as Goulburn, Berrima, Bong Bong, and Paddy’s River.
Kempsey group evolved as a direct effort of Traveling Preachers, particularly Walter Gould from Singleton. Walter Gould opened up a music shop in Kempsey in the early 1880’s and also conducted open-air preaching whilst in Kempsey. From 1882 onwards the signing books show a steady but not enormous membership. Between 1882 and 1899 this group had 14 members.
A room in the residence above the shop was set aside for Christian Israelite services until the late 1960’s when a new church was erected for the use of the members. The Church still owns this property, but at present it is being let to another group who use it to hold regular services.
Melbourne – Collingwood and Fitzroy, Victoria
The first church was erected and finished in Collingwood, Melbourne prior to John Wroe’s 2nd mission trip in 1850. He stated on 12th December, 1850 that “there is another synagogue built and completed at Melbourne”. Where this Church was hasn’t been uncovered as yet, but the Church did not stay here for in 1863 a new Sanctuary was built from local blue-stone in Fitzroy. As with Sydney Christian Israelite Church, the Melbourne Church is also heritage listed.
The “Melbourne Argus” reported the following in 1850:
“A higher honour has been conferred on Victoria than any other British colony can boast of, viz., the visit of a real prophet, John Wroe, the founder of the sect known as the Israelites, who arrived by the ship ‘Digby’ last Friday, having in one of those visions by which the Spirit is pleased to hold communication with him, been directed to undertake a mission to Victoria, Van Diemans Land, Sydney, and a particular part of China, at which latter place he is to remain until further ordered how and where to direct his steps. The prophet states that the Australian colonies will occupy a distinguished position in opening up the way for the gathering of the elect on the advent millennium, and that in this great work the colony of Victoria will be beyond all the others pre-eminently conspicuous; but before any attempts can be successfully made, the Australian group of colonies must be formed into seven distinct and separate governments, which are in process of time to become united, and then the struggle will be commenced which is destined to end so gloriously. The prophet was born at Bradford in Yorkshire in 1782, and must therefore be sixty-eight years of age. Two Catholic priests were among his fellow passengers in the ‘Digby’, and not withstanding the wide difference in the religious opinions, it is said the greatest cordiality and good feeling existed between them. He was to have occupied the preaching ground of Mr. Cartwright, near the courthouse on Sunday afternoon, but the rain prevented him from carrying that arrangement into effect. However, he preached twice in the tabernacle at Collingwood to select and attentive congregations”.
As with Singleton, one member, John Perry opened a large coach building factory in Fitzroy and became the major employer of Church members in the Melbourne area. He was a Church elder, officer and major employer of a lot of Church members. Many of the members were tradesmen (eg. Portmanteau maker, French polishers, etc.) all trades necessary for the intricate art of coach building.
Always one of the largest of the Christian Israelite Church groups, between 1854 and 1899 the Melbourne group had at least 560 members. The Melbourne Christian Israelite Church still survives today and now is the Church Headquarters.
Geelong boasted a large Christian Israelite group – more than 220 members between 1854 and 1873. John visited this centre on a few occasions.
Mention was found of the Israelites of Geelong in a biography of a citizen of Geelong, Mr. Mudd, states:
“During the last half of 1853 I was sent to school at Ashby, a suburb of Geelong. My father took me on 2 occasions to hear an old Christian Israelite named Stoneham preach in the open air, once in the Market Square where the subject was the Judgment, and one in another part of town where they sang ‘There is a Happy Land’”.
By 1873, the Geelong group had no more members sign, and eventually the group folded or was absorbed into Melbourne Christian Israelite group.
The Travelling Preacher’s met with quite a successful mission with regards Ballarat. Between 1854 and 1890 more than 50 people signed to be members of the Christian Israelite Church in Ballarat. A sanctuary or meeting room is mentioned at Ballarat as early as 1859, location unknown. This most probably was in the form of a home-church, or someone setting aside a room in their residence for Church use.
Adelaide, South Australia
Only ever a small group of about 20 members, the Adelaide group did survive longer than the Gawler Town group. John Wroe did not visit Adelaide or Gawler Town in his visits to Australia. Many of the members that signed at Adelaide did eventually move to Melbourne and joined the group there.
Adelaide group, though, did come under the national spotlight with the advent amongst the Adelaide community of a bushranger who went by the name of “Captain Thunderbolt”. This bushranger was the son of one of the members at Gawler Town, John Kerney, with his brother David Kerney, Thomas Field (fellow Christian Israelite member from Gawler Town) and various other associates.
John and David Kerney, in company with Thomas Field (from Gawler Town who was staying with the family) committed an armed holdup. John Kerney called himself Captain Thunderbolt. They attempted to involve the group in cattle stealing and later robbery. Thomas Field organized for John Kerney to steal Thomas Field’s boss’(Mr. Edward Warhurst’s) gun. The group committed together at least one armed hold up against Ann Taylor at Payneham on 20th May 1866 at Adelaide. By late October 1866 the police had caught John Kerney with his brother David. and a few days later they apprehended Thomas at Strathalbyn. They were charged in the police court and held in Adelaide gaol. All pleaded guilty and all prisoners received the death sentence. This was later commuted to life imprisonment with hard labour.
The effect on the small Adelaide community can only be imagined. We find this entry in the Adelaide Advertiser from a person with the surname of Field, “Thomas Field…is no son of mine, nor any relation whatever…there are no less than six or seven different families of the Fields in the colony, two of whom are amongst our aristocrats, viz. the late Captain Field, of Yankalilla, and Henry Field, Es1, squatter on the Daerling.”
In the Adelaide Police Court Register of Prisoners for 8th November, 1866, both David and John Kerney are listed as Christian Israelites.
The Adelaide group’s last member signed in 1887, after this the group gradually faded away completely.
Gawler Town, South Australia
The Christian Israelite Church in Gawler Town had its first members sign in 1859 and last members sign in 1870. Although shortlived, the group numbered at least 21 people.
On 20th December 1853, John Wroe, with John Cartwright accompanying him went to Gawler Town and had tea with member Thomas Francis (his son William Francis had picked John Wroe and John Cartwright up from the port). John Wroe refers to the fact, at this visit, that “You having built a sanctuary, it appears God has been with you”, so we know the Sanctuary in Gawler Town existed in December 1853.
This member, Thomas Francis, had annexed a portion of his land off to be used as a Sanctuary for the “12 Tribes of Israel”. On his death and in his Will proved 25th April, 1856 he left the property to the 12 Tribes of Israel.. This property was located east of High Street in Gawler Town and owned by the Fields’ family. In rates assessment notices the property where the Fields’ lived is referred to as “Old Tabernacle, East of High Street in East Ward. Northern portion from the northwestern corner along High Street is called Sanctuary of the Israelites”. There is no listing at Gawler Public Library for a registered sanctuary, but this is not unusual.
From Adelaide on 15th November, 1859, John Kerney, trustee of Adelaide wrote to John Wroe asking what was to become of the Gawler Town sanctuary, as it had fallen into a state of ruin and there were no members left there to take care of the property who lived close. He was instructed that the Trustees of the church would organize the sale of the property and the money deposited into the Church account so it may be there until a new sanctuary is required. Many of Gawler Town’s members moved to Adelaide and later Melbourne, Victoria but remained members of the Christian Israelite Church.
Gawler Town shared the same social problems as other groups. We read that during John Wroe’s visit to Gawler Town in 1853 a member, Robert Cason, approached him with an enquiry. Apparently he had been in the colonies about 33 years (arriving c 1820) and that “he was married at home before he left, and that his wife was alive yet for what he knew; and that he had married another woman who was then present, and she had borne unto him 4 children, but when they married, they had no knowledge of this work”. This was not an uncommon problem, most especially amongst those who had arrived in the country as convicts.
Members of this small group were not without their problems. The most notable problem was that of the rise of the bushranger ‘Captain Thunderbolt’ being a Christian Israelite Church member. Thomas Field mentioned below, was involved in a robbery with Captain Thunderbolt and his brother from Adelaide group. See Adelaide for further details.
Many of the members from Gawler Town moved to Melbourne and were absorbed into the Melbourne Christian Israelite group, so their association didn’t cease, just relocated.
Tasmania (Van Diemans Land)
Hobart, Van Diemans Land/Tasmania
John Wroe visited Hobart Town on a number of occasions. His first visit there was 10th September, 1850 when he visited Hobart Town and Little Scotland with John Stoneham before sailing for Collingwood, VIC. John Wroe and his preachers met with some success in Tasmania. Most of the members were farmers and tradesmen.
Between 1854 and 1879 Hobart had at least 40 members, with the group ceasing to exist by the turn of the century. Many of the members had moved to the mainland and taken up as members of the Melbourne group.
Launceston, Van Diemans Land/Tasmania
This group was active from 1853 through to 1889 and had at least 40 members. Smaller groups (house churches) were also located in Little Scotland, Three Hut Point, Devonport and along the Franklin River, all in Tasmania. By the late 1800’s though there were no Christian Israelites left in Tasmania with many of them moving to Victoria and attending the Christian Israelite Church in Fitzroy, Victoria.