Family history: the story of the founder of Port Adelaide: David Bower of Saddleworth

THE Examiner is preparing to move its base to Bradley. In so doing, its archives are being reassessed for their usefulness.

Family history: the story of the founder of Port Adelaide: David Bower of Saddleworth

THE Examiner is preparing to move its base to Bradley. In so doing, its archives are being reassessed for their usefulness.

In and among the casualties, there are gems of discovery.

We have, for instance, discovered a booklet first printed in 1987 by ‘Old West Riding Books’, an imprint edited by local historian George Redmonds.

Essentially it follows the life and times of David Bower, of Saddleworth, who is widely acknowledged as the founder of Port Adelaide, just a spit from Australia’s fifth largest city and the capital of South Australia.

David was born at Upper Mill on April 11, 1819.

By eight he was working in a mill and was bound as an apprentice at 15 at Dobcross to learn machine making.

A part of the family lived at Upperthong in the Holme Valley.

And George records that both sides of David’s family appear to have been established for centuries in the Holmfirth area.

The apprenticeship didn’t suit David and he set off on the road, taking jobs as he went.

After a somewhat depressing tour of Tyneside and the Borders he returned to Saddleworth, waved everyone goodbye, and took a £3 ticket on a steamer bound for Melbourne.

He’d had the forethought to pack a small number of carpentry tools and put them to good use in his first Australian and New Zealand jobs.

A fellow Dobcross man, James Masters, had set up in Port Adelaide and David sought him out, taking out building contracts.

“I had not been here long before I employed a number of men and I also commenced to take an interest in the welfare of the place,” David crucially reports in his memoirs.

It’s not specifically said, but he was an astute businessman and made a fortune in his various construction and land deals.

He was appointed an alderman and became very prosperous, returning to England and then travelling the world before setting up in some pomp in Port Adelaide, financing and founding mechanics’ institutes and numerous other public and private buildings – schools, an art gallery, the courthouse, hospitals and Port Adelaide railway station among them – and was finally elected to the Australian Parliament in 1874 where he stayed until retirement in 1887.

He died in 1898.

 
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