Henry left his mark as alderman, businessman
Henry Mathewson, an early pioneer of Deniliquin, was one of the first six aldermen to be elected to the inaugural Deniliquin Council in 1869 and was also an Elder of the Presbyterian Church. His descendants still live in Deniliquin today. Henry died in 1906 aged 86 years, having lived in Deniliquin for 50 years. Forty cars and six horsemen attended his funeral. Henry and other family members are buried in the Deniliquin General Cemetery. The following was contributed by Dot Mathewson (nee Adlam), who was married to Henry’s great grandson Andrew and has lived in Deniliquin all of her life. Dot put this piece together as a tribute to her family, but also in recognition of 150 years since Deniliquin was gazetted as a township and the following year an elected council installed.
When Henry Mathewson and his wife Christian (nee Black) and three children — James, Andrew and Christian — left their hometown Anstruther Easter, Scotland and sailed on the ‘Champion of the Seas’ (unassisted passage) in 1855 to Port Melbourne, little did they know of the hardships to follow.
What made Henry decide to come to Deniliquin is uncertain — Deniliquin was a major stock route, so this may have had something to do with it. They spent three months travelling by bullock and dray arriving in 1856.
Henry was a butcher and baker by trade. His brother-in-law William Black, who was apprenticed to Henry in Scotland, followed him to Australia. Henry later made William a partner in his business and he was with Henry for 44 years.
Henry ran a successful business and he and Christian had two more children after coming to Deniliquin but times were hard and after only 10 years in Australia, Christian died aged 45 years leaving Henry with a young family and a business to run.
Henry became involved in local affairs and in 1868 an attempt was made to break the monopoly of John Taylor on the butchering business; he also had a big influence on the town.
The Joint Stock Butchering & Baking Co Ltd was formed, and the following is a quote from the Pastoral Times:
‘‘(the business) is now managed by Mr Henry Mathewson, so long and favourably known in Deniliquin and the Directors hope that a steady unwavering support will be given to the Company, as the greater the sale the lower the price will be of Bread and Meat’’.
On December 19, 1868, Deniliquin was gazetted a municipality.
On January 30, 1869, Henry Mathewson was asked to sit on Council.
The first Municipality Election was held on February 23, 1869. Henry was one of the first six aldermen elected out of 18 candidates. Mr James Watson was the first Mayor. It was quoted in the Pastoral Times at the time: ‘‘We owe a lot to these Pioneer Aldermen who laid the Foundations for Local Government in Deniliquin.’’
In 1876 the Butcher Shop, along with other shops in the street, were destroyed by fire. Henry reopened his shop on the other side of Napier Street.
It was during this year that his daughter Christian (who married George Hunter) died aged 24 and his little granddaughter Annie (21⁄ years old) from the Diphtheria Epi2 demic at that time.
Henry obviously rode through these troubled times.
After suffering ill health for some years, Henry died in 1906 aged 86.
The following obituary featured in The Independent newspaper dated April 20, 1906:
‘‘After an illness extending over a long period, Mr Henry Mathewson died early on Easter Monday morning. Deceased had been a resident of this Town for close upon half a century of years and up to about 15 years ago carried on a successful Butchering Business in conjunction with the late Mr W Black. In the early days he was a good friend to many, but misfortune overtook him in his old days and he was compelled to seek the charity which he had bestowed upon others in his good days. The Funeral took place on Monday afternoon, the Rev. WD Fairburn officiating at the Graveside.’’
The Butchering Business was carried on by Henry’s son Andrew B Mathewson who married May Bell Irving. Her father TC Irving owned ‘Tuppal Park’, Deniliquin (purchased 1873 - part of ‘Mundiwa’). May and Andrew had eight children.
It was during the early 1930s and Great Depression that Andrew and his wife May retired and went to Melbourne, leaving their son Phillip to carry on the Butchering Business.
In 1937 Phillip decided to sell the Butcher Shop to Butcher & Sons of Deniliquin and in 1938 Phillip and his family went to Melbourne to live.
During his lifetime Henry and his family owned land and property around Deniliquin but lost it all during the hardship and suffering of the 1930s.
Henry’s great grandson Andrew B Mathewson (known as Andy) was 12 years old when he went to Melbourne with his father. He finished schooling and started work at 14 and enlisted in the Army at 18. After four years — two years being spent in Japan (after the dropping of the Bomb) — he returned to Deniliquin to live. He got work and played football with the Deniliquin ‘Blue & Golds’ and the West Football Club.
Andy met local girl Dorothy (Dot) Adlam and they married and had two children — Faye and Gregory — and Andy had his own freight or carrying business for the next 30 years.
Andy passed away in 2001 at the age of 75 years.
Dot and Greg and Greg’s wife Julie and their daughters, Georgie and Grace, still live in Deniliquin. There are other Mathewsons who are Henry’s descendants living in Deniliquin.
After 162 years, Henry’s descendants still live in Deniliquin.
This photo of Mathewsons butcher shop was taken in 1936. It features one of Henry’s descendants William ‘Bill’ Mathewson (second from left) and Brenda Helsby who worked as an ‘office girl’ at the shop. The man on the far left is unknown.
■ Deniliquin’s Dot Mathewson with the history piece she put together on her husband’s great grandfather Henry Mathewson.