Freotopia > people >

Abraham Moise Josephson

Abraham Moise Josephson, born 1830/1 in Kaunas, a Hanseatic port, in Lithuania, was transported for forgery, arriving on the Lord Dalhousie in 1863: he had been found with money moulds in his possession. He was released on a ticket of leave in 1864, and was allowed to work for himself, completing his sentence in 1868.

In 1868, he was the keeper of a small shop ('Jew's Corner') on the northwest corner of Market and High Streets on what is now the National Hotel site.

The site was originally* occupied by a single storey shop in 1868 which was run in 1869 by Abraham Moise Josephson, who was later a successful pearl merchant. He was involved in the establishment of the Synagogue. [*Not so. The Duffield family had a general store there from some time after 1832 until 1867.]

Hitchcock 1919:
On the corner of High and Market streets was a diminutive shop kept by A.M. Josephson, who commenced as an itinerant pedlar of haberdashery, etc., and afterwards made a lot of money in buying and selling pearls. Eventually he became a very wealthy man, and died in England some years ago.

Josephson owned the Park Hotel (in Parry Street opposite Fremantle Park on the corner of Ellen Street) which was designed for him in 1893 by J.J. Talbot Hobbs who also extended it four years later, doubling the hotel and its Parry Street frontage in size.

He lived in a de facto relationship with his housekeeper, Elizabeth Downes, from the mid-1870s. She had an illegitimate daughter, Martha Downes, born 1870, who married Alfred Maywood. One of Elizabeth's half-sisters was the partner (wife?) of John McCleery. Abraham and Betsy were able to marry in 1896, after the death of his first wife.

There is a Josephson Street leading from High Street to Ellen Street: it is named for AMJ, who built a row of three-storeyed houses in that street. When Josephson died in Hastings in 1907 it was found that he had bequeathed a diamond ring, diamond pin, and diamond sleeve-links to John McCleery. In the 1893 Post Office Directory, McCleery's ('merchant') office was in Cliff Street near the southeast corner with High Street (next to the NSW Bank), while Josephson's ('pearl merchant') was right next door.

Baker Street was originally named Leah Street after his second daughter by Josephson and John McCleery, Fremantle merchants who purchased Fremantle Lots 828, 829, 830, 23 March 1886, and subdivided them to create many smaller lots. Leah Street was created to provide road access to the new properties that were sold between 1886 and 1891. The name was changed from Leah to Baker in 1908/09. Josephson and McCleery both have streets named after them.

Martha Street, Beaconsfield, was probably named for Josephson's eldest daughter (actually stepdaughter). His youngest daughter, Naomi, gave her name to Naomi Lane, which runs off Josephson Street. Naomi married Sir Walter James in London, and came back to WA in 1922.

Josephson's large house was at 71 Beach Street (where there is now a large woolstore) with a garden running down to the river, not far the C.Y. O'Connor's last residence.

Josephson, of McCleery & Josephson, who was said to be a Jew of high birth exiled from Russia for political reasons, built a row of three-storeyed houses in [Josephson] street. In the very early days he kept a shop where the National Hotel now stands, but latterly his place of business was in Cliff Street.
The firm of McCleery & Josephson was in existence in the nineties as general merchants in premises which are still standing next door to the old New South Wales building in Cliff Street. John McCleery, who was the son of a Belfast surgeon and died in 1911, owned land near the street named after him in Beaconsfield.

The next person is Abraham Moyce [sic] Josephson, and of course we have a Josephson Street which comes off High Street, beyond Market and just before Parry. He was a well known business man and a keen Freemason, which was very important in those days. He made bed ends. The story is that there was a ship which came into Fremantle with a cargo of material used for making mattresses. The cargo had caught alight and someone suggested to Josephson it would be a smart idea if he bought it as it was going for a song. He was making beds, why not the jute to make mattresses? And I believe that was the start of Joyce Bros, the well-known West Australian bedding manufacturers. So Mr Josephson was another early personality. Silbert 1999: 81.

JOSEPHSON, Abraham M. b. 1830 (Russia), d. 1904/5 (Paris) (expiree), arr. 28.12.1862 per Lord Dalhousie, m. 1890 Elizabeth DOWNES b . 12.8.1851 d. c.1897, dtr. of William & Martha. Chd. Naomi, & 1 dtr. Frem. storekeeper &general dealer 1869-, owning considerable property in Frem. & Perth. He employed 2 T/L men 1868 & 1869 one a carpenter. Pt. owner of Twilight wrecked on South Coast 2.10.1876 while on business of delivering telegraph equipment. He voyaged to Europe 6. 12.1878 returning 17.3.1880. To Venice 7.8.1882 & returned 27.3.1883. To Sydney 24.3.1898 & returned to WA 10.12.1900. He took his family to Paris. After his death there [no; he died in Hastings] his 2 dtrs. returned to WA.

The Late A. M. Josephson's Will

Probate bas been granted of the will of the late Abraham Moise Josephson, formerly of Fremantle, who died at Hastings, in England, on December 13, 1907. The net value of the deceased's estate has been sworn at £21,026 4s. 3d. It consists almost entirely of Perth and Fremantle town property, the realty alone amounting to £20,310.
He leaves a diamond ring, diamond pin, and diamond sleeve-links to Mr. John McCleery, of Fremantle. A number of legacies are provided for certain relatives for distribution among London charities. All his personal and household effects he leaves for division in equal shares between his daughters Naomi and Leah. After the realisation of his personal and real estate (other than the premises at Perth leased to Messrs. Goode, Durrant and Co., and the Park Hotel premises at Fremantle, leased to the Swan Brewery Co.); the balance is is to be divided into four equal parts and one part paid to each of the following: His brother, Lazarus Josephson; his sister, Annie Josephson; his niece, Zisley Josephson; and Rachel Friedland.
The residue of the estate is to be held by the trustee (Sir Walter James), who is to pay each of the daughters £6 a week, the balance of the annual income to be placed to a suspense account to which repairs and improvements will be debited, and the remainder (if any) divided between the daughters. The testator concludes with an earnest wish that his daughters will marry husbands of the Jewish faith. Sunday Times, Sunday 1 March 1908, page 13.

A Heritage Council page shows Josephson owning a duplex pair at 22-24 Suffolk Street.

References and Links

Mossenson, David 1990, Hebrew, Israelite, Jew, UWA Press.

Caldwell, Kate 1931, 'Fremantle street names'Early Days, vol. 1, part 9: 45-57.

Silbert, Eric 1999, 'Jewish personalities of Fremantle', Fremantle Studies, 1: 77-91.

"A. M. Josephson". Fremantle Times. 4 April 1919. Quoted in the Fremantle Library local history collection, ref. 728.5 National Hotel (M).

Fremantle Shipping News article and podcast with John Marsden, great-grandson of Abraham Josephson, source of the two photographs above, and some of the information.

Garry Gillard | New: 23 November, 2014 | Now: 11 November, 2023