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John Stokes

John Stokes, a farmer, was the first European to marry an Aboriginal person.

The earliest recorded marriage between an Aboriginal woman and a European settler was that of Eliza Wobart and carpenter John Stokes, celebrated by Rev. John Smithies in 1845. Eliza was one of the first girls to be admitted to the Wesleyan school for Aboriginal children in Perth in 1840, and was also amongst the first converts to Christianity for Smithies and his wife.
In 1845 the Wesleyan school was moved to a farming block at Wanneroo, where it was planned to run a self-supporting mission establishment with adult Aborigines as well as children. Eliza accompanied the move to the Wanneroo mission farm, and there she met Stokes who was acting as overseer. The couple fell in love and were married the same year. On their marriage, Eliza’s friend Symmons requested a land allotment for the couple, to be in Eliza’s name as a surety against the future. Eliza had learnt to read and write while at school, and so she was able to teach these skills to her husband, who was illiterate.
Unhappily, the marriage came to a premature and tragic end in 1850, when Eliza suddenly took ill and died. The couple had had two children, and they died soon after their mother, leaving Stokes without heirs. Stokes and his two sisters were deeply affected by the family’s misfortune, and it was several years before he recovered from his grief and remarried, this time to a European woman.
John's second marriage was to Jane Rowland in 1852 in Perth. They had nine children over 22 years.
John employed about eight Ticket of Leave men at Perth 1853-1857 and about nine Ticket of Leave men at Greenough 1855-1871 where he farmed. Tilbrook: 35.

Inquirer and Commercial News, Wednesday 18 April 1877, page 3:
Death of Mr. John Stokes. — We regret to learn of the sudden death of Mr. John Stokes, which occurred on Thursday last. Mr. Stokes was one of the oldest and most respected settlers on the Greenough Flats. The funeral, which took place on the following day, was one of the most numerous ever seen in the district.

References and links

Tilbrook, Lois 1983, Nyungar Tradition: Glimpses of Aborigines of South-Western Australia 1829-1914, UWAP. [available online]

Garry Gillard | New: 16 November, 2022 | Now: 16 March, 2024