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Joadja and its Scottish roots

Joadja is a small historic town in the Southern Highlands of NSW, approximately 20 mins drive west of Berrima. It’s beginnings go back to around 1850, with the discovery of what was to become a lucrative shale seam in the area. This discovery led to the establishment of a bustling mining settlement in the late 1870s by the Australian Kerosene Oil and Mineral Company.

At one time this settlement was home to approximately 1200 people, mostly Scottish miners and their families, recruited from Scotland to work in this isolated mining town. The town grew to incorporate a general store, pub, post office and orchard. It also had its own school of arts, which became the focal point for the community and hosted recreational and educational activities as well as serving as a church and Masonic Lodge.

My personal interest in Joadja goes back to my great great grandfather Robert Sneddon (1841-1912). Robert was born in Lanarkshire in Scotland to Richard Sneddon (1801-1868) and Nicholas (yes, a lady’s name!) Stanners (also known as Stonehouse) (1805-1882). Robert Jnr married Mary McEwan (1841-1913) in 1862 and they eventually went on to have 10 children, 8 in their native Scotland and 2 in Australia – Richard, Mary, Nicholas, Margaret, William, Robert, Mary (the eldest Mary died in infancy), Andrew, Malcolm and Rebecca.

In 1879, Robert was one of many Scotsman recruited to make the trip across the world to settle in Joadja. Skilled miners like Robert were in great demand at a time and place where there was a shortage of skilled labour. Robert and Mary and their 6 children (Richard, Margaret, William, Robert, Mary and Andrew) arrived in Sydney on 3rd April 1879 aboard the ship Clyde. If you have done the maths, you will realise that 2 children were missing – Mary and Nicholas had both died in March 1868 of whooping cough at the ages of 3 and 1 years respectively.

Robert and family settled into life at Joadja, with Mary giving birth to 2 more children – Malcolm in 1880 and Rebecca in 1882. Conditions were very tough in this isolated town and we can only imagine what they had to endure. There were many deaths due to illness, accidents and suicide and the town is rumoured to have had a number of resident ghosts. The cemetery still remains but with very few intact and legible head stones.

Robert wasn’t the only member of his family to make the journey to Australia. At least two of Robert’s brothers-in-law also lived in Joadja during the same time – Andrew McEwan (1844-1901) and David McEwan (1857-1931) and their wives and children also lived and worked at Joadja. Robert’s eldest sister Elizabeth (1831-1894) also emigrated to Australia with husband William Ferguson and their 3 children (Nicholas, Daniel and Janet) sometime around 1855/56 and settled in Victoria, where they went on to have a further 4 children (Richard, William, Elizabeth and Isabella).

In exchange for their passage to Australia, the Scottish immigrants who worked at Joadja were obliged to stay for a minimum period of 2 years. At this stage I’m unsure when my Sneddon and McEwen ancestors left the Joadja township. Certainly by 1911, Joadja had ceased to be a profitable operation and the mine was wound up. While the orchard continued to exist until the 1920s, the town essentially became a ghost town after mining operations ceased and many of the workers and their families, including my Scottish ancestors moved to the Hunter Valley area where they continued to work in the mining industry.

If you are in the area, I strongly encourage you to visit Joadja. The town and what is left of the historic buildings is now privately owned and it is so encouraging to see that the current owners are working very hard to protect and restore the buildings and make Joadja a tourist attraction. The owners run very informative and entertaining tours on select weekends and there is a lovely cafe on site. Further information is available on the Joadja Town website – You will also find for sale at the cafe a wonderful souvenir history of the town by Leonie Knapman and Andrew Hutton if you are interested in learning more about the area.






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The Goddard Boat Builders

The Goddards enjoyed a reputation as some of the best boat builders in Sydney, starting with William Reuben Goddard in the late 1800s  at Berry’s Bay and continuing with his eldest son William Joseph Goddard who established a very successful business at Palm Beach in the early 1900s.

William Reuben Goddard was born in Hertfordshire, England in 1847. He arrived in Sydney in 1852 aboard the General Hewitt with his father George (1803-1885), mother Eliza (nee Arthur, 1815-1895) and siblings Henry (1843-1928), John (1845-1896) and Mary (1849-1913). William married Bridget McGrath in Sydney in 1869 and they settled in North Sydney.

William established his boat shed in North Sydney at Berry’s Bay in the late 1800s with a workshop and yards and became well-known in the area for his fine craftsmanship. The boat shed no longer remains but was situated nearby Eaton’s Timber Yard which survived on the Berry’s Bay waterfront until the 1980s. This area is now known as Sawmiller’s Reserve at McMahon’s Point.

William and Bridget had 10 children – William (1870-1944), Henry (1872-1874), Naomi (1875-1939), Herbert (1877-1947), Maude (1878-1953), Percival (1880-1882), Harold (1884-1939, known as Johnno), Horace (1887-1957), Stanley (1888-1914) and Gladys (1896-1921). It should be noted that we now believe Gladys may not have been William’s child but rather the daughter of Patrick Donovan (1838-1917) whom Bridget Goddard married in 1902.

William’s obituary stated that he “launched many small craft from his yard in the early days, devoting most of his time to building small boats and skiffs. He was noted for his skiff building” (Sydney Morning Herald, 15 Feb 1916).

Eaton's Timber Yard - Berry's Bay c1916  Lionel Lindsay etching

Eaton’s Timber Yard – Berry’s Bay c1916
Lionel Lindsay etching

Like his father, William Joseph Goddard was a well-known Sydney boat builder.

William married Ada D’Arcy in Hurstville in 1897 and they had four children – Walter (1899-1974), Arthur (1901-1960), Marjorie (1905-1998) and Grace (1911-?).

William bought land at Palm Beach near the southern end of the golf links in 1917. He constructed a house by transporting all the materials from the city by his launch.

In 1919 he constructed a boat shed and began boat building. William J. Goddard & Sons was building boats between 1928 and 1939.

In 1932 William commenced a regular ferry service to the western foreshores of Pittwater, running from Palm Beach to Coasters Retreat, The Basin, Stiles’ Wharf at Little Mackerel Beach and Great Mackerel Beach Wharf.

In 1942 he sold the business to the Port Jackson & Manly Steamship Company. Included in the sale were a general store with a liquor licence, marine repair facilities and ferries. The general store had been the first at Palm Beach and was run by William’s wife Ada. Also included was a small motor launch “Falcon” (which was later known as “Elvina”) built by William in 1928 (likely later sold to the Church Point Ferry Service).  “Elvina” provided a very important service to the people of Pittwater at the time, delivering supplies and mail. She is the longest serving passenger ferry in NSW.

"Falcon" later known as "Elvina".

“Falcon” later known as “Elvina”.

Records from the NSW Ship and Boat Builders Register ( record that William J. Goddard (and later William J. Goddard & Sons) was based in Palm Beach and specialised in fishing boats, yachts, launches and ferries. William J. Goddard & Sons built 11 boats between 1902 and 1938 including Grace, Gulnare, Beacon, Natoma, Idler, Kimba, Reliance, Venture II, Viking, W.J., W.J.G. and Wongawill.

William’s sons also worked in the family business – eldest son Walter worked as a mechanic and son Arthur carried on the family tradition as a boat builder. Arthur was a popular identity in the Palm Beach community and was the captain of the Palm Beach Surf Live Saving Club boat crew. Arthur married Madeline Gonsalves in 1928. Madeline was a member of the well-known Gonsalves Family, prominent boat builders in the Palm Beach area who still operate to this day. Arthur and Madeline had two sons – Donald and Jimmy. Jimmy also continued on in the business, becoming a boat builder himself and doing maintenance for Palm Beach Ferries at Careel Bay. The following is a short biography of Jimmy from the Wooden Boat Association of NSW….

“Jimmy Goddard was a larger than life identity in the Palm Beach and Careel Bay community for 83 years. He served his apprenticeship at the family boatshed at Palm Beach with his father Arthur, the family being among the first settlers in the area. Jim was a first class tradesman and in later years restored some noteworthy vessels including the fishing boat ATALANTA which was owned by the famous American game fisherman Zane Grey who used to frequent the Palm Beach area in the 50’s. Jim was also known for his fishing prowess and operated offshore fishing charters aboard his lovely old trawler CAROLINE H for many years until the Waterways in their wisdom thought Jim should get a proper licence, to which he replied “I think it might be time for me to retire”.Jim survived a heart operation a couple of years ago, but unfortunately they didn’t makethe pacemaker out of Spotted Gum. His son Alan carries on his legend in Dover Tasmania”.

For more on the history of Pittwater and specifically the families and boat building industry of Palm Beach I highly recommend exploring the archives of the Pittwater Online News –

The Goddard men preparing "W.J.G" for launch c1930s.

The Goddard men preparing “W.J.G” for launch c1930s.


Church Point Ferry Service. (2013). Tales of the Elvina. Retrieved from

Sydney Morning Herald. (1916). Late Mr W.R. Goddard. Retrieved from

Wooden Boat Association of NSW. (2012). Scuttlebutt: October 2012. Retrieved from

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The Australiana Pioneer Village

I recently had the opportunity to spend the day wandering around the Australiana Pioneer Village at Wilberforce near Windsor. It’s an interesting place to spend some time, particularly if you are related to one of the many wonderful pioneers of the area.

What is most amazing about the village is that it gives us the opportunity to see a number of the original buildings of the area which have thankfully been preserved.

One of my favourite buildings was Aiken’s Hut. Aiken’s Hut was built by William Henry Aiken in West Pennant Hills in 1875, the same year he married Elizabeth Bowerman. Aiken’s Hut was notable for being the last remaining slab hut in West Pennant Hills.

William was the grandson of notable early settler John Aiken. John was born in the West Indies and arrived in Sydney in 1796. John and family were granted 30 acres in the Field of Mars and settled in the area that is now West Pennant Hills. Those who know the area will know Aiken Road, which is of course named after the Aikens.

John’s son William (William Jnr’s father) was killed in a horse and dray accident in 1869 at the age of 53 (William is buried in St Paul’s Church Cemetery at Carlingford). This left his wife Mary with seven children to care for alone (two of William and Mary’s nine children had died previously).

William Jnr stayed on the family farm and married Elizabeth Bowerman. The building that now stands at the Australian Pioneer Village is where they lived with their children – a family of nine in a tiny hut! It was transported to Wilberforce in the 1980s with the exception of the kitchen which was unfortunately not in good enough condition to be transported.

Elizabeth and William both died in West Pennant Hills, Elizabeth in 1907 and William in 1933.

The Australian Pioneer Village is located in Rose Street, Wilberforce – a nice drive out of the city. It is open every Sunday from 10am-4pm and also extra days during school holidays. I will hopefully include a few more posts shortly with stories of some of the other unique buildings at the village and the families who built them.

Aiken's Hut

Aiken’s Hut

The last remaining hut in West Pennant Hills, now located at the Australiana Pioneer Village in Wilberforce.

The last remaining hut in West Pennant Hills, now located at the Australiana Pioneer Village in Wilberforce.

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The Goddard / Armstrong Family History Wiki

After much experimentation with different Wiki hosting tools, I have finally (kind of) got the hang of Wikia and have just launched the Goddard / Armstrong Family History Wiki.

The wiki is designed to compliment this blog, my Flickr page and my Delicious bookmarks page and will provide greater level of detail about the members of the Goddard and Armstrong families (and many associated families).

The wiki will essentially exist to keep family members updated with my research and will include profiles of ancestors, documents, stories and photographs.

It is something that I have been meaning to start work on since late last year when I borrowed a number of photo albums from my mother-in-law in order to scan and hopefully preserve some of the Armstrong and Dorman family photographs. At the time, I emailed various photos to various family members to share but it has always occurred to that a wiki would be the perfect platform for sharing family information, with family members able to open the wiki and access all the information I have (as I add it of course) and also have the ability to contribute their own information.

The Goddard / Armstrong Family History Wiki –

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