A TALE OF TWO FAMILIES
Two Richmond Families during and after the First World War. One with a US Civil War connection.
Bill Graham, a friend of Richmond & Burnley Historical Society, who has donated a number of items, has been working on a history of two families who lived in Richmond throughout the early years of the 20th century, of which two members were to become his maternal grandparents. The Richmond timeline of this story is the period from around 1915 to 1923. The families were the Gammage’s, who lived at 74 Gardner Street and the Bryant’s, who lived firstly at 64 Somerset Street and later at 54 Fraser Street.
The Gammage family originally came from in Oxfordshire. Charles Gammage senior had emigrated to America with his family in 1845 at the age of 15. He married in 1852 and fathered 4 children. Charles served in the Union army during the American civil war. He was wounded and captured at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff on October 21, 1861. After being released from a Confederate prison camp in 1862, he was discharged from the army and soon after, deserted his family. After several years his wife had him declared legally deceased, allowing her to re-marry. However, far from being dead, Charles had departed New York in 1863 on a ship bound for Melbourne, a fact that was not uncovered until nearly a century later.
Charles married two more times in Australia and fathered 4 children here. He lived in and around Beechworth from the 1860s until 1915 and spent the final year of his life in Wonthaggi. Apart from vague rumours, Charles’ Australian family knew little of his American past until the 1980s when an American descendant in Rhode Island, where Charles had lived, discovered that he had moved to Victoria after abandoning his family. After many years of research, she established contact with his Australian descendants. Thus, the details of his lives in America and Australia finally came to be known to his many descendants. A local historian with an interest in American Civil War veterans who came to Australia after that conflict, became active in Charles Gammage’s story. It eventually resulted in a US army headstone being placed on his previously unmarked grave in Wonthaggi in 1990.
Charles’ fourth Australian son, Charles Edwin Gammage, was born in 1874 at Stoney Creek, near Beechworth. He worked as a sawyer and then a boilermaker. Charles’ work had taken him to places as varied as Thailand and Western Australia before the family settled in Richmond. They were recorded as living at 74 Gardner Street in the 1915 Sands and McDougall. Charles Edwin Gammage (pictured here) and his daughter, Irene (also pictured as she was in 1914) worked at the Vickers Ruwolt engineering works, which is now the site of Victoria Gardens.
The Bryant family came to Australia in November 1912. The father, Benjamin, was in the boot trade and their eldest son, William had been serving his apprenticeship as a bootmaker. The family lived at 54 Gardner Street and William knew Irene from school in Richmond. They used to attend dances in Bridge Road, but the Great War had changed everything. In February 1917, William enlisted in the A. I. F., on the day of his 18th birthday. He served as a signaller with the 2nd Division and was awarded the Military Medal for his deeds during an action at Morlancourt in the Somme region. William Bryant and Irene Gammage had been close before his embarkation and he wrote many letters to her during his time away. They were married in 1923 and this photo dates from 1950. The letters remained in the family and are currently being scanned. It is hoped they will be made available to R. B. H. S. researchers in the near future.
(Bill also has records that show that the widow of Charles Edwin Gammage Senior, Annie Jane, had lived at 14 Murphy Street Richmond around 1925, Charles Edwin having died in 1922. Records show she spent some time at Bontharambo in Wangaratta, hence another connection of interest, this time to the famous Richmond pioneer, Rev Docker.)