Stephen Kerrison (1798–1881), farmer, was born in England. He arrived in Launceston as a free settler with his wife Mary and their family in 1835, on the Charles Kerr, one of fourteen female emigrant ships the British government commissioned the London Emigration Committee to send to the Australian colonies to provide much-needed female labour.1 By 1835 the government paid the women's passages. Although many passengers were single women, a significant proportion comprised families with daughters eligible for 'the bounty', as in this case. Stephen had already been engaged to work as a bailiff or shepherd for James Cox and paid his own passage, but the government paid for the two eldest girls, Caroline (15 and Eliza (12. Caroline had been hired to work for James Henty.2 In the mid-1840s Stephen was living at Swan Bay, East Tamar. The last six of his children were baptised in St Matthias' Anglican church, Windermere and Stephen was involved in the life of this church.3 In 1852 he moved to Winkleigh where he purchased land and 'by honest industry' established a 'comfortable home, gaining the respect of all classes'.4 He and Mary had thirteen surviving children. There were far more pregnancies: 23, according to the family.
Stephen, with William Brown, played a leading role in establishing a Methodist community on the West Tamar from about1857. The Launceston Methodist Church provided them with a minister to take monthly services at their two houses, and Stephen was one of four lay preachers who took other Sunday services. He gave a substantial donation towards the building of the Supply River Methodist church (1861, the first Methodist church on the West Tamar, and was actively involved in church affairs for the rest of his life.5 The descendants of Stephen and Mary number over 10,000. The majority of the descendants of five of their children are still in Tasmania.
Further reading: MA Haynes, née Kerrison, Kerrisons in Tasmania 1835–1985, ; E Rushen, Single and free. Female migration to Australia 1833–1837, Melbourne, 2003; Shipping List for the Charles Kerr, arrived Launceston 19 November 1835, Launceston Library; 'Centenary of Historic Windermere Riverside Church', Examiner, 30 October 1943; Records of St Matthias's Church, Windermere; Examiner, 17 November 188, 31 October 1881.
Janet Critchett née Kerrison
1. Rushen, p. ix. Rushen writes that in 1834 of a total white population of Van Diemen's Land of 39,500, 71 percent were male and 29 percent female.
2. Report of the Emigrants arrived at Launceston by the Charles Kerr, landed 19, 20 & 21 November 1835, Shipping Lists, p 236 onwards, Launceston Library.
3. 'Centenary of Historic Windermere Riverside Church', Examiner, 30 October 1943. Solomon Kerrison is mentioned, not Stephen, but this is a mistake. The original church records give the name of the person present at meetings simply as Mr S Kerrison and Solomon, son of Stephen, born in 1848 would have been too young to be the person involved.
4. Obituary, Examiner, 17 November 1881, p 2.
5. Address given by Rev. George Wong at the Celebration of the 50 th Anniversary of the Introduction of Methodism on the West Tamar. Copy held by the Grubb Shaft Gold and Heritage Museum.