Australian Pioneers, Biographies, International Caldicotts

Thomas Weaver Caldicott 1854-1928 – The Young Pioneer Who Rose From Shaky Origins

Young Australia

Thomas Weaver Caldicott started off his life with humble beginnings shrouded in humiliation and scandal and yet through his tenacity, spirit of adventure and moral upstanding he turned his life around… on the other side of the world!

Thomas Weaver Caldicott was born to Sarah Caldicott in 1854 in Kingsland, Herefordshire and he was baptised on 30 July 1854.

Sarah Caldicott was the daughter of Thomas Caldicott, a miller and farmer, and Sarah Lowe. No father is mentioned on Thomas’ baptism record and as Sarah appears with her maiden name I presume that Thomas was illegitimate.

Interestingly, there is some confusion surrounding the birth of Thomas, as on his death record, his parents are reported to be Thomas Caldicott and Sarah Lowe, his grandparents. Was this because of the shame surrounding the start of his life? Or it could have been a simple error made by whichever relative registered his death?

Whatever the case, it would have been highly unlikely that his mother was Sarah Lowe as she was about 58 when Thomas was born!

Another important clue in the mystery surrounding the birth and parentage of Thomas is the 1861 Census. He is listed as the son of George and Sarah Weaver. Sarah Caldicott had married carpenter, George Weaver on 29 June 1856 when Thomas was about two years old.

It seems probable that Thomas was the biological son of George Weaver as his middle name suggests and that his parents continued their relationship after his birth and eventually married.

Sadly, Sarah died in 1865 at the age of just 34 when Thomas was only 11 years old.

However, it was clear that Thomas was determined to rise above the shaky start to his life. At just 16 years old he boarded the “Young Australia” in London and to journey to a new world and new life in Australia. It is hard to imagine someone so young embarking on such a journey alone!

He arrived at Moreton Bay, Queensland and initially headed towards Ipswich and sought employment cotton picking.

Cotton picking Queensland
Cotton pickers, Queensland

However, he did not enjoy this very much as his obituary taken from the Pittsworth Sentinel explains –

being an active lad he found the work tedious and determined to seek a more adventurous career

So, he started droving instead, and assisted by William White and several native Australians took charge of the first mob of cattle from the Logan to Stock Bluff Downs Station.

Always ambitious, he then tried his luck at prospecting at the Palmer gold diggings but met with no success. This was a dangerous time in Thomas’ life. He had several encounters with hostile native Australians, but fortunately managed to escape without injury. However, he then suffered from a bout of malaria and decided at this point to return to Ipswich.

After a time he moved to Toowoomba and later became engaged by Mr. S.B. Kennard to work on Yandilla Station where he remained for some years before he purchased his first property at Grasstree Creek where he lived and worked for the next 20 years, combining sheep farming with agriculture and was incredibly successful.

He then purchased a farm called “Foxwood” and continued in sheep farming there until he then bought a farm called “Eyton”, possibly named after the Herefordshire village his father, George Weaver was from. A reminder of home and the family he had left behind, perhaps.

Sheep Farm Australia
A Queensland sheep farm early twentieth century

Thomas Weaver Caldicott married Isabella McGowan on 30 September 1876 at Leyburn, Queensland, Australia. The couple had twelve children together – Mary Ann Caldicott, Thomas Weaver Caldicott Jr, John Caldicott, George Henry Caldicott, Alice Jane Caldicott, Isabella Caldicott, William Caldicott, Edward Caldicott, Charles Caldicott, Rachel Sarah Caldicott, Charlotte Elizabeth Caldicott and James George Caldicott.

Unfortunately, Isabella died at the age of 44 on 6 January 1901.

Isabella McGowan Grave

Happily, Thomas remarried on 24 August 1909 to Mary Smith and the couple had another son, Rodney George Weaver Caldicott when Thomas was 56 years old.

Thomas was a highly esteemed member of his community and was described in his obituary as kindly and with a genial nature. He committed member of his local Anglican church and had served as a warden there for forty years. He was also a foundation member of the Masonic Lodge in Milmerran and an honorary member of the local Oddfellows Lodge.

Thomas Weaver died on 29 January 1928 and his funeral was one of the largest Milmerran had ever seen. An illegitimate Herefordshire-born lad who became a highly respected, wealthy Australian farmer and a pillar of his community. A boy who was brave enough to adventure to the other side of the world whose tenacity and ambition turned his humble beginnings into a huge success.

Thomas Weaver Caldicott Grave

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