A young Cavers family in search of Australian gold

I keep an eye on new datasets added to Ancestry. A recent one covers passenger lists to Victoria, Australia between 1839 and 1923. There aren’t many Cavers references in there, but most concern a single family, emigrating from Roxburghshire in the 1850s.

Robert Cavers was christened at Hobkirk, Roxburghshire in 1827, the eldest son of Adam Cavers and his wife Janet Clark. In 1847 he married Helen Hymers, and the couple appear in the 1851 census Fastcastle in Cavers parish. Robert was working as a labourer, and by this time the couple had two daughters: Margaret, aged 3, and Jessie, aged 1. A third daughter, Helen, would be born soon after.

On 1st July 1853 the family arrived on the ship “Genghis Khan” at Melbourne. I’d known they travelled to Australia, but did not know the exact arrival date before this new database went online. The passenger lists record that Robert was engaged by Mr Campbell at Richmond, now a suburb of Melbourne. This was the time of the Australian gold rush, and the family would soon become involved in this.

Sadly Robert died a year later, as the book Rulewater and its people records: “killed in blasting a rock at the gold-diggings”. His wife was pregnant at the time, and a daughter Robina was born in Australia after Robert’s death, named after her father. But the family did not stay in Australia, and made the long journey back to Scotland. The next census reference to them, in 1861, shows them at Ashtree in Southdean parish, Roxburghshire, staying with Helen’s parents Edward and Margaret Hymers.

The family can be traced forward in time, and has living descendants today.

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3 thoughts on “A young Cavers family in search of Australian gold

  1. Thanks Viv. Robert’s brother, Adam Cavers, was also attending the goldfields at this time. As Adam was preparing to depart Australia, he read in a local paper that his brother had been killed. It was the first time that he knew his brother was in Australia. Adam’s diary revealed that Adam had found 200 oz of gold in the McIvor gold fields, near Heathcote, and lost several handguns to bushwackers while there. Adam returned to Scotland and booked passage for himself and two of his sisters, Margaret [my great grandmother] and Janet to America. Adam later invested his money in 6300 acres of raw Iowa land. After he sold this land and retired to travel the world, he and his wife, Carrie, returned to visit Australia. They left London and arrived in Sydney in April 1887 on the ship R.M.S.Orizaba.

    For those interested, “Rulewater and its People”, is available for a free download on Google Books. In the first part of the book is an interesting discussion of witchcraft as related to the Rule valley in and around Hobkirk.

    • Thanks Jim. I think Adam also shows up in the incoming Victoria passenger lists, if he’s the “A Cavers” aged 22 who arrived at Melbourne on 16th June 1853, on the ship “Sarah Hooper” from San Francisco.

      • Yes, that is the same Adam Cavers, who was a brother to Robert. A paragraph from a history of Adam’s Cavers family, that he wrote in 1897, which was passed on to his brother James and then down through the generations is shown below: The comments in square brackets are mine.

        “Robert took a hinding at Newton May 1847 & so Father moved away from Dykes Moor & sold his cow. So was now propertyless for the first time since 1821-Robt. gave up the hinding in 6 mo to marry Helen Hymers, so Father had then five to feed viz Jas, Bess, & Wm. He was 65 & work not always to be gotten, Joan worked the bondage which kept the [JMR:roof?] over their head & her pay of 5/- per week in Gumrner [JMR:?] helped to keep them in food; credit fortunately they had none so they could not go in debt. I had been able to save up £10-out of my scant wages; so I sailed for N.Y. U.S.A April 12, 1849. I found Mothers Bros all doing well but old Grany Easton dead & Uncle Louie [JMR:?] and John married & familys growing up around them. A.C. 1897”

        This shows that the elder Adam Cavers had little money, which explains, in part, why Robert and Adam left home at such an early age. AFTER Adam arrived in NY in 1849, at the age of 18, he worked for a spell on a railroad in Panama, then attended the gold rush in California and then left San Francisco to go to Melbourne. The man got around!!

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