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Eliza and Thomas Brown

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As mentioned in the introduction, the story of Eliza and Thomas Brown reached the public in 1977 when Peter Cowan published some of their letters, particularly those that Eliza wrote to her father in A Faithful Picture.[5] These letters cover many themes about life in the Colony but the focus here is on the extent to which they felt settled in York and called it home.

Eliza experienced grief and hardships, she missed her family in Oxfordshire and she planted English flowers in her garden at their property they called 'Grass Dale', to remind her of her home far away, but she also came to feel at home in Western Australia.

After four years in the Colony Eliza declared her commitment:

The only thing for which I should think of quitting this Country for a short period would be the meeting again with you [her father] and if this longing were to be gratified without the necessity of leaving for the purpose it is not very likely that I should ever say good bye to Western Australia.[6]

Thomas Brown also commented on his wife's happiness:

Mrs Brown is much delighted with the Colony as ever and would not exchange poverty here for riches in England.[7]

Eliza was not motivated by wealth and did not seek social and economic advancement. Rather, she derived pleasure and contentment from her children, her husband, the work they did together in the house and on the farm and also from the surrounding landscape that she appreciated. For Eliza, 'Grass Dale' had become a special place and when Thomas began thinking of going north to settle at Champion Bay Eliza expressed her regrets:

You know my predilections with respect to our present abode, and I do assure you I shall cast many a wistful glance behind and I am afraid there will be many lingering thoughts of regret if it is my fate to leave it..[8]

Thomas Brown though, was less enthusiastic about the Colony and never expressed a sense of belonging in Western Australia. He felt out of place in the Avon Valley:

I have been like a fish out of water ever since I have been here, as I could not see the bright side which Mrs Brown did.[9]

After nine years in the Colony Thomas's sentiments had changed little:

I never had a wish to leave prosperity in England where I always felt comfortable and happy for the chance of what might be done in any other country.[10]

Like Eliza, he sometimes referred to 'Grass Dale' as 'home' but the meanings he attributed to 'Grass Dale' were very different to Eliza's. When Thomas called 'Grass Dale' 'home' he thought of it as the place he returned to from working on the farm or from a business trip in Perth. It did not signify belonging and attachment.

After ten years farming at York, Thomas was appointed to the Legislative Council so he leased 'Grass Dale' and the family moved to Perth. After only one session though, he took up the position of Police Magistrate at Perth and then at Fremantle. Ten years later, in 1861, he was appointed Resident Magistrate at Champion Bay where the family lived until his death in 1863. After his death, Eliza shared her time between Champion Bay and Guildford, where her adult children lived. She returned to England in 1860 to see her father one last time, but came back to the Colony and lived there until she died in 1896.

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Page last updated: Thursday 22 September 2011 by Illona Tobin Asset ID 43849
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