Joseph Lewis

Joseph Henry Lewis

Family Tree Joe Lewis   

Joseph Henry Lewis was the first son of Peter and Ellen (nee Batt) Lewis and was born in 1865 at Pinjarra. [Birth Reg. No. 7808 Pinjarra]. His father was a Roman Catholic and of Spanish or Portuguese background, with possible earlier connections to the Benedictine community at the New Norcia mission. His mother Ellen Batt had been raised as a Church of England before her marriage to Peter.  Joseph was raised as a Catholic and his conviction to the Catholic church as an adult is confirmed by the numerous entries of him and his family, reported in the Western Australian Catholic Church publication The Record. [Ref. 5] Peter and Ellen raised their family predominately in the Jarrahdale district with some time spent in Guildford and Midland district.

Early days in Jarrahdale

Little is known of Joseph’s childhood but it is know that he well represented in local sports and commenced working in the Jarrahdale timber mills when he was just 14 years old.  At that age he was a witness to fatal accident which occurred on the 2nd June 1879. It is recorded in the Police report on that incident that Joseph was at the time an employee of the Timber Company. In the incident, a train guard was killed when the Mill train was returning to Jarrahdale with mill workers and families after a pleasure excursion to Rockingham. That trip involving the tragedy was arranged by the timber mill owners, to celebrate and mark the 50th anniversary of colonizing of Western Australia. (State Records Office 27/956. Cons.430)

The first timber mill built in the Jarrahdale area was the No 1. Mill managed by the Wanliss Bros and commenced production in May 1872. It was initially called the Ballarat Timber Co. then reformed and renamed as the Rockingham Timber Company. The early attempts to operate the mill produced poor results and by 1877 four companies had lost money in the Jarrahdale venture. About 1878, merchant Neil McNeil formed a company to operate the mill as the Jarrahdale Timber Company Station and later changing the name to the Jarrahdale Jarrah and Railways Company. [Ref.4. Southcombe, Steam in the Forests (1986) Hesperian Press,Perth].

Mr. Ritchie was appointed manager of the reformed operation. In 1883 the timber industry was just 10 years old and Joseph aged 18 was appointed to the position of mill foreman for the Jarrahdale main Timber Mill. [Ref.2 Fall V.G. The Mills of Jarrahdale 2nd ed. (1979) CM Advertising, Publishing, Claremont and Scope Printing Services, Willetton].

In 1884, at age 19, Joseph Lewis and another Jarrahdale local, Joseph Brown contested a foot race, competing for a purse of three pounds.  The event was much supported by the local community with betting heavily supporting both. The result was  covered in the West Australian.

Sketch of Jarrahdale 1880’s

Joe foot race

On the 1st May 1885 Joseph aged 20 with his younger brother Peter Lewis Jnr. attended the first meeting of the Jarrahdale Catholic Young Men’s Society and were both elected to the inaugural committee. The Catholic Church publication, The Record, reported that Joseph and Peter Lewis of Jarrahdale contributed two pounds to the Irish Parliamentary Fund in September 1886. [Ref.5]. It is not known if the donation was made by Peter Lewis Jnr or their father Peter. The average weekly wage at that time was just thirty shillings so a donation of two pounds was quite substantial.

Jarrahdale boasted a very well patronised branch of the Australian Natives Association (A.N.A.), and from its formation in 1887, Joseph Lewis  was perhaps the most dominant figure. [Ref.1 Neil Coy. The Serpentine. A History of the Shire of Serpentine-Jarrahdale (1984) South West Printing and Publishing Co. Bunbury].

(The A.N.A. was a nation wide movement with membership initially available only to people born in Australia. The A.N.A. was strong support to Australia’s move to Federation. The establishment for the Australian Labour Party stemming from its strong background of worker based ethics and support for fair workers conditions. The Jarrahdale A.N.A. branch was No. 9 Group in the State. Joe remained a member of the A.N.A. for forty years, only resigning from ill health in April 1927. He held positions as vice president and a director during his service and was co-responsible for motions moved for a number of worker and family welfare improvements supported by the A.N.A. Records of the 1926 through to 1928 State Conference minutes held by the author, record some of motions put forward and debated by Joe. An Obituary is included in the 1927 minutes of the State conference and it mentions how Joe Lewis had been one of the longest serving members in the State associations).

ANA Walltz


In November 1887, Joseph aged 22 years married his 18-year-old first cousin Mary Ann Wilson. [Ref.5]. Mary Ann’s mother, Martha Wilson (nee Batt) had  married Thomas Wilson in 1861 in Fremantle. Mary Anne’s mother Martha and Joseph’s mother Ellen (nee Batt) were sisters.

Thomas Wilson

Thomas Wilson was born in Dundee County Scotland in 1834. His father was also Thomas and his mother was Jane Isobella (nee Anderson). He was a factory worker when, aged 13 years was convicted for theft on trial at Aberdeen court on 21/4/1847. He was sentenced to seven years imprisonment at the Parkhurst juvenile jail. He was convicted along with five other lads which were all part of a gang known as the Copper company by the local police. The name referring to their activities at the wharf where they would steal the copper nails from the wharf structures and anything else not nailed down. Thomas had blue eyes and light brown hair and weighed 45 kgs with his height 149 cm, recorded on the jail records.

Parkhurst PrisonParkhurst Juvenile Prison

In to his second year of that sentence, he was deported as one of the many Parkhurst juvenile convicts sent to Western Australia and New Zealand. His four months on the sea journey was on board the vessel “Mary” and arrived in Western Australian 1849. Seven other lads of the 53 on board were also members of that Copper company gang. Thomas could read and write by the time of his deportation and is recorded on the shipping guardians’ report as being a “nice little boy” and of good character.

That vessel ‘Mary’ is said to have left the Isle of Wight on July 4, 1849 and to have arrived in Fremantle,Western Australia on October 24, 1849.  In all, she was said to have carried 83 passengers and the 53 Parkhurst boys who embarked at the Isle of Wight. These boys were deported to be employed as apprentices and to work on the new colony. They were all spared from imprisonment in  England in exchange for their deportment to the new land.

The boys were listed in Paul Buddee’s book, ‘Fate of the Artful Dodger’ and in Andrew Gill’s later work, ‘Forced Labour for the West’. Additional information was given in AJCP Reel 448 CO 18/58 letter #70 – ‘Report by Wittenoom, Guardian of Juveniles’.

A register of the employers of Parkhurst convicts ‘apprenticed’ in Western Australia,1842-1851 Gill, A.W.(Andrew W.) [Maylands, W.A.] : A. Gill, 1993, is available at libraries but no longer in publication.

Thomas was indentured for a two year term to work as a farm servant for a farmer named George M Bouglas in the Murray district. The property is on the Murray river and is today a reserved called Georges Brook. Bouglas had for some years past been a Constable at the Murray. He reported Thomas Wilson to have been a good lad and willing worker only being reported once for misconduct during his term.

Map showing farm where Wilson worked for G Bouglass.

 1849 land owners

In 1861 Thomas married Martha Batt at Fremantle (reg No. 1692). It is not know where the two met or how their relationship evolved. It is thought that Thomas had started farming in the Wandering area which is in close proximity to the Marradong and Jarrahdale region where members of the Batt family had settled.

Their  first child Margaret Wilson  was born at Murray (reg 6168) in 1861 and died in 1894 aged just 14 years (reg No, 8122), Thomas Jnr was  born at Dandalup (reg 8154) in 1864 and died aged 32 in 1895. Rebecca was born in 1867 at Pinjarra, then Mary Anne Wilson also at Pinjarra (reg No. 11554) in 1869. William Wilson was born in 1871 Reg No. 12908) but sadly, died just one year later. (reg No, 6237)

Martha Wilson (nee Batt) died in 1872 aged 28 years (Reg No 6106). There is little confirmed records yet found about the  life of Thomas other than he may have continued as a farmer in Wandering before his death in 1903 aged 66.

Mary Anne Wilson was just 3 years old when her mother died. She may have come to live with or spend a lot of her childhood with her Aunty Ellen Lewis.

At the time Joseph Lewis and Mary Ann Wilson wed, Mary Ann was pregnant expecting their first child early in 1888.

Joe aged 22 and Mary Anne aged 18 on their wedding day. 

Joseph and Mary Ann Lewis went on to have a total of fourteen children including one stillborn. The Lewis family lived at Jarrahdale in the basic company mill houses best described by Fall V.G. in his publication The Mills of Jarrahdale:

For the most part, these houses were of a most unpretentious appearance, with exterior walls of unpainted weatherboards…. The interior walls were lined with Jarrah which made the rooms very dark. The cost to the company to build these houses was twenty-eight pounds ($56). The roofs were galvanised iron, some occupants had closed in one end of the back veranda to provide a bathroom, in which a galvanised iron bath was installed. The laundry or wash-house was in the back yard. All water was heated on the kitchen stove or in the wash-house.”

Joseph and Mary Anne’s Family

Their first child Reginald Peter Lewis was and born on the 28th February 1888 (Reg. No. 619). Reginald attended the Jarrahdale Public School and as a young man went on to work in the timber mills as a saw filer. [AIF enlistment records]. He married Grace Myrtle and they lived at Newtown mill at Jarrahdale. Newtown was situated on the south bank of Gooralong Brook where in 1913 two new mills with a total of 28 saw benches were constructed. The community which Reginald and Grace were part of built the sports ground off Nettleton Road, which is still in use today.

Joseph and Mary Ann’s next child was a daughter,Florence May, born in 1889.Florence later married Ted Boxshall. They lost a son in a well covered by the media,car accident some 28 years after they married.

Boxhall road crash details 1940

In February 1890 both Joseph and Peter Lewis were among other Jarrahdale locals to presented Rev Father Duff with a carriage, horse and harness to allow the reverend to commute in the area. Peter Lewis Jnr was at this time residing in the Northwest, so unless he had been visiting, it is most likely that the Peter Lewis mentioned here was Josephs’ father.

Another son to Joseph and Mary Ann was born 25th January 1891 and named Joseph (Junior) but sadly he only survived for seven months and died on 25th August 1891. The cause of death is not known.

Herbert George was the next child born on the 1st December 1892 and Arthur later known as Mick, was born two years later on the 7th July 1894.

On June 3rd 1895 the No. 1 mill at Jarrahdale was totally destroyed by a fire which was accidentally started by Joseph’s younger brother John Lewis. [Ref: Extract from Police Department. Chief Office files 1343/95]. At the time Joseph was in charge of the two separate crews working alternative day and night shift at the mill. The incident occurred on the night shift at 11pm when Joseph was at home. The Mill Manager Mr. Ritchie was away at the time and had appointed Mr. A.C. Munro as the relief Manager. A report of the fire was published in the West Australian Wednesday the 5th June 1895 and quoted that the loss was valued at about five thousand pound. The Inquirer Newspaper also published an article on the fire published on page 15 of the 7th June 1895 edition. A.C. Munro was assigned the task to rebuild the mill immediately and installed vertical type breaking down saws.

Ellen Mary was the sixth Lewis child born on the 21st December 1895. She was named after her Grandmother and affectionately known as Nellie. In her late teens Ellen married Thomas Joseph Sheehan, a Roman Catholic, the eldest son of Annie and Joseph Patrick Sheehan. Thomas and his brother John Sheehan were born in Victoria and moved to West Australia for work.  Mrs. Annie Sheehan also resided in West Australia for a number of years and was later known as Mrs. Annie Roberts, indicating that she may have remarried or taken on her maiden name. Thomas was employed at the No 1 Mill as a millhand and tally clerk. Ellen and Thomas had their first child, a son named Francis Joseph on the 23rd March 1915 and later became known by his fathers name shortened to Tommy Sheehan.

Joe Lewis continued to be involved in sport and at 30 years old, he was listed as a runner in the Sheffield Handicap race over 120 yards at the 1895 Boxing day sports held at Jarrahdale. He started off a 9 yard handicap. He was also nominated and ran in the Hurdles handicap that same event. (WA News 24th Dec 1895)

Ernest Alfred Lewis was the seventh child born 28th March 1898. Ernest was known though out is life as Jack which caused some confusion as his Uncle John Lewis was also known as Jack.

In 1898 the timber industry was expanding and the Jarrahdale venture established several other mills on the outskirts of the main town. The main development was the relocation of some equipment and new mills No 5 and No 6  built at Big Brook, in the Serpentine Valley some 13 miles south east of Jarrahdale. A separate board mill was also built on the rail network connecting this and the two mills to the main mill siding at Jarrahdale.

Joe Lewis was appointed to oversee the establishment of the Big Brook complex which required building houses, rail and maintenance facilities and the mills themselves. The settlement became gazetted as an official post receiving depot in April of 1898 and the mills commenced full operations in 1899.

The involvement by Joe Lewis in the success of the mill is not well documented in the histories of the timber industry in WA. The influence that he had in building the community that worked these new mills is also under recorded.

Joe had overseen the mill crew in building houses for their families. They built the bush school, sporting grounds and a community hall. The first intake of students at the Big Brook school numbered sixteen children of which four were Lewis children.

Joe Lewis had been an influencing member of the Jarrahdale town community and his move to Big Brook created many new challenges to continue his passion as a community leader. He helped establish the Big Brook Sporting Committee and served as the inaugural president. That committee organized sporting events for all the mill sites including the four football teams and cricket teams.

Amelia (Millie)was born on the 11th January 1900 and she later married Horrie Day.  The Day family also resided at Jarrahdale at the nearby forestry settlement unofficially named Day Town in consideration of the large number of Day clan that lived there. Amelia and Horrie went on to have five sons and some Day family descendants still live in the area today.


Amelia Lewis circ 1913

In September 1900 it was reported in The Record that Joseph Lewis had donated two pounds towards the Catholic Church fund. [Ref. 5]

In March 1901 Joseph nominated as a candidate for the State Elections further indication of his commitment to community. He retired from nomination later in March.

Joe nominated state parliament

 Edited Extracts from West Australian 19th and 28th March 1901

Joe’s brother John (Jack) Lewis was witness at a case of company neglect when the No.6 mill train which he was passenger was involved in a fatality to one of the timber workers.

Jack Lewis train inquiry

In November of 1901, Joseph was one of the community members that formed the Accident Fund Society and attended a Special General Meeting held at the Jarrahdale Library to consider the situation of the medical services. At that meeting it was moved that for lack of funds, to give termination notice to the district medic Dr. Leschen. Joe moved amendment to lobby for special funds to support maintaining the doctor. The Society was in financial difficult and the motion was lost. (From the West Australian 12th November 1901 attached).

On the 19 March 1902 another female child (un-named) was stillborn to Joseph and Mary Ann. (Reg No. 112). The infant was buried the next day with witnesses J Foley and E Mann. There was no minister present and the registrar was Edward Keetley.

The Jarrahdale Jarrah Forests and Railways Ltd. merged with other milling companies in what is recorded as the 1902 timber amalgamation and became known as Millar’s Karri and Jarrah Company (1902) Ltd.  Joseph retained his position as foreman for the new company.

Joe and Mary Ann’s children participated in many sports.  Joe and his brother Jack (John Lewis) were also keen sportsmen and played together in the local Football and cricket teams during 1902.

Football results

Article West Aust17th June 1903. Lewis named could have been either Reginald or Arthur.The West Australian Sat 5th December 1903.

Joseph and Mary Ann’s next son Clarence Alvon was born 29th March 1904, he later married Dorothy Iles in 1925. Dorothy was an adopted daughter to James and Jean Walker. Clarence was known more by his second name Alvon and as a young man he followed his father’s footsteps becoming an active member of the Jarrahdale ANA. He is seen in a group photograph of the branch members in the February 1940 edition of the ANA Advocate. He was noted in that article to be a Rabbit trapper with another member Frank Rohan.

Mary Ann Lewis was employed by the education department in 1904 as the number six sewing teacher. Her daughters carried on the skill of sewing that Mary passed to them and the other girls at the mill school.

Mary Anne Lewis 1904 sewing mistress

Alvon and Dorothy Lewis had three children and their first son, Mervyn is described by Jarrahdale senior resident, Laurie Heddington in an interview held 1997, as a very handsome man, a great sportsman. In June 1940, Mervyn joined with his father as a member of the ANA. In the November issue of the Advocate, Mervyn was congratulated for winning all his foot races at the Mundijong interschool sports and consequently winning the Championship cup.

Mervyn suffered severe facial scaring in the later years of the 1940s after being involved in a terrible road accident when he fell from either the steps of a moving bus or a bicycle been ridden along side a bus. He later died from the results of gun shot wounds which may have been self inflicted. Clarence and Dorothy’s other two children are Dulcie and Lyndon. (Dulcie recalls that her Father was also an active member of the Volunteer Defence Corp during WW2). Article to follow Joe as ANA President at Number 6 Mill Big Brook in 1906


Joseph and Mary Ann’s next born was Leonard Raymond (Lenny) on the 5th December 1906. Lenny was either born with Down syndrome or contracted an illness which resulted in some degree of mental disorder. Lenny was described as a small man who was very good with attending to the horses that were being used for trots racing by some members of the family. It is family hearsay that Lenny ended up taking his own life  after the loss of his best mate, nephew Mervyn Lewis. Leonard officially died from heart failure brought on by over medication intake in March 1951.

Leonard Lewis death notice Mar 1951

In 1907 Joe was responcible in restarting the number six mill during a long drawn out strike by the workers. The mill company sourced their staff from all the south west mills to join Joe and start production. The following article is a summary of that event.

Number six Mill 1907

The  last three  Lewis children of Joseph and Mary Anne were Frances Norman (Frank) born in 1908, Daphne born on the 28th April 1911 and Victor Joseph the youngest and their fourteenth child, born on 2nd December 1912.

Joseph was elected as a committee member of the Jarrahdale Board Team Cricket club in 1908. He played matches and it was not unusual for one or more of his sons to be in the same or apposing teams.

On the12th April 1910 the Western Australian Premier Sir John Forrest and Lady Forrest attended a meeting of locals at Jarrahdale and Big Brook. At the Big Brook community hall, Joe toasted the premier and moved a motion of confidence which was passed by all in attendance.

 Board Mill at Jarrahdale

In the 1912 Jarrahdale football teams there were three Lewis boys on the playing lists. Mick and “Slim” Lewis played for the number six mill and “Nigger” Lewis played for the number five mill team. Slim and Nigger would have been Herbert and Reginald. [Pg 123, Ref 1]

Joe was the chair at a meeting of locals in 1913 who presented the local doctor and his wife with gifts. That presentation is record in the July news article below.

Article 1913



Herbert Lewis started his working life at the Jarrahdale mill as a millhand but must have moved south as a young man. On the 21 September 1914 he enrolled in the Army Cadets and his address at that time was listed as Buckingham’s Siding, Munja near Collie. There was also a Buckingham’s mill in the Wungong area just north of Jarrahdale and it may be that the information on Herbert’s enrolment may have been an error.  His brother Arthur  remained in Jarrahdale and worked in the mills as a timber clerk until he enrolled in the AIF. [AIF Records].

Joseph Lewis is known to have owned a property at Harper Street in Midland from 1912 until 1916. That property was previuosly owned by his younger brother Peter where he and his wife Clara would reside from 1901, when they were not in the Pilbara mining gold. The property was the last house on the left side ofHarper Streettravelling from the intersections of Commercial Road and Williams Street. Josephs father Peter Lewis also lived at this property at various times in the later 1890s.

A photograph of Joe with other delegates at the ANA state Conference of 1914 indicates his continued support to that movement and at that meeting there would have been much discussion on war and enrolment for troops.

Joe Lewis is in the last row, fourth from the left


The War Years

 In 1915 the First World War came to Australia and eventually to all the small Western Australian mill towns by way of recruitment officers seeking young men to fight for King and Country. Herbert was the first of the Lewis boys to volunteer and enlisted in the Australian Imperial Forces on the 14th September 1915. Information entered on his enrolment form, states that he was a Roman Catholic, 22 years old and single.

Standing back row L-R Reg, Arthur, Herbert and Ernest

Front row Alvon, Len, Victor on Joe’s lap and Francis.

On the 20th March 1916 as a result of further extensive recruitment campaign which again reached the mill at Jarrahdale three more of the Lewis sons enlisted. Reginald age 28, then married to Grace, Arthur single aged 21 and Ernest Alfred also single aged just 18 years old, together with their brother-in-law Thomas Sheehan aged 25 years, all enlisted for training at Blackboy Hill. The three Lewis boys were all listed as Methodist on their enrolment forms.


Victor Lewis and Tommy Sheehan

One Jarrahdale identity, Mr. Charles Baker, was born in 1899 at No. 2 Mill (Wungong) and lived for sometime at No. 6 Mill before moving to Jarrahdale townsite with his parents in 1912. Charles Baker recalled in an interview in 1981 that he took over as the Lewis house boy looking after the thier horse and cow when their youngest boy (Ernest) went to the war.

Ernest Alfred Lewis

In that interview, Charles Baker also tells of the birth of the Lewis’ Granddaughter Gwendoline Sheehan and the terrible family tragedy that followed [Ref. 6]

Ellen and Thomas Sheehan were expecting their second child when Thomas left to go to war. Their daughter Gwendoline Edna was born on the 18th July 1916.  Just shortly after the birth, tragedy struck the Lewis family on the 16th August 1916 when Ellen aged just 21 years, died as a result of burns she received when her dressing gown caught fire from flames from the copper water heater while she washing clothes in the wash house. Ellen’s remains were interned at the Jarrahdale cemetery the next day. She was buried in the same grave lot 347 at Jarrahdale as her Grandmother Ellen Mary Lewis who had died in June,1909. Ellen Sheehan’s funeral was recorded in the Catholic Record September issue and the article stated that half the population of the area had attended. The Funeral was conducted by the Rev Father Sheridan and some family mourners include Millie (sister), Alvon and Leonard (brothers), Mrs. R.P Lewis (sister-in-law) Mrs. Roberts (mother in law) Messrs L. White, Jack Lewis (uncle). Other names attending include relatives McKenna, Andrews,Holland and Master E Boxall. Joseph Lewis attended but there is no mention of her mother,Mary Anne being at the funeral.  [Ref. 5]

  Ellen Sheehans Funeral notice and grave site.

Ellan Mary Sheehan nee Lewis.
Shared grave with her grandmother Ellen Lewis nee Batt

Ellen Sheehan’s Grave site at Jarrahdale, share with her Grandmother Ellen Batt.


Gwen Sheehan and Daphne Lewis. Circ. Late 1916

Just weeks after that tragedy loss of their daughter, Joseph and Mary Ann Lewis received a two lined telegram from AIF Base Records dated 14/09/1916, stating that “Private Herbert had been wounded and will advise if anything further received.

In December 1916 more fear raced within the Lewis family when the Australian Imperial Forces advised Mrs. Grace Lewis that her husband Reginald had been admitted to Norfolk War Hospital suffering from disordered action of the heart.[Ref: copies of AIF record, Private R.P. Lewis No. 5038 of the 28th Battalion, held by Ian Lewis]

In January 1917 Joseph received further information from the war, advising that Private Herbert George Lewis No. 3862 of the 51st Battalion had been admitted to Caudry Military Hospital on the 20th August 1916 and had died six days later on the 26th August 1916 as a result of head injuries received while a prisoner of war in France. Herbert was buried two days later at the CaudryCemetery and was incorrectly listed on the death certificate as a Church of England.

The worry for Reginald’s ill health would have been overshadowed when notice arrived in March 1917 advising the Lewis’ that another of their sons, Arthur had been killed in action in Franceon 28th February 1917. [Ref; Copies of AIF records Private Arthur Lewis No. 5039 of the 28th Battalion held by Ian Lewis]. A death notice for Arthur was published in the Western Mail on the 6th April by “his dear friends Mr. and Mrs. Spalding and Family, Number 2 State Mill, Dwellingup”, indicating that he may have been working with or had close contact with that family.

Anzac heros

WA News 17 March 1918

The strain of the death his two sons and uncertainty of the fate for the remaining family members may have had some affect on Joseph’s health. In the July 1917 Catholic Record, it mentions that Joseph had been seriously ill in the Pinjarra Hospital and was now home convalescing. And again in September issue it is recorded that “Joseph Lewis had again been seriously ill but was home again and enjoying the sunshine of his old Mill Town.”

Just a year after Ellen Sheehan’s death from the washhouse fire, word was received from the war office that the Lewis’ son-in-law Thomas Joseph Sheehan had also been killed in action in Belgiumon the 4th October 1917. Two months earlier on the 26th September 1917, Thomas had been promoted from Lance Corporal to Corporal (Temp).  Thomas died not knowing or seeing his new baby daughter Gwendoline.  A death notice for Thomas Sheehan was published in the Western Mail on the 30th November 1917 and was inserted by “ his heart-broken Mother of Victoria Park East”. At that time his mother Annie Roberts had been living in Planet Street, Carlisle. She later returned to live in Melbourne most likely during 1921.

Thomas Sheehan had appointed Joseph Lewis as Executor of his Will when he enlisted. Joseph communicated with the army between 1920 and 1922 to have the Memorial Scroll and Memorial Plaques wording changed from that which Thomas’ mother chose and to have these reissued for his surviving children. He was successful and these were awarded to Master FJ Sheehan on the 28th May 1922. [Ref: Copy of Army Records Corporal TJ Sheehan # 5087 of the 28th Battalion, held byIan Lewis] The two Sheehan children, Thomas Jnr (Francis) and Gwen were raised by their grandparents Joseph and Mary Ann Lewis.

Joseph Lewis’ poor health recorded in September 1917 must have improved by Christmas. His niece Dorothy McKenna recorded in a letter to the Catholic Record in December that he had presented school children with end of year prizes donated by the A.N.A. (Australian Natives Association). After that entry in 1917, there are no further notes about Joseph Lewis in the Catholic Record.

In 1918 more bad news reached the Lewis family with notice that Reginald aged 30 years had also been a casualty of the war, killed in France on 29th August that year. His war records state that Reginald was a hero and a man respected by all.

Death notice Reg.

In December of 1918, Reginalds wife Myrtle Grace Lewis was granted his probate , the sum  of two hundred and twenty two pound and thirteen shillings (aprox $500).

Grace and their two children, Myrtle and Arthur were living in Anstley Street in Mundijong during 1920. Family hearsay suggests that Myrtle placed some of the blame for loosing Reg on her Father in Law, Joseph, and cut the close ties with the other Lewis family members. Shortly after the War, Grace received a visit from returned soldier John Rhodes who had served alongside Reginald when he was fatally hit by two bullets. He had nursed Reg to his death and made a promise to return his belongings to Grace. In the collection of letters were three photographs that Grace had posted to Reg. One is of Grace and their two children and one of each of his children. The photographs have two bullet holes punctured through from the hit that killed Reginald. Ten years after receiving that visit Grace and John Rhodes married and they had one child, Alice Rhodes.

After the death of thier third son, Reginald, Joseph Lewis wrote to the War Office in an attempt to have his other son Ernest (who was still serving in France) released from the war effort. His request was based on an understanding that the last serving son of a family could be released if other serving members had been killed in action. But Ernest Alfred Lewis, did not return until wars end.

The three Lewis brothers and Thomas Sheehan are listed together with the other Jarrahdale men who lost their life during the war are on the WW1 war memorial and the Honour Board at Jarrahdale. Also a significant memorial to the fallen Lewis boys is in the dedication of Lewis Road on the Southwest Highway at Keysbrook. (Note that in 2008 there has been an application to the shire to name a new road in the district after Thomas Sheehan).

In summary during the period of time 1891-1918 Joseph and Mary Anne Lewis had lost an infant child, and another stillborn, three sons as young men, a son-in-law, their 21 year old daughter and Josephs’ father (1902) and his mother (1909).

 Lewis Family Heros

The author Ian Lewis (left) with his son Travis with grandson Jordan and at Jarrahdale war monument

War details Lewis boys.


 Joe Lewis 2nd row five from RH side at the 1920 ANA Annual Conference.


 Life after the War

Joseph Lewis centre front row and the mill home guard, circ 1919 Lewis boys back row 2nd   is Alvon  and 3rd is Lennie, 3rd front row is Francis  and two boys in front Left side are Victor and Tommy Sheehan

Death was common not just from the result of war but also within the timber industry. In May 1919 members of the Lewis family were amongst those that attended the funeral of their nephew Patrick McKenna who died as a result of a train shunting accident at Collie. Patrick’s remains were returned to Jarrahdale for burial and the funeral was headed by 25 return soldiers.

Joe attended the 1920 State Conference of the ANA and the photo comparing him at the same conference in 1914 show signs of the aging and tension that the war years had brought.

On the 10th October 1921, Joseph Lewis, Foreman Jarrahdale sent a letter regarding the poor condition of the Jarrahdale cemetery, to the Auditor General together with a typed financial statement which included an amount of £4.6.6d.which he had raised by a raffle and was used to pay the caretaker. The letter was typed which was unusual as most letters, other than from an office, were handwritten. It was most likely typed in Millar’s Office and it reads:

Yours of the 4th instant reached me last Thursday, but some time ago the Secretary handed me the book to forward on to you, but the reason this was not hurried is as follows:

You will see by the book that we are in a bad financial way and up till the present I have financed the fund so that we may keep the cemetery in something like a decent order. We wrote the Government sometime ago to assist us in the matter, but was told there was no funds for the purpose. You will understand that we did this work honorary and voluntarily, and the only revenue that we get is a small fee for opening graves etc. which the book will show you is altogether insufficient to pay the caretaker.

Sometime ago one of your officers was at the Police Station auditing the books and sent a message to the Secretary to bring the books to him so that he may go through them. The Secretary returned the message that the books were open for his inspection if he liked to call, but your officer did not call, although it was only half a mile out of his way. If it was too much trouble for a paid officer to attend such matters I can quite understand our Secretary (who does his work voluntarily) refusing the command to run after the paid officer when he likes to come along and command him to do so. Besides the deficit in the book [£1 debt] there will be another year’s salary due to the caretaker at the end of the year for which I am responsible viz £5. I would like to state that none of us care for anything what we do in the interest of the Cemetery or any other public matter but as we get no assistance in this matter we feel that we are called on to obey official commands.
Yours etc.
Joseph Lewis, Jarrahdale
PS. The book will go by tomorrow’s post.
[Item No. 1883/2074 V1 Item Title: Cemetery. Reserve 626 Cockburn Sound District. Shire of Serpentine-Jarrahdale. Selection of land for a burial place at Jarrahdale. Watkins E. Harrison. Board of Management. Cemetery accounts. Consignment. No. 4697]


The Mill crew at Jarrahdale circ 1910-20s Joe is middle row far left.

 In 1926 aged 61 and after forty-three years service Joseph Lewis retired from his position as the mill foreman at Jarrahdale. It is believed that his health had deteriorated and affected his ability to continue to work in the manner he wished to. In that period of service he have experienced the growth of the timber industry at Jarrahdale from the single first No.1 mill through to the management of Mr. Francis Brady when Jarrahdale boasted twenty eight benches and produced as much as 45,000 super feet of timber per day. [Ref. 3. A. Gunsburg & J. Austin.  Rails through the Bush. Timber and Firewood Tramways and Railway Contractors ofWestern Australia(1997). Light Railway Research Society of Australia Inc,Surrey Hills,Victoria].

Joseph and his family circ late 1920s.

L/R Back row is Victor on Josephs lap, Tommy Sheehan and Daphne standing up.

Middle is Gwen Sheehan and Mary Ann Lewis

Front row are Lennie and Alvon sitting and Francis standing.

One years after retiring, on the 23rd August 1927, Joseph Henry Lewis died aged 62 years. He is buried at Jarrahdale Cemetery in plot 383. (head to head with his mothers and daughters shared plot 347). It is said that Joes’ funeral was one of the biggest ever attended in Jarrahdale. Members from other region ANA committees were requested to attend by train.

Joe’s grave site covered in flower on the day of his burial

The saying that “when a man dies an entire library is lost”, could not be true than with Joseph Lewis’ passing. In his time and as the mill foreman, fourteen mills had operated in the Jarrahdale area and his experiences and knowledge of the growth of the timber industry in Western Australia is one that can never be repeated. He had seen his Country grow to be a nation, his home town grow to be an industrial giant in its time, he witnessed the coming of steam, and of motor travel and electrical power. He had helped his family grow and felt the anxious and then unspeakable pain that a father feels for the tragic loss of too many of his children and in particular his young sons before they reached early manhood. And he had experience the sense of Community, with his sense of service he left behind legacies for future generations and instilled that respect and belonging to his own future families and others that had known him. And yet after giving so much, there is little recorded of his life or that of his wife Mary Ann. The lack of recorded history of his life demonstrates that he must have been a humble achiever and cared not for the recognition of his life achievements.

Orginal head stone

Ian Lewis at Joes Grave site.
Ellen Sheehan nee lewis and Ellen Lewis nee Batt shared grave in background

Some worthy testimony to Joseph and the respect and friendship that he had acquired through his lifetime is captured briefly but descriptively in the following three paragraphs:

The greatest man who ever graced the Jarrahdale bush”  p 109 N. Coy The Serpentine. A History of the Shire of Serpentine-Jarrahdale (1984) South West Printing and Publishing Co. Bunbury.

In an interview recorded by history researcher Marolyn Hamiltonwith Roy Day he describes Joseph Lewis as “the Father of the Men.  He held a reputation for his kindly attitude, often finding men work of some kind when they where unemployed”. Another recollection from these interviews is that Joe was responsible for showing visitors through the mill. On one occasion a visitor was hit on the leg with some mud that had been thrown in jest. No one was game to tell Joe who had thrown the mud, as they knew that this would have resulted in an immediate sacking. Joe was loyal to his workers and required that they worked at a high standard.

In a second interview conducted by Marolyn Hamilton, Mr. Jack Baker stated:   I worked under the greatest man that Jarrahdale ever knew. That was old Joe Lewis. He was a legend in his own lifetime. A remarkable man. He was born and reared around Jarrahdale. There’s an old homestead we used to call Lewis’s place. It wouldn’t even grow snakes now. He never went to school yet he was a well spoken, he was well learned. He read a lot. He was good at figures. He was an all round mill hand. He was president of almost every second charitable institution in the town and I’ve seen him break down and cry for any emotional event. If anyone was hard up and broke and he couldn’t give them a job he’d give them the price of a feed and he’d give us boys a bad time. He’d just tell us straight out, he said, ‘It’s no use me sacking you. No one else would give you a job and your poor old father would only have to keep you and he can’t afford to do that.’ He’d get you by the ear and pull back to your job and all that sort of business.

After Joseph’s death the family were not permitted to remain in the mill house at Jarrahdale. Mary Ann moved her family to a property Victoria Park.

Her granddaughter Judith Stokes (nee Lewis) recalls: Gran Lewis lived at I think No 8, Canterbury Tce Victoria Park. The house is reported to have been funded by her son Earnest Lewis from his war wages. The house no longer stands and is in 2012 a car park.

We used to live in North Perth and I remember we had to catch a bus into Perth then a tram out to Gran’s. The house has been demolished and the land today is used for a car park. 

The house as I remember was weatherboard, with a wire fence and a hedge. The front verandah was covered in with a canvas blind to make a sleep out for the many family members who always seemed to be staying there. I don’t ever remember the front door being closed, we just walked in and the house was always full of various relatives. Gran would always be sitting in her cane chair in front of the kitchen stove. She was a big lady and didn’t move around much. Her white hair was very long and she used to brush it out, wind it around and have a bun on the top of her head.  Uncle Len lived there, and later on as Gran got older Aunty Millie and Uncle Horace Day (and Cousin Len Day sometimes) moved in to look after her. I always remember Aunty Millie saying the best hot dinner they ever have is an Onion Sandwich. I asked her a few times about Peter Lewis, but she never really said a great deal. Millie always cursed him for her dark skin.  One time, she said he jumped ship, that’s why he changed his name, then she told me if he signed any legal documents it had to be signed as Salvado. So your guess is as good as mine.

With so many relatives Gran got a bit mixed up with who belonged to who but as a child she always gave me pair of knickers for my Birthday. I thought they were horrible but thinking about it now I must have been very honoured for her to even remember.


Mary Ann Lewis survived Joseph for thirty four years reaching 92 years old before her death on 1st March, 1961.


Mary Ann Lewis with daughters Millie and Daphne and son Victor. Mary Ann is holding the photograph of her husband and sons before the WW1.



Reference No.1

N. Coy. The Serpentine. A History of the Shire of Serpentine-Jarrahdale (1984) South West Printing and Publishing Co. Bunbury

Reference No.2

V.G. Fall. The Mills of Jarrahdale 2nd ed. (1979) CM Advertising, Publishing,Claremont and Scope Printing Services, Willetton

Reference No.3

A. Gunsburg & J. Austin. Rails through the Bush. Timber and Firewood Tramways and Railway Contractors ofWestern Australia(1997). Light Railway Research Society of Australia Inc,Surrey Hills,Victoria.


Reference No.4

M. Southcombe. Steam in the Forests(1986) Hesperian Press,Perth

Reference No.5

Glimpses of the People of Jarrahdale. Recorded by Ken Ross taken from the Catholic Record

Oral Histories


Reference No.6

Extract of an interview with Mr. Charles (Jack) Baker and Mr. Bill Chambers recorded byMarolyn Hamilton at Jarrahdale in 1981. Jack Baker was born in 1899 at No. 2 Mill (Wungong) and lived for sometime at No. 6 Mill before moving to Jarrahdale with his parents in 1912.

Mr. Baker:   I worked under the greatest man that Jarrahdale ever knew. That was old Joe Lewis. He was a legend in his own lifetime. A remarkable man. Incidentally one of the greatest tragedies of all time in my lifetime at Jarrahdale was the Lewis family. I took over as their house boy when the youngest boy went to the war. Looking after their horse, their cow. I suppose it’s history now that everyone knows they lost three sons and a son-in-law in the war. And Nellie, when her second child was born, it was born the day that her husband left to go to the war – sailed away – and I’d taken Mr. and Mrs. Lewis down to Mundijong to see them off. Stayed with them at the house that night. Nellie woke me up next morning, ‘Go and get Mrs. Hettick and go on to the hotel and get a bottle of brandy.’ A week after the baby was born she got up and was washing napkins in an open copper. Her dressing gown caught alight and she got burnt to death. So to lose three sons, a son-in-law and a daughter in a matter of a year I think you could put it down to one of the greatest tragedies of all times.
MH:   What was her surname?
Mr. Baker:  Sheehan. Tommy Sheehan was well known in later years as a good happy go lucky, good footballer down and around Donnybrook and finished up lightweight boxing champion of Western Australia.
MH:  He wasn’t the one that was killed?
Mr. Baker:     Oh no. His father that was killed.
MH:   Oh I see, he was one of the children.
Mr. Baker:  Yes that was his first child. Tommy Sheehan was Nellie and Tommy Sheehan’s first child.
MH:        So their grandparents reared them?
Mr. Baker:     Reared them. What was their names – Gwenny Sheehan and Tommy Sheehan.
MH:  Why would you say Joe Lewis is so renowned?
Mr. Baker:    Well he was born and reared around Jarrahdale. There’s an old homestead we used to call Lewis’s place. It wouldn’t even grow snakes now. He never went to school yet he was a well spoken, he was well learned. He read a lot. He was good at figures. He was an all round mill hand. He was president of almost every second charitable institution in the town and I’ve seen him break down and cry for any emotional event. If anyone was hard up and broke and he couldn’t give them a job he’d give them the price of a feed and he’d give us boys a bad time. He’d just tell us straight out, he said, ‘It’s no use me sacking you. No one else would give you a job and your poor old father only has to keep you and he can’t afford to do that.’ He’d get you by the ear and pull back to your job and all that sort of business. And he was the father of seventeen children. That’s a record in itself.
MH:  Seventeen!
Mr. Baker:     He’s still got a son alive at Jarrahdale. Alvon, he’ll tell you.
Bill Chalmers: He’s not at Jarrahdale?
Mr. Baker: Not a Jarrahdale man. Perth, is he?
MH:  His father was Peter, is that right? [Father and brother had name of Peter.]
Mr. Baker:   Peter was his brother. Jack Lewis, who finished up a big timber man down Kirup – Lewis & Stirk. Incidentally he was very good to this Tommy Sheehan as I previously mentioned – young Tommy Sheehan. Made a second father. But the surviving boy that went to the war, Jack, he’s living in Marine Terrace in Busselton now. He’d be 83. He was the second youngest. He was 17 when he enlisted and he was back out of the four brothers before he was a man – before he was 21 – from the war.
MH:     Do you recall the men going to the war?
Mr. Baker:        I could give you the history of almost everyone on that honour board up there as one of the chief places I take. I am often asked by the Education Department to take a class of children from the metropolitan area, take them up to Jarrahdale and meet them at Jarrahdale, and show them around Jarrahdale. Tell them all about the historical events which I usually take them up to the cemetery to view and point out this one killed, how their deaths came about and that is one of the chief places I take them to show the great honour board in the Jarrahdale Hall. Incidentally the Jarrahdale Hall is where Mum and I were married. The only people who have ever been married in the Jarrahdale Hall. That is another record we have.

MH:     What was the reason for that?
Mr. Baker:  In March and we got a couple of inches of rain on the 26th and we were married on the 27th and they had been changing the roof on the church so they just shifted the alter down to the hall and done the job there. Quite a good job they done too. We’ve been together for 57 years.

End of transcript.



Summary of Interview with Daphne Graham (nee Lewis) with Ian Lewis. 

In an interview, 29th May 2005 with Daphne Graham then aged 94 and the last surviving member of that generation of Lewis’, she stated that her interviewer Ian Lewis looks just like her Dad. Daphne explained that her father was a strict Catholic and her mother a Church of England. He didn’t mind if the boys went to the Church of England but insisted the girls did not. She told of a time when a young girl carrying a bottle of whiskey was sent down to the all male mill crew, to sell tickets to raise money for the Catholic Church. Joseph sent the girl back to the priest and later went to see him and explained how angry he was that the priest had sent the girl down to the mill with a bottle of whiskey. Daphne said that from that day Dad had no further involvement with the Church.

Daphne also recalls her brothers going to War and the sad time it was for the family. She explained how living in Jarrahdale was not good times but very hard times and things like a doctor were not readily available. “Once one of the boy’s had a broken arm and father had to set it in place with two sticks of wood”.

During a second meeting with Daphne Graham in January 2007 she recalled that the times were very difficult during the 1920s. They would buy two rabbits once a week and that would be their stew or roast. “Dad liked a quiet drink and often went and got some Italian wine, he mixed it with milk and we had some as kids, it never hurt us!”  She also recalls that her father Joseph was sacked once, for “knowing too much about the mill operating” after advising one of the mill senior staff of a condition that prevented the mill from starting.  She said that the next day Joe received a telegram advising that he should return to work and the sacking had been a mistake.

When reviewing a photo of the Lewis boys who went to war, Daphne recalled that her brother Arthur would take her for walks and called her Tuppence. She had to have matching ribbons to her dress and he would take her to the mill store and ask the store keeper to tie her ribbons for her. She would have been four or five years old but remembers the boys going off to the war. She also recalls the day when a photograph of all the boys and her father was taken, when Herbert had enlisted and how she was not allowed in that photograph.


Daphne Graham (nee Lewis) circ 2006


Original Headstone on Joe Lewis’ grave at Jarrahdale Cemetery


Second Headstone at Joe’s grave site at Jarrahdale.

LEWIS. — On August 23, 1927, at Jarrahdale, Joseph, the dearly beloved husband of Mary Anne Lewis, fond father of Florrie (Mrs. Boxshall), Millicent (Mrs. H. Bay), Ernest Alfred (Jack), Alvin, Leonard. Frank, Daphne, Victor and the late Reg (Sonny), Arthur (Mick), Herbert (Slim), killed in action, and. grandfather of Tom and Gwen Sheehan; aged 62 years R.I.P.

LEWIS.—The Friends of the late Mr. Joseph Lewis, foreman, No. 1 Mill Jarrahdale, beloved husband of Mrs. Mary Anne Lewis, are respectfully invited to follow his remains to the place of interment, the Roman Catholic Cemetery, Jarrahdale The Funeral is appointed to leave his late residence, Jarrahdale, at 4 o’clock, THIS (Wednesday) AFTERNOON, per road. Friends wishing to attend the Funeral may proceed by the 7.35a.m. train leaving Perth. BOWRA and O’DEA, Undertakers, 195 Pier-street, Perth. TeL A4308.

A.N.A., JARRAHDALE BRANCH NO.11 LEWIS. — Officers and Members of the above Branch and the Association generally are respectfully requested to attend the Funeral of our late member, Mr. Joseph Lewis, ex-vice-president of the Board of Directors, which .is appointed to leave his late residence, Jarrahdale, at 4 o’clock THIS (Wednesday) AFTERNOON for the Jarrahdale Cemetery. Members are requested to proceed by the 7,35 a.m. train leaving Perth.

.J. F. O’MEARA, Secretary.


Notes on Thomas  Sheehan Snr.

Five accounts by witnesses of the tragic death to Thomas are held on the Australian Red Cross Wounded and Missing Soldiers Files, reference # 1DRL/0428. In summary Sheehan was one of three or six men taking cover in a shell hole, on the war front at Zonnebake Ridge in Ypres when another shell dropped into their refuge, killing all instantly. The men were buried where they killed and no cross was erected as the Germans gained control of the ground shortly after and the surviving soldiers were forced back.

In Memory Notices Thursday 16th August 1917


Mr Baker in his 1981 interview with Marolyn Hamilton recalls that Tommy Sheehan Jnr was a good footballer and may have even been a lightweight boxing champion for Western Australia.

Both the Sheehan siblings Tommy and Gwen have deceased. The descendant Sheehan Family own and operate the Fruit Barn in Donnybrook and have named a local variety of white nectarine after Tommy Sheehan.   It is known that Joseph Lewis recorded all the family births and deaths in a bible which in 2006 is held by the Sheehan family.


tom v vic boxing

Tom Sheehan and Victor both boxed as young men and on more than one occasion met each other in the ring. The following is a news article on one such bout in May 1932.

Tom Boxing

Tom Boxing 2

Tom Boxing3

By 1939 Tom Sheehan has surpassed Victor in his boxing talent and was the West Australian State lightweight champion.  


Victor Lewis in the Jarrahdale Cricket Team as Wicket Keeper


Mary Ann Lewis with one of the Graham boys.


Ian Lewis with Daphne Graham, Rita and Victor Lewis in 1998.

Victor’s prized possession was his fathers pocket watch now held by Ian as a family heirloom.


Jarrahdale Roll of Honour Board recording all locals that served the Great War. 




Estate of Joseph Lewis of Jarrahdale

State Records Office (SRO) 1927/609 Cons 3403 [held on Cons 5564]

Mrs Mary Ann Lewis applied in person for Letters of Administration.

Joseph Lewis made his last Will and Testament on 8 August 1917 and bequeathed to ‘my wife, Mary Ann Lewis all my real and personal estate.’

He appointed Edward McKenna as executor. McKenna renounced all his rights and titles to probate. The Will was signed in the presence of Sidney G. Smith formerly of Jarrahdale but now of Eastern States. The value of property not exceeding £396.

Death Certificate details

Joseph Lewis, Mill Hand, male 63 years died of Diabetes Mellitus, coma. Duration of illness 2 weeks.

Medical Attendant. John C. Bennett, MRCS.Eng.LRCP Lond. [writing not clear re qualifications]

Last attended deceased on 23 August 1927 (day of his death).

Father:    Peter Lewis, Gardener

Mother: Helen May Batt [name must have been misheard – should be Ellen Mary]

Information certified in writing by Mary Anne Lewis, wife, Jarrahdale.

District Registrar: M J McGrath.

Registered on 30 August 1927 at Jarrahdale.

Minister: Rev. John Lynch, Roman Catholic

Witnesses of burial:

George Claydon

Charles Denham

Where born: Pinjarrah

How long in Western Australia: 63 years

Married at Jarrahdale Mary Ann Batt aged 23 years.


Florence May

Ernest Alfred



Leonard Raymond

Francis Norman


Victor Joseph

Deceased: 4 Males  3 Females.


1913 Joe presentation to Dr Joyce at the New Hall

Friday 4 July 1913 Joe Lewis

Joe march 1906

Train accident at jarrahdale JL

Joe Sunday times April 1906

Joe’s Notice

Joe cricket



 Mill closure and injury to Joe Lewis

Jarrahdale strike letter to editor

J Lewis memory Notices 23 Aug 1929















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