At age 7 James's mother died, leaving his father with 10 children aged from 0 (twins) to 18. James was then apprenticed to a farmer at age 9, a parish apprenticeship commonly used in those days to relieve the stresses on poorer families. James Prior married Ann Pape in 1843, but after giving birth to one child (Jane), Ann died and James remarried, marrying to Mary Pound in 1849.
Two years later he emigrated to South Australia where his brother Samuel had gone 4 years before. He settled at Mount Barker then Milang on Lake Alexandrina (a busy port in those days), where he worked as a mail contractor, labourer, farmer and fisherman. In 1861, he left his wife and small baby son in Milang and travelled overland to Victoria with children Jane 16, Caroline 5 and George 4. For him to have left wife Mary taking the 3 eldest children suggests that there were serious problems in their relationship, and he thenceforth claimed to be widower. Mary's conviction in 1860 for selling spirits to the natives may offer a clue.
Jane was married in Ballarat later that year, and James and the other 2 children settled in the Ararat area. It would have been extremely difficult for him to both work and support his children, and it's no surprise that in 1863 he was living with a 'housekeeper' Ann Storey, whom the children called 'mother'.
James Prior killed Dan McLeod in 1863 during a drunken argument about money (see Story 'Manslaughter'). During the trial Caroline gave evidence against him and Ann Storey, resulting in James being sentenced to 6 years jail. It's interesting to note that the magistrate stated that "one of the things which weighed with him most in the prisoner's favour was the manner in which his children had been brought up".
As a result of their father's prison sentence both children effectively became orphans, and they were put under the care of the Immigrants Aid Society in Melbourne. The 'Immigrants Home' as it was known was privately funded and overloaded at that time, and no better than a workhouse. From 1865 the Victorian government accepted the care of neglected children (and the Immigrants Home) and Caroline and George became state wards. George was moved to the new Sunbury Industrial School which also had an horrific reputation regarding the survival rate of the inmates.
James was released in 1867 after serving 4 years, and the children were released about a year later, presumably into his care. His prison record indicates his occupation and gardener and blacksmith.
He and the children then presumably moved to the Albury/Wodonga area, because we next see both James and Caroline marrying in Albury in 1882 and living in Wodonga, with James working as woodcarter. James's marriage was probably bigamous, because there's no evidence that he and Mary Pound had divorced. Caroline married George Vining, a farmer in Fell Timber Creek, west of Wodonga.
Meanwhile in 1872 his wife Mary had married Isaac Garland in Adelaide claiming to be a widow, and was living at Wellington (near Milang). Apparently Isaac was a good match for Mary because they were both charged with selling spirits to natives in the next few years. Isaac died in 1906, and when Mary also fell sick Caroline travelled to SA and brought Mary back to Wodonga, where she died a few months later.
James's skill in choosing partners failed again with his latest wife Mary Ann Taylor who proved be an alcoholic. When she was drunk he locked her out of the house, and she died lying on the street in 1899. He later became a pensioner and died in 1909. His obituary was supplied by daughter Caroline, stating that he had married 4 times - it's possible that the 'missing wife' was Ann Storey with whom he lived in a de facto relationship.
We know little about George Prior's movements until 1891 when he married Mary Bannigan in Broken Hill and moved to Pingelly - south-east of Perth - in Western Australia, buying a farm. (How he raised the money to buy such a property is a mystery.) Mary died in 1897 and George in 1922, leaving his property to his niece Alice Retallick. See the Notes for George Pound Prior.
*** Register Friday 21 September 1855
Mr. Parker reported that James Prior's contract had been satisfactorily performed. Ordered to be paid.
*** Observer Saturday 1 December 1855
BREMER. Monday, Novembe5 26. […] A letter was received from Mr. Prior complaining that no notice is posted up on the Milang Pound Yard of cattle impounded. The Poundkeeper was cautioned to post up notice in future.
*** Observer Saturday 29 March 1856
BREMER. Monday March 24. Present—Messrs, Stark (Chairman), Graham, ana I McDonald. Applications were received from James Boord, New Hamburg, for a slaughtering licence; and James Prior, Milang, for liberty to cut timber on Government ground. Mr. Prior also handed in his account for three days' attendance as witness, at Mount Barker, in Brook's case.
*** Register Saturday 17 July 1858
A letter from Mr. James Prior, mail contractor, stated that Mr. Bowman was about to fence off his land through which the present Milang and Strathalbyn road passes near the Finniss crossing-place, and enquired what he was to do, as the fencing would cut off all travelling communication. The Surveyor's note stated that he had written to request Mr. Bowman to delay the fencing of his land until the survey now in progress is completed.
*** Chronicle Saturday 16 April 1859
ALEXANDRIA. Saturday, April 9. Present— Messrs. Barwan (Chairman), Marshall, Skipper, and Crawford. The Chairman reported having been waited on by Police Corporal Bentley, who stated that James Prior had released from Milang pound, a bay horse (now in possession of the police), under false pretences, the said horse being the pro- perty of the District Council. Messrs. Marshall, Skipper, and the Clerk, were requested to see the poundkeeper's book relative to this matter, and to request him to hand over any money that may be due to this Council. The Clerk was instructed to lay an information against James Prior for having the said horse illegally in his pos- session.
*** Observer Saturday 11 June 1859
TAKEN out of the Milang Pound by mistake, a Bay or Brown aged HORSE, star in forehead, short tail, abont 16 or 17 hands high, branded like RF near shoulder, u over D near side neck. The owner can have the same by Applying to JAMES PRIOR, x Section 2363. Hundred of Bremer, near Milang.
*** Advertiser Saturday 12 May 1860
LOCAL COURT-STRATHALBYN. WEDNESDAY, MAY 9. [Before John Walker, Esq., S.M.] Mary Prior, of Milang, was charged by Police-trooper Foelche with having, on the 27th ult, sold to some aboriginal natives a bottle of rum. Bailpoolari alias Dick stated that, on the day in question, he went to Mrs. Prior's and obtained the bottle and contents produced, and paid her 3s. 6d. for it. On being asked what was in the bottle he stated " plenty water, pickaninny ruin, not very strong.' ' Mrs. Prior made a strenuous effort to shake the evidence of the witness, but failed. Sentenced to one month's imprisonment. A second information, charging her with retailing spirits without a licence, was withdrawn at the suggestion of his Worship, who hoped that the punishment inflicted in the one case would be effectual to prevent a repetition of either offence.
==== For the manslaughter, see separately.
*** Chronicle Saturday 1 August 1863
Received from Clerk of Court, Strathalbyn, £2 5s., moiety of fine imposed on Mrs. Prior.
*** Observer Saturday 16 April 1864
W. and W. Hack were charged with lighting a fire at Kangaroo Flat, in the Long Desert, without taking the required precautions. The information was dismissed, there being no proof that the defendants were the parties who lit the fire. Mary Prior pleaded guilty to a similar offence, and was fined £2.
*** Southern Argus (Port Elliot) Thursday 13 August 1874
Margaret Garland was charged with supplying intoxicating drink to natives on 29th July last, at Wellington. Mr. Davison for defendant who pleaded not guilty. Evidence was given by Blackamore and Bungaree, two natives, of having bought from the defendant 2s. worth of wine. Another charge of retailing without a licence was withdrawn on tbe recommendation of the Bench. The Bench spoke very strongly against such offences as the one before them. In the case before the Court there was no mitigation whatever of the offence — not the shadow of an excuse, and defendant was fined £10 and costs, or in default three months in gaol with hard labor. Isaac Garland was charged on two informations with similar offences, and pleaded guilty. Mr. Davison for tbe defence. Fined £10 and costs, or in default to be imprisoned for three months with hard labor. [This is almost certainly Mary Pound, who married Isaac Garland in 1872.]
*** Southern Argus (Port Elliot) Thursday 20 March 1890
NOTICE -ALL DOGS, or POULTRY TRESPASSING ON ALLOTMENT No. 572, Township of Wellington, Hundred of Brinkley, after this date will be DESTROYED. MARY GARLAND. Wellington, March 10th, 1890.
*** Wodonga & Towong Sentinel Friday 2 October 1891
An elderly couple named Prior also figured before the court, the husband (James Prior), being the applicant for an order prohibiting all publicans in the shire from supplying Mary Prior, his wife, with liquor. Prior complained that his better-half, notwithstanding that a similar order had lately been in force against her, was given, to too freqguent in- dulgence in liquor, and even during the currency of the order she managed to obtain liquor at the brewery, where she was in the habit of doing washing. The woman, who appeared in court in a half- drunken state, acknowledged that she had all along taken a glass of beer when she felt inclined, but she complained that she had been shut out of the house by her husband. The Bench granted the order, directing that it should remain in force for twelve months.
*** Wodonga & Towong Sentinel Friday 15 December 1899
MAGISTERIAL INQUIRY AT WODONGA. A magisterial inquiry was held by Mr. H. Harkin, J.P., at the Wodonga Courthouse on Friday, touching the death of Mary Prior, of Wodonga Flat, who was found dead in the neighborhood of the Atheneum on the 7th inst. The following evidence was taken : — James Prior identified the body as that of his wife. Last saw her alive about 6 p.m. on Wednesday morning. She was sitting out side in a muddled state, as if she had been drinking. She was abusing someone — it might have been him. Last heard her about 3 the following morning. She was still abusive, Next saw her on Thursday evening, when she was dead. Had been married between 17 and 18 years. The deceased was about 75 years of age. They lived happily when the deceased was not drinking. Never hunted his wife away with a stick. There was plenty of food in the house. She neglected her food through over-indulgence in liquor. Ebenezer William Smith, publican, recog- nised the body as that of Mrs. Mary Prior who came to his hotel about 6.20 a.m. on Thursday last. She called for a pint of beer, which she drank at the counter. She also purchased sixpence worth of beer in a bottle, which she took away with her. Alfred Goldinsr gave evidence as to the finding of the body. Henry Zoeing, a miner, also gave evidence. Senior-constable Arthur, officer in charge of the Wodonga uolice station, deposed that, in consequence of what last witness told him, he proceeded to a side street near the Athe- neum. Found the body of a woman, whom he recognised as that of Mrs. Mary Prior. The body was lying on its right side, with the head on its right arm. Death had taken place some hours previously. Carefully ex- amined the ground in tho vicinity, but could find no marks of a struggle. Some few yards away found a hat and a beer bottle. Had known accused about two years. She was of intemperate habits. Dr. Peipers said he was legally qualified. Performed a post mortem examination on the body of Mary Prior. Found the organs in most parts weak. The heart and lungs were diseased. Was of opinion that death was brought about by failure of the heart and lungs, accelerated by the heat of the day. A verdict was rsturned in accordance with the medical evidence.
*** Wodonga & Towong Sentinel Friday 28 February 1902
OLD AGE PENSIONS AT WODONGA. James Prior was recommended 6s.
*** Wodonga & Towong Sentinel Friday 17 May 1907
Mrs Garland, mother of Mrs G. Vining, of Fell Timber Creek, Wodonga, died on Sunday, at her daughter's residence. The deceased, who was a woman of extraordinary physical proportions, had attained the ripe age of 83 years, and had lived in Wodonga for less than six months, most of her lifetime having been spent in Wellington, South Australia, where she carried on business as a hawker and storekeeper. Towards the end of last year she was prostrated by illness, and Mrs Vining journeyed to the sick bedside of her mother. Having done everything possible in the circumstances, the venerable patient was brought to Wodonga, where her sufferings were attended to, and her closing hours rendered as comfortable as care and attention could make them. The end came on Sunday. The Rev. R. A. Blackham read the service at the graveside on Monday afternoon.
*** Wodonga & Towong Sentinel Friday 21 May 1909
Still another pioneer has paid "the debt of Nature." James Prior, a native of Cornwall, who landed in South Australia over half a century back, died at his residence, on the Wodonga Flat, on Sunday last, at the great age of 89 years. Deceased came over from the southern State 44 years ago, and has continually lived in Wodonga ever since. Until incapacitated by old age, deceased earned his livelihood as a woodcarter, but of late years he was in receipt of an old age pension. He was a mine of reminicences of experiences on the border 40 years ago. Deceased was married four times, and survived his last wife by seven years. Mrs. G. Vining, of Fell Timber Creek, was his only daughter, and he also leaves a son, who lives in Melbourne. Dr Schlink attended deceased about the end of last year, and gave the necessary certificate of death. In the circumstances, the coroner dispensed with a magisterial enquiry, and the interment took place on Tuesday afternoon, in the Wodonga Cemetery, when the service of the Church of England was read at the graveside by Rev. R. A. Blackham. [Interestingly, this does not mention Jane, Caroline's step-sister, who lived in Lexton. Perhaps contact was lost; perhaps she was simply overlooked.]
barque Prince Regent, 527 tons, Captain Walter Jago, from London 1850 / Plymouth 8th November 1850, arrived at Port Adelaide, South Australia 5th March 1851.
The Sydney Shipping Gazette (SSG) reports . . March 5:- Prince Regent, barque, 527 tons, Jago, from London and Plymouth 8th November . Passengers-- Rev. Mr. Rayner, Mrs. Rayner, Mr. and Mrs. Oddy and child, Mr. Edwin Cann, Mr. Samuel Kennedy surgeon-superintendent, and 225 Government emigrants,-- 3 births and 1 death, Andrew Anderson, of consumption on 1st March. —2nd ship from England to S.A. with government passengers for 1851
South Australian Register Thursday 6 March 1851
Wednesday March 5th 1851
The Barque Prince Regent 527 tons, Jago master from London and Plymouth 8th November
Passengers: Rev. Mr. Rayner, Mrs Rayner, Mr. and Mrs. Oddy and child, Mr. Edwin Cann and Mr. Samuel Kennedy (surgeon-superintendent) in the cabin ; Plus 235 government emigrants.
Births: Mrs Adam a son, Mrs Mason a son and Mrs Gale a daughter
Deaths: Andrew Anderson from Consumption 1st March.
Suggestions, questions, comments, errors to Andrew Gabb. Revised 24 July 2017.