Eden, George Edward

Date of Birth/Death:

1838/1934

George Edward Eden was born in Harberton, Devon, on 14 October 1848, the youngest of ten children of William and Charlotte Eden (nee Bickford). Like his father and brothers, he worked in the local slate quarries, starting work at the age of 9 years. He married Mary Finch (1848-1930) in January 1880 and by 1881 he was a Head Quarryman living with his family in the Quarry house in Stert, Dipford, Devon.

George and Mary’s three children, born in England, were:
1. Jacob Edward, born 10 March 1881, married Charlotte (Lottie) Philp.
2. George Emmanuel, born 31 March 1882, married Florence Best.
3. Richard John, born 15 October 1884, married Martha Hunt.

Unlike his brothers, who emigrated to the USA, George Eden sailed for Melbourne with his wife, three children and nephew Richard James Eden, arriving on the Cusco on 17 October 1885 then travelling on to Launceston Tasmania on the same day. He was among a large group of quarrymen from Devon and Cornwall recruited by the Bangor Slate Quarry to work in a quarry near Launceston. The company failed and was closed by 1888 leaving the workers homeless and without work.

The Edens tried their luck in Melbourne for some months, but by July 1888 they had made their way to Willunga where George obtained work at the Bangor Slate Quarry, later the Australian Slate Quarries. He remained there until at least 1921 when he was described as ‘the doyen of the present employees who is in his 74th year and busy at work. He was formerly in the Larcombe quarries, South Devon and reached Willunga in 1888, only a few days prior to the wreck of the Star of Greece on the coast in that neighbourhood. The veteran is a skilful slate worker, and a marvel of energy, despite his years’.

The family initially lived in a cottage in Beltunga Gully, on the southern outskirts of Willunga – a short walk to the quarries where he worked. The family later moved to St Andrews Terrace. In a letter back to England, George sent an almond from his garden and spoke of growing potatoes.

George was a staunch supporter of the Willunga Church of Christ into which he was formally received in August 1888, having initially been baptised into the Church of Christ in Maryborough Victoria in September 1887. He was a regular worshiper at the Church from 1888 into his old age. When membership dwindled, and he was the only remaining member of the congregation, he would open the Church door every Sunday morning and sit for a while and worship alone. He became known as “Old Fidelity”.

Mary Eden died on 22 January 1930, aged 82 years. George Eden, who was almost blind, then went to live with his oldest son Jacob (Jake) Eden in Port Adelaide where he died on 23 September 1934, aged 86 years. George and Mary Eden are both buried in the Cheltenham Cemetery, Adelaide.

References:

Chronicle Saturday 3 December 1921, page 42.
History of the Churches of Christ in South Australia 1846-1959.
Coral Eden The Edens of Willunga

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