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Button, William Stammers (1795–1876)

One more old colonist has finished his course. Mr. William Stammers Button died peacefully at his residence, St. John-street, at a quarter-past eight on Sunday morning, aged 80 years, having lived in Tasmania 43 years. He was born at Nayland, in Suffolk, in the year 1795, where his early boyhood was spent, removing to Sudbury, in the same county, while yet young, in which place he was associated in business with his uncle, in whose service he frequently travelled to various parts of England, visiting also France and Flanders, when travelling by land and sea was attended by numerous perils. He was wont to recount to some of his friends the incidents of his wintry voyages and long journeys by coach, contrasting them with modern methods of conveyance.

From his retentive memory he would sometimes recall the state of England in his youthful days during the awful struggles of the Peninsular war, and describe with the graphic power of a keen observer those days of dear bread, iron rule, and wearing anxiety. On his marriage he removed to Long Melford, a place historically famous like the other towns where he had lived. While there, he took an active part in politics, working hard on the liberal side, and especially seeking with others the repeal of "The Test and Corporation Acts," which was happily accomplished in the year 1828.

In 1833 he came to this colony in the ship Forth, bound to Circular Head and Launceston. He was accompanied by his brother Mr Thomas Button, Mr J. S. Waddell, and other members of his family. He first took up his residence at Norfolk Plains, removing to Launceston for business purposes. During his 40 years residence in Launceston he has been one of our most prominent and useful citizens. He was from the beginning one of the chief members of the Anti-Transportation League, giving cheerfully of his time and money. He was among the earliest promoters of the Cornwall Insurance Company in 1842, one of its first Directors, for many years Chairman of the Company, and to the last was warmly devoted to its interests. When Launceston was declared a municipality he was elected a member of the first Council and its first Mayor on January 1st, 1853. He filled the office by successive elections for four years, and during his mayoralty the chief portion of the work was done in supplying the town with water — a work that took up much of his time, yet by some strange oversight no notice is taken of his efforts on the commemorative fountain in Prince's Square or on the pillar at St. Patrick's River. Mr Button was appointed a justice of the peace in 1855, and has rendered good service in that capacity, his clear judicial mind eminently fitting him for the post. In October, 1856, he was elected a member of the Legislative Council for Tamar, and served in that capacity for six years. In the Council he was looked upon as a valuable member. His unobtrusive manners, wide experience, and extensive knowledge made him a man of power; he was firm and fearless — an independent member, one courteous and true. With the Launceston and Western Railway Mr Button was connected from the very beginning. Anxious to see the colony advance he gave labour and money to aid in improving our means of transit. For a while he was chairman of the Railway Company, till increasing years compelled him to retire. As one of the early shareholders of the Gas Company and a Director from its formation until his death, he took great interest in its working, and read carefully to qualify himself for his duties. Mr Button was also one of the chief agents in establishing the Launceston Examiner, though he never took an active part in the management; and was also one of the founders of the Launceston Mechanics' Institute, of which he was subsequently President. It may be safely said that few men have ever striven more zealously and unselfishly than Mr Button did to advance the interests of our town, district, and colony. It cannot be expected that all his public actions will have secured the approval of all men, but there are none who will not admit that his integrity of purpose, his resolute method of work, his general wisdom, and his hearty sympathy with all onwards movements, were beyond question.

Those who knew Mr Button best were most aware that he was distinguished for his religious zeal: he was a man who feared God, and sought to serve his day and generation as one who must give account at last. No notice of his life amongst us, even in a public newspaper like this, would be complete that passed over this aspect of his life. As a friend and fellow-worker of the late Rev. J. West, he greatly aided in the building and support of the Prince's Square Independent Church. From the formation of the congregation until within a recent period he had served the church faithfully as Treasurer, for a short time was Superintendant of the Sunday school, and at his death was senior deacon. He also for many years acted as Treasurer of the Northern Branch of the Congregational Home Mission, and had taken an active interest in the working of the mission on the N.W. Coast. In his death the Bible Society loses an attached friend. As a working member of it's local committee, and subsequently President for years, until failing health compelled him to resign, he gave one of the many proofs of the catholic nature of his religious principles and life. We have been given to understand that not withstanding the conservatism natural to old age, Mr Button had very considerable acquaintance and sympathy with many liberal forms of modern thought on religious matters.

Mr Button's family life is not a theme to dwell upon in a newspaper, but it may be mentioned that a few months ago his golden wedding was appropriately honored by a few friends, on which occasion he ascribed much of his public usefulness to his happy home life. He has left many sincere friends, who will cherish his memory to the very last. His interest in all things relating to colonial life was as fresh and strong as in his days of robust strength and willing work.

Though old, he still retained
His manly sense and energy of mind;
Virtuous and wise he was, but not severe,
He still remembered that once he was young.

Most of the places of business were partially closed yesterday as a mark of respect for the deceased gentleman, and the Municipal Council adjourned immediately after meeting for the same reason. The funeral will take place this afternoon, friends assembling at Prince's Square Congregational Church at half-past three.

Original publication

Additional Resources

  • funeral, Cornwall Chronicle (Launceston, Tas), 20 September 1876, p 3

Citation details

'Button, William Stammers (1795–1876)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/button-william-stammers-14833/text26021, accessed 17 November 2019.

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