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Hassall, Eliza Marsden (1834–1917)

by Mary Salmon

Miss Hassall, who passed away lately at the age of 84 years, was the principal, for a number of years, of the Marsden Training School for Women Missionaries, at Ashfield, where a number of young women were trained to be teachers and foreign missionaries. This institution has now been closed, but Miss Hassall, who may have inherited the missionary spirit, continued until within a short time of her death to take a great personal and active interest in home and foreign missions. Both grandfathers were missionaries. Roland Hassall was one of the thirty missionaries who went at the end of the 17th century to Otaheite, but being driven away from the island, he took his family to Australia; and, in 1796 settled in Parramatta. His son Thomas, then only three years old, became a clergyman in due course, and married the eldest daughter of the Rev. Samuel Marsden, second chaplain of New South Wales. She was born in the vessel that brought in the "only clergyman in Australia for seven years," as the Reverend Samuel was wont to describe himself. When the Rev. James Hassall, of Queensland, wrote his personal recollections of old Australia, his sister, Eliza, furnished him with data for much of his information. She was born, and lived until the death of her father, the Rev. Thomas Hassall, in the old homestead at Denbigh; and among her liveliest remembrances were the circumstances that surrounded her father's peaceful passing away in the year 1867. For many years he held services at stated times in such distant places from one another as Cobbitty, Narellan, Camden, Cabramatta, Mulgoa, Smith Creek, Fleurs, Wollongong, Sutton Forest, Goulburn, Picton, and the Oaks; and whilst the clergyman was away on his rounds his daughter continued to keep up the interest in religion by teaching the children, first in the little church, called Heber Chapel, which Thomas Hassall had built on his land, and afterwards in the stone church, called St. Paul's, which was afterwards erected at Cobbity. Denbigh, the family home, as Miss Hassall knew it in her youth, was like a scattered village, the entire estate divided between the clergyman and his brother (who died in 1830), being over 1000 acres. There was the carpenter, the blacksmith, the shoemaker, the dairyman, the gardener, the brickmaker, the schoolmaster, and perhaps a dozen or more other men and their families all living upon the estate in cottages, the type of which has now quite passed away, being made of "rammed earth," with a cedar frame. For a fortnight before Mr. Hassall died he begged to be allowed to see all his friends and the people far and near rallied round him to see the peaceful old man. Bishop Barker came from Sydney, and George Cox from Mulgoa, and he was able to converse with them all, taking his earthly leave of his friends. Six hundred people attended the funeral, and forty clergymen were present. Miss Hassall, brought up entirely amid such clerical associations, was deeply imbued with a religious spirit. Her early life had been devoted to assisting her father in the parish, and when the home was broken up she took on the charge of the Marsden Missionary College. A sister was married to Dr. Hope, of Geelong, another to Mr. George Hope, of Darriwal, Victoria, and a third was married to Mr. John Oxley, of Kirkham, son of Surveyor-general Oxley. One sister alone survives, aged 93 years.

Original publication

Citation details

Mary Salmon, 'Hassall, Eliza Marsden (1834–1917)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/hassall-eliza-marsden-12970/text24872, accessed 24 January 2018.

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