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John Griffiths (1801–1881)

The funeral of the late Mr Jno. [John] Griffiths took place on Tuesday afternoon at the Church of England Cemetery, and was largely attended. Mr Griffiths was one of those old colonists, of which but few now remain, who landed in Launceston when it was nearly all forest, and who have gradually seen it attain its present importance. He was intimately associated with its commercial affairs, and to the progress Launceston has made we are largely indebted to such men as Mr Griffiths. He landed here in 1819, coming from Sydney with his father and three brothers in his father's brig Glory, bringing orders for selections issued by Governor Macquarie. Mr. Griffiths settled at Norfolk Plains, taking a farm in conjunction, with one of his brothers, but he subsequently relinquished his share in the business, and went sealing in the Straits. He then took to shipbuilding, his yard being where the Bischoff Company's Smelting Works now stands. His first vessel, the brig William, was launched there in 1835, and it is related that when launched she struck on the opposite bank, and had to be hauled off with a team of bullocks. Amongst other vessels built there by him was the bark Sydney Griffiths, a well-known intercolonial trader. The William was placed on the Sydney and Launceston line as a regular packet, under Mr Griffith's own command, and made many successful trips. Mr Griffiths erected a flour mill near his shipyard and amongst other establishments built by him was the old bonded warehouse, Charles-street, now occupied by Mr Cape as a wool and forage store. He was also connected with the Portland Bay whale fisheries, the vessels of which used to lie where Green's wharf now stands, the cooperage being in the vicinity. Mr Griffiths at one time held in conjunction with Messrs. Henty and Connolly, the pre-emptive right of 4000 acres of land at Port Fairy as a cattle station, and it is upon this property that the town of Belfast now stands. He was one of the shipowners engaged in stocking the newly settled district Port Phillip, and when Tasmania was looked to by New South Wales for supplies of wheat, he went largely into the speculation, until the trade was supplanted by that of Chili. He also carried on commercial relations with South Australia and Western Australia, as well as Victoria, and it is related that 40 years ago he loaded up a vessel with wattle bark at Western Port. One of his vessels, the Fox, was sunk at George Town. The old Government brig Isabella was purchased by Mr Griffiths, and used by him in his intercolonial trade. He built a bridge over the North Esk near his shipyard, where the Tamar street bridge now stands, and for this work he obtained a Government grant of 2500 acres at Freshwater Point (now the property of his brother William), and as much prison labour as he required for the purpose of clearing it. The present bridge stands on some of the piles originally used by Mr. Griffiths. Space would fail us were we to attempt to enter more into detail concerning this enterprising and industrious man, but from what we have stated it will be seen that he was a most useful colonist, and one who largely assisted in the settlement of the neighbouring colonies.

Mr Griffiths left Launceston about 11 years ago, and went to Formby, River Mersey, where several vessels were built by him, notably the barkentine J. L. Griffiths, now missing. Latterly, being in failing health, he came to reside with his son-in-law, the Hon. Jno. Scott, M.L.C., and at that gentleman's residence he expired on Sunday in the 80th year of his age.

Original publication

Additional Resources

  • death notice, Launceston Examiner (Tas), 3 January 1881, p 2

Citation details

'Griffiths, John (1801–1881)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 23 May 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]


23 August, 1801
Richmond, New South Wales, Australia


2 January, 1881 (aged 79)
Launceston, Tasmania, Australia

Cause of Death

general debility

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.