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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

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Joseph Waterhouse (1828–1881)

from Mercury

The following interesting account of the late Rev. Mr. Waterhouse, who was drowned when the s.s. Tararua was wrecked, appears in the columns of The Bendigo Independent. As it was known (says our contemporary), Waterhouse, lately appointed superintendent of the Sandhurst Wesleyan circuit, was on board the steamer, grave fears were entertained for his safety, owing to the telegrams received by us on Saturday and Sunday being so incomplete. At first it was rumoured that the rev. gentleman was not on board the steamer; but on enquiry, however, we learned that Mrs. Waterhouse, who resides in Forest-street, received a letter on Friday last from her husband, in which he stated that he and his son were about to take their passage home by the Tararua. The fact that he was one of the passengers in the ill-fated steamer was confirmed late last night by telegram, which not only conveyed the melancholy news that he, but also his son, were numbered amongst the dead. To Mrs. Waterhouse the news caused the keenest anguish, whilst the large congregation at the Forest-street Wesleyan Church, who had had only one opportunity of listening to their pastor's voice, were nearly as much affected. The intelligence of his death, and also of that of his son, will be deeply regretted by thousands in this colony, and also in the South Sea Islands, where he spent the greater portion of his life. A short biographical sketch of his life will be interesting. In 1838 the Rev. John Waterhouse, father of the deceased gentleman, was appointed by the English Wesleyan Conference, as general superintendent of the South Sea Mission. Accordingly he sailed for Hobart, where he arrived the same year. The gentleman who has lost his life by shipwreck at that time was only 8 years of age. Gifted with more than ordinary intelligence, and being studious by nature, his education was designed to fit him for the ministry. After a successful career in one of the principal educational establishments in Hobart, he was ordained a minister in 1850. Previous to this his father had visited the South Sea Islands, and there established a number of missions. The Rev. Joseph Waterhouse, before he reached manhood, went to Fiji, and settled in Levuka. Young in years, and of an ardent spirit, he set himself energetically to carry on the good work of civilisation amongst the Fijians. He was then only 19 years of age. His lines were certainly not cast in pleasant places, for in those early times the Fijians were addicted to cannibalism, and under the rule of the unchristianised King Cakobau or Thakombau were guilty of atrocious crimes. Nothing daunted, however, the young missionary unflinchingly pursued his course, and in later years had the satisfaction of knowing that Christianity had spread over the whole of the islands. As many of the islands are from 20 to 30 miles apart, he had frequently to row from one island to another, and soon he became an expert oarsman. At that time many outrages were committed by Europeans in small coasting vessels, who, seizing the natives whenever they could, carried them off as slaves. It will be imagined that such outrages would create in the natives an antipathy against Europeans, consequently the young missionary was exposed to great dangers owing to the natives wishing to avenge on him the outrages that had been committed on their families. However, he had a peculiarly attractive disposition and kindly bearing, which appeared to draw the natives towards him. At one time, it is said, he was surrounded by natives who had sworn to take his life, but on his speaking to them they changed their intentions and afterwards were baptised as Christians. It is also said that he was the first white man to set foot in the king's residence at Bau. After labouring unceasingly in the South Seas for many years, his health broke down, and he came to Victoria, where, in a short time, his health was completely restored. Being of an active disposition, he closely identified himself with the Scottish Widows' Fund Society, and travelled through various parts of the colony, advocating its interests. He remained in the colonies for two years, and then left for Fiji. That was about ten years ago. In 1877 he finally left Fiji for Melbourne. Shortly afterwards he was appointed to the Beechworth Wesleyan circuit. He filled that position for three years, and was then appointed to the Echuca district, and at the last Wesleyan Conference he was selected to superintend the Sandhurst circuit. Mr. Waterhouse accordingly arrived in Sandhurst on the 6th April, and preached his first and only sermon on Sunday, the 10th April, in the Forest-street Church. A few days after his arrival, he received news from New Zealand concerning his oldest son, John Waterhouse who, with his cousin, was managing a large station belonging to their uncle, a wealthy squatter. The letter stated that his son was in indifferent health, and a doctor in Sandhurst advised Mr. Waterhouse to sail for New Zealand, and bring his son to Sandhurst, the climate being so much milder. Mr. Waterhouse interviewed the officers of the church, and obtained leave of absence for a month. It is three weeks to-day since he left Sandhurst. He was expected to preach next Sunday. The deceased gentleman, who was in his 51st year, was descended from a highly intellectual family. He was his father's seventh son. Three of his brothers entered the ministry. The Rev. Jabez Waterhouse, who was stationed in New South Wales, has been informed of the melancholy death of his brother, and has already sailed for Melbourne, and is expected in Sandhurst to-day. The deceased gentleman leaves a wife and seven children, four of whom are at present with his widow in Sandhurst. His oldest daughter is married to the Rev. James De Robin Quitville, M.A., of Melbourne, and the oldest son aged 25, is the one drowned. The melancholy event has cast a gloom over the community, but more especially is it felt by the congregation with which he was connected.

Original publication

Other Obituaries for Joseph Waterhouse

Citation details

'Waterhouse, Joseph (1828–1881)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 21 July 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]


11 February, 1828
Halifax, Yorkshire, England


29 April, 1881 (aged 53)
at sea

Cause of Death

shipping accident

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.