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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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John Augustus Woodward (1838–1884)

Although for some days past the community has been aware that Mr. John Woodward was seriously and even dangerously ill, the decease of that gentleman yesterday morning fell as a great shock on the citizens of Sandhurst. The hope was strongly entertained that his robust nature would enable him to overcome the ailment from which he was suffering, which originated in a severe cold, and that one only yet in his prime, so highly and universally esteemed, would be spared for many years to come. To the deep regret of all who knew him, it was destined otherwise, however; and today the task will devolve on his friends and fellow citizens of laying to his rest one of the most warm-hearted and estimable gentleman the district has ever known, Mr. Woodward was in every sense of the term an excellent citizen. He has been identified with nearly every local movement of importance for very many years past, and has well and ably taken his part in the public positions occupied by him. He was of a most benevolent and charitable disposition, but never ostentatious in the performance of acts of kindness. Many persons who have been indebted to him for timely assistance will bear his memory gratefully in mind. A great loss, therefore, has been experienced by all classes, and it has come with a peculiarly startling and depressing effect, for who would have thought, when Mr. Woodward started off on a fowling excursion at Christmas time, full of health and strength and of enthusiasm as a sportsman, that in less than three weeks he would be stricken down by a fatal illness? The record of his death is a sad one to have to make in the early year, and it is with feelings of heartfelt sorrow that we discharge the melancholy duty of including in our obituary notices the name of a man of such superior qualities and intrinsic worth.

Mr. John Augustus Woodward was born on the 13th of April, 1838, at Grasstree Hill, in Tasmania, situated on the road from Hobart to Richmond. He was the third of five sons, and his father held a high position in the Government service. Mr. Woodward's four brothers are all dead, and with his own death at the early age of 45, the only surviving son has passed away, leaving the father still alive at the age of 79. Mr. John Woodward the elder naturally feels his loss very deeply, and constantly refers to the death of his five sons before himself as one of the inconsistencies of nature. When a boy the deceased gentleman was instructed by a tutor, but was for some time at a school in Richmond, Tasmania. In 1846, when he was only eight years of age, the family left for Adelaide, and as a short time afterwards he was apprenticed to Mr. John Stephens, a printer in that city, he entered upon the duties of life at an early age. It was not long after this that the family came to Bendigo—in the year 1853—and setttled in Ironbark in the vicinity of the Victoria Reef. Here the father and two of his sons, George and Thomas, were working together, while John Augustus was connected with two brothers Towzean and others in a claim some distance north of the ground held by Ballerstedt and Sons. The claim, although small, being held under a miner's right, turned out some rich yields in 1855 and 1856, and enabled Mr. Woodward to make a successful start as a speculator. Subsequently, in conjunction with Messrs. Annear, Wells, Gibbs, R. F.Howard, and others, he became largely identified with mining on the Victoria Reef, and in 1860 acted as secretary for the Endeavor Company situated where the Victoria Consols is now, and among other mines with which he has since been connected, may be mentioued the Old Chum, the Adventure, the North United Hustler's and Redan, the Hercules and Energetic, and the Victoria Consols, and it is chiefly in the New Chum line and in the North United Hustler's and Redan that he has been interested latterly.

The genial and generous disposition which has secured for Mr. Woodward so much popularity in later days, was characteristic of him in the early days of the diggings, and this alone with the neat way in which he dressed (which was somewhat of a novelty in those days) secured for him the sobriquet of "Gentleman John," by which he was universally known on the diggings. For many years before he entered the Council Mr. Woodward took a prominent part in the management of the Bendigo Hospital, acting for some considerable time as honorary secretary, and doing a deal of hard work which is now performed by the paid secretary. Mr. Woodward was an excellent business man, and for his knowledge in this direction was appointed a trustee of the Sandhurst Savings Bank, a position which he held at the time of his death. His capacity for business management proved very useful to him in his position as a mining director in several different companies.

In 1874 he was returned unopposed to a seat in the City Council in place of Mr. Allingham, who retired from the representation of Sutton Ward. Mr. Woodward had previously contested Barkly Ward unsuccessfully against the late Mr. Ebenezer Neill. Shortly after his election to a seat in the council, his popularity was shown by his elevation to the position of Mayor of the city, which he hold during the mayoral year 1874-5. His subsequent unopposed return to the council in 1877 was further evidence of his great popularity, and his second appointment to the position of Mayor for the year 1879-80 was again illustrative of the confidence and high opinion entertained of him by his fellow councillors. Towards the end of his mayoral year in 1880 he expressed a desire for retirement from service as a councillor, and also intimated his intention to take a trip to the home country. Upon the occasion of his last appearance in the mayoral chair on the 11th August, 1880, and on the eve of his retirement, the late Cr. Clark paid a very high compliment to Cr. Woodward's adaptability for the position be occupied in the council, and expressed his regret at his determination to retire from among them. Cr. Clark's opinions were endorsed by the other councillors present, and a committee was appointed to prepare an address for presentation to Mr. Woodward, and the presentation was made at the annual mayoral dinner given in the following year by Mr. Woodward's successor, Cr. Hayes. As a councillor Mr. Woodward was most attentive to the requirements of his own ward, and always tried his utmost to promote the general interests of the citizens. As a mayor he was one of the most popular in the history of the city, and as he ruled effectively, yet without giving offence, he enjoyed the confidence and esteem of the whole council and all the officers. It has been frequently remarked that no one has looked more like a mayor than Cr. Woodward, and the regret at his withdrawal from the ranks of the city fathers will only be exceeded by the general mourning for his untimely death. As a public man and as a private citizen the estimation in which he was held was remarkable, and it may be truly said he has left the world without an enemy. Never can the words "He should have died hereafter" be used more forcibly, and the truth of them be more universally acknowledged, than in speaking of the death of genial and generous John Woodward.

Mr. Woodward was created a Justice of the Peace in 1874 after his first year as mayor. He was succeeded on his retirement from the council in 1880 by Cr. Harkness. Although he intended to pay a visit to the home country at that time, business arrangements precluded the possibility of his doing so, but he meant to carry out his original intention at the first convenient opportunity. Mr. Woodward took an active part in politics. He was a strong supporter of Mr. R. F. Howard when that gentleman was returned to Parliament, subsequently of Mr. John McIntyre, and in later years of Messrs. Mackay and Burrowes. About two years ago he received a general invitation to stand for the vacancy in the Upper House for the Northern Province, but declined. He was subsequently appointed returning-officer for the Northern Province, and as he occupied this position up to the time of his death it will be necessary for a successor to be appointed. At the time of the appointment of the Tariff Commission by the O'Loghlen Government Mr. Woodward was made a commissioner, and his extensive knowledge of the requirements of the mining community, and the difficulties in the way of the mining industry, as well as his knowledge and experience in other matters investigated by the commission, made his presence among the gentlemen composing it of great advantage. The report of the commission was presented to Parliament a short time ago. Mr. Woodward was also a member of the Exhibition Commission in 1880- 81, and some years ago occupied the position of Worshipful Master of the Golden and Corinthian Lodge of Masons. For several years he was a member of the Mechanics' Institute committee, and one year held the position of president. He retired from the committee about two years ago.

On the 17th of July, 1864, Mr. Woodward married Miss Turnbull, the daughter of Mrs. Turnbull of this city, and by her he has had twelve children. Two sons and two daughters are dead, and of those surviving there are a son, Thomas, who is 17 years of age, and seven daughters, who are all younger than their brother. Great sympathy is naturally felt for the family in their bereavement, but it will be learned with general satisfaction that they are all well provided for. Mr. Woodward's son, Thomas, has been at the Scotch College, Melbourne, during the past year, but is at present at home.

Mr. Woodward's illness is attributed to a severe cold which he caught just before Christmas while on a duck-shooting excursion at the Auchmore estate, near Raywood. In company with Messrs. H. Trumble and H. Birch, Mr. J. H. Goudge, his brother-in-law, and Mr. Tassell, manager of the estate, he left Sandhurst on Wednesday the 19th December. That day was extremely warm, and the day following was very cold. It is stated that Mr. Woodward got wet while out shooting, and neglected to change his clothes soon enough. He himself attributed his illness to a chill which he felt after sitting on a log shooting ducks for about an hour in wet clothes. On returning to Sandhurst on the 22nd December he was laid up with a very severe cold. About the end of the month he ventured into town and suffered a relapse in consequence. The cold was followed by bronchitis and congestion of the lungs, and his illness became so bad that Dr. Penfold was called in to consult with Dr. Macgillivray, his medical attendant. On Thursday last his condition slightly improved, but became worse towards the end of the week, and on Saturday night there was a slight sign of pneumonia. Dr. Hinchcliff was called in to consult with Dr. Macgillivray, and Mr. Woodward's recovery was considered doubtful by them. On Sunday evening, Mr. Woodward professed to feel much better, but expressed a desire to have his business arrangements settled. Shortly before 12 o'clock on Sunday night the deceased gentleman signed his will in the presence of Mr. Ellison and Mr. Roeder, and his two brothers-in-law, Mr. J. H. Goudge and Mr. W. R. Gill. His remark to Mr. Ellison after signing the document, "It's not a very steady signature," was singularly touching, and indicated his pleasant, genial nature even in such a trying moment. Mr. Ellison's remark in reply, to the effect that he could get a cheque cashed anywhere with such a signature, was a happy rejoinder, and in one sense very consoling. The relief afforded to the patient when this trying business was over was very considerable, and he sank into a quiet slumber shortly afterwards. This did not last long, however, and during the rest of the night he dozed at times, but did not sleep for any lengthened period. The whole of the family remained with him the greater part of the night, including his aged father, and Mr. Goudge, Mr. Gill, and Mr. Roeder. He continued perfectly conscious during the whole time, and was able to speak to those around him until about seven o'clock yesterday morning. Shortly after nine o'clock he dropped off into a quiet sleep, and while in this condition he died—peacefully and without pain.

When the intelligence of Mr. Woodward's death was spread throughout the city yesterday morning the deepest sorrow was everywhere manifested. The flag at the Town Hall was hoisted half-mast out of respect for his memory, and in various parts of the city other signs of mourning were displayed. The shop of his brother-in-law, Mr. Goudge, was closed during the afternoon. Many of the friends of the deceased gentleman called at his house during the day, and offered what little consolation it was possible to afford those who most deeply feel his loss.

The funeral will take place this afternoon at three o'clock, and the remains will be interred at the White Hills Cemetery, where the deceased gentleman's mother and brothers lie buried.

Original publication

Citation details

'Woodward, John Augustus (1838–1884)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 18 May 2024.

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