The Sad Tale of William Toll
Dedicated to the memory of Betty Eggleton.
By George Pritchard
When carrying out the research for this web page I came across an article in the Journal of the royal Cornwall Institute entitled "A CORNISH MINER EMIGRATES TO AUSTRALIA". It was written in 1952 by a Charles S Edwards and was based on his fathers diary plus reminiscences told to him by his father.
In the article he told how in the year 1852, the startling discovery of gold in the Antipodes had become a matter of worldwide interest and his father, John Roach Edwards, a miners son, of Trevarrack, Lelant began a voyage to Australia in the sailing ship Kalmia, a vessel of 600 tons burden.
To this youth of 21 there came the thrill and urge to seek his fortune in this comparatively little known land. Arrangements were made at Penzance to travel by coaster to the port of embarkation, Liverpool. The boat arrived at nighttime when hundreds of lights from the shore were a sight, which the Cornish emigrant thought uncommonly impressive. Next day an official of the Liverpool and Australian Navigation Co. informed him that he would berth on the Kalmia next to another Cornishman named William Toll, a reformed smuggler, from the neighbourhood of Porthleven. It was with some apprehension that John Roach Edwards encountered one who, for many years, had lived a devil-may-care existence along the Cornish coasts but ere long the two struck up a happy friendship.
William Toll was a much older man of some 50 years. He told William that he was married and that his wife Charlotte had stayed behind to run the The Dolphin pub in Germoe Churchtown. If he was successful at the diggings and liked Australia then she planned to join him with their three children Charlotte aged 18, Honor 16 and James aged 14.
During the voyage, William and John would join some St. Ives men on the fostle in the evening where they sang old Cornish Mining songs. On Friday September 24th John recorded in his diary, "The moon shining very beautifully on the little company. I thought about the many evenings I had spent in this way when at home, but instead of a building to look at, there was the beautiful luminous water before us.
One day John asked William how he had got such a bad injury to his left hand which meant that his fingers were never opened. William told him it was the result of a contest with coastguards during his smuggling days. He told him that one night he and his confederates were surprised by a body of coastguards eager to arrest them whilst engaged in their nefarious business. William and the other smugglers managed to get the better of their attackers but, in endeavoring to parry a coastguards stick, William was out- witted, his challenger whisking out sword from stick, and cutting the leaders of Tolls left hand. There was a risk in going to a doctor for treatment as, undoubtedly, officers of the law had been warned to watch near local surgeries for the advent of a patient with a badly cut hand, so Toll allowed his wound to heal as best it could. And that was when he decided to give up the smuggling game.
During the course of the voyage, the two men agreed that when they reached Australia they would become partners at the diggings. And they knew that the long voyage had all but been completed when on the on the 20th of December a pilot came on board at10 a.m. and at noon the Kalmia dropped anchor in Port Philip harbour.
At 7 a.m. the next morning they took ship to Melbourne arriving 4 hours later, 119 days after leaving Liverpool. John wrote "We intended to stay in Melbourne, but lodgings being so expensive, we were obliged to camp S.E. of the town where already 4,000 were camping. Soon we heard of gold discovery at Ovens, 200 miles north of Melbourne, to which place we decided to trek. Setting out on December 28th we arrived January 11th, 1853, after a most tedious journey. The weather being very hot and the water impure, dysentery made its appearance. I had it for 4 days but alas! William Toll succumbed to it.
This tragic loss caused grief to the party, to John most of all, for he had got to like him during the journey out and found him a good companion. The diary adds that with some difficulty they secured a coffin and buried his body in the bush3 miles from the little township of Wangratta. A small wooden cross was raised over his grave bearing a simple inscription to a departed comrade. The gold watch and chain, a wallet, an unusual kind of knife, which, if it could speak, would tell of many smuggling episodes, a silver snuff box and other personal belongings were entrusted to John's care so that when he should return to Cornwall, he might seek out William's widow and place such mementoes in her hands.
When I closed the book I was left wondering what happened. And being a member of the Cornish L-list a notice board for those doing research into Cornish family history I posted the following e-mail:Hi. Listers,
Is their anyone on the list researching the name of Toll. If so please get in touch as I have a document which may be of interest.
George P. To which I received the following reply: Hello George
I am researching Tolls in the St Keverne/Breage/Germoe area. This west Cornwall family has a separate origin to other Tolls in east Cornwall. Let me know if your find relates to the west Cornwall Tolls.
Dear Edward I should think this is definitely one of yours. Let me know if it is.
HOW ABSOLUTELY AMAZING !!
William Toll is my great-great-grandfather. As you will see from the details
below of his life, there can be no doubt as to the identification. Family
memory does indeed record that his fate in Australia was unknown for several
years until one day a man came to his widow's inn and told her that he had
died in the outback. Somehow I have never seen the article in the JRIC, even
though I am a member and have a run of the journal going back to the 1960s.
Many thanks for taking the trouble to post the message and to send me the
Edward also sent me the birth marriage and death details of William and Charlotte his wife and also the details of a gravestone in Germoe Churchyard. The gravestone is almost unreadable now. William Toll, Aged 50 Died 1853 in Australia, Also Charlotte wife of the above.
A twist to the tale was when Corinne Thompson another member of the Cornish L-list who lives in Australia put Edward Martin in touch with Betty Eggleton. Betty was a descendent of John Roach Edwards who had the original diary. Unfortunately Betty died just before Christmas but Jack her husband has kindly sent Martin a Copy
March 14th 2003.
Further information on the travels of William Toll came to light in the following letter from Margo Palmer.
"My mother has this
poem and a letter to Charlotte Toll, as passed down to
California & its Inhabitants
I then received the following from Jocelyn Palmer, Margo's mother.
To : Mr. & Mrs. George
Another little piece of the jigsaw that makes up the life of William Toll appeared in the West Brition on April 27th 1838.
Public House to Let
? is this William's Marriage record? if so then we have two separate Williams,
Germoe, William TOLL of Germoe too Charlotte MATHEWS of Sithney, 31-Jan. 1830
William and his family are shown as follows on the 1841 Census:Trethewy, in Germoe. William Toll,35,,Farmer,In county , Charlotte Toll,,35,,In county ,, Charlotte Toll,,7,,In county ,, Honner Toll,,5,,In county ,
William and his family are shown as follows on the 1851 Census:Church Town, Germoe, Cornwall William Toll,Head,M,47,,Licensed Victuallor,Germoe Cornwall Charlotte Toll,Wife,M,,47,,Madron Cornwall Charlotte Toll,Dau,U,,16,At Home,Germoe Cornwall Honor Toll,Dau,,,14,Scholar,Germoe Cornwall
Researched and compiled by George Pritchard of Penhalvean, Cornwall, UK.
Last modified: Saturday July 06, 2013 .
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