Jabez Grimble

One of the stories from the 2013 project: Who were they? People who shaped Victor Harbor and for whom our parks and reserves are named.

Grimble Reserve is bordered by Prime Boulevard and Wishart Crescent at Encounter Rise, with a connecting path to Mill Road.

Jabez Grimble was born in Norwich, in the county of Norfolk, England and baptised 4 March 1814. The young Jabez worked as a glazier in England. In 1836 he married Eliza Jaggard who bore him a son, Jabez Thomas, and died ‘in child-bed’ on the same day. At that time Jabez the elder, was a plumber, but he seemed to have acquired a wide range of artisan skills by the time he reached Australia.

In 1841 Jabez married Sophia Mary Felgate, daughter of a builder in London. Sophia’s ancestral line can be traced back to 1683. Some early Felgates were Lords of the Manor. By 1852 Jabez and Sophia Mary had five surviving children.

With this family, and Jabez Thomas, the Grimbles sailed for South Australia as cabin passengers aboard the barque Orestes. Misfortune overtook the vessel and it put into the Tagus (Portugal) for repairs. What a trial for the family, shipwrecked and then holed up for eight weeks in a foreign country with six children, the youngest little more than a year old.

The eventual arrival of the Orestes at Pt Adelaide on Monday 19 September 1853 was announced in the South Australian Register on the following day.

The long expected Orestes has at length reached her destination. To those of our readers who may not be interested in the ship or her valuable cargo of merchandise, it may be necessary to state that the ship was compelled to put into the Tagus by stress of weather many months ago; and after refitting, took her departure from the port of Lisbon on the 28th May.

On another page is a more detailed report, including a list of ‘Cargo per Orestes’ which comprised some building materials and miscellaneous cargo, but mainly wines, beers and spirits — a valuable cargo indeed!

The Grimbles lived at Norwood for two years, until in 1855 the family moved to Inman Ford, near Encounter Bay, where Jabez tried his hand at farming on Section 154. This section of 79 acres was purchased by the South Australian Company on 29 July 1852 for £29.

But farming in such rough country — virgin scrub — was not without its tribulations. Evidence of his activities was gleaned from the Letter Books of the District Council of Encounter Bay. Although he confessed to knowing little of farming, it seems that Jabez persisted and tenanted various holdings in Encounter Bay, at the same time supplementing his income constructing and repairing bridges, making roads, drains and culverts as per agreements and contracts with the District Council of Encounter Bay.

We can sense Jabez’ frustration when in spite of his earnest efforts he had to give up on Section 154. In February 1858 the Minutes of the Board of Advice of the SA Company record that ‘he found it impossible to get a living by its cultivation’. The SA Company agreed with Jabez’ assessment of the quality of the land, and as Grimble was ‘well known as an honest and industrious man’ suitable financial arrangements were agreed.

Five acres of neighbouring land was acquired by the Council for the Victor Harbor cemetery.

In the ensuing years Jabez Grimble completed other contracts for road and bridge works, and supplied furniture for the Encounter Bay School: 1 double desk 10 feet long (£2), 2 benches 10 feet long (£1/14/-), 1 table with 2 drawers (£1/5/-), 1 stool (10/-), and 2 Tile(?) corks(?) [chalkboards?] (5/-). Later at the school he repaired a partition wall, fireplaces and wall, and whitewashed, and supplied and placed 46 feet of ¾” deal saddle boards on the school roof at a cost of £11/6/- for materials and £7/6/- for nails and time.

A number of Council works undertaken by Grimble were in the vicinity of Section 82, then bounded (approximately) by what has become Bay Road, Mill Road and Maude Street. He once occupied this section of 57 acres (20 acres cultivated, 37 acres fenced) and containing a house which may have been the dwelling known as the Mill Road house, later occupied by the Warland family. The reserve named for him is a few hundred metres up the hill northwest of that section.

Jabez Grimble became the contractor for a very ambitious project to make the descent into Victor Harbor via Cut Hill safer and to avoid the hazardous roundabout route via Pt Elliot on which the Rev Newland had met his demise in 1864. A retaining ‘parapet’ wall was built of dry stone construction, without lime and mortar, and has been much admired and wondered at over the years.

During this time the Grimble family suffered several tragedies with the deaths of their 12-year-old eldest son from gun accident, an infant of convulsions and a 14-year-old daughter from bronchitis.

But life was not without its lighter times. The Observer for 4 August 1855 gives comprehensive coverage in The Agriculturist columns to an Encounter Bay Ploughing Match, a traditional English entertainment. Among the gentlemen attending was Jabez Grimble. The competition concluded and

At 6 o’clock the company, numbering upwards of fifty, sat down to an excellent dinner prepared by Mr and Mrs Robinson, of the Fountain Inn. Appetites assuaged, eloquent toasts ensued. Mr Grimble, in proposing “The Agricultural Interests of the District,” regretted that his recent acquaintance with the district, and his comparative ignorance of correct agriculture, prevented his doing full justice to the toast put into his hands. He knew, however, sufficient of its importance to lead him to regard the advancement of those interests as being strictly identified with the true progress of society, and most important to all the population. He maintained that in proportion as agriculture was prosperous …

In 1866, Jabez became Chairman of the District Council of Encounter Bay, a post he held for two years.

From their arrival in the south coast settlement Jabez Grimble and his wife, Sophia were deeply involved with the Tabernacle Chapel, both at a Committee level and Jabez as a lay preacher riding his horse as far afield as Bald Hills to deliver his sermons. He was also involved in the Building Committee for the new church at Port Victor, now Newland Memorial Church. The Anglican Church of St Augustine was founded around 1865–67 and Jabez Grimble was mentioned among those who helped there also.

Family stories say that after Jabez had paid off the workmen from the Cut Hill project there was ‘no money left’. He moved to Bald Hills, farming for a short time, before removing to set up a home decorating business in Yankalilla. He remained there long enough to see one of his daughters Amelia married to Richard James Dennis, son of another pioneer family. Jabez and Sophia, with their four surviving unmarried children, moved to Victoria and four years later to New South Wales, where Jabez worked as a painter and decorator, and as a builder in the southwestern suburbs of Sydney.

On 6 June 1889, after an illness of fourteen days, Jabez Grimble, aged 75 years, died at Rockdale, NSW. He was buried in St George’s Anglican Church cemetery at Hurstville. Sophia Mary lived on until 1 November 1907. Grimble descendants still live in New South Wales.

Much more of the Grimble story is in Backward Glance: our forefathers and mothers, Verle Wood, in the local history section of the Victor Harbor Library.