Michael (1830-1869)

(Unless other stated, the following information has been kindly provided by Susi Messenger, who married into the Messenger family).

Thomas’ brother Michael, who was born in Ratcliffe on the Wreake and baptised in the St. Botolph’s Parish Church on 21st February 1830. At the age of 21[1], he was living in Leicester as a live-in apprentice to Thomas Dalby, a grocer and chandler, at No. 20 Belgrave Gate.

However, in 1855, aged 25, he emigrated to Australia, travelling on the ‘Marco Polo[2], then the fastest clipper in the world. He paid all his own travel expenses, arriving in Melbourne on 25th June 1855 although, at the time, the South Australia Company[3], whose objective was to help colonise South Australia, were enticing potential migrants with assisted passage.

Having arrived at Melbourne, he transferred to the steamer ‘White Swan[4], bound for Levi’s Wharf[5], Port Adelaide[6], following which, he settled in Hindley Street, Adelaide and worked for Samuel Bakewell, a grocer.

On 4th September 1858 he married Emma Orchard (1839-1913), a school teacher in Hindley Street, Adelaide. Emma was also born in Redruth, Cornwall, England moving to Australia in March 1850[7], with her parents and siblings. Michael and Emma had three children, Thomas William (1859-1934), Edward Henry King (1863-1944) and James Michael Goode (1870-1940) who was born two months after his father’s death.

Michael subsequently went into partnership with a local grocer, opening up a candle manufactory in Norwood, now a suburb of Adelaide. When their partnership dissolved, Michael continued alone. However, he not only faced competition from cheap imports but came under pressure because of the nuisance from smells and waste from his factory.

In November 1860, Michael was publically requested by a number of voters to stand as a candidate in the election for councillor of the East Norwood Ward; a request that he duly accepted[8]. At the time he was living on Osmond Terrace, Norwood, although a little over six months later, a lawsuit during the election created a bad situation that led to him not being re-elected and being replaced on the council by Mr. Samuel Allen[9]. He was subsequently declared bankrupt[10] and his effects were sold at auction to cover his debts[11].

On 5th July 1861, he was forced to sell all his household furniture, horses, carts, chaffcutter and the contents of manufacturing business[12]. In October 1861[13], he was ordered to pay a first dividend of 1s. 3d. in the pound, to his creditors, with the final payment of a little over 3d., in the pound being made in June 1864[14].

Michael Messenger died, aged 39, on 19th December 1869, from chronic hepatitis possibly brought on by heavy drinking. At the time he was living The Parade[15], Norwood[16] and was buried two days later in the local cemetery. After her husband’s, Emma returned to teaching, dying aged 74, at the home of Mr. J. Viney[17], Elizabeth Street, Parkside, Adelaide[18], on 3rd September 1913 and is buried at West Terrace Cemetery, Adelaide.

Thomas William Messenger (1859-1934)

Michael and Emma’s first child, Thomas William settled in the town of Quorn, South Australia, reputedly named after the village of the same name in Leicestershire, England and just a few miles away from Loughborough.

He trained as an engine fitter at the Moonta / Wallaroo Mining Co., before becoming the locomotive engineer superintendent for the Quorn area between 1897 and 1923. Here Thomas William was responsible for acquiring a local train service[19], locally known as the “The Coffee Pot[20], for transporting mail and supplies. He used his engineering skills much to the relief and eternal gratefulness of the local inhabitants, to provide the town with a permanent water supply, both creating a reservoir[21] and holding tanks. Previously the water supply had been unreliable because of the combination of intermittent rainfall and severe winter floods, which are capable of washing the local tracks away.

A 1906 photograph of the “Coffee Pot” with Thomas William Messenger standing on the running board.
Source: (State Library of South Australia – https://collections.slsa.sa.gov.au/resource/B+30589)
The c. 1906 photograph shows Thomas William Messenger standing on the left and his brother James Michael Goode Messenger standing on the engine next to the boiler nearest the chimney stack.
Source: (State Library of South Australia – https://collections.slsa.sa.gov.au/resource/B+30588)
Quorn Reservoir c. 1910, with Thomas William Messenger standing on the bank, towards the right of the photograph.
Source (State Library of South Australia – https://collections.slsa.sa.gov.au/resource/B+32799)


In his spare time, he bred silk worms exhibiting them at the local agricultural show.

Like his uncle, Thomas Goode Messenger, Thomas William had an apparent inveterate predilection for inventing. He successfully submitted a number of patent applications. One, which was patented in Australia, the U.K. and the U.S.A. was for “Improvements in Window – Sash Fittings” and was picked up and used by South Australia’s trams. Another, also patented in all three countries was for “Improvements in Ear Trumpets”, an invention “which may be wholly or partly hidden by a cap hat bonnet or other head covering or head adornment[22]. Apparently, this invention was purchased by many celebrities and famous people and taken back to the UK.

On 10th January 1889[23], he married Elizabeth Jane Buffham, the second daughter of Robert and Sarah Buffham, of Mount Brown Creek, and they had seven children. In 1917[24], Vera and Ruby, two of their children, died within weeks of one another[25].

Thomas William Messenger died in a private hospital at Mile End[26], South Australia on 1st August 1934, aged 75[27], and was survived by his widow Elizabeth, son Leslie and twins Eric and Dorothy[28].

Elizabeth, died in 1944, aged 81, at Warraweena Hospital, Mile End[29] and in 1895 was one of 12 women responsible for getting names on petitions for Female Suffrage in South Australia.



  1. 1851 Census.

  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marco_Polo_(1851_ship)


  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Australian_Company

  4. The White Swan was built in 1854 by William Simons on the River Clyde, Glasgow; Weighing 332 tons, it was a steam and sail powered vessel, which plied the Melbourne to Adelaide mail and passenger route. In 1858 it began to ply a mail service between Auckland and Wellington, New Zealand. On 29th June 1862, it was wrecked on the rocks south of Castlepoint, on the Wairarapa coast, when trying to beat another ship when on route from Napier to Wellington.

  5. Built in 1854.

  6. The South Australian Register, 30th June 1855.

  7. The Trafalgar left Gravesend on 16th December 1849 and Plymouth on 26th December, arriving at Port Adelaide, South Australia 30th March 1850.


  8. The South Australian Advertiser, 17th November 1860.

  9. The South Australian Advertiser, 19th July 1861.

  10. The South Australian Advertiser, 11th July 1861.

  11. The South Australian Register 13th July 1861.

  12. The South Australian Advertiser, 4th July 1861.

  13. The South Australian Advertiser, 23rd October 1861.

  14. The South Australian Advertiser, 29th June 1864.

  15. Norwood’s main street.

  16. The South Australian Advertiser, 21st December 1869.

  17. A stone mason, who later became a builder and was responsible for building a number of local churches.

  18. The South Australian Advertiser, 4th September 1913.

  19. https://collections.slsa.sa.gov.au/resource/B+30589

    The photograph shows Thomas William Messenger is standing on the running board.


    The photograph shows Thomas William Messenger standing on the left and his brother James Michael Goode Messenger standing on the engine next to the boiler nearest the chimney stack.

  20. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SdtLy8CaEew&ytbChannel=alco961


  21. https://collections.slsa.sa.gov.au/resource/B+32799

  22. UK Patent No 9771, submitted in 1902 and accepted on 23rd March 1903.

  23. The South Australian Advertiser, 1st February 1889.

  24. http://hdl.handle.net/10070/243600

  25. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hookworm_infection

  26. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mile_End,_South_Australia

  27. http://hdl.handle.net/10070/243600

  28. The South Australian Chronicle, 9th August 1934.

    Susi Messenger.

  29. http://hdl.handle.net/10070/243600