Origin of the surname
Press is probably an occupational surname derived from "Priest". Spelling variations include: Preost, Priest, Prest, Preist, Prestt, Press, Prust and many more. Other surnames derived from this source include Priestly, Presley and similar variations.
First found in Hertfordshire, where Aelfsige Preost was recorded in 963.
John Press lived at Wiveliscombe, Somerset in 1790 when his wife gave birth to their son, Daniel. Nothing more is yet known about his life.
1790 - 1868
Daniel Press was born in Wiveliscombe (Somerset, England) in about 1790, son of John Press and Hannah. He was 37 years old when he married Ethelinda Walmouth and they produced nine children during the next twenty years, all born at Wiveliscombe. The children were: Sarah b.1828, William b.1829, Francis b.1831, Ethelinda b.1835, David b.1837, Daniel b.1838, Joseph b.1841, Mary Jane b.1843 and Henry b.1846.
When Daniel was 59 years old he decided to emigrate to Australia with his wife and nine children ranging in age from 3 to 21 years old. They arrived at Sydney aboard the Una on 22 November 1849.
A few months later, the family arrived in the Bathurst area where a tenth child, Thomas, was born at Gorman's Hill on 7 October 1850. The Press family members settled on farms in the Rockley, Triangle Flat and Burraga areas.
The details of Daniel's latter years are not yet known. He died on 6 May 1868 and both he and his wife are buried in the old cemetery in Orange, NSW.
David Press, 1837 -
David Press was born about 1837 in Wiveliscombe, Somerset, the fifth child of Daniel Press and Ethelinda Walmouth. He emigrated at age 12 with his family aboard the Una and arrived at Sydney on 22 November 1849.
He moved with his parents to the Bathurst district where the family settled on a farm. He worked with a horse and gig for a couple of years and later in the copper mines. He later worked on a farm and then as a carrier before he settled on his own 700 acre farm at Triangle Flat.
On 2 May 1866, at the age of 24 years, he married Susanna Baker at the Church of St Michael and St John in Bathurst. His wife was the 18 year old daughter of William Baker and Elizabeth Connor who lived at Dunn's Plains. Both signed the marriage register with a mark.
Their first child was Mary Jane, who was born at Triangle Creek on 24 October 1867. A further six children followed, including: Agnes, Joseph, David, Susannah, Susan Blanche.
David's wife Susan died on 14 October 1907, aged 59 years. David lived a further 11 years; he died on 31 August 1918 aged 84 years. They are both buried in the Triangle Creek cemetery.
Mary Jane Press,
1867 - 1951
Mary Jane Press
Mary Jane Press was the eldest of seven children born to David Press and Susanna Baker who ran a 700 acre farm at Triangle Creek in the Bathurst district of NSW.
At the age of 23 years she was married at nearby Rockey to 32 year old James Kessey, himself the son of a farmer. She gave birth to their first child, Mary Grace, in the following year with the second, James Harold following two years later. They were known by their second names throughout their lives. Eight more children followed: Beatrice b.1895, Emily Bernadette ("Bern") b.1896, Philomena b.1898, Joseph Aloysius b.1899, John Horace ("Horace") b.1902, Halvar Roy b.1905, Jean Alice Columbia b.1907 and Hilton David b.1909.
Mary Jane and her husband ran the hotel at Mount David, near Rockley. Most of their custom came from the local miners. The eldest two daughters, Grace and Beat, married two sons of the mine manager, Garnet Martin and Dal Martin respectively.
In 1914 there was a scandal involving Mary Jane Kessey and the mine manager, Walter Henry Martin. James Kessey sued his wife for divorce and named Martin as co-respondent. Mary Jane was forced to go live in Sydney for several months to defend the case but the divorce was granted and Martin was ordered to pay James Kessey £500. With their mother gone, the younger children were taken in by their older sisters who were, ironically, married to Walter Martin's sons.
Mary Jane was placed in a very unenviable position. Her ex-husband had thrown her out of their home, she was cut off from her children and she could not have received much support from Walter Martin who had his own family to look after. Fortunately she was a strong person and managed to get through these difficulties somehow.
Four years later, when the First World War ended, the soldiers brought a virulent strain of influenza to Australia. Many people died in a very short period. The NSW town of Orange was very badly affected and James Kessey feared for the safety of his children. He asked the local doctor for advice on how to get away from the 'flu'. The doctor advised him to take his family "to the hottest place you can find". James Kessey decided to move his family to Bourke.
During the crisis, Mary Jane and he ex-husband were reconciled. They boarded the Western Mail train and made it to Dubbo only to be refused room at the inn. At this time of medical crisis, strangers were not welcome. Jim Kessey had to ask the police to intervene in order to obtain overnight shelter for his family.
The family proceeded on the first available train to Bourke. At Byrock, Jim and Mary Jane were quietly married for the second time. The younger children never found out about their parents' divorce.
The family had a comfortable life in Bourke. They soon owned and ran the Oxford hotel, the Palais Royal theatre and several rental houses in the town. Mary Jane's husband became Mayor of Bourke and her children settled into the community. She and her husband bought a large house at 13 Sturt Street where they lived with their married son, Halvar and his wife, Ena (nee Murphy).
Mary Jane and her husband travelled abroad to Ireland via India. While in Ireland, Mary Jane felt that something was wrong at home and urged her husband to return. She was right.
Halvar and Ena's son, Jim, had contracted meningitis, along with 13 other babies in Bourke. Twelve died and the doctor has resigned himself that Jim would suffer the same fate. Mrs Polson, the hospital Matron, suggested that they try a new technique: the intravenous drip. The doctor agreed that it was worth trying and could do no harm. Jim was the only survivor out of the 13 babies that contracted the illness.
Mary Jane was very close to her daughter-in-law, Ena Kessey who lived a block and a half away in Hope Street. Mary Jane was in the habit of hitting a golf ball over to Ena's place and would then follow it for a visit!
She was a woman of strong will and strong opinion. On one occasion, tiring of waiting for her husband to return home, she marched up to the hotel to see if he was there, which he was. She walked into the bar and announced loudly to the barman,
"Danny Ryan, shout for the bar, and Jim Kessey will pay!".
Afterwards, as they walked home, her husband admonished her with,
"Old lady, don't you ever follee me again!".
She replied, "Old man, this is only an introduction!".
On another occasion, her husband had been out late at a card party and Mary Jane was snakey because she didn't go. When her husband eventually arrived home she demanded to know whether they had been served any supper.
"Yes", he replied, offhandedly.
"What was on offer?" she asked.
"Oh, sandwiches, coffee, tea" he offered calmly, careful to avoid an argument.
"What did you have?" she asked, still very snorty.
"Well it's a damn wonder you didn't have tea!" came her exasperated retort.
She was also capable of displaying a cutting dry wit. Her quiet response to her husband breaking wind was,
"Put the calf out, Jim!".
Her husband died in 1944 and is buried in the Bourke cemetery. Mary Jane lived a few more years before dying on 5 March 1951 while visiting her daughter in the Illawarra district. She is buried in Wollongong cemetery.
I would like to thank Mike Job for his assistance in providing some of the information on this page. - Jim Fleming
© Copyright Jim Fleming 2002.
This page created on 21 June 2002.
Last edited on 14 Jun 2004.
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