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JOSEPH HENRY ABBOTT, BENDIGO BUSINESSMAN, CIVIC LEADER & M.L.C.

This stampless cover was cancelled at the lower left PAID AT BENDIGO/ AP 27/ 04/ VIC. It also had a boxed NOT KNOWN BY/ LETTER CARRIER/ BENDIGO . It was addressed to a Mr. H. Hansen, Williamson St., in Bendigo (Figure 1).

It contained a card promoting The Hon. J.H. Abbott as a candidate for Re-Election for the Legislative Council Election on June 1st for Bendigo Province (1904). ‘There are two Members to be elected’ and ‘Reserve ONE VOTE for him’ (Figure 2).

Joseph Henry Abbott, businessman, civic leader and politician, was born on 1 February 1830 in Birmingham, England, son of Joseph Abbott, millwright, and Mary Ann, née Signet. He was educated at King Edward Free Grammar School in Birmingham, left at 12 and worked for his father until he was 21. Excited by news of the gold rushes in Australia, he sailed in the Earl of Derby and arrived at Melbourne, on 17 November 1852. He went directly to Forest Creek where he was moderately successful digging for gold near Wesley Hill and Moonlight Flat.

Early in 1853 Abbott went to Bendigo with two friends and opened a general store, combining business with mining. Abbott showed an interest in local affairs, and started a newspaper, the Diggers Advocate, which was described as 'the champion of the diggers in the opposition to the license fee'. Abbott acted as agent and reporter at Bendigo; this first goldfields newspaper appeared weekly, and ran for two years. In order to give everyone an opportunity to see it, Abbott opened a reading room. In 1858 he extended his business and converted a large store in Pall Mall, Bendigo, into a hotel and a theatre. He was elected to the Sandhurst Borough Council and in 1860 became chairman of the municipality and a justice of the peace. In 1862 he opened a boot factory and store in Pall Mall, which he later coupled with a tannery at Strathfieldsaye.

He was active in education and he was elected first chairman of the Sandhurst Board of Advice and held office for seven years. In 1876 he contested the vacancy for the North-west Province in the Legislative Council. Although he was elected, a successful petition was lodged against him on the grounds of insufficient property qualification. In 1883 he went to England and the Continent where he represented Victoria at the Amsterdam Exhibition. After defeat on his first attempt to re-enter the Bendigo council he was elected in 1888 and became mayor in 1891.

In 1889 Abbott was elected to the Legislative Council for the Northern Province and held his seat until beaten at the 1904 election. He was returned almost immediately at a by-election for the Bendigo Province. During his parliamentary career he was appointed an honorary member of Sir James Patterson’s ministery. According to the press, 'he was imbued with the single idea of doing his duty. He never sought to enter the domain of party conflict but believed in that quieter and steadier form of representation which under some circumstances is to be regarded as desirable'. A picture of Joseph Abbott is shown in Figure 3.

In 1894 Abbott returned to England where he represented the colony at the Royal Agricultural Show. On his return he continued to lead a busy life until he died on 10 November 1904 at his home, Edgbastonia, Bendigo. He was survived by his wife, Ann and four children.

I acknowledge that this paper is extracted from the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

 

 

 

 
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