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Harriet VIDLER


Harriet VIDLER was the eldest of the second generation of the family to come to Australia. While we know little of her early life in England, it is probable that she worked as a housemaid or farm worker in the Sandhurst area of Kent. In 1838, aged 19, she embarked aboard the Maitland as part of the extended Vidler familyís move to Australia.

Harrietís first few months in NSW were spent in the Dapto area, where she met George WELLS. George was a blacksmith at Dapto when they married, at St. Michaelís Church of England Wollongong on 23 Sep 1839. He was a convict, sentenced to 14 years' transportation at the York Assizes on March 15, 1823 for housebreaking. He spent most of his sentence in the Bathurst area, including some additional time in Bathurst Jail when he was convicted of "having a gun in his possession with intent to commit a felony". This conviction, on 23 August 1836, delayed the eventual issue of his certificate of freedom. His Ticket of Leave had been granted on 30 April 1830, and under normal circumstances his freedom would have been granted in early 1837. Although he served less than half of his 3-year sentence (making personal application in Sydney on 12 January 1838, for his certificate), it was not granted until 2 April 1840.

After their marriage, George and Harriet lived at Dapto. They shared a house (owned by William KEEVERS, of "Hussar Farm") with Henry and Ann FOWLER. Henry was a wheelright, and it is likely that he and George worked together. The two families were recorded together in the 1841 census, and baptisms from both families were recorded in the Vidler family bible.

Sometime between the birth of Phoenix in 1843 and Edward in 1847, the family left Dapto. They were living in the Liverpool area when Edward was born in 1847, but shortly after moved closer to Sydney.

Harriet was left a widow (for the first time) when George died in August 1849 at the Sydney benevolent Asylum in George St. She did not remain long in this state, remarrying within six months. Nathanial Laight STANGER LEATHES was almost certainly a friend of Harriet from her time in Dapto, as he was appointed Postmaster there in 1840, and is recorded as a storekeeper in that town at the 1841 census. In 1843 was declared bankrupt for the first time. They married in Sydney 6 Feb 1850.

While life with George was probably an austere existence, Nathanial provided financial security (of sorts). He and Harriet soon returned to the South Coast, where they opened a general store at Omega. Nathanial bought and sold various properties (both farming and commercial) in the area, and when Harriet's three children reached adulthood he financed their entry into farming or business. On his death on 18 September 1874, all three were still financially indebted to their stepfather, as these debts were cancelled under the terms of his will.

Harriet soon remarried again, on 7 January 1875 at Dapto, to another local resident of long standing, George SOUTER. They lived in the township of Albion Park, on the road to Jamberoo, and when George died there in 1885, Harriet remained living in the house (since demolished) until her own death. She was buried in Gerringong Cemetery, although no headstone is extant.