(The master version of this biography, which includes images, is maintained at http://www.dorneyfamilyhistory.net/famtree_web/History_maternal.pdf)
Elizabeth was born in County Donegal, Ireland on, probably, 24 May 1851. Her parents are not listed on her marriage certificate. Her death certificate (never the most reliable source) gives her father’s name as Robert Hughes but not her mother’s name. I have not been able to find a record of her birth, nor any births in Donegal with a father of Robert Hughes. The 24 May figure comes from a figure written by Elizabeth’s grandson Keith on her son John’s birth certificate. The year was given as 1853, but I believe this is a simple error caused by using what is the incorrect age on her marriage certificate.
Elizabeth came out to Victoria in the 1860s. If we are to believe her death certificate, it was 1865, but other dates from this source are definitely wrong, so I wouldn’t put too much stock in this. In any case, I haven’t found a matching immigration record for her, although ages can be somewhat out in those records.
Elizabeth later moved to Sydney, where she married Robert Clapp. It’s entirely possible she met Robert in Melbourne, as he was crewing on the Wentworth, which was travelling the Sydney-Melbourne run in that period, and moved to Sydney to marry him.
In any case, Elizabeth and Robert married on 3 April 1876 in a Presbyterian ceremony at 65 Lower Fort Street, Dawes Point. No profession for Elizabeth is given on the marriage certificate.
Elizabeth and Robert had eight children together, Robert (1878), Walter Norman (1880), Sydney Wentworth (1883), Reginald Stanley (1885), Vera Ruby (1886), an unknown child, John Jarvis (1889) and Cecil Reginald (1892).
Their first son Robert died on the day he was born. Reginald died at the age of only three months from convulsions and Ruby was three and a half years old when she died within 24 hours of contracting scarlet fever. The unknown child also died as an infant.
They moved around a lot while living in Sydney. I’ve covered all their known residences in Elizabeth’s husband’s chapter.
Elizabeth moved to Coolgardie in about 1895, possibly following her husband, who may have moved there a couple of years earlier. She is recorded as buying town block 798 in the Toorak area of Coolgardie for £45 in November 1896. Block 798 was between Jobson and Moran Streets, both of which still exist. Land was set aside for a school on the next city block to the North. It was within two kilometres of the centre of town.
The next we hear of Elizabeth in the newspaper record is in 1900, when three men who had stolen three of her hens were brought before the police court and sentenced to three months imprisonment.
In July 1900 Elizabeth was at a meeting of women in the Council Chambers. It was an organising meeting to rally support for a yes vote in the referendum on Federation to be held later that month. All the ladies present also enrolled themselves as voters.
The personal column of 24 November 1902 stated Elizabeth was accompanying a Miss Simon on the afternoon express to Perth. The same column on 28 January 1903 announced her return.
In July 1904 she could be found endorsing Doan’s Backache Kidney Pills in the newspaper. Personal endorsement was a regular part of Doan’s marketing strategy and Elizabeth is not the first person I’ve researched who endorsed them. These pills are still available, under a slightly different name.
Elizabeth had a half share in a bakery business in Coolgardie, with the other half held by a Mrs Phillips. Elizabeth also owned a bakehouse, which was leased out. I get the impression she was a silent partner in the business. She sold out of the business in about 1908.
Elizabeth left Coolgardie for good in January 1909. Her husband stayed behind in Coolgardie but later joined her in Perth, maybe about a year later.
Elizabeth initially stayed with one of her sons, but moved to 217 James Street with her husband, for at least 1912-1914, and then later to 74 Melville Terrace, South Perth.
We learn some small snippets about Elizabeth from social notes in the paper. In September 1914 she attended the wedding of her son Sydney Wentworth in Katanning, a small town about 300 kilometres south-east of Perth. She wore an outfit of “black with mauve trimmings, hat in suit”.
Elizabeth died on 21 January 1920 at her home on Melville Terrace. The cause of death was ataxic paraplegia, which led to respiratory paralysis and cardiac failure. The ataxic paraplegia means she had poor voluntary motor control and almost certainly couldn’t walk. She was 69 years old. Elizabeth was buried in the Anglican section of the Karrakatta Cemetery. She received an obituary in The Daily News, which provided some basic details about her early life and listed wreaths sent, including one from the Australian Postal and Electrician’s Union.
The epitaph on her grave reads: On life’s High Road she was a friend indeed To all in sorrow or in need Gave of her best with a gentle smile And never paused to ask were it worth while
Browse newspaper articles about Elizabeth at http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/result?l-publictag=Elizabeth+Clapp+nee+Hughes&q=
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