Elizabeth Ann Jelly

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Richard & Elizabeth Diwell and family

This is Richard and Elizabeth Diwell and their family  in the spring of 1900 in Hamilton.  The eldest child, Margaret was 19 and the youngest, Martha was two. Elizabeth, at 44, is in the last months of pregnancy and is radiant.  Martha’s hand rests comfortably on her mother’s growing stomach.  Edith clutches the arm of father Richard, a successful bricklayer and keen gardener, a member of the Hamilton Horticulture Society.  Chrysanthemums were one of his specialties.   Within months, this serene family scene had been shattered.

Richard Diwell and Elizabeth Jelly were married in June 1877 at Casterton.  Richard, born at Portland in 1854 was the son of William and Margaret Diwell and was their first  born on Australian soil after their arrival in 1852.  William too, was a bricklayer .  Elizabeth was the daughter of  George and Jane Jelly and like William was her parents’ first born in Australia.  They had arrived in 1855 on the Athletae and moved to Casterton were Elizabeth was born in 1856.

Sadness came early in Richard and Elizabeth’s marriage with their first born child, Ada Jane, dying  within her first year of life.  Six more children, Margaret, William, Jane, Ralph, Edith and Ernest were born in Casterton over the next 11 years until 1891.  It was in that year that Elizabeth, her mother and sister-in-law, Annabella McIntyre, signed the Victorian Women’s Suffrage Petition along with one hundred other Casterton women.  It was their contribution to the cause championing for equal voting rights for women.

Later in 1891, the Diwells moved to Hamilton.  The following year tragedy would occur again with the passing of five year old Ralph.  In 1893, Ethel was born and  another pregnancy in 1895 saw the birth of Rebecca but she sadly died in 1896 aged 10 months.  George was born in 1896, Martha in 1898.

Which brings us back to 1900.  Despite the losses of  the past, life was continuing on for the Diwells.  In March, William was voting in favour of the cancellation of that month’s Hamilton Horticulture Society flower show due to drought and Elizabeth was pregnant for the 12th time at the age of 44.

Midway through October Elizabeth fell ill in and was nursed for the next three weeks until she gave birth to a daughter on November 2.  The baby was weak and died two days later.  Elizabeth was also gravely ill and underwent an operation after the birth of the baby.  She battled to stay, but succumbed to peritonitis 10 days later on November 12.

Elizabeth’s obituary from The Hamilton Spectator on November 13 read:

“… Another death which has evoked the deepest sympathy of all who knew her took place yesterday when Mrs Diwell, the wife of Mr Richard Diwell, bricklayer of this town, died after a short illness.  The deceased was the second daughter of Mr George Jelly of Casterton where she was born, and she came to Hamilton with her husband in 1891. 

She was taken ill three weeks ago and on the 2nd instance she was confined, the child living only two days.  On Sunday evening she had to undergo an operation as the only hope of saving her life but at 3 o’clock yesterday morning she died of exhaustion, the diagnosis being peritonitis. 

She leaves a husband and eight children – three boys and five girls – the eldest of who, a daughter is only nineteen years of age – to mourn their irreparable loss. Mrs Diwell who was only 44 years of age was highly respected by all who knew her and the deepest sympathy is felt with the stricken family in their bereavement.  The funeral will take place a 3 o’clock this afternoon”

The headstone in the Hamilton Old Cemetery is a tribute to Elizabeth and demonstrates the devotion Richard and her children had for her.  Her headstone read:

“None knew how sad parting was, nor what the farewell cost, but God and his loved angels have gained what we have lost”

Despite having several young children, Richard never remarried.  The older girls Margaret and Jane would have taken on mothering duties of their younger siblings.  Margaret married in 1905, but Jane did not marry until 1915 at 30 by which time youngest Martha was 17.  Richard passed away in 1920 and was reunited with Elizabeth.

Life was not altogether easy for the Diwell children, although they always managed a happy disposition.  Margaret had seven children, however three  died, two as newborns.  Edith, my great-grandmother, suffered through an unhappy marriage and spent much time as a single mother.  Jane was married twice, both husbands dying, the second after being hit by a taxi.  She never had children.

Grandma (Edith) and Auntie Mat (Martha)

Ethel had four known children, one dying at childbirth.  Martha or Mat as she was known was 41 when she married and she also had no children.  The boys, William, Ernest and George all married and became bricklayers like their father and grandfather before them, but Ernest passed away at just 48.

I was not lucky enough to know any members of this family but my mother fondly remembers and often talks of Grandma (Edith), Auntie Janey,  Auntie Mat (Martha) and Uncles Bill and George.  The photo above of Grandma and Auntie Mat depicts them just as Mum remembers, always laughing and smiling.

As I look at the Diwell family photo I see Elizabeth as a devoted wife and mother but also a strong woman whose marriage was a partnership of two equals.  I can see the woman who was confident enough to sign the Suffrage petition and I see a happy, kind person, traits she passed to her children.

Next time I visit Richard and Elizabeth’s grave in Hamilton, I will be sure to take some Chrysanthemums.


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8 responses to “Elizabeth Ann Jelly

  • sharon wells

    i was doing some searching of the family tree and discovered this; my great grandmother was Georgina Jelly, sister of Elizabeth. Curious i can see a strong family resemblance with Edith, she looks like my grandfather (Georgina’s child) and my mother. amazing

    sharon

    • Merron Riddiford

      Hi Sharon
      Great to hear from you. You are the first Jelly descendant I’ve come across that wasn’t also a Diwell descendant. Edith must take after the Jellys then. In the family photo, she is the child on the extreme right, holding on to her father’s arm. She does look like her mother in this photo. Unfortunately it is the only photo I have of Elizabeth.

  • sharon wells

    Thank you for the response Merron. As you would imagine i am in contact with many Jelly descendents. I have one photo of Georgina Jelly, probably taken in 1901 if you are interested. thank you!

    sharon

  • Judy Ryan

    Merron, I enjoyed reading the article on Elizabeth and Richard. Elizabeth was my Grandmothers aunt. Her mother was Mary Jelly, Elizabeth older sister.

    • Merron Riddiford

      Hi Judy. Thanks for your comment. It’s great to meet another Jelly descendant and you would be a McIntyre descendant too I’m guessing. The McIntyre’s have a rich history in the Western District. Was your grandmother Mary Elizabeth Jane McIntyre?
      Regards
      Merron

  • Judy Ryan

    Hi Merron, Yes she was my grandmother. Do you have many photos of the Jellys. That is the first photo I have seen of Elizabeth. My Mum does have several photos of the Jellys, which includes photos taken in Manchester UK, and the women looks like the Jelly girls. She has a photo of two young children and on the back it says that they are Mavis and Frank and the photo is address to “Grandma”- I think Grandma would be Jane Jelly. She thinks that they are Elizabeth’s grandchildren.
    My email address is judyryan@optusnet.com.au
    Regards
    Judy

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