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John Jeffries (1851–1900)

by Chris Cunneen

This article was published:

This entry is from People Australia

John Jeffries or John Jefferys/Jefferey, alias Johnston (1852-1900) labourer, selector, shearer and gaoled trade unionist 

Birth: December quarter 1851 in Swaffham Prior, Cambridgeshire, England. Son of William Buttriss Jeffery (1807-1884), agricultural labourer, and Jemima, née Taylor, washerwoman. Marriage: 24 December 1874 with Congregational forms at Toowoomba, Queensland, to native-born Ellen Barry (1855-1933). They had one daughter and seven sons. Death: 18 August 1900 in Peak Downs hospital at Clermont, Queensland. Religion: Anglican. 

  • Arrived in Queensland aboard the James Fernie with parents and siblings on 24 January 1856. Lived at Drayton, where his parents farmed, then was a selector at Pittsworth. Well-known in the shearing sheds on the Darling Downs as a good shearer.
  • Arrested on 26 May 1891 by zealous police officers and charged with setting a fire on Robert Christison’s Lammermoor station, near Hughenden. At Townsville on 4 June 1891, despite evidence that the grass was wet from rain, was convicted of arson and sentenced by Judge Cooper to seven years penal servitude.
  • Prison records describe him as able to read and write, aged 39, of stout build, 5 feet 6 ½ inches (169 cm) tall, with a sallow complexion, brown hair and grey eyes. While he was in prison his wife was paid £2 per week by the Central District, Australian Labourer’s Federation.
  • In response to numerous petitions for mercy, including from pastoral leaders, he was discharged by special remission 16 July 1893.
  • Cause of death, cerebral haemorrhage and heart failure.

Stuart Svensen, The shearers’ war; the story of the 1891 Shearer’s Strike (Brisbane, 1989), pp. 135-6.

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Citation details

Chris Cunneen, 'Jeffries, John (1851–1900)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 14 June 2024.

© Copyright Labour Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Jefferys, John
  • Jefferey, John
  • Johnston, John
  • Jefferies, John

Swaffham Prior, Cambridgeshire, England


18 August, 1900 (aged ~ 49)
Clermont, Queensland, Australia

Cause of Death


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Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

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