A Parcel of Gold for Edith - letters from Australia to Headley 1853-1875
Joyce Stevens (neé Suter)

Cover of A Parcel of Gold for Edith ISBN 1-873855-36-2

The discovery of seven letters in an old bureau leads to a 30-year search for the identity of an Australian Pioneer Woman

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Front cover: Photograph of Edith Suter (1859-1939)

Paperback - 102 pages - John Owen Smith; ISBN: 978-1-873855-36-2; October 2001

Associated title: To the Ar and Back by Joyce Stevens

Reviews . Inside Flap . Back Cover . Contents . Introduction . The Letters . Family Tree . About the Author. About the Publisher . Further information

Inside Flap

This is the story of one of Australia's Pioneer Women, who spent most of her life in the gold fields of Bendigo.
In 1841, aged only 19, Ellen Suter fled poverty and squalor in the back-streets of Portsmouth and set off alone to live in the new colony of Victoria on the other side of the world.

In Melbourne, she met and married James Read, a settler from Ipswich, Suffolk, more than twenty years her senior. Over the next 20 years she bore him fourteen children, only five of whom survived.

Her story has been pieced together from the accidental discovery of seven letters written between 1853 and 1875 to her brother, William Suter, a papermaker in Headley, Hampshire.

Back Cover

Written on wafer-thin blue paper, folded, creased and faded, the first letter was in places difficult to decipher, but the very first sentence alone spoke to me over a gap of more than one hundred years.

“My Dear Sister, Weary is the task to me to address another letter to you, for so hopeless seems the prospect of my receiving any answer.”

Who was this woman crying out in despair from the other side of the world to her unnamed sister?

The accidental discovery of seven old letters in a bureau started Joyce Stevens on a thirty-year search.
What had happened to her great-great-aunt Ellen, who emigrated from Portsea to Australia in 1841?

Here we see the results of that search.

Cover illustration: Edith Suter (1859–1939)


Descendants of William SUTER of Portsea (1783-1827)
The Suters of Portsea
Flight from Poverty
Meanwhile, in England
To the Gold Diggings
The Letters from Australia
First letter - 20th July 1853
Second letter - 26th January 1867
Third letter - 26th September 1867
Fourth letter - 10th September 1868
Fifth letter - 18th June 1869
Sixth letter - 27th January 1875
Seventh letter - 27th December 1875
Australian Postscript
Full Circle
Appendix I: James Read
Appendix II: Ellen's children
Appendix III: Calendar of Events

Illustrations & Maps:
Edith Suter
Descendants of William Suter of Portsea
Great aunt Edith's bureau
Southern England and the State of Victoria drawn to the same scale
All Saints' Church, Headley c.1843
St James Cathedral, Melbourne c.1843
SS Great Britain
Frances Read and Charles Cook before their marriage
William Read, aged about 30
Elizabeth Read, "the flower of the flock"
Rosetta Read, aged about 13
William Suter, Ellen's brother (1817-1906)
William Suter, Edith's brother (1855-1904)
Percy Suter
Joyce Stevens (née Suter)
The old cottage in Headley, now Suters


Great aunt Edith's old bureau had become something of a legend in our family. From early childhood I had heard how upset she was by the persistence of a second-hand dealer from Reading who, on sporadic visits to our area, tried to persuade her to sell it to him-and the grown-ups marvelled that she always refused, for she had constant money worries.

There was the upkeep of our ancient cottage, at that time divided into three parts-we lived at the south end and she at the north, and only the middle part, the home of the village cobbler, brought her in any rent. In addition she owned two 'modern' cottages, Nos. 1 & 2 Southview down Rogers' Lane. Ironically these had been built by her father William in 1896 as a source of income for her when he died-for as a lonely maiden lady who had never had to earn her living, she would have had no other means, and old age pensions were unheard of in those days. He died in 1906, but the properties became nothing but an expense to her, being inhabited by sitting tenants paying a very small rent. She was constantly being called upon to replace a kitchen range, paint the outside, mend the roof, and so on.

So why wouldn't she sell her old bureau? A shabby, ugly, piece of furniture, was the opinion of Gran, her sister-in-law. The money would be much more useful.

Then, in 1939, she died aged 81. The cottages were left to my father, and I remember various pieces of her furniture, including the bureau, being carried along the back path of our cottage from the north end to the south.
For the first time, we realised what a treasure we had inherited. The outside of the bureau was indeed shabby, but the inside revealed a number of prettily-shaped pigeon-holes, secret drawers, sliding document compartments and adjustable shelves.

And it was, of course, choc-a-bloc with the accumulation of several life-times. Great grandfather, who could read and write, had been a great champion of lost causes, an organiser, letter writer and litigant on behalf of his illiterate neighbours.

As my father systematically went through the contents of the bureau, he learned a great deal that was new to him-the Suters were not a very communicative family-but threw nothing away, in case it was important. How often have I had cause to be grateful to him for his inherited instinct to hoard!

Many years later, when both my parents were dead and the bureau was mine, I discovered the greatest treasure of all. Inside a tin that had once held Andies Candies, I found seven faded letters which revealed the life story of a remarkable woman-my great-great aunt, Ellen Read, née Suter...

The Letters

Letters from Australia 1853-1875 from Ellen Read, née Suter (Mrs James Read)

The First letter, 20th July 1853

Bendigo Gold Diggins
July 20/53
My Dear Sister
Weary is the task to me to address another letter to you, for so hopeless seem the prospect of my receving any answer. Twelve years ago the 29 of this month, and only one letter have I receved from any of you to remind me of Mother, Brothers, Sister and friend, and once my home. Although so long here, still my thoughts often wander to you, wondering how you are faring in this strugling world. I am sure your prospects are not over bright, which makes me dubly anxous to hear from you.
I have writen now 15 letters this last twelve month to you, Mother and William. If you have recieved any of them, I need not mention we are on the Victoria gold fields. How I wish you where hear. How many a new hand in the Colony have I seen raised from poverty to immence riches in one day, indeed when first the gold was found many have obtained two hundred weigh of gold in one lump. Many have done well only to indulge in drunkeness and vice, but many have done well to benifit others. We have not be one of the most fortunate class, but still have done well. I have writen to William to know if he has any wish to come out, and also to you, but if you have any wish objection, for of course you know your own wants better than me.
I will send three hundred pound between Mother, William and you to help you on a little, only be sure and write so that I may know your abode. I have sent money to Mother twice, and not receving any answer of the delivery of the same makes me more careful for the future. The way that I sent it was in Bill of Exchange from the Bank of Australia on the Bank of England. One was sent in 49 for the sum of 40 pounds, the last in January 52 for the same amount. Let me know weather it was recieved, as of course I must apply to the Bank here for the amount if not duly delivered, but we have [thirty] pound weight of gold we w [...] ary home to London for sale which will be shiped in the Great Britain steamer which is hourly expected. We shall have to get a agent in London, which will be the best way to send to you. I have one favour to ask of you, which is to send me sometimes the times Newspaper and the Ilustrated London News. Any thing connected with home has a charm.
I expect by this time you have quite a family. Hear I have only one, the three eldest being in Melbourn at school, but in one more month will be with them for I am very unhappy without them. William my eldest boy is just eight year old and is getting on very fast, Fanny is seven years old, a curly head fat girl very strong but bids fare to be a very promising, she has just began to learn the piano. Elizabeth is five years next month, a little tiny thing but a general favourate and pronounced to be the flower of the flock. She has made no progress as yet in learning. John Suter is three years, my younges alive and the greatest rogue. We never can find it in our heart to correct him for he will coaxe us out of every thing. He often says he will grow a big man and dig a big hole and get gold, to send home to his Uncle in England. He is a very strong boy and bids fare to be the sort that wanted for digging holes.
If William have recived any of my letters you will know the way we get on digging for gold, but it is a lottery, many blank, but by persevering you may get a great prise a always a good living. But still trade of all kind is flourishing fast and things very high. Washing we have to pay from twelve shillings per dozen for, so that gold need be plentyful, as potatoe and onions, from where I now write, is two shillings per pound, a small sprout of cabbage three shillings. That gardening pays well as gold digging. I cannot say much more until I have an answer from some of you. I have written to Mother and William, but give my kindest love to them and accept the same for your[self]
Ellen A Suter
J Read
May the Lord ...ll us live to
you and ... he can
... shall
to remember us to all relations
and friends.
Mrs James Read
Post Office
Colony of Victoria

The Second letter, 26th January 1867

Sailors Gully
Jan 26/67
Dear Brother
I can hardly say it was with pleasure I read your letter for it contained very sad news, more especialy poor Emma as I was prepared for Mother death, but not Emma. I sincerely trust the children will be well looked after. It was on the 22 of Dec when I recieved your letter, just preparing for Christmas. The children soon cast all thier pleasure trips to the wind as they thought it was wrong to enjoy themselfs after such sorrowful news.
I am sorry Eliza is not in good health. You had no occation to remind me of your age, for the 25 of February always brings you to my mind. On the 23 of next month I shall be 45 years old and am happy to say in good health. I even feel better than I did twenty year ago. Surely you must not think of old age when my good man was sixty six last November and strong and hale, although very likely you may laugh, for him and me and all the children has had a voilent attact of Hooping Cough. I realy thought the youngest would have died, but I am thankful to say we are all geting well. The weather this last month has been dreadful, I never felt it so hot. It made one so languid the night, is intorible. I realy begrudged you your cold Chrismas, but I expect that woud have been to far the extreem for us here. I am glad to say we have had an abundant harvest throuh out the Colony, after experison two years of drough which brough things to famine price. Thier was not feed for the cattle and meat was very dear. For my family the Beef we would use in one week would amount to œ1.10. As people here cannot do without a large quanty for animal food, at present Beef and Mutton is 3 pence per pound, flour œ1.8 per bag of two hundred weight, vegatable and fruit in abundance.
Respecting ourselves, we have no cause to complain. We have taken a large contract for the Catherine Crushing Engine. They consume 100 tons of wood weakly. Thier yeald of gold has been enormous, still for all that they have not yet declared a divident. We hold 200 shares which I hope will soon realize some return. We have also 200 in the Star Company which at present looks very bad; we have to pay into it 6 pence per share monthly.
I have forwarded you two likeness. One is my daughter Fanny and her husband; they where takeing before her marrig. I have not seen her since the morning they wher married as they live 200 miles from here. They where well when I last heard from them.
Elizabeth send her kind love to all her Cousins. She is 18 years old and does all my house work. I think she will be a old maid. She is a very proud girl. Next mail she will send her likeness and a present to her cousin Fanny.
My two boy are well and hard at work. You must find your boys great use to you now.
Our pet Rosa says she wants to see her cousin Edith. She is four years old and the last of six, as I had twins 3 time running. All has died but her; although every care and attention was given them, they all went. Ada the oldest of the six died at five years old. This is a dreadful country for children you must know. I have had my trouble loosing so many children, leaving me only five out of 14. Give my kind love to all the dear Children, Eliza and all enquiring for me. My husband joins me in the same, and all the children. I forward Hinton letter he is writing home this mail; it closed this afternoon.
Your affectionat Sister
Ellen Read

The Third letter, 26th September 1867

Sailors Gully
September 26/67
Dear Brother
It was with feelings of great pleasure I recieved your last letter, and was happy that Eliza is better, also your dear children was well. If I could only see you once more, is the aim of my life. One hardly knows what may happen in a country full of changes. If I had gone to England 12 years ago how different we should have been, but I do not repine; my destiny must be fulfilled. At the present time we are under a cloud, as Elizabeth went to Melbourn in January last to pass an examination as a Teacher for the National School, Eaglehawk. She was down three months and obtained a second class Certificat which will entitle her to œ60 pound per year. She had only commenced her duty when she took ill with Colonial fever. The doctor only last week pronounced her out of danger; I sincerly trust it may last. You must excuse me from writing before on account of her illness, also of her writing to her cousin Fanny.
I sent you a paper in May last announcing the birth of Fanny baby which was born at Eaglehawk on the 19 of May. She came down from the Murray to her mother in laws to be confined. You may depend it has been quite an event. The dear babe has been baptized Emma Ada, but I am sorry her breast took bad and was not able to suckel the baby, but she was able to secure the service of a wet nurse at one pound per week which is gone to the Murray with her two month ago. By last advices the child was doing well. You did her great injustice respecting the likeness, for thier is not a better tempered girl anywhere. She is greatly esteemed for her general good temper. Also her husband is a native of the Colony, the same as herself, his father being an Englishman his Mother Scotch. He is the eldest of a large family. She is, I am happy to say, very comfortable. The marriage has turned out better than Read expected; he was greatly against it at first.
Rose is so pleased with Edith for sending the picture. We had a great deal of trouble with her of a night saying her prayers; she would pray for Cousin Edith before Fanny's baby. She do not like the dear babe, but the truth it is jealousy. By the way, how did you find such a pretty name for your little girl?
Walter wishes he could be in England only to see snow. He has no idea what it is like, but the only consolation he has that he can pick up gold after the rain which must be better than snow balls - he has forwarded a sample to his cousins what he pick up after rain.
I am very sorry George is fond of rambling, for he is too young to meet the hardships of Australian life. Tell him he would be astonished at the privation many has to endure at the digings with very little profit. My boys when after timber or game will go out and sleep in the bush miles from the habitation of man without even a blanket. Boys reared in England would never thing of. To bring a trade may do very well if gold failed. I should like to see your boys; I could give them many accounts of Australian life that has come under my own notice.
Emma likeness would be the greatest boon. You could send also accounts of the dear children. Be sure and let me know.
You sent Uncle William likeness; you never told me was he dead or alive. I often think of him; to tell the truth I seem to think more of him than any of our relatives. How is Cousin Ellen and, I must refresh your memorie, all of Uncle Roberts Children?
Hinton has a letter by last mail from his sister. She seems to have a poor account of us from being in the diggins. She has heard it is no better than a hell on Earth. I can assure you it is a great lible. I have been on the diggings in its infancy and never saw anything immorrall, nor me or mine been molested in any shape or form. Where we live is in a Gully worked out. No one living nere, still we can sleep without a lock on our door. It is true what money we have we bank so thier is no temtation. We live two miles from Eaglehawk township. Still it has as many places of worship as public houses. Thier Church of England, Baptist, Bible Christians, Methodist, Wesleyans, Presbyterians and draws large congregation. I have brough up all my children to the Church of England; I go no were else myself.
My boys are quite well and still going on with thier contract which is nearly done. The Catherine Reef is doing very well but no yet declared a divident.
You may depend the Colony is quite mad respecting the arrival of Prince Alfred. He his not expected here till next month, when I expect all homage will be done to him. I would not miss the opportunity of seeing him on any a/c.
Our winter has been very wet but very warm. The crop is looking beautiful. Every thing is very cheap; meat is reducing in price every day, as low as two pence per pound for mutton, beef three pence. It is a great change from our former prices.
I hope you will write to us soon and let me know how you all are, and if you could put a few seed of primroses and forget me not in the letter, I have English voilets growing beautiful in the garden. Accept the kindnes love of us all and belive me to be your affectionat Sister
Ellen Read
PS not forgetting my kindest love to Eliza and the children

The Fourth letter, 10th September 1868

Eaglehawk Sep 10 1868
Dear Brother
I did not receive your letter of February until July. Do not send any more letters by the Panama route as they all go to Sydney and is charged to the Victorians double postage. I was very happy to hear of your all been well and comfortable, and your Children provided for better than you when a boy. They can not know all the hardships you had to contend with. I would not like to be poor with a family in England, for hear you may have a chance of bettering one self.
Since I last wrote to you we have recieved your Prince and sent him home shot. It was a cowardly act. My children is so glad it did not occur in Victoria, for thier is jealousy between the different Colonys. The man was hung for the offence. The indignation of the people was extreem and the Irish was more unpopular than ever. The poor Irish Children could not go to school without being called Fenians. The very children had to show thier feelings in petty squabbles. As it is the Prince was recieved on a grand scale in Bendigo. The torchlight procession of a 1000 miners and illumination was the finest sight I ever witnessed. He also visited the Catherine Engine. As we were share holders we had a ticket of admision, and I had the honor of drinking a glass of Champagne with him. William went to the Banquet, but that was 2 guineas a ticket. Read would not stir out to see him, he saying people was mad to make so much fuss, but as soon as the prince was shot all his loyalty returned. He would not employ any Irish, he would rather do the work himself.
Since I wrote to you Elizabeth has again been very ill, last Chrismas and three months after. I have had the best medical advise and they sayed her right lung was affected, but I am happy to say I think she is perfectly recovered. She is now in Melbourn for the benfit of sea air. As for myself and all the others, are quite well. I heard from Fanny a month ago and she has another daughter. I shall go see her at Chrismas.
Things begin to look a little brisker. The Catherine is looking up; the Crushing last fortnight was 300 ounces, the whole of the debt at the bank is payed of, the shares is rising in the market. If they go on this way we shall soon have a return. Thier is also a new gold field opened close to where we live. I have cut a piece from a paper, a description of it for you to see. The great drawback is water. Thier has not been 24 hours rain the whole winter and it is now geting to late for us to expect it. All we can get now is thunder storm as the weather get warm. We live in the Bush 2 miles from the township of Eaglehawk and close to Belzibub gully. The boys has about 50 loads of stuff ready for washing. It may turn out something good. I was wishing to get it washed so I could have sent Edith enough gold to make her something, also poor Emma children. Rose has been looking untill she is tired for some for Edith, thier being no rains to wash the dirt so she could pick it up. The only pieces she had I was compeled to send for quietness. She sets a great prise on what she gets.
I hope all Emma children is well. Let me know how they are all geting, and wish the girls was out hear as it is almost imposible to get a good English servant and they may do well. You may let me know what they thing as I could get them out for a mear trifle, but still if they are in steady places let them be, for if any thing was to happen to them I should regret, for girls is bad property when they are left without the controle of parents. Be sure and write soon and send by the mail direct for Victoria. Give our kindest love to Eliza and the children from your
affection sister
Ellen Read

The Fifth letter, 18th June 1869

June 18/69
Dear Brother
Your last letter came duly to hand and I should have answered it before, but thinking Mr Hinton's brother would have gone to England I should have been able to avail myself of him to send to you, but he has disidied to practise in Melbourn. We where all glad to hear from you. I am sorry Elisa health is no better, also of the death of her sister; I remember her quite well. I was pleased to hear of all your dear children being well, and Edith such a good girl. I should like to hear from Emma children, but I shall not write first. Since writing my last letter Walter broke his leg just above the ankle. He was a long time layed up, but I am happy to say he is now quite well and has gone to school for 2 years. He is just home for his first vacation. He was 14 last month.
Elizabeth has also recovered her health and is at home doing the work of the house, as I think exercise is better for her. Rosa is also quite well and send her kind love to her cousins.
William has taken a contract to supply the Angus Co/ with firewood, for the summer has been so very dry they have not been able to wash the washdirt. The rain only commenced 3 week ago, but we have all the crop in and it looks very promising. The rush that took place near us that I told you of in my last is nearly done. Where thier was a 100 men then thier is hardly one now. As soon as the winter rains sets in we shall wash our dirt up; we may get a little as the prospects where rather good. We have lost all our shares in the Star Company, as the Banks has seised it for the debt due. Thier was bad management both by directors and manager. The Catherine is looking up; we have had a divident of 2% per lead[?] since I last wrote, which has made the shares a little higher in the market. We have bought 500 in the Franklin Co and I have just heard they have struck gold very heavy. I hope it is true; they are on the same line as the Angus, that company having declared 25 diffidents in 12 months. 2 years ago we where offered shares at 2/6 each, whereas at the present time they are up to 16.6 and none offering. We may have a chance yet of doing something, but in the meantime we must be thankful we do not want for the comforts of life as we have a full and plenty, although the Bank account is rather low.
William earns about a pound a day with one horse and dray which is quite enough to keep us in food, for people hear is great gluttons.
Fanny and her children are well. I have not seen her; I should have gone at Chrismas to see her only for Walter accident. Your fine prince has been her again, and the whole Colony is in array agains him for applying to the English parliment for œ3374.14 which he gave away in Australia, instead of which he acted with the greatest meanness. Thier was not a mine he went down but he took away all the gold he could get. I think he cleared a few thousand by the visit here, for he refused nothing; only people here was prince mad. The papers is showing him up. He is now in New Zealand.
My dear Brother, be sure write to me soon. The seeds came all right; they are up but I do not know if I planted to early. Rosa sends a small parcle of gold for Edith; she must keep it till I get a larger lot for her when you must have it made into some thing for her. They all sends thier kindest love to you and yours, and accept the same from your affectionate
Sister Ellen Read
My good man is quite well

The Sixth letter, 27th January 1875

Sailors Gully
January 27/75
Dear Brother
You must think it very strange that I have not written to you before this, but I could not bring my mind to do so. Trouble that I have had since I recieved your last letter of Eliza death has nearly brougt me to death door. To commence, first poor Fanny died one year ago last June leaving 5 little children to mourn her loss. She had 4 little girls and she died 3 months after a birth of a son, and the 2 youngest has died since, so the three girls is living with thier Grandmother and is well tended to. I do not see them often for Mother in laws in general is not very amiable. But as it was, the shock to the system brough on a severe illness, but I am thankful to say I am much better, althoug not able to exert myself a formerly.
As for James, he has been on and of with Chronic disentry for the last few years. We have tried all the Medical doctors avalible and only one doctor is able to do him any good, which is a Hospital one. We are subscribers to that institution, enables him to have advice thier. He is now just recovering from a very bad attack, but I do not for one moment think he can be cured as he has lived the years allotted for man to live, as he was 74 last November.
As for business, hear it is deplorable. As I now write, Bush fires all round and water almost dried up. We have had a fearful summer, but we must be thankful the grain was all in before the drought set in. Thier has been a abundant harvest and food abundant, although many a poor farmer has been burned out, and deaths occurring with sunstrok daly.
As far as mineing is concerned, I do not like to refere to them for they are nearly nil, but still we live in hopes of things looking better. If it was not for Calls I could do well enough, put the Reef one in the back ground.
A railway of 29 miles is commencing on next Monday. The boys may get a contract on the line. I always like them to be thier own masters as they have never worke for wages, yet they are very good boys. Elizabeth is home, and tell Edith, Rose would have got her some gold but the ground is so dry; untill thier some rain she cannot find any. I have sent you my oldest son and Elizabeth likeness. When I write again you shall have Rose. I sincely trust you are all well, and write to me as soon as you can. They all join me in kindest love to the boys a Edith, from your
affectionate Sister
Ellen Read

The Seventh and last letter, 27th December 1875

Sailors Gully
December 27/75
My Dear Brother
I hope you have had a Merry Christmas and a happy new year, although I never seen such plentitude in old England as I have seen in Australia. Still, what a comfort your children and mine has happy days than when we where young. Of course our Father died when we where young, which destroyed our prospects of life, but although so many years has elapsed I remember as only yesterday when Father took me and you to Porchester Creek[?] to see a ship that was burned thier. Is not many incidence of my childhood but what I remember, but your children and mine thank God has been spared. Our mother had a hard time to manage, but you where always a good boy to her. I may have grieved her by coming out here, but it was better than poverty. In this country one is not despised for it. I must now forget, for I am in a melancoly mood.
My son William has fenced in the ground, having a sevier winter to contend with. It has on the whole been the worse weather I have ever seen in the Colony. Even now at mid Summer we are glad of a fire and the cold is piercing. I have not sent Rose to school for the last nine months, for the unseanable weather has brough on all complaints, Measels, Scarlet fever, which Rose and Walter has not taken as yet. They now are busy getting in the harvest, but rain is a great drawback. The crop on the whole looks very good, and our garden splendid. As for the gold, is only medium. If you get a little from one clame it genarly has to be payed into another in the shapes of calls, but I cannot complain; times look brisker. We have had a mery Carnibal for Chrismas. All the children was home, and Elizabeth is home for six week holidays, and this Colony is about the greates place for holidays, I think, in the world. Thier is no busness done from 24 of December till the 3 of January. I shall be thankfull when it is over.
I have sent you Rose likeness. It is for Edith with her kindest love, but you must know she is not like her cousin, for she knows which side her bread is buttered. She does nothing in the house, not even to wash a dish or Black her Boots, and looks for a bit of gold when I commence to write. Although she has her good points, it is hard to say which is upermost. I have been ill since I wrote last, and the Old man has had another attact but is now better. The boys do not like him to do anything, but still he is plucky to the last. He thinks no one can harvest like him. He was brough up from his cradle to it, of course; he has the English stille. They all send thier kind love to you, William and Edith
from your sister
Ellen Read.

Descendants of William SUTER of Portsea (1783-1827)

Variations in spelling of surnames on source documents:- SUTER, SOUTER, SOWTER ; READ, REID
Note: Some dates are conjectural

1 William SUTER 1783-1827
+Frances CHIVERTON 1796-1863
 2 Amelia SUTER 1816-???
 2 William SUTER 1817-1906
 +Eliza CHIVERTON 1823-1871
  3 George SUTER 1852-???
  3 William SUTER 1855-1904
 +Mary Ann SUTTON 1856-1942
   4 Percy SUTER 1886-1944
   +Nellie Mary SEAR 1886-1971
    5 Joyce Mary Eileen SUTER 1914-2007
    +Robert Plowden Weston STEVENS 1912-1942
  3 Edith SUTER 1859-1939
 2 Emma SUTER 1819-???
 2 Helen (Ellen) SUTER 1822-1882
 +James READ 1800-1888
  3 Unnamed READ c.1843
  3 Unnamed READ c.1844
  3 William James READ 1845-1924
  3 Frances (Fanny) Emma READ 1847-1873
  +Charles COOK 1841-1887
   4 Emma Ada COOK 1867-???
   4 Frances Sarah COOK 1868-???
   4 Martha COOK 1869-1890
   4 Susan COOK 1870-1873
   4 Charles James COOK 1873-1874
  3 Elizabeth Susan READ 1848-1882
  3 John Suter READ 1850-c.1857
  3 George Edwin READ c.1853
  3 Walter John Suter 'Ginger' READ 1855-1942
  +Susan Jane HARRISON 1857-1941
   4 Elizabeth Ellen READ 1886 - 1893
   4 William James READ 1888 -
   4 Alice Susan READ 1890 - 1893
   4 Walter Edwin READ 1892 - 1893
   4 Thomas 'Tonty' Edgar READ 1895-1974
   4 Ivy Doris READ 1897 - 1898
  3 Ada Louise READ (twin) 1857-1863
  3 Arthur Benjamin READ (twin) 1857-1857
  3 Alice Ellen READ (twin) 1860-1860
  3 James READ (twin) 1860-1860
  3 Lilian READ (twin) 1862-1862
  3 Rosetta READ (twin) 1862-1950
   4 Albert Stephen NANCARROW 1887-1946
   4 Gladys May NANCARROW 1893-1960
   +William John Thomas BRAY
    5 Elsie May BRAY 1919 -
    5 Mervyn Douglas Smilan BRAY 1920 - 1921
 2 Edwin SUTER (twin) 1827-???
 2 Emma Ann SUTER (twin) 1827-1866
 +Charles Rishman BAKER
  3 Fanny BAKER (& others)


The Hampshire Family Historian, Magazine of the Hampshire Genealogical Society, February 2002

Hampshire women were made of strong stuff as another book available through John Owen Smith shows. A PARCEL OF GOLD FOR EDITH is the result of a 30-year search by Joyce Stevens following the discovery in a bureau of letters from Australia written 1853 to 1875. They were from her great-great-aunt Ellen READ (1822–1882) to her brother William SUTER, a Headley papermaker. The family background scene is set first with their parents William and Frances (née CHIVERTON) Suter before Ellen, their fourth child, left the poverty of Portsea in 1841 to become one of Australia's Pioneer Women, spending most of her life in the gold fields of Bendigo.

The Edith SUTER (1859–1939) referred to in the title is pictured on the front cover of this book which has information on other SUTER/SOUTER/SOWTER of Portsea descendants. Priced at £4.95 this interesting account of real Victorians (not just of the time, but the place) and the hardships or joys in their everyday life will appeal to all who wish they had letters describing family and other matters with such detail, back and forth.

Ellen "had twins 3 times running". She refers to her daughter: "Our pet Rosa, four years old and the last of six. All has died but her; although every care and attention was given them, they all went. This is a dreadful country for children". She wrote that only five children were left of the 14 she bore. Her perseverance comes through her letters – at one time she wrote 15 home in a year and all went unanswered, but many have survived to be printed. We owe this remarkable woman the courtesy of reading them.

From some individual readers:

I began reading it in bed and didn't turn out the light until I had finished it. There is a rare quality to her writing. Somehow the author manages to combine economy of word and phrase with a gentle, sensitive style and a deep care for her relative, dead now, but still so close to her, as, indeed, are all other members of the family who feature in her remarkable story.

I should say "their remarkable story", of course, because clearly the lady in Australia was a very special person, too. We are all so fortunate that she never gave up writing, even when replies were scarce. She gave the heart of the book to the author, who has given it to all of us. There must be so many similar stories hidden now and likely to remain hidden.

A fascinating read!

How I wish we had a relative clever enough and tenacious enough to give me a similar view into my family's past. I didn't want the book to finish; there was so much more I'd have liked to know. What a hard life they had, and what an intelligent woman Ellen was to be able to express herself so fluently after such a basic education.

About the Author

Joyce Stevens, née Suter, was born in Headley in 1914. Educated at the Holme School in Headley and then Eggars Grammar School, Alton, she went on to teach in Alton and Wrecclesham. She met her husband-to-be in Headley – he was a young teacher at the Holme School – but by the time they married in 1942 he had joined the Royal Air Force. Sadly, he was killed eight months later.

With altered circumstances, she completed her degree, became Head of the English Department in a local Comprehensive School, and made teaching her life career.

She lived for 90 years in the same house in Headley in which she was born. As the only child of Percy and Nell, this branch of the family name will die out, so she renamed the house Suters in 1971.

Joyce died peacefully on 12th August 2007 aged 93.

About the Publisher

John Owen Smith was born in 1942 and trained as a Chemical Engineer at London University, but spent most of his working life designing commercial Information Systems for the paper-making industry. Following redundancy, he 'fell' into researching and recording the local history of east Hampshire, where he now lives. His own output of historical community plays, lectures, articles and books includes:-

Please feel free to contact me if you would like to share information on the contents of this book. See address details on Home Page