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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Terry, Samuel Henry (1833–1887)

by G. P. Walsh

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (MUP), 1976

Samuel Henry Terry (1833-1887), landowner and politician, was born on 9 April 1833 at Box Hill, Pitt Town, New South Wales, eldest son of John Terry (d.1842), landholder, and his wife Eleanor, née Rouse, and grandson of Samuel Terry and Richard Rouse. Educated at John Mills's school at Parramatta and at W. T. Cape's Elfred House Private School in Sydney, he entered J. R. Young's Sydney counting-house. On 13 May 1856 at St James's Church he married Clementina Parker, youngest daughter of John Want.

In June 1859 Terry failed to win the Legislative Assembly seat of Canterbury, but in December won a by-election for Mudgee which he represented for ten years. A supporter of (Sir) John Robertson's land Acts, he proved himself to be a liberal free trader and energetic local member. 'One of the most independent laymen in the Assembly', he carried a motion for the restoration of the cross-benches, where he always sat. Determined to reform the law, he introduced seventeen public bills and eleven of them were enacted; they included the 1874 Triennial Parliaments Act, carried in spite of the opposition of the Parkes government, Acts for the Enforcement of Claims Against the Crown and Betting Houses Suppression, and the 1874 Suppression of Garrotting Act, which he lifted piecemeal from the criminal law amendment bill as he believed that the House would have to 'wait a month of Sundays' before the ministry carried that lengthy measure. He also advocated payment of members. Terry disliked lawyers in parliament: 'Would a lawyer', he had asked in 1864, 'vote for any motion to cheapen the law?' Members of the legal profession invariably opposed him at elections; he defeated them all, except the barrister M. H. Stephen in 1869.

Terry devoted himself to his business affairs until he won New England which he held from 28 August 1871 to 9 November 1880. He again represented Mudgee from 1 December 1880 until 29 December 1881 when he resigned to allow Robertson to return to the assembly. Appointed to the Legislative Council, he continued to take a special interest in matters affecting land and property. In 1879-80 he had been a member of the royal commission into the working of the real property Acts and was a commissioner for the Sydney International Exhibition. Inheriting Box Hill and 5000 acres (2024 ha) at Yass Plains from his father, he acquired Jeremiah and Bongongo stations in the Tumut and Gundagai districts, as well as property in Queensland and New Zealand and much city and suburban real estate. A magistrate, he was a founding member of the Union Club in 1857.

Terry died of heart disease on 21 September 1887 in his residence, The Lilacs, Ashfield, and was buried there in St John's churchyard. He was survived by a son and daughter of his first wife and by two sons and a daughter of his second wife Caroline Jane, née Weaver, whom he had married at St John's, Darlinghurst, on 12 September 1863. His personal estate was sworn for probate at £125,222.

Select Bibliography

  • E. Digby (ed), Australian Men of Mark, vol 1 (Syd, 1889)
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 30 Nov, 27 Dec 1864, 9 Dec 1867, 29 Aug 1871, 6 Mar 1872, 22 Sept 1887
  • Illustrated Sydney News, 10 Mar 1875
  • R. Parsons, Lawyers in the New South Wales Parliament, 1870-1890 (Ph.D. thesis, Macquarie University, 1972).

Citation details

G. P. Walsh, 'Terry, Samuel Henry (1833–1887)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 23 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (MUP), 1976

View the front pages for Volume 6

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