Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Adam Amos (1774–1845)

by A. Rand

This article was published:

Adam Amos (1774-1845), pioneer settler, was born on 4 March 1774 at Melrose, Scotland, the son of James Amos, lessee of Heriot-mill, Galawater, and his wife Helen, née Hoy. In 1809 he served as ensign in the 2nd Regiment and in 1814, after discharge from the army, moved with his wife Mary, née Tate, of Lauder, and their family to Wales. His brother John (1776-1848) accompanied them, and they leased farms at Hayscastle, Pembrokeshire, from George Meredith. Adam prospered, and had accumulated capital of £1500 by 1820, when both brothers sailed for Van Diemen's Land with Meredith. They arrived in March 1821 in the Emerald, and were advised to look for land on the unsettled east coast. Adam's capital entitled him to a grant of 1000 acres (405 ha) which he located on the Swan River at Cranbrook, and called Gala. By 1824 his mill was supplying the district with flour, and five years later he had many other substantial improvements.

By comparison with Adam, John had little capital and, not familiar with colonial conditions, was at the mercy of his astute 'protector'. When within sight of the colony, he was panicked into signing an agreement with Meredith, binding himself to work as carpenter and mechanic on Meredith's properties, and at the same time manage for him any grant that Meredith might obtain in Amos's name in return for a third of the annual profits and ownership, after eight years service, of 100 acres (40 ha) of this grant.

Meredith duly obtained in Amos's name a grant for 400 acres (162 ha), proportionate to the capital he allowed Amos to claim as his, though it is unlikely Amos was financially indebted to him. Other terms of the agreement were mutually abandoned and, as Amos had received no copy, it was soon forgotten. By his industry John earned within a year a further 400 acres (162 ha), and 200 acres (81 ha) extra were added later as compensation for a transfer made to oblige the government. Despite a delayed start John's improvements on Cranbrook were soon equal to those at Gala. The brothers' success was beyond all expectation. They were not dependent on unreliable and frustrating convict labour, and soon became almost self-sufficient. The land commissioners reported on the Amos farms in lyrical terms and the lieutenant-governor, who also visited their properties in 1828, hailed the family's successful endeavours as one of the few instances of fulfilment of the government's intentions in its land grant policy. Grants in extension were bestowed with liberality and within ten years the Amos holdings amounted to 6400 acres (2590 ha). Hard work contributed to the achievement, but their wide experience and farming knowledge were invaluable. They favoured intensive farming methods and regularly their crops were both better and earlier than those about them; in 1854, when other districts were becoming exhausted, their wheat crops yielded nineteen bushels to the acre.

Soon after arrival Adam Amos had accepted the duties of poundkeeper and chief district constable, and served for twelve years in this office at a time when both natives and bushrangers made the remote settlement particularly vulnerable. Other members of the family also joined the police in both paid and voluntary capacities. The erection of Gala Kirk in 1845 was yet another family effort.

After the death of Adam on 16 January 1845 his holdings were divided among his sons: ownership has since never left Amos hands. John and his wife Hannah, née Hardy, whose birthplace in Kent had given the name to their property and the township, died in 1848. Cranbrook was retained in the family but with difficulty. John and his family's seventeen years of industry had nearly proved in vain when in 1838, on the strength of the long forgotten agreement of 1821, Meredith contested Amos's right to a title deed. The government, long since wary of Meredith, favoured Amos, but the case had to be referred to private arbitration. A large award was made in Meredith's favour, and although Amos was assured of his title by a sympathetic government, the property had to be mortgaged to raise the award.

Select Bibliography

  • correspondence file under Amos family (Archives Office of Tasmania).

Citation details

A. Rand, 'Amos, Adam (1774–1845)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 23 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (Melbourne University Press), 1966

View the front pages for Volume 1

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


4 March, 1774
Melrose, Scottish Borders, Scotland


16 January, 1845 (aged 70)
Cranbrook, Tasmania, Australia

Cause of Death


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