Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

John Anderson (1790–1858)

by A. J. Gray

This article was published:

John Anderson (1790-1858), weaver and teacher, was born at Camelon, Stirlingshire, Scotland, the son of John Anderson and Janet Stean. One of nineteen 'radicals' arrested during industrial uprisings at Bonnymuir, he was sentenced at Stirling on 25 August 1820 and transported in the Speke. He arrived at Sydney on 18 May 1821 and was employed by Simeon Lord until 1823, when he became the teacher at Portland Head. The school in which he taught for thirty-five years was conducted in the Ebenezer Chapel. Primarily it served the needs of local children, but with the arrival in 1834 of Anderson's sister, Mrs Stephenson, who became housekeeper, it attracted a few boarders from Sydney. The chapel was partitioned and at one end had an upper floor where Mrs Stephenson and the girls were quartered. One of the five male boarders in 1837 later recalled his experience: 'We boys … and the teacher, slept in the church and on the dining-room floor—no bedsteads … we had no clock … when the sun's rays showed a certain distance inside the door we knew it was dinner time'.

Beyond this passing reference to 'the old system', no account of instruction in the schools has survived. The people of Portland Head, however, assembled in July 1855 to express their appreciation of Anderson's work. They presented him with 'a suitable address' and a purse containing twenty-eight sovereigns.

He died at Ebenezer on 16 July 1858, aged 68, survived by his widow Lucy, daughter of James Watson, shipwright, whom he had married in the Ebenezer Chapel on 13 April 1854. In the grounds of the church in which he taught and worshipped and which was his home for so many years, a memorial stone marks his resting place.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vols 12, 14, 15, 18
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 30 July 1855, 7 Aug 1858.

Additional Resources

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

A. J. Gray, 'Anderson, John (1790–1858)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 18 April 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]


Camelon, Stirlingshire, Scotland


16 July, 1858 (aged ~ 68)
Ebenezer, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death


Cultural Heritage

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

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

Passenger Ship
Convict Record

Crime: insurrection
Sentence: life
Court: Stirlingshire (Scotland)
Trial Date: 25 August 1820


Occupation: weaver