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Thomas Colls (1822–1898)

by C. P. Schulz

This article was published:

Thomas Colls (1822-1898), hotel-keeper, was born at Liverpool, New South Wales, son of Thomas Colls and his wife Sarah, née Burgess. After five years at Thomas Hammond's boarding school near Campbelltown he was apprenticed for eight years to George Graham, a wheelwright in Liverpool. Colls then became his foreman and a year later started business on his own account. In 1842 at Liverpool he married Elizabeth Clegg.

Early in 1847 Colls went with his family to Yass and set up as a wheelwright, blacksmith and farrier near the bridge. Later he moved his business to Cooma Street and after twelve months transferred it to his brother John. He took over a hotel near the bridge over the Yass River for a year and then bought the lease of the Commercial Hotel. When he retired after twenty-five years, local residents testified to his popularity by an illuminated address. Soon afterwards he went to Melbourne and thence to Albury where he bought the Globe Hotel. Among his patrons was Sir Hercules Robinson, governor of New South Wales. After two years he made his home at Yass.

In December 1886 with a large majority Colls won a by-election at the Yass Plains for the Legislative Assembly. Six weeks later he won the seat again at the general elections and held it until June 1894. In 1887 he introduced his only private bill which became the Yass Roman Catholic Church Land Sale Act. He joined in debates on such subjects as supply, Aboriginals, hotels and licensing, prospecting and mining, rabbits, roads and scripture lessons. He secured a grant for parks at Yass and Gunning.

For seventeen years in the Yass Council Colls gave great service to the district. He procured £1000 for the hospital and £350 for the town clock, arranged for the building of bridges and several post offices, helped to plant trees in the park and advocated better railway facilities. He was elected alderman in 1880 and served four terms as mayor before he retired in 1897. He was also a justice of the peace, on the committee and a trustee of the hospital, a founding member of the Mechanics' Institute and the Agricultural and Horticultural Society, president and trustee of the Pastoral and Agricultural Association and warden of St Clement's Church. In 1888 he was largely responsible for surveying a tramway in the town and for giving Yass a new lock-up and warder's quarters and a greatly improved railway station. He died at his home in North Yass on 2 March 1898, survived by his second wife Minnie, née Linsley, whom he had married in Sydney in 1894, and by five sons and three daughters of his first marriage. His estate, valued at more than £7600, included hotels, shops, houses and land in Yass.

Select Bibliography

  • W. F. Morrison, The Aldine Centennial History of New South Wales, vol 2 (Syd, 1888)
  • Parliamentary Debates (New South Wales), 1887-88
  • A. W. Martin, ‘Electoral Contests in Yass and Queanbeyan in the 'Seventies and 'Eighties’, Journal and Proceedings (Royal Australian Historical Society), vol 43, part 3, 1957, pp 121-37
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 3 Mar 1898
  • Yass Courier, 3 Mar 1898, 7 Apr 1927.

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Citation details

C. P. Schulz, 'Colls, Thomas (1822–1898)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 20 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (Melbourne University Press), 1969

View the front pages for Volume 3

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