Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Charles Edward de Boos (1819–1900)

by L. V. Holt

This article was published:

Charles Edward Augustus de Boos (1819-1900), journalist and police magistrate, was born on 24 May 1819 in London, son of Henry Charles de Boos and reputedly grandson of a French count. After education at Addiscombe, Surrey, he went to Spain as a volunteer in the Carlist war. He went to Sydney in 1839 and took up land on the Hunter River. Unsuccessful on the land, he became a journalist first on the Monitor, then the Sydney Gazette. In 1851 he went to Melbourne and was commissioned by the Argus to report on the Victorian goldfields. He spent five months at Ballarat, Forest Creek and Bendigo, and in 1853 went to the Ovens on a similar mission. In 1854 he became a shorthand writer in the Victorian Legislative Council. In 1856 de Boos returned to Sydney and joined the Sydney Morning Herald. In the first parliamentary recess he visited the New South Wales goldfields and as the Herald's special correspondent later reported on all the newly-discovered fields. The knowledge he acquired of mining, its laws and the needs of miners was later to benefit him. In 1862 he created the countryman, 'Mr John Smith', who described the doings of parliament and the politicians in a primitive form of 'Strine'. 'John Smith' was resurrected in the Sydney Mail and Herald during the Duke of Edinburgh's visit in 1868, and again in 1870 after a tense election. The Congewoi Correspondence, 'letters of Mr. John Smith edited by Mr. Chas De Boos', was published in 1874. The most enduring work of de Boos was as the Herald's parliamentary reporter. After a century his weekly column, 'The Collective Wisdom of New South Wales' in 1867-71, still brings to life a host of politicians and well-known figures, for his quick ear caught many exchanges omitted in the official reports. In 1867 de Boos published, first as a serial, Fifty Years Ago: An Australian Tale and dedicated it to John Fairfax. A revised edition appeared in 1906 as Settler and Savage. In 1871 his 'Random Notes by a Wandering Reporter' recorded his impressions of New South Wales.

De Boos's evidence before the 1870 royal commission on the goldfields led to his appointment in January 1875 as mining warden of the Southern Tumut and Adelong mining districts, and in May as a magistrate. In December 1879 he became warden for the Lachlan and in August 1880 for the Hunter and Macleay mining districts; he was also appointed police magistrate and coroner at Copeland. In 1881-82 at Temora de Boos was accused of partiality, insobriety and improper language. Three times in the Legislative Assembly in 1882 William Forster asked questions about his conduct and was told by the minister of justice that he had been reprimanded, although some of the complaints had not been substantiated. De Boos ceased to be a mining warden in July 1883 but remained police magistrate at Copeland until he retired on 15 June 1889. An obituarist claimed that he had more than justified his appointment as a mining warden and in 1881 had been presented with a gold medal 'as a mark of esteem' by Chinese miners in the Braidwood district. In retirement de Boos published several short stories. He was a prominent Freemason and a member of the New Brunswick Grand Lodge. He died on 30 October 1900 of senile decay at his daughter's home, Congewoi, Ryde. He was predeceased by his wife Sarah, née Stone, whom he had married in 1848, two sons and three daughters, and survived by one son and three daughters. He was buried in the Anglican section of Rookwood cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, New South Wales), 1871-72, vol 2, 369, 1872-73, vol 2, 966, 1880-81, vol 1, 315, 1882, vol 1, 84, 111, 122, 1883-84, vol 4, 486
  • Sydney Mail, 1856-73
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 1856-73, 31 Oct 1900
  • manuscript and printed catalogue under de Boos (State Library of New South Wales).

Additional Resources

Citation details

L. V. Holt, 'de Boos, Charles Edward (1819–1900)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 15 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (Melbourne University Press), 1972

View the front pages for Volume 4

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Smith, John E.

24 May, 1819
London, Middlesex, England


30 October, 1900 (aged 81)
Ryde, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death


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