Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Charles Edward Jeanneret (1834–1898)

by Martha Rutledge

This article was published:

Charles Edward Jeanneret (1834-1898), steamboat-owner and politician, was born on 9 February 1834 in Sydney, the eldest son of Henry Jeanneret. His father, born on 31 December 1802 in London, was apprenticed to an Oxford surgeon in 1817-22 and went to the University of Paris (B.L., 1823), the City Dispensary, London (L.S.A., 1824), and the University of Edinburgh (L.R.C.S.; M.D., 1825), where he was president of the Plinian Natural History Society. He practised in London until 1828 when he applied for a post in Australia but was recommended for a land grant in proportion to his capital. Reluctant to sell out before certain that the colonial climate would suit him, he was assured at the Colonial Office that he could visit Sydney and reserve land while he returned to England to sell his property. He arrived at Sydney in December 1829 and soon applied for a reserve grant but was told that he must take out a bond for £500 to remain in the colony for three years. Protesting against this condition he opened a practice as a surgeon and dentist. His Hints for the Preservation of the Teeth (1830) was the first dental publication in Sydney. In 1831 he gave public lectures on chemistry and was active in a dysentery epidemic. At St James's Church on 11 December 1832 he married Harriett Merrett. Each year he announced his projected departure for England, and in 1835 through the governor petitioned the Colonial Office for justice in obtaining a land grant, but the regulations had been changed. In 1839 he petitioned again in vain from Hobart Town. Appointed superintendent of Aboriginals at Flinders Island in 1842, he was dismissed in 1844. After many complaints he was reinstated with arrears of pay but in April 1847 lost his post. He petitioned again in 1849 but the Colonial Office rejected his claims. By 1851 he was in London where in 1853 his final petition ran to sixty-two pages. After publishing his vindication Dr Jeanneret gave up the battle and turned to medical practice. In 1854 he was active in the cholera epidemic in London and later published pamphlets on his methods of treatment. He died of senile decay on 17 June 1886 at Cheltenham, survived by his second wife Frances Ann Barnett, whom he had married on 13 November 1874 at Great Malvern, Worcestershire.

Charles spent his early years at Flinders Island where he learnt seamanship and navigation. At 18 he visited Europe and then spent three years on the Bendigo goldfields. He moved to Sydney where he married Julia Anne Bellingham on 12 June 1857. He joined the Bank of New South Wales and bought land at Hunter's Hill where he lived. He became a partner in Henry Porter's general agency and actively engaged in farming, mining and preserving meat. He financed the building of many large houses in the river suburbs. By 1869 he was a shareholder in and manager of the Parramatta River Steam Co. and in 1873 was manager of the Parramatta and Hunter's Hill Steam Ferry Co. After the two companies had become heavily indebted and amalgamated Jeanneret bought the goodwill and the five steamers in 1875. He added fifteen steamers, renamed the firm Parramatta and River Steamers and extended the steamboat service to Gosford and the Hawkesbury. By 1884 he was also owner of the Mosman's and Neutral Bay Ferry Co. In 1888 he sold out of shipping. In 1881 he had built the Parramatta Tramway connecting the wharves and the western end of the town after parliament passed his private Tramway Act.

Jeanneret was an alderman of Hunter's Hill and mayor in 1870-71, 1877-78 and 1890. From 1886 he represented Bourke ward in the Sydney City Council and was interested in water and sewerage management. As a magistrate he administered 'strict justice and sound common sense' in the Water Police Court. Defeated for Central Cumberland in 1875, he represented Carcoar in the Legislative Assembly in 1887-89 and 1891-94 as a free trader. He supported Sir Henry Parkes and federation. He visited England in 1888 and North America in 1893. By 1891 his financial position was precarious. After three withdrawn bankruptcy petitions, his estate was sequestrated in 1897. He owed about £30,000 and his wife's money was inextricably entangled with his estate. A prominent Freemason, he was one of the oldest members of Lodge Harmony. He died from cancer on 23 August 1898 at his son's home, Wyrallah, Richmond River. He was buried in St Anne's Church of England cemetery, Ryde. He was survived by his wife, eight sons and two daughters.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia,, series 1, vols 17, 18
  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, New South Wales), 1880-81, 2, 1045
  • Australian Dental Journal, 24 (1952)
  • Bulletin, 29 Dec 1883
  • Australasian, 10 July 1886, 18 May 1889
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 25, 30 Aug 1898
  • manuscript catalogue and newspaper index under Jeanneret (State Library of New South Wales)
  • insolvency files (State Records New South Wales)
  • CO 201/245, 280/252, 315, 324/86.

Citation details

Martha Rutledge, 'Jeanneret, Charles Edward (1834–1898)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 18 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]


9 February, 1834
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


23 August, 1898 (aged 64)
Wyrallah, New South Wales, Australia

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