Australian Dictionary of Biography

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William Jones (1842–1907)

by W. G. Winter

This article was published:

William Jones (1842-1907), master mariner, industrialist and civic leader, was born at Newborough, Wales, second son of Robert Jones, hotelier and farmer, and his wife Margaret, née Griffiths. Educated at Newborough County School and Caernarvon Maritime College, he worked as a lad on ferries across Menai Strait. In 1861 he became a deck-hand on the barque Prince Consort bound for Australia where his uncle, Captain William Jones, and elder brother were already engaged in the intercolonial shipping trade; for two years he sailed with his uncle. On 5 March 1863 at Table Cape, Tasmania, he married Martha Maria Dowling, member of a local pioneering family. Jones then became master of his uncle's ketch Margaret Chessell but, wanting his own ship, engaged William Mollison to build at Burnie the Onward, a schooner with which he traded until he 'came ashore' in 1872 to begin an enterprising mercantile and industrial career.

Jones became a principal in most steps to stimulate Burnie's development and for his devotion to community life and his business zeal he earned the title 'King of Burnie'. He began as licensee of the Ship Inn, Marine Terrace. Alongside he built a store which became chandlery, grain-store, auction-mart and supplier of mining equipment to the developing Mt Bischoff and other mines. In 1875 he built Jones's (later the Bay View) Hotel and in 1878 his mansion, Menai.

In 1876 he bought Uplands, a farming property on Cooee Creek, and began a range of primary and secondary industries. He used water-power for a sawmill and built stables for a team of horses which dragged logs to the mill on a wooden-rail tramway. He found good clay in the creek-bed and built brick kilns. Then, establishing his own harbour at the mouth of the creek, he engaged William Mollison to build north-west Tasmania's first steamer, the Cambria, for exporting the bricks and timber. He built a soft-drink factory; used power from his water-wheel to churn butter at Emu Bay Butter Factory, of which company he was chairman of directors; grew pigs, slaughtered them at his own abattoir and cured them at his Brookside Bacon Factory.

Such enterprise was typical of Jones's interests for thirty years. He became a shipping and estate agent as well as a property developer in his own right; a mining entrepreneur sponsoring prospectors on the west coast; and promoter of Blythe River Iron Mines Ltd. He was chairman of the Emu Bay Road Trust from 1879, first chairman of the Burnie Town Board in 1898, several times chairman of the licensing bench, a justice of the peace from 1889 and a foundation trustee of Burnie Institute, a group which built the first town hall. A warden of the Table Cape (later Burnie) Marine Board from 1875, Jones was harbourmaster in 1878-98. He was a member of the Poulett Masonic Lodge, Wynyard.

He died on 21 April 1907 at Burnie and was buried in Wivenhoe cemetery, survived by his wife, a daughter and seven sons. A clock tower was erected on the town hall, demolished in 1976, to honour his memory, and Old Jones Pier, built in 1901, and a more recent general cargo berth, are named after him. A fine crayon portrait is displayed at Burnie Pioneer Village Museum.

Select Bibliography

  • W. Winter, Onward — Burnie Historical Side-Lights in a Biography of Capt William Jones (Burnie, 1975)
  • Cyclopedia of Tasmania, vol 2 (Hob, 1900)
  • Examiner (Launceston), 8 Feb 1896, 22, 25 Apr 1907
  • private information.

Citation details

W. G. Winter, 'Jones, William (1842–1907)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 15 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (Melbourne University Press), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


Newborough, Anglesey, Wales


21 April, 1907 (aged ~ 65)
Burnie, Tasmania, Australia

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