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John Banks Shepherdson (1809–1897)

by A. C. Hitchcox

This article was published:

John Banks Shepherdson (1809-1897), by unknown photographer

John Banks Shepherdson (1809-1897), by unknown photographer

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 6345

John Banks Shepherdson (1809-1897), schoolmaster and magistrate, was born on 22 May 1809 at East Heslerton, Yorkshire, England, the son of George Shepherdson (1774-1838), a devout Wesleyan Methodist. He was educated by Rev. Thomas Farrow, of West Heslerton, and his uncle, Rev. Jabez Banks, vicar of Bempton. Although his parents wanted him to study for the church, he went to sea in 1824 and spent about three months in Jamaica. On returning to England he did some teaching, and in 1827 he married Marianne Craike, of Hovingham.

In 1836 the South Australian School Society was founded in London and Shepherdson was chosen as its colonial director. He was sent by George Fife Angas first to the training school of the British and Foreign School Society and then to further study in a school at Lindfield in Sussex where boys were taught farming, gardening, tailoring, shoemaking, etc. in addition to ordinary subjects. With free passages for himself, his wife, daughter and three sons, Shepherdson sailed in the Hartley, arriving at Adelaide on 25 October 1837. He set about enlisting the support of leading colonists. On 25 January 1838 at a public meeting chaired by Governor (Sir) John Hindmarsh it was resolved to form the South Australian School Society in connexion with the London society. On 28 May Shepherdson opened his school in the parklands near Trinity Church in a wooden house with separate departments for girls and boys. Fifty children soon strained his accommodation, but although he won praise for successful teaching, his earnings were small. In September he was offering evening classes for adults, but next month he was asking Angas for a passage back to England, which was refused. To get enough to live on he also acted as secretary of the South Australian Cattle Co.

In November 1839 he resigned through ill health and moved to Echunga. In 1840 he took up Craike Farm, Hawdon Vale, near Nairne, where he struggled against pests and low prices. In 1847 at Mount Barker he was appointed postmaster and clerk of the bench and in 1850 clerk of the local court. He also kept cattle and in 1849 he acquired a portable sawmill. He had so much to do that his work as postmaster suffered, and official rebukes led to his resigning that position. As clerk of the court, however, he won high praise from the four local justices. In 1855 he applied for the position of second inspector of schools, but did not receive the appointment. He wrote The Practice of the Local Courts of South Australia (Mount Barker, 1858). He was commended by some forty prominent residents for his ability and uniform kindness when in 1861 he was made a justice of the peace and appointed special and stipendiary magistrate for Yorke Peninsula. He resided first at Kadina, but soon moved to Wallaroo where, except for a year's visit to England in 1875, he lived at Weymouth House for the rest of his life. He retired in 1887.

Shepherdson was a member of the Church of England: at Mount Barker he served as organist and at Wallaroo he was largely instrumental in establishing St Mary's Church; he was for twenty-two years a member of synod, and a lay reader until his eyesight failed. He died on 24 May 1897. His first wife, by whom he had eleven children, died in 1859. He later married Sarah Kelleway Gray, who died in 1902.

Select Bibliography

  • G. C. Morphett, John Banks Shepherdson: Pioneer Schoolmaster and a Stipendiary Magistrate (Adel, 1947).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

A. C. Hitchcox, 'Shepherdson, John Banks (1809–1897)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 21 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (Melbourne University Press), 1967

View the front pages for Volume 2

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

John Banks Shepherdson (1809-1897), by unknown photographer

John Banks Shepherdson (1809-1897), by unknown photographer

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 6345

Life Summary [details]


22 May, 1809
East Heslerton, Yorkshire, England


24 May, 1897 (aged 88)

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