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John Wade (1842–1931)

by Gail Reekie

This article was published:

John Wade, n.d.

John Wade, n.d.

photo supplied by Adrian Young

John Wade (1842?-1931), cornflour manufacturer, was born in Yorkshire, England, son of David Wade, manufacturer, and his wife Mary, née Stockwell. Reaching Sydney with his father and two brothers in December 1858 in the Duncan Dunbar, John became a storekeeper at Forbes where he married Margaret Crawford, a servant, on 28 June 1863 with Presbyterian forms; they were to have thirteen children. About 1866 he established a general store at Dungog, the centre of a maize-growing district.

Since most cornflour was imported from Britain, Wade saw an opportunity to establish a local cornflour-milling industry: by 1878 he had engaged Mr McDonald from the English cornflour manufacturers, Brown & Polson Ltd, to construct a four-storey, brick-and-wood mill with imported machinery on his partner's (R. L. Alison) land at Cooreei Bridge on the Williams River. Labour proved a problem: the men were new to the work and, because there were insufficient women to do the packing, the cornflour had to be sent in large sacks to Sydney. Nonetheless, local farmers profited from higher prices for their maize.

An active member of the Methodist Church, Wade was conference representative and circuit steward at Dungog, and later at Ashfield and Mosman. He helped to found the Dungog School of Arts with an abiding friend Rev. Dr J. E. Carruthers who served at that town in 1871-73. Wade was also a founder (1881) and chairman of the Williams River Steam Navigation Co. Ltd. As a Protectionist, he twice unsuccessfully contested the Legislative Assembly seat of Durham.

When maize production declined with the introduction of dairying, John Wade & Co. moved its cornflour and starch manufacturing activities to Sydney in 1888. 'Wade's cornflour' was widely advertised and became a popular Australian household commodity. He retained control until selling out in 1908 to Brown & Polson. Although later bought by Clifford Love & Co. Ltd, 'Wade's cornflour' continues to be marketed.

Margaret Wade was involved in welfare work for the Wesleyan Church and was a member of the Ashfield branch of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union; she died in 1900. On 19 August 1903 at Brighton, Melbourne, Wade married Sarah Jane Clark, née Kernaghan, widow of Robert Clark. Survived by two sons and four daughters of his first marriage, Wade died at Mosman on 16 September 1931 and was buried in Rookwood cemetery; the service was conducted by Carruthers.

Select Bibliography

  • J. E. Carruthers, Memories of an Australian Ministry 1868 to 1921 (Lond, 1922)
  • Town and Country Journal, 14 Sept 1878
  • Methodist (Sydney), 6 Oct 1900, 26 Sept 1931
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 17, 19 Sept 1931
  • Dungog Chronicle, 22, 25 Sept 1931.

Citation details

Gail Reekie, 'Wade, John (1842–1931)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 23 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (Melbourne University Press), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

John Wade, n.d.

John Wade, n.d.

photo supplied by Adrian Young

Life Summary [details]


Yorkshire, England


16 September, 1931 (aged ~ 89)
Mosman, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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