Captain John Dalton of Australia


Researched, Complied & edited by Rodney G. Dalton from various World Wide Web sources


John Dalton was born on 22nd October 1833 at Harpham Field House Yorkshire, England. He was the eldest child of Thomas and Ann Dalton, farmers, who worked a small farm near Burton Agnes, Yorkshire. His father died when the children were very young, and, owing to the family having to vacate their farm, he joined a North Sea fishing smack (or sloop) and went to work.



"He had a long and adventurous association with the sea. As a young man, he was washed overboard in a gale in the Atlantic. He was fortunate enough to grasp a halyard flying loose from the yard arm, and was washed aboard again by the following wave. Tenacity and grit saved John on many occasions from a watery grave. This was surely shown by the fact that John never learnt to swim."



He was a deeply religious man, and had a varied career at sea. He worked on a Danish transport during the war, and was engaged in the transportation of troops during the Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny. He served as mate on the S.S. Maitland, and, as Captain served on a number of vessels sailing between Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Ireland and Scotland.


Settling in Australia, he married Margaret Otto. They had one child, Annie, who was born on the 25th September 1881. Unfortunately, Margaret later died of smallpox. He soon remarried, his second wife being Eliza Jane Cox, who was originally hired to care for his daughter. The pair were married in Sydney on the 3rd July 1882, and had six children together. While living there, John Dalton earned a living shipping vegetables to Sydney from the farms dotted along the Hawkesbury River on the ship 'St. Albans'. A passenger of note was the famous pioneer of aviation, Lawrence Hargrave, who sailed with him on the Hawkesbury run, studying the flights of birds.


The family moved to Port Stephens and settled at Nelson's Bay. John was now a qualified Master Mariner and sailed the waters around Newcastle and Sydney in the steamer the "Waratah". He also owned a number of craft, the "Ethel", "St Albans", "Kingsley" and the "Tahlee" at Port Stephens. With the S.S. Kingsley he pioneered the fish and oyster trade from Port Stephens to Paddy's Markets in Sydney, also running trips to Newcastle and Port Stephens.


In 1882 he built his house "Westward Ho" on 40 acres of land at Nelson's Bay. The property was named by his schoolmaster brother, James Dalton who was a avid fan of the author Charles Kingsley. He later acquired another property at Salt Ash called Burton Agnes in 1898. On the 27th November 1911 he purchased a property in Stockton, but died there soon after at Pepitee Pah Private Hospital in Newcastle on the 11th August 1912. He lies buried in the Methodist portion of Sandgate Cemetery.


Captain John Dalton and Eliza Jane Dalton had six children:


1. James Dalton. Born Wooloomooloo, Sydney 25th May 1883. Killed in action on the Western Front, near Passchendale, on the 11th October 1917, and buried in Dickiebusch (near Ypres) Belgium.


2. John Dalton. Born at Nelson's Bay Port Stephens 25th May 1885. Married Ethel White and had five children; William, Maisie, Jim, Roy and Edna.


3. Frances Dalton. Born 12th July 1887, married George Harold Mathewson, Auctioneer at Glouscester. Had five children; John, George, Archie, Eva and Iris. Died at Gloucester 26th November 1950, buried in Methodist portion of Stockton Cemetery.


4. Eliza (Ida) Dalton. Born 5th February 1890. Married William Horne, Grocer of Epping N.S.W. Had two children; Murray and Henry.


5. Henry (Harry) Dalton. Born 4th March 1893. Married Enid Gibbs and had three children; Thomas, Phyllis and Douglas. Died Sandy Hollow 13th-14th March 1961 aged 68 years. Buried at Church of England Cemetery, Sandy Hollow (Giant's Creek)


6. William Dalton. Born 11th March 1897, in "Riversdale" Scone. According to Jack Dalton's pamphlet entitled William Dalton of "Riversdale", Scone [c1974] after studying at Newcastle's first high school (known as the Hill School), William Dalton became an engineering apprentice with Morison and Bearby at Carrington, and attended the Technical College at night. He joined the A.I.F. in April 1917 and served two years in France. After the Armistice, and awaiting passage home, he worked for Kincaid's shipbuilding works on the Clyde, Scotland.


After his discharge in December 1919 he began dairy farming with his brother Harry at Sandy Hollow. In May 1923 he married Anna May Gibson of Singleton and had two children Jack and Gwen. He sold his interest in the dairy farm to his brother and in 1934 bought 'Riversdale' near Scone, where he remained for the rest of his life. In 1937 he began share wheat farming on 'Nandowra' which continued through the war years. In the sphere of community affairs he was instrumental in the formation of the Parkville Bushfire Brigade in 1944 and served as Honorary Secretary until 1970.


An active campaigner for the health of the local environment in 1946 he organized a planting of a Pioneer Memorial Drive at Parkville on Arbor Day, which led to the formation of the Parkville Progress Association to which he was foundation member and served as Vice President (1947-1949) and President (1950). He was also a member of the Upper Hunter Re-afforestation League and urged for the establishment of offices for the Soil Conservation Service and Forestry Commission in Scone.


In December 1947 he was elected to the Shire Council and campaigned for the formation of the Upper Hunter County Council, which became a reality on the 1st October 1953. Among his other achievements was the establishment of the Public Library, which was officially opened in July 1954 by the Governor of New South Wales Sir John Northcott. In April 1954 he resigned from Council.


He was a foundation member of The Hunter Valley Conservation Trust that was formed in 1950. In 1958, as part of the Trust's work, the Barrington Tops Bush Fire Prevention Association was formed to create fire trails to prevent the destruction caused by bushfires in the area. He served as the Trust's representative and Chairman from 1960 until 1965.


On the 21st March 1956 he convened the inaugural meeting of the Scone and Upper Hunter Historical Society, and was elected its first President, an office which he held until his retirement in 1969. He continued to be involved in the Society's affairs and activities, and in 1973, along with Mr. Wilfred Green, (the Society's first Honorary Secretary) was unanimously elected as its first Honorary Members. Following his wife's death on the 17th July 1971, his own health deteriorated and he died on the 22nd June 1974.




Page 00(r) - Front cover of the Diary and Log of Captain John Dalton aboard the Rowena, 1866-1867
Captain John Dalton's Diary and log


The collection of correspondence, papers, photographs and artifacts of the Dalton family were transferred by Mrs. Gwen Hamment, daughter of the late William Dalton of ‘Riversdale’ Scone (1897-1974), and grand daughter of Captain John Dalton (1833 -1912), to the University of Newcastle in June 1999. Supplementary material was deposited in March 2001.


The papers comprise a range of archival “treasures”, documents, photographs and artifacts across three generations of family members and includes diary and ship’s log books (1866-1870) and naval artifacts (1862-1913) of Captain John Dalton; illuminated addresses and certificates of schoolmaster James Dalton (c1835 – 1909); war time correspondence (1916 – 1919) and WWI photo albums of William Dalton; diary (1909 -1912) of James Dalton (1883-1917); printed works (1800-1990); family photographic albums, garments and handicrafts.


Click to see a PDF of the log (6 MB)


My personal favorite is Captain John Dalton’s log book. I remember while accessing the item and reading through the initial pages I really did feel like I was on the ship and experiencing what he was experiencing over 140 years ago. Soon in you come across a storm, the page littered with readings and calculations.


Monday 26th November 1866: have run over 200 miles under Close reefed Loss sails and a fearful beam sea rolling tremendous no sights for meridian..the Gale is still very fierce every body at work below


Then, a ‘prayer’ from William Falconer’s “The Shipwreck: A Poem” (1762):


Perhaps this Storm is sent with healing breath

From neighboring shores to scourge and death

‘Tis ours on Thine unerring Laws to trust

With thee Great Lord whatever is just. (The Shipwreck)


A few days later he breaks out in poetry again:


Sir the glad waters of the deep blue sea

With a soul as boundless and a heart as free

Far as the winds they bear the billows loam

We Survey our empire and behold our home.


By Thursday 29th November 1866 he has suffered a number of days of bad seas, hail squalls and storms he is feeling under the weather, but never let that stand in the way of a wonderful sense of humor:


Towards Callis rainy squally heavy tumble of a beam sea my self dreadfully cold and head ache all together make things quite (O be joyful) no sights for time Have lost our [time] and leave Westerly winds now squalls then calm then squalls again one time next hail just for a change


But there is a sweet little cherub that sits up aloft

That cares for the life of Poor Jack.


The last two lines come from the song ‘Poor Jack’ published in the “Universal Songster or Museum of Mirth” (1834) . By the next day the storms have passed, and you can almost smell the fresh clean air of a fine day through his nostrils:


Nov. 30th the weather as took a decided change been light wind and warm fine weather but a strong southerly sea causing her to be very uneasy got a good meridian


So who was this interesting sea captain with a great sense of humor on the high seas?

The Dalton Family Tree