An early engraving, by an unknown artist, of the Williams River at Raymond Terrace, with the punt going across to Nelson Plains, Emily's birthplace.

Emily Gordon (1843-1922)


Emily Gordon

Lily May Gordon

Geoffrey Alfred Boddy


30 September, 1843, Nelsons Plains, near Raymond Terrace, NSW



i) --

ii) Edward Reavley, 28 Oct, 1884, St James C of E, Wickham (Newcastle) NSW



7 December 1922, Newcastle



James Gordon



Lavinia Harvey



Ada Jane Gordon (1868-1942)
Lily May Gordon, (1874 - 1946)
Edward J Reavley (1887 - 1963 )
Sarah Lavinia (Sadie)Reavley (1887-1970)

Emily Gordon is a bit of an enigma. 

Born in the 1840s in the on the Williams River near Raymond Terrace in the Lower Hunter Valley of NSW to an Irish farmer, James Gordon and his wife Lavinia, Emily's upbringing was probably unremarkable.  One of seven children born from James' second marriage, Emily's life would have been a typical one for children of farming families in the area. She would have been able to attend school - we know of the existence of the school house,  Emily's baptism was recorded there in 1844.

Emily' mother had died when Emily was only five years old, and not long after that, her father left the Hunter district and resettled the family in the Taree area, near Old Bar at the mouth of the Manning River.  Emily would have gone to school at Pampoolah, where her father campaigned to get the school taken over by the Government in the early 1850s,  but she obviously returned to Hunter within 10 or so years to live with her older brother, Henry, on Mosquito (Moscheto) Island in the estuary of the Hunter River.  And this is where the puzzle starts.....

When Emily was 25 and living on the island, she had her first child, father unknown.  And then six years later, another daughter, Lily May (who went on to marry Alfred Charles Boddy).

Where the puzzle comes in is that she not only had two daughters, 6 years apart, without a father named for either of the girls, but that she was able to keep the girls with her and raise them until adulthood, a huge task given the societal and economic restrictions of the time.

right: a map showing the location (outlined in red) of the 50 acre Gordon farm on Moscheto Island, in the Hunter River near Newcastle

Ten years after the birth of the second girl, Emily, describing herself on her marriage papers as a "spinster" married an engineer Edward Reavley, and at the relatively late age of 43, had twins, Eddie and Sadie.  Her older daughters were always included and acknowledged in the family (but not mentioned in Emily's own death certificate),  but we have no clues as to who their father/fathers were. (The girl's step father, Edward Reavley, was one of the witnesses at the marriage of Emily's eldest daughter, Ada).

(Many years later, on the death certificate of Emily's first child, Ada, Henry Gordon is named as Ada's father, but this appears to be the informant clutching at respectability, and not wanting to acknowledge the illegitimacy of her birth).  Mosquito Island is given as Emily's address at the time of the birth of that child in 1868, but by the time of the birth of her second daughter in 1874 she had moved across the river to the seaside suburb of Stockton.  How she supported herself and her children isn't known.

After Emily and Edward married, the family lived at 82 Henry Street, the Newcastle suburb of Tighes Hill (right). At the time the Reavleys lived in the house, it had a well in the backyard, which was later covered over by the construction of an add-on kitchen.  The house was later the home of Emily's son, Eddie Jnr, and then her great-grandson, Les Sheldon and his wife, Joy.

Her granddaughter, Dorothy Sheldon (née Boddy) who of course knew Emily only in Emily's later years, described her as a "small, white-haired lady who sat in a rocking chair in front of a window in the kitchen", and who used to tell Dorothy that her dresses were too short. (Grandmother Emily said Dorothy's dresses "needed some treacle on them" - a remark it took the child some time to realise was a joke.)

Emily's two surviving photos (at top and left) are of an older woman, who looks rather grimly at the camera - so we have no clues as to the appearance or personality of the younger Emily.

Emily outlived her husband by eleven years, dying at home in Tighes Hill in December, 1922. (The funeral notice below appears to have an error in her address. She lived in Henry street, not John Street).

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