Due a reference to a baptism in the IGI, it has been long believed the John Mills who married Mary Ingram was the son of a Thomas Mills and Elizabeth, and was baptised in Shallborne, Wiltshire. I dispute this belief based on information provided from researcher Eric Marshman from the Phipps Papers – a large collection of legal documents relating to land transfers and other matters in Westbury and Dilton, and other parish documentation he obtained from Trowbridge. The papers are consistent with John Mills being from Dilton and not elsewhere, but is not definite proof.

The Phipps Papers[]

Parish information indicates that a John Mills (bc 1749) married a Mary Grant in approximately 1767. This couple had at least 7 children baptised in the Dilton Church of England parish, including a son called John, baptised in 1773. For the purposes of this history, we will call this son John the elder. John the elder married Lydia Collier in 1795. It appears the couple went about a religious conversion several years later as Lydia is baptised as an adult into the Westbury Leigh Baptist Church on 19.7.1801, and John was baptised in the same parish as an adult on 17.7.1803.

Definitive evidence of children of this couple is yet to be found. John the elder died on 28.4.1828, leaving a will that did not mention the names of his wife or children. He left all his estate to his wife and the will was witnessed by a Robert Marshman. The Westbury Leigh Baptist Chapel does however have the record of a John Mills of Storemore (at the western end of Dilton Marsh) being baptised on 14.8.1823. This could well be a son of John the elder, baptised as an adult as his parents were. Weight is given to this John being the John Mills of our story, due to further entries marked next to this baptism. John Mills of Storemore was excluded from the church in July of 1852, restored in September 1853 and went to Australia. The reference to Australia gives strong weight that this is indeed our John.

On the 18.2.1831 occurred a release in fee; two messuages and premises in Dilton Marsh- Lydia Mills, who made her mark, to William Tucker, for £130. Also in 1831, a lease of 1 year was granted to Lydia Mills at the size of 17 perches (just over a quarter acre). In 1840, a John Mills bought back the property for £140 from William and Joseph Tucker and mortgaged to the Tuckers. This transaction appears to indicate that this John Mills was indeed a son of John the elder.

The two Mills families knew each other as the younger John leased his property to Lydia, and lived near her during the 1851 census. A son looking after his mother? Lydia died on 18.2.1852 of ‘old age’ and a ‘John Mills’ was in attendance, given further weight as John being the son of Lydia.

If this is the case, then our John possibly had a brother called Richard. Richard was born circa 1804 and married an Esther Bailey in 1828. They are located in the 1841 census at Red Pit Lane, Dilton Marsh, only two minutes walk away from where John & Mary Mills were residing. They had a daughter Hannah who married a Robert Marshman. Hannah and Robert came to South Australia on the ‘Sibella’ at the same time as David & Ebenezer Mills (the sons of John & Mary) did.

Dilton Marsh[]

In the 1841 census, our John is recorded at Storemore, with wife Mary, sons Ebenezer, David, Job & daughter Mary Ann. John’s occupation is given as weaver. Living nearby are several families with the last name of Collier, a Tucker family, and also families with last names of Hillman and Humphries. The Humphries family living nearby is headed by John Humphries, father of Ann who would go onto marry Ebenezer. He is a widower and also has a son Edwin, aged 15. All are listed as being born in the county.

The 1851 census for Westbury, Wiltshire lists our John as born of Dilton Marsh. He, wife Mary & son Job are listed as wool weavers. Daughter Mary Ann is recorded as a scholar. No other children are listed for the family, so the gaps in the ages appear to be correct. Whether there were any more children of this family is yet to be determined, but it is a possibility.

In April 1854, the Phipps Papers records a conveyance transaction between a John Mills and Joseph Tucker, for the equity of Redemption of messuages, gardens and premises at Dilton Marsh - £140.10.00 owing, acquitted. This was just prior to the family leaving for Australia.

South Australia[]

John and Mary’s trip to Australia was paid for in advance by son Ebenezer. They were required to pay an extra six pounds (5 pd for John, 5 pd for Mary, 1 pd for Mary Ann, 2 pd for Job). Both John and Job were recorded as labourers and Mary Ann was recorded as a house maid. They arrived on 1/11/1855 at Port Adelaide aboard the ship Oriental. The ship was 580 tons, captained by Captain J. Macintosh, and had left from Southampton on 23rd June 1855. It's arrival was reported in the South Australian Register newspaper on Friday 2nd November 1855. 2 births and 5 deaths were reported on the passage, and Mr. William Arpthorp was surgeon-superintendent. The ship was 120.2 x 30.6 feet (length x beam) and built of teak at Cochin, India, in 1830.

It is uncertain at this point where John first lived and worked in South Australia. As cemetery plots were obtained for himself and wife Mary in the Walkerville cemetery, it is possible that this is where they first resided, but this could also be due to the cemetery being Wesleyen Methodist. 

Tea Tree Gully[]

John was definitely in the Highercombe district area in 1858, when he signed a petition along with many other people living in the local area. The council district comprised the area of the present City of Tea Tree Gully Council, the townships of Houghton and Paracombe and the area known as Highercombe. The District Council of Highercombe was one of the first council districts to be proclaimed in South Australia after the Act to appoint District Councils was proclaimed in November 1852.

The petition was expressing dissatisfaction at a lack of consultation regarding the potential division of the District into smaller parts. Protestations had been made by the residents of the villages of Houghton and Hope Valley who were concerned that their rates were not being used to improve the line of road (now Lower North East Road) which provided the townships of Houghton and Hope Valley with a direct route to Adelaide.

The question of identifying the main line of road for the District Council area of Highercombe, along which all traffic would pass, was debated heatedly during the 1840's and 1850's. The residents of the village of Steventon (now Tea Tree Gully) were equally adamant that the northeastern line of road (now the North East Road) adjacent to which their farms and businesses had been sited should be recognised as the main trade route. John, who is beleived to have been residing at Steventon at the time, signed the petition, along with his sons David and Job, and the petition was published in The South Australian Government Gazette on July 15, 1858.

Further debate about the issue occured, and a further petition was published in the South Australian Government Gazette on August 19, 1858. This petition went into specifics about what sections of the district should be separated and where, with a request that the northern portion of the district be called the 'District of Tea Tree Gully." John signed the petition again, along with sons David and Job, and a man called John Rowe, who lived in the Golden Grove area of the district. John Mills' 3x great-granddaughter (Mahala Mills) would go on to marry John Rowe's great grandson (Herbert Turner).

In 1861, John sent a tender to the local council in May for works near Coulters, at 3 pounds 3 shillings per chain. His tender was accepted. If it can be determined where 'Coulters' was, it may be possible to determine where John lived, as he may have lived nearby.

His daughter Mary Ann married at his residence in Steventon in 1862. Steventon was an early name for the Tea Tree Gully area.

John was still in the Tea Tree Gully area in April 1869, when he presented a new tender to council to hire a horse and cart for two days to cart stone on the Hermitage Road. The council decided to send his letter to the Para Wirra Council, calling attention to the bad state of the Hermitage Road.

John is recorded in the SA Directories as a farmer, near Tea Tree Gully, for the 1872 year. He is not listed for the 1873 year.

Baptist Association[]

John was involved in the Baptist Association of Tea Tree Gully during his time there, and regularly attended meetings. He was a delegate for the Tea Tree Gully area along with two members of the Haines family, and their attendance was regularly recorded in the South Australia Register newspaper and the magazine Truth and Progress, the magazine of the South Australian Baptist Church. In 1870, he is reported as assisting the church establish a denominational library.

Many people from Wiltshire had immigrated to South Australia due to the persecution they felt as non-conformists. His son David had emigrated to South Australia on a ship that contained many people who were hoping to gain religious freedom. John's presence in the Baptist church in South Australia indicates that he too, may have been seeking some religious freedom.


John's wife Mary died in 1874 in Tea Tree Gully. He buried her in their plot in the Walkerville Cemetery.

John died 5 years later in 1879 of senile decay. His death notice states that he suffered a long illness prior to his death. His residence at the time was the Destitute Asylum in Adelaide, so the illness may have affected his ability to work. His death certificate recorded his last occupation as labourer, and his death notice stated that he was late of Tea Tree Gully. The informant at this death was William Williamson, a carpenter of Kermode Street, North Adelaide. His remains were handled by W. M. Bundey, and undertaker of Mackinnon parade, North Adelaide. He was buried after 3pm on 12th April, 1879 at the Walkerville Cemetery, next to wife Mary.


Name Birth Death
Children of John and Mary Mills

Ebenezer bap 2/12/1821
Dilton Marsh, Wiltshire
Growlers Creek, Victoria

David bap 25/6/1823
Dilton Marsh, Wiltshire
Crystal Brook, South Australia

Job bap 4/8/1830
Dilton Marsh, Wiltshire
Adelaide, South Australia

Mary Ann bap 7/8/1840
Dilton Marsh, Wiltshire
Adelaide, South Australia