JAMES, Mr John Stephen

 8-1-1870  -  23-12-1950

James John Stephen - Creswick Historical SocietyJohn Stephen James was born in North Creswick on the 8th January, 1870, to John Thomas James and Sarah Jane (nee Brown).  The family lived in King Street and John Thomas was recorded as a miner and a drover. The other children of this marriage were Henry (known as Enno) and Agnes (Mrs F. Dean).

John Stephen was also known as “Jack” and lived all his life in Creswick, residing at King Street, Prince Street and Napier Street.

He married Eliza, daughter of Richard and Jane Woolcock who had moved to Creswick from Daylesford when Eliza was a young girl.  Eliza and John had four daughters, Dorothy, Ivy, Pearl and Dulcie.

John was a grocer, a Commissioner for Taking Affidavits, a Mining Registrar from 1913 until his death and, at one period an Electoral Registrar.

Electoral rolls show he was a Librarian at the Creswick Mechanics Institute and Free Library for at least twenty-eight years and also served as Secretary for many years.  In their 2015 book “These walls speak volumes”  Pam Baragwanath and Ken James said… “Mechanics Institutes were local, independent, self-funded and self-help institutes.  They were the first voluntary systems of libraries, educating and community-building in Victoria” …an important place in the development of the Creswick community.

On 28th June, 1894, aged 23, John joined the Creswick Fire Brigade and for the next seventeen years he served the Fire Brigade as a fireman at a time when the main means of extinguishing a fire was a ladder, a hose and a container of water. The men had to pull the hose reel to the fire site before fighting the fire. It was many years before rural Brigades became mechanised.

On 1st January, 1910 John was appointed Secretary of the Fire Brigade, a position he held until his death in 1950. The duties entailed in being Secretary were to convene and hold meetings, to make records of the meetings and to deal with correspondence. He was commended annually for the meticulous way in which his books were maintained.

In 1920 John was appointed to the position of Treasurer, a post he held for the next twenty-seven years, once again being praised for the manner in which he performed his duties.

In December 1920, John was appointed Station keeper for the Brigade, which required keeping the fire-fighting equipment clean, safely stored and in good order, as well as making sure the Hall was clean and neat. He continued in this role for fifteen years, until 1935.

In all, John James gave the Creswick Fire Brigade fifty-four years of continuous service.

Mr James also played in the Creswick Drum and Fife Band as a boy, probably at nine or ten years old, and then played in the Creswick Brass Band. In 1896, while John was still in the band, a Bazaar was organised which made enough money to buy uniforms for the whole band. 

John became more involved with the Fire Brigade and less with the band as band practice and fires sometimes clashed. In the Creswick Advertiser “Personality of the Month” it was reported that Ralph Featherstone, the Band Master one day said to him …”one or the other Jack, if you are going to stay in the band, you can’t go marching off with the firemen on band nights”.  He chose the fire brigade!

He was also Master of the Creswick Havilah Masonic Lodge in 1910 and Lodge gardener in 1918. The garden was later turned into lawn.

It was very clear that he was highly respected in all the roles that he undertook.  In the Minutes of the Creswick Fire Brigade 1923 Annual Meeting, Mr B. Grose, a member of the Country Fire Brigades Board said, “To say anything about Mr James would be like gilding refined gold or seeking to paint the lily”.

Also, at the Centenary of the Fire Brigade dinner, four years after Mr James’ death, Mr C. Daw, the Chief Officer said, …”I must mention one officer who has passed on.  Your late Secretary, J. S. James, who gave so many years of faithful service, even to the end his books were well-nigh perfect”.

John James passed away on December 23rd, 1950, aged 80, and was buried with Jane, who had predeceased him in 1947 aged 72.

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