WILKINS, Mrs Rebecca

1804 - 1869

Wilkins Mrs Rebecca - Creswick Historical SocietyRebecca Wilkins was born at Fontmell Magna, Dorset, England in 1804, the daughter of William and Sarah (Schammell) Dennis and was baptised at St Andrews Anglican Church, Fontmell Magna on 18th March, 1804.

Rebecca worked as a Dairywoman before her marriage to Edward Wilkins at St Andrews church on 31st December, 1832.  After their marriage, the couple moved to Motcombe, Dorset, where Edward came from, and they were both employed as Dairyman and Dairywoman.

They remained in this employment for the best part of twenty years, at the same time bringing up a substantial family of five children.  In 1853 they made the life changing decision to immigrate to Australia with children Thomas, Gideon, Mary, Edward and Sarah, and daughter-in-law Ellen, wife of Thomas.  They sailed from Southampton aboard the “Elizabeth” in April, arriving in Melbourne in July of that year.

On arrival, they took employment in Melbourne but by November they were recorded as being in Creswick, where Thomas is on a list in the Geelong Advertiser of gold from Creswick sold at Geelong.  It seems they had some prospecting success.

On their arrival Edward, Rebecca and the family worshipped at the Primitive Methodist Church, where Edward became a lay preacher and Rebecca began undertaking missionary work. 

Moving around the Creswick goldfields conducting this work, often with a grandchild on her hip, Rebecca helped women in need from a variety of different backgrounds and religions.  Many were living in dreadful, primitive conditions, lacking the most basic facilities and without medical care.

No doubt drawing on her own experience, Rebecca served as a midwife, helping deliver over 46 babies, some of which were her own grandchildren. 

Many of the women she helped used her services more than once and there can be no doubt that she was a valuable source of comfort, as well as medical help, at a time when needed most.  She was also a visitor that women could talk to, a welcome thing when a woman may have seen no-one all day after her husband left in the morning.

Rebecca became a legend on the Creswick goldfields, as a missionary, midwife and as a valued member of her community.  People such as she, without wealth or position, were immensely important in the work they did, in rough and sometimes dangerous conditions.

Rebecca Wilkins continued her work through the early years of Creswick until her death in 1869. 

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