From Hooves to Highways

Mr J. J. Williams

Mr J. J. Williams.jpg


John James Williams was born in 1871 in Blinman, South Australia, and trained as a carpenter in the mines. In May 1897 at Moonta, he married Geneva Burton (22) and, lured by the goldrush, they came to WA. A son and two daughters were born: Jack in 1900, Elsie in 1902, and Amelia in 1904, but all died in infancy.

In February 1907 John was briefly employed as manager for the newly-opened Perth branch of the Continental Pneumatic Company, at 108a King Street. But later that year he returned to mining - first on the Goldfields and then back in Moonta where, in early 1908, another little boy (Jack), was born. He survived infancy, but after a short illness in July 1908, Geneva died, aged 33. John left his tiny son in the care of his mother, Sarah, and came back to WA’s Goldfields.

In July 1915, when he was 44 and almost too old, John lied about his age, put his 7-year-old son down as next of kin, and enlisted in WWI. He served with the 11th Battalion in France but, almost precisely one year after he enlisted, he died from a gunshot to the leg.

John James Williams c1916. Courtesy Moonta Family History Centre.

John James Williams c1916. Courtesy Moonta Family History Centre.

When, Where, What

John can be seen smiling wryly in the back, nearest to the photographer; Geneva is possibly the woman in the passenger’s seat. According to motoring historian John Parker, this is an early Studebaker, c1906, which was owned by a Kalgoorlie doctor. As it features Continental tyres, the photo was likely taken in 1907 after John began working for them, and before he returned to SA later that year.

We have not been able to identify the location, nor the three other gentlemen and the driver.