The Rashleigh/Kinsman Story

It is quite amazing at times how family history correspondence over many years from different people in different parts of the World throws up different perspectives on the same family. This is certainly the case with the Rashleigh/Kinsman family of St Keverne and later of South Australia.

In writing this article I am indebted to several people who have written to me as one of the OPCs for St Keverne or to my late father-in-law, Rev.Thomas Shaw regarding the Rashleigh-Kinsman connection.

John Rashleigh, the son of John and Margaret Rashleigh (nee Allen), was born on 13 September 1795, was baptised at St Keverne church on 15 November 1795 and was married at Breage church on 11 November 1821 to Phyllis Symons, the daughter of Robert Symons and Elizabeth (nee Richards).
John Rashleigh was a yeoman farmer at Porthkerris, a cove on the south Cornish coast between Porthallow and Porthoustock in St Keverne parish.

John and Phyllis had six children between their marriage in 1821 and John Rashleigh's death at Porthkerris on 23 July 1833 - John 1822, John James 1824, Elizabeth 1826 (died young), William Richards 1827, Elizabeth Simons 1829, Caroline 1832 and Thomas Henry 1833. The family had strong links with the Bible Christian chapel at Porthallow and some of their children were baptised by the local BC minister, although others were baptised at St Keverne church.

John Rashleigh, it appears, was bed-ridden for several years before he died but Phyllis managed the farm and developed the good business skills that were to stand her in good stead later in Australia. John died on 19th July 1833 and was buried at Manaccan on 23rd July 1833.

William Kinsman was one of three Bible Christian ministers named Kinsman. Richard Kinsman, born in Stratton, was active in the BC ministry between 1830 and 1860 and died at Stonehouse, Devon in 1881. William (the first) was born at Poundstock and was active in the ministry in the 1830s and 1840s and had two spells as minister of the Breage BC circuit.

However, it was William Kinsman (the second) who came to play a part in the history of the Rashleigh family. William Kinsman (the second) born in Morwenstow in 1799, began his ministry in the Scilly Isles in 1825 and by 1833 was in Mevagissey.

According to Rev. Oliver Beckerlegge in his publication "United Methodist Ministers and their Circuits 1797-1932" William Kinsman was at Mevagissey in 1833 but then "disappears". He probably left the ministry but continued to preach for the Bible Christian church. However, he "re-appeared" in St Keverne in 1833 and it can be assumed that, as a BC minister/preacher, he visited the ailing John Rashleigh at Porthkerris.

On 14 August 1834 William Kinsman, bachelor of St Keverne married Phyllis Rashleigh, widow, by license at St Keverne church. Over the next ten years six children were born to the Kinsmans, five girls and the sixth, a boy, William in 1844. Three of the children (Rosina, Grace and Philippa ) were baptised on 10 March 1843 at the family home at Porthkerris by the local BC minister. In both the 1841 and 1851 Census Returns the Kinsman/Rashleigh family was at Porthkerris.

William Kinsman tried his hand at farming but he seems to have been fairly useless on the farm so for fifteen years after their marriage Phyllis kept the management of the farm in her hands. In the meantime, Phyllis's eldest daughter Elizabeth Simons Rashleigh who had emigrated to South Australia and married Francis Rowe sent glowing letters home about life in Australia. For some years the Kinsman had lost money as a result of disease in the potato crop and, as there was only one life left before the lease of Porthkerris would terminate, they decided to sell up and emigrate.

On 11 November 1851 William and Phyllis together with their six children plus William Richards, Caroline and Thomas Henry Rashleigh sailed from Plymouth on the "Caucasian" arriving in South Australia on 8 February 1852. William paid an excess fare of £37 on the voyage possibly because he had a large number of children and his daughter Philippa was blind.

William and Phyllis gave their ages as 30 for the passenger list of the Caucasian when in reality they were much older. This was in response to the stipulation laid down by the South Australia Company that sponsored assisted passages that emigrants must be under 30 years of age and must be agricultural workers. So although Phyllis and William were about 53 years old they had to be thirty to get assistance. Their history of farming at Porthkerris easily fitted the second criterion.

The Kinsman story can now be taken up by extracts from the diary/memoirs of the Hon.Thomas Playford who married Mary Jane Kinsman in 1860 and who later became the Premier for South Australia and was instrumental in drawing up the Australian Constitution.

I was most intimate with a family who came (from England) to Mitcham (South Australia) about the year 1852-1853 for I married into that family. (Mitcham was about seven miles from Adelaide but today is now an inner suburb of the city) Some of the children were named Rashleigh and some Kinsman for Mrs. Kinsman had been married twice. I heard him (Mr. Kinsman) preach twice in our little chapel and thought he was a good preacher. He was a tall, well-built man with a pleasing serious-looking face, much liked by his children.

In the meantime, gold had been found in Victoria and the men in the Colony were flocking there. Mr Kinsman resolved to go also and take William and John (his two stepsons) with him. (Note. John Rashleigh was the son who remained in Cornwall, so could not have accompanied William Kinsman on the journey) He stayed long enough in Mitcham to see the rest of his family comfortably settled and then departed by ship for Melbourne. He and the two Rashleighs duly landed in Melbourne with horses and carts to carry their luggage to the diggings near Bendigo. They made a late start and camped for the first night not far from Melbourne. Mr. Kinsman was troubled in the afternoon with a bad attack of dysentery and told the Rashleighs that they were to go on and that he would walk back to Melbourne and procure some medical advice and medicine and that he would catch them up later. William and John Rashleigh went on but he never turned up and that was the last time that he was seen alive by anyone according to the most diligent enquiry made by Mrs. Kinsman and others. She was informed that a man answering William Kinsman's description had boarded a vessel bound for Port Adelaide but that he had died before the vessel reached the Heads and was taken ashore there to be buried. However, there is no record of his death or burial.

Poor Mrs Kinsman was thus left to fight her own way in life, mysteriously bereft of her husband. With the little money she had, she purchased some cows and sold milk and butter. She realised that there was an opening for a passenger conveyance to the city so she bought a cart and drove it to town in the morning, returning in the evening. Later she obtained the mail contract in 1855. As the traffic increased she procured a bus and her son William drove it. Mr James of the Norfolk Arms, Rundle Street, kindly gave her the use of his stables and, despite competition from other buses, the people of Mitcham supported her venture.

Soon after the Kinsman's arrival in Mitcham, I fell in love with Mary Jane, obtained her love, and we courted for seven years before we married.

Mrs Kinsman died on 21 February 1866 of gastric fever and was buried in Mitcham. I was one of the executors of her will together with William Rashleigh and Mr.Rowe. We found that she was worth several thousand pounds which was divided in equal shares among all her children except for Philippa, her blind daughter, who was left for life with the interest of £550 to keep her. I was the acting executor and since then have invested Philippa's money, paying her board and giving her pocket money to purchase books for the blind. Her sister Mrs Williams boards her for 18 shillings a week. However, of late the interest rate has been so slow that I have been compelled to take some of the capital to meet expenses and if she lives many more years, all the capital will be used up.

James Playford Duncan, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of British Columbia, Canada, is the great grandson of Mary Jane Kinsman and Thomas Playford who had married in 1860. He wrote in April 1982 as follows:- " My maternal great grandmother, Mary Jane Kinsman, lived in a house in Adelaide, South Australia, called "Helston", a house on the corner of Kent Terrace and Norwood Parade, now demolished. She lived to the great age of about 96, so that I having been born in 1919 can remember her well. I can picture her yet, seated in a rocking chair, hassock at her feet, black bow in her hair, conversing in a gentle, pleasant voice to her elder daughter (my grandmother) and my mother on Sunday visits.

The obituary of Eliza Jane Playford (nee Kinsman) in May 1928 gives an insight into the Kinsman's arrival in Australia. It states " on landing at Port Adelaide, they reached the city by means of a bullock dray and slept the night in a shed in Hindley Street, before continuing the next day to Mitcham, where the family settled.

It is interesting to see that the Rashleigh/Kinsman families settled in the same area of South Australia and formed their Cornish community within the larger Cornish community in the state. In the same way, the St Keverne Rashleighs stayed in the Porthallow area for the rest of the nineteenth century.

The one Rashleigh son, John James, who remained in England married Elizabeth Nicholls at St Keverne on 23 September 1852. They had four children - Thomas Henry baptised at St Keverne church in 1853 and Mary Ann, John and William, all baptised at Porthallow BC chapel in 1860. John was a fisherman of Porthallow from about 1860 until his death in 1912. This link to the sea was carried on into the next generation by his sons Thomas Henry, John and William and by his grandchildren, the children of Thomas Henry Rashleigh. Sadly two of the grandchildren, William Thomas and Gordon, were drowned in Porthallow Bay in 1919, an incident that hastened the death of John Rashleigh junior in 1921. The funeral report in the local newspaper at the time refers to the fact that John Rashleigh had been in failing health as a result of the shock brought on by the drowning of his two nephews two years previous. (Note- the newspaper has nephews but it should read grandson and great grandson)

The name Rashleigh has gone from Porthallow - the last member of the family died in 1975 (Mary Dunstan Rashleigh aged 91) - although there are descendants of female Rashleighs left in the St Keverne area. However, the surname is continued today in South Australia through the descendants of William Richards Rashleigh who emigrated with the Rashleigh/Kinsman family in 1852.

I am grateful to David Rashleigh and Beth Hallam of South Australia for writing to me over several years with their Rashleigh/Kinsman information and to James Playford Duncan (Canada) who sent an interesting letter together with extracts from Thomas Playford's memories/diary to the late Tom Shaw in 1982. More recently I am grateful to Carole Rashleigh of Falmouth for correcting some details. Without their help this story of emigration could not have been written.

Terry Moyle