The Sackett family in New South Wales

This branch of the Sackett family began with the migration to Australia of two sons of Jeremiah Sackett (1836–1918) and his wife Sarah File (1838–1896).

The sons of Jeremiah were George File Sackett (1863–1927) and Leonard Sackett (1869–1917) and they are recorded on an extensive family tree of unknown origin (of which Barry and Meryl Axtens have a copy). These two children, George File Sackett, the second eldest, and Leonard Sackett, the sixth child of this family, were born in Kent.

The birth certificate of Leonard's daughter Ella Doreen Sackett, born on November 5th, 1902, records that Leonard Sackett, aged 33, was born at Barham, Kent, U.K., and married on Feb 10, 1897, at Cullinga, Wallendbeen, N.S.W., to Martha Letitia Sweeney, aged 27. His first child, Leonard Francis Sackett, at the birth of Ella Doreen, was 5 years old. The district was stated, on the certificate, as Monaro, although the local papers still used the older spelling Manaro. (Wallendbeen is in central south west N.S.W., north west of Canberra.

The direct ancestors of the two immigrants go back through Jeremiah Sackett (1836–1918), Benjamin (1811–1885), Benjamin (1789–1854), Jeremiah (1749–1838), Henry (1711–1790), Thomas (1676–1760), Thomas (1642–1680), John (c1594– ), probably George (c1565–1612), and Thomas Sackett the elder (c1530–1595), all born in Kent.

George File Sackett and Leonard Sackett migrated to Australia in 1886 and 1889 respectively when Leonard was 21 years old and George, 27. George married Arabella Leans in 1886, and George Alfred, the first of eight children, was born in the same year.

Leonard Sackett's wife Martha has left a delightful record of her youth and of her parents selection of land and the development of their farm of 640 acres at Cullinga, near Wallendbeen. She writes:

I was seventeen when I met the man who was to become my husband. I met him at a cricket match on our farm. I was scoring and he came along and offered to help me. I liked him but I was considered to be too young to talk to boys. I am sure he liked me too, but with my elder sister's eye on me I had to be very careful. He used to come, after that, to Church, riding on horseback the seven miles from Wallendbeen where he worked in his brother's shop.

(The Methodist Church was located on a state government-granted corner of the Sweeney farm. Subsequently Francis Sweeney, father of Martha Letitia, gave a "piece of ground" for the Church of England, which was built by voluntary labour.)

The two Catholic families in our district had to travel to Murrumburrah to attend their church.

Sometimes he would come home with us for dinner and became friendly with the boys. Gradually it became the accepted thing that he would dine with us for dinner after Church. Gold was found at Wyalong and Leonard decided to go and start a store there. He did very well for a while, but then the gold petered out and he lost most of the money he had made. We used to write to each other while he was there but I didn't let Jane see me, although I suspect that she knew all about it. His brother George asked him to come back to Wallendbeen and live at the shop so that he could live on the Wyalong farm which he had just purchased.

(By this time George and Arabella would have had four children.)

Leonard came back in 1895 when I was twenty-two and we became engaged and were to be married the following year. I didn't mind the long wait. After George File returned from Wyalong we used to see each other twice a week. Jane had long before ceased to worry about us and she liked Len Sackett very much. I was not anxious to leave the old home. I loved the farm and we were a happy family. I was not however so simple that I did not know it would mean a very different life for me. We worked hard but Jane shouldered most of the responsibility. My sister Liz and I were carefree and we had lots of friends, all boys and girls we had been to school with. I rode a lot and we had picnics and concerts and parties. Len was living alone and we had decided to marry (in 1896?) and go on living in Wallendbeen which was reasonably close to the old farm and our family in Cullinga.

We were at the shop at Wallendbeen for eighteen months and then we moved to Cooma where Len had purchased a bakery business and we were there for nine years. We heard of a better business which we could get in Lismore and so in 1906 when Frank our son was nine and Ella our daughter was three-and-a-half, we left the cold of Cooma and came to settle in Lismore.

The business in Lismore that Len purchased had been owned by Spencer Cottee. The bakers in Lismore at that time were selling bread at two-and-a-half pence a loaf. They were all on the verge of bankruptcy as each one was trying to undersell the others. Leonard called a meeting of all the bakers at which a price increase was agreed and so saved the day.

Spencer Cottee was later well known for preserves and jams made under the Cottee's label.

Robert John Axtens, first son of Ella Doreen Sackett, takes up the story, writing on 3 February 1994:

On the advice of the excellent Tourist Information centre in Cooma I called on Mrs. Deidre Clarke, President of the Cooma-Monaro Historical Society who willingly offered to look up their records. These records, if I have remembered all the facts correctly, consist of at least two volumes of photo-copied typed sheets (on House of Representatives letterhead paper) of news items about local residents, in précis form: the originals were typed by the staff of J. Arthur Perkins, for many years a Newsagent, Bookseller and Stationer, and also the local member. (He established his business in 1899 and it was still under that name in 1926). These large volumes with indices are held in the Mitchell Library in Sydney, and the local society has its own copies.

The meticulous index shows about eight or so references to Leonard Sackett, the first being an ad. in the Manaro Mercury, in 1898. The same year, in the Cooma Express Trust of September 20, L. Sackett, Federal Bakery, was advertising bread at 3½d. per loaf, Hovis at 3d and small goods 'fresh daily'. Further references were to attending a town meeting re local government and a related petition (January 1900), appearing on an inquest jury (February 28, 1900), farewell to a Methodist clergyman (March 29, 1902), and a later ad. for Sackett and Reid, Bakers, providing refreshments at the races.

On page 2176 of these records: February 21, 1907: "Mr L. Sackett, who after 9 years as a Baker & Caterer in Cooma, is leaving for Lismore where he has purchased a business, was farewelled at Methodist Church. He was a most energetic citizen, helped all public movements, and was the originator of Cooma Town Picnic, donating all catering free of charge at the first one held. Married with two children when leaving Cooma."

The final entry was a report in 1917 (May 19) of his death. "Born in Manchester [sic], and on arrival went to Wallendbeen to his brother, who had a business in that village. Married there to Miss Sweeney, daughter of a nearby landowner. Arrived in Cooma about 1898 and left for Lismore about 1907. JAP."

The initials JAP identify J. Arthur Perkins, a friend of the family.

That same afternoon, Mrs Clarke took me to The Spinning Wheel Craft Shop, 163 Sharp Street, where the new owner, Mrs Margaret Hillman, had earlier been visited by a rep. from Mauri Bros. & Thompson (A.C.T. Branch) to inspect the baker's oven which formed almost the full width of the shop back wall. This visit was in the hope of establishing the early history of this disused oven.

On March 24th, 1994, Robert John Axtens adds:

I have just received an unexpected further letter from the Cooma-Monaro Historical Society. This letter was from their Research Officer, Miss Doris M. Ryall, and I quote in full except for the formal opening and closing sentences.

"From Vol 7. Page 2407 of the Perkins Papers: 1907 D. Jeffery bought the bakery business from L. Sackett. And a farewell to L. Sackett was given—"He was an excellent citizen".
Since some photos show D Jeffrey's Bakery as being down near the Cooma Creek bridge, and later in a building adjacent to Centennial Park—in the centre of town and one which I [Doris M. Ryall] remember my parents patronising at least until 1958 or so, this would seem to be where Sacketts had their bakery—buildings long since demolished.
In 1901–2 L. Sackett, D Jeffery and Miss E Hayward advised a rise of ½d per loaf. The population in that year is given as 1750.
There seems to have been a fair turnover of Bakers in Cooma over the years. L. Vale, Jose, Chandler, McGufficke, being some that come to mind. Your query may yet set us on a proper search for the elusive baker!!"

Robert continues:

Sackett and Jeffery were competitors for five or so years, and our grandfather's bakery was the one located (a) adjacent to the present Centennial Park, (b) almost on the site of the Tourist Info. Centre, and (c) opposite the bakery (shop) which I referred to previously.

Jeffery bought out grandfather Sackett when the latter left for Lismore and possibly merely re-located to the (Sackett) bakery whose position is still very central.

Leonard had been in the Lismore bakehouse about a year, I think, when Cyril Howard came and asked him to go in with him into a refreshment room in Molesworth Street, the main street.

This Sackett and Howard restaurant and catering business was a great success with seating for 150 and a staff of 20 waitresses. Baking of bread ceased, replaced by cakes to suit the demands of Masonic banquets, weddings and balls.

Martha continues:

When we first arrived in Lismore we had succeeded in securing a small house, but it was on the Cnr. Dawson and Park Streets (subject to flooding) so later on we were able to purchase a nice cottage on the hill and I still live in it [until about 1960], 58 Cathcart St. [son Francis built a house at 56 Cathcart Street with a lawn tennis court at the rear].

My husband died in 1917 when he was only forty-eight after being ill for a couple of years (Bright's Disease). We kept on the shop for a while but couldn't manage without a man so I sold out and retired from business. Frank, 19, and Ella, 14, and at the time after a holiday at Cootamundra we settled down. Frank became a bookkeeper for the New England Motor Company and Ella was a clerk with the Liverpool London and Globe Insurance Co.

Dulcie was just four years old when her father died. Ella describes the situation:

After 18 months of suffering Dad died at the age of 48. Great was the sadness indeed. I had reached my teens and no father to help me. Frank was busy studying for his accountancy and was offered a job at Shannon and Gordon. He accepted, and never finished his studies.

We battled on coping with the large business and staff. Then our manageress decided to get married. Mum couldn't carry on so put the business up for sale by auction. We lost a great deal as the buyers all knew we had to sell. After all expenses we had very little money left.

Mum hadn't seen her sisters and brothers for 10 years, so we let our home and went down to Cootamundra and Murrumburrah. We had 6 months amongst relatives and friends. I enjoyed being with the Dicksons especially as there were 3 female and 4 male cousins to be fussed over. I was taken to parties and balls galore, always with a wonderful friend Frank McClintock.

At last we had to return to our home. The tenants had kept the house beautifully, but the tennis court! It was feet high in weeds. Mum and I spent weeks of hard work cleaning it up and had it rolled ready for play. Then I saw an ad for a junior in the L & G Insurance Company. No experience, but willing to work. I applied. Over 200 also applied and I lost heart, but after a couple of weeks I was asked to come in for an interview. I was very nervous, but off I went. Years later I wondered why I had been employed and found the manager's report of the interview. And amidst much laughter we read, "This young lady is my choice. She is lady-like, neatly dressed and admitted she had no experience, so at least she was honest." I was with the firm until my marriage some 5 years later.

Then another worry—Mother became very ill. A nurse told me she had cancer, but dear old Doctor Bob Kellas said he didn't think so and would have her X-rayed. The Xray was quite new in those days. John was the only person I told and we waited a few days for the result. When I returned from the office one evening Mum was quite upset. The doctor had told her she had two duodenal ulcers. However she was confined to bed for 2 months, strict diet, legs higher than the body and she went down to 6 stone. After many bottles of medicine she recovered completely.

But again trouble struck. As we were all sitting by our fire one May night, our house, especially my bedroom was on fire. Our home was built of cedar and the damage was very distressing. All my beautiful linen and clothes were burnt. We spent 6 weeks staying with neighbours while it was rebuilt. The ladies of Lismore gave me an afternoon in a hall and presented me with all my lovely linen and fancywork, again, some of which I still have.

Frank (Leonard Francis) Sackett went on to become a partner in a successful company, Frith & Sackett, Auctioneers and Insurance Agents.

I spent several school holiday times with my Uncle Frank and Mim, Marie, Leonard and Beverley. Their first born daughter Audrey, died aged 2 years of encephalitis.

Uncle Frank took us to the pool in Lismore before breakfast for swimming lessons and sometimes as company on his rounds visiting clients in his Hudson car with wooden spoked wheels.

Frank was a club member, active in community affairs, and a heavy smoker of a cherrywood pipe. He also took his family to the beach at Ballina each Christmas holidays and came to visit there at the weekends with choice products obtained from his farmer clients.

Leonard Francis Sackett died suddenly in 1958, on the eve of a black tie event, from a coronary occlusion.

Memoirs compiled by Barry Axtens, Victoria, Australia, contributed to The Sackett Family Association, July 2010.