Wills Family - F19191

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Wills Family
Francis and Mary Ann - F19191
Marriage 31 May 1818
St. Martin's Church, Salisbury, Englnd
Mercy Wills 1865.jpg
Mercy Wills, 1865
Photograph courtesy Narelle Marie McDonald
Name Francis Wills
Lived b. 25 Jun 1800
Name Mary Ann Rumbold
Lived 21 Aug 1799 – 3 May 1841
Rachel Wills (01 Jul 1835 – 1835)
Mary Ann Elizabeth Wills (b. 01 Oct 1819)
Alexander Wills (04 Aug 1825 – 09 Sep 1874)
Ellen Matilda Wills (04 Aug 1827 – 09 Feb 1866)
Francis Wills (b. 04 Jun 1830)
Alexander Francis Wills (04 Oct 1823 – 18 Oct 1824)
Sarah Wills (05 Nov 1831 – 10 Aug 1832)
Ebenezer Wills (b. 07 May 1838)
Mercy Wills (08 Jan 1833 – 24 Apr 1912)
Ellen Maria Wills (12 Mar 1822 – 12 Aug 1827)
Rachel Wills (21 Aug 1828 – 28 Jul 1829)
Amelia Sophi Wills (21 Feb 1821 – 04 Jul 1868)
Samuel Wills (21 Nov 1836 – 12 Oct 1846)

During the 19th century romantic stories abounded throughout the United Kingdom about the new colony of South Australia, where enticing adventures and opportunities could easily be realised.

Families and children became intrigued by the stories that promised new and exotic horizons, and the new world beckoned them to set forth to partake of the dreams and good fortune that eagerly awaited those adventures; who dared to travel over the seas and into the unknown.

Sisters, Ellen Matilda Wills (04 Aug 1827 – 09 Feb 1866) and Mercy Wills (08 Jan 1833 – 24 Apr 1912) were among the passengers bound for South Australia on the City of Adelaide voyage that arrived at Semaphore in 1867.


Alexander Dowie in his robes as Elijah the Restorer

John Alexander Dowie

In 1860, G. & R. Wills had assisted a nephew John Alexander Dowie from Edinburgh Scotland to South Australia. Alexander initially took up work with the company in Adelaide, after which he gained a religious parish at Alma Plains. Within a few years Alexander had blazed a notoriously religious trail throughout Australia and around the world. Toward the end of his life Alexander Dowie migrated to America where he set up Zion City in Illinois.

John Dowie's sculpture Three Rivers in Victoria Square, Adelaide.

John Stuart Dowie

Noted Adelaide painter and sculptor artist John Stuart Dowie (1915-2008) was Alexander Dowie’s great nephew. John Dowie was a charming gentleman with a sunny disposition, which continues to shine through his wonderful works of art that can be seen in many countries of the world and are also proudly displayed along the cultural stretch of North Terrace, Adelaide.

John Dowie’s most famous works include The Three Rivers Fountain at Victoria Square, Adelaide and his dignified bronze statue and busts of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth 11, which are proudly displayed in Windsor Castle, Queens Place, Brisbane and Parliament House, Canberra. Many of John Dowie’s whimsical children’s bronzes are also dotted throughout the Adelaide city parklands and hold pride of place in state and Adelaide civic libraries.

Ellen Matilda Robinson (nee Wills)

Ellen Matilda Robinson, (nee Wills), 1827-1865, was the 6th child of Reverend Francis and Mary Ann (Rumbold) Wills of Kingsgate Chapel, London. In 1848, at age 21, Ellen Matilda married Harper Robinson; they had one son, Harper Charles Robinson (1849), who had sadly died in the Kensington district of London, three months after his birth. In 1853, Ellen Matilda’s husband, Harper Robinson died in the district of Skipton Yorkshire, leaving her a widow with no surviving children.

Reverend Wills’ wife, Mary Ann (Rumbold) Wills had died shortly after the stillbirth of their fifteenth child, aged 43 years. This tragedy had left her surviving daughters to tend her widowed husband and his ministry and to also look after the younger children.

Mercy Wills

Mercy Wills (1833-1912), the 10th child of Reverend Francis and Mary Ann was a talented artist and musician with a genteel disposition. Mercy was only 8 years old when her mother died, however she was blessed with a stoic nature and she became a governess to her younger siblings.


Reverend Francis Wills, 1865; Photograph courtesy Narelle Marie McDonald
Ellen Matilda Robinson (nee Wills); courtesy Narelle Marie McDonald
Mercy Wills; courtesy Narelle Marie McDonald

On July 26th, 1865, Reverend Francis Wills bid his daughters, Ellen Matilda Robinson and Mercy Wills, farewell as they boarded the City of Adelaide luxury voyage from London to the Port of Adelaide, Australia where Mercy’s hand had been promised in marriage to Mr. John Baker, a farmer and religious man of Alma Plains.

G. & R. Wills and Co, dispatched 160 packages of cargo on the same City of Adelaide voyage as was taken by Mercy and Ellen Matilda.

It must have been with trepidation after such a long and arduous journey that Mercy reached the new colony to find a vastly different life than she had previously known under the sedate cloisters of Kingsgate Chapel.

Fate was to intervene when on February 9th 1866, less than four months after the sisters had arrived in the new colony, tragedy struck again when Ellen Matilda contracted Rheumatic Fever and died while the sisters were visiting a quaint mining town near Adelaide, called the Burra.

Upon receiving news about the sudden death of his beloved daughter, Reverend Wills dispatched sons, Francis and Ebenezer Wills to South Australia, where after a timely interval they were to accompany Mercy to meet her groom.

Although other members of the Wills family had already migrated to the new colony and set up business’ and land holdings, Mercy must have felt terribly alone after the death of Ellen Matilda. She returned to Adelaide to take shelter with Reverend Gore of the Church of Christ, and it was here in calm solitude that she studied her beloved bible while she waited for her brothers to arrive.

Mercy and John Baker

Leonard Baker; Photograph courtesy Narelle Marie McDonald

In time, Mercy and John Baker married and had four children, two daughters who sadly died in infancy, and two sons, Francis Henry Baker (1869-1946) and Leonard John Baker (1871-1931).

Mercy’s sons became well-educated gentlemen and astute farmers. Both men were civically minded, each holding prestigious positions on local councils and committees. Throughout their lives they attributed their fine education to their mother who had home schooled them until 1878, after which they were enrolled as the 21st and 22nd scholars at the Barabba School.


On St. Valentines Day 1894, The Reverend J. H. Gore married Francis Henry Baker to Naomi Good of Alma Plains. They established a farm near Claypans and remained in the district until their deaths many decades later.

Leonard and Alice Baker with Harold and Gladys; Photograph courtesy Narelle Marie McDonald

In 1898, Leonard John Baker married Alice Annie Johns at the Rosawella Methodist Church, Forster. Like his English forebears Leonard showed an innate talent in survey and building skills; he is noted on ‘The River and Early Settlers’ 1894 Nildotte Table, when he purchased 1,000 acres of farm land and built his home near the gently flowing waters of the River Murray. The land is now known as Baker’s Corner. Leonard also helped other members of the family design and build limestone cottages in nearby districts. Leonard and Alice had two children, Harold Wilfred Wills Baker (1899-1977) and Gladys Dahlia Muriel (Minogue) Baker (1901-1966).

Leonard became known as a humanitarian and an astute horse judge. In 1899, Leonard was a councillor at the Swan Reach Shire where he planned and introduced the first Swan Reach Country Show. He was listed as exhibiting wheat, barley, crushed wheat, plus a collection of grasses. He also exhibited vegetables, a very fat cow and a pencil sketch of his favourite horse, while his wife Alice exhibited her homemade bread.

Baker built properties have stood the test of time and now stand as cherished icons that remain dotted throughout the South Australian hills countryside today. The quaint old relics provide a lovely sight when the afternoon sun gazes across the honey coloured stone to give a golden hue that shimmers across the paddocks and away into the distance.

In the early 1900’s, Leonard and his wife Alice moved to Riverina country in New South Wales, where they established a wheat and sheep property at Mangain, now known as Ganmain, and they built a magnificent homestead that they called, Yarran Vale. Here, the family continued farming, and they enjoyed the companionship of the surrounding community; they held country balls and parties at the property for their many family and friends, people travelled for days in sulky and buggy just to attend gala Baker festivities, where music and theatre were often enjoyed in the ballroom of the main house. Leonard also took pride in his civic duties; he had a sharp legal mindset and was passionate for honest justice and fair play.

As a gifted scribe, Leonard wrote many articles for the rural papers; the Daily Advertiser published his writings about stock and legal cases that were in support of the farmer’s of the district. In his humorous letter published by the Advertiser in 1914 and titled, 'A Tale of Woe' Leonard concluded, "Don't omit the farmer, no matter which Shire he is in, as the farmer is the most honourable man on earth".



External links


Written on behalf of the City of Adelaide 1865 voyage by Narelle Marie McDonald 2009; Great, great, great niece of Ellen Matilda Robinson; Great, great granddaughter of Mercy Wills and John Francis Baker; Great granddaughter of Leonard John and Alice Annie (Johns) Baker; Granddaughter of Harold Wilfred Wills and Marie Kathleen (Bartholomew) Baker.

We salute our Australian pioneers who dared to dream the adventurous dream, they stoically toiled in a virgin and rugged country to achieve the advanced society and international culture that we are privileged to enjoy today. Australian pioneering history has provided a proven benchmark for communities across the land to live, prosper and grow. The mighty historical City of Adelaide clipper ship also provided a valuable heritage link between the United Kingdom and South Australia, which remains of cherished historical significance today.