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Abraham Western CHAPMAN

Abraham Western CHAPMAN was the second child of European descent to be born in what is now the state of Victoria. His birth at the Westernport Settlement is confirmed by documents relating to the Settlement and held in the Mitchell Library, which show “Mrs Chapman and child” were being given an extra ration of milk “from the Government cows” in late July and August 1827.

Because Abraham western’s father, Private Abraham CHAPMAN, was a serving soldier in the British army, Abraham Western spent his childhood in a number of different places in Australia. By the time he was seventeen, he had lived at Westernport, Melville Island, Moreton Bay, Sydney and Norfolk Island.

However, when Abraham took his family to Norfolk Island in 1840, Abraham Western did not accompany them. He did not join his family on Norfolk Island until 1844. We do not know why, as a 13-year-old, he did not accompany his family. One possibility is that he may have been living with his eldest sister Catherine Bagot and her husband, and either working or attending school in Sydney.

In a letter (ColSec 44/2971) dated April 13th, 1844 his brother-in-law (Sgt Thomas Bagot) requested the Colonial Secretary to furnish him with a passage on the Governor Phillip. This was followed up by another letter (ColSec 44/3072) dated April 18th from the Deputy Inspector General of Hospitals, which had the desired effect, the passage being approved the same day. The passenger list for the Governor Phillip departing Sydney on April 20th, 1844 contains an entry for "Master A Chapman".

The family returned to Sydney in June 1847, and sometime shortly after this Abraham Western joined the Manchester Unity Independent Order of Oddfellows (MUIOOF). Over the next 45 or so years, he occupied various positions within the Lodge, being Corresponding Secretary from 1862, Deputy Grand Master in 1869, Grand Master in 1870 and Treasurer from 1873 until his death. During his tenure as Grand Master, construction started on the new MUIOOF Hall in Elizabeth St Sydney, which was opened in 1871.

Abraham Western was employed at the NSW Government Printing Office in 1851 as a printer and engraver. He remained in the employ of the GPO until his death in 1892, occupying the position of Foreman of the Stamp Printing Branch from 1st January 1857. (His brother George was also employed at the GPO, being Acting Government Printer during 1891 while the incumbent, Charles Potter, was visiting England.)

On 24th August 1850 at Newcastle, Abraham Western married Bridget Mary CHERRY, the daughter of Dennis CHERRY, a bounty immigrant from Co. Limerick. Abraham Western’s parents were at the time residents of Newcastle (where Abraham snr was a police officer), and the CHERRY family were also early Newcastle settlers. Abraham Western and Bridget had a family of six sons and nine daughters, twelve of whom lived to adulthood.

Abraham Western died at his residence, 362 Bourke Street, Surry Hills. His headstone in the Old Catholic section of Rookwood Cemetery proudly proclaims him to be “The first white child born at Westernport”.