Adams family history in Humpybong and the wreck of the Netherby.

Updated: Nov 6


John Adams was born in Enfield, Middlesex in 1836.

Eliza Breavington was born on 22nd July 1839 in Stoke, Newington, Middlesex.

They married on 8th April 1860 at St Andrews Church in Enfield:

They emigrated with their 2 children to Australia on a ship from the "Black Ball Line" called the "Netherby", departing on the 25th April 1866:

The following passenger's ticket is from the Pratt family, who were also travelling on the ship:

Emigrants leaving the UK in the 1860's:

The Adams family are listed first in the Netherby ship register: John Adams (29 yrs), Eliza Adams (26yrs), Mary Anne (5 yrs) and John (1 yr).


John and Eliza Adams arrived in Australia in 1866 on the Netherby (a Black Ball liner of 944 tons under the command of Captain Owen Owens) which was wrecked on western side of King Island in the Bass Strait on 15th July 1966. All passengers & crew safely made it to shore and were later rescued and taken to Melbourne where they were housed in the (then) Exhibition Building (behind the State Library)


An artist’s illustration of the Netherby shipwreck at King Island:

From the Mercury Newspaper:

"The 176 foot, full-rigged sailing ship was just eight years old when she sailed from Plymouth, UK, in mid-April, 1866. Bound for Queensland, she made good time to Fremantle, her first port of call in Australia.

The ship carried live pigs, poultry and railway sleepers, along with families and single male passengers all immigrating to Queensland, many to take up government land grants.

One passenger, a nurseryman, carried a precious lead-lined box of seeds.

Others brought tools and implements to establish enterprises in their new country.

Enduring months of cramped discomfort, the passengers’ fears of travelling across unpredictable seas were tempered by hope and excitement about their futures.

Captain Owen Owens, helped by Netherby’s chief surgeon Marshall Webster, ran a tight ship. Morale was high and there were no outbreaks of typhoid or dysentery despite the cramped conditions.

The Netherby Gazette, the vessel’s onboard newspaper, published letters complimenting the crew along with articles of interest throughout the journey.

After leaving Fremantle in early July 1866, stormy weather at the entrance to Bass Strait left Captain Owens and his crew with no visible navigational beacons. Under the cloudy night skies they sailed badly off course. George Massingham, a 16-year-old photographer’s assistant travelling alone to set up a studio in Australia, later wrote to his mother describing the experience: “It was about half past seven when she struck. Then to see them rush on deck groaning and praying. Some who had never prayed before.”

In the darkness, it was impossible to land lifeboats safely, with passengers forced to remain on deck overnight as the ship broke apart. The rescue began at daylight.

Ashore, wet and cold with few supplies and no shelter in the freezing weather, passengers and crew managed to light fires to warm themselves and dry their clothes, and erect temporary shelters. Many food supplies were lost in the wreck."

c.1866 hand coloured engraving : "Wreck of the Emigrant Ship ‘Netherby’ on King’s Island" The survivors of the Netherby shipwreck making camp, by artist Samuel Calvert:

"Stranded and hungry after surviving several days on short rations, Massingham describes his pleasure at eating what he described as the best supper they’d had since leaving Plymouth, a stew of “kangaroo and a duck-billed porcupine”.

Netherby’s 2nd mate John Parry was noted for his exceptional courage, walking to Cape Wickham light station to borrow a whale boat and cross Bass Strait to Victoria in just 24 hours to get help for the stranded passengers and crew. Under the cloudy night skies they sailed badly off course “John Parry was the person who held it together,” Rutte says, admiringly. “It was a successful shipwreck with a happy ending.”

The signpost on King Island showing the way to the site of the Netherby shipwreck:

Shipwreck exhibit at the King Island Museum. Image courtesy of the King Island Historical Society Museum:

After finally arriving in Brisbane on the 6th August 1866, they made their way to Humpybong, and on 31st December 1869, they purchased portions 138 and 139 - 36 acres of land on the eastern side of Maine Road between (now) King & Bell Streets for 4 pounds 10 shillings, built their property and named it Oak Farm.

A small jetty was proposed to be built close to Mrs Bell's and Adam's property in the 1870s, at Bells Beach, Woody Point. John Adams was the first to run a passenger boat from Woody Point to Sandgate, the landing place at the Woody Point end being where Perrin's bathing shed once stood. (in the vicinity of Main Rd (now Maine Rd). The fare each way was 2/-.

The boat used was one which had been washed ashore on the rocks at Scott's point, then known as Scott's rocks


They had 10 children. 3 were born in England (Mary Anne (born 1860) Eliza (b.1862-66) and John (b.1864) and 2 travelled with them on the voyage to Australia in 1866.

The 7 children born in Queensland include: Catherine Sophia (b. 1867) Alice (b.1869) Ellen (b. 1871) Minnie (b. 1874) Joseph (b. 1876) Emma (b. 1879) and Fanny (b.1884)

John (11yrs 4mths) Ellen (4yrs 5 months) and Mary Anne (15yrs) attended the first Provisional School in Humpybong and appear in the first school register in 1876.

John was an engineer on the Sugar Farm owned by John Ham at Clontarf


From The Brisbane Courier - Saturday 1st May 1926 - Page 19:

"One of the Old School:

Last week, in the course of my annual stay at Humpybong, I went out on one of the back tracks, looking up a few old friends. One of them was Mrs. Adams, the widow of Mr. John Adams, very well known and respected pioneers of the peninsula. The picture of Mrs. Adams with the eldest of her great-grandsons is given to-day. She is a very sweet old lady, aged 87, but bright and cheery, and with the keenest of memories. Born at Stoke Newington, in England, she married early, and came to Queensland with her husband and took work, Mr. Adams at £1 a week, and Mrs. Adams at 10/ a week, without rations. They were young, and desired to succeed in their new country, and, as the good lady says, "They were very happy days." Mr. Adams was the first to run a boat across the Bay from Woody Point to Sandgate, and the boat, by the way, was one which some sailors, deserting from their ship, had left on the beach about Scott's Point. Mr. Adams was employed as driver of the engine of the sugar mill on Noble's, now McCrystal's, property for sugar cane was grown on the rich lands lying between the Brisbane-Redcliffe road and the upper waters of Hayes's Inlet. I well remember some of the old machinery of the mill lying out in the open some 44 years ago, and probably it is there to-day. It is a coincidence that Mrs. Adams now lives nearly opposite, on the site of what was the Redcliffe Post Office in 1881, with her daughter, Mrs. Boardman, and her son-in-law. Mr. Boardman is dairying, and has a very comfortable home, with a good wife and a big family. Indeed, Mr. and Mrs. Boardman are grandparents, and I knew them when they were youngsters. Probably Mr. Boardman is a native of the district, for I remember his parents on the road back towards Petrie very many years ago, and they later moved to Woody Point, a fine family of sturdy Queenslanders. Mr. Adams took round the petition for the establishment of the Redcliffe Post Office, for when that place began to move it was rather too much to expect people to tramp back three miles into the bush for their mails. Did Mr. and Mrs. Adams make a lot of money, and become prominent socially? I don't think so; but they gave much to Queensland.

Their legacy was 10 children, of whom eight survived. Mrs. Adams had to reckon up carefully, and call in the assistante of her daughter, Mrs. Boardman, and her tall, pretty granddaughter—the family had always good looks—to get at the number of descendants. Grandchildren number 43, and great-grandchildren 36, "and still arriving." Surely that is something for which Australia should be grateful and proud. It was a great pleasure to see the dear lady again with her sweet smile and her happy heart, and with her travelling chair, a handsome wheeled contrivance, bought for her by her grandchildren and great-grandchildren on her last birthday. This is one of the heroines of Queensland settlement, one of the splendid band of pioneers. The back tracks and their people are always of interest, and sometimes inspiring."

The location of the Adams residence, Oak Farm at Woody Point, on what is now Maine Road:


John Adams passed away on 24th September 1889 in West End, Brisbane aged 53 years.


Eliza Adams passed away on 8th October 1927 aged 88 years. They are both buried together in the Humpybong (Redcliffe) Cemetery. Plot 1/B/8.



The Queenslander - Thu 20 Oct 1927 - Page 16:

"Death of Humpybong Pioneer.

The death occurred on 7th instant of Mrs. Eliza Adams, relict of the late Mr. John Adams, at the residence of her son-in-law, Mr. John Boardman, Redcliffe. By the death of Mrs. Adams Humpybong has lost one of its earliest settlers, the deceased, who was 88 years of age, having been born at Stoke Newington on July 22, 1830. She was married to the late Mr. John Adams, who pre-Straits, the whole of her 452 passengers, deceased her by 38 years, in England, and came to Australia in 1866, with her husband, in the sailing ship Netherby, which was wrecked on King Island, in the Bass and crew being landed in safety on the island. The heroism of the second mate of the Netherby, in sailing to Melbourne in an open boat, and procuring the assistance of the authorities at that port, is noteworthy. The shipwrecked people were removed by the steamers Victoria and Pharos to Melbourne, where, after a spell of 10 days, they came on to Queensland in the steamer City of Melbourne. Soon after their arrival Mr. and Mrs.Adams made their way to Humpybong, where they took up land, and resided at the Clontarf end of the peninsula continuously for 53 years, with the exception of about three years. When the sugar industry was started on the peninsula and a mill built on what is now the golf course, the late Mr. John Adams became the engineer. He was the first to run a passenger boat from Woody Point to Sandgate, the landing place at the Woody Point end being where Perrin's bathing shed now is. The boat used was one which had been washed ashore on the rocks at Scott's point, then known as Scott's rocks. To the late Mr. Adams was largely due the establishment of a post office at Redcliffe, as he took around the petition for signature. The late Mrs. Adams had been ailing for some weeks. The funeral took place to the Redcliffe cemetery. She is survived by six daughters and one son, also 43 grand- children and 42 great-grandchildren."


Humpybong Weekly and Advertiser - Thursday 13th October 1927 - Page 4

"Mrs. ELIZA ADAMS

The death occurred on Friday morning last of the second oldest resident of Humpybong. Eliza Adams, aged 88 years, widow of the late Mr. John Adams, whish took place at the residence of her son-in-law, Mr. F. Boardman. Redcliffe. Mrs. Adams was born in England in the year 1839, and with her husband arrived in Queensland in the year 1866. having sailed on the sailing ship Netherby, which was wrecked in the Bass Straits, the passengers being landed on King Island, where they were picked up by the steamers Victoria and Pharos, and conveyed to Melbourne, and transhipped to the City of Melbourne, which brought them to Brisbane. Mrs. Adams came to reside in Humpybong three years later, her husband having been appointed engine driver at the sugar mill, which was situated on land now forming part of the Redcliffe golf links. It will thus be seen that Mrs. Adams had been a resident of Humpybong for 58 years, a period exceeded only, we are informed, by one person now living, Mrs. T. Haskins, sen. The deceased lady is survived by one son, Mr. J. Adams (Nambour), and six daughters, whose names are Mrs A.Brown (E.Brisbane), Mrs. Cairns (Banyo), Mrs. T Malone (Burnett), Mrs, Jenkins (Nambour), Mrs. Payne, (Sandt'ord), and Mrs, F. Boardman (Redcliffe). Her grand children number 43, and her great grandchildren 42. The funeral took place on Saturday morning at the Clontarf Cemetery, the ceremony being conducted by the Rev. A. W. , King, in addition to relatives and friends of the family, many families of the district were represented, Many beautiful wreaths covered the coffin, analog them being tributes from the following :

The Warbrick Family, Mr, C. Home and Vi, Jim, Jess, Willie and Mrs. Bates, E. Boardman, and family. Girls Friendly Society, Mrs. S. Walker. Mr. and Mrs. H. Collins 'and family, Bob and Doris, Mrs. Percy Frost, Mrs. Ashmole, Gladys Payne, Frank, Fanny and family, Gracie Wright. Mr. and Mrs. McMcKillop and family, Mr. and Mrs. P. T. Haskins, Ted, Polly and greatgrandchildren, Mrs. Williams, Mrs. Forbas and family, Mrs, R. Dillaway, Mrs W. Haskins."


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