Mahalia Jane Mead was born on 13 March 1857 at the Melbourne Immigration Depot in Queens Wharf, in front of the Customs House, which was the river port around the swing basin. Private wharves were built along the river between King and Spencer Streets.
The Government Immigration Depot was about 1 block to the north. Boarding houses sprang up around the depot housing recently arrived immigrants. It seems her mother only just made it to Australia before she gave birth (birth certificate).
Her parents Isaiah Mead, a labourer from Essex and Mary Ann Ruff were married in Southwark, London in 1856, and immigrated to Melbourne Australia in March 1857 earlier that day aboard the immigrant passenger ship the “James Fernie”.
Mahalia was the oldest of 12 children. Six children died as infants. At the time of her marriage in 1879 to Lawrence Jackson she was living in Fitzroy, and could read and write.
The Rate notices for 1880 for their house in Groom Street, Fitzroy (now called Clifton Hill) describe their home as a two roomed wooden cottage.
Mahalia gave birth to six children – Robert in 1879, Sarah in 1881, and then two sets of twins – firstly boys Albert and Arthur in 1883, then girls Lily and Mahalia in 1885. Sadly the twins lasted only days (Lily 16 days, and Mahalia 7 days), with Mahalia succumbing to the rigours of childbirth on 29th September, 1885 at her home in Tranmere Street, Fitzroy. The death notice in the Leader Newspaper of 10 October delivers the sad news –
She is buried in the Church of England section of the General Melbourne Cemetery with her three daughters – Sarah, and twins Lily and Mahalia. No headstone marks their grave.
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