Times Gone By: The Journeys of James Marles

James Marles’ General Stores at the Beacon Mine, c.1897. Courtesy of Coffs Collections (coffs.recollect.net.au).


JAMES Marles was the second person to apply for land in the Coffs Harbour LGA after undertaking a journey halfway round the world to reach the area.

Born in Smethwick in Staffordshire, England on 8 May 1849, he emigrated with his parents and siblings to Troy, situated beside the Hudson River in New York, America in the late 1850s.
Following his older brother and father’s occupation described variously as a machinist and machine fitter, he remained there.

His decision to emigrate saw him undertake his second overseas voyage, arriving in Sydney aboard the ‘Dunbar Castle’ on 20 March 1877 before making his way up the coast.

Having married Catherine Davis the previous month at Maclean, James applied for portion 4 in the Parish of Coffs on 2 September 1880.

Comprising 100 acres, his land was located either side of West High Street, encompassing what was the old Catholic Club, now Key Employment, with Coffs Creek forming the northern boundary and King Street, the southern boundary.

After moving to their new allotment, he and Catherine remained in the area and went on to have 11 children.

He established a store in Moonee Street, near the current Coffs Coast Hotel, operating a weekly delivery service for more rural settlers.

He took advantage of the founding of the Beacon gold mine at Coramba in the early 1880s, opening a store there, then repeating this tactic at Woolgoolga, opening another store for that population in Feb 1898.

Two months later he sold his store at Beacon Mine, then his store at Woolgoolga in July the following year.

In February 1905 he built a large addition to his Coffs Harbour store, however he was making plans to relocate and his commercial interests were purchased by John Moorehead.

After a farewell gathering, he left for his third and final voyage to Red Deer in Alberta, Canada via Sydney on the 6 September that year, with Catherine and their nine surviving children following him seven months later.



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