Sproats family’s special reunion

A REUNION in Bega for the descendants of Christopher and Elizabeth Sproats also doubled as a launch for a wonderful book of family history. 

Sydney-based descendant Shirley Sproats has written a book, Christopher and Elizabeth Sproats: An Account of the Sproats in Australia from 1858 Onwards.

The reunion was organised by a committee including Shirley, Margaret Sly, Noel Watson, Norm Pearce and Susie Riley.

“It was a journey to get to know the ancestors I never met, the journey to remind descendants from where we came,” Shirley said. 

“The book is about the lives of some 18 families who established themselves in the Bega Valley and who lived in a time when idleness was not an option, social welfare was effectively non-existent and not everything had a monetary value.”

Christopher and Elizabeth Sproats sailed from Southhampton 156 years ago on April 12, 1858, arriving in Sydney on August 20, 1858, under an assisted emigration scheme. 

From 1861 they lived and toiled as a respected early pioneering farming family in the district where they raised a family of eight children plus two who died in infancy. 

Most of the children of Christopher and Elizabeth married and raised children in the Bega district. 

People travelled from Queensland, Central Coast, Sydney, Bathurst, Canowindra, Wollongong, Canberra as well as from the local area to attend the recent reunion. 

It was a two-day program that included visits to farms previously owned by the historical Sproats and several dinners. 

The weekend started with the official book launch by Mayor Bill Taylor at the Bega Pioneers Museum. 

Participants then paid a visit to Frogs Hollow where Christopher Sproats first selected land in 1863, today owned by Eric Johnston. 

Following lunch at the Bega Cheese Heritage Centre, the group went to Wapengo where Christopher selected land in 1875 after moving from Frogs Hollow. 

Today this land is the site of the Ivy Hill Gallery.

There were talks and speeches given at each venue to celebrate and inform descendants about life in another time. 

On Saturday night there was a dinner at Thornleigh on Newtown, which is owned by Sproats descendants Norm and Narelle Pearce. 

They also hosted a barbecue breakfast at their farm in Angledale on Sunday morning for the group. 

The Pearces are descendants of Christopher and Elizabeth’s daughter Jane, who married John Pearce in 1897. 

Shirley said the reunion was a great success, a sentiment echoed by the many Sproats who attended. 

“I discovered a family in the widest sense of the word that I knew existed, but had never met and stood on the land that Christopher and Elizabeth first selected at Frogs Hollow and the block that my grandfather William owned in Wapengo,” Ray Sproats of Sydney said. 

“It was all very, very special.”

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