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Jean Stocks secures our history

MOST people go through life without much fuss and bother and when they die they are soon forgotten.

This is no doubt inevitable but none-the-less sad as many played their part well and perhaps left behind small though important memorials.

Such a person was Jean Breckenridge Stocks, the eldest child of James William Breckenridge Stocks and his wife Olive Jessie (nee McIlveen).

Jean Breckenridge Stocks.
Jean Breckenridge Stocks.

Jean was the product of two of the oldest established families in our area, Breckenridge and Stocks.

Her great-grandfather James Breckenridge established one of the first sawmills, at Wyrallah, and also built ships to carry timber out from the Richmond River.

The famous sailing ship "Alpha" was one of these.

His wife, Agnes (nee Stevenson) was well educated and became schoolteacher to the children of the mill workers before an official school was established.

Jean's other famous great-grandfather was James Stocks, the first Mayor of Lismore.

James Stocks was a qualified pharmacist and before coming to Lismore he opened the first chemist shop in Casino.

He later incorporated a general store there and became a very successful businessman.

His store enabled him to become involved with the profitable cedar trade and he invested in real estate, later becoming a stock and station agent.

He purchased several properties including a grazing and dairy farm at what is now Caniaba. Here he built a lavish home in the early 1870s.

Jean Breckenridge Stocks, the great-granddaughter of James Breckenridge and James Stocks never married.

She trained as a nursing sister and for 30 years worked at the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children at Camperdown, Sydney.

Here she was remembered as a very caring person, devoted to the children and helpful to their parents.

She retired to look after her mother who eventually died in 1973 at Sydney. Jean decided to return to the North Coast and became a very active member of the Richmond River Historical Society.

She was vitally interested in preserving the history of our region and, as a beginning, set about investigating her own family background.

The centenary of local government in Lismore was to be celebrated in 1979 and Jean believed that some recognition should be made of James Stocks, its first Mayor.

She was concerned about one thing in particular. James Stocks had been married three times, firstly to Elizabeth Tate (Jean's great-grandmother) who died in 1874, secondly to Ann Yabsley who died in childbirth in 1878, and thirdly to Anne E. Bourne.

James Stocks had died in 1906 and had been buried at North Lismore, but no one seemed to know what had happened to his third wife.

However, Elizabeth Tate and Ann Yabsley, together with Ann's infant son James R. Stocks, had been buried on the family property at Caniaba. She went in search of the graves.

She discovered from local residents that the graves had long disappeared and been ploughed over.

The approximate site, however, was identified by Jack Cooper.

It was alongside the Caniaba Road and it was agreed that a memorial should be placed on the roadside nearby.

This was done by Lismore Council with the assistance of the Historical Society. It can still be seen today as a reminder of an earlier part of our local history. Jean Breckenridge Stocks had made her mark. She died in Sydney in 2006.

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