John O'Neil was the oldest of 6 children of William O'Neill & Johanna Flaherty, born in Ireland in 1822, the year William was transported to NSW under the Insurrection Act.

We believe that Julia Mahoney was born in Killarney, Co Kerry, Ireland, c 1816. Such a person arrived in 1840 on the Isabella as an unmarried immigrant; the ship manifest shows her to be aged 24, a house servant sponsored by one John Marshall. Her mother, Mary, was still alive in 1940. Her father was John Mahoney (as stated on Julia's death notice). John Marshall was probably a bounty agent; these were folk who "were at liberty to advertise widely to recruit emigrants. For example, one of Marshall's broadsheet advertisements in 1838 was captioned 'EMIGRATION TO NEW SOUTH WALES. - CONDITIONAL FREE PASSAGES.' In this circular, Marshall stated his ships were 'FIRST CLASS' with 'VERY SUPERIOR ARRANGEMENTS.'" [Taken from P15 of The Assisted Immigrants, 1837-1850, a PhD thesis by Robert J. Shultz, the Australian National University.]

Several of their descendants today spell their surname as O'Neil, so this form is retained on this page.

John & Julia were married at two separate services:

  1. on 02 Dec 1842 in the Church of England (reel 5007, 541/26), by Rev GK Rusden;

  2. on 18 Feb 1846 at Clarence Town (reel 5039, 489/94), by a Catholic priest from East Maitland, Fr Patrick Magennis.

The witnesses at the first marriage service were Alice O'Neil of Williams River and Timothy Mahoney of Morpeth. This is somewhat of a mystery, as we have found no record of an Alice O'Neil old enough to have witnessed this marriage. Presumably she was a close relation to John; his oldest sister, Ellen, would have been no more than 12 years old in 1842.

The witnesses at the second marriage service were Ellen O'Neil of Clarence Town and Michael Ryan of Clarence Town. Ellen was presumably this sister; in 1846 she would have been 15 or 16 years old.

In 1846 John was farming on part of his parent's property Berkely Park, since he is mentioned in William's letter to the Governor dated 05 Sep and quoted on William's page:

That your Petitioner begs leave to state, ... Subdivided it into four Small Farms well enclosed with a four rail Fence, Two of which Farms your Petitioner let, one to his Son John O’Neil, ...

John was still on the farm in 1847, since his son Thomas was born there (on the birth certificate John was described as a settler, Irish Town).

On 07 Feb 1849, his father William purchased land (2 roods) in Clarence Town for £8-0-0, which, on 02 June 1851, he later sold to John for £27-10-0. At that time John was described as a licensed victualler of Stroud. However, there is an earlier reference (in The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser of Wed 9 Jan 1850) that suggests he traded at Clarence Town:

Wednesday 9 January 1850

Mondiwa, an aboriginal black, was indicted for stealing two pints of rum and two bottles, the property of John Foley, at Clarence Town, on the 29th November, 1849.

It appeared from the evidence of Ellen Foley. Joseph Croft, Frederick Henry, and Edmund Helen, that Mrs. Foley had on that day bought some groceries and rum, in Clarence Town, for the harvest, her husband being a farmer, living about three miles from Clarence Town; before she got out of the township she sat down to make up all the parcels into one, intending to carry it home on her head; Mondiwa, who knew her well, and had often had food at her place, came up and offered to carry the things home for her; she refused, saying that she could carry them herself, he then threatened with an oath to kill her if she went home by herself, and seizing a case bottle of rum from her bundle, he ran off with it, and got away at the time, although she ran after him. The prisoner, it appears, went to Mr. Croft's inn, and Mr. Croft observing something in his shirt, took out a case bottle of rum from his bosom, prisoner said it was his and it was no matter to Mr Croft how he came by it; Mrs. Croft remarked that a woman had just complained of having been threatened by prisoner with a razor, and Mr Croft, on putting his hand into prisoner's bosom, found he had a razor there, Mr Croft then went to where he saw Mrs. Foley with one or two persons; she claimed the bottle as hers. The prisoner was apprehended by Constable Henry, near Mr. Croft's inn. The prisoner, it appeared, had been well known about Clarence Town for many years. Helen, who was in the service of Mr. O'Neil, publican, deposed to Mrs. Foley's purchasing a similar bottle of rum to that produced; Helen saw Mondiwa take up a round bottle from Mrs. Foley's things, but he was followed by a woman, and the bottle taken from him.

The prisoner, in defence, said he did not take the bottle of rum. In his cross-examination he said he had taken the bottle, and given it up to Mr. Croft as Mrs Foley's, for safety.

The jury returned a verdict of guilty, and the prisoner was sentenced to six months' imprisonment, with hard labour.

John built a substantial two story brick building on his Clarence Town property on Grey St not far from the Williams River. On Wed 17 Oct 1855 the following notice appeared in the The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser:

Good News for Clarence Town.

MR. JOHN O'NEIL, for many years residing on the Williams River, begs  to inform his old friends and the inhabitants of the Williams and its vicinity, that he intends commencing business as GENERAL STORE-KEEPER, at his new building, Clarence Town, on SATURDAY, the 20th day of the present month, with a very choice selection of Drapery, Grocery, and Ironmongery, Wine and Spirits, of the very best description, where he hopes with strict attention, combined with civility and moderate charges, to receive a share of the public patronage.


Mr. John O'Neil intends opening a part of his new building as a respectable BOARD and LODGING HOUSE, for the use of the public, as he is aware that many persons could not get a bed at Clarence Town of late, and in many instances have been compelled to lie out in the open air.

Mr. John O'Neil will be happy to take colonial Produce of all description in exchange, or for cash.

John applied for a liquor license on 05 Sep 1856 for the Clarence Town Hotel, and again (and at the same time as his brother Patrick applied for a license for his inn at Brookfield) on 20 Apr 1858:

license_1856 license_1858

John sold the hotel on 17 Jul 1858 to Peter Hawke, a farmer leasing part of Berkely Park, for £300-0-0 cash and the discharge of a mortgage of £800-0-0. The hotel was later detroyed by fire. The hotel that stands on the site today is called the Erringhi Hotel.

John and his family moved to Greenhill outside Kempsey. John became sufficiently well known to have an entry in the Australian Men of Mark (1889) (which glossed over some truths):

Men of Mark

John & Julia had 4 children:

01. Alice (b. 1844, d. 15 Jul 1928)

02. John (b. 1846, d. 03 Mar 1926)

03. Thomas (b. 02 Aug 1847, d. 03 Mar 1924)

04. Maria Theresa (b. 1851, d. 23 Mar 1883)

John died of meningitis on 29 Sep 1894 at Green Hill, Kempsey aged 73. On his death certificate he was described as a farmer. He is buried in the Catholic Cemetery at Kempsey.

Julia died in 1873 aged 54 or 55, presumably at Kempsey (her record has the Macleay River District as her place of death).

Graves at Bellbrook Cemetery, near Kempsey, of some of John and Julia's descendants.

01. Alice O'Neil did not marry; her death was reported on Tue 17 Jul 1928 in the Macleay Argus:


On Sunday last there passed away, at the ripe age of 85 years; Miss Alice O'Neill, of Tozer-street, West Kempsey, daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. John O'Neill. Deceased, who was a well-known and highly respected resident of the Macleay, will be remembered as a school teacher, being in charge of Dondingalong and other district schools at different periods. On relinquishing the profession deceased entered the service of the Postal Department, and was for many years in charge of the Greenhill Post Office. Of a quiet and retiring disposition, the late Miss O'Neill was always ready to assist others less fortunately situated than herself and had a host of friends throughout the district, by whom her passing is deeply mourned. Mr. P. J. O'Neill, of the Hotel Kempsey, is a cousin of deceased, while Messrs. Vincent, Christopher and Maurice O'Neill, of Upper Macleay, are nephews, and Mrs. O. Davis (Mooneba) a niece. The funeral, under the conduct of Mr. Jos. T. Walker, took place on Monday afternoon, the cortege leaving the Catholic Church after a service conducted by Rev. Father Morris, who also officiated at the graveside at West Kempsey cemetery.

In the application for probate of her will, she is named Alice Francis O'Neil; her executors were her cousin P. J O'Neill and her niece, Maria Josephine Davis (nee O'Neill). The estate included a river-flat 309 acre property about 30 km from Kempsey, as well as a small weatherboard, two-storey house opposite the pub at Greenhill.

01. Maria Theresa O'Neil did not marry; she died on 23 Mar 1883 at Kempsey West (record 8945) - see her headstone below, erected by her parents. A number of researchers have her marrying Patrick Quilky in the Shoalhaven in 1868 (record 3384). However that lady was born in Ireland and passed away in 1921 at Seven Oaks near Kempsey (Macleay Argus, Tue 29 Nov 1921).

Maria Theresa O'Neil

If any of the family can supply further information or correct any errors please email me (