Written by Diane Roberts – Descendant of the Holden family Sally Holden
The grave of Sally (Sarah) Holden at the Hope Valley Cemetery is one of the oldest graves to be found in the cemetery. Although the headstone is badly worn the inscription reads, “Death is the Gateway to Eternal Life”.
Sally Holden was born Sarah Ellis on the 14th January 1805 at Hailsham, to parents Edward and Frances (nee Hawkins) Ellis.
Sally met William Holden in Preston, East Sussex, who was an apprentice tailor and they were married in the Calvanist Chapel on the 22nd November 1831 where Sally was a member.
After the birth of their first three children, Sally and William moved to Chichester, where unfortunately two of the children died with only George (their second son) surviving. William took a job as a salesman in a local bookshop. He had received a classical education, so was well learned. While living at Chapel Street, Chichester, they had two more daughters, Frances and Cecelia and continued to live there until they decided to apply for residency in the new colony of South Australia.
After filling out embarkation papers in September 1837, Sally and William boarded the boat, the “Lord Goderick” ready to start their new life. As there was an outbreak of measles on the boat, they were transferred to another boat called the “Trusty”. They boarded the “Trusty” on November 30th 1837 and set sail on December 3rd from Gravesend with 129 passengers on board.
The journey to South Australia was not easy, with foul winds and sea-sickness. Sally coped well, keeping a watchful eye on her children who had to stay below deck most of the time, but on occasions where allowed up on deck for fresh air. At this time Sally realized that she was pregnant, but happiness turned to sadness when her youngest daughter Cecelia died and was buried at sea. With food running low the ship finally reached Cape Town. After replenishing supplies they continued on to Australia past the Amsterdam Islands. It was here that Sally gave birth to her third son whom she named Steven Trusty Holden.
The Holden family arrived in South Australia on May 14th 1838 and stayed with Jacob Pitman and his family in Adelaide. Sally had become great friends with Emma Pitman on the voyage over. Sally had another child (John) in 1840 while living in Adelaide.
After purchasing land from Jacob Pitman, Sally and William moved to Hope Valley where they built a store, butcher shop and had a farm. After being burnt out by a bushfire William said, “I could not feel despondent, in fact I feel inspired by hope”, hence the name Hope Valley, which he named at the time.
Sally gave birth to her last child William in 1844. Unfortunately he died when he was only two and half years old.
Both Sally and William became ardent members of the New Church of Jerusalem after hearing Jacob Pitman reading the Sunday services. She and Emma worked tirelessly for the church, making clothing for the children and in her spare time tendered to her gardens.
Sadly on Friday 21st February 1851 Sally was thrown from her horse and died.
There was an inquest into her death, which was reported in the “Register” newspaper. Later that year William became a reporter for the “Register” where he worked for nearly fifty years.
The Coroners Inquest reads as follows:
“Fatal Accident – Coroners Inquest – There was an inquest on Friday last at Hope Valley, before G.A. Anstey Esq. on the body of Mrs. Holden, wife of the Postmaster of that place, who was killed that morning. From the evidence it appeared that the deceased was on her way to see a female recently confined. She was accompanied by her son, a lad about 12 years of age; both were mounted, but the saddle on which the deceased sat was not such as ladies usually ride on. One of her feet was supported by the stirrups; her other foot rested in the loop of a strong leather strap, where it became entangled, when she was by some unexplained means displaced from her seat. Her foot being thus fast, her head struck the ground forcibly, when she fell, and the horse-a vicious brute- set off at a gallop, kicking at and trampling on the poor creature during a progress of more than half a mile. Besides the son of the deceased, several neighbours witnessed the horrible circumstance without being able to rescue the woman until she was nearly dead. When the horse was stopped and the woman extricated, it was found that one of her legs was broken and her body and limbs one complete mass of contusions, from the effects of which she died in a few minutes. Both the Coroner and the Jury were astonished at a female’s venturing to ride in such a manner, as, apart from the saddle being such as males alone generally ride on, the way in which the deceased had her foot in the strap rendered it impossible for her to extricate herself from the horse when she fell. The Jury returned a verdict of “Accidental death”. A very general feeling of regret for the deceased and sympathy for the bereaved family pervades the neighbourhood of Hope Valley, where they are much and deservedly respected”.
Sally died at the age of forty-six, leaving behind a husband and four small children who where looked after by friends. William Holden moved back to Adelaide and later remarried and had 2 more children.
Like many others who came to Australia, full of courage and high hopes, Sally portrayed the true spirit of the early pioneers of South Australia.
References for information:
Diane Roberts – Descendant of the Holden family.
Inquest article from the “Register” newspaper.
Local history room – Tea Tree Gully Library.
Ian Auhl – From Settlement to City.