The Pearn Story
Start in a New Country – Immigration from England
Left a widower with
three surviving children, William, John and Sarah, John Davis Pearn
married his governess Redigan Brown and migrated to Tasmania from Cornwall
aboard the “Wellfleet” in 1858. John Pearn was aged 9 years
old. John Pearn Snr had been encouraged to come to Tasmania as skilled
tradesmen and craftsmen were in short supply.
wrote in his diary:
“On January 18,
1858 (Munday) we left Plymouth about 6 o’clock and everything
was in confusion on board that night, some of the passengers had no
birth, they were obliged to ly on the tables that night, we all had
our births and I made up our beds and got in all my boxes –
except my toolchest which was put below”
Pearn Snr was a wagon maker as well as a skilled cabinet maker and coffin
maker and prospered as a tradesman and as a farmer. The family leased
and eventually bought a small farm in the Whitemore district.
John Pearn went to Cluan Homestead, which was then occupied by Mr. Hall,
to see if he had any work. The interview must have been successful,
as he ended up both working for Mr. Hall and marrying his daughter Edith
in 1870 at the age of 21. In 1885, he purchased a Robertson threshing
drum and a portable Marshall steam engine.
these he undertook threshing for the surrounding farms. He originally
owned a Dalton engine and a large chaff cutter with a sixteen inch knife.
John and Edith leased farms in the Hagley district, eventually buying
“Alvira” near Hagley. The Robertson drum is now part of
the Pearns Steam World collection.
died in 1900 as a consequence of an accident caused by lowering the
chimney stack from a portable steam engine and Edith was left to raise
and care for a family of eight. With the money from John’s insurance,
Edith updated the family’s agricultural machinery and developed
the agricultural contracting business based at “Alvira”.
A Marshall single cylinder, eight horse power traction engine was bought
in 1900 for £600. A new threshing drum, chaff cutter and press
for hay and straw baling were also bought.
harvest began with Howard's at Cressy, which was an earlier district
and gradually worked to Bracknell, Whitemore, Cluan, Glenore, Adelphi
through to Dairy Plains; a total of 67,000 bushels a season was threshed.
of John and Edith’s children were the twins Edward (Ted) and Henry
(Harry), born in 1884. The twins worked with Edith to build up the contracting
business that John Pearn had started.
Pearn was resolute in ensuring that the local farmers did not take advantage
of her position as a woman operating a business in an industry dominated
by men. Apparently some would try to take advantage of her by objecting
to payment but her statement of.
will take your insults as compliments and allow for arrogance. Anyone
with any breeding would not behave in such a manner”
renowned for achieving settlement of any outstanding accounts.
married Eliza Rockliff and their 3 sons worked with their father in
the family business. These brothers were John (born 1914), Verdun (born
in 1916, (the year of the Battle of Verdun in France) and Zenith (born
1923 allegedly named after the Zenith carburetor). Gwyneth was born
in 1927 and a second daughter Joan died as a teenager in 1934.
brothers Edward and Henry eventually developed their own businesses.
Edward concentrated on agricultural contracting from 1935, after a period
as a car salesman. Henry worked with heavy earthmoving machinery. The
business started by Henry is still operated by family members who have
also diversified into livestock carting. These are now significant businesses
1935 new machinery was bought including an eight horse power Foden 1909
traction engine, a five foot Garrot Drum, an Andrew and Bevan Chaff
Cutter and rebuilt a press. This was used until 1950.
three sons, John (Jack), Verdun (Verdie) and Zenith (Zen), worked in
the district with their father Edward up until World War 2. The business
was based on their farm “Sunnyside” at Hagley. Jack and
Zen were conscripted into the army and Verdie worked the contracting
business with his father and then his mother Eliza and sister Gwyn after
Edward died in 1944. After the War, the sons re-established the business
which became “Pearn Brothers, Hagley”.
In the 1950’s,
the Pearn brothers saw that the age of steam and threshing was giving
way to tractors and self propelled headers. The last contracting job
completed by the thresher was carried out in 1953. All machines used
by the Pearns were kept in good working condition in sheds and when
other farmers sold their machines for scrap the Pearns purchased sixteen
more engines throughout the years. They decided to collect a representative
sample of the steam engines operating in the state. They were already
operating Marshall and Bulldog tractors on the farm and in the business.
When other farmers and sawmillers sold their machines for scrap, the
Pearn's purchased many of them for their collection Spare time was not
used for recreational activities, instead it was used to polish and
paint the engines.
And so began the Pearns collection of steam traction engines and farm
machinery, a hobby that involved all members of the family in recovering,
restoring and operating the giants from the past and eventually creating
the largest private collection of its kind in the Southern hemisphere.
rallies were held at the family farm, “Sunnyside”, during
the 1960’s with thousands of dollars raised for Red Cross and
Rotary. Steam engines were taken to both Launceston and Westbury shows.
The engines were driven to the shows, this slow process may have taken
one engine seven hours to complete and at a speed of a fast walking
pace. This commenced in 1972 and continued for another fourteen years.
Other trips made by the engines were to Deloraine, Devonport, Symmons
Plains and Cressy either for shows or agricultural displays. In the
1980’s the collection moved to the present location, on the site
of the old Westbury saleyards. With the help of Rotary, Apex and a few
volunteers they established one shed. By fund raising, the volunteer
organisation of Pearn's Steam World managed to raise enough money to
build a second shed, costing $80,000.
raised at the Steam Rallies built the Red Cross retirement homes in
Westbury and the children’s road safety training facility in Launceston.
the move to the present site, the Westbury Preservation Association
Inc was formed to protect the collection for future generations. The
collection is run and operated by members of the Pearn family and a
team of enthusiast volunteers.