We are here in Moss Vale in New South Wales’ Southern Highlands. This is the epicentre of Jill’s family history. Her great grandparents are buried here, her grandfather was born here and her mother and father were married here.
Jill’s great grand parents, Robert and Mary Anne Ruffles were married in England on October 3, 1860 and soon moved to the colony of New South Wales as free settlers. We visited the church in which they were married in Bardwell, Suffolk in 2019. (See here). It appears that they settled into a location called Coliersleigh near Bong Bong.
The old town of Bong Bong no longer exists. The site of the town can be found about 7kms from Bowral on the Moss Vale Road and is remembered with an obelisk and a plaque reading “This was the site of Bong Bong military station and first township reserve on the Southern Highlands – surveyed 1821″.
The official site for the village was chosen by Governor Macquarie on a visit in 1820; a police barracks and huts were built soon after. All that remains now is the old Anglican Church
Jill’s great grandparents lived at a place called Colyersleigh. It seems that this was a property owned by a Dr John Colyer who was granted 640 acres of land sometime around 1830, when the town of Berrima was being marked out. Dr Colyer applied for an allotment at Bong Bong and was informed that his request would be recommended for inclusion in the next list of town portions to be marked out. He received his 640 acres ( one square mile) which we think was somewhere on the road from Moss Vale to the Fitzroy Falls. (A newspaper article on the Trove website reports that the local council approved the purchase for metal (screenings) on the road to Fitzroy Falls past Coliersleigh).
We think that Jill’s great grandfather, Robert Ruffels was a farm worker on Colyersleigh, and other properties. Her grandfather, Frederick Ruffels was born at Colyersleigh. At some time (we think around 1840) the Colyersleigh property was sold at a mortgagees auction. The name must have lingered on for a while and then passed into history.
We arrived at the Bong Bong church just after the Sunday Service had concluded. A lovely lady named Kathleen pointed us in the general direction of the Ruffels graves and after hunting around for a short time, we found them amongst a group of graves from the late 1800s.
Robert’s grave hinted at him being in a lot of pain before he died.
A visit to the Berrima museum helped us to confirm this when one of the very helpful volunteers showed us a book of newspaper extracts of the time that said:
We are sad to record the death of one of the oldest residence of the Berrima district in the person of Mr Robert Ruffels, brother of Mrs Prigg Snr, which took place at his residence on Wednesday morning last, after a short illness from acute peritonitis. The deceased was a native of Suffolk and came to the colony 34 years ago, taking up his residence at Picton and 12 months later he came to reside in this district where he has lived up to the time of his demise. He was in the employ of the Earl of Bellmore, former governor of the Colony when residing at Throsby Park. The deceased was much respected by all who knew him. He leaves a wife and grown-up family of nine, all of whom are still residing in the district. The funeral took place at Bong Bong cemetery on Thursday last and was largely attended by relatives and friends of the family, the Reverend George Shepherd officiating at the grave. The funeral arrangements where in the hands of Messrs Taylor Bros.
Jill’s grandfather was the eleventh child of thirteen (nine survived) and was born on 2nd of September 1878. We don’t know much about his childhood or schooling but we will pick up some more of his police career later in this trip. We understand that in 1901, he joined the NSW Police Force.
He and his wife moved back to Moss Vale for some time after his retirement in 1938 in an attempt to decide just where they wanted spend their retired life. They eventually decided on Queanbeyan near Canberra.
Jill’s mother and father (Nancy Ruffels and Alan Andersen) were married at St Johns Church of England in Moss Vale on 5th August, 1939. They had a small wedding reception in the family’s rented home in Elizabeth Street. We spent some time trying to find it but we were not able to.