A Woman from Yuin Reef

This article is part of the #OnePlaceWomen blogging prompts from One-Place Studies.

Reading through the 1907 Yuin Reef school petition, I came across a name that struck me as interesting. Dora Pickles, housekeeper. I thought that Pickles was such a sweet surname and I would have to find out more about her. A while later, I came across her again in the 1909 Western Australian Electoral Roll. Here she was listed as Theodora Parthenia Pickles, ladies help. What a magnificent name!

A magnificent name should reflect a interesting personality, I thought. And I wasn’t wrong.

Dora Pickles was born Fedora Parthenia Richards in Bendigo, Victoria in 1864 to Alfred Richards and Sarah Ann Brooks (1). She was the second eldest child of nine, having seven sisters and one brother.

When she was just 16 years old, her father, Alfred Richards, died by accidental drowning. He had been out at Sutton’s Hotel on the 27th of February, 1880, and had left at around 10pm to go home to Diggorra. He had taken with him two horses and a buggy. The next morning, two young boys walking passed a dam noticed two horses standing in water. Upon closer inspection, they found the buggy to be submerged underwater and the body of Mr Richards floating nearby. The theory was that he had misjudged the edge of the road and driven into the dam instead in the black of the night. He was only 44 years of age. (2)

In 1883, at age 19, Fedora married Thomas Patterson Pickles, a livery stable keeper (3). In 1884 they had their first child, George Frederick Pickles and in 1885 their second son, Alfred Herbert Pickles was born (4). By October 1886 Thomas was insolvent as he could not find any employment (5). They (according to Dora’s death certificate) had a deceased female child as well, but a birth record could not be found. Their fourth child, Thomas Edwin Egbert Pickles, was born in 1888.

Dora Pickles. Photo taken from Ancestry.com, originally shared by Alyson Crawford.

In May of 1898, their son Alfred Herbert Pickles had, for the second time, been picked up by a police officer for being neglected. Alfred Herbert had been arrested on Flemington-road in his ‘knickerbockers’, crying about being homeless. He stated that his parents were dead and his elder brother couldn’t afford to take care of him anymore, after he had lost his employment. Eventually, the police investigated the case and found that both parents were alive and well, and Thomas Patterson Pickles stated the boy was almost spoilt. The couple took the boy home. (6)

In 1903, Dora Pickles was living in Byron Street, Moonee Ponds, Victoria as a lady help. (7)

Unfortunately in March of 1905, Dora Pickles brought her eldest son George Frederick Pickles to the Fairfield Metropolitan Lunatic Asylum on account of his being epileptic at age 21. He had been suffering for 13 years and each fit left him a bit more paralyzed than before. He was having up to three fits per day, he was suicidal and the police classed him as being dangerous to himself. (8) He remained in the asylum for 14 years until he passed away in 1919 aged 35. (9)

At the point in time that Dora had taken her son to the asylum, it is believed that she and her husband Thomas Patterson Pickles were no longer together. The only evidence in the story so far to assume this is the fact that Dora herself had moved all the way over to Western Australia in 1906.

Dora appears in the 1907 School Petition for Yuin Reef as a house keeper (10), and again in the 1909 Electoral Roll as a ladies help.

There was another marriage record for Thomas Patterson Pickles and Dora in 1912, but it could have been possible that it was actually a divorce record. After ordering and reviewing this 1912 certificate, as well as her death certificate, there was no evidence to assume a divorce had taken place (11). The 1912 certificate looked to be a copy made of the original, and the death certificate mentioned that she was married to Thomas Patterson Pickles. They may have separated, however, as her death certificate stated her surname as Pickles, but she was known as Roberts.

By 1916 she was living in 90 Tuckfield Street, Fremantle, Western Australia, with her status listed as widow. This fact is interesting as her legal husband, Thomas Patterson Pickles, wouldn’t pass away until 1920 in Victoria (12). However, the man she had been living with, John Archibald Roberts (a prominent Meekatharra prospector), had passed away a few months earlier in November 1915 at the same residence. His funeral notice noted that his wife, Mrs. Roberts, was one of the chief mourners at his funeral.

“Obituary: The Late Mr. John Archibald Roberts”, Daily News, 18th November 1915, page 6.

On the 18th of July 1927, Fedora Parthenia Pickles (known as Roberts, nee Richards) passed away at 90 Tuckfield Street in Fremantle, aged 64. She was buried at the Anglican Cemetery in Fremantle two days later (13).

This final article upon Dora’s death in 1927 expresses her interest in gold mining and prospecting, as well as explaining her relationship with her de-facto partner John Archibald Roberts a bit more. While I will never know the full story, Dora Pickles certainly led a very interesting life. Only a couple years of her life were spent up at Yuin Reef, but this may have been where her interest in gold mining and prospecting began.

“Peeps at People”, Sunday Times, 13 November 1927, page 14.


(1) The Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages Victoria. “Pathania Fadars” Reg No. 12309 / 1864.

(2) “Sandhurst”, Australasian, 6 Mar 1880, page 21.

(3) The Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages Victoria. “PICKLES, Thomas Patterson. RICHARDS, Parthenia Fidora”. Reg No. 2044 / 1883.

(4) The Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages Victoria. “PICKLES, Thomas Edwin Egbert”. Reg No. 20335 / 1888. “PICKLES, Alfred Herbert”. Reg No. 28767 / 1885. “PICKLES, George Frederick”. Reg No. 12521 / 1884.

(5) “New Insolvent”, Argus, 5th October 1886, page 6.

(6) “North Melbourne Police Court: A Neglected Child”, North Melbourne Gazette, 3 June 1898, page 2.

(7) Australia, Electoral Rolls., 1903-1980. Ancestry.com, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc. Provo, UT, USA. 2010.

(8) Victoria, Australia, Asylum Records, 1853-1940. Ancestry.com, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc. Provo, UT, USA.

(9) The Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages Victoria. “PICKLES, Geo Fredk”. Reg No. 11688 / 1919.

(10)”Item 1907/3243 – Yuin – establishment of school”, Education Department, State Records Office of Western Australia, 1907.

(11) The Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages Victoria. “PICKLES, Thos Patterson. RICHARDS, Pathenia Tridor.” Reg No. 3105 / 1912.

(12) The Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages Victoria. “PICKLES, Thos Patterson.” Reg No. 11498 / 1920.

(13) “Item 1927/571 – Fedora Parthenia Pickles (alias Dora Roberts)”, Supreme Court of Western Australia, State Records Office of Western Australia, 1927.

5 thoughts on “A Woman from Yuin Reef

    1. I was drawn to the name first, always loved the name ‘Dora’! I would love to find out more about her prospecting ventures! Thank you so much for reading!


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