Abraham Polack

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Abraham Brian Polack was far the biggest landholder in the district. Between the years of 1835 and 1836, he acquired by auction, 790 acres ranging from Canterbury Road, along Cooks River and covering most of the area of Earlwood NSW. A portion being known as the Undercliffe Estate.

Another one of his acquisitions was "Bramshott" which was originally owned by the Rev. William Pascoe Crook. He is said to have purchased it in 1833 and actually farmed the property which was of 100 acres and lay south of Cooks River.

A weatherboard cottage with a brick nogged verandah stood on the grant and the property was divided into paddocks with a "first rate garden" and a small orchard. an immense lagoon provided a never failing supply of fresh water. It was advertised, under instructions from Polack's trustees, in 1841 and was sold for $4.100.00. The man himself had such colourful background, that a few details of his life may perhaps be of interest to readers. The son of a well known society painter, whose miniatures and engravings are now much sought after, he was sentenced to 7 years, transportation for the alleged stealing a lady's watch.

He arrived in the colony on the "Agamennon" in 1820 at the age of 25 years. He was married on September 27th 1824 at St.Phillips Church, Sydney, his wife Hannah having arrived as a free settler on the "Elizabeth" in 1824. By 1827 he had two children, a daughter Sarah and a son Sololom. On the birth certificate of his daughter in 1825 he was listed as a Clerk and shopman and on that of his son, as a publican. (Later a third child, a son was born). He appears to have prospered considerably, for he is shown in the 1828 census as being an Inn Keeper and having one horse and twenty horned cattle. His inn the "London Tavern" was opposite the Police Court on the corner of Druitt and George Streets, Sydney.

He became associated with Jacob Josephson who carried on business as a jeweller and silversmith in George Street, and later became an auctioneer. His last stand in that business was in a building in Charlotte Place (now Grosvenor). As an auctioneer he became very successful. His activities covering sales in Melbourne, Darling Downs, Wollongong and West Maitland to name just a few.

In the late 1830's he was associated with John Thomas Wilson an ironmonger to whom he sold his commission business. This person whose real name was James Abbott had a long history of crime as a "Confidence man". He had in England induced a young lady to elope with him and abandoned her, he robbed an old lady of a large sum of money and escaped to the United States of America, and started business as an auctioneer in Boston under the name of John Thomas Soanes. After "fleecing" the Americans, he fled to the Cape and having no success with the Dutch burghers, arrived at Hobart Town.

After more adventures he landed in Sydney under the name of J.T.Wilson, and entered the employ of Lancelot Iredale and was soon dismissed for immoral conduct. Later after a series of positions he became in possession of the extensive ironmongery business of Burekin & McDonald. He entered into auctioneering and being a man of fine presence and plausible manners he had no trouble in obtaining the confidence of the Sydney merchants. Suddenly he made a grand coup, filled a ship with cargo and joined her at the heads. It was discovered nothing could be done to apprehend the ship, as it had been regularly cleared at customs. While a great number of merchants were involved in the swindle, Abraham Polack declared himself the chief victim.

However, a newspaper item later reported that Mr Polack intends to leave the colony for Europe. His estate real and personal is estimated to be above $100.000.00 after liquidation of all claims against him. The same item also stated that the "residents of the Hunter River and environs" would be very pleased to hear that the steamers "Sophia Jane" and "Tamar" would run as usual, so evidently he was also interested in the shipping trade. Despite his successes he appears to have attracted quite a bit of trouble. At a later date we read of the report of a trial in 1842 of George Jones, former clerk to Abraham Polack, for forgery.

When Abraham Polack left the colony in 1839 he left a Promissory Note for $60.00. in favour of George Jones signed by himself to be presented to his trustees. Jones altered it to $600.00. The trial lasted a great length of time and the prisoner was convicted and sentenced to be sent to Van Diemans Land for ten years. feeling at the time was very high in view of his previous good character and the severity of the sentence and efforts were made to set the verdict aside.

An indication, however, of how well-known Abraham Polack had become is shown by a society clipping in a later newspaper which reported that Mrs. Polack had returned from London after seeing her family placed in the best schools suitable to their ages, "whence the boys will in due time be removed to one of the colleges, it being Mr. Polack's intention to employ a portion of the ample reward which his industry and skill in business has brought, in giving his sons the best education in his power as well as the advantage of the best society". Abraham Polack died at Newtown in 1873 at the age of 76 years. His must have been one of the many great success stories of his time and an indication of what could be achieved in the young colony by hard work and initiative.

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