Two Sisters, the Mayor and the Blacksmith.

Mary Jane Spencer and Rebecca Spencer were the daughters of Thomas and Mary Spencer of Rouchel. Mary was born in 1847 and Rebecca in 1851. Both married prominent members of the Muswellbrook community and had large families.

Stephen James Dowell (left) was a very prominent citizen of Muswellbrook in the 19th century. In 1876 he was elected as a councillor and ten years later was elected Mayor, a position he held for a number of years. He is credited as the driving force behind the provision of reliable town water to Muswellbrook.

Stephen Dowell was born in Gloucestershire and arrived in Muswellbrook as a 19 year old in 1862. Two years later he married his first cousin Emily Hooper who had been born in Muswellbrook. Emily died aged just 33 in 1875. Stephen remarried just 4 months later. His second wife was Mary Jane Spencer.

George Hayne was born in Scone in 1852 He was the sixth of nine children but the first of the family born in Australia. George became a blacksmith and a wheelwright and had the largest business of this type in Muswellbrook in the late 1890’s.

In late 1899 several Singleton blacksmiths were attempting to break the world record for horse shoe making. George Hayne felt the honour Muswellbrook could not be let down and offered to challenge the Singleton smithies and suggested a financial consideration be included in the contest.

George Hayne (centre) and staff in Muswellbrook.

A blacksmith named Hayes from Singleton took up the challenge and the wager was set at £50 each, winner take all. Over the next month or so the proposed competition descended into a slanging match between Hayne and Hayes carried out in the pages of the Muswellbrook Chronicle and the Singleton Argus. It appears the rules of engagement were never agreed on and so the competition ended up so much hot air – appropriate for men who spent their days at the forge.

In 1876 George Hayne married Rebecca Spencer.

Stephen and Mary had seven children, Mary, Ethel, William, Hilda, Stephen, Violet and George.

George and Rebecca had eight children, Thomas, George, Stanley Amelia, Rebecca, Dorothy A, Dorothy Juanita and Stanley. Sadly, four of their children died very young.

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