Samuel Stephens

Samuel Stephens (1808 – 1840) was the first colonial manager of the South Australian Company. He sailed for the Province on the Duke of York in February 1836. Stephens was the eighth son of Rev. John Stephens, a {tooltip} Wesleyan {end-text} A member of the Wesleyan or Methodist Church, which developed from a reform movement led by John Wesley, a Church of England minister, in the late eighteenth century. By the early nineteenth century there were also Primitive Methodist congregations, which were more democratic and radical and were popular with poorer people.” {end-tooltip} minister, and his wife Rebecca. Two of his other brothers, Edward and John, were also associated with the South Australian venture. All three brothers were active Wesleyans, but also passionate and perhaps quarrelsome men, who came into conflict with the Wesleyan authorities at intervals in the early 1830s. Another brother (John Raynor) was expelled from his ministry for political activity and was later imprisoned as a Chartist. Out of a job after a dispute with the Wesleyan authorities in 1835, Samuel applied unsuccessfully to George Fife Angas for a position as an assistant surveyor in South Australia, but instead became Angas’ agent in London, from where he helped to form the South Australian Company. He was given a seven-year contract as manager of the Company and wide (if poorly defined) powers.

On arriving in the Colony Samuel Stephens married fellow passenger Charlotte Hudson Beare, on the John Pirie in Nepean Bay. The marriage provoked considerable gossip, as Charlotte was much older then her husband. Almost immediately on arrival, Stephens was embroiled in conflict with most of his staff who soon refused to work for him. This was South Australia’s first strike. Peace was only finally restored when Captain Martin of the John Pirie intervened and acted as peacemaker. Meanwhile Stephens began to gain a reputation for drunkenness, news of which was conveyed to Governor Hindmarsh on his arrival in December 1836. By April 1837 he was accused of keeping poor accounts and was replaced as manager. he was finally suspended altogether in November of 1837, when he was charged with killing a sailor from one of the company’s rival whaling fisheries.

While returning from an expedition from the River Murray, Stephens was killed, after recklessly racing his horse over a steep hill. He was survived by his widow Charlotte, who lived for another 35 years.

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