Maria Steele

Ancestor’s last name

Steele

Given Name:

Maria

Middle Name:

Sarah

Alternative Name:

Maria Slater

Arrival in Queensland

1849

Date of Birth

28 December 1820

Place of Birth

Birmingham, England

Date of Death

17 March 1886

Burial

Plot E 242 Maryborough Cemetery

Place of residence in Queensland

Wide Bay Village, Baddow, Maryborough

Spouse

John Slater

Place Married

Sydney

Children

daughters Frederick Slater (b. 11 May 1842 d. 1876)

Spouse

Edgar Aldridge

Place Married

Residence, Clarence St Sydney

Spouse

Occupation
Housekeeper
Home Duties

Maria Steele, an orphan and convict from Birmingham, became one of the first settler women inn keepers in the Maryborough region. Her husband, Edgar Aldridge, dedicated a church and bell tower to her memory. Maria died at her son Harry’s Booral home in 1888. She is buried in the Aldridge family vault in Maryborough Cemetery.

Maria was born to a teenage mother in New Street, Birmingham in 1820. She was placed in a church owned home for abandoned children until the age of twelve, when she was required to leave the home because she had reached working age.

Maria was taken in and cared for by an old man who made his living selling buttons on the street. Their home was a shed on the derelict wharves. Maria adopted the man’s surname and became known as Maria Sarah Steele. At 17 she was charged and found guilty of stealing two bags of coal and sentenced to seven years transportation to Van Diemen’s Land.

On leaving her husband John Slater in 1845, Maria moved to Kempsey where she was employed as a housekeeper by Edgar Aldridge. Maria and Edgar lived as a couple and had two children, Maria Rachel and Harry Edgar. The family had moved to Sydney but Maria returned to Kempsey to stay with the family of Enoch Rudder junior when Aldridge and Rudder left to explore the northern territory, following a path blazed by the Archer brothers. The party eventually arrived at the Wide Bay River (later Mary River) in 1848 where George Furber had built a wharf on the south bank.

In 1949 Maria and Edgar were married at their residence in Sydney and later that year the family moved to Wide Bay Village. They lived in the Bush Inn, a single storey hotel constructed by Aldridge. Another son, Joey Edgar, was born in 1850 but died in January 1851. The family moved into a house at Baddow where they began to cultivate exotic crops and plants.

Experiencing declining health, Maria passed away at her son Harry’s residence at Booral on 17 March 1886, aged 65 years. To honour her memory Aldridge built St Thomas Church in 1887 and in 1888 installed nine bells, crafted in England, in the bell tower of St Paul’s Church. The bells rang out each year on the anniversary of Maria’s death. An inscription on the bell tower read:

‘She was one of the earliest wives and mothers resident in this town. A conscientious Christian woman who through life was a peacemaker, ever forgiving, doing good, and helping all who were in trouble, distress, or affliction’.

Maria is buried in the family vault in Maryborough along with Edgar and her children.

If you can provide further information on the life of this person please contact the Harry Gentle Resource Centre ([email protected]).

Prepared by Lee Butterworth

Newspapers

In Memory

Maryborough Chronicle, Wide Bay and Burnett Advertiser
18 March 1930 p. 4

Family Notices

Maryborough Chronicle, Wide Bay and Burnett Advertiser
18 March 1886 p. 2

Visit of the Bishop of Brisbane

Maryborough Chronicle, Wide Bay and Burnett Advertiser
10 October 1887 p. 3

Church of England

Maryborough Chronicle, Wide Bay and Burnett Advertiser
15 April 1887 p. 2