Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Mileham, James (1763–1824)

by Vivienne Parsons

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

James Mileham (1763-1824), by unknown artist

James Mileham (1763-1824), by unknown artist

State Library of New South Wales, GPO 1 - 01158

James Mileham (1763?-1824), surgeon, was reputedly forced to emigrate from France because of the French revolution. He was given a commission as assistant surgeon in New South Wales by the British government in 1796 and arrived in the Ganges in June 1797, after nearly giving up the voyage because of ill treatment from one of the soldiers on board while the ship was in the Downs. He served at Sydney and Parramatta for some time and in October 1799 was ordered to relieve Thomas Jamison on Norfolk Island. He remained there until March 1802, but his salary for duty was collected by Jamison from their English agent and was not handed over to him, and he was refused an allowance for attendance on the troops because the commanding officer on Norfolk Island neglected to send a return of the detachment there. Harassed by his creditors, embarrassed by the failure of his agent in England, he had to sell 100 acres (40 ha) at Dundas which he had been granted in May 1799.

Mileham returned to Sydney in March 1802, where he did duty until being appointed to Castle Hill in January 1804 and to Newcastle in March, but by August he had been put under arrest by Lieutenant (Sir) Charles Menzies and brought to Sydney for disobedience of orders. In April 1805 he was found guilty by a court martial of refusing to attend a woman in child-birth and was sentenced to be publicly reprimanded. He was not on good terms with the principal surgeon, Jamison, whom he took to court for assault in 1803, but he nevertheless supported Jamison in his stand against Governor William Bligh in January 1808. He received a grant of 500 acres (202 ha) at Upper Nelson and 100 acres (40 ha) for his daughter from the rebel government in April 1809. Governor Lachlan Macquarie regranted these in October 1811 and later granted him a further 700 acres (283 ha) at Illawarra with indulgences of convict labour and stock, but Mileham was obliged to sell these grants too, after the failure of his second agent, William Wilson, who had collected his pay before going bankrupt in 1810. He recovered part of the money from Robert Campbell, Wilson's partner in trading ventures, but this was a blow from which his fortunes never recovered.

Mileham had been sent to the Hawkesbury in September 1808 and remained in the Windsor district until he retired. In June 1811 he was appointed a justice of the peace and magistrate for Castlereagh, and he took an active part in the public life of the district. He was a trustee of the Windsor Charitable Institution, treasurer of the Hawkesbury Benevolent Society and vice-president of the Windsor Bible Society; a Windsor street was named in his honour. In 1812 he rose to the rank of first assistant surgeon, but in 1816 declined an appointment in Van Diemen's Land. Two years later Macquarie refused to recommend his appointment as principal surgeon in succession to D'Arcy Wentworth on the grounds that his medical knowledge was defective, he was old and his eyesight was failing. In July 1821 he sought leave to retire because of his long service and poor health. Macquarie recommended that this request be granted and meanwhile gave him leave on full pay; as no reply was received from London Mileham continued on leave until he died.

Soon after his arrival in the colony Mileham formed an alliance with Elizabeth Price, by whom he had several children, but only a daughter Lucy (b.1799), who later married Samuel Otoo Hassall, survived infancy. Elizabeth Price lived with Mileham until her death in July 1818 and was buried under the name of Elizabeth Mileham. On 2 June 1819 at St Matthew's, Windsor, he married Susanna(h), daughter of Henry Kable of Windsor. Mileham died on 28 September 1824, aged 61, at Castlereagh Street, Sydney; he was buried in the Sandhills cemetery and his remains were later reinterred at La Perouse. In announcing his death to Bathurst, Governor Sir Thomas Brisbane described Mileham as: 'a solitary instance of one who had continually resided in this colony nearly thirty years, and yet was in want'. Susanna Mileham received a pension of £100 a year until she died on 20 June 1885.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of New South Wales, vols 3-7
  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vols 2-11
  • J. Steele, Early Days of Windsor (Syd, 1916)
  • Sydney Gazette, 8 June 1811, 19 Feb 1820, 25 Aug 1821, 30 Sept 1824.

Citation details

Vivienne Parsons, 'Mileham, James (1763–1824)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.online.anu.edu.au/biography/mileham-james-2451/text3273, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 11 December 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

View the front pages for Volume 2

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2017

James Mileham (1763-1824), by unknown artist

James Mileham (1763-1824), by unknown artist

State Library of New South Wales, GPO 1 - 01158