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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Wiseman, Thomas (1847–1941)

by Peter Mercer

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

Thomas Wiseman (1847-1941), trader, publican and transport operator, was born on 12 September 1847 at Launceston, Van Diemen's Land, eldest son of Thomas Wiseman, shipwright, and his wife Harriet, née Rogers. From 1854 his parents bought and ran hotels at Emu Bay (Burnie), but Thomas senior continued shipbuilding and became a trader. Young Thomas was educated privately and went to school at Stanley. On 30 January 1868 he married Margaret Castles (d.1920) at Wynyard with Anglican rites; they were to have eleven children. Having entered the hotel business, he was attracted by the boom conditions which followed the discovery of tin at Mount Bischoff. He returned to Burnie in 1873 and, with his brother Jesse, contracted to cart ore from the mine by bullock-teams. Performed under shocking conditions, the enterprise was profitable and lasted until 1878 when the brothers went into storekeeping and butchering at Waratah.

In 1882 Thomas sold out and moved back to Burnie where he built the Wiseman's Family Hotel. Selling it within a year, he bought Jones's Hotel which he renamed the Bay View Hotel. In 1890 he took over Jesse's mail contract and coach service, running it until the railway links to the West Coast and to Launceston were completed in 1901. He also acquired a large 'bait and livery stable' where horses and jinkers could be hired. Fire destroyed the Bay View Hotel in January 1897, but it was rebuilt on a grander scale with sixty-five rooms.

Retiring from hotel-keeping in 1912, Wiseman moved to nearby Kandarah, a large house he had built for his family. Photographs show him in middle age as large framed, with receding hair, kind eyes and a well-groomed beard. He became a major property owner in the Burnie town centre and financed his sons in various enterprises, particularly the hotel trade and farming.

As he prospered, Wiseman had begun to play a leading role in community affairs. He was a foundation trustee of the Burnie Institute which built the Town Hall (1888), and the Burnie Theatre (1913) was erected largely through his backing. A member (1874-1907) of the local road trust, when Burnie became a municipal district in 1898 he became treasurer of the town board and was elected its chairman in 1903; first warden of the elected municipal council in 1906, he held a seat on that body until 1918. He was also a warden (1907-11) of the local marine board, chairman of the board of health (1903-07), the cemetery trust and the fire brigade (1901-15), and first vice-president of the Burnie Agricultural and Pastoral Society in 1913. Survived by two sons and five daughters, Wiseman died at Burnie on 1 August 1941; his estate was sworn for probate at £35,309.

Select Bibliography

  • Cyclopedia of Tasmania, vol 2 (Hob, 1900)
  • P. G. Mercer, Gateway to Progress (Burnie, Tas, 1969)
  • W. Winter, Burnie Inn 1847-1901 (Burnie, 1974)
  • W. Winter, Burnie Fire Brigade (Burnie, 1974)
  • W. Winter, Onward—Burnie Historical Highlights in a Biography of Capt. William Jones (Burnie, 1975)
  • R. Pike, Pioneers of Burnie (Burnie, 1977)
  • A. Ebdon, Defying the Odds (Burnie, 1987)
  • P. G. Mercer, ‘Hotels and Banks of Burnie’, Arts Council Bulletin, 8, no 9, Dec 1964, p 62
  • Zeehan and Dundas Herald, 5 July 1911
  • Advocate (Burnie), 2 Aug 1941.

Citation details

Peter Mercer, 'Wiseman, Thomas (1847–1941)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 24 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

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