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1919 – Letter petitioning for Australian Citizenship; ownership of land in Mt. Hutton, NSW

In May of 1919, a little less that a year after the time of his arrest and trial on June 14, 1918, Sam decided to petition the government in New South Wales to become a naturalized Australian citizen. As proof of his commitment to Australia, Sam who was living in West Maitland, New South Wales on Cultivation Road, had bought land in Australia. He reports in a letter written in his own hand on November 9, 1919 that this property was located in Maitland. The disposition of Sam’s land in Maitland is still unknown.

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In a document of March 3, 1921 Sam states that he paid 1200 Australian Pounds (identical to Pounds Sterling) for additional land, $4800.00 in 1920 US dollars, a considerable sum at that time.

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Although Sam does not state where this second purchase was located, it seems most probable that it was the well-documented 8+ acres in Mt. Hutton, quite some distance from Maitland, and on a peninsula bordered by the Pacific Ocean on one side and Lake Macquarie on the other. The contract for this purchase was not actually signed until March 14, 1923, that is to say, not long before Sam emigrated to Los Angeles, CA.

 History of the Ownership of the Land Comprising Mt. Hutton

Land Grants

1862 Portion 50; 40Acres: Land Grant to Thomas Morley

1862 Portion 51; 112 Acres: Land Grant to Thomas Williams

1875 Portion 52; 120 Acres: Land Grant to John James Hill

1922 Land Grant to Thomas Wilson

          Portion 15;  3 Acres Acres: Land Grant to Assurance and Thrift Association Ltd.

Subdivisions

1921: Division of Portion 52: 120 acres of land south of Scrubby Creek (both sides Wilson Rd. & Warner’s Bay Road area) D.P. 11260

Sam Bonar (Samuel Bernhardt) acquired Lots 3, 4, & 5 (8+ acres) on the Hillsborough Wilson’s Estate valued at 1200 Pounds Australian

1932 Division of Portions 51 and 15: land north of Scrubby Creek: ‘Thriftville Estate’ (Tennent Road & Warner’s Bay Road) D.P. 17261

Valuation: Sam’s Land in Mount Hutton

1921: Lot 3: 2 Acres, 3 Rods, 33 Perches: Value 400 Pounds Sterling = Australian Pounds

1921: Lot 4:  2 Acres, 3 Rods, 24 & 3/4  Perches: Value 400 Pounds Sterling = Australian Pounds

1921: Lot 5: 2 Acres, 3 Rods, 1 & 3/4 Perches: Value 400 Pounds Sterling = Australian Pounds

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1947: Lot 3 (7686) 2 Acres, 3 Rods, 33 Perches: Value 100 Australian Pounds

1947: Lot 4 (7687)  2 Acres, 3 Rods, 24 & 3/4  Perches: Value 100 Australian Pounds

1947: Lot 5 (7688) 2 Acres, 3 Rods, 1 & 3/4 Perches: Value 100 Australian Pounds

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1949: Lot 3: Value 250 Australian Pounds

1949: Lot 4: Value 250 Australian Pounds

1949: Lot 5: Value 250 Australian Pounds

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1951: Lot 3: Value 325 Australian Pounds

1951: Lot 4: Value 325 Australian Pounds

1951: Lot 5: Value 325 Australian Pounds

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In 1947 Sam’s three lots in Mount Hutton NSW were unimproved. The capital value of Lot 4 was 100 Pounds Australian.

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Australian documentation for Lot 4 on Wilson’s Bay Road in Mt. Hutton. This was one of the three lots owned by Sam Bonar (Bernhardt) in Australia. Note that by 1951, each lot was valued at 325 Australian Pounds.

Why Sam picked this out-of-the way location to purchase land is still unknown, but the fact remains that in 1910, when Sam arrived in Australia,  the government there was encouraging the division of the huge estates found throughout the country by taxing them heavily:

A graduated federal land tax was introduced in 1910, with the stated intention of breaking up the large estates. The first 5,000 Pounds worth of unimproved value was exempt, and the rates were low except for very large estates, the owners of which frequently escaped the tax by nominally subdividing them among family members.

Merrill Bonar believed that Sam farmed the three parcels which constituted this land, but, so far, there is no indication that this ever occurred. In fact, after World War II, when these lands were taxed, the bills Merrill received all indicate that Sam’s land was unimproved, that is to say, there were no structures or roads on it.  In the early 1950’s Merrill sold the three lots in Mt. Hutton because he did not want to pay the yearly taxes on them any longer. At present, Mount Hutton is a residential area, and the land which Sam once owned,  and which Merrill and his brother, Don, had inherited, is worth many millions of dollars.

SAM BONAR’S LAND: MINERALS FOR THE AUSTRALIAN STEEL INDUSTRY

Gene Wyman no match for the

BHP and Lysaghts

In a clever move, during 1955 BHP and Lysaghts, two of Australia’s (and the world’s) largest steel manufacturing companies, bought the greater part  of Sam Bonar’s land (Lots 3 & 5) from his stepson, Merrill Bonar. Gene Wyman, Merrill’s attorney, who had established one of Los Angeles’ most prestigious law firms (film industry clientele, especially Universal), was totally unaware of what was afoot: the two companies actually purchased Sam’s land using employees! The original plan of each company was to mine the land which was rich in minerals and lay over one of the world’s most-extensive coal seams. But, in the long run, it was sold as real estate intended for the Newcastle suburbs which experienced significant growth after WW II. The two lots cost the companies a total of 675 Pounds Australian (c. $1400.00), a mere pittance. The disposition of the 3rd parcel (lot 4) is still unknown, but one suspects that it went to John Hughes who had offered 425 Pounds Australian (c. $850.00) earlier in 1947.

Background on the two companies which used their employees as a front to purchase Sam Bonar’s Land

BHP: The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, BHP Co. Ltd., BHP, also known as “The Big Australian”, was incorporated in 1885, operating the silver and lead mine at Broken Hill in western New South Wales, Australia. The Broken Hill group floated on 10 August 1885. The first consignment of Broken Hill ore (48 tons, 5 cwt, 3grs) was smelted at the Intercolonial Smelting and Refining Company’s works at Spotswood, Melbourne.

In 1915, the company ventured into steel manufacturing, with its operations based primarily in Newcastle, New South Wales. The decision to move from mining ore at Broken Hill to open a steelworks at Newcastle was due to the technical limitations in recovering value from mining the ‘lower-lying sulphide ores’. The discovery of Iron Knob and Iron Monarch near the western shore of the Spencer Gulf in South Australia combined with the development by the BHP metallurgist A. D. Carmichael of a technique for ‘separating zinc sulphides from the accompanying earth and rock’ led BHP ‘to implement the startlingly simple and cheap process for liberating vast amounts of valuable metals out of sulphide ores, including huge heaps of tailings and slimes up to’ 40 ft (12 m) high.

LYSAGHTS: John Lysaght established his iron working business at St Vincent’s Works, Bristol and commenced manufacturing corrugated iron in 1857. The firm exported to many countries including Australia and South America. By 1880 Lysaghts was exporting so much corrugated iron to Australia that it established a central selling agency in Melbourne.

In 1897 the company publication, the Lysaght Referee, detailed the products Lysaghts sold. The original Lysaght brand of corrugated iron was Orb, followed in 1897 by a cheaper version of Redcliffe. Both brands were exported in large quantities to Australia. Globe was a brand produced for American and African markets but some quantities ended up in Australia.

Lysaghts manufactured galvanised sheet and plate between 1880 and 1912 at the Eskbank steelworks at Lithgow, New South Wales. The brand was Crown and it appears these sheets were not corrugated for roofing.

In 1920 John Lysaght Ltd was acquired by the steel giant GKN, while a wholly owned subsidiary John Lysaght (Australia) commenced manufacture of corrugated iron in 1921 opening a sheet rolling and galvanising works next to BHP at Newcastle, New South Wales. In 1936 a further plant was opened at Port Kembla, New South Wales, and by 1939 these two plants were meeting 100% of the local demand for galvanised sheeting.

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Maitland and Mount Hutton NSW

Sam bought three lots in the town of Mt. Hutton, New South Wales,  a suburb of Newcastle. The relative locations of Maitland, Newcastle, Mt. Hutton (purple marker), and Sydney are seen on this map.

Newcastle & Mt. Hutton

Mt. Hutton is a southwestern suburb of Newcastle, New South Wales. Newcastle is presently the largest coal exporting harbor in the world.

Mount Hutton NSW

Location of Mount Hutton, New South Wales, Australia

Location of Sam's land in Mt. Hutton

Location of Sam’s 8+ acres in Mt. Hutton

Location of Sam's land in Mt. Hutton2

Location of Sam’s 8+ acres in Mt. Hutton

Location of Sam's land in Mt. Hutton3

Home for sale on Wilson’s Road where Sam’s former property was located.

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Mt. Hutton Propertyb

Margie Bonar’s letter sent in regards to her deceased husband’s property in Mt. Hutton, New South Wales, Australia. As she could not read or write, the letter was composed for her by a real estate lawyer in Los Angeles, one Mr. Bergman.

In 1946, W.W. Tennent offered Margie 189 Pounds Australian for Sam’s land in Mt. Hutton. It is noteworthy that Tennent Road is located in the division north of Sam’s property: D.P. 17261.

In  1947 Sam’s land was valued at 300 Pounds Australian.  Nonetheless, John Hughes offered Margie 425 Pounds Australian  as he desired the land in order to build a house on it. Nowadays,  Sam’s 8+ acres, now improved with the addition of roads, houses, and utilities, is worth a great sum of money.

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WW. Tennant’s offer to Margie in 1946 was 189 Pounds.

Mt. Hutton Property

John Hughes’ offer of 425 Pounds Australian  came in during the year 1947. Sam had died in 1941, so Margie had to deal with paying the taxes due on the land. On March 6, 1955, Margie’s son Merrill, acting on behalf of his mother, sold the three lots.

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The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and John Lysaghts Newcastle  Ltd

Buy Sam Bonar’s Land

Merrill Bonar’s 1955 Contracts for the sale of 2 of Sam Bonar’s 3 lots in Australia: Lot 3 and Lot 5

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Lake Macquarie Shire, New South Wales.  Mt. Hutton is located to far right in this photo, in the center of the peninsula.

Sam’s mailing address at the time of his petition for citizenship indicates that he was picking up his mail at the home of the Peters Family in West Maitland, rather than at either of his Sydney addresses. In addition, documents of the time indicate that Sam had two friends in West Maitland: Alfred May and George Dune, who would be most-helpful to Sam, serving as witnesses to his good character, a requirement in all petitions for naturalization.

An interesting side-light to these proceedings is that Sam had to prove he could speak, read, and write in English. As the letters in his hand indicate, Sam must have studied English in a formal manner, perhaps in grade school, because he has a very sophisticated command of the English language. Merrill Bonar has stated that Sam mastered the language on his own, a significant accomplishment since Sam’s primary language was Russian. Although there is no indication at this time of writing that Sam spoke Yiddish, it certainly is a possibility considering the fact that he was an Ashkenazic Jew.

Despite the fact that Sam fulfilled all the primary requirements for obtaining Australian citizenship, without a birth certificate he was held back from reaching that goal for several years. To be sure, in 1919 Europe was still in turmoil, and getting the Kingdom of Romania to locate the birth certificate of a citizen living abroad, was no easy task. So, Sam’s case dragged on until November 30, 1920 when he received his birth certificate from Chisinau (Kishinev). But, then the government in New South Wales would not accept it, because it was written in Russian and Hebrew in parallel columns, which no one among the government officials were able to read. So, Sam went to work on the translation of the certificate which he claimed was written in Romanian:

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Sam Bonar’s translation of his birth certificate. The original document from which Sam worked was written in Russian and in Hebrew laid out in parallel columns, although Sam claimed that it was in Romanian.

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