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James Alt

James Alt

Male 1864 - 1938  (74 years)

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  • Name James Alt 
    Born 12 Aug 1864  Fairy Hole Creek Inn, near Yass, NSW, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Male 

    • James Alt was born on 12 August 1864 on his parents' farm at Fairy Hole Creek, some 3 kms from Yass. When he was 4 years and 8 months old, the family moved into the Yass Hotel at Yass and this is where he grew up. The family attended St. Clement's Church of England regularly and it is probable that he was educated at the private school conducted under the auspices of that Church. Yass lacked a public school at that time and seven private and three denominational schools provided instruction for the children in the area. James' father died a month before his ninth birthday and his mother continued to conduct the hotel. With an hotel to look after and seven children under the age of fifteen to rear, she must have been carrying a very heavy burden. Six months later she married her second husband, James Frederick Mote. The children would then have a stepfather and she would have someone to share her problems. It was almost five years later that James left home and joined the N.S.W. Railways at Yass Junction in April 1879. He was stationed at Bowning in 1882, where he was appointed a Postal Assistant on 5 September 1882. In those days, the Station Master was usually the Postmaster and, if warranted, a member of the Railway Staff could be appointed as an assistant. James was doubtless doing a good job, because his younger brother, John, commenced his railway career at Bowning that same year and they probably lived together.

      James married Hannah Maria Chalker at Bargo on 14 April 1884, four months before his twentieth birthday. She was born at Mittagong about 1862. Hannah was a member of the Roman Catholic Church, but, as was the custom in those days, on marriage joined the church to which her husband belonged. James is shown in Railway Records as being Station Master on day duty at Hilltop, between Picton and Mittagong, on 22 December 1885. He was appointed Postmaster at Hilltop on 16 December 1887 at the age of 23. The Railways Classification of Officers, dated 24.6.1891 shows him as Officer-in-Charge at Hilltop on a salary of ?130 per annum plus a Postal Allowance of ?11 per annum. He had to pay 1O/- per week rent for the Stationmaster's residence. On 31.12.1896 he is shown as still in the same job on the same salary and postal allowance, but plus a free house. It appears that during the five years the only increase in salary he had received was the equivalent of the 1OA a week which he had previously had to pay as rent for the house.

      On 12th June 1897, at the age of thirty-two, following a mishap when attempting to board a moving train at Mittagong, both his legs were amputated.
    • The accident must have been a calamity for a young man with a wife and three young children to provide for in a time when social services were virtually unknown. His career with the Railways was finished and he was severely handicapped. However, in due course, he went into business at Balmoral, about 10 kms from Hilltop towards Picton. It was from there that he applied for the position of Postmaster at Bowning. When his application was successful, he had to request time to wind up his business affairs at Balmoral before taking up the position. A report on his application stated that he used cork artificial legs and could move around on them with the help of crutches. He is described as a good Morse Operator and capable of performing the duties required of him.
      Prior to James taking over the Post Office, the Postal business of Bowning had been conducted at the Railway Station. Representations of local townspeople were successful in having the Post Office made a separate entity in a more convenient location 270 yards from the Station adjoining the local Police Station. It was what was known as a Semi-Official Post Office and was staffed on a contract basis. Applicants for the position of Postmaster had to submit a tender stating the amount for which they were prepared to supply premises and conduct the Post Office. James submitted a tender to provide premises measuring 12 feet x 12 feet including 6 feet x 6 feet for public space and perform the duties of Postmaster for the sum of ?110 per annum. To appreciate the worth of that sum at the time, it was the year that Mr. Justice Higgins of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court ruled that a basic wage of ?2:2:0 (?109:4:0 P.A.) was 'fair and reasonable' to satisfy 'the normal needs of the average employee regarded as a human being living in a civilised community' with a family of five. It became the minimum adult wage and
      permitted few luxuries. However, for a man so severely handicapped, it provided James with a roof over his head, a secure job and probably most important of all, a feeling of independence and self-respect in a job well within his capabilities. He remained in this position until the time of his death over 31 years later.
      The job of Postmaster was virtually a way of life. The hours were long and there were no paid annual holidays. He had to be on duty between 5.40 am and 6 am to despatch mail and on duty in the office from 8.30 am until 6.15 pm. James sat behind the counter all day and must have got very tired of being confined to those four walls for the greater part of his time. In 1913 a determined but unsuccessful effort was made to obtain a half holiday for him on Wednesday afternoons. Despite support from local inhabitants, the Shire Council refused to endorse the appeal and permission to close the office for the afternoon was not granted. At that time many country towns closed their shops and offices for the weekly half holiday on Wednesday afternoons in lieu of Saturday.
      It would not have been possible for James to have continued as Postmaster without the active support of his family. In due course his wife was appointed a messenger, however she had to resign in late 1933 because of ill-health. A niece, Miss Marion Aylen, D.O.B. 1.1.1915, who had been reared by James and his wife, was appointed to take her place from 12 October 1933. Mrs Eily Margaret Alt, daughter-in-law, was appointed to the position on 11 April 1937 at a salary of ?73 p.a.
      Hannah, James' wife, died some five years before him and in due course a Mrs. Fague became his housekeeper. They married and, in accordance with her wishes, he became a member of the Roman Catholic Church, to which she belonged. Unfortunately, the marriage was not a success and it wasn't long before they parted.
      The Bowning Post Office remained in the same premises from 1.3.1907 when James opened the office until 1936, when the Director General of Posts and Telegraphs, during a visit, described them as disgraceful. On 16 September of that year, it was moved to premises nearby, consisting of four rooms plus kitchen, bathroom and laundry.
      After 31 years service as Postmaster at Bowning, James took ill on 24 August 1938 and was admitted to Yass Hospital. His condition became worse and he was taken to St. Vincent's Hospital, Sydney, on 28 August 1938 and passed away the following day, aged 74. The body was taken to Yass and buried in the Catholic Section of the Bowning Cemetery. Despite his handicap, James must have enjoyed good health, because during those 31 years at Bowning, he had only one period of sick leave of fourteen days from 1/8/1935 to 14/8/35
    Newspaper the Daily Telegraph, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location 

    • Mittagong, Sunday. A serious accident happened at Mittagong last evening about 11 o'clock to Mr. J. Alt, Stationmaster at Colovale. Mr. Alt was boarding a goods train to go to Colovale and it is supposed that he slipped and fell on the rails. The trucks passed over his legs. The injured man was at once conveyed to the Berrima District Hospital, where the amputation of both legs was deemed necessary. Doubts are entertained of his recovery.
    Newspaper 15 Jun 1897  the Yass Courier, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location 

    • Sad Accident
      The sad news reached Yass during Sunday night that Mr. James Alt, stationmaster at Hill Top had been run over by a train and had both his legs cut off. From the news to hand, it is surmised that, as he is subject to fits, he must have taken one and fallen on the line on his way home from Mittagong and while on the line a
      train came along and, passing over him, cut off both legs. Immediately the news reached Yass, his mother, Mrs. G. Weatherby and his sister, Mrs. J. J. Sheekey, started for Hill Top, but did not expect to see the unfortunate man alive, as they were informed that he was sinking fast. Alt has a wife and three children and was a very kind and obliging officer. It is only about three weeks since his elder brother, Mr. Henry Alt, died and left a wife and several children.
      As we went to press, the unfortunate man was still alive and both legs had been amputated below the knee in the Bowral hospital.
    Newspaper 16 Jun 1897  the Bowral Free Press, Bowral, NSW, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location 

    • Railway Accident at Mittagong
      Mr. James Alt
      About 11 o'clock on Saturday night last, Mr. James Alt, Station Master of Hilltop for the past ten years, was found on the railway line near Mittagong platform, with both legs injured, apparently from being run over by a train. Mr. Alt had spent the evening in Mittagong and was intending to return to Hilltop by the goods train that leaves Mittagong about 10.30 pm. It is supposed that he caught hold of the rope attached to the brake-van while the train was in motion, but that his foot slipped off the step and, after holding on for about sixteen yards, let go his hold, falling under the wheel which passed over both legs. Of course that is a good deal conjecture as no one witnessed the sad affair. It is not known how long Mr. Alt lay there, but his groans attracted the attention of a guard who was sleeping in a brake-van on the line alongside and who lost no time in communicating with the doctor and police. He was at once conveyed by a special train to Bowral, accompanied by Dr. Middleton and carried on an ambulance stretcher to the Cottage Hospital where it was found that injuries were so extensive as to necessitate the amputation of both legs, one above and the other below the knee. Dr. Fisher applied the anaesthetic, while Drs. Armstrong and Middleton performed the operation without any delay. The patient passed a bad night from sheer exhaustion through loss of blood and shock and only a strong constitution could have survived it all.
      On Sunday his condition seemed more hopeful, but during that night unfavourable symptoms set in again. On Monday he was in a critical condition and during that night showed unfavourable symptoms. On enquiry at the hospital yesterday afternoon, we learnt that he was in an extremely serious state, at the same time he is not any worse than he was early in the morning. Mr. Alt's recovery is doubtful. We believe an official inquiry into the occurrence is to be made. Mr. Alt is thirty-two years of age and has a wife and three young children. His brother, Mr. Alt, Station Master at Gordon, visited him at the hospital, also his mother, sister and a very large number of friends.
    Newspaper 07 Jul 1897  the Bowral Free Press, Bowral, NSW, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location 

      WEDNESDAY 7th JULY 1897
      Mr. Alt, the stationmaster at Hilltop who met with an accident, causing both legs to be amputated at the hospital, is progressing favourably and hopes of his recovery are entertained
    Newspaper 17 Sep 1897  the Yass Courier, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location 

      Mr. Alt, Station master at Cob Vale, who was so injured at Mittagong on 12th June by being run over by a train as to necessitate the amputation of both legs, has recently been discharged from the Cottage Hospital, Bowral, as cured. Very few cases are recorded of recovery after such injuries, and Mr. Alt's bears testimony to the excellence of the medical and nursing treatment he received. It is stated that the Railway Commissioners propose finding Mr. Alt some suitable employment at Goulburn Station
    Newspaper 1934  the Post Office Journal, 'Postal Notes' Find all individuals with events at this location 

    • Mr. JAMES ALT

      There is no more interesting personality in the Postal Service than Mr. James Alt, Semi-Official P.M. at Bowning, who celebrated his 70th birthday on the 12th of last month. He joined the railway service in 1879 at Yass Junction, and the following year was promoted to the position of night officer, in which capacity he relieved at Picton, Mittagong, Balmoral, Wingello and Store Creek.
      In 1885 Mr. Alt became officer-in-charge at Hilltop, near Mittagong, and a year later, whilst occupying this position, he fell from a moving train, the injuries sustained resulting in the loss of both legs and his retirement from the railway service.
      In 1907 Mr. Alt accepted appointment as P.M. at Bowning, at that time a busy centre, all material for Burrinjuck Dam being unloaded there. The Kangiara mines were also working, so that the local Post Office was taxed to capacity. Later on when the Southern line was being duplicated, the population of the town increased by 500. During all this time Mr. Alt was giving great service to the public, but probably his finest effort was on the morning of July 11, 1933, when at a point just to the rear of the Post Office, the "down' Albury Mail, conveying about 200 passengers, overturned and was partially wrecked.
      Mr. Alt was called at 4.30 am, and with the assistance of his niece, Miss M. Aylen, set about the task of disposing of telegraph and telephone business, and so they worked, without breakfast, until 1 pm, and even their luncheon period was disturbed in the public interest.
      In spite of his great physical limitations, Mr. Alt always welcomes one with a smile. He is courteous to the public, amongst whom he has many friends. Mr. Alt has never had one day off owing to illness during his term as P.M. at Bowning. He describes his las annual holiday as being "great" and is looking forward earnestly to his next year's leave. It is worth while calling in at Bowning Office any time to see a man who has not let his physical loss interfere with his personality.
      Mr. Alt qualified in telegraphy 55 years ago, so that many H.O. telegraphists who work with Bowning will appreciate that they are working with a man whose experience in the art extends over half a century.
    Died 29 Aug 1938  St Vincents Hospital, Sydney, NSW, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Buried 30 Aug 1938  Bowning, NSW, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Obit 01 Sep 1938  the Yass Tribune-Courier, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location 

      In the death at St. Vincent's Hospital in Sydney on Monday morning of Mr. James Alt of Bowning, one of the best known personalities in the Postmaster-General's Department has passed
      on. Jim Alt was known by everyone in the service. Mr. Alt, who was 74 years of age, was Postmaster at Bowning for 32 years. His record of 26 years continuous duty without a holiday is probably unique.
      A sad but very human incident occurred on Tuesday afternoon. Mr. McCarrigle, of the Yass Post Office Staff, was on duty at Bowning, when the testing operator at the G.P.O. inquired how the old man was. He was not aware that he was being taken to his last resting place that afternoon.
      A native of Yass, Mr. Alt started work at the age of 14 years as a railway porter at Yass Junction. At the age of 32, he lost both legs. He was on duty at Mittagong when he endeavoured to board a train while in motion. He fell and the wheels passed over both his legs. However, he accepted the tragedy philosophically and ten years later took charge of the Bowning Post Office.
      It may not be generally known that there is a big testing station at Bowning, with fifteen trunk morse lines, and Mr. Alt was regarded by the testing officer in the G.P.O. as one of the most reliable testing officers in the south. He was a steady and efficient morse operator and a particularly methodical man.
      When the Albury mail train was derailed just beyond Bowning a few years ago, Mr. Alt rose to the occasion and put up a wonderful performance transmitting and receiving telegrams. He kept the dots and dashes going for hours on end with characteristic efficiency. From the little Bowning Post Office, many anxious moments were relieved f(?r people all over the State who had relatives on the wrecked train.
      But that is only one side of Mr. Alt's long and useful life. As a patriarch of Bowning, he was held in the highest esteem and adrniration.
      The late Mr. Alt is survived by one son, James (Bowning) and one son predeceased him. Two daughters also survive, Mrs Jack O'Brien of Maroubra and Mrs C. Jones of Wau, New Guinea.
      There was a large and representative cortege at the funeral, which took place in Bowning on Tuesday afternoon from the Catholic Church to the local cemetery, where the Rev. Fr. McCusker officiated. The funeral was conducted by Mr W.H. McIntosh.
      Among the wreaths received were the following: Alice and Sam, Clara and Frank, Mr. and Mrs. M.C. Smith and family, Mr. and Mrs. W. Armour, Mr. and Mrs. Loomes and Ric., Anne and Hugh Muir, Zeta and Athol Pearce, Grace and R. Holmes, Miss Wall, Limestone, Mrs. Pearce Senr., and family, Mrs. K. Ryan and family, Mr. and Mrs. Hollis and Mr. and Mrs. Turner, Yass P.O. Staff, Mrs. Morgan and Vera, the Glover family, Mr. and Mrs. Alf. Armour and family, All at Charlesville, Mr. and Mrs. Alchin and family, Mrs. 0. Hilly and family, Mrs. Hannford and family, Mrs. and Mr. W. Chown, Mr. and Mrs. Don Meikieham, Neta and Claude Ryan, Molly Crossley and Mr. and Mrs. G. Armour, Major Weir, B. Eglington, Mr. and Mrs. Bill Richards and family.
    Person ID I46  Mote/McInnes
    Last Modified 7 Dec 2004 

    Father Christopher Alt,   b. 20 May 1828, Bannerod, Hessen Darmstadt, Germany Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 15 Jul 1873, Yass, NSW, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 45 years) 
    Mother Martha Crossley,   b. 15 Oct 1842, Seven Hills, NSW, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 14 Aug 1937, Yass, NSW, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 94 years) 
    Married 01 Jan 1862  St Clements Church, Yass, NSW, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Family ID F16  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family 1 Hannah Maria Chalker,   b. 1862, Mittagong, NSW, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 1933, Bowning, NSW, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 71 years) 
    Married 14 Apr 1884  Bargo, NSW, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location 
     1. Martha Jane Alt,   b. 1885, Picton, NSW, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 1945, Redfern, NSW, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 60 years)
     2. Elsie May Alt,   b. 1888, Berrima, NSW, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location
     3. James Frederick Alt,   b. 11 Oct 1890, Berrima, NSW, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 28 Dec 1972, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 82 years)
     4. Alice Alt,   b. 1892, Berrima, NSW, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 1892, Berrima, NSW, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 0 years)
     5. John Alt,   b. 1900, Picton, NSW, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location
    Last Modified 17 Mar 2018 
    Family ID F44  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family 2 Marion E Faque 
    Married 1923  Yass, NSW, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Last Modified 17 Mar 2018 
    Family ID F45  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsMarried - 14 Apr 1884 - Bargo, NSW, Australia Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsBuried - 30 Aug 1938 - Bowning, NSW, Australia Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Earth 

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    James Alt
    James Alt
    James Alt