Remembering a city icon – Caroline Pearce

Mrs. Caroline Pearce, known as Granny Pearce, Wodonga’s grand old lady, and after whom Pearce Street was named.

Caroline Sweet was born in Cornwall in 1829 in the village of Ladock, Cornwall. There she married her husband William Pearce in 1858. They sailed to Australia, arriving in Melbourne in 1860. She and her husband left Melbourne, travelling in a buggy followed by a six-horse wagon carrying household furniture belonging to them and fellow travellers. They were to work for Mr Edward Fallon of Barnawartha at the handsome salary of £75 per annum, and it was a satisfactory “living wage”.

Ten years later they took up land in Wodonga facing Beechworth Road, where they carried out dairying and mixed farming, living in a little cottage where they would spend the rest of their lives.

William was accidentally drowned in 1876 leaving Caroline with a family of three boys and five daughters, ranging in age from 2 years to 12 years of age. One report says she resumed her profession as a nurse. A report published in The Border Mail at the time of her death says “with wonderful spirit, displaying true British determination and grit, she decided to work the holding, and with wonderful fortitude and the help of the eldest of her children, she won through to success and saw each of her devoted children safely to the various avenues they were destined to travel.”

On Caroline’s 93rd birthday in 1922 she was reported to be Wodonga’s oldest lady and probably its oldest resident.

On Caroline’s 99th, and last birthday, the majority of her 115 descendants were present. The event was reported in many newspapers throughout NSW and Victoria.  One paper writing “During the festivities, the popular old lady gave a lecturette on the old days on either side of the Murray, near which she has resided for over 70 years. In spite of her great age, “Granny “possesses all her faculties, and is probably the oldest female in the Commonwealth who has never suffered from headache.”

Caroline passed away on 19th February 1928, she would have turned 100 the following month. She left 120 descendants, which included her eight children, 42 grandchildren and 70 great-grandchildren.

Prepared from information provided by Mrs Barbara Cadman, a great-great-granddaughter.