#52Ancestors, Everingham

The Everingham Millions – A cruel trick or a real treat?

Week 44 OF 52 ANCESTORS CHALLENGE

PROMPT: TRICK OR TREAT

The case of the “Everingham Millions’ caused a minor sensation in Australia in the 1920s and early 30s. It was claimed that the First Fleeter Matthew James Everingham (1769 – 1817) was the son of Sir John Everingham and the heir to his vast estate. Newspaper articles reported that the estate included

railway shares, real estate, and war bonds. The estates (two concerned are Arundel Castle, Sussex, and Cherry Burton, Yorkshire). These comprise several …villages, many farms, part of the town of Lewes, as well as numerous rights, all revenue producing

Everingham Millions, Northern Star, Sat. 21 February 1931, page 6

There were many, many articles written about this unbelievably large, exceedingly valuable estate in the newspapers and magazines of the time. A very quick search for “Everingham Millions” on Trove, the National Library of Australia’s search engine, gave me 705 results. I would have found many more had I broadened the search.

The belief that Matthew came from a wealthy, potentially noble background was very attractive in those days when any hint of the “convict stain” was kept hidden..

A real treat…?

In the late 1920s, on the cusp of the Great Depression, descendants of Matthew James Everingham would have read many newspaper articles confirming family speculation that their ancestor had been far more than an ordinary convict. Here was proof that the family rumours about Matthew were true. He had been the heir to the great Everingham fortune and estates. His estate was lying in Chancery just waiting to be claimed.

Eleven million pounds just waiting to be claimed from the British Chancery by the “rightful descendants—actual blood relations—of the pioneer Matthew James Everingham”[1]. Reports stated that Matthew had been about to leave Australia to pursue his claim when he drowned on the Hawkesbury River. Sadly Matthew’s wife and children had been “too languid to pursue the estate”.{2}

What a treat for members of the Everingham family!

THe Everingham Millions, Windsor and Richmond Gazette, 19 April 1929, p 3..

Supporting documents, particularly wills and family bibles were needed to support the claim.

the missing link in the chain of proof to the fortune of £23,000,000 has now been discovered. As this was the only link that promised trouble the will has been chemically treated and photographed, and certificates obtained to that effect. The will, dated August, 1814, duly signed and witnessed, reads:—”My sons Matthew, William, George, James and John to have all I now, hold, or may be entitled to hold in future.”

Everingham Millions, Northern Star, Sat. 21 February 1931, page 6

The claimants held many meetings. One, held in Newtown Town Hall, Sydney drew a crowd of 400 – 450 claimants. Another meeting that would have been of interest to my family was held at the Richmond Hall. Lismore on 23 February 1931. About 50 people attended. I wonder if my grandfather George Frederick Everingham, a direct descendand of Matthew through his son James, was one of them? [3 ]

The size of the estate grew quickly. The Wingham Chronicle reported that “a cutting out of the ‘London Times,’ which stated that the amount of money now lying in Chancery in England exceeded £78,000,000”.{4 }

Given the rumoured size of the estate it isn’t surprising that jealousies and dissension occurred.. In one of a series of articles dismissing the claim as ‘a delusion and a snare’, George Reeves wrote about the infighting between the seven branches of the Everingham clan

Of course, we have not heard the last…of the Everingham Millions, for it has been told that the seven branches in descent from First Flee ter Matthew James Everingham are to hold separate meetings during the month of September, when certain information will be available to the claimants. There are so many jealousies between the rival families in descent that five have already sent for pertinent particulars, and the answers will arrive shortly. The writer expects the non sense to …die out, and at some future time, be revived by other adventurers in their stories of great wealth ‘in Chancery .’

Geo. G. Reeves, Unclaimed Milions, Windsor and Richmond Gazette, , Friday 6 September 1929, page 10

In March 1930 it was reported that over one thousand pounds had been raised to send investigators to England to pursue the claim.[5]

It was at this stage that a printer from Mr Alfred J.C. McGrath, a great grandson of Matthew Everingham, left for England with his wife to pursue the claim. McGrath had advertised widely for supporting documents and he claimed to represent the family.

Some writers and publications met the Everingham millions claims with well deserved cynicism. The Everingham family was only one in a long list of families who suposedly had money ‘in Chancery’. The Bulletin (below) was quite blunt, referring to ‘mythical money’, “imaginery money” and its jump in size from eleven million ponds to thirty million pounds.

‘Personal Items’, The Bulletin, 24 July 1929. p. 14

Or a cruel trick?

The promise of unheard of wealth, an entry into the English aristocracy and the cleansing of the convict stain was far too good to be true. The Everinghams had been tricked out of their money.

Alfred McGrath was remanded on a charge of obtaining money through false pretenses at the Central Police Court, Sydney on 21 February 1931. He had reported to the committee of the Everingham Estate that he had seen the will of the Sir John Everingham, Bart., and that the will contained the following, or like words;

John Everingham, Baronet of Surrey and Yorkshire in place of my will to recompense my dear son Matthew who left his Country with a slur on his name to go to a new Country with a stigmata on his name when a small effort on my part in going to court would have cleared him of this paltry crime, in that it made him leave his home and loved ones never to return. I might have saved him and by not doing would not have spent my closing years in sorrow and remorse. In having provided for my other sons, I leave my land and property, personal and otherwise, to my son Matthew James, his sons, and sons of sons and the trustees are the Duke of Norfolk and Lord Herries….

Barrier Miner, Friday 20 February 1931, page 1

Further allegations stated that McGrath had

  • falsely pretended that he had inspected documents relevant to the estate at the Public Records Office, Chancery Lane, London
  • falsely stated that the estate at the time of the alleged inspection of the records was valued at £23,750,000 and was being administered by the trustees, the Duke of Norfolk and Lord Herries,

McGrath was charged with attempting to obtain moneys from the descendants of Matthew James Everingham, with intent to defraud. He was remanded on £100 bail.[6]

He was committed for trial by Mr. Shepherd S.M.[7] Coincidentally, the original Matthew Everingham had been employed as an ‘attorney’s clerk’ by another Mr Shepherd at the time of his conviction.

The last word on the affair of the Everingham Millions should go to Mr. H.W. Butler.

At a meeting of claimants to the “Everingham Millions” in Sydney last night. Mr. H. W. Butler, the chairman, suggested that the whole matter should be dropped. He added: “As a boy I read Hans Anderson’s fairy tales, and later I read De Rougemont, but this is one fairy tale I don’t believe.” The chairman then left the meeting re-marking: “I wish you all the luck in the world, but I don’t think you’ll ever have it ” Another speaker said a reply had been received from an English firm consisting of the one word “Mythical,” while other firms and Scotland Yard have told them that there is nothing in it. Two detectives watched the proceedings. There were many heated arguments

Barrier Miner , Wednesday 2 September 1931, page 4

Many members of the Everingham were victims of a cruel trick ( and perhaps of their own greed).

Endnotes

[ 1] Anon, Huge Fortune Chancery awaiting Everingham Descendants. Windsor and Richmond Gazette, Friday 25 October 1929, page 1.

[2] Anon, ‘Personal Items’, The Bulletin, 24 July 1929. p. 14

[3 ] Anon, Everingham Millions, Northern Star, Tuesday 24 February 1931, page 4

[4] Wingham Chronicle and Manning River Observer, Friday 2 October 1931, page 8

[5] Everingham Millions, Townsville Daily Bulletin, Thursday 20 March 1930, page 10

[6] Barrier Miner, Friday 20 February 1931, page 1

[7] The Everingham Millions, http://www.everingham.com/family/data2/millions.html, Accessed 2 November 2019.

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