Our History | William Oram's fall from grace

Over the last two weeks, we’ve looked at the life of William Oram, one of the founding businessmen of the region. An English migrant, he settled in Crookwell as an auctioneer, then opened four newspapers (including this one), before a court case brought him into disgrace.

It was alleged that WH Oram was entrusted with the sale of a certain farm of 160 acres at Laggan, which was knocked down to a person who failed to pay the deposit, on the plea that he was so intoxicated as not to know what he was doing, and the plaintiffs now sought to recover damages for the breach of agreement and negligence. 

FOUNDING FATHER: Oram Street, Crookwell, was named in honour of William Oram before his fall from grace. Photo: courtesy Marion Dolamore-Busby.

FOUNDING FATHER: Oram Street, Crookwell, was named in honour of William Oram before his fall from grace. Photo: courtesy Marion Dolamore-Busby.

The amount claimed was £200. The day following the hearing of all evidence, the judge handed down his decision in favour of the plaintiff. The defendant did not follow instructions of the sale but contrary ran the land up by making several fictitious bids putting an extreme value on the land. 

He accepted a bid from a man who was totally intoxicated and did not know what he was doing, and could not be held legally bound to his bargain. The result was that when the land was offered again only a bid of 10 shillings per acre was obtainable.

Anyone with knowledge of the sale of land would know that when this land was offered again it would injure the plaintiffs. In the judge’s opinion the plaintiffs were injured to the amount of £40 and gave a verdict for that amount with the expenses of four witnesses and an increased advocate’s fee.

In January 1890, William was granted probate as the sole executor in the will of local widow Mrs Frances Landre. This was unusual as there were living relatives of Mrs Landre.  

On October 16, 1890, bankruptcy proceedings were commenced against William Henry Oram of Crookwell but now of Sydney, auctioneer and commission agent, with Mr EM Stephen, official assignee. The court case was to be held in Goulburn Courthouse on November 27, 1890.    

OLDEN DAYS: Goulburn Street, Crookwell, at about the time William Oram launched the Crookwell Gazette. Photo: courtesy of Crookwell and District Historical Society.

OLDEN DAYS: Goulburn Street, Crookwell, at about the time William Oram launched the Crookwell Gazette. Photo: courtesy of Crookwell and District Historical Society.

Goulburn Evening Penny Post, November 27, 1890: The bankrupt did not put in an appearance. The meeting for his examination was adjourned.                      

NSW Police Gazette, November 19, 1890: In November 1890 a warrant had been issued by the Crookwell Bench for the arrest of William Henry Oram, on a charge of falsely pretending that he was the owner of a certain property, and thereby induced a Mr Marsden to execute a bond to the Bank of New south Wales at Crookwell, on the 28th July last. Oram was formerly proprietor of the “Crookwell Gazette”, and was seen in Sydney about a week ago. He is about 50 years of age, 5 feet 4 inches high, dark complexion, dark whiskers and a moustache turning grey”.

NSW Police Gazette, December 10, 1890:  In December 1890 a warrant had been issued by the Crookwell Bench for the arrest of William Henry Oram, charged with embezzling the sum of £129.9s., the money of the Crookwell Pastoral and Agricultural Association, on or about the 27th September last. He was employed as Secretary and Collector for the Association. William Oram was supposed to be in Sydney.

NSW Police Gazette, January 7, 1891: William Henry Oram, for whose arrest warrants have been issued by the Crookwell Bench for fraud, is now reported likely to have gone to Melbourne, Numurkah, Goulburn River or Parramatta”. 

William left his wife and family and fled. We find him providing a testimonial for Clements’s Tonic in New Zealand newspapers. The advertisements appear in various newspapers including the Sydney Morning Herald. 

It is believed that in due course William Henry Oram was to re-establish himself and lead a prosperous life. However, he did not return to his family.

  • Part 3 of a three-part series.

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