Well, it’s Tuesday and that could only mean one thing…Trove Tuesday. It’s been too long. I’ve read a lot of the Table Talk newspaper lately, a recent addition to the wonderful collection of Trove Digitised Newspapers. Because Table Talk (1885-1939) was a social newspaper, I have enjoyed the comings and goings of Western District folk from those times, spending their holidays with friends or living it up in the “big smoke” as guests of Melbourne’s best hotels. Alas, my Western District families were not in the same class of people who graced the social pages, but I still enjoy the photos of those from a higher station in life enjoying tennis and golf tournaments and fox hunts all in the finest fashions.
One feature of Table Talk is wedding photos. I have found several Hamilton brides, and have admired their beautiful gowns and bridesmaids’ dresses while following the changing trends in wedding attire. One particular photo caught my eye, mainly because I didn’t recognise the Hamilton family names as those that regularly graced the Table Talk pages. It was from the marriage of Caleb Shang and Annie Kassene, celebrated at the home of Mr. J. Quing Yen of Brown Street, Hamilton. The bridal party consisted of members of the Shang, Kassene, and Quing Yen families.
I searched Trove for Caleb Shang and was immediately met with headlines of “War Hero”. I then Googled his name and there were entries from the Australian Dictionary of Biography, Wikipedia, the Australian War Memorial, and various newspaper articles. I checked with those sites and the same Caleb Shang married Annie Kassene, but considering Caleb was from Cairns, I was left wondering why he was in Hamilton?
As it turns out, Caleb served with the 47th Battalion during WW1 and after a battle at Messines Ridge in 1916, he received a Distinguished Conduct Medal(DCM). In 1918, while still with the 47th, his brave actions at the Somme saw him awarded a Military Medal and a bar was added to his D.C.M, thus becoming the highest decorated Australian soldier of Chinese descent. In August 1918, he was shot in the leg and returned to Australia where he was given a hero’s welcome by the people of Cairns.
Sometime after his return, Caleb worked as a herbalist and moved to Victoria to practice. To be precise, he moved to Hamilton, joining another herbalist John Quing Yen who married Maud Elizabeth Wah Shang in Queensland in 1910. Presumably, Maud was Caleb’s sister. As a herbalist, Caleb not only serviced the people of Hamilton but also travelled to Mt Gambier offering consultations at a local boarding house, as seen in this advertisement from the Border Watch of 22 September 1922, eight months before his marriage.
After the wedding, Caleb and Annie did not remain in Hamilton long, returning to Cairns. After a long illness, Caleb passed away in 1953.
I thought it necessary to find out a little about the bride Anna (Annie) Louise Kassene, born at Hamilton in 1900. She was the daughter of bootmaker Gustav Kassene and Hulda Grambau of Hochkirch (Tarrington). Hulda died in 1901 after the birth of her third child at barely 20 years of age and Gustav died in 1915. The two Kassene men in the wedding photo are possibly Annie’s two siblings. Annie died in Cairns in 1955.
Australian Dictionary of Biography
3 thoughts on “Trove Tuesday – Hamilton’s Hero Herbalist”
A very interesting story Merron, and a rewarding search for you.
Thank you Christine.
Hi – I came across your article accidentally. My father is the nephew of Caleb Shang and is the “keeper of his memory”.
I am currently writing the story of the Shang family. Caleb was the oldest of 13 children who all lived to adulthood.
My son (just yesterday) sent us some photos of the exact place that Caleb was injured on 16 August 1918 near a tributary of the Somme river.