James Dalton

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James Dalton Mayor of Orange 1869

DALTON, JAMES (1834-1919), merchant and pastoralist, was born in Duntryleague, Limerick, Ireland, son of James Dalton, innkeeper, and his first wife Eleanor, née Ryan. James Dalton Snr was transported to NSW for 7 years arriving in 1835 aboard the Hive. James Jnr joined his father in 1849 aged 15 arriving aboard the Panama.

In 1849 James Snr opened a bark and slab store in Orange. In 1853 James Jnr set up as a store-keeper in Orange, where he married Margaret Mary Collins in 1858. In that year his brother Thomas Dalton 1820-1901 joined him and the firm became known as Dalton Bros. James helped displaced miners and in 1857 promised to build a mill if they grew wheat; his flour-mill was built in 1861. The firm's business expanded until it became the largest wholesale distributor west of the Blue Mountains. They had great success producing roasted and ground coffee on a large scale and later built large wool stores in Orange, where in 1865 they built an impressive retail store in Summer Street. By 1871 they had acquired three stations in the Lachlan district.

Dalton Bros continued to flourish in the 1870s and in 1876 James built Duntryleague, a mansion set in magnificent grounds, reputedly for £50,000. Aware that the coming of the railway, for which James had turned the first sod in 1874, would mean the end of wholesale distributors in the west [Dalton Bros] established an importing agency in Sydney, managed by Thomas, and in 1878 built Dalton House, Pitt Street. They built stores in lower Fort Street and had a wharf and bond and free warehouses at Millers Point. In 1878 James bought Ammerdown, near Orange, and later, Kangaroobie.

Dalton was an active townsman, a member the Orange Municipal Council and Mayor of Orange in 1869. In the early 1890s he dissolved the partnership with Thomas, sold his Sydney interests and formed two family companies, Dalton Bros in Orange and Dalton Estates Ltd covering his pastoral holdings, to which he had added Belowra in the 1880s, Gobala, Nevertire, in 1898 and the Lookout at Mullion.

James Dalton provided funds and leadership for the Irish nationalist movement in New South Wales. In 1882 his presiding over an Irish Land League meeting was questioned in the Legislative Assembly. He was closely associated with the visit of the Irish nationalists, John and William Redmond, to the colony in 1883. In 1885 he built the Australian Hall because the Redmonds had been obliged to lecture in a shop.

According to the Australian National Dictionary of Biography the Dalton family was one of the colony's richest and most influential Catholic families. James's second son, James Joseph, became the first native-born Australian member of the House of Commons when he was elected for West Donegal in 1890 in the Parnell interest. Despite exceptional enterprise and business ability James was kindly, unassuming and ever ready to help an Irishman in distress. He was a friend of Cardinal Patrick Moran and Bishop John Dunne and a benefactor of St Mary's Cathedral. He received a papal knighthood in 1877. He died aged 85 on 17 March 1919 at Duntryleague, Orange. He is buried in the Dalton Crypt at the Orange Cemetery.Predeceased by his wife, he was survived by four sons and four daughters. His estate was worth £73,000.

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