John was born in Sunderland, England on Nov 17, 1825. As a teen he took on an apprenticeship as a Stonemason; and by the time of the 1851 Census of England when he was 25, he was a Master Mason employing 5 men.

In August 1853, John and his brother Julius (or Joseph) arrived in Port Phillip on board the ship “Chowring Lee.” Almost immediately John set up the business of Snowball & Co. on Little Collins Street. The business specialised in building, architecture, and masonry; and were regularly contracted to the Government.  In 1856 Snowball & Co. won the contract to build the Colonial Bank of Australasia at Sandhurst. By now, John and his brother had moved to Bendigo, where they also won the Government contracts to build the New Court House; the Post Office on View Street which is now part of the Sandhurst Trustees building;, along with other public building contracts.

Before moving to Australia John married Mary Jane Adamson, in 1847,  at Monk Wearmouth, Sunderland. Two known children were born in England and another 4 in Sandhurst. Sadly, John never got the opportunity to enjoy his young family. He passed away from a lung disease on the 7th August 1858.

John was interred in the Church of England Section D4, grave 70, at the Bendigo Cemetery. A year after his death his daughter Charlotte passed away, and she was interred with her father. John is in an unmarked grave, which is unfortunate given the role he played in the early development of Bendigo. He will always be remembered as one of our great pioneers.


THE LATE MR. SNOWBALL. – We regret to have to announce the death of Mr. Snowball, who has been for a length of time on Bendigo as a contractor and builder, the New Court House, the Post Office, and other public buildings having been erected by himself and partners.  His remains were interred in the Back Creek Cemetery on Sunday last, an immense number of followers testifying by their presence the respect and esteem in which his memory was held.  Mr. Snowball, who had for some time been suffering from a disease of the lungs which finally carried him off, was highly respected among his numerous friends and acquaintances, as the attendance at his funeral sufficiently testified.  The hearse was followed by a most numerous and respectable cavalcade, both on horseback and on foot, the coffin being borne by pedestrians behind the hearse until it gained the outskirts of the town.  Immediately before the procession started a solemn and appropriate hymn was sung.  So numerous were the friends of the departed in attendance that the train seemed actually interminable, though the greatest decorum prevailed throughout.  We hear that the masons and others whom Mr. Snowball employed intend subscribing an amount sufficient to erect a handsome monument to his memory.

Bendigo Advertiser, Tuesday 10 August 1858, page 3.

(Research – Greta Balsillie and Jodi Fuller)