In the 1860s, the decline of mining in Cornwall left many miners unemployed. Many Cornishmen migrated to Moonta in South Australia where the newly-opened copper mines were booming and work was plentiful. Amongst these were 17 years old Joseph Towan Nancarrow his parents, six siblings, aunty and two young cousins, who migrated to South Australia on the City of Adelaide in 1873. Once in South Australia, Joseph and his father and brothers resumed work as miners where they found reasonably continuous work at the Yelta Copper Mine.
In 1879, Joseph built his own house and married Elizabeth Nicholls. Joseph and Elizabeth had seven children between 1880 and 1892, losing one of them at a few weeks of age. On 3rd May 1894, 39 years old Elizabeth died at her home while giving birth to her eighth child, a daughter who survived only for another three weeks. The following year Joseph Towan, 39, a widower with six children, remarried a widow with five young children of her own - Mrs Esther Potter, 30. Joseph and Esther had five more children of their own, but three died before their first birthday, and only two sons lived to adulthood.
Joseph Towan Nancarrow was a typical Cornishman or "Cousin Jack", and spoke with the rich accent of one. He was short of stature, ginger haired, with the palest of pale blue eyes, and was very witty. For a trade he knew only mining, although in his later years when work was short, he did supplement his income for short periods as a fisherman, the other age-old tradition of the Cornish.