16. Lionel Samson (1799-1878), wine and spirit merchant
Lionel Samson arrived in Fremantle with his younger brother, William, only two months after the arrival of the first white settlers. The Samson brothers unpacked their ample merchandise and Lionel set up a shop on the beach near Arthur Head and went into business as a wine and spirit merchant, importer and auctioneer. The following year the brothers bought a stone cottage in Cliff Street as a residence.
Lionel was appointed postmaster, but this was not a lucrative appointment. However, the Samson brothers had wealthy financial connections and were able to wait out the difficult early years. Meanwhile, they set up a second shop.
Lionel quickly earned a high standing in the fledgling community and was appointed to the board of the Bank of Western Australia in 1837. He was 42 when he sailed for England in 1842 and married his cousin Frances (Fanny) Levi, 19. She was connected to the Rothschilds, and for ten years was the only Jewish woman in the colony. They had six children.
William left the colony around this time. Lionel became the first Jewish person to sit in an Australian legislative chamber and served two terms in the WA Legislative Council. To the present day, Lionel Samson’s company has remained in the hands of direct descendants making Lionel Samson & Son the oldest continuing family business in Australia. The Samson family has produced three mayors of Fremantle, and has a suburb east of Fremantle (Samson), a town in the Pilbara (Point Samson) and a number of streets around the Perth metropolitan area named in their honour.