James Dalton rose from poverty in Ireland to become one of the leading merchants in NSW.
Born in Duntryleague, Limerick, in 1834, James was the youngest son of James and Ellen Dalton. Soon after his son’s birth James Senior was sentenced to seven years transportation for his involvement in an abduction. He arrived in Sydney in 1835 and obtained his ticket-of-leave in 1842. By 1848 he had opened a small store at Summerhill. Fifteen-year-old James Junior joined him there in 1849, and helped to run the store.
By 1853 James Junior had erected and opened his own store in Orange. In 1858 he was joined by his brother Thomas with whom went into partnership, creating Dalton Bros. That same year James married Margaret Mary Collins, with whom he had 12 children.
In 1857 James offered to help displaced miners by promising to build a mill if they grew wheat. The mill was built in 1861. In 1865 Dalton Bros opened their impressive retail store in Summer Street. The firm’s business continued to expand and soon became the largest wholesale distributor west of the Blue Mountains.
Dalton Bros continued to flourish and in 1876 James built Duntryleague. Several stores, warehouses, an importing agency and wharf were built in Sydney. In 1878 James bought Ammerdown, and later, Kangaroobie.
Dalton was an active townsman, a member of the Orange Municipal Council and Mayor of Orange in 1869.
James received a papal knighthood in 1877. He died at Duntryleague on 17 March 1919, aged 85. His estate was worth £73,000.