William Paxton arrived in the colony of South Australia in 1840 at the age of 22 and set up a business in Hindley Street as a chemist and druggist. In 1843 he married Mary Ann Cowper. Seven children were born to the Paxtons in the twelve years they remained in South Australia.
William Paxton was energetic, and ambitious and successful. He was present at the formation of the South Australian Mining Association in April 1845, subscribing 140 pounds ($280) for the purchase of 28 shares. The value of each 5 pounds ($10) share reached 225 pounds ($450) by 1851 and was returning 200% quarterly (800% per annum)
With the discovery of copper near the Burra Creek and the purchase of the Burra Special Survey in August 1845, Paxton increased his holding and became a Director of the Mining Association. He invested some of his new found wealth in the mining townshop of Kooringa, building and leasing its first hotels and the Paxton Square cottages.
In 1846 he began building a residence for himself, designed by George Kingston, on North Terrace, Adelaide. The residence was later acquired by Henry Ayers, Secretary of the South Australian Mining Association. Ayers added two substantial wings to the original residence. Today this fine mansion on North Terrace is known as Ayers House Restaurant and includes Paxton’s Restaurant. It is owned by the State Government.
Paxton and his family left South Australia in July 1855. by that time he was the possessor of considerable property, including pastoral holdings in South Australia. He also owned four hotels in Burra – The Burra Burra Hotel (now demolished), The Miners Arms (now the Burra Hotel), The Pig and Whistle (demolished) and The Smelters Arms (Opie’s Flats).
Paxton was a member of the first Municipal Corporation of the City of Adelaide. In 1851 he was invited by the residents of Burra to nominate for a seat in the new Legislative Assembly but declined, although in 1853 he contested – unsuccessfully – the seat of Port Adelaide.
William Paxton died at his residence at Palmeira Square, Brighton, England, on September 1st 1893 in his 75th year, leaving a wife, three sons and two daughters.