Passing of the Pioneers

The stories of the Western District pioneers continue with June Passing of the Pioneers.  Pioneer obituaries come from a woman who was the first European woman at Colac, a man who survived a ship wreck of Tasmania, and a Reverend who started his career as a journalist for the London Times. Look out for the July obituaries when Passing of the Pioneers celebrates a birthday.

Nicholas COLE: Died 22 June 1879 at Darlington. Born in England and heir to an estate in Plymouth, Nicholas Cole decided to try his luck in Australia and arrived in Sydney in 1839. During his voyage, he met another man Peter McArthur and together they sailed on from Sydney to Geelong. They became partners and took up the West Cloven Hills and Menningort runs at Darlington. Those early pioneers faced many hardships including the Black Thursday fires in 1851. Nicholas ran Merino sheep and built up a herd that produced high yields of good quality wool. More information about Nicholas, thought to be a descendant of “Old King Cole” the subject of the nursery rhyme of the same name, is at the following links –    http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article145242490    http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article29098160   www.stanbury.com.au/history1.htm

Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria

SHEARING SHED, WEST CLOVEN HILLS (1987) Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria J.T. Collins Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection. Image no. H95.200/65 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/217139

Elizabeth YOUNG: Died 11 June 1892 at Barongarook. Jean Young was born in Scotland in 1823 and as a girl sailed to Tasmania with her parents and her father worked as a solicitor in Hobart. In 1841, she married Hugh Murray. They moved to Geelong and Hugh, considered the founder of Colac, moved to that area, before Jean and her young son joined them, becoming the first European woman in the district.  She raised a family of fourteen children and endured the many hardships faced by early pioneer women in Victoria. Among other things, Jean and Hugh were founding members of the Colac Presbyterian church and Jean remained a pillar of the church during her life. Hugh passed away twenty-three years before Elizabeth in 1869.

George COXON: Died 20 June 1892 at Portland. George Coxon was born and married in England and in 1857 he and his family, including seven children, travelled to Victoria. After a short time on the Victorian goldfields, he took up farming pursuits in the Casterton district.  In his later years, he moved to Portland where he passed away.  A profile of George and his family his available on the SW Pioneers website –    http://www.swvic.org/sandford/coxon_george.htm

Lawrence McKENNA: Died June 1914 at Curlew Hill.  Lawrence McKenna was born around 1830 in Ireland and travelled to Adelaide around 1861. The South Australian explorer John Stuart was about to leave on a government funded expedition to cross the continent and Lawrence joined his party. Stuart eventually abandoned his attempt. After ten years on the goldfields of Victoria and New Zealand, Lawrence gained work at Woodhouse near Dunkeld in 1872. He took a trip back to Ireland in 1874 then returned to Dunkeld to marry Elizabeth Irwin and they settled at nearby Curlew Hill.  In 1900, he was badly burnt while trying to protect his property during bushfires and never fully recovered.

Sophia GERDTZ: Died 5 June 1914 at Hamilton. Sophia Gerdtz was born in Germany around 1831 and arrived in Melbourne during the early 1850s. Her family travelled to Hamilton, where few buildings stood. She first married Robert Thomson at Lyne Station in 1852 but was left a widow during the 1860s. She then married storekeeper Cavendish Neville.  Again widowed, she spent the last years of her life living with her son at Pierrepoint, just out of Hamilton.

 Bridget McNAMARA: Died 19 June 1914 at Tower Hill.  Born in Ireland around 1843, Bridget McNamara arrived with her parents to Port Fairy in 1852 and they settled near Farnham and later Dennington. In 1866 at Warrnambool, Bridget married Hugh Reilly, afterwards settling at Southern Cross were they lived for the rest of their lives.

THE Roroit Sentine[?] AND Tower Hill Advocate. (1914, June 27). Koroit Sentinel and Tower Hill Advocate (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 2. Retrieved July 1, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119554315

THE Roroit Sentine[?] AND Tower Hill Advocate. (1914, June 27). Koroit Sentinel and Tower Hill Advocate (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 2. Retrieved July 1, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119554315

Reverend George Duke LEE: Died June 1915 at Hamilton. Born in Derbyshire, England around 1830, George Lee first worked as a reporter for the London Times in America. After briefly returning to England he sailed to Victoria aboard the Blue Jacket in 1853 and made for the Ballarat goldfields. He worked as a teacher but left after medical advice as his eye sight was failing. Instead, he went on a lecture tour for the Sons of Temperance Friendly Society through the Western District. While visiting Chetwynd he became interested in the teachings of the Presbyterian church and entered the Ministry. He was sent to the St. Johns Presbyterian Church at Cavendish where he remained for thirty years.

Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria

ST JOHNS PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, CAVENDISH (1974). Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria J.T. Collins Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection. Image no. H94.200/605 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/217138

When George retired around nine years before his death, he moved to Hamilton.

William ALFORD: Died June 1916 at Ellerslie. William Alford was born in England around 1831 and twenty-one years later he travelled to Australia. He was a steward on the ship he sailed aboard which wrecked off the Tasmanian coast. William and other passengers were able to reach shore on a dingy and they walked to Hobart without shoes. William then travelled to the goldfields of Victoria, working as a driver with the gold escort out of Ballarat and later driving the mail coach between Ballarat and Geelong. He moved to Ellerslie in the mid-1860s and he remained there for the remainder of his life. William was a caretaker of the local Mechanics Institute and was involved with the Ellerslie Football Club.

James WORLAND: Died 18 June 1916 at Warrnambool. James Worland was born in Melbourn, Cambridgeshire around 1851 and arrived in Port Fairy two years later with his parents and they settled in the Warrnambool district. When working age, James took a job at a tannery and later purchased his own tannery. William also took up many roles in the community including warden of the Christ Church and a founding member of the local branch of the Society of St. George. At the time of his death, he left a widow and nine children.

William DAVIDSON: – Died June 1917 at Woolsthorp.  Born at Aberdeen, Scotland, William Davidson arrived at Port Fairy in 1855. He first took up labouring at Minjah, a property near Hawkesdale before opening a store at Woolsthorpe. He later  then turned to dairy-farming.  William was known as “The Chaffer” around Woolsthorpe because he enjoyed having a tease.  A widower at the time of his death, William had twelve surviving children.

Passing of the Pioneers – A Year On

PASSING OF THE PIONEERS. (1927, November 14). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 3 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved July 21, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64259147

On July 22, 2011, I posted the first Passing of the Pioneers and 12 months on I am preparing to post the 13th edition.

There are now over 180 links to Western Victorian pioneer obituaries at Western District Families and the 13th edition will see the total go over 200.

Reading all those obituaries has been a privilege and has taken me on a wonderful journey, not only through the history of the Western District, but to place such as game parks in Africa and the silver mines of South America.  The lives I have glimpsed into range from that of gentry to general hand, but all have shared in making Western Victoria the place it is today.

Some of the pioneers were born during the early days of Victoria,  while others dared their lives aboard immigrant ships in the hope of a better life.  Many travelled from the ports to the Western District by bullock wagon on rough tracks, while enduring unfamiliar conditions.  They built houses on land that would one day see towns such as Penshurst, Hamilton and Balmoral grow around them.

The women from the pioneering era deserve recognition.   Some were alone among men, left to bear and raise children and turn their canvas tents or slab huts into homes.  Many endured loneliness, but as towns grew some became involved with community activities such as the church.   Despite their hardships, many of these women’s obituaries noted that even in old age they would reminisce about those times.

Obituaries came after the pioneer “crossed the Great Divide”, penned by someone who too had heard the stories but may not have had all the facts.  That is my warning to you while you read obituaries and in the July 2012 Passing of the Pioneers I will show this with an obituary from my family.

Having said that,  it is the snippets of information within them that make obituaries a worthwhile family history resource.  Names of children and their married names, places of residence, occupations and immigration details are just some of those snippets which you can then test against the relevant records.

Many of the obituaries I have read have moved me, inspired me and led me to further research.   I have listed just some of those, not so much for the achievements of the subject but the stories they tell.  Click on the pioneer’s name to go to their original newspaper obituary or the date to go to the Passing of the Pioneers post where the obituary appeared:

Frederick William BILSTON (August 2011)

Mrs Agnes CHEQUER (November 2011)

Thomas Denton CLARKE (October 2011)

Elizabeth COLE (March 2012)

James DAWSON (April 2012)

Alfred Irvine HOGAN (February 2012)

KITTSON family – James (May 2012), James Trotter (December 2011),  Rebecca (January 2012),  Susannah (June 2012) and Mrs Margaret Kittson (May 2012)

MALSEED family – Fanny Ann (February 2012),  Robert J. (May 2012) ,  Mrs E.A. MALSEED (August 2011) and Mary HEDDITCH  (Mrs James MALSEED) (July 2011)

Finlay McPherson PATON (September 2011)

Joseph Bell PEARSON (July 2011)

Passing of the Pioneers

I enjoy finding stories of pioneer women, as they give me some idea of the lives lived by my own pioneering female ancestors.  March Passing of the Pioneers introduces a plucky pioneer, Elizabeth Cole.  Elizabeth and another pioneer, Annie Alexander both made their mark in roles not traditionally considered the domain of women. Among the passing gentleman, I enjoyed the story of John McClounan, a well-travelled pioneer.

Mr John Lang CURRIE: Died 11 March 1898 at St Kilda. John Currie was a Western District pastoralist. He was born in Selkirkshire, Scotland in 1818 and came to Australia in the 1840s and purchased Larra Estate near Camperdown in 1844.  He later bought Tintanga and Gala Estates. He bred merino sheep known for the high quality of their wool.  For more information, his biography is on the Australian Directory of Biography site.

THE PASSING OF THE PIONEERS. (1898, March 12). Camperdown Chronicle (Vic. : 1877 – 1954), p. 3. Retrieved March 23, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64999757

John McCLOUNAN: Died 2 March 1902 at Green Lake. John McClounan was born in Scotland in 1832 but left when he was twenty-one.  But not straight to Australia.  He first travelled to America where he spent seven years and then on to New Zealand for around six years.  He and his brother, his travelling companion, then moved to the goldfields of N.S.W. and then to Victoria and Deep Lead near Stawell.  They gave up on mining and moved to Green Lake to farm.  It was on this property John died, forty years later.  He was unmarried.

Isabella SPALDING:  Died March 1907 at Warrnambool. Isabella Spalding was “another pioneer “Mother of Israel”” lost to the Western District.  Aged ninety-one, her husband, James Davidson had died forty-six years before and according to the obituary, she “trained up five sons and four daughters to man and womanhood”

John Henry OLIVER:  Died 23 March 1909 at Horsham. John Oliver was the brother-in-law of Jonathon and Reuben Harman. The obituary states John arrived in Melbourne with his family in 1848. It was in fact 1849 aboard the Courier.  John had spent time around Byaduk where his family settled, however, he bought land at Sailors Home near Dimboola in the early 1870s.  After a stroke, John did return to Byaduk trying to regain his health, but he eventually returned to the Wimmera to live out his last months.

William Snaith WARD: Died 14 March 1913 at Ballarat. On arrival at Geelong in 1857, William Ward headed straight for the goldfields of Ballarat. He mined the “Hit and Miss” shaft at Creswick before taking time of mining to run the coach on the Ballarat-Buninyong Road. The lure of gold was too great and he headed to the goldfields of N.S.W. and one time drilled for coal in Gippsland.

Margaret CAMPBELL: Died 10 March 1914 at Casterton. Margaret arrived at Portland with her parents in 1855 after sailing aboard the Athletae.  She married Donald Ross in 1857 when she was around twenty-six.  They moved to Hamilton, then Sandford before settling in Casterton on the corner of Jackson and Clarkes Street in the house both Margaret and Donald died about fifty years later.

James FERGUSON: Died March 1914 at Beulah. Scottish born James was one of the early settlers at Beulah and was known around the town as “The Laird”. He was one of the first representatives of the newly formed Karkarooc Shire in 1896.  In 1908, he travelled to England and visited the place of his birth in Scotland.

Dugald MAIN:  Died 9 March 1916 at Ballarat. Dugald arrived in Geelong aboard the Star of the East in 1854 and then settled in Ballarat.  He was a builder by trade and sat on the committee of the Ballarat Orphan Asylum.

Alexander McKAY:  March 1919 at Carlton. Alexander, formerly of Mortlake, was a Scot through and through and was a keen participant in Highland games throughout the district. He was an excellent player of the pipes and excelled at the heavy lifting events of the games, such as the caber toss.

Edmond DWYER:  Died 14 March 1930 at Condah. Edmond at ninety-two was the last of the pioneers to arrive on the General Hewitt in 1856. He initially went in search of gold near Beaufort at the Fiery Creek diggings, before turning to road contracting at Portland. He worked the road from Portland to Hamilton for many years.

Mary McDONALD:  Died 4 March 1932 at Hotspur. Mary McDonald was a very old pioneer when she passed away in 1932.  She was born in the Isle of Skye in 1838 and was a teenager when she arrived at Portland with her parents in 1853 aboard the New Zealand.  She married Archibald McLean in 1862 and they settled at Hotspur and raised eight children.

Mary Jane JONES:  Died March 1932 at Portland. Mary Jane Jones was born in Portland in 1859.  She first married a Mr Jennings and they had two sons before she married Alfred Fredericks.  They had a further six children.

Martha RIGBY:  Died 11 March 1934 at Hamilton. Born in Lancashire, Mrs Jackson arrived at Portland with her parents, John and Sarah Rigby, in 1859. They settled at Heywood where she married John Jackson.  They later moved to Hamilton.  Mrs Jackson left a large family of ten children, thirty-two grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren (this was reported as seven great-great-grandchildren, so they either forgot the great-grandchildren or it was meant to read great-grandchildren).

Emma HOLMES:  Died March 1935 at Drik Drik.  Emma was a knitter.  She knitted during the Great War for the troops and later for the Methodist Babies Home at South Yarra.  Emma arrived at Portland as a seven-year-old in 1852.  She married William Mullins and they settled at Drik Drik, with Emma considered to be the first white woman to settle there.  Surely a tough time for a new bride.

Annie Gray ALEXANDER: Died 14  March 1937 at Toorak.  Annie Alexander was born near Beechworth around 1861.  She married Henry William Witton in the early 1880s.  They took up residence at Dimboola in the 1890s.  After Henry’s death, Annie did something a little different to some of the pioneer women I have written of before. She published the Dimboola Banner newspaper until 1918.

Maria Jane TAYLOR:  Died 20 March 1939 at Portland. Maria Taylor was an active member of the Myamyn community even up until months before her death at aged ninety.  She was born at South Portland and later married John Treloar at Myamyn where they lived out their lives.  Mrs Treloar had a large family of thirteen, eight of whom were still living at the time of her death.

Elizabeth COLE: Died March 1942 at Bostocks Creek. What a great pioneer Elizabeth Cole was. Born at Poplar, London in 1845, she came to Australia with her parents in the early 1850s.  She married Alexander Dalziel at Lethbridge in 1862.  At the time of her death, Elizabeth and Alexander had 120 descendants including sixty-five great-grandchildren.  What got me about Elizabeth was she was that she had been a bullock driver and one with great skill.  She also had memories of Eureka, could recall Lethbridge as a canvas town and the slab huts of Port Fairy and considered kangaroo a delicacy.  In her later years, she enjoyed listening to that modern contraption, the wireless.

PIONEER DIES IN 97th YEAR. (1942, March 17). Camperdown Chronicle (Vic. : 1877 – 1954), p. 3. Retrieved March 23, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article26091631

Mary MURRAY:  Died 17 March 1944 at Hamilton. Mary’s father was an overseer for Edward Henty at Muntham where she was born.  At the time, she was the first white child born at Muntham.  At some time, she married Mr Hallam and had many great pioneering stories.

Jean EDGAR:  Died March 1947 at Harrow. Jean was another wonderful pioneer who had been in Victoria for ninety years.  She arrived aboard the Severn which carried another great pioneer, the thoroughbred King Alfred, one of Australia’s early champion sires.

OBITUARY. (1947, March 13). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 4 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved March 23, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64410609

In 1874 she married into the pioneering Minogue family at Harrow where she lived for the rest of her life.