Passing of the Pioneers

After nearly two years of Passing of the Pioneers, I am beginning to have to dig a little deeper for pioneer obituaries but I have managed to find an interesting group for January. There are members of the Black, Herbertson and Guthridge families.  Also a butcher, a baker and a newspaper maker. Then Sarah Jane Wadmore, an early Portland historian, and Mary Ann Skilbeck, a member of a family that left a legacy of value to historians today.

Don’t despair, there will still be more Passing of the Pioneers and if the Hamilton Spectator ever finds its way to Trove, well, my life will be complete.

Thomas Edwin THOMAS: Died 21 January 1909 at Casterton. Thomas Thomas was the owner of the Casterton Free Press and a former owner of the Port Fairy Gazette and was well-known for his journalism.

Mary FERGUSON:  Died 24 January 1910 at Casterton. Arriving at Portland in 1861, the Dewars headed to Heathfield Station near Strathdownie where they were both employed. Later they moved to Casterton until their deaths. Mary had nine children and lived to eighty-four years.

Archibald BLACK:  Died 20 January 1912 at Camperdown. Son of Western Victorian pastoralist, Niel Black MLC, Archibald was born in South Yarra and educated at Geelong Grammar, Trinity College and Cambridge. He then settled in the Western District and was one of the first landholders in the Hampden area to recognise the potential for dairy-farming, an industry the area is today renowned for. His obituary and photo can also be found at Obituaries Australia

Thomas MORRISSY:  Died January 1914 at Beeac. Tipperary born, Thomas Morrissey arrived in Victoria around 1860 and farmed around Ballarat.  After two years, he moved to Beeac where he farmed for the next fifty-two years.  He was a member of the Colac P & A Society and took a keen interest in the affairs of the Colac Dairying Company.

Mary GREENHAM: Died 5 January 1915 at Casterton. Mary Greenham was born in Middlesex in 1833 and arrived in Victoria in 1854. She was a Casterton resident from 1855 to 1875, then Corndale for the next thirty-five years before returning to Casterton in the years before her death. With her husband George Sealey, they had a family of nine sons.  One son lost his life during the Boer War. She left fifty grandchildren and twelve great-grandchildren.

Patrick  KINNANE: Died 9 January 1915 at Port Fairy. A Koroit resident for many years, Patrick Kinnane was born in Limerick, Ireland around 1827.  He arrived in Portland about 1854 and worked for the Koroit Borough Council.  He had a large family of four sons and five daughters and was buried at the Tower Hill cemetery.

Mary Ann SKILBECK: Died 22 January 1915 at Port Fairy. Back in the 1990s, I read The Diaries of Sarah Midgley and Richard Skilbeck: A Story of Australian settlers 1851-1864, edited by H.A. McCorkell.  It has a lot about Port Fairy and the Wesleyan Methodist Church, both relevant to the Harman family.  Mary Ann was a sister of Richard Skilbeck, and she married William Midgley, the brother of the other diarist, Sarah Midgley. This was a great read, giving an insight into pioneering life in the south-west of Victoria. Finding Mary Ann’s obituary has reminded me I must read it again. It is available online via the Midgley family website, but I think I’ll wait until I get the hard copy from the library.  The website does have a lot about both the Midgley’s and Skilbecks for those interested.

Agnes Jane TODD: Died 5 January 1917 at Casterton. Agnes Todd married Herbert Lewin in 1882.

Obituary. (1917, January 8). The Casterton News and the Merino and Sandford Record (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 3 Edition: Bi-Weekly. Retrieved January 26, 2013, from

Obituary. (1917, January 8). The Casterton News and the Merino and Sandford Record (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 3 Edition: Bi-Weekly. Retrieved January 26, 2013, from

John TOOGOOD: Died 18 January 1917 at Hawkesdale. John Toogood was born at Princess Bridge, Melbourne in 1840.  He married, for the first time, at Richmond in 1862 and he moved to Port Fairy in 1864. He then moved to Winslow near Warrnambool where his wife died. On to Hawkesdale where he ran a carrying and contracting business for some years before he turned to farming pursuits. He married a further two times, but both wives predeceased him.

Phillip ORMSBY:  Died 12 January 1918 at Ellerslie.

PERSONAL. (1918, January 17). Warrnambool Standard (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 3 Edition: DAILY.. Retrieved January 26, 2013, from

PERSONAL. (1918, January 17). Warrnambool Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 3 Edition: DAILY.. Retrieved January 26, 2013, from

Phillip Ormsby was born in Dublin and enrolled in the Dublin University to study medicine. His sense of adventure saw him leave his studies and sail to Melbourne on the large clipper, Champion of the Seas  in 1854. He got his land legs in Geelong, then he went on to the goldfields at Ballarat for three years, farmed at nearby Learmonth and then purchased land on the banks of the Hopkins River near Ellerslie in 1865.

Like, Archibald Black (above), Phillip was remembered as one of the first to see the potential for dairy-farming in the area.  He was one of the co-founders of the Western District Co-Operative Factories Company and served on the Mortlake Shire Council with two years as President. He was also secretary of the Mortlake Cemetery Trust.

Phillip married Jenny McKellar and they had four sons and seven daughters. Phillip died with the knowledge that is son was killed in France only months before.

Jane ARMSTRONG: Died 29 January 1920 at Hamilton. Jane Heaney was one of Condah district’s oldest residents. She arrived from Ireland with her husband, Robert Heaney in 1856 aboard the General Hewitt. After ten years at Heywood, the Heaney’s moved on to Condah Swamp, later known as Wallacedale.

Donald McINNES: Died 9 January 1924 at Warrnambool. Donald arrived on HMS Hercules after a horrendous voyage.  His first job in Victoria was at the Kangaroo station near Hotspur owned by the McKinnon brothers, uncles of Donald. He never married.

Thomas HERBERTSON: Died 17 January 1932 at Portland. The Herbertson family have a long association with Portland.  Thomas was the son of Robert Herbertson an 1840s arrival at Portland. Thomas was eighty-one at the time of his death and during his years in Portland worked as a saddler, then owned a saddlery business, before purchasing Wattle Hill, where he farmed and ran a successful orchard with his sons. He married Jenny Miller of Portland and they had a family of five children.

Frederick GUTHRIDGE: Died 16 January 1933 at Ullswater. Frederick Guthridge was a member of a large family well-known for their longevity. They featured in this week’s Trove Tuesday post for that reason. Frederick was the son of Richard Guthridge and Elizabeth Pitts. He married Alice Byrne and they had four sons and four daughters. Frederick also left eight brothers and sisters and a ninety-five year-old father.

Joseph JACKSON: Died 16 January 1940 at Camperdown. Joseph Jackson was a native of Armagh County and spent most of his years in Victoria at Camperdown.  A butcher by trade, he ran a successful business for nearly forty years.  He was a committee member of the Camperdown Mechanics Institute and the Camperdown Turf Club.  He was the longest-serving member of the Camperdown Bowling Club and had success locally and in Melbourne.

Sarah  Jane  WADMORE: Died 1 January 1941 at Portland. Sarah Wadmore was a woman after my own heart.

OBITUARY. (1941, January 6). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 1 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved January 28, 2013, from

OBITUARY. (1941, January 6). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 1 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved January 28, 2013, from

Sarah had a great interest in the history of Portland and with the approaching centenary of the town in 1934, she and two other local’s, Mrs W.F. Hedditch and Mr E. Davis of the Portland Observer produced a booklet entitled Portland Pioneer Women’s Book of Remembrance for the event.  She was also the main force behind the Pioneer Women’s statue at Portland.  Sarah’s obituary gives a detailed history of her life, including the loss of her father, a Cape Bridgewater pioneer, swept off the rocks when Sarah was only one month old.  Sarah was a school teacher and never married.

John Charles HAUGH:  Died 12 January 1943 at Geelong. John Haugh was born at Bri Bri around 1866.  In his early life, he went to Stoneyford, beginning work as a baker. He later worked for Camperdown baker, Mr G.Robertson. John was an original member of the Camperdown Brass Band and performed in local theatrical productions.  He was a gate-keeper at the Camperdown Football oval for many years.


Passing of the Pioneers

September’s Passing of the Pioneers brings the opportunity to post the obituary of Henry Annett of Wallacedale.  It shows how much information you can find out about a person from their obituary if you are lucky. Of course, any information found is purely a lead to primary sources.

After sixteen Passing of the Pioneers, there is now a large collection of Western District pioneer’s names. If you would like to see the full list of pioneer obituaries, follow the link – PIONEER OBITUARIES

Thomas BENNETT: Died 25 September 1889 at Portland.  Thomas Bennett was born in Derbyshire, England and arrived at Portland in 1854, taking on a job as a merchant tailor.  He enjoyed cricket, racing, athletics and hunting as both a participant and spectator.  Thomas married after arriving in Portland and he and his wife raised 10 children. His wife died of stroke some years before and Thomas raised the children, with only four having reached their teens by the time of his death.

Richard BLOOMFIELD: Died 16 September 1901 at Hamilton.  Richard Bloomfield arrived in Australia, first to Tasmania in 1842 and later to Victoria. He joined the Police Force with his first station at Hamilton as chief constable. In his later years, Richard turned to farming and was seventy-nine at the time of his death.

John RIORDAN: Died 27 September 1905 at Portland. Before arriving in Portland, just prior to the turn of the century, John Riordan spent time in Ballarat, Creswick and Ararat running businesses.  In Portland, he owned the London Hotel and served a period on the Portland Council.

The former London Hotel, Portland

Frederick BUCKNALL: Died September 1908  at Dartmoor. In his early days in Portland, Frederick Bucknall believed wattle trees could be commercially grown. He purchased land at Dartmoor and planted his wattles, but blight and fires made his venture difficult.  He went to the goldfields of Western Australia, where he had worked before. He returned to Dartmoor, a lot more financially secure and continued his Wattle plantation, with more success than his first attempt.

Thomas DONOHOE:  Died 26 September 1908 at Narrawong. Thomas Donohoe of Narrawong was a cabinet maker of much renown, a farmer and an administrator. He had a great political knowledge and for a time was the Narrawong correspondent for the Portland Guardian.

Thomas Richard OLIVER:  Died 21 September 1910 at Horsham. Thomas Oliver was a brother-in-law of Reuben and Jonathan Harman. Born in Cornwall in 1848, he arrived at Melbourne with his parents John Henry Oliver and Ann Richards and five older brothers and sisters. Thomas worked in the carrying business around Port Fairy before moving to Kalkee in the Wimmera in 1874. In 1876, he married Margaret Luxton, daughter of William Luxton.  Around the early 1890s, Thomas and Margaret moved into Horsham where Thomas opened a grocery business on Church Hill.

Sarah CLARK Died September 10, 1915 at Ararat.  Sarah Clark was born in Hertfordshire, England and came to Victoria with her parents as a small child.  Her father, Leonard Clark took up a position as gardener at the Burrumbeep Estate at Maroona.  Sarah married John Basham in 1866 and they had 13 children.  Nine children were still alive at the time of Sarah’s death.

Alfred BYRON: Died 28 September 1916 at Denicull Creek. There is no chance Alfred Byron, born at Ashton-Under-Tyne, Lancashire, England remembers his voyage to Australia as he was only ten days old when the ship sailed. Alfred’s parents settled at Port Fairy, but as a young man he headed off to the goldfields before settling at Denicull Creek, near Ararat.  Farming became his new pursuit. He married and raised a family of six children.

Thomas POLLAND Died 16 September 1917 at Moyston. Born in County Down, Ireland in 1924, Thomas Polland arrived in Victoria in 1853, making his way to the Ballarat goldfields. Present at the time of the Eureka uprising, Thomas enjoyed recounting the stories of the time. He eventually headed to Moyston and for a time worked carting timber from the Grampians, before purchasing land to farm.  is wife passed away around 1904 and Thomas left five of his eight children when he passed away.

Margaret THOMPSON:  Died 2 September 1919 at Horsham. Margaret Thompson was born in Melbourne around 1870, the daughter of Mr W. Thompson and Mrs Bedwell.  Her parents settled at Wonwondah and she lived there until she was seventeen.  Margaret’s mother remarried at this time and Margaret selected land at Telangatuk.  After three years, she married Herman A. Rokesky of Clear Lake.  They moved all over the district in the following years before Margaret and Herman settled in Horsham until the time of Margaret’s death.

Henry ANNETT:  Died 29 September 1927 at Wallacedale.  In the November 2011 Passing of the Pioneers, I promised I would post Henry Annett’s obituary in September 2012 and here we are.  At the time, I had posted Henry’s wife’s obituary, that of Sarah Millard.  I mentioned then that the story of Henry’s life one of the best of I had read in the form of an obituary.  I have read many more obituaries since that time, and I still think Henry’s is right up there.

Henry Annett was born in Sevenoaks, Kent, England on July 5, 1845. Seven years later he sailed to Portland with his parents aboard the Pryam and Henry’s father joined the police force. Their first home was a Government issued bell tent.  After four years in Portland, Mr Annett snr transferred to Port Fairy where Henry took up butchering.  Preferring the outdoors, Henry became a carrier taking goods to the Ararat diggings and to Dunkeld with materials for the first school.  At around seventeen, Henry travelled to New Zealand where he walked 10 days from Christchurch over mountains and rivers to reach the newest of the gold diggings in the country, but like many others, he left empty handed.

After returning to Victoria in 1866, Henry married Sarah Millard of Narrawong but Henry still could not settle down.

THE PIONEERS PASS BY. (1927, October 6). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 3 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved September 24, 2012, from

Eventually he did settle taking an interest in community affairs and  he earned the name the “father of Wallacedale”

Henry and Sarah had thirteen children, eleven boys and two girls.  Three boys had predeceased Henry.  He also had forty-eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. He was buried at the Conday cememtery.

Robert HICKLETON:  Died 14 September 1932 at Koroit. Robert Hickleton arrived in Portland with his parents in 1852.  They had sailed aboard the Old Ellen.  Robert’s first job was a compositor with the Portland Guardian.  Over the following years, he worked for the Warrnambool Standard, the Portland Mirror, the Hamilton Spectator and the Port Fairy Gazette, where he spent twenty-nine years.  In his early years, he was a keen athlete and cricketer and later he was a successful lawn bowler.

Sarah HERBERTSON:  Died September 1932 at Portland. Sarah Herbertson was born in Portland in 1844.  She married Joseph Henry Porter and they lived in Portland during their married life, with Joseph passing away in 1931. They had no children.  Sarah’s obituary mentions she was “deeply attached to her home”.  A model, built by Joseph and Sarah, of that home in Gawler Street is now on display at Portland’s History House, testimony to her attachment.  Sarah’s obituary gives her maiden name as Henderson.

Model of the home of Joseph and Sarah Porter

Emma GRIFFITHS:  Died September 1936 at Irrewillipe.  Emma Griffiths was 100 years old when she died after spending eighty-five years in Victoria.  Emma was just a girl when her and her mother arrived in Sydney aboard the Avocalle, on which Emma’s mother was a matron caring for the female passengers.  Later they went on to Melbourne, Geelong and then Buninyong where she married Mr Nicholan. They had three children at Buninyong before moving to Irrewillipe, near Colac around the late 1850s.  Emma had fourteen children and when she died she had sixty-two grandchildren and over thirty great-grandchildren.

Clara Quick GEOMAN:  Died 24 September 1941 at Hamilton. Clara was born at Yambuk in 1859 and in 1884 married Francis Hollard at Portland. They moved to Wallacedale, being among the earliest settlers there. Clara appears to have had a link to Henry Annett as her daughter Ethel married Edward Annett.  Clara had five other children alive at the time of her death.