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

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

If some of the pioneers from May Passing of the Pioneers could be gathered in one room, the stories would be flowing.  Many of them enjoyed telling stories from the past and had great recollections of the early days. Subjects would include Queen Victoria, the Henty brothers, the Eureka Stockade, lands sales and gold. I’m sure they would have all agreed with  fellow pioneer John Waters’ philosophy to “paddle your own canoe”.

Agnes PATERSON: Died 29 May 1901 at Portland. Agnes was the was the daughter of a Tasmanian solicitor, Alex Paterson.  She married John Norman McLEOD and they first arrived in the Portland district around 1850. John built Maretimo before purchasing Castlemaddie, a property at Tyrendarra. Between 1851 and 1856, John McLeod was the MLA for Portland.  Agnes was seventy-five at the time of her death and left three sons.

MARETIMO.  Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.  Image no. H31761

MARETIMO. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image no. H31761

James KITTSON:  Died 20 May 1911 at Melbourne. James Kittson was one of the original pioneers of the Bridgewater area.  He was the father of Rebecca Kittson and James Trotter Kittson both of whom have featured in Passing of the Pioneers. James was a Councillor with Portland Shire Council.

John GILLIES:  Died May 1914 at Moonee Ponds. John Gillies was a farming pioneer around the Ararat district. He was a member of the Farmers’ Co-operative Company and the Ararat Agriculture Society.

Emily Julia BENNETT:  Died May 1914 at Stawell. Emily Bennett was a Stawell pioneer. Originally from London, she arrived in Victoria around 1860 with her parents Dr. Edwin Bennett and Mrs. Bennett. They settled around Stawell around 1865. Gold was the main focus in Stawell at the time and the town consisted mostly of tents. Dr Bennett took up a position as hospital doctor which he held for many years.  Emily married Richard Z. DAVIES at the Stawell West Anglican church.  Richard was the headmaster at the Stawell State School.

William B. BRADSHAW:  Died 26 May 1915 at Ballarat. Born in Cambridgeshire, England, William Bradshaw arrived in Adelaide as an eleven-year-old in 1837. One of the last events he attended in London before his departure was the ceremony for the Proclamation of the accession of Queen Victoria. Once in South Australia, his father established one of the first bakeries in Adelaide. William was lured to the goldfields of Victoria in 1851. He had reached Ballarat by1854 the time of the Eureka Stockade. He was one of the first Justices of the Peace appointed in Victoria.

John WATERS:  Died 4 May 1917 at Nareen. John Waters was born in Lurgan, Northern Ireland in 1830. He and his wife arrived at Portland aboard the General Hewitt in 1856 and headed towards the Casterton district. After some moving around he finally settled at Rock View at Nareen in 1867 where he remained until his death. John’s pioneering story is similar to so many others of his time:

Obituary. (1917, May 7). The Casterton News and the Merino and Sandford Record (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 2 Edition: Bi-Weekly. Retrieved May 24, 2012, from

If John was concerned about “coddling legislation” almost 100 years ago, what would he think of our society today?

John CHRISTIE:  Died 15 May 1918 at Byaduk. Born at Garvard, Haddington, Scotland in 1834 and arrived at Portland in 1851. He settled at Byaduk, naming his property Garvard Vale. With his brother, they breed find Lincoln sheep. A further obituary can be read at Obituaries Australia

Margaret JENNINGS Died 19 May 1927 at Heywood. Although she was only eight at the time, Margaret Jennings retained memories of her voyage to Melbourne in 1840 with her parents Cook Abraham Jennings and Hannah Birchall.  She also recalled the early days of Portland, the Hentys, William Dutton, Black Thursday of 1851 and the wreck of the steamer Admella. She married Hugh Kittson and they settled at Bridgewater Lakes.  In her later years, she retained her wit and loved the company of children. She was a contributor to the Red Cross during WW1.  You can read more about Margaret in the post “In the News – May 26, 1927“.

William Primrose ANDERSON:  Died 26 May 1927 at Portland. William Anderson was a well-known resident of Portland and was known around the town as “W.P.”. He was born in 1845 in Melbourne and arrived in Portland with his parents around 1857. His first job was working in a grocery and hardware store in Portland. By the age of twenty-eight, he had taken over the business. He set up a wool export business and had many other business interests around the town. His obituary is lengthy and is worth reading to learn more, not only about “W.P’s” life but also the early days of Portland.  William Anderson demonstrated the qualities shown by many other pioneers:

Obituary. (1927, May 30). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 3 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved May 24, 2012, from

William McINTYRE:  Died 23 May 1936 at Hamilton. William McIntyre arrived at Portland in 1852 with his parents aboard the John Davis. He was born in Inverness, Scotland only three years earlier. By 1855, the McIntyres arrived at Muddy Creek near Hamilton via Strathdownie and South Australia. William was a gun shearer, with his record being 209 sheep in one day. He also was a good athlete, winning many prizes at sports days from Penshurst to Branxholme.

Mary MUMFORD:  Died 5 May 1940 at Camperdown. Mary Mumford was born in England in 1845 and arrived in Australia with her parents in the late 1840s.  She married Frederick TILL in 1863 and lived in Cobden. Frederick was killed in an accident, leaving Mary with four children.  She married John PETER and they had a further five girls. It is not mentioned what happened to Mr Peter, but Mary left Cobden for Cowley’s Creek where she resided for 25 years.  Later in life she married Mr NELSON.  At the time of her death, she had one son, six daughters, forty-four grandchildren, fifty-five great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild. Her son William Till played a part in the rescue of the two survivors of the Loch Ard.

Mary LOUREY:  Died 3 May 1941 at Glenormiston. Mary Lourey was the last surviving child of Thomas and Johanna Lourey.  She was born at Kirkstall around 1858. Twenty-two years later she married Thomas KELLY and they eventually settled at Glenormiston. Thomas was behind the construction of the Glenormiston butter factory. At Mary’s funeral at the Noorat Catholic Church, the children from St Joseph’s School formed a guard of honour. The cortege was said to stretch from Noorat to Terang where Mary was buried.

Henry Cowap WILLIAMSON:  Died 25 May 1948 at Portland. Henry Williamson was a pioneer of the fruit growing industry in the Gorae district. He and his brother grew apples and later built cool stores at Gorae which were a profitable ongoing concern.  Henry retired into Portland and was a prominent member of the Wesley Church and the Portland P & A Society,

Robert John MALSEED Died May1950 at Portland. Robert Malseed was the youngest son of Irish immigrants, Stewart and Margaret Malseed. Robert was born at Portland in 1860 and married Elizabeth Ann TRENEAR in 1888.  Robert and Elizabeth lived all their married lives at 88 Garden Street, Portland where Robert had an orchard.  One of his proudest moments was representing the Malseed family at the 100th anniversary reunion of the arrival of his parents.  He was the oldest surviving member of the Portland Oddfellows Lodge.

Passing of the Pioneers

Once again an interesting band of Western Victorian pioneers were found in newspaper obituaries from February.  There is a tightrope walker, philanthropist, a motor car pioneer and several hardy pioneer women.  It continues to amaze me the lives the pioneers lived.  I mean, who could imagine a tightrope walker living in Portland in the 19th century, in fact at anytime!

Thomas STODDART: Died 20 February 1905 at Ballarat. When next in Ballarat admiring the many statues in Sturt Street and the Botanical Gardens, thank Thomas Stoddart. He was responsible for getting the ball rolling for leading Ballarat identities to give statues or money towards statues, to the city. From digger to stockbroker, Stoddart donated twelve statues to the city of Ballarat in 1884 after a trip to Europe. This act of philanthropy saw some of Ballarat’s other wealthy citizens bequeath money to fund more statues.  In fact, John Permewan who featured in December Passing of the Pioneers donated the well know “Hebe” which stands in Sturt Street.  As well as the obituary from the Horsham Times a lengthier obituary appeared in The Argus on February 21.



John COFFEY:  Died 9 February 1908 at Melbourne. John Coffey was born in Limerick, Ireland and came to Australia with his brother in the 1860s. He first went to the Wimmera while carting between Melbourne and the Wimmera. Making a permanent home there, he worked as a farmer and a hotel keeper.  He left a wife, Catherine Almond, five daughters and three sons.

Thomas HENNESSY: Died 19 February 1908 at Horsham. Thomas Hennessy arrived in Victoria in 1859 aboard the Royal Charter from Limerick, Ireland. He began farming around Koroit, lost a leg, and moved to the Pimpinio district where he farmed for many years.  An accident prior to his death contributed to his demise.

James DAVIDSON: Died 12 February 1913 at Narrawong. James Davidson, born at Narrawong, was described as a “good all-round citizen” in his obituary. He was involved in the mounted rifles and athletics.

Matilda GILCHRIST: Died 14 February 1914 at Hawthorn.  Born in Paisley, Scotland, in 1920 she arrived on the Star of the East in 1855.  Her husband Thomas Lang was a well-known horticulturist in the late 19th century.  Matilda was a principal of a girls’ school in Ballarat for a time.

Mary Ann DREW: Died 15 February 1915 at Willaura.  Born in Buckinghamshire, England,  Mary Ann Drew came to Victoria in her twenties during the 1850s. She worked at Golf Hill Station at Shelford for George Russell, before moving to Sandford where she married William Lindon. Mary Ann lived at Willaura with her daughter for the last ten years of her life.

Edward Harewood  LASCELLES: Died 12 February 1917 at Geelong. Lascelles is a well-known name in WesternVictoria.  Not only does his name form part of the Geelong wool broking firm Denneys Lascelles & Co, the town of Lascelles in the Mallee was named after him.  Edward Lascelles was born in Tasmania in 1847, married Ethel Denney and they had six children.  He was a leader in vermin extermination on his property in the Mallee and was the first to introduce share farming in Victoria.

Isabella McDONALD: Died February 1918 at Dandenong. Isabella McDonald arrived in Victoria with her widowed mother in 1863. The following year she married journalist, Mr Dudeney, who had gone to Ballarat to report on the Eureka Stockade riots. Only after a few years of marriage, Mr Dudeney passed away and she married John Whitehead a worker at the Ballarat Post Office and later the GPO in Melbourne

Martha MATHEWS: Died 14 February 1918 at Buninyong. Martha Mathews was a colonist of 64 years, arriving in Victoria to join her husband, Richard Phillips on the goldfields of Ballarat. Martha enjoyed telling stories of the goldrush days.

OBITUARY. (1918, February 18). The Ballarat Courier (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 6 Edition: DAILY.. Retrieved February 26, 2012, from

Janet SIMPSON: Died 19 February 1920 at  Bondi, New South Wales.  Janet Simpson, her husband Robert Clark and four children sailed for Australia in 1857. One child, Agnes died during the journey. At the time of their arrival, the train line to Horsham was under construction, so the family took a coach to Stawell, then bullock wagon to Horsham.  She was one of the many pioneer women who coped under tough conditions.

Obituary. (1920, February 27). The Horsham Times (Vic. : 1882 – 1954), p. 5. Retrieved February 26, 2012, from

William HANLON: Died 19 February 1923 at Portland. William Hanlon was the mayor of Portland 11 times.  His interests within the municipality included President of the Portland Free Library.

William ROBERTSON: Died 2 February 1924 at Portland.  A colonist of seventy-seven years, William Robertson arrived in Portland as a five-year old with his parents.  He had travelled to New Guinea and Western Australia as well one time riding in the Great Western Steeplechase at Coleraine.

Charles Francis PATTERSON: Died 17 February 1933 at Portland. Charles was born in Portland in 1857 and spent some time in Western Australia on the railways.  It was there he met his future wife and after marriage, they returned to Portland to raise ten children.  Charles was a popular figure around the town and he worked in the fish distribution business.

Alfred Irvine HOGAN: Died 8 February 1934 at Portland. From tightrope walker to sawmiller, Alfred Hogan was an interesting chap.  Arriving in Portland as a young man, he gained notoriety as a tightrope walker performing daredevil tricks in the mould of “Blondin” the French tightrope walker.  Age must have caught up with his tightrope walking feats and he turned to sawmilling, with his obituary crediting him as a pioneer of sawmilling in the Portland district, an industry which became one of the biggest in the area.  Alfred also had a keen interest in Australian Rules football and was one of the people behind the development of Hanlon Park, which is still home to the Portland Football Club today.

Mary Jane SPIKEN:  Died February 1934 at Warrnambool. Mary Jane Spiken’s mother Anna Harland arrived in Victoria with members of the Henty family.  Anna married John George Spiken with Mary Jane born around 1861 at the Henty homestead.  Mary Jane married William Jenkins and they had seven children.  She was a wealth of knowledge on the early days of Portland.

Fanny Ann MALSEED: Died 13 February 1936 at Myamyn. Fanny Ann was the daughter of James and Eliza Malseed of Mount Richmond.  She married Thomas Edmund Adamson around 1886 and they raised eight children.

Richard YOUNG: Died 16 February 1939 at Horsham. Richard was born at Clunes and moved to Horsham with his parents as a ten-year-old. He married Isabella Anderson and they raised a large family. Richard was a keen footballer and  played for United Traders football club.  He was a founding member of the Horsham Football Club and was an active member of the local fire brigade.

Walter Birmingham EDGAR: Died 22 February 1939 at Portland. Walter Edgar was born at Pine Hills Station at Harrow in 1856.  Educated at Hamilton College, he achieved the double honor of dux of the college and athletic champion.  Despite studying civil engineering  at Melbourne University, he returned to Pine Hills to take up agriculture pursuits.  In 1882, he married Jessie Swan of Konongwootong.  In the years before his death, Walter toured England, Scotland, Norway and Sweden with his daughter.  In his younger days, Walter was something of a cricketer and golfer.  He and his father played some part in the Aboriginal cricket team touring England in 1867.  The team included Johnny Mullagh who Walter often played cricket with.

Obituary. (1939, February 27). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 3 Edition: EVENING.. Retrieved February 28, 2012, from

Ann NIVEN: Died 24 February 1942 at Coleraine. Ann Niven’s came to Australia at five, but without her parents.  They arrived at a later date, but until then Ann was under the guardianship of Mr and Mrs Christorphen.  They lived where Balmoral now stands, but then it was only bush.  She married William Bird, living at Wombelano and then for the last thirty-two years of her life, at Coleraine.  Mrs Bird was the mother of eleven children.

Patrick HENRY: Died February 1942 at Terang. Patrick Henry, with his parents, settled in the Woodford area upon their arrival in Australia in 1866.  He began driving bullock wagons as a teenager and worked in that occupation until he was eighty-six.  When he finally retired, it was thought he was the oldest bullock wagon driver in the Western District.

Thomas Turner SHAW:  Died 1 February 1949 at Beaumaris. Thomas Shaw was the son of Thomas and Catherine Shaw. He was born in Victoria in 1864.

THOMAS TURNER SHAW c1866.  Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.  Image no. H2013.172/23

THOMAS TURNER SHAW c1866. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image no. H2013.172/23

Thomas Shaw was a not only a pioneer of fine merino wool production but also motoring in Victoria.  He drove one of the first steam cars and was also a founding member of the Royal Auto Club (RACV).

In the News – November 16, 1922

The Portland Guardian of November 16, 1922, reported much excitement surrounding the town’s birthday celebrations beginning that day, including “Back to Portland” celebrations.  Former residents had started to return and reacquaint themselves with old friends.

Portland's Gala Week. (1922, November 16). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING.. Retrieved November 15, 2011, from

One article “Coming Home” , is reminder of how useful newspapers are in assisting our research.  Included is a list of all those who had indicated they would be attending the reunion.

Each name includes the present town of residence, some with an address.  The following are just a few of the names:

(1922, November 16). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 4 Edition: EVENING.. Retrieved November 14, 2011, from

Other well-known names included Henty, Holmes, Kittson, Malseed and Silvester.

Advertising. (1922, November 16). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING.. Retrieved November 14, 2011, from

Advertising. (1922, November 16). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 3 Edition: EVENING.. Retrieved November 15, 2011, from

Passing of the Pioneers

The Portland Guardian was mindful of the contribution made by the early pioneers toward developing the south-west.  They offered regular items titled “Passing of the Pioneers” or “Passing Pioneers” and often mentioned in obituaries that “…one by one are old pioneers are passing”.  As early as 1889, they were lamenting the loss of the links to the early settlers and suggesting that the efforts of those who passed be recognised.

The Portland Guardian,. (1889, January 16). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876-1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved July 18, 2011, from

Established August 1842. The Portland Guardian,. (1899, July 7). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876-1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved July 19, 2011, from MLA citation

In 1921, the paper spoke of the many unwritten histories that had gone before, but  now we can see The Portland Guardian lived up to its charter of 1889,  successfully recording the histories of many of the local pioneers.  By doing so, they are now helping us learn more of our families and gain a sense of life in the early days of the Western District.  Of course, The Guardian was not alone.  References to the “passing pioneers” are found in most of the papers on the Trove website.

Obituaries are a secondary source with the information coming from the knowledge of those still living and I have noticed errors in obituaries of my family.  But they can offer  leads to look in places you may never have thought of such as Masonic lodge records and local council records. Whatever you do or don’t get out of an obituary, no-one can deny they are often a good read.

July was a month when many “Passing of the Pioneers” columns appeared.  Cold winters in the south-west saw many of the older residents “cross the Great Divide” as the Guardian would put it.

Some of the more notable passing pioneers in the month of July were:

James PARKER:  Died 6 July1889 at Heywood. James PARKER’S obituary is an interesting read.  Born in Tasmania, he came to the mainland as a whaler. Later he had some luck at the Creswick goldfields only to have an encounter with bushranger Captain Moonlight.

William TULLOH: Died 19 July 1889 at Portland.  This is a lengthy obituary of a Portland resident of nearly fifty years, whose death saw half closed shutters on homes around the town.  Born in Scotland in 1812, he left a wife, four sons and a daughter at the time of his passing.  I have  found a site with more detail of William and his wife Eliza Mary KEARTON.

James BARNETT: Died 18 July 1892 at Portland.  James was known as “Old Barney” around Portland and while the Guardian credit him as a pioneer, they make judgement in saying that he did not make the most of his opportunities as other early settlers had done.

Alexander THOMSON: Died July 1897 at Hamilton. Scottish born Alex THOMSON was prominent around the Hamilton area as a Shire of Dundas Councillor for twenty-one years.  At the time of his death, he was the owner of Pierrepoint Estate near Hamilton and was also an active member of the Pastoral and Agricultural society.

Thomas Webb SMITH:  Died 29 July 1914 at Branxholme.  Thomas served on the Borough of Portland council and was mayor from November 1871-November 1873.  He was also a member of the Goodfellows and Freemasons.

Annie Maria HENTY: Died 2 July 1921 at Hamilton.  Annie was from the most famous south-west pioneering family of them all, the Henty’s. The daughter of Stephen HENTY, Annie married Hamilton stock and station agent Robert STAPLYTON BREE in 1874.  The Bree name is preserved in Hamilton with a much used road of the same name in the town.

Ann Eliza KEEPING: Died 9 July 1921 at Portland.  Annie Eliza KEEPING arrived in Australia aboard the Eliza and married John FINNIGAN in 1857.  She was eighty-two at the time of her death.

Joseph Bell PEARSON:  Died 7 July 1922 at Portland. Yet another interesting character.  According to his obituary, Joseph was born on the voyage from England to Tasmania.  His family moved to the Retreat Estate near Casterton in 1844.  He was a noted horseman, with several good racehorses which he would ride himself.  One of his jumps racing rivals was Adam Lindsay Gordon.

Sarah MARSHALL:  Died 7 July 1923 at Gorae West. Sarah was the wife of the late Richard BEAUGHLEHOLE and she died at seventy-three. Richard selected land at Gorae West and transformed swampland into flourishing orchards.  Sarah and Richard had twelve children.

Mary Thurza HEDDITCH: Died 1 July 1930 at Drik Drik. Mary HEDDITCH was born in Portland in 1844 and moved with her family to Bridgewater in 1846.  Her elder brother drowned when she was a teenager leaving her to take on some of his duties.  As a result, she became an accomplished horsewoman, helping her father with the cattle.  She married James MALSEED and together they had seven children.

Phillipa JOHNS: July 1931 at Portland.  Phillipa JOHNS, the daughter of a doctor, was herself something of a substitute doctor for those living in the Willenbrina area, near Warracknabeal.  Later she and her husband William DELLAR moved to the Portland district.  They had nine children.