Passing of the Pioneers

The Ararat Advertiser (1914-1918) is now available at Trove and October Passing of the Pioneers highlights some obituaries from that area.  They show the lure of gold drawing people to Victoria with some of them, such as Mr and Mrs George Stock and Elizabeth Williams, being more like “gold rush chasers” moving from town to town as a rush occurred.

If you hoped your ancestor may have been a gold seeker and you haven’t found them at Bendigo or Ballarat, maybe they were at towns like Pleasant Creek (Stawell), Ararat, Landsborough or Ampitheatre. I thought I had no gold miners until I found that James Bishop was a miner at Mount Ararat when my gg grandmother, Elizabeth Bishop, was born.

Other pioneers featured include one of my family members, Edward Gamble, Mrs Hannah Johnstone who would never have starved if she had a gun at hand and two friends of Adam Lindsay Gordon. I have noticed reading obituaries that Adam Lindsay Gordon had a lot of friends, maybe even more than he thought himself!

James STARRIT: Died October 3, 1889 at Portland. It could be easy for those like James Starrit to be forgotten forever.  I have come across similar obituaries of men and women, unmarried and with few living relatives. James Starrit, his two brothers, two sisters and elderly father arrived at Portland from Garry Gort, County Donegal, Ireland on August 18, 1852.  James and his two sisters never married and lived together on a farm, earning enough from the farm to allow them to live their simple life.  Prior to farming, James had been a policeman at Portland.

Edward GAMBLE: Died October 1897 at Colac. Edward was my ggg uncle, and the son of Thomas Gamble and Ellen Barry. He was only forty-seven at the time of his death from cancer. His obituary alludes to its cause being his work canning rabbits, a job he had for twenty-one years.  There was a preserving factory in Colac and surrounding towns.  Born in Geelong in 1847, Edward married Martha Hodgins in 1873. They had 10 known children. Almost 100 Oddfellows attended Edward’s funeral, dressed in their full regalia as a tribute to their fellow lodge member.

John McKAY:  Died October 1907 at Richmond. At the time of his death at age eighty-four, John McKay was living with his son-in-law. Prior to that, he resided in Portland where he made his name as a blacksmith and wheelwright. He arrived in Victoria in 1853 and Portland in 1854.

Martha HILLS: Died October 30, 1908 at Portland. Martha Hills died at the home of her grandson Charles French, just three months short of her 99th birthday. Martha raised Charles and his siblings after the death of their father Henry and as the obituary puts it so well “…the love and care she gave the three little ones was not relaxed as years advanced, and in return she in her declining years reaped the full reward by equally as loving care and devotion”.  Martha arrived in Victoria around 1858, spent a few years in Hamilton before moving to Portland with her husband Charles French. She had two children living at the time of her death.

Mary BURNELL: Died October 1910 at Stawell. Mary Burnell was born in Yorkshire on October 23,1836 and at thirteen she travelled to Adelaide, South Australia. She married John Moulden and around 1875, they moved their family to the Wimmera in Victoria. They later moved close to Stawell where she remained until her death.

Mahala CARBIN:  Died 14 October 1915 at Malvern. Born in Cornwall in 1824, Mahala Carbin arrived in South Australia with her parents in 1840. Mahala and her gold seeking parents moved to Victoria around 1852. She married John Little at St Paul’s Cathedral in Melbourne in 1857 aged thirty-three and they lived in the Ararat district throughout their married lives. Just weeks before her death, Mahala moved to Malvern to live with her daughter.  Mahala lived through the reign of five monarchs and was ninety-one at the time of her death.

Thomas Christopher COATES:  Died 26 October 1915 at Buninyong. Thomas Coates was one of the founding members of the Ballarat Stock Exchange and served as the secretary of the Ballarat Benevolent Society for twenty-six years. He was born in Westmorland, England and arrived in Australia in 1853. He settled at Creswick in 1854. He died at the home of his son.

Agnes GORMAN: Died  11 October 1916 at Rosebrook.

Obituary. (1916, October 19). Port Fairy Gazette (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved October 22, 2012, from

Elizabeth DAVENPORT: Died 30 October 1916 at Port Fairy. Elizabeth Davenport was born in Parramatta, New South Wales in 1838. When she was eleven, she spent six weeks on a voyage to Port Fairy with her parents. She married William Presnell, a farmer, known for having one of the first threshing machines in the Port Fairy district. Elizabeth and William had thirteen children, six sons and seven daughters.

William ARMSTRONG:  Died 5 October 1917 at Colac. William was born in Belfast, Ireland the son of a Presbyterian Chaplin. He arrived in Victoria in the 1860s, first spending time with his uncle at West Cloven Hills before setting up his own dairy farm at Darlington. His community interests included the Darlington Presbyterian Church, the Mechanics Institute and he was the Darlington correspondent for the Camperdown Chronicle. He left a widow and nine children.

Elizabeth PURNELL: Died October 1917 at Ararat. Born in 1823 in Somersetshire, England. Elizabeth Purnell married George Stock around 1852. Not long after they married they sailed for Geelong arriving in October 1852. In 1853, the moved to Ballarat then Stawell when gold was discovered in 1856 at Forty Foot Hill and then on to Ararat for the “Commissioners Hill” rush.  George was obviously following gold as they then went on to the rushes at Amphitheatre, Barkly and Landsborough. Finally, in 1867, they settled at Ararat. Elizabeth and George had eleven children, with seven still alive at the time of her death.  Like Mahala Carbin (above), Elizabeth’s obituary mentioned that she had lived through the reign of five monarchs.

Elizabeth BREWIS: Died 10 October 1918 at Ararat.  Elizabeth Williams was an early resident of Ararat. She was born in Essex, England around 1824 and sailed for Sydney in 1852 aboard the Earl of Elgin. While in Sydney she married J. Green. After a year and with the lure of gold, she arrived in Bendigo, Victoria and followed the rushes until she ended up in Ararat.  She remarried to Robert Williams and they had three daughters.

Mary BARRETT: Died 19 October 1918 at Ararat. Mary Barrett was born in Ireland and arrived in Ararat in the 1860s. Her uncle, Reverend Father Barrett was a pioneer Roman Catholic priest in the Ararat district and Mary resided with him. Mary never married and when her health was failing, she moved to the Brigidine Convent in Ararat where she passed away aged seventy years.

James R. KEAN:  Died 11 October 1926 at Ararat. Born in Portland in 1858, James Kean started working as a printer at aged twenty. Two years later, he became a journalist and produced the Portland Mirror. The paper started out small, but within a year the subscribers increased and the paper was already thought of as “an influential and up to date journal”  In 1885, James purchased the Portland Guardian a paper established in 1842.  In the same year, he married Jane Robertson, daughter of Angus Robertson of Straun station near Merino. James was  a member of the St Stephens Church choir, a member of the Portland racing club and the Masonic Lodge.

St Stephens Church Portland

John JOHNSTONE: Died October 1930 at Portland. John Johnstone was a very early arrival in Portland, in 1841, as a baby with his parents James and Dorothy Johnstone. James was a blacksmith and wheelwright but he eventually purchased land at Kentbruck and built the Emu Flat Hotel or as known by travellers,” Mrs Johnstone’s”.  After his parent’s deaths, John took over the running of the hotel for a short time before selling it and taking up farming. More commonly known as “Jack”, he was an expert bushman and rider and was a friend of Adam Lindsay Gordon. He married Elizabeth Angus and they had three daughters and two sons.

John Richard MALLINSON:  Died 14 October 1934 at Pomborneit.  Born in Portland, John spent time in Merino and Hamilton as a child and young man. He completed an apprenticeship as a blacksmith and wheelwright and opened a business in Coleraine. After eight years, he moved to Timboon and then Camperdown in 1894 where he again ran a blacksmith’s shop.

Having lived in a number of towns and with his work as a blacksmith he had many friends with horse interests including Cobb and Co drivers of renown and like John Johnstone (above) Adam Lindsay Gordon.

OBITUARY. (1934, October 20). Camperdown Chronicle (Vic. : 1877 – 1954), p. 2. Retrieved October 24, 2012, from

Frederick WRIGHT:  Died 14 October 1934 at Camperdown. Frederick Wright was born in Cambridgeshire, England around 1842 and arrived at Corio Bay, Victoria aboard the Omega aged fourteen.  He worked as a nurseryman in the Geelong district before learning to drive bullocks.  At eighteen years of age, he took a load of flour to the goldfields at Stawell, the first bullock wagon driven into that area and he only had bush tracks to follow. He moved to Camperdown in 1871 and ran a dairy farm and a chaff mill and later a butcher shop. He was an original member of the Camperdown Turf Club.  He had thirty-five grandchildren and thirty-nine great-grandchildren at the time of his death.

Hannah HANNON:  Died October 1937 at Portland. Hannah was born in Adelaide in the late 1840s and moved to Kentbruck, near Portland aged eighteen.  She married Thomas Charles Johnstone, brother of John Johnstone (above).  Hannah was a woman not afraid to open and close gates and was handy with a gun.  She was known around Portland for sharing ducks or other game she had hunted.  Hannah and Thomas had ten children.

John Alfred RIPPON:  Died 13 October 1938 at Camperdown.

VICTORIA’S OLDEST “BULLOCKY”. (1938, October 20). Camperdown Chronicle (Vic. : 1877 – 1954), p. 1. Retrieved October 24, 2012, from

John Rippon carted the first load of timber into Purrumbete Estate  owned by the Manifold brothers  at age eighteen.  He liked it there and stayed for ten years. He then spent another ten years with William Irving Winter-Irving at Tirrengower near Colac.  He then returned to work for William Thomas Chirnside splitting timber.  But John yearned for his bullock driving days and he began his own carrying business.

VICTORIA’S OLDEST “BULLOCKY”. (1938, October 20). Camperdown Chronicle (Vic. : 1877 – 1954), p. 1. Retrieved October 25, 2012, from

Rachel BLACK: Died 27 October 1941 at Kongorgong. Rachel Black was born in the mid-1850s at Bridgewater. Her father was Joshua Black, a pioneer of that area. When Rachel married James Lightbody, the union brought three Bridgewater pioneering families together as James Lightbody was the son of Rebecca Kittson also from a pioneering family of Bridgewater,

Colins CATHELS: Died 26 October 1952 at Hamilton. Although he died at  Hamilton, Colin Cathels was a Portland identity.  Old aged forced him to leave the town he loved and he was not happy in his last days. Born in the 1850s, Colin knew much of  Portland history and enjoyed reminiscing about picnics at the Henty’s home. He was the Portland manager of the Belfast and Koroit Steamship Navigation Company. Colin married a Robertson girl, from the well-known local family.

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

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

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

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