Passing of the Pioneers

March Passing of the Pioneers shares obituaries of well-known residents of Hamilton, Heywood and Portland. They include the surveyor of Camperdown and yet another man who was at Blue Lake, Mt. Gambier the day Adam Lindsay Gordon took his famed leap.

Thomas BROOKS Died 7 March 1888 at Hotspur. At the time of his death, Thomas Brooks was one of the oldest inhabitants of the Heywood district, having arrived in 1853. His death was a result of an accident after sixty-two-year-old Thomas delivered a coffin to Hotspur from Heywood for the funeral of Mr Fidler. After the funeral, he returned home, only to fall from his horse. He received head injuries, from which he died. A contract worker for the local shire, Thomas was known as an eccentric and was referred to as “Old Tom Brooks”  For more information about Thomas see the South-West Victoria Pioneers website.

John THOMSON Died 27 March 1894 at Melbourne.  Anyone who lived in Hamilton and district prior to the late 1980s, would know the name John Thomson as that was that name that adorned the front of one of Hamilton’s longest running department stores John Thomson & Co of Gray Street, locally known simply as Thomsons. John Thomson arrived in Victoria from Scotland at a young age and was educated at Scotch College, Geelong and the Hamilton Academy.  He joined his uncle and brothers, Alexander and William in the store, first established as an Iron store in 1866, and later became a partner. He had a strong association with the Hamilton Presbyterian Church and when he died, aged forty-six, he had attended  the Convention of the Presbyterian Fellowship Association.  He fell sick over the weekend and passed away.

Advertising. (1953, July 21). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 21. Retrieved March 27, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article23256981

Advertising. (1953, July 21). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), p. 21. Retrieved March 27, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article23256981

 

Robert Dunbar SCOTT: Died 7 March 1898 at Surrey Hills. Robert Scott was born in Scotland and he and his wife arrived in Victoria around 1851. Robert was employed as a land surveyor, his first job to survey the western part of Port Phillip.  He set up camp near what would become the town of Camperdown and set about laying out a new township. He named the first streets, including Manifold Street after the Manifold brothers.  He selected land on the banks of Lake Gnotuk and established the property Gnotuk Park.  Robert was a member of the local P&A Society and the Freemasons. In the late 1890s, he sold Gnotuk Park and let a property at Craigieburn. He later moved to Melbourne establishing himself as a commission agent but lost money in the crash after the land boom. A further account of Robert Scott is on this link – A Link With The Past – Interview with David Scott.

Mercy ERRI: Died 26 March 1932 at Cobrico. Mercy Erri was born in England and arrived in Victoria with her parents in 1857. Her father started in business in Camperdown, one of the early pioneers of that town. Mercy trained as a nurse and was a Sunday School teacher. In her later years, she became an invalid, confined to her bed, but she continued to produce beautiful needlework, even with failing sight. Mercy was eighty-eight years old when she died. She never married.

James MOLLOY: Died 25 March 1937 at Portland. James Molloy arrived in Portland with his parents aboard the British Empire when he was eleven. He went to school at All Saints school in Portland and during those years spent time with William Dutton extracting oil from whale blubber. He was then employed by Edward Henty at Narrawong. His next job was for the Bell’s at Heywood, training racehorses, his greatest success winning the Great Western Steeplechase at Coleraine.  Apparently he was with Adam Lindsay Gordon on the day Gordon took his leap at Blue Lake, Mt Gambier. He later returned to Portland, working as a storeman and a waterside worker.James married Mary Beglen and they had three sons and two daughters.

David Edmund BATES: Died 5 March 1938 at Casterton. David Bates was born at Narracorte before moving to Casterton with his parents when six. He was educated at the Casterton school before becoming an apprentice draper with Mr Mills.  David was an athlete and once ran second in the Stawell Gift. He took a great interest in the public affairs of Casterton and served as secretary on the Casterton Hospital board.

Eliza MOORE: Died 24 March 1939 at Colac. Eliza Moore was born in Ireland in 1854 and travelled to Victoria as a child aboard the Chance. Her parents settled at Port Fairy and later at Woodford. Eliza married Alexander Russell at Warrnambool and they farmed at Dennington. They then moved to Colac where they remained until Eliza’s death. In her younger years, Eliza was an excellent horsewoman and was devoted to the Church throughout her life.

Daniel FENTON: Died 17 March 1943 at Camperdown. Daniel Fenton was born in Camperdown in 1860 and was the first child baptised at the St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in the same year. Educated at Camperdown State School, he spent his entire working life as a dairy farmer. He married Mary Ann Shenfield of Cobden and five children were living at the time of Daniel’s death.

 

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 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article63591640

Established August 1842. The Portland Guardian,. (1899, July 7). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876-1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved July 19, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article63676630 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.