Passing of the Pioneers

Most of the pioneer obituaries found in the newspapers are for men which is unfortunate because we are always searching for more information about our female ancestors. For the month of October, the obituaries for pioneering women outnumber the men.  And great pioneers they were, making great contributions within their communities and all living to a very old age. But none lived longer than Margaret Walker (nee Brown) of Hamilton. Passing away in 1939, Margaret reached the age of 104 and remained healthy almost to the end.

Mark Nicholson: Died 27 October 1889 at Warrnambool. Mark Nicholson was born in Gloucestershire in 1818 and arrived at Port Phillip in 1840. Rather than practice his profession of law, Mark chose to run cattle at various stations across the colony. In 1848, Governor LaTrobe selected him to act as a Justice of the Peace at Warrnambool and in 1853 he was elected as the Warrnambool and Belfast (Port Fairy) representative in the Victorian Legislative Council. In the following years, Mark spent time in England but returned to Warrnambool to settle in 1873. A full biography of Mark Nicholson is available at the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

John BEST: Died 9 October 1907 at Portland. John Best was born in Ireland in 1835 and arrived at Portland in 1857 aboard the General Hewitt. He travelled with his parents William and Letitia Best and his six siblings. The family settled at Heywood and John took up work as a carrier. Later he built bridges and roads for the local Shire. He purchased a farm at nearby Mt. Clay and he remained there until his death. He left a widow and seven children.

William SCOTT: Died 7 October 1909 at Wallan. William Scott arrived in Victoria for the gold rushes and settled in Camperdown around 1860. He took an active role in local politics, serving on the Hampden Shire Council. He was also secretary of the Camperdown P&A Society. There was barely an organisation around Camperdown that did not have William Scott on the committee. His obituary read,

In him has passed one of the rugged pioneers who came magnificently equipped physically, and with the indomitable energy and capacity for sustained effort responsible for the remarkable development that has marked the brief history of this country.

Williams remains were returned from Wallan by train and he was buried at the Camperdown Cemetery.

Euphemia McLEOD: Died 3 October 1914 at Purnim.  Euphemia McLeod was born in Scotland around 1826 and travelled to Australia on the Edward Johnston around 1854. She eventually settled at Purnim with her husband George Crowe and she lived there for fifty years. Euphemia left three daughters and a son.

Ann Rebecca EAGAR: Died 12 October 1917 at Hamilton. Ann Eager was born in Devon, England around 1832 and sailed to Adelaide in the mid-1850s. It was there she married George Rowe and they made their way to Victoria, settling at Wickliffe. They remained there for around thirty years before taking up residence at Hamilton.

Only six months before her death, Ann and George had celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary.  An article appeared in the Ballarat Star of 14 April 14, 1917 reporting on the couple’s anniversary. It  told of George’s work as a builder. He worked on several notable buildings in the district including the Coleraine Catholic Church and the Argyle Arms Hotel in Hamilton. During the war years, Ann supported the cause, knitting socks for soldiers and by the time of her wedding anniversary, she had knitted 120 pairs of  socks. Ann and George had three sons and two daughters,twenty-eight grandchildren and seventeen great-grandchildren.

Margaret BROWN: Died October 1939 at Hamilton. Margaret Brown was a great Hamilton pioneer living until the grand age of 104. In her last years, her life was documented as she reached milestone birthdays.  Margaret was born in Launceston in August 1835 with her parents having come from Scotland in 1830. The family sailed to Victoria around 1840 aboard the City of Sydney and in 1852 Margaret married Thomas Walker at Portland. During the mid-1860s, they settled at Hamilton where they remained. They had eight children, but two died as infants.

When Margaret was ninety-eight, she was given a walking stick but she had not used it by the time of her ninety-ninth birthday in 1934. That was also the year of the Portland Centenary and Margaret attended the town’s celebrations. During that year, she had also produced seventeen pieces of eyelet linen work. In 1935, Margaret’s 100th birthday celebration was held at the Hollywood Cafe in Hamilton with the Mayor of Hamilton, Cr. Stewart, in attendance. She also planted a commemorative tree for Victoria’s centenary celebrations. For her 101st birthday, twenty-five friends and family gathered at Margaret’s home at 5 Shakespeare Street. The highlight was a birthday cake with 101 candles. The next three birthdays were celebrated quietly at home. but Margaret continued in good health. That was until only weeks after her 104th birthday when Margaret became more fragile, eventually passing away in October. During her life, Margaret saw the reign of six British monarchs.

Margaret’s birthday articles 90th Birthday    99th Birthday  100th Birthday   101st Birthday   104th Birthday

Elizabeth SILVESTER: Died 7 October 1940 at Noorat. Elizabeth Silvester was born in England around 1852 and arrived in Cobden with her parents as a two-year-old. She ran a business in Cobden for fifty years and attended the Cobden Methodist Church. Married to William Gilham, Elizabeth left two sons at the time of her death, one of whom she  lived with at Noorat for the last year of her life. She was buried in the Cobden Cemetery.

Robert Thomas SILVESTER: Died 7 October 1943 at Portland. Robert Silvester was born in Merino in 1862 but as a young man he moved to Portland and trained as a solicitor. He worked in the partnership Lynne, Silvester and Fielding before going into practice alone. From 1910-1920, Robert was president of the Portland Racing Club and was also president and captain of the Portland Golf Club.  Robert was also a member of the Portland Bowling Club and the following link is for an obituary from the club –

Catherine McLURE: Died 29 October 1952 at Camperdown. Catherine McLure was born at Mepunga in 1866, the daughter of James and Eliza McLure, early pioneers of the Warrnambool district. In 1885, Catherine married  Benjamin Jeffers at Warrnambool and they moved to Strathbogie. They later returned to the Western District and lived at Timboon, Kellambete and finally Chocolyn were they resided for forty years. Catherine enjoyed making toys with her five grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren and telling stories of days past.

Passing of the Pioneers

Seventeen more obituaries of Western District pioneers join the collection this month, and what a group they are.  I must say I had to pass a lot over, but it will ensure Passing with the Pioneers will be going to at least January 2014!  New papers at Trove has guaranteed that. Obituaries came from the Portland Guardian, Horsham Times and Ballarat Courier.

There are a couple of special ones, those of  James HENTY and Rebecca KITTSON and I highly recommend that you read the obituary in full.  I actually found Rebecca’s obituary rather moving and after driving through the Bridgewater area recently, I have great respect for her family and others that settled there.  To read the full obituary, just click on the pioneer’s name and the obituary will open in a new tab.  Some are a little hard to read, but magnifying the page helps.

I have also included a “young” pioneer who has a family link to me.  Thank you to Rachael Boatwright for allowing me to include a photo of her family member.

James HENTY: – Died 12 January 1882 at Richmond.  I thought trashy magazines today told all, but the obituary of the Honourable James HENTY M.L.C. shared every detail of the last twenty-four hours or so his life.  How can I possibly give a summary of the life of James HENTY, one of the famous pioneering HENTY clan?  Instead, read the obituary, it is great!  Sadly I think James’ life may have ended prematurely, if that is possible at eighty-two, due to a collision with a Newfoundland dog the week before.

JAMES HENTY c1855.  Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.  Image no. H83.158/2

JAMES HENTY c1855. Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image no. H83.158/2

Hugh MCDONALD: Died 30 January 1899 at Portland. This is a timely obituary coming so soon after my Portland trip.  While there, I learnt something of the wreck of the steamer Admella in 1859 and the Portland life boat crew that went to her aid. Hugh McDONALD was one of the brave men on board the life boat during that daring rescue.

William GARDINER: Died 17 January 1904 at Warracknabeal.  William GARDINER, another pioneer with an interesting life.  He arrived in Victoria in 1849 aboard the barque Saxon and spent time in Melbourne, Geelong and the goldfields, before heading to New Zealand.  On his return to Australia, he lived in Port Fairy and Hamilton, working as a journalist, before moving to the Wimmera as a correspondent for the Belfast Gazette.  He like it so much, he decided to select land at Warracknabeal.  He also worked as a correspondent for the Horsham Times and built houses!

Jean McCLINTOCK:  Died 19 January 1904 at Melbourne. While only forty at the time of her death and not an “old pioneer”, I have included Jean as she was the sister-in-law of  Alfred Winslow HARMAN.  Jean married William MILLER and they resided at Rupanyup.  After some illness, Jean travelled to Melbourne for an operation, but she died as a result.

Jean McClintock & William Eaton Miller. Photo courtesy of Rachael Boatwright & family.

Joseph JELBART: Died 17 January 1904 at Carapook. Joseph worked as the mail contractor between Carapook and Casterton up until his death. Prior to that, he had worked as a blacksmith and a wheelwright at Chetwynd, Merino and Natimuk. Interesting coincidence, just as Joseph did, his father and brother both died on a Sunday morning in the same house.

Rachel Forward READ: Died 15 January 1904 at Lower Cape Bridgewater.  Rachel Forward READ and her husband Richard Charlton HEDDITCH arrived in Adelaide in 1838 and settled at Cape Bridgewater from 1845 after a stint teaching at the Portland Church of England school.  They resided at the Lal Lal Homestead.  The  Victorian Heritage Database listing for Lal Lal includes a letter home by Rachel after their arrival at Cape Bridgewater.  Rachel was buried at the Cape Bridgewater cemetery rather than the Hedditch family cemetery at Lal Lal.

Donald McRAE: Died 12 January 1914 at Tooan.  Donald McRAE was born in Inverness, Scotland in 1842 and travelled with his parents to Portland. In 1865, he moved to Muntham near Hamilton to farm with brother. The pair eventually selected 320 acres of land each at Natimuk.  Donald was a member of the Horsham Caledonian Society.

Samuel WALKER: Died 24 January 1914 at  Ballarat. Samuel WALKER was born in Cheshire, England around 1828 and travelled to Australia in 1852.  After his arrival on the goldfields of Ballarat, he set up a soda water factory which proved profitable for him.  He then became a partner in Evans and Walkers and worked as an accountant.  He was also the registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages at Ballarat from 1872.

Selina MILLER: Died January 1917 at Wickliffe. Selina MILLER had resided at Wickliffe for almost sixty years.  She was twice married.  Her first husband was Mr HAIG and her second, George HARRIOTT.

Elizabeth HUBBARD: Died 3 January 1919 at Horsham.  Elizabeth HUBBARD was born in Norwich, England around 1831 and travelled to Australia with her husband, Mathias HARDINGHAM in the mid-1850s.  From Geelong, they travelled to the Horsham area and were two of the first pioneers in that district.  Mathias ran the Horsham Hotel for some time.

Christina FOX: Died 8 January 1921 at Vectis.  Christine FOX was born in Yorkshire, England around 1835.  As a teenager, she travelled to South Australia with her parents.  She married Robert SANDERS who had also travelled with his parents on the same immigrant ship.

John W. DAVIS: Died 24 January 1928 at Horsham.  John or “Jack” as he was known, arrived in Australia as a three old, living in Williamstown and then Stawell.  He played with the Temperance Union Band in Stawell and then moved to Horsham in 1877 to play with one of two brass bands in the town.  Known throughout the northwest for his ability as an euphonium player, Jack was also a bandmaster at Natimuk and Noradjuha.

Rebecca KITTSON: Died 4 January 1929 at Portland. What a grand old pioneer Rebecca KITTSON was.  A colonist of eighty-eight years, she was a month from her 102nd birthday.  Arriving in Melbourne from Ireland aged eleven, she spent the next year in Melbourne, before joining her family at Cape Bridgewater where her father James Kittson had settled.  She married Reverend William LIGHTBODY, a Wesleyan minister in 1852.  This obituary is a must read.  Mrs LIGHTBODY, as she was known for most of her life, was the last surviving member of her family and the obituary gives a glimpse at how the KITTSON’S came to be in Australia.

Obituary. (1929, January 7). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved January 17, 2012, from

Adrian ANDERSON: Died 16 January 1932 at Horsham. This is a first for Passing of the Pioneers.  Adrian ANDERSON was an immigrant from the United States. Wisconsin to be precise. He arrived aged four, with his parents and resided in Western Australia until he was ten.  The family moved to Victoria, where he remained.  He ran a shop in Jeparit before his death in the Horsham Base Hospital.

Agnes Sarah COOK: Died 18 January 1942 at Casterton. This obituary begins “Born in a small house on the banks of the  Glenelg River at Casterton seventy-nine years ago…”.  Agnes was a lady that like the past and the future, knowledgeable about the history of Casterton, she also liked to predict the future.  Agnes married  Robert SYLVESTER and they had four children.

Helen GULL: Died 18 January 1942 at Casterton. Helen was born on the ship Helen during her parents’ voyage to Australia in 1852.  The GULL family became respected pioneers throughout the Western District.  Helen married Frederick PERRY in 1876 and they resided at well known Western District properties, Rifle Downs at Digby and Runnymeade at Sandford.  Frederick later ran the Digby Hotel.