I first heard of the Mortimers when I asked Nana her grandparents’ names so I could start a family tree. Her grandmother was Mary Mortimer from Cavendish, Victoria on the banks of the Wannon River. Mortimer was not a name I was familiar with while growing up in Hamilton or a name mentioned with regard to relatives, but I soon found Mary’s birth at Mt William, her parents James and Rosanna. I also managed to find her siblings, but not without some searching as it seems that with each birth registered, the spelling of the Mortimers’ names changed particularly Rosanna’s.
I was trying to form a picture of them, but like the family, Mary married into, the Haddens, they were not ones to get in the newspaper, commit crimes, buy land, or all those other ways that can help tell a story. Some of my other ancestors, such as the Harmans, seem to get a mention everywhere. Both the Mortimers and the Haddens were labourers, station hands and the like and they worked hard and more to the point, they kept to themselves, a trait that continued through the generations.
James Mortimer married Rosanna Buckland in 1844 in Cookham, Berkshire. They immigrated on the “Bombay” which arrived in Port Phillip in December 1852. They had four children aged one to eight. In total, 24 passengers died on the voyage, typhoid the most common cause. The ship was quarantined on arrival.
Mary was born at Mt William station in 1853, and the remaining children were born at Cavendish. James worked at Mokanger Station near Cavendish and was a ploughman when Mary married William Hadden. Mary also worked at Mokanger as a servant and William Hadden worked as a station hand as did his father, Charles. Mokanger station was one of many runs owned by the Chirnside brothers, Andrew and Thomas.
The next reference I found of James Mortimer was his death on November 3, 1895. An application for probate was made by Cavendish store owner, Robert Young. James’ occupation at the time of his death was a carrier and his total assets were to the value of £86.
I don’t know if Rosanna was dead or alive at this point. I have never been able to find a record of her death which has proved a little frustrating. Even trying all variations of her name, and there were many, I have come up with nothing.
Some variations found so far:
Rosannah BUCKLAND – England Births & Christenings, 1538-1975
Rosanna BUCKLAND – England/Wales Marriage Record 1844, Cookham, Berkshire, England
Roseanna MORTIMER – 1851 Census, White Waltham, Berkshire, England
Rosannah BUCKLEN – birth record of Harriet, 1862 Cavendish, Victoria. Family name listed as Mortimore
Rosanna BUCKLIN – birth record of Henry, 1868 Cavendish, Victoria. Family name listed as Mortimore
Rossana BUCKLIN – marriage certificate of Mary Mortimer and William Hadden 1870 Cavendish, Victoria.
Rosannah BUCKLAND – death record of Annie Mortimer, 1879
MORTIMER – 1895
MORTIMER, Baby of Mr H Mortimer – 1891
MORTIMER, W – 1889
Mrs MORTIMER – 1898
Mrs MORTIMER – 1899
“Mortimer 1895” would be James. Could Rosanna be one of the Mrs Mortimers? If so, it would have to be “Mrs Mortimer 1899” as “Mrs Mortimer 1898” would most likely be Caroline wife of Stephen Mortimer, Rosanna, and James’ son. Caroline died in 1898.
Just when I thought this was as exciting as the Mortimers were going to get, I found two newspaper articles. The Portland Guardian & Normanby General Advertiser reported on July 22, 1862, that John Mahoney had faced the Hamilton Police Court charged with firing a gun at bullock driver, James Mortimer with the intent to do grievous bodily harm. On October 2, 1862, Mahoney’s trial was heard by His Honour Mr Justice Williams.
The court heard James Mortimer was a bullock driver for the Chirnsides. Heading to a sawmill near Hamilton, he was passing through a public section of the Mt Sturgeon station when confronted by Mahoney. Using what the prosecution described as “very colonial epithets”, Mahoney accused James of removing a part of the fence. James told him he was a fool, but Mahoney said he would make him fix the fence. James’ reply was “…it would take a better man than you to do that”. It was then that Mahoney produced a pistol and shot at James, missing him. Mahoney was found not guilty.
These two articles have given me a better idea of James’ character and helped confirm his work for the Chirnsides. Given his location at the time of the incident, and his intended destination, he could not have come from Cavendish, but probably one of the Chirnsides’ other runs, Mt William Station. Mary Mortimer’s birth certificate gives her birthplace as Mt William, so this must mean the Mt William station. Therefore James was there from 1852 to 1862. Interestingly, the year of the Mahoney incident is the same year in which the Mortimers appear in Cavendish. Maybe James decided to move across to the Chirnsides’ Mokanger station near Cavendish to avoid further run-ins with John Mahoney. We will never know. He would not have told anyone.