All Quiet By The Wannon

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.

VICTORIA. (1852, December 24). South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 – 1900), p. 4. Retrieved September 25, 2011, from

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, CharlesMokanger 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 BUCKLANDEngland 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.

Extract from Marriage Certificate of William Hadden & Mary Mortimer, Victoria 1870

Rosannah BUCKLAND – death record of Annie Mortimer, 1879

At the entrance of the Cavendish Old Cemetery, a plaque lists the names of those buried without a headstone.  Five Mortimer names are listed:


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.

8 thoughts on “All Quiet By The Wannon

  1. An enjoyable read. I, too, have farm labourer ancestors who lived simple lives not achieving notoriety. It’s such a treat when one finds a newspaper article such as the one you described.

    I had ancestors who came via the Bombay – I must look and see if it was the same voyage as your ancestors – can’t remember everything in my poor old head!

    Thanks for telling the story – I hope that some day you can find Rosanna’s resting place.


    • I’m glad you enjoyed it. I don’t think I would wish that particular voyage of the “Bombay’ on anyone’s ancestors. Maybe a long overdue trip to the Hamilton History Centre will “unearth” more about Rosanna.


  2. A great post, particularly about the various names you have found Rosanna under, and seeing again how invaluable newspaper articles about our ancestors.

    You have reminded me of one of my ancestors I put in the ‘too hard basket’ a little while ago because of his various names. Maybe it is time to dust him off and try again.


    • Hi Donovan
      Thank you for your great suggestion. I have tried Rose and variations, wildcards…everything. I hadn’t tried Anna, so I did run a search of that, but no luck. Hopefully cemetery records will help me.


  3. Hello Merron,
    Through working on my own family tree over the years (and spasmodically!) I made enquiries of someone who seemed to have found information on James Mortimer and she referred me to your web page. My father is the grandson of Henry Mortimer (Mary’s brother). I have also found all the variants of Roseanna’s name and many other abbreviations of various family members! Like a giant jigsaw puzzle on many fronts:) My father is keen to track down as much of the family history as possible before he dies as he spent a lot of time as a young boy with the Mortimers. My Grandmother (Gwendolyn Mortimer) told me that her father at one time owned one of the stations up around the Grampians but lost it in the depression. I can’t find any information about that and no-one else seems to know. She was not one for flights of fancy though. If you are interested to get in touch that would be great –
    Kind regards, Fiona Parker


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