When I read pioneers’ obituaries, a ship comes up time and again, the General Hewitt. The ship, also called the General Hewett, was a convict ship and later an immigrant ship, sailing to Moreton Bay in 1854 . The voyage I will focus on was to Portland Bay in 1856. And what a voyage it was.
On May 5, 1856, the Geelong Advertiser’s correspondent in London wrote:
The General Hewitt left Plymouth, England on July 5, 1856, and arrived at Portland on October 9, 1856. Many of the passengers would become some of the finest pioneers of the Western District and the South-East of South Australia and beyond. A mix of English, Scottish and Irish, the passengers were described as being “of a very useful and eligible class”
The General Hewitt also carried much needed supplies from the home country, whiskey, brandy, gin and champagne. There was also some practical cargo such as clothing and haberdashery, garden seeds and glassware.
The single females from the ship were available to hire from £15 to £26 for a domestic. Married couples could be employed at a rate of £40-£45. While most of the immigrants were “suitable” there were some crew members that were not, resulting in an eventful voyage, with a mutiny attempt no less.
The drama did not stop once the ship arrived at Portland Bay. Four crew members left the ship on a raft. Ten others had been locked up and five on the ship were refusing to work.
On October 14, the two men accused of assault, William Jose and Joseph Barrow appeared in the Portland Police Court, as did the 10 men refusing duty. Their names included Able Seamen Millard, Gash, Parry, Gudridge, Gashar and Howson the sail maker. They received four months hard labour.
The General Hewitt’s arrival was kept the Police Court busy. On October 15, one of the immigrants, Henry Haley appeared for being found in the Government Immigration Depot without permission. Four more crewmen appeared for refusing duty, Daniel Newbury, Joseph Steel, George Rumbellow and William Dowell. Their sentences ranged from 12 weeks to four months imprisonment.
The trial of William Jose and Joseph Barrow for the assault on Captain Christopher H. Loutitt continued.
The General Hewitt was already low on crew when, on November 7, two more absconded, the steward, William Thomas an John Carroll the cook. They had the diggings in their sights, but instead they ended up digging roads.
A Police Constable kept watch on board the General Hewitt to prevent any more crew jumping ship. Captain Loutitt travelled to Melbourne in search of more crew.
Sixty-two years after the arrival of the General Hewitt, the death of John. S Andrew aka John Forster, brought to light more about the crew of the General Hewitt. John Andrew was a crew member that bolted, ending up at Muntham near Casterton, where he remained for the rest of his life. According to John’s obituary, other men of the district that were members of the crew included Messers Rooking and Gasperino.
The obituary of William Rooking outed by John Andrew as an escaped crewmen
Now to the passengers. As I’m currently tied to home, I didn’t think I could get access to the General Hewitt’s passenger list, so I thought I would find some of the passengers using Trove and a bit of Googling followed by a cross check with the PROV Online Shipping records. While I did not come close to the “363 souls” on board, I did find around 70. Some of those continued to live in the Western District or just across the border in the South East of South Australia.
Then, a need to double cross check and a feeling of guilt about omitting the other 290 or so passengers, I thought I would give Ancestry.com.au a go. Using the Victoria, Australia, Assisted and Unassisted Passenger Lists 1839-1923, I searched with General Hewitt in the Keywords field and the year 1856 and the list came up. Early excitement faded rapidly when I realised the work another 290 names were going to bring and the transcribing of the passenger list was far from perfect. The Cameron family had become the Cameau family, to name just one discrepancy.
As I’ve pottered away on this post for a few weeks, I have decided to just feature those passengers that had their voyage on the General Hewitt mentioned in their obituaries, plus a couple of others I found on the Glenelg and Wannon Settlers site. Maybe, one day when I am stuck for something to do, I may start working my way through the other “souls” and share them with you.
ARTHUR, JOHN & PHILLIPPA – John and Phillippa Arthur did not stay in Victoria long after their arrival, moving to Callington about 60 kilometres east of Adelaide. PROV Passenger List Index: http://tinyurl.com/c8a8jfj
ELIAS AND JOHN BATESON: Elias and John from Cambridgeshire took up work with Edmund Kirby (father of John Kirby) at “Spring Bank” near Sandford. PROV Passenger Index: http://tinyurl.com/am9k8f7
BEST FAMILY: William and Letitia Best and their family of seven children were from County Cavan, Ireland and settled at Heywood. PROV record – http://tinyurl.com/c2l5ekh
The obituaries of three of the children follow:
John was 20 at the time of his arrival at Portland.
Margaret Best married James Bell a member of another of Heywood’s pioneering families.
Letitia Best married Donald Rankin. After her marriage, she lived in Harrow, Western Australia and Heywood.
COULSON FAMILY – Christopher and Mary Frances Coulson were originally from Yorkshire and later London. They sailed on the General Hewitt with their four children aged 4 to 14. I have previously written about Christopher in the post I Wish I Were Related To Christopher Coulson. One of their sons, Francis married my ggg aunt, Harriet Martha Diwell, daughter of William and Margaret. PROV Passenger Index: http://tinyurl.com/babw5x2
The obituary of Christopher Coulson Snr.
BREEZE FAMILY: Or is it the Breese family? As listed on the PROV Index, Thomas and Ann Breeze and their children were aboard the General Hewitt. However, the following letter indicates their name have been Breese. PROV Index: http://tinyurl.com/avj5sse
The letter is from William G. Breese, son of Thomas and Ann. William was just seven when he arrived at Portland Bay, but 73 years later he was able to recount the voyage particularly the attempted mutiny.
DWYER, EDMOND – I am yet to find the fate of the General Hewitt, however, Edmond Dwyer’s obituary states the ship was destroyed by fire after one more trip to Australia. The General Hewitt did make one other trip to Australia landing at Port Adelaide in 1858.
Edmond’s obituary is also useful in that it mentions other passengers on the ship – the Heaneys and Messers Roulston and Waters. I can find each of these passengers but I cannot find a passenger under the name of Cannon he mentions.
There were three other Dwyers on the General Hewitt, but I have not been able to find if they are linked to Edmond. They were: Catherine (22), Johanna (27), Denis (29)
PROV record http://tinyurl.com/azt5jac
HADDEN, David and Mary – Listed on the Passenger list as Haddon, David and settled in the Carapook area. PROV Link http://tinyurl.com/asvck8q
HEANEY, Robert and Jane – From Ireland, Robert and Jane pioneered at Condah for 52 years. PROV Link http://tinyurl.com/a5rgakf
LAVERY Family: Patrick and Rose and children Ann, Mary and Bernard were from County Armagh, Ireland. PROV Index: http://tinyurl.com/ba6juo3
Patrick and Rose celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary in 1900.
Obituary of Patrick Lavery.
Rose Lavery passed away only days before her fellow General Hewitt shipmate, Mary Lear (below).
LEAR FAMILY: Thomas and Mary and their children William, Thomas and Mary were from Devon, England. They had another seven children after their arrival. PROV Index: http://tinyurl.com/cdeuklp
There was a “take two” with Thomas Lear’s obituary. The Gymbowen correspondent wrote an obituary published in the Horsham Times on February 18, 1919. The issue of February 21, 1919 set a few facts straight.
McCABE, John and Mathilda: John and Mathilda, from Ireland, had 10 children after their arrival in Victoria. They settled in the Sandford district. PROV Index: http://tinyurl.com/d785kzx
McLACHLAN, Mary and Alexander: The interesting thing about Mary McLachlan’s obituary, that appeared in many newspapers, is that it names her as a passenger on the General Hewitt, with her son. However, can find Alexander on the passenger list but not Mary. PROV Index: http://tinyurl.com/d39sg4u
Alexander passed away only six months after his mother.
McCANN, PETER AND JANE and MARY SMITH McCANN: Peter and Jane were from Ireland and settled around Sandford. Mary Smith McCANN also sailed with Peter and Jane. I am not sure if she was a daughter of the couple as she was six, Peter was 22 and Jane was 30. PROV Index: http://tinyurl.com/botobco
McFARLANE FAMILY: Andrew and Jane and children George, Elizabeth, Margaret and an unnamed infant. The McFarlanes did not linger in Victoria very long, moving first to Sydney and later Brisbane. Their first child born after they moved to Queensland was the first child born in Queensland after its proclamation. PROV Index http://tinyurl.com/c3kx3dk
The McFarlanes also offer a lesson: Even though a person/s disembarked in a particular port, it does not mean they stayed in that general area or even that state. The McFarlane’s made it from Victoria to Queensland after only two years in the Australia.
MACKINNON, Lachlan: Lachlan MacKinnon, originally from Argyllshire, Scotland, arrived with his wife and frankly, proving he was on the General Hewitt has almost done my head in. He does not come up in a search on the PROV Index, in fact no MacKinnons do. There are McKinnons that sailed on the General Hewitt, but no Lachlans.
Looking to the Ancestry.com.au index, there was a Lachlan McKenzie and several other McKenzies with christian names the same as the McKinnons found on the PROV Index. The PROV Index has no McKenzies arriving in 1856. Given the aforementioned dependencies at Ancestry, do I assume the McKenzies are McKinnons and the Lachlan McKinnon listed is really Lachlan MacKinnon?
McKINNON FAMILY: John and Catherine and their children PROV Index http://tinyurl.com/bn45olf
NEATE FAMILY: James and Anne and children Margaret, Julia, Emily, Henry, Albert and Catherine. PROV Index: http://tinyurl.com/ad5l7hu
POLAND, William and Eliza. William and Eliza arrived in Portland with an infant and went on to have another six children and became two of Portland’s best known pioneers. William wasthe manager of “Burswood” owned by Edward Henty. PROV Index: http://tinyurl.com/clrhd58
ROULSTON, ROBERT AND JOSEPH: Trying to pin down Robert and Joseph was difficult. Edmond Dwyer mentioned the Roulstons as shipmates and name being well known in the Condah district. There were also Roulstons at Heywood and I found a reference to that family and the Heaney’s (above). The Heaney family lived in Heywood for 10 years after arriving on the General Hewitt then moved north to Condah. Robert and Joseph appear on the PROV Index as Roulstone: http://tinyurl.com/az4b9mt
STARK, JAMES AND ELIZABETH: Newlyweds James and Elizabeth spent their first years in Australia at Penola, South Australia before moving to Lake Mundi near Casterton. PROV Index http://tinyurl.com/d8n7h6t
WATERS, JOHN and ELLEN: John and Ellen are indexed as Walters. They settled in the Nareen district. PROV Index: http://tinyurl.com/av27lhf
WATERS, MALACHI AND MARY: Malachi and Mary moved around, firstly to Horsham for work and later Portland, Digby and finally Wallacedale. PROV Index http://tinyurl.com/av27lhf
WILSON, Robert: Robert sailed with his sister Mary Ann on the General Hewitt. A year later Mary Ann had already lost track of her brother. PROV Index: http://tinyurl.com/a48edrr
If one of your family members sailed on the 1856 voyage to Portland Bay on the General Hewitt, please let me know in the comments.
Victorian Public Record Office – Index to British Assisted Immigration 1839-1871
20 thoughts on “The General Hewitt – Portland Bay 1856”
Wonderful collection of great stories MR. Hard to know where to start a comment.
Chris Coulson whose death at 87 is up there, was 15 when he swam Victoria’s first Thoroughbred – King Alfred – ashore for Richard Lewis (of Bryngola, Digby, and The Woolpack Inn)
Thank you Ann. They are good stories. The crew are interesting me too, so that might be next. Yes, I have a King Alfred file happening and I have also traced some of his progeny through a few generations, so I am very interested in the CC story.
What an amazing and comprehensive post that struck a chord with me as one of my convicts arrived on the General Hewitt. n
Now I’m off to my database to see which one it was.
Thank you so much Jill. The General Hewitt brought a lot of passengers to Australia, both willing and unwilling and it would be good to find her fate. She was over 50 years old when she went to Portland.
Another great post,love every post you do and so much information,you record.So mech added information I have not found. Kind Regards Warren Gamble.
Thank you Warren. I’m glad you liked it and I found a lot I didn’t know too which is always good.
I have family on the General hewitt to Moreton Bay in December 1854…we keep “tag teaming”:-)
i have information about passengers on the general hewitt 1856. please email me sometime.
Patrick, does your info on passengers from the General Hewitt 1856 provide anything more other than their age? I’m researching John Major. Thanks Lola
Hi Patrick, my ggrandmother Johanna ( Judith) Mullally and family arrived in Portland about the General Hewitt in 1856, would love to know more details if possible Thanks Barbara
This is really impressive detective work. I think there’s a similar story about crewman leaving the ‘Severn’ in March 1856. Have you ever come across this?
Hi Matt. Thanks for that. I have been gathering info on the Severn for a similar post to this one. I have just been back through the newspaper articles but I couldn’t find anything on the crew leaving, but it did happen a bit. Bully Forbes, the captain of the Marco Polo in 1852, was anxious to get out of port quickly before he lost crew as he was attempting a record for the return journey.
Hello Merron, I’ve just read your blog on the General Hewett arriving in Portland in October 1856. My great great grandparents Alexander and Margaret Swan and their son Matthew (my great grandfather) were on this voyage.They settled in the Warrnambool area. Alexander was a farmer I believe. Matthew was a cabinet maker by trade and in partnership with others operated a furniture store in Warrnambool. His brother James was mayor of Warrnambool in 1927 and 1928. The Swan Reserve on Raglan Pde Warrnambool was named after James. James’ obituary is on Trove (Portland Guardian December 9th 1940).
Hi Leigh. Thanks for the information about the Swan family. I can now had them to my list of passengers. Thanks for the obituary lead too. I checked that out and I noticed there is an article coming soon to Trove from the Koroit Sentinel and Tower Hill Advocate about James Swan’s daughter.http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/result?q=james+swan+warrnambool
Hi Merron, Stephen Elliott b 1835 County Cavan arrived on the General Hewett. He married fellow passenger Mary Rourke 16th Feb 1863 at the RC church Coleraine. He died of snakebite in Dec 1870, and his widow married Richard Christie. Their daughter Ellen (Nellie) married William Cameron, the son of another passenger Catherine Cameron. William was a schoolteacher, and it makes me wonder if his mother told him to look up Mary when he was posted to Mount Eccles.
Hi Merron! I have news on Lachlan McKinnon. You were absolutely right when you assumed he might have been listed as Lachlan Mackenzie. The image of the passenger list is now available on ancestry and I have no doubt that there has been a simple transcription error made during the PROV indexing of the original. There is an entry for Lachlan and Flora McKinnon and another for a McKinnon family (also from Argyleshire) – John, Catherine, Duncan, Kenneth and Isabella. All the best, Wayne
Hi Wayne, thanks so much for letting me know. Regards Merron
Gee this is good Merron. I read it in 2013, hence my comment about Elliott, Rourke and Cameron, but re-reading it now just puts me in awe of your attention to detail! An inspiration!! Lynda
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Thank you Lynda. I might have to revisit it myself lol. It was a long time ago.
Hello Merron Thank you for this information. I have just googled the General Hewitt and found your article. My Great Great Great Grandparents were aboard. Thomas and Eleanor Adams. He was a blacksmith. They had a colourful life. They ended up in Sebastian, Victoria.