Passing of the Pioneers

When I begin researching a Passing of the Pioneer post, I have two aims – not too many Hamilton obituaries and as many women as possible. Unfortunately, as I often do, I failed this month with four Hamilton people from eight obituaries and one woman.  When I started Passing of the Pioneers, only the Portland Guardian and Camperdown Chronicle, along with The Argus were available at Trove newspapers, the source of the obituaries. Eventually, the WW1 years of many Western District papers became available including the Hamilton Spectator. It was 2016 before the Hamilton paper was digitised from 1860 to the WW1 years.  Since then I’ve been playing catch up on Hamilton obituaries. 

Finding the obituaries of women has been an issue all along with many women’s deaths marked with a family notice or a few lines in the main section of the paper. Some deaths were not mentioned at all or were only known of if death was a result of an accident or an inquest was required. It was usually women of a certain status who received an obituary of any substance. Even then, I often need to refer to a husband’s obituary to fill in the gaps between the woman’s birth, childbirth, and her death.  This month the woman I have found to remember was not of a high class, but she was of high character making her worthy of the obituary she received. 

MINOGUE, Simon – Died 12 November 1880 at Portland. Simon Minogue was born around 1815 in Ireland.  He married Johanna Quin in County Clare and they had two sons Daniel and Jerome before they boarded the Agricola for Port Phillip in 1841. In the months after arriving in Victoria, the family moved to Portland and Simon took up Wattle Hill in West Portland.  Stephen Henty was the vendor and Simon paid £10 per acre.  He also bought land at Mount Clay and Bridgewater.

In July 1849, Simon was the successful tenderer to provide 100 piles for the construction of the Portland dam. Simon was an active member of the Catholic community in Portland. In April 1857, he was a trustee of the land set aside for a Catholic Church in Portland.  He also contributed £30 to the building fund. In 1858, he was elected to the Roads Board.  Simon died in 1880, leaving his widow, Johanna, and nine children.  Johanna died just eight years later in 1888.

BUTLER, Josiah – Died 18 November 1890 at Hamilton. Josiah Butler was born around 1841 in Brixton, England.  He arrived in Victoria around 1857 and spent time at the goldfields.  He then went to the Balmoral district where he worked as a hawker for storekeeper James Cuzens.  On 1 July 1878, he married Sarah Ann Goss at the home of Sarah Ann’s brother in Gray Street, Hamilton. It was around the time Josiah moved to Hamilton and started the construction of a soap works.  It was located in the vicinity of the Friendlies Oval in King Street and opened in July 1879. Josiah spent £1000 on equipment but it took time to get the factory operational because there was no ongoing water supply. The winter of 1879 saw water reverses build-up and by January 1880, Josiah was producing three tons of soap a week and sending five tons of tallow a month to Melbourne. 

Advertising (1881, October 4). Hamilton Spectator, p. 3.

Josiah later moved into candlemaking but poor health saw him sell the business in February 1883 to Denton Bros. By June 1883, he had opened the Economic Cash Grocery in Gray Street, not far from the Thompson Street intersection. He sold all manner of things including sporting goods, bicycles, and tricycles.

Advertising (1883, June 9). Hamilton Spectator, p. 4.

Tricycles for adults (below) were taking off and in 1884, Josiah attempted to start a tricycle club in Hamilton.

AN ADULT TRICYCLE. Image courtesy of the State Library of South Australia. Image no B 34321B 34321

He also had an interest in cricket and in 1885, donated a Challenge Cup for a series of matches between the Hamilton Academy and the Portland College. In 1886, as an agent of Messrs Bussey & Co., he donated a cricket bat to the highest Hamilton scorer in a match against Ararat. 

Later, Josiah moved east along Gray Street to the corner with what is now Cook Walk, where he ran a fancy goods store.  He died in 1890 leaving his widow Sarah, three daughters, and two sons.  Sarah carried on the store no doubt helped by two of her daughters, Rachel and Elizabeth who later ran a fancy goods and toy shop at 45 Brown Street Hamilton until their retirement in 1954.  Sarah died in 1932, and Rachel and Elizabeth died within two months of each other in 1959.

SANDISON, John – Died 12 November 1901 at Glenisla. John Sandison was born in Aberdeenshire, Scotland around 1831.  At age sixteen, he left for Australia and found work at Skene station near Hamilton. The 1850s saw the discovery of gold and John set off for the diggings not only in Victoria but also the New Zealand goldfields.  Once back in Victoria, he secured the mail run between Apsley and Hamilton.  In 1861, John married Mary Alexander, and the following year he opened a butcher shop in Gray Street, Hamilton at first in partnership with Mr. L Kaufmann.  They dissolved their partnership on 1 September 1866 and John continued on alone.

Advertising (1866, November 10). Hamilton Spectator and Grange District Advertiser, p. 3.

John was a member of the Hamilton Mechanics Institute and sat on the committee. 


He also enjoyed sport and was involved with local athletics. Eventually, John selected land at Glenisla in the Western Grampians.  In January 1899, a fire broke out at Glenisla spreading on to John’s property.  He lost all his grass and fencing. In July that year, his wife Mary died.

John died in 1901, leaving three sons and four daughters, the youngest being seventeen.  John was buried at the Hamilton (Old) Cemetery (below).


KENNEDY, Christina – Died 1 November 1909 at Hamilton.  Christina Kennedy was born in 1855 at Geelong.  She married Alfred Bulley in 1872 and their first child was born in 1875 at Brunswick.  Alfred worked on the Ararat to Hamilton railway line during the 1870s and in 1881, a daughter was born at Coleraine. Around 1891, Alfred contracted spinal disease attributed to working in wet conditions on the railways. It left him an invalid.  Life became very difficult for Christina, caring for Alfred and her daughters.  In 1893, their plight came to the attention of the Hamilton Ladies Benevolent Society.

HAMILTON HOSPITAL AND BENEVOLENT ASYLUM. (1893, July 13). Hamilton Spectator p. 4.

In 1902, Alfred applied to the Old-Age Pensions Court for an allowance. He couldn’t make it to the court so Christina represented him.  The court heard she earned 15 shillings a week as a laundress. One of her daughters helped while the other stayed at home with Alfred. From her earnings, she had to pay rent on their home in Milton Street.  The Reverend Canon Hayman acted as a witness and said Christina was a “respectable hardworking woman”. Alfred was granted 6 shillings a week

Christina worked hard and attended Christ Church Anglican Church on Sundays but she fell ill in 1909 and required an operation. She died in the Hamilton Hospital on 1 November 1909 aged fifty-four.  Christina’s obituary was one normally seen for a woman of a higher station but it demonstrates she obtained much respect, not just pity.

…was a striking example of what a woman may accomplish.  Her life was not a path of roses, for the thorns of adversity were in her way for several years, and she had been the practical breadwinner for her household over a long period…but notwithstanding the burden thus placed upon her she faced her task bravely, and by her indomitable spirit of perseverance and industry had gained the highest, admiration and respect from all. But despite the fact her hands had to be used in the performance of work of somewhat heavy manual character, she preserved her womanly characteristics continuously, and in all her intercourse with others, there was a fine air of refinement and gentleness, combined with kind heartedness, which irresistibly appealed for appreciation. In all the work she was compelled to do for others the latter were always pleased to have her service again. Her character was upright and her actions just, and it Is worthy of commendation that the fine high principles which enabled her to struggle on despite great disadvantages and guided her in the upbringing of her family. who helped her in later years,…”
Christina left Alfred and her daughters, Jessie and Hannah.  The girls continued to look after Alfred until his death in January 1911.


FIELDER, William John – Died 10 November 1917 at Camperdown.  William Fielder was born around 1846 in London and arrived in Australia about 1853 with his parents.  His father Thomas was an officer with HM Customs in Melbourne. Thomas died suddenly in 1875 and soon after William arrived in Camperdown. In 1878, he married Matilda Sophia Greer.  William worked as a painter, decorator, and signwriter.

Advertising (1902, August 14). Camperdown Chronicle, p. 1.

William was heavily involved with the Camperdown Amauter Theatrical Society and performed in many plays and operas.  He also played with the society’s orchestra and painted all the scenery.  He considered his time with the theatrical society the happiest time of his life. He was well-read and sat on the committee of the Camperdown Mechanics Institute.  He was also a member of the Camperdown Bowling Club.

Matilda died on 14 September 1897 at their home in Brooke Street. She was just forty-seven. In August 1908, William decided to live with his daughter in Queensland. He was given a send-off at the Mechanics Institute while the Camperdown Brass Band played outside.  As reported in the Camperdown Chronicle, William in his speech at his send-off said he was proud because, “…Camperdown had been loyal to him and he had been loyal to Camperdown. He had never got anything outside Camperdown that he could get in it. He had made that the rule of his life. He trusted that everybody would do the same. Camperdown was one of the best places in the world. He believed in it.”

William did not stay away from Camperdown long returning within a few years.  He died in 1917 and was buried at the Camperdown Cemetery leaving five daughters to mourn his loss.

An obituary in the Camperdown Herald of 14 November 1917 mentioned William had originally worked at the Argus newspaper.

SCULLION, John James – Died 13 November 1918 at Terang. John “Jack” Scullion was born around 1867 at Mount View Garvoc and remained there for the duration of his life. With two of his young brothers, he carried on the running of Mount View for their father John.  Jack was president of the Garvoc Racing Club and he served on the board of the Garvoc Butter Factory.  Jack never married and was just fifty-one at the time of his death.  Requiem mass was held at St Thomas Catholic Church, Terang (below).

ST THOMAS CATHOLIC CHURCH, TERANG. Image courtesy of the State Library Victoria

The funeral left the church for the Terang Cemetery.  The Advocate newspaper reported,
The cortege, one of the longest seen in the town, comprising…representatives from most distant parts of the Western District, was a strong proof of the love in which his friends held him, and the respect in which he was held by those who, though associated with him publicly, did not always share his views – no surer sign of recognised worth.

WHITEHEAD, Robert – Died 5 November 1922 at Warrnambool.  Robert Whitehead was born in 1849 at Goodwood on Spring Creek, south of Caramut, the home of his father Robert.

“GOODWOOD” c1859. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria

Robert was one of the first students at Melbourne Grammar School which opened in 1858.  Robert had an interest in racing and did some amateur riding during his early years.  Prior to his death, Robert Whitehead senior divided the Goodwood property among his sons.  Robert named his share Wurroit and built a home in the 1870s (below).  He married Jane Phillips in 1877 and they raised a large family.

“WURROIT”, 1984. Image courtesy of the John T, Collins Collection, State Library of Victoria

Robert was a breeder and judge of sheep and horses. In January 1900, a grass fire went through Wurroit and only the homestead and paddocks close to the homestead were saved. He lost 2000 sheep. Jane died in October 1908 leaving Robert, three sons, and three daughters.  

In 1913, Robert married Myrtyl McFarlane and two daughters were born in the following years. They spent time living in Kerford Street, Malvern, and at Spring Gardens in Warrnambool where Robert died in 1922.  

CARTER, William – Died 14 November 1927 at Hamilton. William Carter was born in 1853 at Portland.  Soon after the family moved to Hamilton and William went to school at Hamilton and Western District College.  In 1879, he married Emma Crossy and they would go on to live in Pope Street.  William worked as an accountant and auditor and in 1882, he took over the business of the late H. W. Thirkell. 

Advertising (1882, February 11). Hamilton Spectator, p. 2.

William and Emma had five children, but four predeceased their parents.  In 1884, Francis died aged six months. Minnie died in 1886 aged fifteen months. In 1889, seven-year-old Charles died, and in 1892, Percival died aged five years and five months.  Their only surviving child and firstborn, Annie Julia married in 1902.

William’s passion was volunteering with the Hamilton Fire Brigade.  He was one of the founding members of the brigade, elected to office at the first general meeting in January 1881 and he was a long-serving Captain.  He was a very active member and a special presentation was made to him in August 1888. He retired from fire fighting duties in 1898. but he remained on the committee and helped out with the fire brigade sports.

Since its beginnings, accommodating the brigade was an issue. They started out in a council owned timber building next to the Town Hall when it was Gray Street,  The brigade soon outgrew and during the 1890s there was a big push for brigade owned and built fire station.  While some committee members were keen on the idea, William Carter later admitted he preferred the option of the brigade buying the existing station.  He was overruled and the new fire station opened in 1901.  William said it was then he’d realised it was the right thing.  He served as vice president of the brigade committee becoming president in 1918 when the position became vacant due to the departure of William Melville to Melbourne.

FORMER HAMILTON FIRE STATION c1903. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria

William was also the secretary of the Hamilton Christ Church Anglican Church, the Hamilton Friendly Societies Union, and the Hamilton Angling Society. He was also involved with the Hamilton Rope Quoits Association.

William died suddenly in 1927 aged seventy-four, leaving his wife Emma.  He was buried at the Hamilton (Old) Cemetery with his children.  Emma died in 1942.




Passing of the Pioneers

This September’s Passing of the Pioneers includes some early colonists, many offering up some interesting extra tidbits.

The images I have used in this post show how Trove can help illustrate your family stories. Simply pick a landmark, ship or even a theme (thinking of the recent post Stretching my Genealogy Muscles), and then do a Trove search. I find many “out of copyright” images from both the State Library of Victoria and the State Library of South Australia. As long as you cite the image correctly, you are free to use that image. Other repositories require that “out of copyright” images be used for personal use only, except with permission from the institution. For the purposes of my blog, that’s not practical as I’m usually searching on a whim, but would not be problem if writing an article or book.

John MOFFATT: Died 5 September 1871. The story of John Moffatt is a something of a rags to riches story and easily could have ended in rags again. Moffatt was born in Scotland around 1817. He arrived in Victoria around 1839 and began work as a shepherd at Hopkins Hills Estate, then run by the Clyde Company. He then went to The Grange at Hamilton owned by Captain William Lonsdale.

In 1854, prophesies of financial doom were directed at the squatters. The Clyde Company got cold feet and sold Hopkins Hill.  John Moffatt was able to buy the property where he worked as a shepherd, fifteen years before, presumably at a reasonable price. In the late 1850s he built Chatsworth House for around £20,000 and given his small freehold, many thought such a lavish investment  would lead to his demise. By the time of his death, however, he was earning £35,000 per annum from rental on his properties.

HOPKINS HILL HOMESTEAD.  Engraving by Grosse, Frederick, d 1828-1894, Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.  Image No. IAN04/02/68/SUPP/4

HOPKINS HILL HOMESTEAD. Engraving by Grosse, Frederick, d 1828-1894,
Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image No. IAN04/02/68/SUPP/4

John Moffat sat as a member of Villiers and Heytesbury from November 1864 to December 1865 in the Victorian Parliament.  He also imported horses with some of the finest bloodlines seen in the colony. His greatest triumph was hosting Prince Alfred in 1867 as depicted in the sketch below by Nicholas Chevalier.  An extensive report of the visit, including Chevalier’s sketch were published in the Illustrated Australian News for Home Readers (Melbourne: 1867-1875) on 4 February 1868. Unfortunately, the Prince was a keen hunter and was able to indulge in his “sport” at Hopkins Hill which sadly involved a yard of kangaroos. That incident too, was reported on at length.

THE ENTRANCE HALL, HOPKINS HILL. - Nicholas Chevalier. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.  Image no. IAN04/02/68/SUPP/1

THE ENTRANCE HALL, HOPKINS HILL. – Nicholas Chevalier. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image no. IAN04/02/68/SUPP/1

John Moffatt travelled to England around 1869.  In 1871, he decided to return to Australia, taking an overland route,  but died during the course of the trip and was buried at Galle, Sri Lanka.  He never married.  A line at the end of the obituary gives some insight into John’s character.  His brother, Robert Moffatt, was described as “even more eccentric” than John.

Thomas MUST: Died 2 September 1905 at Portland. Thomas Must was born in London in 1815 and arrived in Sydney in 1832 aboard the Guardian. He worked for general merchants and shipping agents, Marsden and Flower and in 1842 he married Anne Wilcox. Marsden and Flower sent Thomas to Victoria in 1846 and he established an agency at Portland.   Horace Flower joined him and they formed the partnership, Flower, Must & Co., traders. A large warehouse was built in Bentick Street.

After seven years, Must bought out Flower’s share in the company. Thomas later set up a branch at Port McDonnell, South Australia. He operated his business for a further twenty-seven years, but in the meantime he served on local government and sat on the Victorian Legislative Assemble and saw some shaky financial times. Thomas had the family home Prospect built in 1855, and from there he and Ann raised eight daughters and four sons.

“Prospect” Portland circa 1962-1966. Photographer: John T. Collins. J.T. Collins Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria. Image No. H98.250/2022

Angus McDOUGALL:  Died 4 September 1914 at Hamilton. Angus McDougall, a Scot, arrived at Portland around 1854 aged seventeen, aboard the Edward Johnstone. He started working as a carrier between Portland and Hamilton, but eventually took up land at Buckley’s Swamp. He married, but he and his wife never had children. Eight of his siblings were still alive at the time of his death and the funeral was one of the largest seen in the district, with around sixty vehicles and many on horseback.

Sarah Ann BURNETT:  Died 7 September 1914 at Warrnambool.  Sarah Ann Burnett arrived at Port Fairy aboard the Persian in 1852 with her husband William Miller and three of their children. They lived first between Port Fairy and Tower Hill, then settled on the Merri River at Cassidy’s Bridge. Sarah and William raised seven children. Her obituary states there were two grandchildren and twenty-five great-grandchildren at the time of her death.  Reverse that I think…or, maybe, her two grandchildren were just prolific breeders.

Sarah and her fellow Methodist church goer, Henry Beardsley (below), died a day apart and were both remembered at a service at the Warrnambool Methodist Church led by Reverend Harris.

WARRNAMBOOL METHODIST CHURCH.  Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.  Image No. H32492/2746

WARRNAMBOOL METHODIST CHURCH. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image No. H32492/2746

Fortunately, the Warrnambool Standard documented the service. Reverend Harris reminded the congregation of the great contribution pioneer women made to the colony, a fact often forgotten.

METHODIST CHURCH. (1914, September 14). Warrnambool Standard (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 4 Edition: DAILY.. Retrieved September 25, 2013, from

METHODIST CHURCH. (1914, September 14). Warrnambool Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 4 Edition: DAILY.. Retrieved September 25, 2013, from

Henry BEARDSLEY: Died 9 September 1914 at Russell’s Creek. Henry Beardsley, born in Derbyshire on Christmas Day, 1842, arrived at Hobsons Bay in 1852 aboard the Marco Polo. He accompanied his parents, John and Elizabeth, and four siblings.  That information is from the PROV Index to Assisted British Immigration (1839-1871), something the writer of Henry Beardleys’ obituary did not have access to.  If he did, he would have known that the Marco Polo didn’t land at Geelong in 1850.

Henry first went to Ararat with his family, then on to Warrnambool where he took a job at “Spring Gardens” nursery. After nine years he took a managerial role at the nursery of Mr R. S. Harris. He remained there for another nine years.  After eighteen years in the industry, he started his own nursery at Russell’s Creek.

At the Warrnambool Methodist Church memorial service, Henry, a Sunday School teacher, was remembered as the children’s friend.


METHODIST CHURCH. (1914, September 14). Warrnambool Standard (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 4 Edition: DAILY.. Retrieved September 25, 2013, from

METHODIST CHURCH. (1914, September 14). Warrnambool Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 4 Edition: DAILY.. Retrieved September 25, 2013, from

Margaret BISSETT: Died 14 September 1914 at Richmond. Margaret Bissett was born in Scotland and came to Victoria around the 1850s. She went to Dunmore Station (below), between Port Fairy and Macarthur, owned by Charles MacKnight. It was there she met her future husband, Michael Horan, a worker at the property.

DUNMORE c1866. Photographer Joseph Henry Sodden. Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image No. H1736

After Charles and Margaret’s marriage, they moved to Orford, near Warrnambool, and purchased the Horse and Jockey Hotel which they ran for several years Margaret also ran the Post Office. Margaret passed away at her daughter’s home in Richmond and she was buried at the Port Fairy Cemetery.

James PAPLEY: Died 18 September 1914 at Port Fairy. In 1852, James Papley from Orkney Island, Scotland, his wife Jessie and two babies and a female relative, presumably his sister, left Birkenhead for Port Phillip aboard the Ticonderoga on what was to become a hellish voyage with 170 passengers dying during the passage. 

MELBOURNE SHIPPING. (1852, November 15). Empire (Sydney, NSW : 1850 - 1875), p. 2. Retrieved September 28, 2013, from

MELBOURNE SHIPPING. (1852, November 15). Empire (Sydney, NSW : 1850 – 1875), p. 2. Retrieved September 28, 2013, from

There is an excellent website Ticonderoga that documents the voyage, the passengers and related articles.  It is well worth a look.

James and Jessie began work as the master and matron of the Port Fairy Hospital and remained there many years before turning to farm life at Narrawong, their home for forty-three years.

FORMER PORT FAIRY HOSPITAL c1958.  Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria

FORMER PORT FAIRY HOSPITAL c1958. Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria

Letitia WALL:  Died 8 September 1915 at Toorak. Letitia Wall was born in the Wynard Barracks, Sydney in 1824, her father Colonel Charles William Wall led the 3rd Regiment (The Buffs). She married Robert Henry Woodward in 1846 at Moreton Bay and they went to the Port Fairy district soon after. In her later years, Letitia took up residence at Kilmaron Toorak Road, Toorak where she passed away.

Margaret SEFTON: Died September 1915 at Coleraine.  Margaret Sefton, born in County Down, Ireland in 1823, travelled to Port Phillip with her father and siblings. She married William Brown in 1847 at St. James Church, Melbourne. The couple spent some time in Melbourne and Hamilton before settling at Coleraine. They had thirteen children and by the time of Margaret and William’s Diamond Wedding anniversary, there were eighty-one grandchildren and eleven  great-grandchildren to join the celebrations.  William passed away in 1908.

The  Australia Marriage Index records Margaret and William’s marriage as 1847, as does the site “Came to Port Phillip by 1849″, however Margaret’s obituary refers to their marriage in 1846, their Golden anniversary as 1896 and Diamond anniversary as 1906. Maybe Margaret and William forgot the year they married?

Michael CASEY: Died 8 September 1918 at Macarthur. Born in Limerick, Ireland around 1835, Michael Casey arrived at Geelong aboard the Great Australia, possibly on her 1862 voyage.

GREAT AUSTRALIA, Image Courtesy of the  John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.  Image no. 77078

GREAT AUSTRALIA, Image Courtesy of the John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Image no. 77078

He obtained Municipal contracts for work and he also married, but the newlyweds left Geelong for Sydney when Michael obtained work as a stone mason on the new St Mary’s Cathedral.

ST MARY'S CATHEDRAL, SYDNEY.  Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.  Image no.  H92.200/429

ST MARY’S CATHEDRAL, SYDNEY. Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image no. H92.200/429

After Sydney, Michael and his family moved to Colac, then the Wimmera and finally Macarthur.

George Elias BUTLER: Died 15 September 1918 at Hamilton. A son of a doctor, George Butler was born in Tipperary, Ireland in 1844.  At the age of twenty-five, he travelled to Australia aboard the Great Britain.

GREAT BRITAIN.  Image courtesy of the Brodie Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria.  Image No.  H99.220/4119

GREAT BRITAIN. Image courtesy of the Brodie Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria. Image No. H99.220/4119

He married at Ballarat in 1875 to Catherine Abbott. George spent time working at Blumesbury Muntham before leasing Glengleeson near Macarthur. In his later years, George moved to Hamilton and was known as a respected citizen with many friends throughout the district.

Edward SIMMONS: Died 20 September 1918 at Melbourne. Edward Simmons found his fortune  but it seems he didn’t set out to do it the way he did, unlike many other that tried.  Edward started out selling stock in the Moonambel district before moving to Stawell and running a butcher shop with his brother William.

Fortunately, they obtained shares in Stawell’s Orient Mine, one of the town’s most profitable, as history would show.  Healthy dividends saw them increase their interests in other mines in the town.  Edward was able to buyOban ,now the Stawell RSL. He also purchased pastoral properties including Yarram and Drung. In his later years, he moved to Melbourne and lived with his daughter at Shanghai on St, Kilda Road.


Mystery Photos

Isn’t  it frustrating when you find old family photos but don’t who the subjects are?  Not long ago Mum found some photos of Nana’s we didn’t know she had. We don’t know who the people are and we have no one to ask.

I was recently contacted by Catherine Simmins, who has family links to the Western District.  She is facing the same dilemma with some photos passed on to her family some time ago.  Some were identifiable but others remain a mystery.

Catherine asked me if I could post the photos in the hope someone may recognise the subjects.  Alternatively,  if anyone is better at dating photos than myself, help in that area would also be appreciated.



Also from Meek’s




The following three photos go together.







The Family

Catherine’s family from the Western District included the family names THOMAS, McPHERSON, JONES and McDONALD.

Alfred Charles THOMAS (Catherines great-grandfather) was the son of  William THOMAS and Hannah JONES.  He was born in 1869 at Hamilton.  Alfred married Sarah Ann McPHERSON, the daughter of Angus McPHERSON and Christina McDONALD.

Alfred and Sarah had a large family of 11  children.

Alfred’s obituary lists the names of their children, their married names and locations.

Obituary. (1937, August 5). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 3 Edition: EVENING.. Retrieved July 17, 2012, from

Sarah’s obituary:

OBITUARY. (1940, February 26). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 3 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved July 17, 2012, from

Of course, there is a good chance that the photos are not of this branch of the THOMAS family but have some link.   Catherine has offered a suggestion as to who the family in Photos 3, 4 and 5 could be.

Sarah Ann McPHERSON’s sister, Margaret Jessie McPHERSON married Donald McBEAN in 1891.  They had five known children:

Jessie Christina Jane born 1891 at Hamilton married Arch. NAISMITH

Alexander Angus born 1895 at Hamilton

Mary Monivae born 1900 at Hamilton

Margaret Murial born 1903 at Hamilton married Alfred BONE

Dorothy Jean born 1913 at Portland

This is the Family Notice for Donald McBean:

Family Notices. (1930, March 6). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved July 17, 2012, from

I think Catherine’s hunch could prove correct given the number of children, their sex and the age differences in the children.  If that is baby Dorothy McBean, the  family photo could be from around 1914.

**My interest piqued when I saw the name Mary Monivae.  Monivae, my former secondary school in Hamilton, named after the Monivae homestead, the school’s first site during the 1950s, was formally owned by Acheson Ffrench and James Thomson.  I wonder if Donald McBean worked at the property or they simply liked the name. I’ll save that one for later!

The Photographer

James Meek, tobacconist and photographer of Gray Street Hamilton took Photos 1 and 2.  The earliest reference I can find of Meek in Hamilton was 1884 when he played a role in the investigations of a well-known murder case of the time “The Pierrepoint Murders”.  Pierrepoint is just out of Hamilton and Meek took a photograph of the murder victim to help with the identification process.  Interestingly a member of my Bishop family found his way into one of the witness statements.

Meek also spent some time in Portland in the mid 1890s

Established August 1842. (1896, February 28). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved July 17, 2012, from

James Meek appears to have had a studio at Clunes during the early 1900s,  but I have also found references of him in Hamilton up until 1920.  There are a number of  photographs taken by James Meek at Trove

If you think you can help Catherine name the subjects in these wonderful photos, please leave a comment.  It would be much appreciated.