Passing of the Pioneers

Eleven new pioneers join the Pioneer Obituary Index this month.  They include a couple of politicians, a female publican, and a published writer.  Once again, they all bring great stories from the Western District’s past.  Remember to click on any underlined text to find further information about a subject.

BROMELL, Thomas – Died 9 October 1887 at Melbourne. Thomas Bromell was born in Devonshire, England around 1832.  He married Emma Walter in 1851 and they arrived in Victoria in 1853 aboard the Marchioness of Londonderry.  After a brief stint on the Ballarat goldfields, Thomas and Emma headed to Barrabool Hills near Geelong where they spent about seven years.  The Bromells arrived in the Hamilton district around 1860 and by that time they had five children.  Thomas set about acquiring land, buying sections of properties such as Mokanger, Skene and Kanawalla as they became available, eventually reaching 14,000 acres he called Hensley Park.  He also bought Refuge Station near Casterton

Thomas was a grain grower initially before turning to mixed farming.  Along with sheep, he bred Neapolitan and Berkshire pigs.  He was also widely known as a breeder of Timor ponies.  Thomas began his civic life on the roads board, later becoming the Dundas Shire.  In 1874, Thomas offered himself as a candidate for the seat of Western Province in the Upper House of the Victorian Parliament and was successful.  Thomas was a committee member of the Hamilton Racing Club.  The Bromells went on to have seven daughters and just one son who took over the running of Hensley Park in Thomas’s later years.   Thomas died suddenly at the Union Club Hotel, Melbourne aged fifty-four. His body was returned to Hamilton and buried at the Hamilton (Old) Cemetery (below).


ARMSTRONG, Christian  – Died 24 October 1906 at Hamilton.  Christian Armstrong was born at Kildonan, Scotland in 1831.  She married James Thomson in 1852 and arrived in Victoria on the Europa with James and her brother Alexander Armstrong.  Alexander purchased Warrambeen at Shelford while James worked at Golf Hill Station next door for the Clyde Company.  Christian and James’ first child John was born there in 1853.  By about 1857, James purchased an interest in the Ullswater and Maryvale Stations near Edenhope and they moved to the later property.  In 1870, James purchased Monivae from the estate of Acheson Ffrench.  By then there were seven Thomson children.  Twins were born in the year after their arrival at Monivae and a girl Jessie in 1873.  Sadly Jessie died in 1875, In 1877, a new homestead was built (below), to accommodate the large family.  On  4 June 1889, one of Christian’s twins, George died suddenly at Monivae, from heart trouble he’d suffered from birth.

MONIVAE HOMESTEAD, NEAR HAMILTON. 1966. Image Courtesy of the J.T. Collins Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria.

A deeply religious and charitable woman, Christian was one of the fundraising champions of the town and attended St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church like clockwork “morning and night”. Everyone knew her pew. A full member of the church for thirty-six years, her name was added to the church roll on 4 October 1870.  Christian was also a member of the Ladies Benevolent Society and the British and Foreign Bible Society.  She managed to attend church until just a couple of weeks before her death.

ST. ANDREW’S PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH c1890. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria

Christian died at Monivae at 8.20am on 24 October 1906 and was buried at the Hamilton (Old) Cemetery (below).


The year after Christian’s death, James Thomson lay the foundation stone for a new Presbyterian Church at Hamilton.  He later donated a memorial window for the new church in remembrance of Christian.  You can read more about the Thomson family of Monivae on the link – Strong in Faith…A Story of Monivae Estate.

McKINNON,  Anne – Died 7 October 1914 at Noorat. Anne McKinnon was born around 1825 at Inverness, Scotland. She arrived in Victoria with her parents and siblings in 1852 aboard the Chance to Port Fairy.  In 1854, Anne married Charles Podger.  Anne and Charles spent the early years of their marriage at Mount Fyans near Darlington before Charles selected at Kolora, naming the property Werrook. Anne and Charles had six children, three sons and three daughters.  Anne was buried at Terang Cemetery.

BEGG, William – Died 9 October 1915 at Branxholme. William Begg was born in Scotland around 1840 and arrived in Australia in 1855 aboard the Nashwauk.  His arrival was exciting and dangerous as the Nashwauk wrecked off the South Australian coast at Moana. Surviving the wreck, the family settled in South Australia and William worked as a baker.  Around 1865, William’s parents selected land next to Morven Estate near Branxholme and he moved with them.  The property was called Fontus and William took over the property after his father’s death.  William was involved in the Branxholme Rifle Club and was captain for around twenty years.  He always thought he was lucky to be alive after his perilous arrival on Australian soil.

“”YATHONG” PATRIOTIC FETE.” Punch (Melbourne, Vic. : 1900 – 1918; 1925) 11 November 1915: 18. Web. 24 Oct 2017 .

William never married and lived with his mother who died only three years before him.  He spent his last year living with his sister Mrs Agnes Gough at Royston, Branxholme (below).

ROYSTON, BRANXHOLME, 1976. Image courtesy of the J.T. Collins Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria.

LAYH, Carl – Died 2 October 1917 at Brighton.  Carl Layh was born in Germany around 1837 and arrived in Australia from Liverpool, England in 1859 aboard the Florence Nightingale and headed to the Ballarat diggings. There only briefly, he moved on to Geelong to work for Sander’s tobacconist in Malop Street. Around 1862, Carl moved to Hamilton and opened a tobacconist shop in partnership with Sanders. Located in Gray Street opposite the Victoria Hotel, it went under the name Sanders, Layh and Co.

On 10 June 1863, twenty-seven-year-old Carl married seventeen-year-old Jane Emma Remfrey.  The wedding took place at the Remfrey family home conducted by a Wesleyan minister. Making a career change about 1870, Carl and Jane moved to Burnt Creek near Horsham and opened a school. Carl and his family returned to Hamilton in 1878 and Carl opened an accountancy and commission agents firm and the Western District Labour Mart also known as Layh’s Labour Mart.  Jane also worked in the business.

“Advertising” Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 – 1918) 13 March 1879: 1. Web. 28 Oct 2017 <;.

For twenty-seven years Carl was on the staff of the Hamilton Spectator as a reporter and he also contributed to the Daily Telegraph, The Age, The Argus and Herald. He retired from his work at the Spectator in 1909.   He also taught German at the Western District Academy, Hamilton (below) and privately.  Carl was also a member of the Grange Lodge from 1864.

THE WESTERN DISTRICT ACADEMY, POPE STREET, HAMILTON. Image courtesy of the State Library of South Australia. Image no. B 21766/58

Carl and his wife had five sons and one daughter and lived in Gray Street, Hamilton.  On 10 June 1913, Carl and Jane celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary.  With a son serving overseas, in 1915, Jane Layh unveiled a memorial tablet at the Hamilton State School for past students who had enlisted for WW1. Their son,  Herbert Thomas Christoph Layh who began the war as a Lieutenant in “Pompey” Elliot’s 7th Battalion, was awarded a Distinguished Service Order in 1916 and appointed a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George in 1919.

Ill health forced Carl to retire from his labour mart and he and Jane moved Melbourne to live with their sons.  Carl died in 1917 aged eighty.  At the timeof his death, He and Jane had twenty-five grandchildren.  Jane died in Brighton in 1931 aged eighty-four.

HOWELL, William – Died 7 October 1917 at Hamilton. William Howell lived at Coleford in Milton Street, Hamilton, his home named after the town where he was born in Gloucestershire in 1844.  William arrived in Victoria aboard the Great Victoria,  his twentieth birthday passing during the voyage.  He first went to Murghebolac near Geelong, staying for twelve years before moving to Hamilton. There he worked in partnership with Robert Coulter at Coulter and Howell Monumental Masons, from around 1878 first in Brown and then in Pope Street.

“Advertising” Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 – 1918) 15 April 1882: 4. Web. 28 Oct 2017 <;.

William later set up his own business in Brown Street with branches in Portland and Casterton.

“Advertising” Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 – 1918) 3 August 1909: 1. Web. 28 Oct 2017 <;.

In 1880, William selected land at Marney’s Swamp, north-west of Dunkeld. In 1889 at the age of fifty-four, William married thirty-one-year-old Mary Ann Taylor. They had no children. William was a member of the Rechabite Lodge, the YMCA, was a trustee of the Temperance Hall, and a playing member of the Hamilton Bowling Club.  Mary Ann lived another thirty-three years after William and died at Hamilton in 1950 aged ninety-two.

HICKMER, Sarah Ann – Died 16 October 1918 at Muddy Creek.  Sarah Hickmer was born at Brighton, Sussex, England and arrived in Adelaide, South Australia with her family in 1851.  Sarah then went to Melbourne briefly before going to Mt Gambier. She married Peter Williamson in Victoria in 1853 and around 1866, they took up land at Murphy’s Creek near Yulecart.  Peter died in 1871 but Sarah stayed on at the property with the help of her sons. She did have time away in the 1880s when she went with her sons who bought land at Tellangatuk East. She returned to the district and lived with a son at Muddy Creek.  Sarah was eighty-nine at the time of her death and still the owner of the property she and Peter bought fifty years before.  She left two sons, three daughters, twenty-five grandchildren and twelve great-grandchildren.

CAMPBELL, Hugh John Munro – Died 24 October 1921 at St Kilda. Hugh Campbell was born in 1854 at Melbourne.  The Campbells went to Portland in the early 1860s where Hugh’s father was a merchant.  Hugh entered the family business at a young age.  On 21 January 1880, Hugh married Harriet Jarrett and they went on to have three children. In 1894, Hugh purchased Maretimo at Portland (below).  In 1896, Hugh had telegraph lines installed from his business in Julia Street to Maretimo.

MARETIMO“, PORTLAND c1895. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria

As well as operating the family business, Hugh also had a bark mill in Percy Street and wool washing works near the town. He was considered a pioneer among shipping merchants in Portland.  He was also one of the chief supporters of Scots Church, Portland.  In 1906, Hugh entered politics winning the seat of Glenelg in Victoria’s Legislative Assembly.  In August 1912, Harried died aged sixty-three after an illness. Hugh himself was also very ill that year and was in a hospital in Melbourne when Harriet died. He recovered to continue on with his political duties. In 1914, Hugh’s son Sydney James Campbell, a doctor enlisted with the Army Medical Corps at the outbreak of WW1.  He died of wounds at Gallipoli on 14 July 1915.  Two days later, another son Albert Campbell enlisted.  Fortunately, Albert returned home on 16 July 1917 after serving as a Lieutenant with the 29th Battalion.

“Portland Mourns” Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953) 24 October 1921: 2 (EVENING.). Web. 24 Oct 2017 <;.

Hugh retained the seat of Glenelg until 1920 when defeated. It was also in 1920 when Hugh married on 9 June to Ethel May Waddell aged forty-one.  The following year he tried to win his seat back and was unsuccessful. It was a difficult period for Hugh who fell sick during the campaign of 1921.  He improved slightly before the election but his second defeat saw his health fail again leading to his death on 24 October 1921 at the age of sixty-seven. His body was returned to Portland by train for burial. After sixteen months of marriage, Ethel was a widow.  Twenty-five years younger than Hugh, she died at Camberwell in 1965 aged eighty-six.

HAMILTON, James Charles. – Died 25 October 1927  at Apsley. James Hamilton was born at Haddington, Scotland in 1836. In November 1841, James arrived at Port Melbourne with his parents and three siblings. The Hamiltons headed to Kilmore where they remained until 1846.  James’ father travelled alone to the west of the colony applying for land to form two stations Bringalbert and Ozenkadnook Stations near Apsley.  The family set out from Kilmore to join him in late February and arrived at Lake Wallace on 8 May 1846. James’ father lived only another four years.

James started driving bullocks at a young age and made trips with his brother to Portland with wool then returning with supplies. At some point, James was sent to St John’s Church of England Grammar School in Launceston to study surveying  On his return, he went to New Zealand with his brothers, with one having bought land there. Back in Australia by 1860, James married Eleanor Bax at Robe, South Australia. They returned to settle at Ozenkadnook Station.

James acquired other properties, owning up to five at one stage  It wasn’t a profitable venture and a tough existence, with drought and poor seasons. By the time he left his last station, James was penniless.  Adding to the hardship, during April 1883, James accidentally shot himself in the leg, leading to its amputation. In February 1888, a fire swept through Ozenkadnook.  Station hands had to run for their lives and James had to try to escape the fire on his crutches.  In 1910, Eleanor died having lived the past fifty years at Ozenkadnook Station.

“Crossed the Bar.” Weekly Times (Melbourne, Vic. : 1869 – 1954) 2 July 1910: 24. Web. 24 Oct 2017.

It was after Eleanor’s death, James began writing his memoirs, “Pioneering Days in Western Victoria”.  He said in the year after publication it cost him a lot of money but he had sold 2500 copies in the first ten months. The book mentions many Western District names such as Henty, Cooke, Affleck, Edgar, Learmonth, Moffat, Armytage, and Laidlaw and includes James’ memories of stations including Muntham, Merino Downs, Nangeela, Rifle Downs, Gringegolgura, Dunrobin, and Pine Hills. The topics it covers include carting wool to Portland, Black Thursday bushfires, the bushrangers Morgan, Gardiner and Captain Melville, and Cobb and Co. in the 1850s including noted drivers.  You can read James booking on the link – Pioneering Days in Western Victoria.

“PIONEERS OF VICTORIA” Weekly Times (Melbourne, Vic. : 1869 – 1954) 12 July 1924: 10. Web. 24 Oct 2017 .

In his later years, James moved to Apsley and in 1924, it was reported he was compiling another book “The Civilisation and Occupation of Western Victoria” although it seems it was never finished.  James’ also published another edition of his earlier book in 1923.  In 1925, the Weekly Times published the book in a series.  James died at his son’s home at Apsley, aged ninety-two.  He also had one daughter still surviving.

SATCHWELL, Adeline Eliza – Died 7 October 1943 at Darlington. No one has known the Elephant Bridge Hotel like Adeline Satchwell.  Adeline, known as Ada, was born at the hotel on 9 February 1861 to  John Satchwell and Mary Ann Hudson.  Her father, a hot-tempered man, had only recently taken up the license on the hotel.  When Adeline was just two months old, her father went in a fit of “temporary insanity” and locked his wife Mary-Ann in her room and tried to set her alight.  She managed to climb out a window to safety. Where Adeline was during that time is unknown. Eventually, a trooper arrived and in his presence, John Satchwell killed himself.  He was thirty-four. A full report of the incident was published in The Argus on 2 May 1861.  Only weeks earlier, a letter of complaint was sent to the Geelong Advertiser complaining of John Satchwell’s rudeness and insulting manner.  Mary-Ann continued running the hotel and remarried in 1876 to John Eales.

In 1882, Adeline married Murdoch McLeod.  Her mother continued to hold the hotel licence until July 1889 when it was transferred to Murdoch and Mary Ann moved to Melbourne. However, Murdoch died suddenly on 20 September 1889, leaving Adeline with a hotel and four young children.  Then three months later, news came her mother had died on 12 October 1889 at St Kilda. Mary Ann was buried at the Darlington Cemetery

THE ELEPHANT BRIDGE HOTEL, DARLINGTON 1934. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria

Adeline continued on at the hotel.  In 1895, she married widower Joseph Gellie who had ten children from eighteen to seven. He and Adeline would have a further three, two sons and a daughter. When interviewed in 1937, Adeline said the road wasn’t as busy at it was when she was a girl. Then the hotel was the coach changing station and “meeting place of waggons and travellers up from Warrnambool to the great stations of the Camperdown-Terang area”. One of her bachelor sons,  Claude McLeod helped his mother at the hotel. Adeline is pictured below with Claude and another son Garnett.

“The children indicated by circles will each be presented with a Weekly Times pencil.” Weekly Times (Melbourne, Vic. : 1869 – 1954) 2 January 1937: 31 (FIRST EDITION). Web. 26 Oct 2017 <;.

On 9 February 1939, Adeline celebrated her fiftieth year as a publican and it was also her seventy-eighth birthday.  She was the only publican in Australia to hold a license in one hotel for the longest consecutive time. Adeline died in October 1943 at the place she was born. She was buried at the nearby Darlington Cemetery. Adeline left four sons and three daughters.  Her son Claude McLeod died only two years after Adeline on 25 March 1945.  The Elephant Bridge Hotel was put up for sale in 1946.

Apparently Adeline still “frequents” the hotel along with a couple of other ghosts, including a man in his thirties…the age of Adeline’s father at the time of his death. The Elephant Bridge Hotel is often named among Australia’s haunted pubs.

CAMERON, John – Died 17 October 1947 at Natimuk.  John Cameron was born at Byaduk around 1871 and became a dairy farmer.  He was involved with founding the Condah Butter Factory and was the factory’s first secretary.  In 1907, John put his Condah property up for lease and went to Queensland with his brother, selecting land at Darling Downs. It was a time many from the district were moving to that state, at the time described by the Hamilton Spectator as a “Queensland exodus”. John eventually returned to Condah and married Mary Amelia “Milly” Cameron of Condah on 9 June 1910 and a very fancy wedding it was.  The wedding report in the Hamilton Spectator mentioned within John Cameron’s family, for five or six generations, the Cameron men had all married women with the same surname.

Around 1916, John bought the farm of Louis Oliver, a Byaduk born man who moved to the Wimmera.  Located at Duchembegarra, north of Natimuk, the property was named Caringal.  John was soon well-known in the district and became President of the Presbyterian Church.  John and Millie Cameron had one son and four daughters.  John Cameron died on 17 October 1947 at the age of seventy-six and was buried at the Natimuk Cemetery.  Milly died three years later aged sixty-three.

Passing of the Pioneers

Welcome to a bumper May Passing of the Pioneers. So many interesting pioneers passed in the month of May, I had to leave some for next year. Those that remain had such great stories that it was necessary to share some extra bits and pieces found about them. Some just passed through the Western District from time to time, others lived there only for a short period while others were residents for over fifty years, but they all left their mark in some way. They include army captains, ship captains, a dentist and a naturalist.

Captain Foster FYANS:  Died 23 May 1870 at Newtown. Western Victorian historian, Margaret Kiddle, wrote in her book Men of Yesterday: a social history of the Western District of Victoria (1834-1890) “the story of  Foster Fyans’ commissionership is a joy to historians” (p.50) . Born in Dublin, Ireland, Foster Fyans was an army captain. He enlisted in 1816 and served with different regiments of the British army including a stint in India. On arrival in Australia in 1833, he became the captain of the guard on Norfolk Island and remained there for two years. In 1837, he left the army and headed to Port Phillip to become the first police magistrate at Geelong.

From 1840, Foster Fyans held the important position of  Crown Lands Commissioner for the Portland Bay area.  A squatter taking up land had to seek permission from the Commissioner and pay an annual fee. The Commissioner’s word was law and there was no arguing with Foster Fyans, a man with a temper.  He tangled with many squatters including the Hentys.  Governor  La Trobe had his moments with Fyans and Kiddle cites La Trobe declaring Fyans “secured to him the chance of a duel once at least in the week as long as he may live” (p.50).

As commissioner, Fyans would ride great distances from Geelong through to Portland and into the Wimmera, a formidable task but his skills marking out selections  may not have been as great  according to Richard Bennett’s Early Days in Port Fairy (edited by Jan Critchett).  Fyans’ marking of runs “amounted to almost a farce” as Bennett  described the technique used by Fyans:

They were usually laid off in ten mile blocks, measured with a compass in his hand, and timing his horse.  A blackfellow followed, and notched a tree line.  When the Commissioner had travelled what he considered the distance, he notched a corner tree with a broad arrow, and then rode off again at right angles to the next corner, and so on round the block.  Captain Fyans was a bluff old gentleman…” (p.26).

Despite his ways, Fyans was kept on as Commissioner because there was no one else qualified to do the job.

THE LATE CAPTAIN FYANS. (1870, June 18). Illustrated Australian News for Home Readers (Melbourne, Vic. : 1867 - 1875), p. 114. Retrieved May 19, 2013, from

THE LATE CAPTAIN FYANS. (1870, June 18). Illustrated Australian News for Home Readers (Melbourne, Vic. : 1867 – 1875), p. 114. Retrieved May 19, 2013, from

Foster Fyans died at Balyang (below) in the Geelong suburb of Newtown and while the house was demolished in 1896, the site is now a part of the Balyang sanctuary. Around the Geelong area the Fyans name is still present with Fyans Street and the suburb, Fyansford. Around the Grampians there is Lake Fyans and Fyans Creek.

BALYANG, RESIDENCE OF FOSTER FYANS c1851. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria Image no. H88.21/107

William CARMICHAEL:  Died May 1890 at Macarthur. William lived at Harton Hills, near Macarthur. According to his obituary, William purchased the property in 1843 from squatter James Hunter.  However, the Macarthur Historical Society website states William bought the property from the Bolden brothers in 1842.  Any wonder William’s  obituary notes there were “many and varied stories” about how he acquired Harton Hills.

Captain Alexander CAMPBELL:  Died May 25, 1890 at South Yarra.  Alexander Campbell was born in 1803 in Argyleshire, Scotland and followed his brothers to Tasmania in 1825. After farming for a few years, Alexander left for Sydney in 1831. The following year a position in charge of the whaling station at Portland was offered to him but he didn’t take up the role until 1836.  In the meantime he went whaling, sailing as far as Japan. After Portland, he went on to Port Fairy where he stayed for about fifteen years.  In that time he built at least two cottages, one occupied by his sisters. In 1851, he became a harbour master and later moved to Gippsland where he returned to farming.  In his last years, Alexander and his wife moved to Caroline Street, South Yarra where  he died aged 87.

Captain David FERMANER:  Died May 1893 at Newport. Earlier this year I wrote a Trove Tuesday post entitled Gilding the Lily.  Captain David Fermaner may have been guilty of just that.  At the time of his death, Fermaner, a whaler, was credited as being Victoria’s earliest colonist and that he was standing on the beach at Lady Bay when the ship carrying the first Henty’s reached the Victorian coastline. However, after reading Jenny Williams Fawcett’s account of David Fermaner and his link to the legend of the Mahogany Ship, it became obvious telling the truth was not one of his strong points.

CAPTAIN DAVID FERMANER. Image courtesty of the State Library of Victoria Image no. H2889/85

After his time in the south-west, Fermaner later became pilot and harbourmaster at Port Albert in Gippsland.

William Thomas PILE:  Died 25 May 1901 at Portland. William Pile was born in Devonshire, England and as a boy served an apprenticeship in the fishing industry at Hull.  With an urge to see the world, he became a sailor and in 1852, his ship Cossepore arrived at Portland, but he travelled on to Geelong and like many other ships’ crew he left and headed to the diggings.  The thrill of the high seas and travel was a greater lure and he returned to England. It was not until 1854 on a return visit to Portland, he decided to settle.

William’s working life in Portland started as a fisherman and in 1869 after a trip home to England, he returned with a new type of gun to harpoon whales.  He bought into a wattle bark business with Stephen Jarrett that proved lucrative. In 1876 William became a Portland Councillor and then Portland Mayor in 1880 and 1886.

Stephen DUDDEN:  Died 2 May 1903 at Hamilton. Stephen Dudden was born in Somersetshire around 1819 and arrived in Victoria in the 1860s. Stephen showed some entrepreneurial skills setting up a refreshment tent opposite the Hamilton Lands office, in Brown Street, during the rush to buy land after the passing of the Land Act in 1860. He later went  to Portland working as a stonemason and then retired to Myamyn. In the month prior to his death, a dehydrated and disheveled Stephen was found by a Hamilton policeman and taken to the Hamilton Hospital where he remained until he passed away from senile decay.

Janet MILLAR:  Died 3 May 1910 at Portland. Janet’s obituary named her only as Mrs Browning, so I turned to the Australian Death Index to find her birth name, Janet Millar. Janet and her husband John Browning arrived in Victoria in 1849 and headed to Portland to set up a school. With the discovery of gold, the school was abandoned and the Brownings headed for the diggings. They returned to Portland and eventually John set up another school, John Browning’s Boarding School for Boys.

Janet was eighty-eight at the time of her death and had kept relatively good health and was still tending her home.  However, it was a once in a lifetime chance to see Halley’s Comet in 1910 that led to her demise. She had been out early on cold mornings trying to catch a glimpse of the comet and developed a chill, too much for her weak heart.

Laurence FINN:  Died 24 May 1914 at Port Fairy. Laurence Finn from Tipperary, Ireland arrived in Melbourne with his parents in 1841 and in 1843 they settled in Port Fairy. In 1858, Laurence married Ellen Crowe and they took up residence at Comely Banks, Port Fairy. Laurence’s father ran the Belfast Inn for a time until he let the lease lapse. As a the only child from his father’s second marriage, Laurence and his children inherited a large amount of land. Laurence was a Justice of the Peace and was a member of the Port Fairy Agriculture Society.

John McCOMBE: Died 7 May 1916 at Casterton. Fourteen-year-old, John McCombe arrived in Melbourne aboard the Champion of the Seas in 1854. His family headed directly to Portland but John soon moved on to the Casterton district taking up work at Dunrobin and Nangeela. He purchased a bullock team and began a carrying business and moved to Sandford around 1861 after he married. Four years later he bought land at Deep Creek, Corndale and he remained there until his death.

Frederick Sunderland Wood MAWSON:  Died 19 May 1916 at Geelong. Frederick Mawson was a dentist and he travelled the Western District and Mt. Gambier inspecting the teeth of the residents.  Born around 1843, Frederick studied dentistry in England and practiced in Yorkshire.  After acquiring the necessary qualifications for Australia, Frederick set up practice in Geelong and for a few years had a practice in Mt Gambier.

DENTISTRY. (1914, April 2). The Casterton News and the Merino and Sandford Record (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 1 Edition: Bi-Weekly. Retrieved May 23, 2013, from

DENTISTRY. (1914, April 2). The Casterton News and the Merino and Sandford Record (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 1 Edition: Bi-Weekly. Retrieved May 23, 2013, from

This “advertorial” from the Border Watch gives a good description of Frederick Mawson and his dentistry.


F. J. Mawson,. (1899, April 5). Border Watch (Mount Gambier, SA : 1861 - 1954), p. 4 Supplement: Supplement to the BORDER WATCH. Retrieved May 23, 2013, from

F. J. Mawson,. (1899, April 5). Border Watch (Mount Gambier, SA : 1861 – 1954), p. 4 Supplement: Supplement to the BORDER WATCH. Retrieved May 23, 2013, from


George Deihl McCORMICK: Died 29 May 1916 at Warrnambool.  Born in Toronto, Canada, George McCormick arrived in Victoria in 1852. He farmed and apparently became a part owner of Cobb & Co. coaches. While I can’t find evidence of this claim, George did know a lot about Cobb & Co. as recorded in his reminisces from 1902 with a writer from the Warrnambool Standard. The article also appeared in the Portland Guardian of January 20, 1902

mccorm mccorm1 mccorm2

This is a perfect opportunity to show a Cobb & Co. coach and the Leviathan coach, introduced in 1862, was the height of madness. Smaller coaches would have been scary enough to ride in as they hurtled along unmade roads. But a coach for 89 passengers. What were they thinking? George’s account above mentions the perils facing the Leviathan coach, but it was not the risk that proved them unsuccessful. Rather, the driver’s whip could not reach the front horses, so a bag of stones were carried to throw at the leaders.

COBB & CO COACH WITH 89 PASSENGERS.  Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria Image No. H4051

COBB & CO COACH WITH 89 PASSENGERS. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria Image No. H4051

George became a police magistrate in 1882 and purchased Bournfield Park Estate at Woodstock near Whittlesea and in 1889 he arrived in Warrnambool.  He remained there until his death.  He left a wife, Barbara Waddell and five sons and four daughters.

John James VILLIERS:  Died May 1917 at Warrnambool. London born John Villiers was a talented man. He arrived in Victoria in 1858 aged around seventeen and headed to the diggings. In the early 1860s he went to Warrnambool and his obituary in the Argus May 12, 1917 said he ran a painting and decorating business in Libeig Street and imported crockery.  John’s  interest in painting went beyond house painting.  He enjoyed painting landscapes in oils and watercolours and once he presented a painting to the Warrnambool Art Gallery.

A man of the arts, John was also an amateur dramatic and vocal performer and organised dramatic events to raise money for the likes of the Warrnambool Hospital and the Mechanics Institute. John was a part of the earliest known sound recording in Australia by Warrnambool shoe shop owner, Thomas Rome on one of the first Edison phonographs. John Villiers sang The Hen Convention and if you click on the link, you can hear the song. More information about Thomas Rome and John Villiers and their recordings can be found in a story by ABC Southwest from 2010.

Sarah BARKER: Died May 1917 at Ararat. Most months I can find a pioneer that I have even just a tenuous family link to.  This month it is Sarah Barker. Sarah was the mother of Stephen Ward. Stephen married Isabella Harman, daughter of James Harman. I didn’t know that Sarah Jerrett, as she was in her obituary, was formally Sarah Ward and Sarah Baker.  When I read the obituary however, it mentioned the Ward connection and her son Stephen.

Sarah, from Norfolk, England and her first husband James Ward, arrived at Portland in 1852.  She was twenty-three.  Sarah remained there until the late 1890s when she moved to Ararat. Prior to that  Sarah and James had seven children. including second youngest Stephen in 1867. James died in 1879 and Sarah married Francis Jerrett in 1883.

John GURRY:  Died 24 May 1917 at Condah. John Gurry and his wife left Ireland for Portland in 1857. They tried Harrow and Branxholme, running the Western Hotel there, then settled in Condah where John ran a farm. In their later years, they moved into the Condah township. John was buried in a family grave at Portland.

OBITUARY. (1917, May 28). Port Fairy Gazette (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved May 23, 2013, from

OBITUARY. (1917, May 28). Port Fairy Gazette (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved May 23, 2013, from

Adam EDGAR:  Died 8 May 1941 at Tapanui, New Zealand.  At the age of six, Adam arrived in Portland aboard the Severn in 1857 with his parents, James and Isabella and his eight siblings. The family went straight to Pine Hills  Harrow the property of James Edgar’s brother, David. Like his cousins and siblings, he was educated at the private school David Edgar had established at Pine Hills.  In 1871,  Adam married Margaret Huston and in 1875, they left for New Zealand where they stayed for the rest of their lives. One of Adam and Margaret’s sons was the Reverend James. Huston Edgar, an explorer, missionary and author who spent much of his life in China. His obituary is below. Adam’s sister Jean Edgar was a Passing Pioneer from March 2012.

MR. J. H. EDGAR DEAD. (1936, April 6). The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 - 1954), p. 14. Retrieved May 26, 2013, from

MR. J. H. EDGAR DEAD. (1936, April 6). The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 – 1954), p. 14. Retrieved May 26, 2013, from

Captain Robert Ernest BAKER: Died 4 May 1943 at Larpent. What an interesting character Captain Baker was. Not a ship’s captain, but a captain in the AIF during WW1 he served with the 8th Light Horse. Reading his eighty-eight page service record, I found that Baker was actually a Lieutenant when delisted and was a just temporary Captain at one time during his service. “Captain” does have a better ring to it.

This wonderful photo from the Australian War Memorial has a real Western District flavour but sadly only one, Robert Baker, returned.  Captain Baker is seated on the left.  He was forty-one at the time of enlistment.  The other men are seated right:  Keith Allan Borthwick of Armadale. Standing from left: Major Thomas Harold Redford of Warrnambool, Lt Edward Ellis Henty of Hamilton, Lt Eliot Gratton Wilson of Warrnambool.

Edward Ellis Henty was the grandson of Stephen George Henty. He,  Borthwick, Redford and Wilson joined up on the same day, 21 September 1914 and all died on the same day, 7 August 1915 at the battle of The Nek at Gallipoli.  Robert Baker’s war was plagued with illness, including dysentery and lumbago, but it probably saved his life.  On 7 August 1915, he was in the No 1 Australian Stationary Hospital on Mudros.

Image Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial P00265.001

Image Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial P00265.001

After the war, Captain Baker transformed his property at Larpent into a sanctuary for the native fauna.  He often contributed to the Nature Notes in the Argus.

NOTES FOR BOYS. (1930, September 9). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 9. Retrieved May 26, 2013, from

NOTES FOR BOYS. (1930, September 9). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), p. 9. Retrieved May 26, 2013, from

In 1936, he offered kangaroos from his own sanctuary to the Healesville sanctuary.  Healesville Sanctuary was in its first years as it was officially opened in 1934.

Healesville Shire Council. (1936, May 2). Healesville and Yarra Glen Guardian (Vic. : 1900 - 1942), p. 3. Retrieved May 26, 2013, from

Healesville Shire Council. (1936, May 2). Healesville and Yarra Glen Guardian (Vic. : 1900 – 1942), p. 3. Retrieved May 26, 2013, from

Herbert Edward RIPPON:  Died 19 May 1954 at Hamilton. Herbert Rippon was the son of George Rippon, part owner of the Hamilton Spectator Herbert lived at Edradour, a house on Ballarat Road, Hamilton I must have passed a thousand times.  Photos of Edradour can be seen on a Hamilton real estate agency listing. Herbert inherited ownership of the Hamilton Spectator in 1899. The Victorian Heritage Database has a short bio on Herbert and he was one of the original backers of Sir Reginald Ansett, then a Hamilton resident. He also was a director of John Thompson & Co department store of Hamilton.

Passing of the Pioneers

I enjoy finding stories of pioneer women, as they give me some idea of the lives lived by my own pioneering female ancestors.  March Passing of the Pioneers introduces a plucky pioneer, Elizabeth Cole.  Elizabeth and another pioneer, Annie Alexander both made their mark in roles not traditionally considered the domain of women. Among the passing gentleman, I enjoyed the story of John McClounan, a well-travelled pioneer.

Mr John Lang CURRIE: Died 12 March 1898 at St Kilda.  John Currie was born in Selkirkshire, Scotland in 1818.  He arrived in Victoria in 1841 to join his cousins who had taken up land near Melbourne and then later at Buninyong.  

JOHN LANG CURRIE 1872. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria

JOHN LANG CURRIE 1872. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria

 In 1844, John purchased Larra Estate (below) near Derrinallum with Thomas Anderson.  In 1850, he brought out Anderson’s share in the property and purchased the Mount Elephant run and two years later married Louisa Johnston.

"LARRA" c1859.  Photographer John Lang Currie.  Image no.  H2013.345/42

“LARRA” c1859. Photographer John Lang Currie. Image no. H2013.345/42

In 1886, John bought Tintanga and Gala estates near Lismore along with having interests in properties in New South Wales and Queensland. He bred merino sheep known for the high quality of their wool.  John died at his town residence Eildon in Grey Street, St Kilda.  

EILDON, ST KILDA.  Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria

EILDON, ST KILDA. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria

Not surprisingly, John Currie left a large estate and news of its value made news across Australia. John’s son Henry Alan Currie inherited Mount Elephant station.

"A Wealthy Pastoralist's Will." Riverine Herald (Echuca, Vic. : Moama, NSW : 1869 - 1954) 21 July 1898:  .

“A Wealthy Pastoralist’s Will.” Riverine Herald (Echuca, Vic. : Moama, NSW : 1869 – 1954) 21 July 1898: <;.

For more information, John Lang Currie’s biography is on the Australian Directory of Biography site.

John McCLOUNAN: Died 2 March 1902 at Green Lake. John McClounan was born in Scotland in 1832 but left when he was twenty-one.  But not straight to Australia.  He first travelled to America where he spent seven years and then on to New Zealand for around six years.  He and his brother, his travelling companion, then moved to the goldfields of N.S.W. and then to Victoria and Deep Lead near Stawell.  They gave up on mining and moved to Green Lake to farm.  It was on this property John died, forty years later.  He was unmarried.

Isabella SPALDING:  Died March 1907 at Warrnambool. Isabella Spalding was “another pioneer “Mother of Israel”” lost to the Western District.  Aged ninety-one, her husband, James Davidson had died forty-six years before and according to the obituary, she “trained up five sons and four daughters to man and womanhood”

John Henry OLIVER:  Died 23 March 1909 at Horsham. John Oliver was the brother-in-law of Jonathon and Reuben Harman. The obituary states John arrived in Melbourne with his family in 1848. It was in fact 1849 aboard the Courier.  John had spent time around Byaduk where his family settled, however, he bought land at Sailors Home near Dimboola in the early 1870s.  After a stroke, John did return to Byaduk trying to regain his health, but he eventually returned to the Wimmera to live out his last months.

William Snaith WARD: Died 14 March 1913 at Ballarat. On arrival at Geelong in 1857, William Ward headed straight for the goldfields of Ballarat. He mined the “Hit and Miss” shaft at Creswick before taking time of mining to run the coach on the Ballarat-Buninyong Road. The lure of gold was too great and he headed to the goldfields of N.S.W. and one time drilled for coal in Gippsland.

Margaret CAMPBELL: Died 10 March 1914 at Casterton. Margaret arrived at Portland with her parents in 1855 after sailing aboard the Athletae.  She married Donald Ross in 1857 when she was around twenty-six.  They moved to Hamilton, then Sandford before settling in Casterton on the corner of Jackson and Clarkes Street in the house both Margaret and Donald died about fifty years later.

James FERGUSON: Died March 1914 at Beulah. Scottish born James was one of the early settlers at Beulah and was known around the town as “The Laird”. He was one of the first representatives of the newly formed Karkarooc Shire in 1896.  In 1908, he travelled to England and visited the place of his birth in Scotland.

Dugald MAIN:  Died 9 March 1916 at Ballarat. Dugald arrived in Geelong aboard the Star of the East in 1854 and then settled in Ballarat.  He was a builder by trade and sat on the committee of the Ballarat Orphan Asylum.

Alexander McKAY:  March 1919 at Carlton. Alexander, formerly of Mortlake, was a Scot through and through and was a keen participant in Highland games throughout the district. He was an excellent player of the pipes and excelled at the heavy lifting events of the games, such as the caber toss.

Edmond DWYER:  Died 14 March 1930 at Condah. Edmond at ninety-two was the last of the pioneers to arrive on the General Hewitt in 1856. He initially went in search of gold near Beaufort at the Fiery Creek diggings, before turning to road contracting at Portland. He worked the road from Portland to Hamilton for many years.

Mary McDONALD:  Died 4 March 1932 at Hotspur. Mary McDonald was a very old pioneer when she passed away in 1932.  She was born in the Isle of Skye in 1838 and was a teenager when she arrived at Portland with her parents in 1853 aboard the New Zealand.  She married Archibald McLean in 1862 and they settled at Hotspur and raised eight children.

Mary Jane JONES:  Died March 1932 at Portland. Mary Jane Jones was born in Portland in 1859.  She first married a Mr Jennings and they had two sons before she married Alfred Fredericks.  They had a further six children.

Martha RIGBY:  Died 11 March 1934 at Hamilton. Born in Lancashire, Mrs Jackson arrived at Portland with her parents, John and Sarah Rigby, in 1859. They settled at Heywood where she married John Jackson.  They later moved to Hamilton.  Mrs Jackson left a large family of ten children, thirty-two grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren (this was reported as seven great-great-grandchildren, so they either forgot the great-grandchildren or it was meant to read great-grandchildren).

Emma HOLMES:  Died March 1935 at Drik Drik.  Emma was a knitter.  She knitted during the Great War for the troops and later for the Methodist Babies Home at South Yarra.  Emma arrived at Portland as a seven-year-old in 1852.  She married William Mullins and they settled at Drik Drik, with Emma considered to be the first white woman to settle there.  Surely a tough time for a new bride.

Annie Gray ALEXANDER: Died 14  March 1937 at Toorak.  Annie Alexander was born near Beechworth around 1861.  She married Henry William Witton in the early 1880s.  They took up residence at Dimboola in the 1890s.  After Henry’s death, Annie did something a little different to some of the pioneer women I have written of before. She published the Dimboola Banner newspaper until 1918.

Maria Jane TAYLOR:  Died 20 March 1939 at Portland. Maria Taylor was an active member of the Myamyn community even up until months before her death at aged ninety.  She was born at South Portland and later married John Treloar at Myamyn where they lived out their lives.  Mrs Treloar had a large family of thirteen, eight of whom were still living at the time of her death.

Elizabeth COLE: Died March 1942 at Bostocks Creek. What a great pioneer Elizabeth Cole was. Born at Poplar, London in 1845, she came to Australia with her parents in the early 1850s.  She married Alexander Dalziel at Lethbridge in 1862.  At the time of her death, Elizabeth and Alexander had 120 descendants including sixty-five great-grandchildren.  What got me about Elizabeth was she was that she had been a bullock driver and one with great skill.  She also had memories of Eureka, could recall Lethbridge as a canvas town and the slab huts of Port Fairy and considered kangaroo a delicacy.  In her later years, she enjoyed listening to that modern contraption, the wireless.

PIONEER DIES IN 97th YEAR. (1942, March 17). Camperdown Chronicle (Vic. : 1877 – 1954), p. 3. Retrieved March 23, 2012, from

Mary MURRAY:  Died 17 March 1944 at Hamilton. Mary’s father was an overseer for Edward Henty at Muntham where she was born.  At the time, she was the first white child born at Muntham.  At some time, she married Mr Hallam and had many great pioneering stories.

Jean EDGAR:  Died March 1947 at Harrow. Jean was another wonderful pioneer who had been in Victoria for ninety years.  She arrived aboard the Severn which carried another great pioneer, the thoroughbred King Alfred, one of Australia’s early champion sires.

OBITUARY. (1947, March 13). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 4 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved March 23, 2012, from

In 1874 she married into the pioneering Minogue family at Harrow where she lived for the rest of her life.