This is my first Broken Memories post in over three years. This story of the Chadwick family has waited in my drafts all that time. There are more Broken Memories stories waiting too, so watch out for those. Hopefully, the wait won’t be as long.
If you would like to know more about the Broken Memories series, follow the link to an introduction covering broken graves, who is responsible for their repair, and the regulations Victorian cemeteries adhere to-Broken Memories…An Introduction. You’ll find links to three previous Broken Memories stories at the bottom of this post.
The story behind the grave of Sarah Chadwick and baby Rae is one about the twists and turns of life and left me wondering, as I do about many graves in the Hamilton (Old) Cemetery, how long since a loved one stood before the grave and remembered those within.
Sarah Jane Morris was born at Geelong in 1858, a daughter of Henry Morris and Susan Best.1 In 1880, she married Englishman Thomas Taylor Chadwick.2 A son Edgar Henry was born in 1885 at Mortlake.3
In 1886, the death of Edgar Henry Chadwick, son of Thomas T. and Sarah Chadwick, was registered in Albury. It seems unfeasible for the Chadwicks to be so far north, particularly when they first showed up in Hamilton in the first half of 1886. However, aside from Edgar’s birth at Mortlake, there is no other reference to him aside from the death in Albury.
The Chadwicks arrived in Hamilton around May 1886 with Thomas taking over the business of John West in Gray Street, next to what is now the National Bank.
The Chadwick family grew in 1890 with the birth of Constance Winifred.4 In 1892, Sarah fell sick, and the doctor diagnosed influenza, but her condition worsened. Sarah had consumption (tuberculosis). She died on 5 August 1892, the day of her thirty-fourth birthday, leaving Thomas and infant Constance. Sarah was buried at the Hamilton (Old) Cemetery.
Thomas could easily have felt cursed when, two months after Sarah’s death, the fire bell he heard on the night of 7 October 1892 from his home in Lonsdale Street was signalling a large fire at his shop. He rushed to the scene to see the building engulfed in flames. The fire started at Miss McGowan’s fancy goods shop and spread to her fruit shop next door, and then to Thomas’s shop. Miss McGowan was in the backyard of her shops in a distressed state, suffering from shock.
Thomas had just received £1500 of his new season’s stock, with a total stock of £5000. A fire sale and his insurance enabled him to get his shop up and running again. A. Miller & Co. owned the building, which was insured.
Thomas remarried in 1894 to Annie Vagg.5 A son Rae Hamilton Chadwick was born at the Chadwick home Olinda on 29 May 18956, but he died a month later.7 Rae was buried at the Hamilton cemetery in an unmarked grave to the left of Sarah’s grave.
Thomas and Annie left Hamilton in the late 1890s for Welshpool in South Gippsland, almost 500 kilometres from Hamilton. Thomas had a career change, taking up dairy farming at Hazel Park on the Agnes River.
He was soon running a successful operation.
In 1903, the Leader newspaper reported Thomas was milking ninety-five cows daily and had built a milk processing factory on his property to overcome the distance to the nearest factory. The same year, a daughter Dorothy was born to Thomas and Annie.8
Fire again brought despair to Thomas’ life in January 1908 when dozens of properties in the district were burnt out. Thomas was one of the “heavy losers”. By 1927, when Constance married 9, Thomas and Annie were living in East St. Kilda. Constance spent her married life in Sea Lake in the Mallee.
Soon after, Thomas and Annie moved to Caulfield North. Annie died in 1950 and Thomas the following year.
Constance, the only known living child of Sarah, died in 1975, aged 84. Her death registration shows her mother’s name as “unknown”.10
It’s been over 120 years since the Chadwicks left the Hamilton district. Life moved on, time passed, and with the barrier of distance, maybe there was never the chance to return to Hamilton to visit the graves of Sarah and Rae. Now, those who remembered them are long gone.
The passage of time has not been kind to Sarah’s monument, with the column having fallen from its mount and the slab broken. It is in the southeast corner of the cemetery, an area with many missing and broken headstones. On the crest of the Coleraine Road hill, this section faces exposure to the weather from the southeast. It is also within easy view of the passing highway, possibly making these graves more vulnerable to vandalism over the years.
I often pass Sarah and Rae’s graves and little changes, but on a recent visit, I noticed someone had plucked an urn from the rubble and placed it on the monument.
With Anzac Day drawing closer, I thought it was time for an update on the WW1 project I started during the Centenary of WW1 and continue to this day. The initial aim was to collect the names of men and women with Hamilton connections who enlisted for WW1 and tell their stories. To date, the enlisted men number more than 730 and there are forty-eight enlisted women. Their connection to Hamilton could come from their birth in the town, education, or work. Or, it could also be through a parent or sibling living in the town. The names of those who enlisted in Hamilton are included, as are those named on the various memorials and honour boards around Hamilton.
Hamilton’s WW1 is also about the response of the Hamilton townspeople to the outbreak of war and the difficult years that followed. .The Hamilton’s WW1 Facebook page was useful in examining this through a daily post “100 years ago in the Hamilton Spectator” with an article from each edition of the Hamilton Spectator from 1915 to 1918.
There were articles about the football clubs, the local P&A show, and the races, all impacted by the war. Other articles told of the unfair treatment of the Indigenous men who marched from Condah to Hamilton to enlist, and anti-German sentiment particularly evident in Hamilton with German settlements located to the south of the town.
The Hamilton Spectator was a vital source of news from the front. People would gather around boards outside the Spectator office (below) to read the latest edition to ensure friends, work colleagues, or relatives were not on the latest list of wounded, missing, and dead. Everyone would have known someone who was serving. This photo of a small section of Gray Street, Hamilton demonstrates that.
Several men from the Spec office enlisted including apprentice monoline operator William Hind killed at the Nek, Gallipoli on 7 August 1915. Next door was the office of stock and station agent John Fenton. John and his wife Helen saw two boys off to war but only one returned. A few doors to the right of John Fenton’s was the hairdressing and tobacconist shop of Harry Catterson, killed at Bullecourt on 11 April 1917.
In the background is the Hamilton Post Office. Several past and then current postal employees enlisted. Past employee William Head was killed at the landing at Gallipoli and Cyril Iles, a letter sorter at the time of enlistment, was killed at Pozieres in 1916. A bit further along and across the road was the Hamilton State School. Former teacher Walter Filmer was killed at Bullecourt in May 1917 and dozens of pupils had big brothers, uncles, and fathers overseas some to never return. Diagonal to the school was the Hamilton YMCA. Twenty-six members were either killed or died from wounds. So much loss in just half a block of Hamilton’s main street. I could continue in either direction along Gray Street and offer similar examples.
The response at home is also interwoven through the biographies of the enlisted men and women. As well as looking at the subject’s pre-war life, I explore how their enlistment impacted family and friends at home. Impassioned requests for the return of personal effects, family divisions over pensions and medals, and seemingly premature deaths of parents are throughout. Then there were the families of those missing presumed dead. Whether it was the typed letters by Alan Cordner’s father Isiah or the handwritten letters of Richard Hicks’ mother Janet, they were written with raw emotion. It wouldn’t have surprised me to find Isiah Cordner had somehow made it to the Middle East to find Alan, such was his quest for some sort of closure.
Currently, the number of biographies I have written for those men who didn’t return stands at 136 from a total of 183. I have also written a further thirty-five biographies of returned men and nurses, and added seven war memorials and honour boards from around Hamilton. There will be more honour boards to come with only photos needed for completion. The past year has restricted my access to boards but I should be able to start getting photos soon. Longer term, I’m working on bringing together the information gathered from the Spectator snippets on the Facebook page and the collection on this site into a more accessible format.
Below you will find the biographies and memorials/honour boards completed so far. The ranks and units were taken from the AIF Nominal Roll compiled in 1919 with the last rank and unit of each person. Click on the names to read more.
Emma Crouch was born in 1832 in London, England the youngest daughter of Edmund and Matilda Crouch. Her father died while she was still a young girl and her older brothers George and Charles left England for Australia arriving in Portland around 1838. Her sister Matilda married and moved to the United States of America in 1849. Emma continued to live with her mother and they resided at Roxeth, in the parish of Harrow on the Hill in London. By the 1861 England Census, Emma and her mother were living still at Roxeth with Emma was working as a governess. Her mother died two years later.
In 1865, Emma’s sister Matilda died in California, and her children, Arthur McCann aged twenty, Kate McCann aged sixteen, and Eustasia de Arroyave aged eight, travelled to England to live with Emma in Roxeth. The following year, Emma then aged thirty-four along with her nephew and nieces, boarded Great Britain (below) for Melbourne arriving on Boxing Day, 1866.
The brothers had established themselves in Portland. Both were in business and George was one of Portland’s first councillors. The Trangmar brothers James and Charles were their business partners at times and George and Charles each married a Trangmar sister.
Once settled in Portland, Emma started a school in Hurd Street.
The Crouch family connection with the Trangmar family continued in 1876 when Emma’s niece Kate married James William Trangmar, a son of James Trangmar Sr. They moved to Coleraine where the Trangmar family operated a store. In the following years, Emma and Eustasia also moved to Coleraine, around the time James took over full operations of the store. I like to think Emma and her nieces may be in the photo below, possibly in the garden of the adjoining house.
She kept busy in the Coleraine community. She was a member of the Coleraine Glee Club with Kate and Eustasia. The glee club opened the evening entertainment at the Coleraine Presbyterian Concert in 1881, thought to be the best concert held in Coleraine. Also on the bill that night, was Alfred D’Orsay Tennyson Dickens, a son of author Charles Dickens. Alfred was living in Hamilton then and dropped in to read one of his father’s works.
Emma was an active member of the Holy Trinity Anglican Church congregation and ran the local Girls Friendly Society connected to the church. The first Coleraine Industrial Exhibition was held in 1887 and Emma was on the executive committee. For the 1890 exhibition, the walls of the hall were adorned with artworks by local ladies including Emma. At the 1894 exhibition, Emma won first prize with her tortoiseshell cat. She also entered potted plants and cut flowers into shows run by the Coleraine Horticulture Society.
Portland was still close to Emma and she often holidayed there. In 1904, however, Emma fell sick after her return to Coleraine from a summer holiday in Portland. To convalesce, she travelled with Eustasia to Kate’s home in Sturt Street, Ballarat but she died on 11 April 1904. She had remained close to her nieces during their thirty-eight years in Victoria and it was fitting Emma spent her last days with them.
The Portland Guardian reported Emma’s remains arrived by the evening train, then were “resting the night before the altar at St Stephen’s” ahead of the funeral service. The funeral cortege left the church for her burial at the Portland Cemetery.
A memorial service was also held at Coleraine after her death and, on 20 December 1904, a stained glass window was dedicated to the memory of Emma at the Holy Trinity Church, Coleraine (below). It was made by Mr. Montgomery of Melbourne and it depicted the Good Shepherd with the words “To the glory of God and loving memory of Emma Crouch, born Oct. 8, 1832, at rest April 11, 1904”
DRISCOLL Mary(c1828-1908) also known as Mary O’DRISCOLL and Mary WADMORE
Mary O’Driscoll was born in Middlesex, England around 1828. At the age of twenty, she married James Wadmore and they started a family. On 8 November 1854, the couple and baby Mary boarded the Constant at Southhampton with their destination being Portland Bay. James acted as an assistant to the ship’s surgeon on the voyage which saw an outbreak of whooping cough.
James secured work with Charlton Hedditch at Cape Bridgwater, a twenty kilometres or so further west. It was an isolated area on the coast, a far cry from Westminster, London. It was there in 1855, a daughter Ann was born. In 1856, James was able to select land at Cape Bridgewater, close to what is now Blowholes Road, in partnership with George Terril. A son William was born the following year and a daughter Sarah in 1859.
A month after Sarah’s birth, James was fishing on the rocks on the west coast of Cape Bridgewater with his mates George Terrill and Robert Wilson.
The sea was rough and the men decided to move from their position as it was becoming dangerous. They set up in a new spot but about ten minutes later James returned to where they were first located. A large wave came up and washed him from the rocks. George and Robert saw him swimming but he soon tired and sank. His body was found washed up on the rocks the following Thursday and an inquest was conducted. Mary’s account was forwarded to Portland’s Police Magistrate and subsequently to the Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser.
That left city girl Mary with a farm and four young children, including a newborn to raise alone. However, with the help of the other women in the district, she soon learned all she needed to run her farm and raise her children in the harsh and often lonely environment she found herself in.
Mary’s care extended beyond her own family. She was known for riding a “spirited bay mare” across the district helping those who were sick. In doing so, she was familiar with the ailments of the local residents. In 1873, Mary was called as a witness at the inquest into the death of young Joshua Black who was found dead in his bed one Monday morning in May. Mary was one of the last people to see Josuha alive on the previous evening, and she was able to say he appeared well and in no pain. With her knowledge of Josuha’s medical history, she was also able to offer the evidence that Josuha’s health at times was fragile and he had previously had a bad cough and some pain above his heart but had been well since the last winter. Margaret’s witness statement is part of the inquest file of Josuha Black held by the Public Record Office of Victoria and available online. In her statement, her opening sentence was, “I am a labouring woman living at Cape Bridgewater”.
When Mary’s daughter Sarah was fifteen, around 1874, the local state school teachers approached Mary with an offer to train Sarah as a teacher. Mary was very proud of Sarah who went on to become the headteacher at Kentbruck six years later. Mary remained at Cape Bridgewater until around 1905. By then, Sarah was the headteacher at Tahara State School and her sister Ann was living with her and keeping the house. Sarah retired from her position and she and Ann moved to Portland. It was planned Mary would move from Bridgewater to live with them. She sold her various farm implements.
“As quietly as she had lived for 104 years, Mrs. Thomas Walker, Hamilton’s grand old lady, passed away at her home in Shakespeare Street on Thursday last.” (Portland Guardian, 23 October 1939)
And so began the obituary of Margaret Walker (nee Brown). After fourteen years of the newspapers documenting some of Margaret’s significant birthdays, 90, 99, 100, 101, 103, and 104, they were saying their last farewell to a woman who lived during the reign of six British monarchs.
Margaret was born in Launceston on 11 August 1835 to Scottish immigrants John and Margaret Brown. They had arrived in Launceston in the early 1830s. They headed to Victoria around 1840 on the City of Sydney and John Brown was employed at Customs House in Portland. On 11 August 1852, Margaret’s seventeenth birthday, she married Thomas Walker, a twenty-nine-year-old Londoner who had arrived in Portland in the early 1840s. They were married by Presbyterian minister Reverand Ross at Portland.
The couple settled in Portland and remained there until 1866, when they moved to Hamilton, residing in Lonsdale Street. Thomas made his living as a land agent and was able to acquire land around the town. Margaret and Thomas had eight children. Two died as babies and in September 1880, her eldest son John Thomas died aged twenty-one. Then in July 1900, son Frederick was accidentally killed at Subiaco, Western Australia.
Close to 1909, Margaret and Thomas went to live at 5 Shakespeare Street, Hamilton and that is where Thomas died in April 1909 at the age of eighty-six. By that time, Mary had one remaining son, George who lived in Geelong, and two daughters, Eliza in Melbourne and Maria who lived with Margaret.
When Margaret was ninety-seven, Maria died on 1 July 1932 at Hamilton at the age of seventy-six. The following year was Margaret’s ninety-eighth birthday and she was given a walking stick. By the time her ninety-ninth birthday came around in 1934, she hadn’t used the walking stick. She also didn’t wear glasses and would spend a few hours in her garden each day. By that time she also had nine grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
Also in 1934, was the centenary of white settlement in Victoria, and an event was planned for Portland on 19 November. Margaret booked her accommodation well in advance. Her name would appear in the Book of remembrance of the pioneer women of the Portland Bay district written to coincide with the celebrations. She was one of only thirty-five female settlers named in the book still alive for the centenary. On the day, she was seated in a special area for those who had lived in Portland prior to 1864.
Margaret expected to be presented to the Duke of Gloucester but organisers overlooked that detail on the day. Word got back to the Royal party and a letter was forwarded to Margaret. She received it from His Royal Highness through his equerry (Captain Schrieber) in December 1934. It read:
The Royal train, Queensland, December 3rd, 1934.
Dear Madam, the Duke of Gloucester is sorry to hear that, owing to an oversight, you were not presented to him when His Royal Highness visited Portland, and he wishes me to congratulate you on attaining the age ninety-nine years, and hopes that you will continue in good health to see your centenary. You will be glad to know that His Royal Highness enjoyed his visit to Portland very much.
It was a busy year. Margaret planted a commemorative tree at the western end of Gray street, Hamilton for the centenary celebrations, and she produced seventeen pieces of eyelet linen work, made to give as gifts to family and friends.
In 1935, Margaret’s 100th birthday celebration was held at the Hollywood Cafe in Hamilton with the Mayor of Hamilton, Cr. Stewart, in attendance. The Hollywood Cafe can be seen on the extreme left in the photo below. The enclosed verandah displayed the name of the cafe, and it shared the ground-level verandah with the boot and shoe store.
After that outing, it became difficult for Margaret to get out on her birthday, so the Mayor of the day would visit her at her home instead. For her 101st birthday in 1936, twenty-five friends and family gathered at Margaret’s home in Shakespeare Street. Highlights were a birthday cake with 101 candles and a telegram from the Red Cross Society. Sadly Margaret’s daughter Eliza died in November of that year.
The next three birthdays were celebrated quietly at home but Margaret continued in good health. That was until only weeks after her 104th birthday. Margaret became fragile, eventually passing away on Thursday 19 October. She was buried the following day at the Hamilton (Old) Cemetery with Thomas and Marion.
GRAVE OF THOMAS AND MARGARET WALKER AND THEIR DAUGHTER MARION WATSON. HAMILTON (OLD) CEMETERY. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria
Her obituary read:
During the whole of her sometimes eventful life, Mrs. Walker was a lover of all things beautiful, and in quiet contentment, surrounded by her own people and home where she could indulge her liking, which amounted to almost passion, for her garden, she enjoyed to the full her heart’s desire. (Portland Guardian 23 October 1939)
The remaining living member of Margaret’s immediate family at the time of her death was her son George Joseph Walker. He died in 1960 at Geelong.
Isabella Reid was the daughter of William Reid and Johanna Steven and was born near Heywood in 1874, one of thirteen children. The Reid farm was Athol Hill on the Fitzroy River two miles from Heywood. In August 1917, Isabella then aged thirty-four, married Charles Gilhome of Colac at the Heywood Presbyterian Church. The reception was held at Heywood’s Federal Coffee Palace on the corner of Edgar and Scott Streets and owned by her father.
Isabella and Charles at first lived at Heywood but moved to Bundoora in early 1918. It was then a rural area and Charles ran a dairy farm. Around the same time, Charles began feeling unwell and was diagnosed with a liver condition. That led to depression and in July 1918, his doctor told him he should go away for a while. Charles and Isabella discussed his plight and Charles decided he would go away for a break. But it was too late. He died on Friday 12 July 1918.
Isabella initially stayed in the Bundoora area but returned to Heywood to be with her aging parents. In 1921, her father William died and in December 1922, the property in his estate was put up for sale including Athol Hill and the coffee palace. Isabella went on to purchase the coffee palace and adjoining land from the sale.
Vanda Savill’s book Dear Friends, Heywood (1976) mentions Isabella Gilhome and her sister Eliza Reid ran the coffee palace owned by the Reid family. It’s hard to establish when that was. A newspaper article from the Portland Guardian in 1914 mentions Miss Reid as the hostess, however that could have been her sister Eliza.
Isabella again returned to Heywood. As a widowed woman, it was necessary for Isabella to generate an income and she was able to that with property investment. Later her obituary would read,
After the death of her husband, Mrs. Gilhome took part in many business transactions, becoming well known as a keen businesswoman through the purchase and sale of houses and shops. She was one of the first to recognise the growing land values in a period of rapid development.
In May 1929, Isabella bought a block of land and house in Heywood from the estate of Patrick King with frontages to Edgar and Lindsay Streets.
In 1932, she applied to purchase Crown Land adjoining Scott, Edgar, and Lindsay Streets. While in 1945, she applied to subdivide allotments 4 and 5 of section 7 in Lindsay Street. In 1946, the Portland Shire Council bought a house belonging to Isabella at Heywood for £1300 for use as an engineer’s residence.
Isabella’s activities in Heywood and Portland went beyond business. She was a generous and charitable woman and gave back to the community. In 1927, she donated a blackwood armchair to the Portland Hospital and another chair for the women’s ward at the hospital.
William and Johanna Reid were among the earliest parishioners at St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Heywood and by 1939, their daughter Isabella was the oldest parishioner. In April 1939, she was given the honour of turning the key at the official opening of the St Andrew’s Sunday School. Her connection to St Andrew’s extended to the Heywood Presbyterian Ladies Guild.
Isabella Gilhome died in July 1953 at Heywood aged eighty. She was buried at the Heywood Cemetery.
The year 1870 was wet across Australia. In January, summer storms brought flooding to Ballarat and Bendigo. Then, for several months, floods plagued NSW and Queensland. Winter came and the Western District received more than its share of rain.
The rain continued into spring and the Hamilton Spectator reported on 10 September 1870, “The present extraordinary season, according to many of the oldest inhabitants, has not been equalled in the Western District of Victoria for the last eighteen years.” That came after 1½ inches fell across 4 and 5 September, causing the Grange Burn at Hamilton to swell. Mail to the town was blocked for two days, with creeks along the route on the rise.
The Hopkins River was up and water lapped the back door of the Hexham Hotel. Mail couldn’t get through to Warrnambool from Melbourne and at Allansford, not only had the old bridge washed away but also the new bridge under construction.
The Wannon River (below) was raging and there were reports of trees going over the Wannon Falls. Further downstream, the road from Sandford to Casterton was cut and a bridge at Sandford was washed away.
Streatham saw the largest flood the inhabitants could remember with families evacuated and the telegraph office flooded. At Skipton, the rise of Mount Emu Creek soon saw the streets flooded.
At Coleraine, settled on the banks of Bryan Creek,* the water rose rapidly.
The Hamilton Spectator‘s Coleraine correspondent summed up the town’s experience during the rains of September 1870, pointing to the rapid rise of the water and the plight of the McCaskill family. He offered a grim assessment…”if the stream had not suddenly fallen, that a coroner’s inquest in the locality would have taken place.”
Bryan Creek, a tributary of the Wannon River, rises up near Vasey about thirty-five kilometres north-east of Coleraine, not far from the Dundas Ranges. Several small creeks run into it as it flows through the valleys of rolling hills. Those open hills enhance the beauty of the district but as Adam Lindsay Gordon wrote in his famous poem “The Fields of Coleraine”, “…the gullies are deep, and the uplands are steep” expediting water runoff into the creek.
By the end of September 1870, farmers were lamenting the wet weather as potatoes rotted in the ground and shearing was delayed.
Unsettled weather continued throughout October. On Friday 28 October 1870 in Coleraine, it was humid with a squally wind.
As the day moved into night, clouds appeared and lightning illuminated the sky like nothing the residents had seen before. Thunder rumbled for two hours. Rain began to fall “gentle and warm” and then, when it seemed to have past, the people of Coleraine “went to repose, fearing nothing from the weather”.
Among them was Emma Laird, who lay down with her sleeping infants James and Isabella. She lived in a cottage behind the Albion newspaper office (below). The Drummond family, David, Margaret and their children were her neighbours. David’s niece Janet was staying over for the night.
Closer to the creek, carrier William Lewis, William Weaven, and another man were camped on what they thought was high ground near the bridge. There was no sleeping under the stars for them that night, instead they made their beds under the dray of William Lewis to shelter from the storm.
As the town went to sleep, little did they know what they thought was the sound of gale force winds roaring through the trees was actually water raging along Bryan Creek. Heavy rain in the catchment area was rapidly entering the waterway. At Gringegalong close to the creek’s headwater, water was knee-deep within an hour. By midnight Bryan Creek was “a roaring torrent and inundated the sleeping town” having risen five feet in two hours. There was chaos. People ran between houses trying to wake the occupants and soon a crowd was gathering near the lowest part of the town where the cottages were submerged in water.
The Coleraine correspondent for the Hamilton Spectator opened his front door only to be almost swept off his feet by the rush of incoming water. He managed to close the door again, but only with the help of another person. He said outside it was “a sea, roaring and boiling, and crushing all in its course.”
Such was the commotion, the order in which the events of that night occurred differ slightly between eye-witness accounts from the likes of the Hamilton Spectator‘s correspondent and the Coleraine Albion reporter. Piecing the various reports together, I believe this is how it all unfolded.
Around 12.30 am, an attempt was made to rescue residents on the low ground, including those at the residence of Robert Wright, the brickmaker on the banks of the creek, and dressmaker Betsy Gillies. In the nick of time, the Wright family got themselves across the deluge to safe ground. Miss Gillies was woken from her slumber and also escaped. In both cases, another few minutes, and the outcome would have been disastrous.
Attention then turned to the two cottages behind the Albion office, that of the Drummonds and Lairds. By now, the water was knee-deep and the current was too fast to safely cross. Constable James Mahon made a dash for it but was carried away. Fortunately, he managed to land on top of a pigsty and was able to get back to safety. He tried again and was able to save one of the children. Storekeeper Louis Lesser also headed across the water and rescued another child. He was also able to lift Mrs Margaret Drummond out of the water and on to the roof of a cowshed. Her husband, David Drummond got three children to safety and went back for three more, James and Margeret Jr and his niece Janet. He had one on his back and one in each arm as he made his way across. Suddenly, the current caught him, and all four were swept away.
Charles Loxton, the young accountant from the National Bank of Australasia (below). attempted to cross on his horse. They were both swept away, and it was then the rescue was abandoned.
Around 1.00 am the water had fallen enough for another attempt to cross to the cottages. Margaret Drummond was found sitting on the cowshed but the rescuers’ worst fears were soon realised. During all the commotion, Emma Laird and two of her children had washed away on their beds as they slept. William Lewis and William Weaven camped by the creek were swept away from beneath the dray. Their friend managed to get himself to safety.
By 8.00 am on Saturday morning, the creek had “assumed its natural proportions” and the horse of Charles Loxton grazed nonchalantly by the creek. It was as though nothing had happened.
But looking around the town, it was anything but normal. It was devastating. “The scene when morning dawned was heartrending. Men, women, and children were found on chimneys and housetops; and all sorts of property was floating about”. The water was three feet deep in McLean’s timber yard and the store of Edmond Dacomb (below) was also flooded.
Also flooded was the store of Abraham Lesser (below) and his brother Louis, a hero only hours earlier.
The bridge over Bryan Creek on the Penola road was destroyed, and the streets were a mess. Almost ominously, headstones at Alfred Priest’s monumental yard were scattered. There was slime everywhere the water had been. Logs, bales of wool and a haystack had washed down the creek. Further downstream, Murdoch McCaskill’s farm once again suffered damage.
The harrowing task of searching for bodies began at first light, with the whole town turning out even though very few had slept. Holes were checked and logs were turned over. By 6.00 pm on Saturday evening, five bodies had been recovered, all of them children. Five adults were still missing. On Sunday, the bodies of Emma Laird and William Lewis were found. Later, the searchers noticed a piece of clothing pocking out from under a huge log. It took around fifty men to remove the log and expose the body of Charles Loxton
As they were found, the bodies were laid out in McKnight’s “old courtroom” and family gathered around their lost loved ones. George Trangmar, the coroner, issued the certificates of burial. The funeral for eight of the victims took place on Monday 31 October at 6.00 pm. The coffins left McKnights for the cemetery with the Oddfellows in the lead, two abreast, then a hearse with some of the coffins, followed by a wagon with the rest. There was a very large cortege and to emphasise the tragedy, reports mentioned there were thirty to forty women in attendance. It was not customary for women to attend funerals in those times.
The body of William Lewis was taken to Sandford for burial.
The Portland correspondent for the Hamilton Spectator told of how the news of the lives lost at Coleraine came in by telegram subsequently casting a gloom over his town. He hoped a suitable monument would be erected to remember the bravery of Charles Loxton and David Drummond.
A week on and William Weaven’s body had not been found, but his family kept searching along the creek for him but to no avail. During September 1872, human remains were found in Bryan Creek about five kilometres downstream from the bridge at Coleraine. The local police decided an inquest was unnecessary as it seemed almost certain the remains were those of William Weaven.
DAVID DRUMMOND and his children James and Margaret DRUMMOND.
David Drummond married Margaret Watson in Tillicoultry, Scotland on 12 June 1852 (1) and they boarded the Chance at Liverpool, England on 23 July 1852 (2). It was a difficult journey with forty-six deaths and on arrival in Melbourne on 28 October 1852, the ship was quarantined and remained so for almost three weeks. Once on dry land, the couple made their way to the Geelong district. A son James was born in 1853 but sadly he died the next year (3). Another son Richard was born in 1854 (4) and a daughter Margaret in 1857 (5). James was born in 1862 at Duck Ponds near Geelong (6).
The family moved west to join other members of the Drummond family sometime after 1862 with John born at Casterton in 1867 (7). It was there in the same year, Margaret Jr, aged ten, faced the Casterton Court of Petty Sessions. Her charges of stealing a pocketbook were eventually dismissed. It was also the year David Jr died at Sandford, aged seven (8). The following year, baby John died, also at Sandford. (9) In 1869, another son was born and named David (10). He was born at Dundas suggesting the family had moved to Coleraine, within the Shire of Dundas.
After the tragic death of her husband and children in 1870, Margaret Drummond continued to live in Coleraine. In her old age, she lived with her son Richard. She died on 1 March 1914 her life punctuated with tragedy. She was buried at the Coleraine Cemetery with David, James, and Margaret (11). Richard died on 17 July 1932 at Coleraine (12). Margaret’s other surviving son David Jr. settled at Streatham. He died in 1941 at Sebastopol (13).
Janet, the niece of David and Margaret Drummond was born at Branxholme in 1861, the daughter of George Drummond and Margaret Scott (14). Her father owned the Shamrock Inn at Coleraine from the early 1870s and then the Koroite Inn from February 1876.
Emma Jane LAIRD and her children James and Isabella
Emma Jane Laird was born around 1842 as Emma Jane Till. Emma arrived from Middlesex, England in 1861 aboard the Oithona and went to work as a housemaid at Dundas station for Samuel Proudfoot Hawkins (15). She married James Laird in 1864 (16). The following year, a daughter Louisa Matilda was born at Coleraine (17). Isabella Jane was born in 1867 (18) followed by a son James Alexander in 1869 (19). James Snr and Louisa were not mentioned in newspaper reports of the flood. James appears to have worked for a contractor and may have been away working, maybe the same reason Louisa went into the care of her grandparents at Casterton in the years after the flood. That, however, soured when in 1876 Alexander Laird took his son James to court for costs incurred for the board and lodging of Louisa. At the age of eighteen, Louisa married John McCreddan in 1883 (20). She died at Noradjua in 1887 aged just twenty-one (21).
Charles Arthur LOXTON
Charles Loxton was born in Liverpool, Lancashire in 1847, a son of George Loxton and Catherine Holland (22). The Loxton family including eight children arrived on the Catharine Mitchell when Charles was three in 1853 (23). It’s not clear when twenty-two-year-old Charles went to Coleraine for work but it may not have bee long before the flood. The National Bank of Australasia where he was an accountant was opened in 1870. Charles’ brother Holland Loxton was the town clerk at Kew. In 1948, Charles’ grave at the Coleraine Cemetery was restored using money donated by then-current and past residents. More about the grave can be seen on the link to Monument Australia – Grave of Charles Arthur Loxton
William Lewis was a son of Thomas Lewis and Rebecca Braham and was born in Tasmania in1843 (24). At some point, the family travelled to Victoria and settled at Sandford, and William worked as a carrier. On Saturday 22 October 1870, he departed the stores of Stephen Henty in Portland with goods for Coleraine. It would be his last job. William was twenty-seven at the time of his death.
William Eric WEAVEN
William Weaven was a son of Thomas Weaven and Christiana Butcher and was born at Portland in 1844 (25).
FLOODING IN OTHER AREAS OF THE WESTERN DISTRICT
At Brung Brungle Station at Redruth (Wannon) close to Coleraine, and owned by John B, Hughes, employee William DUNTON was drowned while trying to save the station’s stud rams. He fell from his horse into the water and, despite being a strong swimmer and struggling for some, exhaustion saw him and succumb to the waters. William was a local boy born around 1853, a son of William Dunton and Elizabeth Edwards. He was buried at the Coleraine Cemetery on 4 November 1870.
Also at Redruth, trees were washing down the Wannon River and hitting the bridge on the main road to Coleraine. On Saturday afternoon 29 October at about 2.30 pm the bridge, only six years old was washed away. Trees were going over the Nigretta and Wannon Falls. The local correspondent for the Hamilton Spectator ventured to the Wannon Falls and found a “huge boiling cauldron” beneath. Trees from further up the river lay below. He then went to see the bridge on the main road. It was on its last legs and soon it washed down the river towards the Wannon Falls.
With the bridge out, the only way to get the mail through was a rope over the river or behind the path of the falls (below).
At Hilgay not far from Coleraine, John MOFFAT was drowned. A number of horses on the property were in hobbles and stranded in deep water. The owners of two of the horses offered £1 each to anyone who would go underwater and cut the hobbles. Shortly after, John Moffat asked one of the owners for a knife and a pipe of tobacco. He didn’t say he was going to free the horses but instead just “strolled away. Later it was noticed he was missing, and a search was made. His clothes were found on the river bank by his friends, but his body couldn’t be found.
At Roseneath on the Glenelg River north of Casterton, eleven-year-old Lewis Frank Russel RALSTON, a son of Robert Ralston and Jane Ross was drowned in the river.
There was an electrical storm at Casterton and subsequent floods were considered the “greatest floods ever” or at least since 1851. Stores and homes were flooded while at nearby Sandford, the bridge over the Wannon River washed away. At Balmoral, the “old” bridge was gone and around Harrow, the water offered “an almost uninterrupted swim”.
At Hamilton, communications were down and the Hamilton Spectator said it “rained in torrents for hours”.
One report suggested around 34 mm of rain fell in a short time. The bridge over the Grange Burn on Dunkeld Road (now Ballarat Road) was partially washed away. Further downstream, the Grange Inn on the banks of the creek was in more than a metre of water resulting in the kitchen breaking away and washing down the creek. One of the abutments on the nearby Portland Road bridge had washed away and the roadway had fallen in.
To the east, sheep washes were swept away at Strathkellar and around 600 sheep were drowned at Warrayure. At Portland, the storm was spectacular and around 17mm of rain fell.
A horse was struck by lightning at Streatham and at Colac, the heaviest rain in years fell. Murray Street was like a river and Lake Colac was rising.
At Ballarat, the rain brought the worst flood in memory.
There were cries of “Not October storms again” as people recalled the floods in the town the year prior. Then Bridge Street was a river (below) but in 1870, the water level exceeded that high mark.
COLERAINE’S FLOOD HISTORY
The people of Coleraine have been no strangers to flooding over the years. For example, there was 1893, 1906, 1983, and more recently 2016, the worst flooding since 1946, the year of ‘The Big Flood‘ across the Western District. Even earlier this month while writing this account, two days of almost constant rain saw the Bryan Creek once again rise, resulting in some minor flooding.
The flood of October 1870 was disastrous and possibly the worst in the town’s history, but as there weren’t official records kept for rainfall and the creek levels, it is difficult to compare. The only comparison can be made with the number of fatalities and fortunately, there has never been a repeat of the loss of life seen in 1870.
You can find more about the history of flooding at Coleraine from the following video prepared for the Southern Grampians Shire Council investigation into the 2016 Coleraine floods. You can read the full report on the link – Coleraine Flood Investigation
* Bryan Creek – While researching the 1870 floods, I came across several variations of the name of the creek which passes by Coleraine, Bryan Creek, Bryan’s Creek, Bryants Creek, Koroite Creek, and Koroite Rivulet. The use of Koroite comes from the Koroite run. The homestead stood on the northern bank of the creek just west of the township once known as Bryan’s Creek from the name of the run taken up by John Bryan in 1837 and later his brother Samuel. In 1937, the Portland Guardian claimed Samuel Pratt Winter said in the Hamilton Spectator in 1878, also the year of his death, that somewhere along the line someone had added a”t”.
However, going back to 1849 and a description of the boundaries of the Koroite run, both Bryan’s Creek (possibly the aforementioned pastoral run) and Bryant’s Creek are referred to.
1. Scotland, Marriages, 1561-1910, FamilySearch, David Drummond, 1852, FHL Film No. 1040210
2. PROV, Assisted British Immigration Index, VPRS 14, Book 7, Page 54, Chance, 1852
3. Victorian BDM’s Death Index, James DRUMMOND, 1854, Reg. No. 3277/1854
September Passing of the Pioneers sees ten new obituaries enter the Obituary Index. I started writing in mid-August and between limited time and some interesting stories among the subjects, it’s taken me almost to the end of September to finish. You can read about a father and son, a woman who lost her sons during WW1 and another her grandson, and two young people who did so much in their comparatively short lives. There are also some connections, as there often are. They include two Branxholme pioneers who both operated out of the same shop. One of them became mixed up with rogue Hamilton solicitor Louis Horwitz just as another of the subjects did, however, their experiences were very much different.
WALKER, Duncan Stewart – Died 29 September 1889 at Camperdown. Duncan Stewart was born around 1827 in Argyllshire, Scotland. After the death of his father, Duncan came to Australia with his mother, arriving at Geelong in 1841. Just thirteen Duncan gained employment at Kardinia on the Barwon River, the run of Dr Alexander Thomson remaining for ten years. He then went into partnership with Robert Lowe in a tanning and currier business on the Barwon River. It operated successfully until the river flooded in June 1852. The following year the partnership was dissolved.
However, Duncan started a partnership with another member of the Lowe family in 1853 when he married Robert’s sister Margaret. Soon after he bought two lots of land at Lismore in September 1853 at a price of £25. Around 1860, he took over operations of the Leura Hotel at Camperdown and he and Margaret moved to that town
After selling the hotel in 1867 to John Wiggins, Duncan went into partnership with John Paton in the Dixie estate on the Mount Emu Creek near Terang, but eventually, Paton left the partnership. Duncan was elected to the Hampden Shire Council in 1870 and sat until 1888, serving as president for the last two years. He was also the first chairman of directors of the Cobden Cheese and Butter Factory in October 1888.
Duncan was an elder of the Terang Presbyterian Church,(below), and was also involved with the church at Camperdown and Ecklin. He had a special interest in ensuring the religious needs of the Presbyterian community of the Heytesbury Forest were met.
After his death, memorial services were held for Duncan at the Presbyterian churches in the Terang district.
BROWN, Elizabeth Moncreif – Died 2 September 1900 at Hamilton. Elizabeth Brown, known as Bessie was born at Hamilton in1868, the eldest child of butcher Thomas Brown and Mary Ann Cameron. When she was eight, she suffered from a bout of severe inflammation of the lungs damaging one of her lungs permanently. Bessie never married and devoted her life to her faith, charity, and temperance. She was an active member of Hamilton’s St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church as a Sunday School teacher and honourary organist for around ten years.
In May 1900, at the financial business meeting of the church, Bessie was given a purse of sovereigns in recognition of her work as the organist. She was also given a bound copy of the new Hymnary which was making its way into Victorian Presbyterian churches after being adopted by churches in Scotland. Her father spoke on her behalf saying Bessie’s work was “purely a labour of love, and from a sincere desire to advance the welfare of the church.”
Bessie was a member of the Hamilton branch of the Band of Hope, the Hamilton Total Abstinence Society, Society of Christian Endeavour of which she was treasurer, and she was secretary of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) from the time of its inception in Hamilton. At the last WCTU meeting before her death on 14 August 1900. when the time came for Bessie’s secretary’s report, her father was called on to read it, with the chairman commenting he was sorry they could not induce her to read the report herself.
On 29 August 1900, Bessie contracted a cold, and inflammation to her lungs resulted. She rallied for a time, but things took a turn for the worse on 1 September and she died the following morning aged just thirty-two. She was remembered for her quiet, unassuming nature and her devotion and enthusiasm to her various voluntary endeavours. That admiration was evident with the large attendance at Bessie’s funeral. The pallbearers were made up of prominent townsmen including three past and future Hamilton Mayors.
After Bessie’s death, The Band of Hope held a special night of entertainment to honour her work with the organisation. Bessie’s father Thomas died in 1903 and in 1904, memorial windows in honour of Bessie and Thomas were unveiled at St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church.
RYAN, Anthony – Died 2 September 1901 at Perth. Anthony Ryan was born to Thomas Ryan and Margaret Witherow at Sebastopol in 1871. Thomas worked with Victoria Railway and with the opening up of the railways in the south-west in the late 1870s, the Ryans moved close to Hamilton. Thomas worked as the railway gatekeeper at Pierrepoint on the Penshurst line. Anthony, known to all as Tony, attended the Warrayure State School just east of Hamilton. He was a very bright student and his final marks saw him offered a scholarship to the Hamilton Academy to complete matriculation. While still a student, he was also helping as an assistant teacher, and on finishing his matriculation, he began teaching in his own right at the Academy.
He was then appointed headteacher of St Mary’s School in Hamilton. Around the same time, Tony’s younger brother Edmund was following in his footsteps. He had received a scholarship from the Academy and was dux in 1890. Edmund was then was taken on as an articled clerk with local solicitors Samuel and Horwitz. He showed an aptitude for the law but his life was cut short at just seventeen. Edmund died on 20 June 1892 from rheumatic fever. Tony and Edmund’s mother had only died in the months before.
That same year, Tony left education and himself went in the law, working as a clerk for Samuel & Horwitz and beginning his study for the law examination. When partner Samuel Samuel was elected to Victoria’s Legislative Assembly for the seat of Dundas in April 1892, Tony became his private secretary. Samuel, however, died suddenly in Melbourne on 28 July 1892. Tony got involved with the Hamilton branch of the Progressive Political League. He was appointed acting honorary secretary in January 1893 and in August 1893 was elected president. He was vice-president of the Catholic Young Men’s Society. He was also the secretary fo the Grangeburn Cricket Club and 4 October 1895 turned down a nomination for President because he would “probably leave Hamilton”.
Probably became definitely soon after when Tony aged twenty-four announced he was leaving for the Western Australian goldfields. On 17 October 1895, he was given a send-off at the Caledonian Hotel. It appears he travelled first to Niagara close to 200 kilometres north of Kalgoorlie and where gold was discovered in January 1895. It was there he had an interest in a butcher shop with Mr Hill. He then headed to the goldfields further north in the area between Leonora and Laverton, at the Mounts Margaret, Morgans, and Malcolm goldfields.
Tony got into action quickly and threw himself into the community. He was chairman of the first progress committee at Malcolm and chairman of the hospital committee. He contributed to the Goldfields Press and the sporting journal The Umpire. He also joined Charles Geddes in partnership in building the Royal Hotel at Malcolm 1897 which they conducted successfully.
It was eventually time for both Tony and Charles Geddes to move on. They sold the Royal Hotel and in September 1898, they were given a send-off by the people of Malcolm They explained their partnership would continue and they knew of some land which had not been prospected so they were going to try their luck. Two months later it was announced they were opening the Golden Pinnacle mine at the British Flag. Their luck must have been out because Tony apparently ended up at Freemantle working at solicitors firm as an accountant. He then worked with a solicitor in Perth, before joining Dalgety & Co. He then returned to the east and Hamilton.
On 7 March 1899, the Young Catholic Men’s welcomed Tony back to Hamilton and gave a talk about the geography of inland Western Australia, an area he described as the “land of sand and sorrow”. Over summer 1900, as all good Hamiltonians do he enjoyed a holiday in Port Fairy staying at the Star of the West Hotel. He also joined the Liberals and at a meeting in Hamilton in April 1900 to discuss all things political in the Shire of Dundas, Tony was appointed chairman. He also returned to work for Louis Horwitz. It was said he assisted Horwitz on his work “The Consolidation of the Statutes of Victoria.” volumes of which were published in 1898 but also in September 1899. That would have left little time for Tony to contribute.
The goldfields of the west were once again summoning him. At least friends from Mount Margaret who had notified him of a chance for candidature in upcoming WA elections It was an opportunity Tony couldn’t miss. He had a yearning for political life. In February 1901, a group met at the Prince of Wales Hotel in Thompson Street Hamilton to once again farewell Tony before his departure for the west. Louis Horwitz was among the speakers.
Unfortunately for Tony, he was not accepted as a candidate for the Labor party. His time away impeded his chances and he just missed out to fellow candidate George Taylor. Tony joined George’s campaign assisting him in winning the seat. On 16 April 1901, Tony was given a send-off at Lenora before his return to Perth after the elections. He was presented with an inscribed gold locket.
The Mt Lenora Miner, reflecting back only five months before when Tony was leaving Leonora, commented, “frequent were the remarks that the future premiership of the colony was within Mr Ryan’s grasp”. The Mount Morgans Miner remembered him as one of the pioneers of Malcolm. Tony was only thirty when he died but had done so much and had such a bright future. He was likened in several obituaries to West Australian Charles Vosper who died in January 190. They were taking similar paths into Western Australian public life. They were also buried in the same cemetery, both in the Roman Catholic section.
On 5 December 1902, a group of Hamilton townsmen met at the Prince of Wales Hotel to discuss a memorial for Tony. On 10 February 1904, a memorial was unveiled at the Hamilton (Old) Cemetery. Senator Trenwith was in town at the time so was asked to assist with the unveiling along with Father Shanahan. A letter was read from Louis Horwitz who could not attend.
MEMORIAL FOR ANTHONY RYAN, HAMILTON (OLD) CEMETERY
BEST, Jabez – Died 9 September 1903 at Branxholme. Born in Hastings, England around 1821, Jabez arrived in Tasmania with his parents in 1829. He remained there until 23 September 1843 when at the age of twenty-two, he boarded the Minerva and travelled to Portland Bay. His brother Thomas had arrived there a year earlier on 20 April 1842 also on the Minerva. Thomas had made his way to the area known then as Arrandoovong, later becoming Branxholme. and was running the Travellers Rest hotel.
In 1853, Jabez married Nanny Penrose and they went on to have six children. Jabez ran a store in Branxholme and was also the first postmaster, not to mention the Electoral Registrar, Dog Inspector. the correspondent for the Common School, and Registrar for Births, Deaths, and Marriages something he did for forty years before his daughter Sarah carried on the role. Jabez was a member of the Branxholme Presbyterian Church congregation and was the first secretary of the Branxholme Branch of the British and Foreign Bible Society.
Jabez, who lived in Wyndham Street, Branxholme was rightly opposed to the poor treatment of the local aboriginals who knew him as “Sixty-Six”. He was an abstainer and member of the Sons of Temperance. At the time of his death, he was the oldest pledged total abstainer in the Commonwealth having attended the first public Temperance meeting held in Tasmanian sometime around 1840.
Jabez left his widow Nanny, two sons, and four daughters to mourn him. He was buried at the Branxholme Cemetery, The Best family are remembered on the Branxholme Pioneer Wall, below.
BRANXHOLME PIONEER WALL
HAMILTON, Barnabas – Died 19 September 1907 at Kirkstall. Barnabas Hamilton was born around 1830 in Dunbar, East Lothian, Scotland. As a young man, he made a trip to New York but returned to Scotland where he married Ann Hope on 27 May 1854. Not long after, Barnabas and Ann, along with John, Catherine, and Matthew Hamilton, the parents and younger brother of Barnabas, began their journey to Australia. They set off from Aberlady, East Lothian travelling first to Edinburgh then Glasgow and then on to Plymouth, England where they sailed aboard the Oithona on 21 October 1854. They arrived at Portland on 30 January 1855.
John and Catherine went on to Warrnambool while Barnabas and Ann went to Kirkstall as Barnabas had obtained work on the property of Andrew Laidlaw. He remained there for three years before joining a shearing team at William Rutledge’s property Farnham Park between Warrnambool and Tower Hill. Barnabas and Ann settled at Kirkstall and raised six children. Barnabas was an elder of the Koroit Presbyterian Church (below).
Barnabas was seventy-seven at the time of his death and left his widow Ann, four sons, and two daughters. He was buried at the Tower Hill Cemetery. Ann died in 1916.
In 1937, four years after the death of Barnabas and Ann’s son John Hope Hamilton (see obituary below), a dusty box was found amongst his things. Inside was an old diary belonging to Barnabas. It was then found Barnabas had visited New York prior to his marriage to Ann and their departure for Australia. In the diary, Barnabas went into great detail describing the daily routine of the Sing Sing prisoners and the design of the prison. You can read more on the link – Diary of Barnabas Hamilton.
SILBERBERG, Mayer Matus – Died 6 September 1908 at St Kilda. Mayer Silberberg was born around 1843 in Poland. While Mayer was still a young child, he and his parents Sciacob (Jacob) and Golda, two elder sisters and an elder brother made their way to England. They then left London on 2 August 1853 aboard the ship Asia bound for Australia, arriving at Port Phillip. They settled in Melbourne and Jacob ran a shop in Queen Street. At one stage the family was living in Bourke Street opposite the Theatre Royal.
When he was fourteen, Mayer’s mother Golda died on 17 August 1857 aged forty. By then, Jacob was running a small shop in Little LaTrobe Street and by 1860, Mayer was working at the pawnbroker’s store of Wolf Brasch in Swanston Street. Wolf was also Mayer’s brother-in-law having married Esther Silberberg in 1857.
Jacob Silberberg moved to Macarthur by 1863 to operate the French General Store and Mayer followed his father.
Jacob built a new store in Macarthur in 1866 which Mayer helped him run. In 1869 and at the age of twenty-six, it was time for Mayer to out on his own and he took over the store of Jabez Best (see obituary above) at Branxholme.
Mayer took over the shop of Mr Maxwell at Condah in 1879. He took out a grocer’s liquor license as he had done with the Branxholme store, something that would not have happened while teetotaller Jabez Best owned it.
Mayer was active in the community. He was a member of the Branxholme Mechanics Institute and a founder of the Branxholme Debating Society. He was secretary of the Branxholme Cemetery trust for seventeen years. On 1 May 1885, a rifle club was formed at Branxholme on Mayer’s suggestion and he was a member of the first committee. Mayer was a Portland Shire councillor for around fourteen years and was president at the time of Australia’s Federation in 1901
In February 1902, Mayer announced was retiring from business and was moving to Melbourne. In March 1902, he resigned from his position on the Portland Shire Council He was described by the Portland Guardian as the “Pooh-Bah” of Branxholme. The following month, on 4 April 1902, a gathering was held at Branxholme to farewell Mayer and Caroline from the district. John Thomson of Monivae presided and various tributes were paid, telling of the charitable work of the pair. They were presented with two silver dishes. The inscription read, “Presented to Mr, and Mrs. Silberberg by the residents of Branxholme and Condah, as a token of esteem and regard, on their departure from the district after a residence of 32 years”. Soon after they moved to their new home in High St, Prahan.
In November 1903, Mayer lent his son Sidney £2000 plus interest so Sidney, a solicitor could enter a partnership with Hamilton solicitor Louis Horwitz. Horwitz guaranteed Sidney a return of £1000 return per annum. In June 1904, Horwitz left Hamilton for Western Australia. Reports came back a week after his departure that had fallen overboard from a ship between Adelaide and Freemantle and drowned. Soon after, Sidney began hearing his partner had misappropriated significant sums of money from many Hamilton and district residents. It turned out Horwitz didn’t drown. He had faked his death and was subsequently brought back to Victoria to stand trial, leading to jail time. That didn’t help Sidney. He was insolvent and his father became a creditor of Horwitz. Sidney faced the insolvency court in 1906.
Mayer Silberberg died on 6 September 1908 at his home in High Street Prahan, leaving his widow Caroline, four sons, and three daughters. He was buried at the Melbourne General Cemetery. Mayer left money in his will to the St Kilda and East Melbourne Synagogues, the Children’s Hospital, and the Melbourne Jewish Philanthropic Society.
The repercussions of Sidney’s failed partnership with Louis Horwitz were still dragging on in 1913, as Mayer’s family were trying to settle his estate. Proceedings in the Insolvency court focused on a second mortgage taken out by Mayer on land in Hamilton and the underestimation of his proof of debt. If you are interested in learning more you can read the related articles on the following links – Insolvency Court 1 – 7 November 1913 and Insolvency Court 2 – The Outcome – December 1913
URQUHART, Alexander Wilson – Died 20 September 1911 at Myamyn. Alexander Urquhart was born in Glasgow, Scotland around 1822. He arrived at Portland in 1853 and got work at Bowett station. Soon after he married Euphemia McDonald of Branxholme. About ten years into their marriage they moved to the Whittlebury district near Condah. Alexander obtained work as a shepherd for Cecil Cooke at the Lake Condah estate. He continued in that work for forty-seven years eventually working for Cecil’s son Samuel Winter Cooke.
In 1901, a bushfire that started at Tahara spread to the Condah area. Alexander’s wife Euphemia had her hands and feet badly burnt and was lucky to be saved by one her sons. Their home was not saved. Alexander and Euphemia took up residence at the Condah Hills homestead where their son John was the manager. Euphemia, who never fully recovered from the shock of the fires, died in July 1907. When Condah Hills was sold by Samuel Winter Cooke in 1911, Alexander went to live with his son but his health quickly declined. Alexander left five sons and three daughters and was buried at the Myamyn cemetery.
BARCLAY, Janet – Died 4 September 1916 at Hamilton. Janet Johnstone was born around 1840 in Scotland. Her family arrived in Victoria was she was still a young child and her father John Barclay operated the Greenvale Inn near Heywood. Janet married James Bannam in 1864 and they went on to have nine children. She was an active woman, often outdoors, and was an excellent horsewoman. Janet had great community spirit and was always ready to help. Back in the times when medical help was still some distance away, she was often called on to for assistance.
In early June 1895, an explosion at the sawmill of James Bannam at Dunmore near Heywood, her son Arthur Bannam was killed along with her brother Robert Barclay. WW1 broke and Janet grandson John died in 1915 from wounds received at Gallipoli. Janet fell sick in September 1916 and was taken from her home in Milltown to the Hamilton Hospital where she died. She was buried at the Hamilton (Old) Cemetery. Janet left her husband James, seven sons, and two daughters.
McPHERSON, Mary – Died 30 September 1920 at Bostock’s Creek. Mary McPherson was born in Canada to Scottish parents around 1848. She arrived in Australia with her parents when she was four. In 1869, Mary married Arthur Clingin. Arthur had discovered the Homeward Bound reef at Hillsborough in north-east Victoria around 1865. They went on to have eight sons and two daughters. Arthur died in November 1897. At the time her youngest child was just five and her oldest twenty-six. Mary made a move to the Camperdown district around 1900. She spent fifteen years living at Bostocks Creek. Tragedy came in November 1912, her son Wilfred, known to the family as “Little Billy” died in Albany, Western Australia at the age of thirty-two,
Mary was a member of the local Church of England congregation and helped out with community events. During WW1 three of Mary’s sons enlisted and she did her bit with the Red Cross. The war, however, took its toll on Mary who suffered anxiety while her sons where away, heightened by the capture of her son George as a POW. George died in a POW camp from pneumonia in 1918. Mary died on 30 September 1930 and was buried at Camperdown Cemetery,
John Hamilton was born at Kirkstall around 1856 to Barnabas Hamilton and Ann Hope. When still a boy, he went to work at nearby Farnham Park where his father also worked. After seven years John was taken on as manager and remained for a further four years. He then rented a dairy farm from William Horne at Allansford sending milk from his cows to the Warrnambool Butter Factory. In 1882, John married Mary Alice Smith of Port Fairy.
John and Mary then moved to Renny Hill on the banks of Lake Bullen Merri at Camperdown, with John taking over the running of the dairy which at the time was at the top of Park Lane, later named Taylor Avenue. Eventually, John became the manager of the whole estate from about 1911. The family lived in the manager’s residence (below). until around 1921 when they moved to their own home in Taylor Avenue opposite Rennyhill.
When John arrived at Renny HIll the cows were mostly Jersey but he purchased a shorthorn bull at the Royal Melbourne Show, greatly improved the herd. He also set about improving the dairy and built a piggery. So successful was his farm management, he won the Leader Dairy Farms Competition, worth 50 guineas, and open to all farms in the State. Mr. Hamilton’s portion of the prize was an inscribed silver teapot, given to him by William Taylor. Photos of Renny Hill also appeared in the Leader newspaper as seen below.
William Taylor wasn’t keen on cropping, but eventually, John convinced him to trial three acres of oats. So impressive was the crop, oat cropping became a regular part of the farm. John also trained sheep dogs and was in demand as a cattle judge at agriculture shows throughout the Western District and the Royal Melbourne Show. He was also involved with the Camperdown Pastoral and Agriculture.
During WW1, George Leonard Hamilton, a son of John and Ann served with the 7th Field Engineers as a farrier reaching the rank of Sergeant and being Mienitoned in Distpatches. Mary died on 11 November 1931. In March 1933, just six months before John’s death, the Camperdown Chronicle ran a story on John, preserving some of his memories. John was seventy-seven at the time of his death on 13 September 1933. He was buried at the Camperdown Cemetery leaving five sons and one daughter.
Social distancing is nothing new. This photo shows my Nana, Linda Gamble (nee Hadden) as a nineteen-year-old isolating at Cherrypool in 1938 with friends and family. Cherrypool is a location on the Henty Highway between Hamilton and Horsham. All from Hamilton, the group camped out to protect themselves from a polio outbreak in early 1938. When Nana talked of the photo she always laughed because isolating themselves was basically useless because a number of Hamilton people made the eighty-five-kilometre trip to visit during their time there.
As we’ve seen over the past weeks social distancing has led to novel ways to fill in time. That was no different out at Cherrypool. The campers came up with the idea of a mock wedding with Nana as the bride. That’s when this photo was taken. A mock wedding in the bush is not an option for us at this time but we can learn about our past and Western District Families is a good place to start.
The main section of Western District Families has more than 430 posts. You can simply start at this post and start scrolling or you can view the posts by category such as Western District History and Cemeteries. In the right sidebar of this page, you will see the drop-down box for categories. You will also see the Pioneer Obiturary Category and from there you can read the seventy-nine Passing of the Pioneers posts from the most recent. Or if you are looking for the obituary of a specific person, go to the tabs at the top of the page you will find the Pioneer Obituary Index. There you can find a person within the alphabetical lists. Click on their name and you will go their Passing of the Pioneers entry.
Another tab at the top of the page is the Western District Links. There are some useful links for websites if you are interested in researching Western District family history or local history including Facebook groups and pages. You will also find links to all the Western District newspapers digitised at Trove.
There is also Hamilton’s WW1 with 160 biographies of men and women who served. Hamilton’s WW1 is divided into Enlistments, Women, and Memorials., Whichever you choose, just click on the underlined names to read a biography. There are nine new biographies available. They are:
A handy tip while reading the posts and pages at Western District Families is to click on any underlined text which will take you to further information on a subject. It may be a website like, Trove or the Australian Directory of Biography or it may be a related WesternDistrict Families post.
If you’ve made it through all that, you could check out the Western District Families or the Hamilton’s WW1 Facebook pages. You don’t even have to be a Facebook member to view them either. On the Western District Families page recently I’ve been posting links to books about Western District history you can read for free online. Plus there are 1000s of photos you can browse through. You will find links to both pages in the right-hand sidebar of this page.
If after all that you find yourself twiddling your thumbs again, try the Western District Families YouTube Channel. You can view nine videos I’ve made including the Western District Families 2018 Album made up of photos shared to the WDF Facebook page.
Or you can view the playlist I’ve put together including sixty-seven history-themed videos from across the Western District such as ‘Mrs Funk and the Dunkeld and District CWA Cookbook’. Aged 100 in 1910, Mrs Funk reads through the cookbook and is reminded of people, recipes, and stories from her past in Dunkeld. You will find that video and more on the link – WDF YouTube Playlist.
March is Women’s History Month. I started Wonderful Western District Women in March 2017 to take the stories of women I have found in my Passing of the Pioneers posts, delve a little deeper and then showcase their stories by way of the Wonderful Western District Women. This year I have added a dedicated page as an index. You will see the tab at the top of the page or you can follow the link to read nineteen stories of wonderful women. – Wonderful Western District Women Index
The index includes the next two women, May Robertson and Eliza Cooke. The two had much in common. May was an active member of the Hamilton community who championed women’s rights. Eliza, a widow with a young family from Cobden, was a pioneer of the transport industry in the Western District and like May advocated women’s rights. Both signed the Victoria Women’s Suffrage Petition in 1891, calling for women to have the same right to vote as men. They also had a shared interest in horses, although May’s interest was for pleasure and Eliza’s for business. Remember to click on any underlined text to go to further information on a subject.
Marlise May Robertson was born in Inverness-shire, Scotland around 1844 and was seven when she arrived in Melbourne with her parents Angus Robertson and Janet McPherson. It was December 1851 and the family would have been glad to reach dry land. During the voyage, they faced a shortage of drinking water and a run-in with pirates. The Robertson family stayed in Melbourne only a few days before journeying to Portland on the schooner Mary Agnes.
It was then on to Straun station on the Wannon River near Coleraine where May’s uncles John and William Robertson had already settled. Life at Straun was not without its dangers. In 1859, May’s brother drowned in the Wannon River after riding his horse into the river in pursuit of a bullock. The current swept from his saddle and into the water. He was fourteen. The following year, Angus Robertson purchased Preston Farm about two miles from Hamilton and the family was on the move again.
In March 1868, May married William Sudgen Price Lewis, the stepson of Richard Lewis, a former owner of Rifle Downs at Digby. William was leasing Hilgay near Coleraine at the time and the couple remained there until around 1871 when they moved to Hamilton. The Lewis family lived at Pine Lodge in Mill Road, Hamilton. May and William had eight children and some time after 1890, they took a young boy Arthur into their care, raising him as their own.
May was an excellent horsewoman. Her older brother John Straun Robertson rode in the Great Western Steeplechase, and if it was thought proper, I think May would have too. She showed horses including Gold Dust for Samuel Winter Cooke in September 1890 at the Hamilton Show. Lord Hopetoun, Governor of Victoria and a house guest of Cooke at Murndal, was in attendance. It was day two and the ground was slippery. While competing in the Best Lady Rider Over Hurdles class, Gold Dust fell at the first jump. May quickly remounted and wanted to continue but wasn’t allowed.
Just months after the Hamilton Show, May and William lost their son Alive in February1891 aged six. In May 1903, another son James died aged twenty-one.
May was very active in the Hamilton community with charitable works with the Salvation Army. She also joined the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), set up not only to promote temperance but also social and political reform. The WCTU was very active in collecting signatures for the Women’s Suffrage Petition in 1891. I was not at all surprised to find May signed the petition.
Another of May’s interests was the Australian Women’s National League formed in 1904. A function of the conservative group was to educate women about politics. The group was very active leading into the 1913 Federal Election and it seems May was in the thick of it. In order to dismiss rumours of bribery, she wrote to the Hamilton Spectator saying she did what she did in “the cause of Liberalism”.
May’s son Arthur Lewis was one of the first Hamilton enlistments for WW1, signing up on 1 October 1914 and leaving two months later. He dutifully wrote home to May and William describing the sights of Egypt, particularly those with a biblical connection. In a letter, they received in June 1915 written in April, before Arthur left Egypt for Gallipoli. He wrote to not worry if there was a delay in receiving letters, as he may be going somewhere it would be hard to get letters out. He closed “I will say good-bye for just now, and wishing you all the best of luck – case of accidents: give my best love and wishes to everybody.”
On 12 August 1915, Arthur Lewis was shot in the abdomen at Gallipoli. He was transferred to the hospital ship Guildford Castle, however, he died the following day and was buried at sea. On 25 September 1915, the Hamilton Spectator reported that the Lewis family had received the first news that not only was Arthur wounded over a month before, but he had died from the wounds. The news came as a great shock to the Lewis family. On 5 October, within two weeks of hearing of Arthur’s fate, William Lewis passed away.
May kept busy. She had joined the Red Cross, making shirts and knitting socks for the boys at the front. She also entered her fuchsia and dahlia blooms in a Red Cross flower show. But then May’s oldest son Angus died in Western Australia in March 1916 at the age of forty-four. The Hamilton Spectator reported the loss was the third for seventy-two-year-old May in eight months. Not surprisingly she was not her usual “buoyant and energetic” self and was suffering bad health.
But May rallied finding strength from her charitable works and she joined the Friendly Union of Soldier’s Wives and Mothers. Also, every Sunday she went to the Hamilton Hospital and handed out flowers to the patients. Her last visit was Sunday 9 June 1930.
May wasn’t there to hand out flowers the following Sunday. She had died the day before on Saturday 15 June 1930 at the age of eighty-six. Mary was remembered as Hamilton’s best known and much-loved resident and large attendance at her funeral was testimony to that. She was buried at the Hamilton (Old) Cemetery with her husband William and son James (below).
Elizabeth Cooke was born in 1842 and arrived in Victoria when she was eight. After some time, the Cooke family made their way to Ballarat where, in 1866, Eliza married Charles Morehouse. Children were born to Eliza and Charles in Ballarat before the family moved to Cobden in 1880 where Charles operated a store. A son was born on 2 August 1881 but just under five months later on 27 December 1881, Charles was dead. Needing to provide for her family, Eliza continued running the store and from around 1882 was operating coach services.
Eliza also held the lucrative contract to provide bran and oats to the police of Cobden and Camperdown for their mounts. And not only that, she owned the goods shed at the Timboon railway station. In July 1900, she told the secretary of the Timboon Progress Association (PA) she intended to pull down the shed and remove it to Cobden. Because Timboon couldn’t afford to lose their shed, the Timboon PA organised petitions to send to the Railway Department requesting they buy the shed. They heard back in August, with the department having offered Eliza £22 for the shed but she refused. She then wrote a letter to the Timboon PA and told them the lowest she would go on the shed was £30. If she couldn’t get that price, she would remove the building. I didn’t find an outcome to the situation but I did note that in December 1905 a report in the Camperdown Chronicle mentioned it had been twelve months since the agitation began for a new goods shed at Timboon.
Also In 1900, it was reported Eliza’s business was sold to Mr Smith of Colac and John Bryant of Camperdown. However, two weeks later it was reported she was building a new letting stable, corn store and cottage in Curdie Street, Cobden.
On 5 August 1931, Eliza celebrated her ninetieth birthday at her home Kooringa, Curdie Street Cobden. The celebration including a birthday cake with ninety candles. At the time Eliza was President of the Cobden Ladies’ Benevolent Society and still chairing meetings.
Eliza died the following year and was buried at the Cobden Cemetery. A memorial tablet was unveiled in her memory in 1935 at the Cobden Presbyterian Church.
Eliza left three sons and two daughters. One of those daughters was Minnie Jane also very community-minded and involved with many of the same organizations as her mother. Minnie never married and lived with her mother until her death. Minnie died in 1945 aged seventy-six.
Broken Memories takes a look at broken headstones and memorials in Western District cemeteries and the stories behind them beginning with the Hamilton (Old) Cemetery. Links to previous parts to the series are at the bottom of this post. Any underlined text throughout the post will take you to further information about a subject. LISSIMAN
Joseph Mitton Lissiman was born in Droitwich, Worcestershire in the West Midlands of England around 1853 and went to school at the Old Swinford Hospital to the north at Stourbridge. The family eventually made their way further north to Birmingham. Joseph left school at fifteen and by the time of the 1871 England Census, he was living further north again in Staffordshire and working in an apprenticeship role. Joseph was also deeply religious, a parishioner of the Church of England. Joseph became a Sunday School teacher and volunteered around the church where possible.
In 1876 and still in England, Joseph read an article written by the Ballarat Archbishop Samuel Thornton Joseph about the needs of the Ballarat Anglican Diocese. That year the Archbishop wrote a series of articles for the English journal Mission Life with excerpts published in Victorian papers. An example is the following extract from the Bacchus Marsh Express with Archbishop Thornton describing the Ballarat diocese and putting out a call to young Englishmen to help. He continued, “the bush clergyman should be ready for plenty of open-air and saddle-work”.
Joseph longed to go. By that time his parents were dead and nothing was keeping him in England. He approached his local clergymen who knew Archbishop Thornton. He was happy to put in a good word for him. Joseph saved his money and in 1877 he applied to work with the Anglican church in Australia at his own expense. There was some hesitation from the church to approve his application because Joseph had no theological training. His devotion, however, was unquestionable.
By June 1879, the dreams of twenty-six-year-old Joseph had come true. He had become a Lay Reader for the Anglican Church in the Ballarat Diocese, assigned to Hamilton Archdeacon Gustaves Innes. Joseph was based at the small township of Dunkeld, east of Hamilton, and spread the word throughout the wider district. The majestic mountains, Sturgeon and Abrupt (below) overlook Dunkeld.
On other days, he would turn his horse to the west and follow the Wannon River around the foot of Mount Sturgeon and make his way to Cavendish. Or he would head to the south to Penshurst or even further beyond to Macarthur, a round trip of around 130 kilometres. But still, his circuit was not complete. There was also the parishioners of Glenthompson to the east of Dunkeld. Joseph’s pay was subsidised by subscribers to the church in each of the areas he preached. However, congregation numbers were low, meaning low subscriptions meant little to pay Joseph for his hard work.
Its doubtful monetary reward was top of Joseph’s mind. In fact, when not travelling miles on horseback, Joseph was involved with the Dunkeld community. He and Miss Elliot of the town trained the local school children in singing, something met with hearty applause when they sang at the Dunkeld Wesleyan Anniversary Tea. Later in the month, the Dunkeld school held a “breaking-up jubilee”. Games were played and Joseph acted as a judge.
Joseph must have been exhausted yet still his passion for his work was evident to all who met him. But just six months of living his dream, things took a tragic turn.
On 22 January 1880, news came Joseph was ill, attributed to overwork. A good rest was what was needed to return him to good health. He was taken to the Hamilton Anglican parsonage to stay with Archdeacon Gustves Innes and his wife.
Joseph was buried in the Church of England section of the Hamilton Cemetery. Archdeacon Innes officiated at the grave while local Sunday School teachers gathered to farewell their friend. The Hamilton Spectator reported, “he had no relatives in the colony”. But he did have kind friends and as written on his headstone, the cost of the monument was paid for by “a few of his friends”. Sadly, his surname was incorrectly spelled.
HEADSTONE OF JOSEPH LISSIMAN, HAMILTON (OLD) CEMETERY
…his numerous friends at Dunkeld and Cavendish will not easily forget his love for little children, his simple piety and homely ways…it is somewhat pathetic to reflect on so ardent a young spirit quenched in the very commencement of his career. Perhaps, however, his death may teach the lesson of his life, and his cordial relations with other denominations his purity of life and gentle unselfishness may be copied by some of the young members of his flock, who, in a few months, had already begun to look upon him as an old friend, and not as a new arrival in the colony.
In the Diocese publication, Archdeacon Innes relayed the story of Joseph helping a young girl kicked in the face by a horse.how in the months before
An interesting point about Joseph’s death was the timing, right in the midst of a Diphtheria epidemic in the Hamilton district. As seen below, Joseph’s death was not the only one reported on 10 February 1880 but also that of young Esther Smith who died of Diphtheria. It may be possible Joseph was misdiagnosed as there are some similarities in the symptoms of both diseases such as a sore throat, fever, malaise but beyond that, each develops differently.
Life for Hamilton’s Archdeacon Gustaves Innes returned to normal after Joseph’s death, or so it would seem. On Easter Monday 29 March 1880, he had a great day at the Anglican Sunday School picnic at Nigretta Falls, just west of Hamilton.
There was food, games, the Hamilton Brass Band provided entertainment and Gustaves arranged a greasy pig competition. The Spectator reported, “If the Ven. Archdeacon was loved and respected before Monday, his bonhomie on that all eventful day greatly increased his popularity, the children being practically shown that there is a time for all things.”
On Saturday 3 April 1880, it was reported Gustaves was suffering a sore throat and a replacement was called for the Sunday service. It was thought he’d caught a cold at the Sunday School picnic. His condition worsened and on 6 April it was reported four patients were receiving treatment for Diphtheria at the Hamilton Hospital with another seven receiving treatment at home. All were at the Sunday School picnic. It was confirmed Gustaves was among the cases.
Two days later Gustaves” condition was critical and his daughter Lily had also contacted Diphtheria. The next morning, 9 April, Gustaves died aged forty-two leaving his widow and his daughter Lily who recovered from her illness.
The funeral took place the following day at the Hamilton Christ Church with a large crowd in attendance. Given the growing fear of the contagious disease, it was thought a good idea to leave the coffin outside in the hearse while mourners went inside the church for the service.
CHRIST CHURCH ANGLICAN CHURCH, HAMILTON
A large crowd then followed the hearse to the Hamilton (Old) Cemetery. Of course, Gustaves was buried in the Church of England section of the cemetery.
I went to the cemetery in search of his grave. After a lot of examining the maps on the cemetery’s deceased search and the various photos I have of photos close by, I have come to the conclusion, the grave below belongs to Gustaves. There is no inscription and like Joseph Lissiman’s headstone, it too appears broken. He is buried in the next row across and seven graves down from Joseph Lissiman.
GRAVE OF ARCHDEACON GUSTAVES INNES, HAMILTON (OLD) CEMETERY
Gustaves would remain close to Joseph Lissiman after death and given the events after Joseph’s death, that may have been too close for comfort for Gustaves as the story takes another twist,
On 30 April 1880, the Geelong Advertiser broke a story. Apparently, the ghost of Joseph Lissiman appeared before Archdeacon Gustaves Innes in his study one night in the weeks after Joseph’s death. Not only that, the apparition predicted Gustav’s death.
That revelation led the Hamilton Spectator to break a promised silence. After Gustaves’ death, they were shown a note written by him the morning before his death while he was still apparently lucid. “It was shown to us with a request that we would not publish it, as it could do no good, and might hurt the feelings of his relatives.” Instead, a family friend “with questionable taste, thought proper to furnish a very distorted version of the affair to the public”. The contents of the note sighted by the Hamilton Spectator were different from the account published in the Advertiser.
Rather, shortly after Joseph died claimed the Spectator, Gustvaves was home alone when he heard rattling coming from the room which served as Joseph’s sick room. Gustaves rushed to the room, peered into the darkness and when he thought the coast was clear, said to himself with a chuckle, “It must be old Lissiman. What do you want?” Gustaves’ note continued…”Then I had an answer, not audible, but such as possibly a spirit can convey, ‘ Never, mind, you’ll follow me soon.’ It was singular, I never told anyone.”
Whatever happened on that night must have weighed on Gustaves’ mind for him to pen a note as he lay on his death bed. All the same, the matter of a ghost, it would appear, was soon forgotten. Gustaves and Joseph, however, were not forgotten. They were remembered together in April 1881 a year after their deaths at the laying of the foundation stone of a new Anglican church at Dunkeld.
But the matter of a ghost was not forgotten. On 23 July 1881, the Leader newspaper published in a supplement an excerpt from the Wesleyan Spectator, under the headline “The Living and the Dead”, a paper written by Reverend Joseph Waterhouse a year earlier when the first word of a ghost hit the papers. At least, the Hamilton Spectator‘s version of the story was given, but the Reverend Waterhouse added, “I believe all the above; I will give three instances in which the dead have appeared to me, the living.”
I will leave the topic of ghosts here for now but the next edition will continue on from where the story of Joseph Lissiman and Archdeacon Innes left off including a revisit to the Anglican Sunday School picnic at the Nigretta Falls on Easter Monday 1880. Coming Soon.
If you missed the early editions of the series Broken Memories, you will find them on the links below:
Broken Memories is a series of stories about those buried in Western District cemeteries with broken headstones or monuments. Beginning with Hamilton (Old) Cemetery, the posts will be published regularly over the coming months. For more about the series Broken Memories follow the link – Broken Memories – An Introduction. If you click on any underlined text throughout the post you’ll find more information about a subject.
The headstone of Sam and Frances Hing is the only one I’ve seen at the Hamilton (Old) Cemetery to date with a Chinese inscription. It also comes with a tragic story.
Frances Mary Ann Lever was born in London in 1856, a daughter of Edwin and Julia Lever. Edwin and Julia and their nine children arrived in Melbourne in March 1866 aboard the Queen of Australia (1) and took up residence in Richmond. Edwin Lever died in February 1871 at Richmond when Frances was around fifteen.
Three years later on 23 November 1874, Frances was eighteen, in Warrnambool and a bride-to-be at the local Christ Church. The groom was thirty-seven-year-old storekeeper Samuel Hing. Samuel Hing who was also known as Sam Hing and Ah Hing arrived in Australia in the late 1850s when in his early twenties.
The wedding created much interest in the town. The bridesmaids were local girls, the groomsmen were commercial travellers and the wedding breakfast was held at the Criterion Hotel. According to the Warrnambool correspondent for the Hamilton Spectator, on the morning following the wedding, Samuel with Frances in her wedding dress, “paraded the streets” of Warrnambool. A son Edwin Francis was born to Sam and Frances in 1876 at Warrnambool (2).
It’s possible the Hings resided in Melbourne after their marriage. A Samuel Hing of Little Bourke Street, Melbourne was among a number of Chinese traders charged with selling sly grog in June 1875. The charges against Samuel Hing were dropped. There were also several trips between Melbourne and Warrnambool on the steamer by a Mr and Mrs Sam Hing. One example was in March 1876.
SHIPPING INTELLIGENCE. (1876, March 6). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), p. 4. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article7433847
In late 1876, the following notice appeared in the Hamilton Spectator announcing Sam was trading at Coleraine.
However, by early 1877, things weren’t looking good for Sam. He had been trading in Warrnambool as Sam Hing & Co. The “& co.” was a man called Ah Charn. What happened to Sam’s Coleraine shop is unclear but his Warrnambool shop was in financial trouble. The assets of Sam Hing and Ah Charn were to be sold to repay creditors.
Sam was sentenced to six months imprisonment with hard labour. You can find Sam’s prison record on the link – Central Prisoner Register
By April 1878 there was a Samuel Hing trading in Percy Street, Portland. In time, Sam and Frances moved to Burns Street, Hamilton and Sam won first prize for his celery at the Hamilton Agriculture Show in March 1880. Around the end of October 1881, Samuel was out of town, already absent for about ten days. During that time, Frances took sick and doctors were called. They did all they could, but she died a painful death.
An inquest was held at Hamilton’s Caledonian Hotel on the afternoon of 9 November. It was found Frances’ “Mysterious Death” as it was headlined was due to a substance she had taken with the intention of terminating a pregnancy resulting in a fatal hemorrhage. Samuel strongly denied Frances was pregnant and told of how she had similar abdominal pain once on a trip to Hong Kong. He added the only medicine Frances was known to take was dispensed by Hamilton chemist Carl Klug and she never used Chineses medicines.
Other witnesses said no medicine entered the house other than that prescribed by Doctors Annand and Scott and dispensed by Carl Klug. Frances’ brother Ernest also gave evidence. Mr Giles the jury foreman suggested maybe a closer examination of the evidence be made, considering the death only took place the evening before, However, the jury was called to give their verdict and after some deliberation announced their decision.
Sam was so upset about the verdict, he wrote to the Hamilton Spectator.
Frances was buried at the Hamilton Cemetery the day after the inquest.
By April 1887, Sam was managing a drapery shop in Thompson Street, Hamilton. Judging by advertising in the Hamilton Spectator at the time, the Chinese traders of the town were involved in takeovers and changes of management. Among them was Erng Long.
On Easter Monday 1887 (11 April) around 6.30pm, Robert Gallagher entered Sam’s shop. A previous customer, on this occasion Gallagher tried on clothes. He then attempted to leave without paying, rushing from the shop. Sam tried to stop him but Gallagher pushed him aside leaving Sam bloodied. Gallagher was charged with unlawful assault and theft but given a very light sentence a matter commented on in the Hamilton Spectator. It was reported Sam was still feeling the effects of the altercation the following day.
Two months later on 18 June 1887, Sam was dead. When I first looked up Sam’s death in the Victorian Death Index, I found his place of death was Ararat, a place he had no known connection (3). When I’ve seen that scenario in the past, more times than not it has played out the location of death was the Ararat Asylum. Sadly, that was the case for Sam.
From Sam’s case file from the asylum (4), on 30 May, about a month after the incident with Gallagher, Sam was taken to the Ararat Asylum by Erng Long who nominated himself as Sam’s nearest relative being his brother. With them was another man described as a cousin. Sam was suffering from acute mania and at the time of his admission, he was “at times very excited waving his arms about. Subject to fits of immoderate crying. At times laughs heartily”. He was also considered dangerous.
Sam wasn’t eating well on admission but two weeks later on 16 June, an update in his file showed his eating had improved and he was getting up and dressed each day. He died two days after that update. It appears an inquest was not held into nor did the Hamilton Spectator report on his death.
Sam’s body was returned to Hamilton and buried at the cemetery with Frances on 20 June. Canton now known as Guangdong was inscribed on the headstone as his birthplace, however, his prison record gave his birthplace as further south at Macau.
The Hamilton cemetery records show another burial in the grave of Frances and Samuel Hing, an unnamed baby buried on 24 December 1886, five years after the death of Frances and months before Samuel’s death. The Victorian Birth Index shows the birth of a son to Samuel Hing at Hamilton in 1886. (5). The mother of the child is listed as Terne Ah Hing. The Victorian Death Index shows the boy lived for a day (6). Again, the mother’s name is Terne Ah Hing. In 1887, another son of Samuel Hing was born at Hamilton (7). The mother’s name listed on the Victorian Birth Index is Journ Ah Hing.
The closest I can find to Sam having re-married is a listing in the Victorian Marriage Index of the marriage of Ah Hing to Margaret Gavin in 1886 (8). Interestingly, a Margaret Ah Hing was admitted to the Ararat Asylum in 1898 (8). She died there in 1924 aged sixty-five. Her parents were unknown. (9)
At the time of Sam’s death, Edwin Hing, son of Sam and Francis, was twelve. Sadly, Edwin died six years after his father in 1893, drowning after a fall from a boat off Macau.
The Hamilton Spectator reported on a letter received by Frederick Edward Mitchell of Portland notifying him of Edwin’s death. Edwin, who was educated at the Hamilton State School, appears to have gone to China not too long after his father’s death. Around the age of seventeen, he was employed by the Chinese Imperial Maritime Customs Service as an interpreter and was working at the time of his death. Edwin had given Frederick’s name as someone to contact in case of an emergency.
Frederick was two years older than Edwin and was born in Hamilton and likely attended the Hamilton State School like Edwin. His father James Mitchell was a bootmaker with a shop in Thompson Street, the same location as Sam Hing’s last shop. Seemingly a friendship formed between Frederick and Edwin sometime during their time in Hamilton and continued beyond. Frederick went on to become a postmaster at different locations across Victoria and died at Queenscliff in 1940.
There’s something about a historic cemetery, and there are many throughout the Western District from the small Old Cavendish Cemetery to the large Hamilton (Old) Cemetery. It’s the character of the rusty wrought-iron fences, the weathered headstones, the symbolism, and the display of craftsmanship…even the broken headstones.
No matter how often I visit a cemetery it looks different depending on the time of day or the season. Like the grave of the Thomsons of Monivae at Hamilton, one I’ve walked past many times. Different times of day see the shadows fall on different sides of the monument or on a winter’s day last year I was welcomed with this cheery surprise
In fact, you never know what you might see…
When I visit a cemetery I take photos of as many headstones as I can, the different views across the cemetery and the cemetery sign. Usually, my time is limited so I find myself racing around the cemeteries trying to get as many photos as I can.
I was pleased to get in five visits to the Hamilton Cemetery this year and last week I took my 1000th photo there. I generally don’t visit with a plan and always walk in the front gate and turn right. It’s habit. I’ve been doing it that way since my first visits to the cemetery as a little girl with Nana and her sister. Their parents are buried to the right of the front gate. Hamilton also has a confusing layout and no matter how many times I visit, I can quickly lose my bearings. Sometimes I go in search of a particular grave but even with the maps now available to print at the cemetery website, it usually ends in frustration, so I prefer to wander.
Looking back at my photos not just from Hamilton but other cemeteries, there is a trend. At least until this year. I was photographing the most impressive and easiest to read headstones, usually with familiar surnames. Also, each time I visited I was taking photos of the same graves from similar angles. Since that realisation, at each of the cemeteries I’ve visited this year, I’ve turned my attention to some of the others graves, the broken…
Those difficult to read…
And those I gave a wide berth as a child…the sunken graves. The grave of my great, great grandparents Richard and Elizabeth Diwell at Hamilton has suffered that fate.
Some headstones are in a fragile state and photographing them now will ensure there is a record in case they deteriorate further.
The addition of the searchable records on the Hamilton Cemetery Trust website in recent years has made it easier to identify those buried in graves with illegible headstones. Of course, once identified, I can’t help myself and must have a bit of a search for them at Trove. What I often find is the most remarkable stories and that’s how the new WDF series Broken Memories has come about. It began as two parts about broken headstones at the Hamilton Old Cemetery with the idea of adding other cemeteries in the future.
As the stories of the selected headstones have taken unexpected twists and turns, the series has grown to five parts just about the Hamilton cemetery plus an introduction, the purpose of this post. I am really looking forward to sharing this series with you. Each headstone offers such an interesting but often tragic story and I didn’t expect several parts of the series would intertwine in the way they have. I also didn’t expect to be doing further research on topics such as Ned Kelly and the Carlton Football Club (that was easy as a Blues supporter) or delving in the afterlife and one of the darkest periods of Hamilton’s history.
And the cat you saw earlier in this post. He’s a bit of teaser for what is to come, because Joseph as I like to refer to him as, has become part of the series. Maybe that’s come about by pure coincidence or perhaps some greater force. I’ll let you decide when the time comes to properly introduce him.
I intended to launch straight into the stories but I thought some prior explanation was needed. I’ve found misshapen headstones are cause for conjecture. Photos I’ve posted to social media have prompted comments such as, “Why don’t they fix it?” and “How could they leave it like that?” Therefore, I’ve decided to used this introduction to try and overcome some of the misunderstandings about the operations, responsibilities, and conversation of our cemeteries.
Following, you will find a very broad overview of how Victorian cemeteries operate and some of the reasons a grave may deteriorate. At the end of the post, there are links to further reading about the finer points of cemetery operations including the exceptions to the rule, along with cemetery conservation from the experts.
To begin, the land on which a cemetery is located is Crown Land. A Cemetery Trust provides burial services within the cemetery, keeps the records and maintains the cemetery grounds.
In Victoria, a cemetery trust is answerable to the Cemeteries and Crematoria Regulation Unit – Department of Health and Human Services overseen by the Victorian State Minister of Health. The minister oversees the appointment of a cemetery trust. A cemetery trust is also governed by the Cemeteries and Crematoria Act 2003 and Cemeteries and Crematoria Regulations 2015.
When you or someone else decides for you the cemetery you will be buried in, the plot of land in which you are buried is not purchased by you or your benefactors. It remains Crown Land. However, a Right of Interment is purchased for a plot, giving the holder the right to decide who is buried there and if a monument should be placed on the plot. The holder of the Right of Interment is also responsible for the maintenance of the monument.
HAMILTON (OLD) CEMETERY
When the holder of the Right of Interment dies, the beneficiary or beneficiaries of their estate then become the holder/s of the Right of Interment and the obligations that go with it. That process continues as each holder of the Right of Internment dies.
You can imagine at an old cemetery such as Hamilton, tracing the holder of the Right of Internment on many graves would be near impossible, something you will come to see in the stories which follow. In those cases, if a monument becomes unsafe, the trust with the consent of the Secretary to the Department of Health can deal with it in an appropriate way.
If you hold a Right of Interment and the relevant monument is damaged, you can’t just have it repaired. There is a process to follow and an application needs to be lodged with the relevant cemetery trust. The trust will then accept or refuse the application and in the process, will consider such things as Occupational Health and Safety and the fit of the proposed new monument in accord with the ascetics of the cemetery.
The deterioration of and damage to headstones and monuments can occur for various reasons, from the type of stone used, movement from the ground below, heavy rain or flooding, human hands either intentionally or unintentionally, or simply just time.
In 1903, two earthquakes at Warrnambool within months played havoc with the cemetery. A report after the second quake suggested almost every headstone was damaged in some way and those repaired after the first quake were unlikely to be repaired again.
I encourage you to visit some of the historic Western Cemeteries cemeteries not only to find family but to learn about the past and in some cases, enjoy the view.
DUNKELD (OLD) CEMETERY
In making that suggestion, the phrase “Take Only Photos, Leave Only Footprints” comes to mind. But watch where you leave those footprints. Keep to the paths or defined rows where possible because beneath your feet could be someone who was once like you and me, as you will see in a series I have planned about unmarked graves.
I hope you enjoy the Broken Memories series. Three stories are now available to read. Click on the underlined part numbers to read more:
Part 1: The tragic story of the Hing family of Warrnambool and Hamilton.
Part 2: A story of Joseph Lissiman, an Anglican Lay Reader at Dunkeld, a ghost and the beginnings of a diphtheria outbreak in the Hamilton district, leading into the next part.
Part 3: Thomas Gorman and his family were victims of the diphtheria outbreak. Thomas had an interesting past as a founding player for the Carlton Football Club and an encounter with the Kelly gang.
Cemeteries and crematoria in Victoria, State Government of Victoria. Includes links to the Cemeteries and Crematoria Act 2003 and Cemeteries and Crematoria Regulations 2015 and more information about Rights of Interment.
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