The Great Flood of 1870

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.  

PENSHURST. (1870, August 27). Hamilton Spectator p. 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article196303848

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 the old bridge washed away but also new bridge under construction. 

LATEST INTELLIGENCE. (1870, September 13). The Ballarat Star, p. 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article218798397

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.

WANNON RIVER, OCTOBER 2020

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.

THE SKIPTON SHOW. (1870, September 14). Hamilton Spectator, p. 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article196301671

At Coleraine, settled on the banks of Bryan Creek,* the water rose rapidly.  

TOWNSHIP OF COLERAINE, Victorian Office of Lands & Survey, Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/93052

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.”

COLERAINE. (1870, September 10). Hamilton Spectator p. 3.  http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article196305637

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. 

VIEW TOWARD THE COLERAINE TOWNSHIP, Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/63291

By the end of September 1870, farmers were lamenting the wet weather as potatoes rotted in the ground and shearing was delayed.

COLERAINE. (1870, October 1). Hamilton Spectator p. 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article196307121

Unsettled weather continued throughout October. On Friday 28 October 1870 in Coleraine, it was humid with a squally wind.  
 

COLERAINE c1880 Image No. [B 21766/52 State Libary of South Australia https://collections.slsa.sa.gov.au/resource/B+21766/52

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”.
 

COLERAINE. (1870, November 2). Hamilton Spectator p. 2.  http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article196303181

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.

THE ALBION PRINTING OFFICE, WHYTE STREET COLERAINE, Image courtesy of the Museums Victoria Collections https://collections.museumsvictoria.com.au/items/772470

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 FLOODS. (1870, November 3). Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser p. 2 (EVENINGS). , from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article65423451

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 to 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.
 

FORMER NATIONAL BANK OF AUSTRALASIA, WHYTE STREET, COLERAINE.

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, 

WHYTE STREET, COLERAINE. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/385977

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 and his brother Louis, a hero only hours earlier.

COLERAINE IGA FORMERLY THE STORE OF A. LESSER & CO., WHYTE STREET, COLERAINE.

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 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 remainder. 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.

COLERAINE CEMETERY

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 not necessary as it seemed almost certain the remains were those of William Weaven.

THE VICTIMS 

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).
    

GRAVE OF THE DRUMMOND FAMILY, COLERAINE CEMETERY

Janet DRUMMOND
 
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.
 

GRAVE OF JANET DRUMMOND AND HER PARENTS GEORGE AND MARGARET, COLERAINE CEMETERY.

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 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

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.

REDRUTH. (1870, November 2). Hamilton Spectator, p. 2.  http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article196303182

WANNON RIVER FROM THE WANNON BRIDGE, WANNON, OCTOBER 2020.

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).  

WANNON FALLS, OCTOBER 2020

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”.

THE WEATHER AND THE TELEGRAPH.— (1870, October 29). Hamilton Spectator p. 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article196304024

One report suggested around 34 mm of rain fell in a short time. The bridge over the Grange Burn on the 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. 

LOOKING TOWARDS THE SITE OF THE FORMER GRANGE INN AND THE DIGBY ROAD BRIDGE OVER THE GRANGE BURN FROM THE PORTLAND ROAD BRIDGE.

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.

OUR LETTER HOME. (1870, November 5). Hamilton Spectator, p. 4.  http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article196303362

 A horse was struck by lightning at Streatham and at Colac, the heaviest ran in years fell. Murray Street was like a river and Lake Colac was rising. 

DISASTROUS FLOODS. (1870, October 31). The Age, p. 3.  http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article189331161

At Ballarat,  the rain brought the worst flood in memory. 

BALLARAT. (1870, October 29). The Herald, p. 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article244717929

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.

DISASTERS AT BALLARAT. (1869, December 1). Illustrated Adelaide Post (SA), p. 4.  http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article245004026

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”. 

Pioneers of Wannon Country. (1937, December 20). Portland Guardian, p. 2 (EVENING.).  http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64277877

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. 

Advertising (1849, March 5). Port Phillip Gazette and Settler’s Journal p. 4. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article223156343

I chose to use Bryan Creek, the name used by local and state government agencies.  


SOURCES

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

4.   Victorian BDMs  Birth Index, Richard DRUMMOND, 1854, Reg. No. 6918/1854

5.   Victorian BDMS Birth Index, Margaret DRUMMOND, 1857, Reg. No. 15416/1857

6.   Victorian BDMs Birth Index, James DRUMMOND, 1862, Reg. No.  1963/1862

7.   Victorian BDMs  Birth Index, John DRUMMOND, 1867, Reg. No. 7017/1867

8.   Victorian BDM’s Death Index, David DRUMMOND, 1867, Reg. No. 9949/1867

9.   Victorian BDM’s Death Index, John DRUMMOND, 1868, Reg. No. 545/1868

10. Victorian BDMs  Birth Index, David DRUMMOND, 1869, Reg. No. 7703/1869

11. Victorian BDM’s Death Index, Margaret DRUMMOND, 1914, Reg. No. 1220/1914

12.  Victorian BDM’s Death Index, Richard DRUMMOND, 1932, Reg. No. 8881/1932

13.  Victorian BDM’s Death Index, David DRUMMOND, 1941, Reg. No. 2076/1914

14.  Victorian BDMs  Birth Index, Jennet DRUMMOND, 1861, Reg. No.3467/1861

15.   PROV, Assisted British Immigration Index, VPRS 14, Book 13A, Page 141, Oithona, 1861

16.  Victorian BDMs, Marriage Index, Emma Jane Till, 1864, Reg. No. 3529/1864

17.  Victorian BDMs  Birth Index, Louisa Matilda LEARD, 1865, Reg. No.4907/1865

18.  Victorian BDMs  Birth Index, Isabella Jane LAIRD, 1867, Reg. No. 20916/1867

19.  Victorian BDMs  Birth Index, James Alexander LAIRD, 1869, Reg. No. 21412/1869

20.  Victorian BDMs, Marriage Index, Louisa Matilda LAIRD, 1883, Reg. No. 3794/1883

21.  Victorian BDM’s Death Index, Louisa Matilda McCREDDEN, 1887, Reg. No. 3417/1887

22. Liverpool Record Office; Liverpool, England; Liverpool Church of England Parish Registers; Reference Number: 283 PET/2/37

23.  PROV, Unassisted Passenger List, Catharine Mitchell, Fiche 27, p. 7, Charles LOXTON

24. Libraries Tasmania, Name Index: 1089108, Births, William Lewis, 1843, Resource: RGD32/1/3/ no 2271

25.  Victorian BDMs  Birth Index, William WEAVEN, 1844, Reg. No. 30623/1844

Newspapers

 

Passing of the Pioneers

A further ten Western District pioneers move onto the Pioneer Obituary Index this month with some joining their family members. That is the case with the families of Lesser, Cole, Kirkwood and Learmonth.  As I add entries to the index, I try to match them up with related entries and link them up.  You’ll now find a number of family connections when you scroll through the index. As usual, if you click on any of the underlined text throughout this post, you will go to further information about that subject.

HULL, Thomas Wood – Died 20 November 1868 at Hamilton.  Thomas Hull was born in Rochester, Kent, England around 1839, a son of John Hull and Elizabeth Wood. He was also a nephew of the Honorable William Hull, a member of Victoria’s Legislative Assembly from 1860 to 1866.  By 1865, Thomas was in Victoria and a policeman stationed in Gippsland.  In that year he received a promotion from Senior Constable to Sergeant 2nd Class. By 1867, Thomas had transferred to Hamilton.  In October 1867, Hamilton’s Inspector of Police, Leopold Kabut left the town, so Thomas Hull, a promising young policeman, was put in charge of the Hamilton station. Things were also going well in his personal life and Thomas married Kate Wright of Hamilton at the Church of England on 15 July 1868.

On the morning of Friday 20 November 1868, Thomas found it necessary to dismiss one of the mounted policemen Michael Flanagan. Flanagan had one too many times been reported for drunkenness. Thomas asked Flanagan to hand in his kit but advised him he could stay in his house for a couple more days due to him having a wife and six children.  Thomas then went about his duties, including a patrol around the business area of Hamilton.  At 2.00pm, Thomas returned to his quarters and around thirty minutes later Flanagan approached him.  There was some discussion between the two about the Flanagan’s  living arrangements.  Flanagan then produced a pistol, asking Thomas to check if it was clean. He then approached Thomas and shot him twice in the left side. Constable Conway who had been present rushed Flanagan and grabbed hold of the pistol. Flanagan would not release his grip so Conway cried, “Murder” and the watch-house keeper ran to his aid, securing the pistol. They then put Flanagan in the lockup.

Meanwhile, Thomas Hull lay on the ground with internal bleeding, slowly fading over the course of thirty minutes.  Kate had heard the disturbance rushed to Thomas’ side and he recognised her presence.  Thomas spent his last minutes praying, uttering, “It is hard to die”. He forgave Flanagan and his enemies before the effects of his wounds took his life at just twenty-nine. He was buried at the Hamilton (Old) Cemetery.  Michael Flanagan was found guilty of murder and sent to the gallows, insisting on wearing his mounted policeman’s uniform to meet his fate.  Thomas’ wife Kate remarried in 1870 to another policeman, Alfred Clark.  She died at the Bendoc Police Station in Gippsland in 1886 aged just thirty-six.

GRAVE OF THOMAS HULL, HAMILTON (OLD) CEMETERY

GRAVE OF THOMAS HULL AT HAMILTON (OLD) CEMETERY

LESSER, Abraham – Died 13 November 1886 at Coleraine.  Abraham Lesser was born in Swarzędz, Poland, then under Prussian rule, around 1826.  In the 1850s, his brother Louis left for Australia and Abraham followed.  Together they went to Coleraine, opening a store in Whyte Street.  In 1861, Abraham married Londoner Elizabeth “Bessie” May at the Mikveh Israel Melbourne Synagogue. In 1865, Abraham and Louis mutually dissolved the partnership in the store and Louis left for London where he married Bessie’s sister Evelyn May.

Abraham’s wife Bessie would have several pregnancies, however, she lost her first two babies and by 1870, the Lessers had lost five babies.  As well as the store, Abraham was active in the community.  He was a member of the Wannon Shire Council for almost ten years and a Justice of the Peace. A generous benefactor, he donated money to churches of all denominations.

On 12 November 1886, Abraham attended a concert in Coleraine.  While having a chat with John Kirby who would later buy Mt Koroite at Coleraine, Abraham suddenly collapsed.  He died early the following morning at the age of sixty.  He left his widow Bessie and four children.  The funeral cortege was one of the largest seen in Coleraine.  Reverend Goldrich, rabbi of the Jewish congregation in Ballarat conducted the service.

The store of A.Lesser & Co (below) continued operating in Coleraine first by Louis and then members of Abraham’s family until it went into liquidation in 1939.

A.LESSER & CO., COLERAINE 1922. Image courtesy of the Museums Victoria Collections https://collections.museumvictoria.com.au/items/769410

HORAN, Keeran   – Died 17 November 1892 at Croxton East.  Keeran Horan was born in King’s County, Ireland around 1824 and arrived in Victoria in the late 1850s with his wife Catherine Guinan.  After spending fifteen years farming at Mount Moriac near Geelong, Keeran took up land at Croxton East in 1872, calling the property Pine Hill Farm.  Keeran was an expert ploughmen and a noted breeder of draught horses. He once paid a record price for a draught stallion from Daniel Twomey of Kolor at Penshurst.

“Advertising” Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 – 1918) 27 September 1884: 4 (SUPPLEMENT TO THE HAMILTON SPECTATOR). <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article225660511&gt;.

In 1887, Keeran entered a competition conducted by the government to find the colony’s prize farm. An article about the visit of the judges to Pine Hill Farm gives a great description of not only Keeran’s farm but farming practices from the time.  You can find it on the link here.  At the time of Keeran’s death, he left a large family.  Catherine predeceased him in  1902.

KIRKWOOD, William – Died 10 November 1898 at Buckley’s Swamp.  William Kirkwood was born in Quebec, Canada on 9 February 1822. When still a child, his parents returned to Paisley, Scotland and William grew up there.  In 1842, William married Jane O’May and they had one child before heading to Australia in 1852 arriving at Portland aboard the John Davis.  They took a bullock dray to Warrock, north of Casterton where William worked. They later went to Park Hill at the Wannon.  William then selected land south of Hamilton at Buckley’s Swamp in 1861.  William and Jane went on to have another son and three daughters. William was a devout member of the Hamilton Presbyterian Church and church precentor, leading the singing until an organ was purchased.  In 1883, William returned to Scotland for a visit.  William’s funeral cortege left his home at Buckley’s Swamp at 1.30pm and when it reached Hamilton two hours later, the mourners following behind the hearse stretched for 800 metres.

GRAVE OF WILLIAM KIRKWOOD AND FAMILY, HAMILTON (OLD) CEMETERY

HOLLARD, George Gilbert “Giles” – Died 26 November 1912 at Wallacedale North.  George Hollard was born in Devonshire, England in 1817.  He married Mary Richards and they had three children.  In 1849, George and his family sailed to Portland aboard the Bristol Empire. George was employed by Edward Henty at Muntham where he remained for many years.  In time, he and Mary returned to Portland.  Mary died in 1894 and George stayed in Portland until around 1908 when he went to live with his son at Wallacedale.  One of the highlights of George’s life was seeing the Governor of Victoria, Sir George Bowen turn the first sod on the Portland-Hamilton rail line.  George left three sons and four daughters at the time of his death.

DUNBAR, John – Died 9 November 1913 at Hamilton. John Dunbar was born at Tyrone, Ireland around 1833 and arrived in Victoria in 1855 and made his way to Hamilton.  In 1863, John married Frances Hawke and they had seven sons and four daughters.  John and Frances would stay in their marital home until their deaths.   In his later years, John remained fit and worked in his garden each day, only going into town on Saturday for shopping.  John left his widow Frances, three sons and three daughters.  Frances died at Hamilton in 1921.

PEARSON, Mary Jarvey – Died 24 November 1913 at Hamilton.  Mary Pearson was born in 1832 at Bathgate, Scotland, the eldest daughter of John Pearson and Mary Simpson.  Mary’s grandfather Sir James Simpson who discovered the use of chloroform as an anaesthetic. When Mary was six,  she left Leigh Scotland in January 1840 with her parents and siblings, to travel to Hobart, Tasmania on board the North Briton. During the voyage, the ship ran aground on the Goodwin Sands off the English coast near Kent, delaying the journey a month. Back on course, as the ship rounded the Cape of Good Hope on 30 April 1840, Mary’s mother gave birth to a son, Joseph.  Once in Hobart, the family lived in Mary’s late uncle’s large house at Douglass Park, Campbell Town John had inherited. In 1846, John Pearson bought the run of Mr Robertson on the Glenelg River in Victoria.

On 30 May 1846, John and Mary Pearson and their five children sailed for Portland Bay from Launceston on the Minerva with Captain Fawthrop at the helm.  From there they travelled to the 10, 750 acre Retreat Run near Casterton.  During their time at the station, they saw the impact of the Black Thursday bushfires on 6 February 1851 when Mary was nineteen.  Such was fires intensity,  birds and wildlife sought refuge at the homestead. The time of the fires would remain fixed in Mary’s memory for another reason.  Her mother died two days later on 8 February 1851. Her body was transported to the Portland North Cemetery for burial.

Mary’s father sold Retreat soon after, taking up Yambuk Station in July 1851. The trip to Yambuk took two days and there was a stopover at Castlemaddie at Tyrendarra, owned by Mr Suter.  In March 1853, Mary was visiting Castlemaddie when three armed bushrangers entered the house during afternoon tea and demanded money from those present.  Mary had a long gold chain, a gift from her father, and she tried to hide it but Wilson the bushranger caught her.  “You ladies needn’t put your jewellery out of sight. I don’t want any of it. All we want is coin.”, he said.  In 1854, John Pearson sold Yambuk to Mr Suter formerly of Castlemaddie and he moved to Portland.

While in the Portland district, Mary met and married Peter Learmonth on 18 December 1854 at Portland.  Peter had come from the Castlemaine diggings where he had some success.  He took up a job at Merino Downs for the Hentys and Mary moved there with him. They then went to Hamilton where Peter set up a flour mill at Prestonholme, just east of the town. He ran other mills in the district including Byaduk.  He also established P.Learmonth & Co, Stock and Station agents in Gray Street Hamilton.  Mary and Peter went on to have ten children, seven sons and three daughters.  Peter died in 1893 and Mary remained at Prestonholme for a further ten years before moving to Oakdene, Hamiton.  Her son James and his family, fresh from a stint at the family property in Mexico, took up residence at Prestonholme.  

Peter and Mary attended the Hamilton Wesleyan Methodist Church in McIntyre Street and together were a driving force behind the church’s construction in 1862.   Mary was involved with the Benevolent Ladies Society, auxiliaries, sewing groups, basically any church activity.  Not only did Mary witness the construction of the first Wesleyan Methodist church in Hamilton, she was able to see the new church in Lonsdale Street (below).  She was most enthusiastic about the new church and was given the honour of laying the foundation stone on 5 April 1913.  Sadly she was in poor health at the time of the opening of the church on 5 October 1913 and was unable to attend.

HAMILTON WESLEYAN METHODIST CHURCH, LONSDALE STREET c1930. Image courtesy of the Museums Victoria Collections http://collections.museumvictoria.com.au/items/769323

At the time of her death, Mary left six sons and one daughter and her younger brother Joseph Bell Pearson born near the Cape of Good Hope, was also alive.  A remembrance service was held at the Hamilton Wesleyan Methodist Church on Sunday 7 December.  The congregation were reminded the history of the Wesleyan Methodism in Hamilton was also the history of the religious life of Peter and Mary Learmonth. Mary’s obituary in the Hamilton Spectator on 25 November 1913 gave an extensive description of her life including her early years in the colony,

As a young girl, she lived in the unprepared period before extensive settlement, when the tracks had yet to be blazed and passage through the virgin bush had to be made by roadless routes and in vehicles for human transport of most primitive origin. Her life was contemporaneous with that of the pioneer Henty family. The areas of ownership of land were comparatively vast, and like her earlier friends she had the unique experience of viewing the gradual process of expansion of population in this large and fertile district.

Mary was buried at Hamilton (Old) Cemetery with Peter.

GRAVE OF MARY JARVEY LEARMONTH AND FAMILY AT HAMILTON (OLD) CEMETERY

COLE, Nicholas – Died 22 November 1932 at Camperdown.  Nicholas Cole was born in 1852 at West Cloven Hills Station near Darlington to Nicholas Cole and Martha Hodgson. His family had been on the property  1839.  Nicholas went to school at Geelong Grammar. After the death of his father in 1879, Nicholas inherited the property and turned his attending to breeding Merinos, become one of the leading growers in the country.  In 1885, Nicholas married Victoria Anderson of Gerangamete station.  They went on to have a son and three daughters.   In 1920, Victoria died suddenly from heart disease at the age of fifty-four.

WEST CLOVEN HILLS HOMESTEAD. Image courtesy of the J.T. Collins Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria.

HEDDITCH, William Forward – Died 13 November 1939 at Bridgewater. William Hedditch was born at Lower Cape Bridgwater in 1857, the son of Richard Charlton Hedditch and Rachel Forward Read. He attended the Bridgewater School followed by Portland College. After school, William turned to dairy farming and was later director of the Portland and Bridgewater butter factories for forty years. In 1890, William married Marion Nunn Jones and they had two sons.  William had an interest in local history and was a wealth of knowledge on the subject, writing many articles for the Portland Guardian on local history.  He was buried at the Bridgewater Cemetery.

WATT, Annie – Died 10 November 1952 at Coleraine.  Annie Watt was born at Springvale in 1862.  She married Robert Brown at the Hamilton Catholic Church in 1886, the wedding performed by Father Shanahan.  Annie and Robert settled at Balmoral and in 1910 moved to Konongwootong  South.  In 1936, Robert retired from the farm and the Watts moved to Church Street, Coleraine  At the time of her death, Annie was ninety and Robert was still alive along with six children, thirty grandchildren and twenty great-grandchildren.  Robert died in 1957 aged ninety-six.

Passing of the Pioneers

A further ten pioneers join the Pioneer Obituary Index this month.  They include a woman who was a pioneer in the transport industry from Cobden through to Port Campbell and a man who travelled the same routes carting goods.  There is also a Coleraine storekeeper, a Colac politician and a man still training racehorses into his eighties.  Remember to click on the underlined text to read further information on a subject.

ROBERTSON, William – Died 24 June 1892 at Colac.  William Robertson was the second son of William Robertson of Colac Estate. He was born in 1839 at Hobart and by 1842, the Robertsons arrived in Victoria.  William returned to Hobart for his high school education before studying law at Oxford University. In 1861, he was a member of the winning crew of the annual Oxford vs Cambridge boat race and throughout his life, kept the trophy from the event, a cut-down oar. William returned to Victoria in 1863, marrying Martha Mary Murphy. He worked as a barrister in Melbourne until 1871 when he was successful in winning the seat of Polworth and South Grenville which he held until the next election in 1873 when he didn’t seek reelection.  William’s father died the following year and Colac Estate was divided in four for each of William Robertson Sr’s sons.  William Jr became the owner of The Hill (below).

“THE GOVERNORS DRIVING TOUR.” The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 – 1946) 24 March 1894: 30. Web. 15 Jun 2017 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article138115318&gt;.

William returned to politics in 1881, holding the seat of Polworth and South Grenville for the next five years, then in Victoria’s Legislative Council in the seat of South-West Province until 1888.   The Robertsons were known Australia wide as breeders of fine Shorthorn cattle and their stock sold for large sums.  Williams’ funeral on 28 June 1892  was one of the biggest seen in the district.  Various noted men from Colac attended as well as those from the world of politics.  Numerous wreaths were sent including one from the Governor. The Colac Brass Band led the cortege to the cemetery and shops closed.  Martha died at Armadale in 1909.

PART OF “THE HILL” HOMESTEAD, COLAC IN 1970. Image courtesy of the J.T. Collins Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/216917

WIGGINS, Charles Augustus – Died 23 June 1901 at Hamilton.  Charles Wiggins was born in Tasmania in 1836 and arrived in Portland with his parents when a boy, attending school at Portland.  In his early twenties, Charles went to Hamilton to live with his brother James Wiggins. Charles was appointed the secretary of the Hamilton Common and was a sheriff’s officer and bailiff until 1883.  In the same year, he married Emma Lawn. Charles joined the Grange Lodge of Freemasons and was a member of the Australian Natives Association.  He was also secretary of the Hamilton Hospital and the Hamilton Pastoral & Agriculture Society.  Charles and Emma lived in Clarke Street, Hamilton and attended the Christ Church Cathedral (below). He was the secretary for the church for more than twenty years and a year before his death he was appointed churchwarden. 

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CHRIST CHURCH, HAMILTON

Charles’ death came suddenly, and he was preparing to be the returning officer at the North Hamilton State School ballot box for the upcoming election on 25 June and had received all the relevant paperwork in preparation.

SMITH, Sidney – Died June 1916 at Warrnambool.  Sidney Smith was born in Cambridgeshire, England in 1848. Arriving in Victoria as a child, he attended Geelong Grammar School.  Sidney started his working life at fifteen at the offices of R.Busche, Solicitors of Timor Street, Warrnambool.  He then worked as an accountant for a mercantile and shipping firm at Port Fairy, Messrs Bateman & Co.  Later he went into partnership with Messrs Bateman with the firm becoming Bateman, Smith & Co.  Operations moved to Warrnambool and Sidney’s brother Spencer went into partnership with him.  They operated the company until 1898. Sidney then worked as an insurance agent until his retirement due to ill health.  Outside of business, Sidney was a vestryman at the Warrnambool Christ Church. (below)

CHRIST CHURCH WARRNAMBOOL c1907., Photographer Joseph Jordan. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/54344

CLARKE, Edward Henry – Died 21 June 1918 at Digby.  Edward Clarke was born in Tipperary, Ireland in 1847 and arrived at Portland with his parents on the Helen to Portland in 1852.  The family first went to the Mount Gambier district before settling around Digby.  In 1873, Edward settled on his own property Lovely Banks at Digby.  Edward enjoyed football and cricket and was always a spectator at local games.  During the war, he donated to the various patriotic and relief appeals.  Edward’s wife Elizabeth Taylor died in 1909. Eight of Edward and Elizabeth’s ten children were still living at the time of Edward’s death. His youngest son John Clarke was serving overseas and returned to Australia in 1919.

LESSER, Louis – Died 19 June 1921 at Coleraine.  Louis Lesser was born around 1832 in Swarzędz, Poland, then under Prussian rule. When Louis Lesser arrived in Australia about the 1850s, his first job at Sandridge (Port Melbourne) moving sand from the nearby sand dunes.  He then went to the diggings at Bendigo and Pleasant Creek (Stawell).  Louis’ brother Abraham arrived in Australia and the two moved to Coleraine, opening a store in Whyte Street. The partnership in the store was mutually dissolved in May 1865 when Louis left for London and in 1867, Louis married his sister-in-law’s sister Londoner Evelyn May and they left for Australia.  They arrived in Melbourne and made their way to Coleraine to join Abraham and his wife Elizabeth, Evelyn’s sister.  The partnership in the Coleraine store appears to have resumed with Louis operating the store with other family members after Abraham’s death in 1886.

A.LESSER & CO, COLERAINE. Image courtesy of the Museums Victoria Collections https://collections.museumvictoria.com.au/items/769410

Louis was a member of the Coleraine Racing Club for sixty years, retiring in 1918 as an honourary life member.  Louis is pictured below, second from right, with fellow stewards of the racing club in 1914.

RACE MEETING AT COLERAINE (1914, May 23). Weekly Times (Melbourne, Vic. : 1869 – 1954), p. 30.   http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article121130046

He also served on the Wannon Shire Council and was a Justice of the Peace.  He was also a generous man, donating to many causes and was one of Hamilton Hospital’s leading donors.  In his will,  Louis’ requested a fund be established after his death called the “Louis Lesser Charity Endowment Fund” with an annual sum going to various organisations annually.

“Obituaries.” Observer (Adelaide, SA : 1905 – 1931) 9 July 1921: 34. Web. 28 Jun 2017 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article165649115&gt;.

The Ballarat Synagogue was one of the recipients of the fund, receiving  £1000 pounds annually.  On 11 June 1922, a memorial was unveiled at the Ballarat Synagogue (below) by Louis’ nephew.

 

 

BALLARAT SYNAGOGUE. Image courtesy of the J.T. Collins collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/214178

Louis was buried at the Coleraine Cemetery.

GRAVE OF LOUIS LESSER, COLERAINE CEMETERY

HARVEY, Martin – Died June 1929 at Cudgee.  Martin Harvey was born at Penzance, Cornwall in 1836.  Around 1851, the Harvey family arrived at Geelong where Martin held his first jobs. Soon he was working a bullock team, taking food to outlying settlements, then returning to the Geelong port with a load of wool.  He spent time around the Minyip district moving from property to property working as a shearer.  He also took a bullock team on three trips from Ballarat to Dimboola.  He married Elizabeth Swan in 1867 and they spent time farming around Ballarat before moving to Cudgee near Warrnambool.  Martin finally settled down and lived there until his death at ninety-three. Martin and Elizabeth had seven sons and four daughters.

ROBERTSON, Marslie May – Died 15 June 1930 at Hamilton.  Marslie Robertson was born in Inverness-shire, Scotland in 1844 and was eight when she arrived in Melbourne with her parents. The Robertson family stayed in Melbourne only a few days before journeying to Portland, then on to Straun Station near Coleraine where May’s uncles had already settled.  In 1868, she married William Sudgen Price Lewis, the stepson of Richard Lewis, a former owner of Rifle Downs at Digby. William leased Hilgay near Coleraine until around 1871.  They then moved to Hamilton.  Marslie was an excellent horsewoman and showed horses including Gold Dust for Samuel Winter Cooke in September 1890 at the Hamilton Show in the Ladies’ Hack Class.

Marslie and William had eight children and some time after 1890, the Lewis’ took a young boy Arthur into their care, raising him as their son. They resided at Pine Lodge in Mill Road, Hamilton. In 1914, Arthur Lewis was one of the first Hamilton enlistments for WW1.  He died as a result of his wounds at sea on his way from Gallipoli to a hospital in Alexandria, Egypt on 13 August 1915. The shock of Arthur’s death was a great loss to William and he died In October 1915 at Hamilton.  Marslie was involved with the Hamilton Red Cross during the war and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.  Each Sunday, she gave out flowers at the Hamilton Hospital.

COOKE, Eliza Jane – Died 29 June 1932 at Cobden.  Eliza Cooke arrived in Australia when she was eight and the family made their way to Ballarat. In 1866, she married Charles Morehouse They arrived in Cobden in 1880 and Charles died in 1881 aged forty.  A son was born in August of the same year.  Eliza ran a store in Cobden and from around 1882 was operating coach services departing from the store.  She pioneered coach services between Cobden, Princetown and Peterborough.

“Classified Advertising” Camperdown Chronicle (Vic. : 1877 – 1954) 20 August 1889: 1. Web. 29 Jun 2017 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article22474287&gt;.

For forty-seven years, Eliza held the mail contract between Cobden and Camperdown. Eliza’s business grew and her sons eventually joined her.

“Advertising” Heytesbury Reformer and Cobden and Camperdown Advertiser (Vic. : 1914 – 1918) 26 February 1915: 3. Web. 29 Jun 2017 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article152613189&gt;.

On 5 August 1931, Eliza celebrated her ninetieth birthday at her home Kooringa, Curdie Street Cobden.  At the time she was President of the Cobden Ladies’ Benevolent Society and still chairing meetings.

JEFFERS, Jonas – Died June 1933 at Cobden.  Jonas Jeffers was born at Connewarre around 1848.  Around the age of twelve, Jonas walked to Cobrico north-west of Cobden.  When he was older he bought land in the district and married Selina Westerland of Terang in 1869.  Jonas worked as a carter throughout the district, passing through the Heytesbury Forest when there was only the roughest of tracks.  He carted wool from Glenample near Princetown to Geelong and timber for the first bridge over the Sherbrooke River, east of Port Campbell.  He also carted wood for the first hotel in Cobden in the 1860s and items from the wreck of the Loch Ard to Colac in 1878.  At the time of Jonas’ death, Selina was still living along with ten of their children.

Jeffers

JONAS JEFFERS, LEFT, AT THE BACK TO COBDEN CELEBRATIONS IN LATE FEBRUARY 1933 JUST MONTHS BEFORE HIS DEATH. Happy Reunions at the back to Cobden Celebrations of Which back to School” and Sports Meetings Were Outstanding Features (1933, March 11). WeeklyTimes , p. 32 (FIRST EDITION). http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article223807373

HANLON, James – Died 26 June 1940 at Casterton.  James Hanlon was born in Dublin, Ireland around 1854 and his family set sail for Australia soon after his birth. He lived in various towns including Narrawong and Hamilton and operated a hotel at Heywood. By the time he was twenty-one, it was thought he must have held the record for the number of successful racehorses he owned or leased. James was always interested in horses and twice travelled to India with horses exported to that country.  The first horses he raced were Paddy the Larrikan and My Lord. In 1878, James married Morgey Gooding Smith and they had four sons and two daughters.

In 1931, at the age of seventy-seven, Jim walked eighteen miles between Casterton and Coleraine scaling hills like a “mountain goat”.  He was in training for a veteran race over a mile at Mount Gambier on September 1931 in which James ran third riding Dutch Dull, beaten by a rider sixteen years his junior.  His training feats made the Weekly Times on 3 June 1939. A race meeting about three years earlier was referred to.  The jockey didn’t arrive for the ride, so James, then around eighty-four, put on the silks and rode the horse himself.  In the year before his death, James prepared a horse called Furnival.

“CASTERTON VETERAN’S TRAINING TRIUMPH AT EIGHTY-FIVE” Weekly Times (Melbourne, Vic. : 1869 – 1954) 3 June 1939: 58 (FIRST EDITION). Web. 29 Jun 2017 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article224436779&gt;.

Aside from racing, James was a Mason for over fifty years including past Master of the Portland Lodge No. 6. James’ obituary in the Naracoorte Herald of 2 July 1940,  named fifty horses he was connected with during his life.