Histories of South-West Towns

I often look at the ABC Local radio websites, but usually only a page a link has led me to.  Recently I found myself on the ABC South West Victoria website and decided to look around.  I discovered a series of radio interviews by Jeremy Lee entitled A-Z of the South West.  Recorded in 2010, the aim was to highlight the history of towns in the region.  The good news is that there are 45 towns featured, not just 26.  The towns include Macarthur, Caramut, Port Campbell, Branxholme, and Casterton.

They are great interviews with local residents and historians, some have lived in their town all their life.  Topics covered include town beginnings, past businesses, local attractions, prominent residents, and the future outlook. I enjoyed Jim Kent talking about Casterton and his own contribution to the local population, 11 children, 40 grandchildren, and 16 great-grandchildren.  There are photos of each town too.

An understanding of local history is important when researching a family. It can explain why a family chose to settle in a town.  For example, Peter Watt talks of how Cavendish was a town of workers.  Many residents, both male, and female worked for the large stations close to the town such as Mokanger and Kenilworth.  Aside from a sawmill,  a couple of shops, and a pub, there was no other employment opportunities except for the stations.  Two of my families, the Haddens and Mortimers, went to Cavendish primarily to work at Mokanger station and they remained there most of their working lives.

The various ABC websites are a great resource.  I have since looked closer at some of the other ABC local radio websites and found that you can search by topic.  Clicking on the  “Community & Society” tab brings up a list of sub-topics, including “History”.  ABC Western Victoria currently has 86 history-related stories available.  I have also subscribed to an RSS feed of stories tagged “history” so I don’t miss any.  Or take 15 months to stumble across.

To listen to the interviews follow the link:


Passing of the Pioneers

The September “Passing of the Pioneers” in the Portland Guardian saw several prominent Western Victorian residents pass away and two of my own relatives.

Richard LEWIS: Died September 1890 at Digby.  Richard owned some well-known stations in the Western District including Rifle Downs and Hilgay.  An excellent biography of Richard Lewis is on the Ballarat Genealogical Society website. Richard died as a result of Bright’s disease.

Samuel CROSSDied 4 September 1901 at Hamilton. Samuel was seventy-nine at the time of his death and had been in Australia since 1849 after travelling from Sussex, England. He worked in and owned, department stores including the Beehive Store in Hamilton.  In his later years, he was a librarian at the Hamilton Mechanics Institute.

Jacob THEISINGER: Died 13 September 1901 at Portland. Jacob, also a sufferer of Bright’s Disease, had been in the colony since around 1854.  He was a popular person around town and was a member of the Portland German Band.

Robert Edwin Windsor Sandys STAPYLTON-BREE: Died 17 September 1907 at Hamilton. Robert Edwin Windsor Sandys Stapylton-Bree was a Hamilton stock and station agent and well know identity not only in Hamilton but also in Portland.  He married the daughter of Stephen HENTY, Annie Maria.  His funeral was well attended with Dean Parkyn presiding over the service.  He and Archdeacon Hayman had motored the 119 mile trip from Ballarat in five hours.

Christina STEWART: Died September 1921 at Hamilton. Christina STEWART was born in Kingussie, Scotland in around 1825 and travelled with her husband, Duncan McPherson, to Australia in 1851 onboard the Hooghlly.  While Duncan went off to the goldfields, Christina waited in Melbourne until they journeyed to Portland.  For a time, she and her husband ran the Dartmoor Hotel.  She was a mother of eight children.

Elizabeth GLADSTONE: Died 18 September 1925 at Millicent, South Australia.  Elizabeth Gladstone grew up near Portland and the Guardian noted she rode eighty miles each day to school.  I am assuming this was a round trip, or it was a short school day.  Elizabeth married George Plunkett in 1862 at Penola, South Australia.

May ROBERTSON: Died September 1925 at Gringalgona.  May Robertson arrived in Sydney with her family in 1847 from Scotland.  They travelled to the Coleraine district by bullock wagon.

Margaret Emily McDONALD:  Died  5 September 1928 at Nokomai, New Zealand.  Margaret McDonald’s parents were early pioneers and she spent time around Portland and Hamilton as a child with one of her early memories being that of Adam Lindsay Gordon and his riding feats.  In 1863, Margaret married Donald Cameron in Melbourne and they moved to New Zealand and raised twelve children.

Margaret BEST: Died 7 September 1933 at Hamilton. Margaret was born in County Caven, Ireland in 1853 to Mr and Mrs William Best.  They arrived at Portland on board the General Hewitt in 1856.  After time in Portland, the Bests moved to Heywood when Margaret was nine. She married James Henry BELL and remained in the Heywood area.

Ada Catherine HAYMAN: Died September 1934 at Portland.  Ada was born in Axminster, Devon, England in about 1858.  She arrived at Portland with her parents and siblings in the 1860s.  This is an interesting family.  Ada’s father was a doctor and practiced in Harrow, Edenhope, and Ararat.  One of her brothers was a doctor, another Archdeacon Hayman presided over R. Stapylton-Bree’s funeral (above).  Another brother W.R. Hayman was one of those who organised the  Aboriginal cricketers’ tour of England in 1868.  The biography of one of the players, Johnny Mullagh, describes the part Hayman played.

Finlay McPherson PATON: Died September 1936 at Tarrayoukyan. Finlay Paton was born at Stirlingshire, Scotland and after landing at Portland, took on the job of ringing the church bell and did so for 15 years. This could have been just one of the reasons for his “magnificent physique”.  Maybe it was because he claimed that he was one of those that carted stones to build Mac’s Hotel in Portland.  Or was it lifting four-bushel bags of wheat from the ground to a wagon, with little trouble.  He really must have been a fine specimen. As were his team of horses used for his carrying business. Bred by Finlay they were the “admiration of the district”

William DIWELL: – Died September 1939 at Jeparit. William was my ggg uncle.  His obituary mentioned his work as a builder and the several buildings in Portland remaining, at the time of his death, as memorials to his work.  It does mention he was a native of Portland, however, he was born at Merino.  It correctly states his wife Frances was a native of Portland.

Thomas Haliburton LAIDLAWDied September 1941 at Hamilton. Over 500 people were reportedly at the funeral of Thomas Laidlaw, a Hamilton stock and station agent.  Thomas was the son of pioneers, Thomas and Grace Laidlaw.   The obituary offers a great description of the early days of Thomas Laidlaw senior in the colony with his four brothers.  Thomas junior, along with building his successful stock and station business was at one time a Shire of Dundas Councillor, President of the Hamilton Racing Club, and chairman of directors of the Hamilton and Western District College, today Hamilton and Alexandra College.  Laidlaw is one of the names that if I hear it, I think of Hamilton.

Henry MORTIMER: Died  6 September 1948 at Portland.  Another ggg uncle of mine, Henry was the son of James Mortimer and Rosanna Buckland.  He was born in Cavendish and was eighty at the time of his death at Portland.  He is best known on this blog as Mr Mortimer of Mr Mortimer’s Daughters.  This was an informative notice as it listed Henry’s children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

All Quiet By The Wannon

I first heard of the Mortimers when I asked Nana her grandparents’ names so I could start a family tree.  Her grandmother was Mary Mortimer from Cavendish, Victoria on the banks of the Wannon River.  Mortimer was not a name I was familiar with while growing up in Hamilton or a name mentioned with regard to relatives, but I soon found Mary’s birth at Mt William, her parents James and Rosanna.  I also managed to find her siblings, but not without some searching as it seems that with each birth registered, the spelling of the Mortimers’ names changed particularly Rosanna’s.

I was trying to form a picture of them, but like the family, Mary married into, the Haddens, they were not ones to get in the newspaper, commit crimes, buy land, or all those other ways that can help tell a story.  Some of my other ancestors, such as the Harmans, seem to get a mention everywhere.  Both the Mortimers and the Haddens were labourers, station hands and the like and they worked hard and more to the point, they kept to themselves, a trait that continued through the generations.



James Mortimer married Rosanna Buckland in 1844 in Cookham, Berkshire.  They immigrated on the “Bombay” which arrived in Port Phillip in December 1852.  They had four children aged one to eight.  In total, 24 passengers died on the voyage, typhoid the most common cause.   The ship was quarantined on arrival.

VICTORIA. (1852, December 24). South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 – 1900), p. 4. Retrieved September 25, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article38459768

Mary was born at Mt William station in 1853, and the remaining children were born at Cavendish.   James worked at Mokanger Station near Cavendish and was a ploughman when Mary married William Hadden.   Mary also worked at Mokanger as a servant and William Hadden worked as a station hand as did his father, CharlesMokanger station was one of many runs owned by the Chirnside brothers, Andrew and Thomas.

The next reference I found of  James Mortimer was his death on November 3, 1895.  An application for probate was made by Cavendish store owner, Robert Young.  James’ occupation at the time of his death was a carrier and his total assets were to the value of £86.

I don’t know if Rosanna was dead or alive at this point.  I have never been able to find a record of her death which has proved a little frustrating.  Even trying all variations of her name, and there were many, I have come up with nothing.

Some variations found so far:

Rosannah BUCKLANDEngland Births & Christenings, 1538-1975

Rosanna BUCKLAND – England/Wales Marriage Record 1844, Cookham, Berkshire, England

Roseanna MORTIMER – 1851 Census, White Waltham, Berkshire, England

Rosannah BUCKLEN – birth record of Harriet, 1862 Cavendish, Victoria.  Family name listed as Mortimore

Rosanna BUCKLIN – birth record of Henry, 1868 Cavendish, Victoria.  Family name listed as Mortimore

Rossana BUCKLIN – marriage certificate of Mary Mortimer and William Hadden 1870 Cavendish, Victoria.

Extract from Marriage Certificate of William Hadden & Mary Mortimer, Victoria 1870

Rosannah BUCKLAND – death record of Annie Mortimer, 1879

At the entrance of the Cavendish Old Cemetery, a plaque lists the names of those buried without a headstone.  Five Mortimer names are listed:


MORTIMER, Baby of Mr H Mortimer – 1891

MORTIMER, W –  1889

Mrs MORTIMER  – 1898

Mrs MORTIMER –  1899

“Mortimer 1895” would be James.  Could Rosanna be one of the Mrs Mortimers?  If so, it would have to be “Mrs Mortimer 1899” as “Mrs Mortimer 1898” would most likely be Caroline wife of Stephen Mortimer, Rosanna, and James’ son.  Caroline died in 1898.

Just when I thought this was as exciting as the Mortimers were going to get, I found two newspaper articles.  The Portland Guardian & Normanby General Advertiser reported on July 22, 1862, that John Mahoney had faced the Hamilton Police Court charged with firing a gun at bullock driver, James Mortimer with the intent to do grievous bodily harm.  On October 2, 1862, Mahoney’s trial was heard by His Honour Mr Justice Williams.

The court heard James Mortimer was a bullock driver for the Chirnsides.  Heading to a sawmill near Hamilton, he was passing through a public section of the Mt Sturgeon station when confronted by Mahoney.  Using what the prosecution described as “very colonial epithets”,  Mahoney accused James of removing a part of the fence.  James told him he was a fool, but Mahoney said he would make him fix the fence.  James’ reply was “…it would take a better man than you to do that”.  It was then that Mahoney produced a pistol and shot at James, missing him.  Mahoney was found not guilty.

These two articles have given me a better idea of James’ character and helped confirm his work for the Chirnsides.  Given his location at the time of the incident, and his intended destination,  he could not have come from Cavendish, but probably one of the Chirnsides’ other runs, Mt William Station.  Mary Mortimer’s birth certificate gives her birthplace as Mt William, so this must mean the Mt William station.  Therefore James was there from 1852 to 1862.  Interestingly, the year of the Mahoney incident is the same year in which the Mortimers appear in Cavendish.  Maybe James decided to move across to the Chirnsides’ Mokanger station near Cavendish to avoid further run-ins with John Mahoney.  We will never know.  He would not have told anyone.

Mr Mortimer’s Daughters Postscript

Today, while browsing my Twitter timeline,  a post come through from Sally Shine who tweets as @CanIFindThem.  Sally mentioned she had found a person she was looking for on the Southern Metropolitan Cemeteries website.  Of course, why had I not gone there in my search, albeit brief , of Gwen Mortimer’s death.

Across to the site I went, entered the surname Bos, with the exact name search box ticked, and bingo, there she was.  Gwen died on February 9, 1989 and there was also an Anthonius Franciscus Bos.  This may be my Mr A. Bos.

I had looked on the Greater Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust website earlier this week, and I did find an A. Bos at Fawkner Park, but no Gwen.  It has now reminded make better use of the Delicious “Cemetery” tag I have.  If I am unsuccessful on one cemetery link, it is quick and easy to click on another, as they are all listed in one spot and I won’t overlook any that are relevant.

I really like the Southern Metropolitan Cemeteries site because not only does it cover several cemeteries, there are also different search options: by surname, first name, date of birth, date of death, location of grave. I have also searched for June and John Taggart and  found both their cremation records.

Later on I noticed a tweet telling me Sally Shine is the current GeniMate, so I was glad to read about the person behind the enjoyable and useful @CanIFindThem tweets (and she has a cute profile pic).

Mr Mortimer’s Daughters

Once again the Trove digitised newspapers have helped me out.  A casual search of “Mortimer” in The Portland Guardian threw up the death notice of Henry Mortimer published on September 13, 1948. Henry Mortimer was the younger brother of Mary Mortimer, my gg-grandmother who married William Hadden.  Henry was born at Cavendish in 1868 and married Sarah Ann Duggan in 1887.  They had four children, Edwin, George, Queenie, and Lillian.  Queenie died as a baby.  In 1898, Sarah died leaving three children under 11.  The following year Henry remarried to Florence May Hardy and they had a further eight children, Grace, Amy, Beryl, Lance, Gilbert, Gwenda, David, Frances.  Florence died, in 1915, possibly as the result of the complications of childbirth as David was born in the same year.  She was only 38.

Up to that point, I had found that of the female children, Lillian had married Leslie Quarrel, Grace married David Wilson, Amy married John Taggart, Beryl had passed away as a baby and I had not found a marriage for Gwenda.

When I found the notice, there were two things that stood out.  Olive (Amy Olive on her birth record) was not married to John Taggart and Gwen was married. Olive was also known as June Olive just to complicate things.  I had previously found her married name, Taggart, via the death records and on the Australian Electoral Rolls, where I found John William Taggart’s full name.  Who then was C. E. Cara?

Family Notices. (1948, September 13). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876-1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved June 21, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64416130

Another search of the Australian Death indexes found Clarence Edgar Cara who died in 1947, while a further search of Trove found his notice of probate.

Advertising. (1947, May 9). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848-1954), p. 16. Retrieved June 21, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article22425225

This was most interesting and lead me to the National Archives of  Australia site to search naval records.  I found him there as a member of the Royal Australian Naval Reserve with the rank of Lieutenant.  It shows Clarence was born on June 11, 1899 at Penzance, Cornwall (this brought visions of rollicking pirates!), and his wife was listed as June Olive Cara.

At the time of his enlistment in the Reserve, they were living at 65 Victoria Street, Sandringham.  By the time he died in 1947 they had moved to 11 Ebden Avenue, Black Rock, where June later lived with John Taggart.  It states that Clarence had died on April 6, 1947 but no reason was given except that Repatriation had accepted that his death was due to the war and that June would receive a pension.

A Google search of Clarence Cara found him on the Australian National Maritime Museum website.  It listed the registration of Clarence’s Certificate of Competency on December 31, 1920 in Adelaide.

I thought I would search Trove for John Taggart.  I found his and June’s engagement notice.  June was proving she was not one to settle for the local Portland lads. Her fiancé was not just John William Taggart but Captain John William Cray-Taggart of London and Rangoon!

Family Notices. (1949, July 25). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848-1954), p. 6. Retrieved June 21, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article22766958

I also found two notices of Hotel transfer in The Argus.  The first was the transfer of the license of the Yambuk Hotel to John and June in 1950 and the second was the transfer of licence for the same hotel in 1951 by Olive and John to Phillip Harrison.  The 1954 Electoral Roll finds them at back at 11 Ebden Avenue, Black Rock and John’s occupation was listed as Saloon keeper.

HOTEL TRANSFER. (1951, December 6). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876-1953), p. 3 Edition: MIDDAY. Retrieved June 22, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64430297

Gwendoline Lorna May Mortimer was and still remains difficult to find.  She was born in Hamilton in 1908.  My next encounter with her was the 1931 census, where she was living at the Homeopathic Hospital in South Melbourne which in 1934 became Prince Henry’s Hospital.  Her occupation was home duties.

Henry’s death notice gave the lead to the surname Bos.  I found Gwen on the 1942 Electoral Roll living in Brighton but no other person with the name Bos at the address.  Again in 1954, she is the only Bos living at 24 Spencer Road, Killara, New South Wales.  There are, however, others with the Bos name living in the area.  After searching death records, Trove, and WW2 records, I still have not found Mr A. Bos.  I am suspecting that he may not have enrolled to vote.  I am leaning toward an Abel Bos who died in Victoria in 1970.  I have not been able to find Gwen’s passing.  But the search continues.

Without Henry Mortimer’s death notice, I would not have discovered much of this.  I would not have known of June’s (Olive, Amy) first marriage or of Gwen’s marriage to Mr Bos.  Aside from this Henry’s notice offers the place of residence for his children at the time of his death and names of his grandchildren and great children that would have been difficult to find otherwise. From this information, further searching of the newspapers has given me leads to Naval and hotel records and more.  Thanks again Trove!