Strong in Faith…A Story of Monivae Estate

For over 175 years, the name of “Monivae” has been familiar to the people of Hamilton and district. What it represents has changed with the generations from a parish and schools to an old bluestone homestead Hamiltonians pass on their annual migration south to Port Fairy. For the returned WW1 soldier and poet Thomas SkeyhillMonivae was the place the fairies played as he walked the paddocks, “with a copy of Keats…and dog at my heels.” 

Local history wasn’t something taught at school but I  did learn the origins of the name “Monivae”. Not during a history class, rather religious education. I attended Hamilton’s Monivae College, a Catholic secondary school. The college opened in the 1950s, on the Hamilton/Port Fairy Road, just south of Hamilton on a property with a two-storey bluestone homestead.  After the school relocated to Ballarat Road, Hamilton, the original property became known as “Old Monivae”.  Those of similar age to myself, who didn’t sit through a Form 1 RE class at Monivae, could be excused for thinking the name started with the school.  Instead, it goes back to an Irish Protestant by the name of Acheson Ffrench.

Appointed as Police Magistrate in 1841 at Hamilton, then known as The Grange, Acheson Ffrench aged twenty-nine was from Monivea Castle, County Galway, Ireland, the Ffrench ancestral home dating back to the 16oos when the Ffrenchs took over from the O’Kellys.  Born at the castle in 1812, the son of Robert Ffrench and Nicola O’Brien was educated in Dublin, destined to join the clergy, but Acheson had questions. He left Ireland and went on a pilgrimage of sorts through Europe and the Holy Land before landing in Australia.  Don Garden in Hamilton, A Western District History, cites C. J. Griffith who met Ffrench in Melbourne soon after his arrival.  Griffith recalled Ffrench’s tattoos, Jerusalem Arms inked by a monk in the ancient city along with various Arabic characters.

“Government Gazette.” Australasian Chronicle (Sydney, NSW : 1839 – 1843) 8 July 1841: 4. Web. 14 Oct 2017 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article31732227&gt;.

It was also 1841 when Ffrench took up land, a large run of 17,000 acres to the south of The Grange. He named it Monivae after his Galway home. It seems he never took on the original spelling of Monivea but Ffrench seemed fairly flexible in that respect.  He dropped a letter from his surname, signing letters to the newspapers, of which he wrote many, as A.French. The Ffrench surname had already evolved back in Ireland from ffrench.

“Advertising” The Melbourne Daily News (Vic. : 1848 – 1851) 1 February 1849: 4. Web. 14 Oct 2017 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article226472923&gt;.

On 8 February 1842, Ffrench married his fiancé Anna Watton, a daughter of Dr John Watton who in that year became Medical Officer at the Mt Rouse Aboriginal Protectorate.  Acheson and Anna lived at the Police Magistrate’s residence on a site selected by Acheson on the corner of Thompson and Martin streets. The Hamilton Police Station and Courthouse still stand there today.

“Family Notices” Geelong Advertiser (Vic. : 1840 – 1845) 14 February 1842: 3. Web. 14 Oct 2017 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article92679898&gt;.

By the end of 1843, the role of Police Magistrate was abolished and Ffrench was without a job.  However, by February 1844, the government announced a new commission intended to keep the peace and Ffrench was named as a commissioner.  He was able to stay on in at his residence but with reduced employment, Ffrench turned to improving Monivae and running sheep. The Ffrench offspring were arriving at a steady rate and in 1847, a homestead was built at Monivae on what is now the eastern side of the Hamilton/Port Fairy Road.  Anna would bear twelve children in all, six boys and six girls, with one dying as a baby.

Acheson Ffrench wasn’t the best of farmers and money problems arose.  In 1864, he put Monivae up for lease for a term of three years and moved the family to Melbourne.

“Advertising” The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957) 29 January 1864: 8. Web. 18 Oct 2017 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article5743286&gt;.

The family spent two years in Melbourne, returning to Monivae in 1866. Ffrench’s trips to Melbourne continued and he was there on 29 January 1870.  He fancied a dip at Kenny’s Gentleman’s Bathing Ship (below) at St Kilda. With his arms reportedly by his side, Ffrench described as, “somewhat heavy with a stout build”, dived into the water from one of the diving boards. Normally at a depth of six feet, the tide was out leaving the water depth at just over four feet. Ffrench hit his head on the bottom and unconscious when dragged out.  He could not be revived, dying within minutes.  An inquest found Acheson had broken his neck. Arising from the inquest was a conversation, of which Ffrench was a part in the days before his death.  At lunch with friends, the topic of discussion turned to death from diving accidents.

KENNY’S BATHING SHIP, ST. KILDA. Artist – Thomas Clark. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/84320

When news of Acheson Ffrench’s death reached Hamilton, shops closed as a mark of respect.  He was remembered in the Hamilton Spectator, “…as generally very highly respected throughout the district for his strict integrity and manliness of character, whilst there was a certain rugged independence about him which led him to adhere strictly to his own convictions, without, however, attempting to force his views upon others”.  Monivae was placed on the market and Anna Ffrench and the children moved to Melbourne.

“Advertising” The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957) 9 August 1870: 3. Web. 14 Oct 2017 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article5828208&gt;.

Ownership of Monivae transferred from an Irishman the Spectator described as having “peculiar” religious views, to a staunch Presbyterian from the Scottish Highlands.  James Thomson and his wife Christian Armstrong arrived in Victoria in 1852 aboard the Europa.  They spent around five years at the Clyde Company’s Golf Hill, near Shelford. Their first child John was born in 1853 at neighbouring Warrambeen, home of Christian’s brother Alexander Armstrong.  James Thomson then purchased an interest the Ullswater and Maryvale Stations near Edenhope and settled at the later property.

By the time the Thomsons arrived at Monivae in 1870, they had seven children aged two to seventeen and they moved into Ffrench’s homestead. Over the next six years, the Thomson family continued to grow.  In 1871, twins James and George were born followed by Wilhelmina Jessie in 1873. Sadly, Wilhelmina died on 5 April 1875.  The last child born to the family was William Armstrong Thomson in September 1876.  It was around the time of William’s birth, James Thomson decided they needed a bigger home or more correctly, a “mansion”. He wasn’t the only one and the “bloated aristocrats” were duly roasted by the Ballarat Star calling for a mansion tax.

“NEW SOURCE OF TAXATION.” The Ballarat Star (Vic. : 1865 – 1924) 18 December 1876: 4. Web. 14 Oct 2017 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article199833143&gt;.

Some may believe, especially if they did Form 1 RE with me in the 1980s, the existing Monivae homestead was built by Acheson Ffrench.  James Thomson was never mentioned in our classes.  Likewise, Thomson was not mentioned in historian Margaret Kiddle’s book Men of Yesterday and she credited Ffrench for building Monivae “probably in the late sixties” (p.316). However, James Thomson was responsible for the Monivae Homestead we know today.

The site for the new homestead was about 800 metres from the former homestead and on the other side of the Hamilton/Port Fairy Road.  William Smith, the Borough Surveyor drew up plans, tenders opened and using bluestone sourced from the quarry on the property, construction began.  Thomson’s total expenditure was £5400 something he likely regretted because the government did introduce a “class” tax and if the timing was slightly different, the homestead may never have been built. The land tax, introduced in the colony in 1877, intended to break up large holdings such as Monivae and it was thought Thomson would never have gone ahead had it come earlier.

MONIVAE HOMESTEAD 1966. Image courtesy of the J.T. Collins Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/230077

Hamilton Spectator correspondent toured the new sixteen roomed homestead in May 1878. Critical of the external appearance he suggested “one of those elegant lookout towers” to improve the looks. He remarked it might be an addition “when times – politically speaking – improve”.  A tower was never added and reforms to the land tax didn’t come until 1884. The lacework and coloured tiles of the verandah did meet approval. As the correspondent entered the front door, a hallway measuring twenty-four feet by ten feet wide was before him with, “white walls, shining like so much marble would perhaps give it too cold a look; but for the coloured light thrown into it, from the staircase and front door windows, and its mosaic pavement formed of Minton’s tiles.” The drawing room was around twenty-six feet by sixteen feet but for special occasions, folding doors into the breakfast room could open.  The floor space then increased to forty-six feet, allowing for dancing.

The homestead boasted an eighteen-foot tiled staircase with a cedar railing leading to the upper storey with a balcony verandah around ten feet wide and 130 feet long.  Paved in coloured tiles, it was perfect for the Thomson children to roller skate. That was until 1887 when sixteen-year-old James Thomas Thomson skated straight over the railing onto the gravel about nine metres below. He fractured his skull and although it was touch and go for a few days, he made a full recovery.  His twin George, known as “Joe” was not so lucky.  Having suffered congenital heart problems, he died suddenly two years late on 4 June 1889, at Monivae aged eighteen.

MONIVAE HOMESTEAD 1966. Image courtesy of the J.T. Collins Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/230077

The Thomson children were not the marrying kind. Of the five Thomson girls, three married, as did three of the surviving four boys. None married before the age of twenty-seven and John was fifty-six. The first Thomson wedding was that of thirty-year-old Annie Thomson to James Allan Learmonth, son of Hamilton businessman and grazier Peter Learmonth and Mary Jarvey Pearson of Prestonholme. Learmonth was also a devout Methodist, a pillar of the Hamilton Wesleyan Church in McIntyre Street.

It was the grandest of the three weddings James Thompson would pay for.  Celebrated on 1 September 1886, at St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church Hamilton, the marriage was not followed by the usual wedding breakfast. Instead, two weeks later James threw a private ball for two hundred guests in the Hamilton Town Hall for the newlyweds in lieu of a wedding breakfast.  Such a grand affair may have been due to Annie’s imminent departure for Mexico with her new husband who’d been managing the family property there.  It could also have been the thinking of a canny Scot.  Why pay for both a wedding breakfast and a send-off when one event will suffice.

HAMILTON TOWN HALL 1910. Image courtesy of the Museum Victoria Collections http://collections.museumvictoria.com.au/items/765800

On 3 October 1888, it was Margaret “Maggie” Thomson’s turn to marry. She too had reached the age of thirty and opted for a small quiet gathering at Monivae. The groom was Thomas Haliburton Laidlaw, son of Thomas Laidlaw and Grace McLeod and those in attendance were mostly family. Elizabeth “Lizzie” Thomson married on 27 July 1893 in the drawing room at Monivae, again a quiet celebration.  Her groom was bank manager Forrester Goldsmith Armstrong, a son of Oliver Armstrong of Kyneton. By this time Lizzie’s older sister Annie and her family were home from Mexico to witness the occasion.

Fire has threatened the Monviae homestead many times since its construction including 1891, 1944 and more recently Ash Wednesday of 1983. The fires of February 1901 were particularly fierce and practically wiped out Byaduk North a little further south. At Monivae, fire swept through the property from one end to the other killing around 2000 sheep.

“ALONG MACARTHUR ROAD.” Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 – 1918) 9 February 1901

In 1906, the Victorian Government received an offer to buy 17,000 acres of the Monivae Estate from James Thomson for Closer Settlement.  He would keep 3,000 acres and the homestead. Negotiations with the government broke down, so James subdivided the land himself. An initial sale on 24 November 1906 saw 322 acres auctioned.  Of the lots sold they averaged around £16 per acre. A second sale was held on 20 December 1906 and 1022 acres were sold at an average of £9 13/ per acre. James also sold off Crawford Estate and subdivided 500 acres of Lake Condah Estate. With a downsized Monivae, youngest son William left the property and moved to Portland. Oldest son John stayed on at Monivae as did unmarried daughters Mary and Christina.

The land sales came in the wake of a great loss for the Thomson family.  On 8.20am on 24 October 1906 at Monivae, the matriarch of the family, Christian Thomson drew her last breath at the age of seventy-five.  A deeply religious and charitable woman, she was one of the fundraising champions of the town and attended St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church like clockwork “morning and night”. Everyone knew her pew. A full member of the church for thirty-six years, her name was added to the church roll on 4 October 1870.  Christian was also a member of the Ladies Benevolent Society and the British and Foreign Bible Society.  She managed to attend church until just a couple of weeks before her death.  Christian was buried at the Hamilton (Old) Cemetery.

GRAVE OF CHRISTIAN THOMSON, HAMILTON (OLD) CEMETERY

It was fourteen years between the weddings of Thomson children and it was James Thomas Thomson, the roller skater, who was next to take the plunge.  He was living at Inverary, Branxholme by the time he married Henrietta Moynan on 26 November 1907 at the Anglican Christ Church Hamilton, the church sharing Church Hill with St. Andrew’s. The couple made their home at Inverary.  By that time, some may have thought James’ older brother John who had hit his mid-fifties, would remain a bachelor but on 31 March 1909 at Lilydale, he married Christiana Robertson.  Younger brother Alexander was close behind, marrying Ethel Manning on 6 May 1909.  He was forty-six.

Possibly the last public duty undertaken by James Thomson of Monivae was the laying of a foundation stone for a new St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church.  A devout parishioner, James donated bluestone from the Monivae quarry for the new church.  The ceremony took place on 18 December 1907 with James just four months from his eighty-seventh birthday.

FOUNDATION STONE, ST ANDREW’S PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, HAMILTON

 

ST ANDREW’S PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, HAMILTON

After completion of the new Presbyterian church, James donated a memorial window to remember his wife, Christian.  Also, portraits of James and Christian and their children John and Margaret Thomson were unveiled at the church in 1918 along with those of seven other prominent Hamilton Presbyterians.

“BEAUTIFUL MEMORIAL WINDOW.” Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 – 1918) 26 May 1909: 4. Web. 14 Oct 2017 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article225037595&gt;.

James Thomson died at Monivae on 25 April 1910 after an illness of two weeks.  His obituary described him as, “…a man of sterling qualities and simple tastes. Never courting publicity, he was never so happy as when surrounded by children or occupying himself in his garden”.  James left Monivae for the last time at 2.30pm on Wednesday 27 April 1910 for the Hamilton (Old) Cemetery.

GRAVE OF JAMES THOMSON, HAMILTON (OLD) CEMETERY

James Thomson’s probate file reveals his liabilities were £814. His debts included rates, wages to a number of Monivae staff and accounts with businesses in Hamilton.  The total of the estate was £36,209. Of that, over £2600 was stock including several thousand sheep. Another £300 was the furniture filling the rooms of the homestead.  The Monivae property including the homestead was valued at £25000. By that time, the homestead Ffrench built was accommodation for Monivae workers.  James bequeathed two-thirds of his estate to his four living sons, divided equally.  To his five daughters, James bequeathed one-third of his estate in equal shares. Eldest son John Thomson was given the first option to buy the property at a value of £8 per acre.  He could also buy the farm implements and furniture in the homestead for £400. The last of the Lake Condah Estate was sold as too a large amount of stock.  Extra funds were no doubt wanted to pay the duty on the estate totalling more than £2500, seven percent of the total.

John Thomson did take up the option to buy Monivae.  He was around fifty-seven and newly married to Christina “Keenie” Robertson, a daughter of Scot James Robertson and Jane Ritchie of Keilor.  Christina herself was forty-three and children were not in the equation. Like his parents, John was a stalwart of the Presbyterian Church and on the board of management of St Andrew’s for thirty years.  As well as running Monivae, John was a politician and by 1910, had held the seat of Dundas in Victoria’s Legislative Assembly for eighteen years across two terms and was a Honourary Minster in the Cabinet.

“THE OPENING OF THE THIRD FEDERAL PARLIAMENT.” Weekly Times (Melbourne, Vic. : 1869 – 1954) 2 March 1907: 9. Web. 13 Oct 2017 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article221256443&gt;.

In May 1914, John Thomson announced after twenty-two years in the seat of Dundas, he would not stand for re-election at the forthcoming State Election. The reasons given were the need to spend more time at home with his wife and to tend to other family matters. He said the last five years were extremely busy ones and he was looking forward to leading a quieter life.

John’s unmarried sisters Christina and Mary had stayed on at Monivae after their father’s death.  In 1914 and feeling under the weather, Christina then aged forty-six attended the doctor on Friday 6 November but managed to take up her usual place at St Andrew’s the following Sunday.  She died suddenly about midday at Monivae on Monday 9 November with Mary at her side. Well-liked in the community, Christina like her mother was devout and charitable.

It was around the time of Christina’s death, the Monivae State School opened on the Portland Road.  With Closer Settlement in the district and James’ subdivision of Monivae, the area was becoming increasingly populated. The school eventually closed and in 1946, the school building was moved to the North Hamilton State School.

John Thomson spent the years after his political retirement maintaining Monivae and was involved with various committees and activities in the Hamilton district.  He made a trip to Melbourne on 3 August 1917 and attended a school football match with Archibald Simpson of Clifton, Hamilton.  The funeral for John Thomson was large with condolences and floral tributes sent from dignitaries across Victoria.  His coffin bearers were Monivae employees and members of the Hamilton Angling Club. John was buried in the Thomson family plot at the Hamilton (Old) Cemetery as the Hamilton Brass Band played “Nearer My God to Thee”.   

GRAVE OF JOHN THOMSON AND HIS WIFE CHRISTINA ROBERTSON

John left his estate valued at over £46,000 to his wife Christina and brother-in-law Thomas Laidlaw. Upon Christina’s death, the estate would be divided between John’s brothers and sisters.  One of John’s more interesting investments was 500 shares in the Melbourne Ice Skating Company. The estate was held in trust and Christina moved to Sandringham in 1921. She died at Toorak in December 1949 at the age of seventy-nine.

Alexander, the second eldest son of James and Christian Thomson took over the running of Monivae.  Alexander and his wife Ethel Manning and their two children Kathleen Mary and  James Yelverton Monivae Thomson moved into the homestead.  Kathleen (below) married Hugh Lloyd Cameron of Geelong at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Hamilton on 18 February 1937.

KATHLEEN MARY THOMSON 1937 ‘Family Notices’, Table Talk (Melbourne, Vic. : 1885 – 1939), 11 March, p. 50. , http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article149614310

The 1930s saw the death of five of the Thomson siblings.  Annie died on 14 June 1930 at Prestonholme aged sixty-four leaving six children, Edgar, Russell, Keith, Christina (Mrs James Young), Maggie (Mrs Alex Armstrong), and Mona Learmonth. Having married the son of Hamilton’s leading Methodist, Annie changed her allegiances and was active in within her new church.  A memorial window (below) was installed in the Hamilton Wesleyan Methodist Church remembering Annie and her husband James Learmonth.

LEARMONTH MEMORIAL WINDOW, HAMILTON UNITING CHURCH

Annie was buried at the Hamilton (Old) Cemetery

Margaret died on 30 December 1932 at her home Kilora (below) in Kennedy Street, Hamilton. She left six children, Hal, John, Alexander, Thomas, Gretta (Mrs Lance Lewis) and Bea (Mrs John McKellar) Laidlaw.  On 23 March 1933, Elizabeth died at Corra, Willaura, the home of her son-in-law Donald Moffatt leaving two children Vera and Pat.  James Thompson Jr. died in 1934.  He and Henrietta did not have children.  Youngest son William, who never married, died on 2 May 1943 aged sixty-six at Portland.  His body was taken to Monivae before leaving for the Hamilton Cemetery.  After the death of her sister Christina, unmarried Mary Thomson spent time in Malvern living with her sister Elizabeth. After Elizabeth died, Mary moved into Kilora (below), sharing the home with her widower brother-in-law Thomas Laidlaw, husband of Margaret Thomson, until her death on 13 May 1939. Thomas Laidlaw died in 1941.

KILORA, HAMILTON

Alexander Thomson’s death in June 1946 aged eighty-three, brought to a close the lives of the children of James and Christian Thomson. Sixteen of their grandchildren and their children remained. Like his siblings, Alexander was buried in the Thomson plot at the Hamilton (Old) Cemetery (below).  

THOMSON FAMILY PLOT, PRESBYTERIAN SECTION, HAMILTON (OLD) CEMETERY

After seventy-seven years, with the estate of John Thomson requiring closure, Monivae in the Parish of Monivae in the County of Normanby went up for sale.  

“Advertising” The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957) 28 December 1946: 18. Web. 16 Oct 2017 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article22384820&gt;.

The Catholic order of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart (MSC) was looking for a new site for a boys’ boarding college after establishing a school in Toowoomba, Queensland sixteen years earlier.  The Monivae homestead was purchased in 1947 with grand plans of developing the property into a school.

“M.S C. BOYS’ COLLEGE FOR HAMILTON” Advocate (Melbourne, Vic. : 1868 – 1954) 13 August 1947: 7. Web. 16 Oct 2017 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article172490068&gt;.

It soon became clear, the site was not suitable and the MSC went in search of a new site. Bob Strachan owned land on Ballarat Road, Hamilton and the MSC were able to negotiate a trade with him.  The MSC obtained the land in Ballarat Road for the new school and retained 100 acres at Monivae including the homestead.  Bob Strachan’s side of the bargain was the balance of the Monivae property.  A day school in temporary buildings on the Monivae property started in February 1954 while the new school was under construction.  On 17 October 1954, the foundation stone for the Ballarat Road school was blessed. The contract for the building which started in mid-1953 was the largest seen in Hamilton, estimated at £250,000. Classes started at the new school in 1956 despite it being far from complete.  Monivae College not only adopted the name of the Ffrench named property, the school’s badge includes a reminder of Ffrench’s heritage, two Dolphins  also part of the Ffrench family crest.

MONIVAE COLLEGE, BALLARAT ROAD, HAMILTON c1956.
Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/64414

From 1841, religion was at the forefront at Monivae.  From Acheson Ffrench questioning and challenging his faith to the Thomson’s unwavering devotion, to the arrival of the priests of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart. The Monivae College motto Fortes in Fide meaning Strong in Faith could easily have been the Thomson’s motto too.  

The Monivae homestead became rundown and was later taken over by Glenelg Region Water, now known as Wannon Water.

MONIVAE HOMESTEAD 1981. Image courtesy of the J.T. Collins Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/230082

The homestead and what remains of the surrounding Monivae property has since returned to private ownership and has undergone extensive restoration.  Monivae will be open on Sunday 22 October from 10am to 4pm.  All proceeds go to another of Hamilton’s historic jewels the Hamilton Botanic Gardens and its ongoing redevelopment. Appropriate as a feature of the gardens is the beautiful John Thomson Memorial Fountain. Such was the high regard for John Thomson of Monivae around the Hamilton district, the fountain was built in his memory and unveiled in April 1919 by the then Premier of Victoria.  In its position, the fountain is visible from the front gates of Kilora in Kennedy Street, acting as a constant reminder of their dear brother John for sisters Margaret and Mary Thomson during their time at the home.     

©2017 Merron Riddiford

Passing of the Pioneers

It’s an interesting mix of pioneers for July with several family links.  It begins with Margaret Laidlaw who’s father and brother-in-law also have their obituaries listed.  Then there’s William Thomson and his son Robert Thomson, and James Brake, a brother-in-law of William’s brother John Thomson. Also there are several connections to previous Passing Pioneers and I’ve linked them up where possible.  You can also see the growing number of family connections among the pioneers on the alphabetical lists at the Pioneer Obituary Index.  A reminder that all underlined text will take you to further information about the subject.

LAIDLAW, James – Died 1 July 1892 at Amphitheatre.  James Laidlaw was born around 1823 in Scotland, a son of Adam Laidlaw and Margaret Stoddart.  He arrived in Victoria in 1852 and married Mary Ann Coates in 1855.  After their marriage, James and Mary Ann resided at Lake Learmonth near Ballarat.  James was a Justice of the Peace and during the 1860s, Chairman of the Ballarat Shire. Around 1872, James purchased Lake Wallace South Estate near Edenhope.  His brother Walter was at nearby Newlands and he and James became well-known in the district. James was the local Justice of the Peace and a Kowree Shire councillor.

In 1883, James purchased Amphiteatre Station, near Avoca with three of his sons while another two sons remained at Lake Wallace to manage affairs.  James was soon involved with public affairs in the district and was elected to the Lexton Shire Council.  James and Mary Ann had two daughters, Helen who married Hamilton stock and station agent John Fenton and another Margaret who married grazier, Thomas Philip. Both daughters lived in the Hamilton district. Margaret’s obituary is further down the page.  James Laidlaw was buried at the Lexton Cemetery.  Mary Ann died in 1896.

THOMSON, William – Died 17 July 1892 at Hamilton.  Born in Fifeshire, Scotland in 1836, William was a son of merchant Robert Thomson and arrived at Hobsons Bay aboard the Yarra at the age of sixteen.  With him was his father, brothers and uncle William Dick Thomson. While his father went to the Bendigo diggings, William and his brother Alex worked with merchants in Melbourne until their father’s return twelve months later.  Robert Thomson opened his own business in Collins Street, Melbourne then later at Collingwood.  Not long after, an accident claimed his life. William and Alec then went to Geelong working as merchants there.  In 1864, the opportunity arose to buy the Levy & Sander Iron Store in Gray Street, Hamilton.

“Advertising” Hamilton Spectator and Grange District Advertiser (South Melbourne, Vic. : 1860 – 1870) 8 January 1864: 1. Web. 9 Jul 2017 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article194724116&gt;.

The store was known as W & W Thomson with William and his Uncle William senior partners. In 1872, William married Ella Guthridge and in the same year, his uncle retired and William’s younger brother John Thomson became a partner in the firm.  In 1875, the Thomsons had grand plans for a new two storey stone building. Tender applications opened (below) and work began. Within in two years, the Thomson built another store next door, resulting in a “handsome and commodious edifice”.  In time, the store expanded to other towns including Horsham.

“Items of News.” Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 – 1918) 25 December 1875: 2. Web. 9 Jul 2017 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article226071140&gt;.

During his time in Hamilton, William lived at Malvern House in Gray Street.  Along with being a senior partner in W & W Thomson, William was a Hamilton Borough Councillor first serving in 1868 and going on to serve as Mayor on six occasions.  He was Sunday School Superintendent at St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church for over twenty years and on the Hamilton Hospital committee, serving as President.  At the time of his death, William was President of the Hamilton Mechanics Institute.  William was a force behind the Hamilton railway and was a member of the Railway Extension League.  He was a member of the Hamilton Bowling Club and served as President.  William was a keen lodge attendee, as a Freemason and Oddfellows, climbing to the highest ranks

JOHN THOMSON & CO., GRAY STREET, HAMILTON, 1930. Image courtesy of the Museums Victoria Collections https://collections.museumvictoria.com.au/items/769322
Accessed 27 June 2017

William Thomson died on a Sunday afternoon and that evening, his brother John approved a partial post-mortem for “humanitarian purposes” and suspicions confirmed.  William Thomson’s death was due to liver cancer at the age of fifty-six.  He left a widow, two sons and three daughters.  The funeral was one of the largest seen in the town with the funeral procession almost one kilometre in length.

“FUNERAL OF THE LATE MR. WILLIAM THOMSON.” Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 – 1918) 21 July 1892: 3. <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article226161727&gt;.

After William’s death, his younger brother John took over the running of the Thomson store, operating as  John Thomson & Co.  John died suddenly in 1894 and James Brake (see obituary below), brother of John Thomson’s wife Martha,  took over the store’s management.  Thomsons as it was locally known, operated in Gray Street until the early 1980s.  The building remains today as a shopping centre and the façade was recently restored.  The photo below was taken prior to the restoration.

FORMER JOHN THOMSON & CO BUILDING, GRAY STREET, HAMILTON, 2015

McLEOD, Alexander Magnus – Died 19 July 1910 at West Melbourne.  Alexander McLeod was born near Elaine, Victoria in 1846, a son of John Norman McLeod and Agnes Paterson.  He went to school in Portland and Scotch College and then worked in a Portland bank. Later, Alexander became the Deputy Chief Inspector of Stock in South Australia. 

In 1890, at the age of forty-four, Alexander MacLeod married Caroline Henty.  There was gossip about the marriage because of the age difference which was by no means vast and because Caroline had only the year before inherited property after the death of her father Francis Henty. That included part of the Merino Downs property Caroline and Alexander would go on to name Talisker after the McLeod ancestral home on the Isle of Skye. Alexander and Caroline built a grand homestead in 1901 (below).  Prior to settling at Talisker, the McLeods had two daughters, Caroline Agnes and Alexandra Frances.

“TALISKER”, MERINO, 1977. Image courtesy of the J.T. Collins Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/232509

During his time in the district, Alexander was associated with the construction of the Merino Butter Factory, a cooperative close to Talisker.  In 1910, Alexander and Caroline were visiting Melbourne and in residence at the Menzies Hotel.  It was there on 19 July 1910, Alexander died suddenly from a heart attack.  He was buried in Melbourne and Caroline returned to Talisker where she died four years later.

BRAKE, James Hugh – Died 29 July 1915 at Mont Albert.  James Brake was born at Cavendish around 1854.  Educated in Hamilton, James first worked for David Laidlaw, a storekeeper in Gray Street, Hamilton. James moved across the road to the W & W Thomson Store and was later promoted to manager of the Horsham branch of the store around 1880.  His move to Thomsons was most likely due to the family connection coming in 1877 when James’ sister Martha married John Thomson, a senior partner of W & W Thomson and younger brother of William Thomson (see obituary above).  

In 1881, James married Barbara McDougall and they went on to have five children.  While in Horsham, James was one of the first members of the local progress association and was a contributor to the Horsham Hospital. He served on the Horsham Borough Council and held the Horsham seat in State Parliament.  James was a supporter of temperance and attended the Horsham Presbyterian Church.

After the death of William Thomson in 1892, James’ brother-in-law  John Thomson became the sole partner.  However, John died suddenly in 1894 and James returned to Hamilton to manage the store in that town.  In time, his sons also worked in the store. In 1914, the Brakes moved to Elouera in Stanhope Street, Mont Albert.  James managed the Hamilton store from afar but died soon after at his home aged sixty-one.  His body was returned to Hamilton and buried at the Old Hamilton Cemetery.  In November of that year, James and Barbara’s younger son William Brake enlisted with the 4th Field Artillery Brigade and middle son James enlisted with the Australian Flying Corps in 1916.  Both sons returned, however, William died at the family home in Mont Albert in 1922 aged just twenty-nine.  He was buried with his father at Hamilton (below).

BRAKE FAMILY PLOT, OLD HAMILTON CEMETERY.

PHILIP, John – Died July 1916 at Hamilton.  John Philip was born at Victoria Lagoon Station north of Cavendish in 1855, the third son of Captain John Philip and Margaret Robertson. John attended the Hamilton Academy and Geelong College.  When he left school, John went to his father’s property Miga Lake Station, north of Harrow, before managing Ascot Heath Station near Dartmoor in 1879. The following year, John married Katherin Swan of  Koonongwootong station near Coleraine.  He later purchased Englefield near Balmoral (below) and the Lower Crawford Estate near Condah in 1902. In 1904, he purchased the Mooralla Estate.

ENGLEFIELD. Image courtesy of the J.T. Collins collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/214202

John served on the Portland Shire Council and later the Wannon Shire.  He was also president of the Balmoral Mechanics Institute and the Toolondo-Cavendish Railway League.  He was buried at the Old Hamilton Cemetery (below).

GRAVE OF JOHN AND KATHERIN PHILIP, OLD HAMILTON CEMETERY

WALTER, Emma – Died July 1916 at Hamilton.  Emma Walter was born in Devonshire, England in 1828 where she married Thomas Bromell.  In 1852, Emma and Thomas arrived in Victoria and after a short stay in Geelong went to the Ballarat and Avoca diggings before returning to Geelong by the end of the year,  purchasing a farm in the Barabool Hills.  In 1860, the Bromells took up Hensleigh Park north of Hamilton.  Thomas died in 1887 and around 1904, Emma moved into town, living at Edgecumb in Milton Street Hamilton.  In her earlier years at Hensleigh Park, Emma often attended the Hamilton Hunt Club meets.  She also enjoyed attending the local football.  Emma and Thomas had nine daughters and one son.  At the time of her death, Emma had twenty-two grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren.  She was buried at the Old Hamilton Cemetery (below).

GRAVE OF EMMA BROMELL (NEE WALTER), OLD HAMILTON CEMETERY

 

JONES, Edwin John – Died 21 July 1928 at Dartmoor.  Edwin Jones was born at Portland around 1856.  His parents settled at Drik Drik where Edwin remained until around 1908 when he purchased land at Mumbannar.  Edwin married Sarah Emerson around 1898 and they had three sons and one daughter. He was member of the Drik Drik P & A Society and Methodist Church (below)

DRIK DRIK METHODIST CHURCH. Image courtesy of the J.T. Collins Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/230495

LEARMONTH, Edgar Thomson – Died 8 July 1933 at Mount Gambier.  Edgar Learmonth was the son of James Allan Learmonth and Annie Thomson and was born in Mexico around 1889 while his parents were living there.  The Learmonths returned to Australia in 1892 when Edgar was four and resided at Correa, near Dunkeld for the next ten years before moving to the home of Edgar’s grandfather Peter LearmonthPrestonholme near Hamilton. Edgar went to Hamilton College and later Wesley College.  He spent some years in Western Australia after his schooling then returned to manage his uncle James Thomson’s property Inverary near Branxholme While two of his brothers were serving during WW1, Edgar returned to Prestonholme and helped his father run that property.  It was during those years, Edgar an all round sportsman, won three Hamilton Golf Club championships.  After the war, Edgar and his two returned serviceman brothers purchased land together.

In 1923, Edgar married Nellie Coy of Woorndoo and the following year he and his brother Russell purchased Barnoolut near Mount Gambier where Edgar and Nellie took up residence and went on to have a daughter Janet.  On the afternoon of 9 July 1933, Edgar attended a football match at Mount Gambier and later attended Jenz’s Hotel. He was found unconscious in the outhouse at the hotel with a bullet wound to his head. He died five hours later in a private Mount Gambier hospital.  On 10 July 1933, the Mount Gambier coroner found Edgar Learmonth, at the age of forty-five, died from suicide due to an unsound mind.  During the inquiry, letters by Edgar revealed he was a worried man, however, his brother Russell said that while there were some financial worries, “they were not such to trouble a healthy man”.  Edgar was buried at the Old Hamilton Cemetery (below).

GRAVE OF EDGAR LAIDLAW AND FAMILY, OLD HAMILTON CEMETERY

LAIDLAW, Margaret – Died July 1935 at Hamilton.  Margaret was born at Lake Learmonth near Ballarat in 1858, a daughter of James Laidlaw (see obituary above) and Marian Coates. On 21 August 1883, Margaret married Thomas Philip at Wanliss House, Ballarat.  Thomas was a brother of John Philip (see obituary above).  The groomsmen were Margaret’s brother Henry Laidlaw and John Fenton, Margaret’s brother-in-law.  The Hamilton Spectator of 25 August 1883, headlined the report with, “A Fashionable Wedding”.  Margaret and Thomas eventually went to live at Koornong near Branxholme and in 1910, Thomas was involved in accident with a horse and suffered back injuries.  Since he was fifteen years older than Margaret, it was time to retire to town and the Philips took up residence at Kenmure in Ballarat Road.

KENMURE, HAMILTON 2015

 

In August 1933, Margaret and Thomas celebrated their Golden wedding anniversary with sixty family and friends.  Margaret died two years later at the age of seventy-six.

THOMSON, Robert Erskine – Died 18 July 1948 at Benalla.  Robert Thompson was born in Hamilton around 1875, a son of store owner William Thomson (see obituary above) and Ella Guthridge.  Around 1904, Robert married Sophie Dowie of Carisbrook.  After his marriage, Robert moved to Benalla and following his father’s footsteps, took over the Beehive Store in Bridge Street.  Robert was a member of the Benalla Lawn Tennis Club and Benalla Golf Club.  He was also a member of the Holy Trinity Church choir.

MANN, Samuel Furneaux – Died 17 July 1954 at Sandringham. Samuel Mann was born at Ballarat in 1866.  His father Samuel Furneaux Sr was a Ballarat solicitor and they lived in Lydiard Street.  Samuel Jr attended Geelong Grammar School.  He was a good sportsman and was part of Geelong Grammar’s rowing eight crew for the local  Head of the River twice.  Samuel also played football and cricket and golf.  He also played polo with the Caramut Polo Club later known as the Hexham Polo Club.   In 1897, Samuel purchased Minjah Station from the Ware family in partnership with Rutherford Albert Affleck.  He married Isabella Cecilia Affleck on 8 December 1897 at Scots’ Church in Collins Street, Melbourne.  Samuel and Cecilia went to have two sons and two daughters.  In 1903, Samuel purchased Lawrenny at Caramut (below).  A further obituary for Samuel Mann is available on the link to Obituaries Australia http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/mann-samuel-furneaux-barney-670

‘LAWRENNY”, CARAMUT 1986. Image courtesy of the J.T. Collins Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/216637

 

Passing of the Pioneers

August Passing of the Pioneers includes a member of the Victorian Parliament, a publican, and a school principal.  All of this month’s pioneers are now on the Western District Families Pioneer Obituary Index.

Robert HEANEY – Died 20 August, 1890 at Melbourne. Robert Heaney was born in Ireland around 1836.  He married Jane Armstrong and soon after they departed for Australia. The Heaneys arrived on the General Hewitt at Portland Harbour on 9 October 1856.  They spent the first ten years in Victoria at Heywood before moving to Condah Swap, later known as Wallacedale.

Mary Ann COUGHLAN – Died August 1917 at Caramut. Margaret Coughlan was born around 1833 and arrived at Portland on 21 January 1848 aboard the Sir Edward Parry with her siblings to meet up with their parents Jonathan Gordon Coughlan and Jane Richmond who settled in that town.  After some years, during a trip to Caramut, she met John Bendall and they married in 1864.  John was the manager of Hopkins Hill and The Gums, near Caramut for John Moffatt.  After the sale of The Gums, John Bendall operated a store and post office in Caramut until his death in 1887.  Mary Ann remained living at Caramut and was eighty-four at the time of her death.  She left two sons and two daughters.

John THOMSON – Died 3 August 1917 at Melbourne.  John Thomson was born at Warrambine Station near Shelford in 1853.  His parents were James Thomson and Christian Armstrong.  In 1870,  James Thomson purchased Monivae near Hamilton from the deceased estate of former Police Magistrate Acheson Ffrench.  The family resided in the original homestead built for Acheson Ffrench but a new homestead was completed in 1877.

MONIVAE 1966. Image Couresy of the J.T. Collins Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria. Image no. H97.250/44 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/230077

MONIVAE 1966. Image Couresy of the J.T. Collins Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria. Image no. H97.250/44 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/230077

John attended Scotch College in Melbourne where he was one of the college’s finest athletes.  After he completed his schooling, John returned to Monivae. Soon after he entered public life, first as a Dundas Shire Councillor.  In 1892 he contested the seat of Dundas in the Victorian State Parliament.  He held the seat from 1892 to 1900 and from 1902 to 1914.  At the age of fifty-six, in 1909 John married Christina Robertson.

Aside from his political life, John was on the management committee of the St Andrews Presbyterian Church and member and onetime president of the Hamilton Racing Club.  He was also a supporter of many of Hamilton’s community and sporting groups, including the P&A Society, the Hamilton Pipe Band and the fire brigade.  John Thomson was attending a public school football match in Melbourne on 3 August 1917, when he died suddenly.  He was buried at the Hamilton Old Cemetery.

In 1919, a fountain was unveiled in the Hamilton Botanic Gardens by the then Victorian Premier, Harry Lawson in memory of John Thomson

 

022

 

William DERHAM – Died 16 August 1918 at Port Fairy.  William Derharm was born in County Tyrone, Ireland and arrived in Victoria around 1863.  He first worked at Korongah Station at Rosebrook for Messers Lydiard and Knight. He then turned to onion growing and resided at Korongah Lodge. William left four daughters and two sons.

Robert FRASER – Died 4 August 1918 at Strathkellar.  Robert Fraser was born in Scotland in 1841 and arrived in Adelaide in 1854 on the Joseph Rowan with his parents Archibald and Helen Fraser and his four sisters.  They soon headed for Victoria and resided at Bochara.  In 1865, Robert married Jane Mason and they settled and farmed at Muddy Creek.  Robert died at the home of his daughter at Strathkellar and was buried at the Hamilton Old Cemetery.  Jane died only a few weeks before.

Francis Hazel WRIGHT – Died 18 August 1918 at Hamilton. Francis Wright was born at Broadwater around 1865.  He took up the running of the Grange Hotel (later called George Hotel) in Hamilton around 1914. He was involved with many Hamilton sporting clubs and the gun club.  For thirty years he was part of the Victorian Land’s Department rabbit extirpation branch and served as an inspector for the last five years of his life.  Three weeks before his death, Frank broke his kneecap while climbing into his buggy.  He then contracted pneumonia and died.

Christina Ross LINTON – Died August 1926 at Hamilton.  Born at Inverness, Scotland in 1848, Christina came to Victoria with her parents William Linton and Jean Sinclair and her younger brother John around 1851 aboard the Statesman.  William gave his occupation as shepherd.  In 1868, Christina married Thomas Laidlaw at Wickliffe.  Christina and Thomas moved around between properties, Thomas had interests in and their first stop was Lake Roy in South Australia.  They also lived at Glenburnie, Macarthur, South Wonwondah Station and finally Glencairn just south of Hamilton.

Christina was buried in the Laidlaw family plot at the Hamilton Old Cemetery.

 

laidlaw6

 

Rose Hannah HANN – Died 18 August 1935 at Portland.  Rose Hann was born in Somersetshire in 1850 to Paul Hann and Asenath Pitman.  The family arrived at Melbourne in 1852 aboard the Priam and stayed in the area for a time, before travelling to Portland to settle.  Around 1871, Rose married John Marshall.  Early in their marriage, they spent some time at the Bendigo diggings but most of their lives, Rose and John lived at Portland.  They raised a family of eleven  children.

Clara Jex EDRICH – Died August 1937 at Portland.  Clara Edrich was born at Portland in 1855 to Richard Jex Edrich and Eliza Martin and was baptised at St Stephens Church.  In 1877, Clara married John Guy at St Stephens Church, Portland by the Reverend Allnutt.

St Stephens Church, Portland

ST STEPHEN’S CHURCH, PORTLAND

After a year of marriage they took up residence in Barclay Street, Portland, the birthplace of eight of Clara and John’s nine children and where Clara died in 1937.  John passed away four years before Clara.

Mary Arabella “Minnie” HISCOCK – Died 29 August 1941 at Hotspur.  Mary Hiscock, born in 1859 at Hotspur, was the daughter of James Hiscock and Mary Cobb and was known as Minnie. After her birth, the Hiscocks moved to Lower Crawford and Minnie remained there until she was fifty-eight in 1917 when she returned to Hotspur.   In her younger years, Minnie was known as a fine horsewoman and would ride around the countryside to attend balls and other social gatherings.  When she was seven, she rode with her father from Hotspur to Birregurra east of Colac, a distance of around 235 kilometers which took three days. Minnie never married.

Florence Helena LAIDLAW – Died 26 August 1944 at Malvern.  Florence Laidlaw was born at Port Fairy in  1858 to David Laidlaw and Eliza Fraser.  Although Florence was born at Port Fairy, where her grandparents William and Agnes Laidlaw lived, David and Eliza Laidlaw resided in Hamilton where David was a saddler.  David Laidlaw quickly rose to prominence in the Hamilton district and went on to serve five terms as Mayor of the town.  In 1873, David laid the foundation stone for the Alexandra Ladies’ College in Hamilton, of which he was one of the founders.

"TELEGRAPHIC DESPATCHES." The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957) 11 Nov .

“TELEGRAPHIC DESPATCHES.” The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957) 11 Nov <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article5875156&gt;.

Florence Laidlaw attended Alexandra Ladies’ College and later became the headmistress.

THE FORMER ALEXANDRA LADIES COLLEGE

THE FORMER ALEXANDRA LADIES’ COLLEGE

On 29 December 1917, the Weekly Times reported on a trip Florence was making to Sydney to stay with her sister and mentioned she was the headmistress at Alexandra College.  However, she appears to have retired soon after.  On 25 July 1919, the Horsham Times reported that Florence was intending to visit Japan with Edith Lansell, daughter of George Lansell of Fortuna, Bendigo. After her return from overseas, Florence moved to South Yarra.

Passing of the Pioneers

March Passing of the Pioneers shares obituaries of well-known residents of Hamilton, Heywood and Portland. They include the surveyor of Camperdown and yet another man who was at Blue Lake, Mt. Gambier the day Adam Lindsay Gordon took his famed leap.

Thomas BROOKS Died 7 March 1888 at Hotspur. At the time of his death, Thomas Brooks was one of the oldest inhabitants of the Heywood district, having arrived in 1853. His death was a result of an accident after sixty-two-year-old Thomas delivered a coffin to Hotspur from Heywood for the funeral of Mr Fidler. After the funeral, he returned home, only to fall from his horse. He received head injuries, from which he died. A contract worker for the local shire, Thomas was known as an eccentric and was referred to as “Old Tom Brooks”  For more information about Thomas see the South-West Victoria Pioneers website.

John THOMSON Died 27 March 1894 at Melbourne.  Anyone who lived in Hamilton and district prior to the late 1980s, would know the name John Thomson as that was that name that adorned the front of one of Hamilton’s longest running department stores John Thomson & Co of Gray Street, locally known simply as Thomsons. John Thomson arrived in Victoria from Scotland at a young age and was educated at Scotch College, Geelong and the Hamilton Academy.  He joined his uncle and brothers, Alexander and William in the store, first established as an Iron store in 1866, and later became a partner. He had a strong association with the Hamilton Presbyterian Church and when he died, aged forty-six, he had attended  the Convention of the Presbyterian Fellowship Association.  He fell sick over the weekend and passed away.

Advertising. (1953, July 21). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 21. Retrieved March 27, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article23256981

Advertising. (1953, July 21). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), p. 21. Retrieved March 27, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article23256981

 

Robert Dunbar SCOTT: Died 7 March 1898 at Surrey Hills. Robert Scott was born in Scotland and he and his wife arrived in Victoria around 1851. Robert was employed as a land surveyor, his first job to survey the western part of Port Phillip.  He set up camp near what would become the town of Camperdown and set about laying out a new township. He named the first streets, including Manifold Street after the Manifold brothers.  He selected land on the banks of Lake Gnotuk and established the property Gnotuk Park.  Robert was a member of the local P&A Society and the Freemasons. In the late 1890s, he sold Gnotuk Park and let a property at Craigieburn. He later moved to Melbourne establishing himself as a commission agent but lost money in the crash after the land boom. A further account of Robert Scott is on this link – A Link With The Past – Interview with David Scott.

Mercy ERRI: Died 26 March 1932 at Cobrico. Mercy Erri was born in England and arrived in Victoria with her parents in 1857. Her father started in business in Camperdown, one of the early pioneers of that town. Mercy trained as a nurse and was a Sunday School teacher. In her later years, she became an invalid, confined to her bed, but she continued to produce beautiful needlework, even with failing sight. Mercy was eighty-eight years old when she died. She never married.

James MOLLOY: Died 25 March 1937 at Portland. James Molloy arrived in Portland with his parents aboard the British Empire when he was eleven. He went to school at All Saints school in Portland and during those years spent time with William Dutton extracting oil from whale blubber. He was then employed by Edward Henty at Narrawong. His next job was for the Bell’s at Heywood, training racehorses, his greatest success winning the Great Western Steeplechase at Coleraine.  Apparently he was with Adam Lindsay Gordon on the day Gordon took his leap at Blue Lake, Mt Gambier. He later returned to Portland, working as a storeman and a waterside worker.James married Mary Beglen and they had three sons and two daughters.

David Edmund BATES: Died 5 March 1938 at Casterton. David Bates was born at Narracorte before moving to Casterton with his parents when six. He was educated at the Casterton school before becoming an apprentice draper with Mr Mills.  David was an athlete and once ran second in the Stawell Gift. He took a great interest in the public affairs of Casterton and served as secretary on the Casterton Hospital board.

Eliza MOORE: Died 24 March 1939 at Colac. Eliza Moore was born in Ireland in 1854 and travelled to Victoria as a child aboard the Chance. Her parents settled at Port Fairy and later at Woodford. Eliza married Alexander Russell at Warrnambool and they farmed at Dennington. They then moved to Colac where they remained until Eliza’s death. In her younger years, Eliza was an excellent horsewoman and was devoted to the Church throughout her life.

Daniel FENTON: Died 17 March 1943 at Camperdown. Daniel Fenton was born in Camperdown in 1860 and was the first child baptised at the St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in the same year. Educated at Camperdown State School, he spent his entire working life as a dairy farmer. He married Mary Ann Shenfield of Cobden and five children were living at the time of Daniel’s death.

 

Passing of the Pioneers

The Portland Guardian was mindful of the contribution made by the early pioneers toward developing the south-west.  They offered regular items titled “Passing of the Pioneers” or “Passing Pioneers” and often mentioned in obituaries that “…one by one are old pioneers are passing”.  As early as 1889, they were lamenting the loss of the links to the early settlers and suggesting that the efforts of those who passed be recognised.

The Portland Guardian,. (1889, January 16). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876-1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved July 18, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article63591640

Established August 1842. The Portland Guardian,. (1899, July 7). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876-1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved July 19, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article63676630 MLA citation

In 1921, the paper spoke of the many unwritten histories that had gone before, but  now we can see The Portland Guardian lived up to its charter of 1889,  successfully recording the histories of many of the local pioneers.  By doing so, they are now helping us learn more of our families and gain a sense of life in the early days of the Western District.  Of course, The Guardian was not alone.  References to the “passing pioneers” are found in most of the papers on the Trove website.

Obituaries are a secondary source as the information comes from the knowledge of those still living and I have noticed errors in obituaries of my family.  But they can offer leads to records you may never have thought of such as Masonic lodge records and local council records. Whatever you do or don’t get out of an obituary, no-one can deny they are often a good read.

July was a month when many “Passing of the Pioneers” columns appeared.  Cold winters in the southwest saw many of the older residents “cross the Great Divide” as the Guardian would put it.

Some of the more notable passing pioneers in the month of July were:

James PARKER:  Died 6 July1889 at Heywood. James PARKER’S obituary is an interesting read.  Born in Tasmania, he came to the mainland as a whaler. Later he had some luck at the Creswick goldfields only to have an encounter with bushranger Captain Moonlight.

William TULLOH: Died 19 July 1889 at Portland.  This is a lengthy obituary of a Portland resident of nearly fifty years, whose death saw half closed shutters on homes around the town.  Born in Scotland in 1812, he left a wife, four sons and a daughter at the time of his passing.  I have  found a site with more detail of William and his wife Eliza Mary KEARTON.

James BARNETT: Died 18 July 1892 at Portland.  James was known as “Old Barney” around Portland and while the Portland Guardian credits him as a pioneer, they make judgement in saying that he did not make the most of his opportunities as other early settlers had done.

Alexander THOMSON: Died July 1897 at Hamilton. Scottish born Alex THOMSON was prominent around the Hamilton area as a Shire of Dundas Councillor for twenty-one years.  At the time of his death, he was the owner of Pierrepoint Estate near Hamilton and was also an active member of the Pastoral and Agricultural society.

Thomas Webb SMITH:  Died 29 July 1914 at Branxholme.  Thomas served on the Borough of Portland council and was mayor from November 1871-November 1873.  He was also a member of the Goodfellows and Freemasons.

Annie Maria HENTY: Died 2 July 1921 at Hamilton.  Annie was from the most famous southwest pioneering family of them all, the Henty’s. The daughter of Stephen HENTY, Annie married Hamilton stock and station agent Robert STAPLYTON BREE in 1874.  The Bree name is preserved in Hamilton with a much used road of the same name in the town.  Their home Bewsall (below) once stood near the end of Bree Road in North Boundry Road.

HAMILTON. (1903, May 2). The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 - 1946), p. 27. Retrieved February 18, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article138684187

HAMILTON. (1903, May 2). The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 – 1946), p. 27. Retrieved February 18, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article138684187

Ann Eliza KEEPING: Died 9 July 1921 at Portland.  Annie Eliza KEEPING arrived in Australia aboard the Eliza and married John FINNIGAN in 1857.  She was eighty-two at the time of her death.

Joseph Bell PEARSON:  Died 7 July 1922 at Portland. Yet another interesting character.  According to his obituary, Joseph was born on the voyage from England to Tasmania.  His family moved to the Retreat Estate near Casterton in 1844.  He was a noted horseman, with several good racehorses which he would ride himself.  One of his jumps racing rivals was Adam Lindsay Gordon.

Sarah MARSHALL:  Died 7 July 1923 at Gorae West. Sarah was the wife of the late Richard BEAUGHLEHOLE and she died at seventy-three. Richard selected land at Gorae West and transformed swampland into flourishing orchards.  Sarah and Richard had twelve children.

Mary Thurza HEDDITCH: Died 1 July 1930 at Drik Drik. Mary HEDDITCH was born in Portland in 1844 and moved with her family to Bridgewater in 1846.  Her elder brother drowned when she was a teenager leaving her to take on some of his duties.  As a result, she became an accomplished horsewoman, helping her father with the cattle.  She married James MALSEED and together they had seven children.

Phillipa JOHNS: July 1931 at Portland.  Phillipa JOHNS, the daughter of a doctor, was herself something of a substitute doctor for those living in the Willenbrina area, near Warracknabeal.  Later she and her husband William DELLAR moved to the Portland district.  They had nine children.