Category Archives: Pioneer Obituaries

Passing of the Pioneers

A small but interesting band of pioneers join the August Passing of the Pioneers.

Stephen Rowan ROBERTSON – Died August 19 1900 at Portland.  Stephen Rowan Robertson was a she not a he, a sister of John G. Robertson, owner of Wando Vale station.  Stephen arrived in Victoria in 1842 around the age of 34 and in 1846 she married William Corney who took up the lease of Wando Vale.  After some time back in England, William and Stephen made their home at South Portland.  One of the stained glass windows at St Stephen’s Church , Portland was dedicated to William Corney (below) by his son Robert.

WILLIAM CORNEY (1872).  Photographer Thomas Foster Chuck.  Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.  Image no. H5056/211

WILLIAM CORNEY (1872). Photographer Thomas Foster Chuck. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image no. H5056/211

Peter MacKINNON - Died August 5, 1902 at Hamilton.  Peter MacKinnon was born in Sterlingshire, Scotland around 1825 and arrived in Victoria around 1852.   His first job in the colony was at Coleraine as a bookkeeper and then later at Hamilton as a bookkeeper for the timber yard of Mr Collins in Gray Street.  He then worked for many years at the Hamilton Spectator as a machinist.  In his later years he returned to bookkeeping with the Collins timber yard.

Thomas REES – Died August 7 at Hamilton.   This one of the first obituaries I have posted from the Hamilton Spectator and it has one of the best openings to an obituary (only a genealogist could/would say that).  The reference to the early colonist encapsulates the spirit of the monthly Passing of the Pioneer posts.

THE PASSING OF THE PIONEERS. (1918, August 15). Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 4. Retrieved August 30, 2013, from

THE PASSING OF THE PIONEERS. (1918, August 15). Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 4. Retrieved August 30, 2013, from

Basil McConochie LYON - Died August 7, 1916 at Coleraine.   Basil Lyon was born in Glasgow, Scotland around 1850.  When he arrived in Victoria he went to the Konongwootong Creek Estate the property of his maternal uncle. John McConochie.  He later took up land with his brother at Balmoral.  Basil was  a member of the Kowree Shire Council for several years and was also a Justice of the Peace.  He was a founding member of the Coleraine branch of the Australian People’s Party.

Arthur BALLMENT – Died August 26, 1916 at Perth, Western Australia.  Arthur Ballment was from Plymouth, England where his father Hugh was a well known shipbuilder and merchant  Arthur left England in 1865 aboard the “Roxburgh Castle” to Melbourne aged 21. He gave New Zealand a try before returning to Victoria and Ararat where he ran a tannery business.  He had a strong interest in politics, at a local level while in Ararat and upon retirement to Western Australia, 13 years before his death, he followed both Australian and British politics.  Arthur was described as a “typical Englishman”.  One of Arthur’s sisters married British political cartoonist, Sir Francis Carruthers Gould, while his daughter  Marion was a Western Australian based artist of some note.

William ROBERTSON - Died August 6, 1918 at East Melbourne.   William Robertson, a son of Duncan Robertson and Ann Fraser,  was born in New South Wales in 1839 and went to the Western District with his family aged four.  Duncan took up “Straun”   He later moved to “Gringegalgona”  where William remained, unmarried, for the rest of his life.  William was keen on horse racing and over a forty year period his horses won the Casterton Cup on two occasions, the Warrnambool Cup and the Great Western Steeple.  His trainer was James Agnew, also a Passing Pioneer this month (below).

Bridget HASSETT - Died August 14, 1919 at Dundindin, Western Australia

Obituary. (1919, September 9). The Horsham Times (Vic. : 1882 - 1954), p. 5. Retrieved August 28, 2013, from

Obituary. (1919, September 9). The Horsham Times (Vic. : 1882 – 1954), p. 5. Retrieved August 28, 2013, from

Bridget Hassett and Patrick Mullan raised a family of 13 children, five of whom were still living at the time of her death, as was Patrick then aged 90.

Letitia BEST – Died August 7, 1941 at Melbourne.  Born around 1848 in County Caven, Ireland, Letitia Best arrived at Portland in 1856 aboard the “General Hewitt” with her parents William and Letitia Best and six siblings (NB: the date of arrival in Letita’s obituary is 1853).  The family settled at Heywood where Letitia later married Donald Rankin.  Donald and Letitia spent some years at Harrow before moving to Western Australia for 30 years.  When Donald passed away, Letitia returned to Victoria.

James AGNEW – Died August 10, 1942 at Hamilton.  James Agnew was born at Cowie’s Creek near Geelong around 1857 and as a boy moved with his parents to the Wimmera.  In his  teen years, James moved to the NSW Riverina working at Yanco Station  where his career with horses began.  A meeting with the trainer of Carbine, Walter Hickenbotham spurred him on to become a racehorse trainer.

James eventually settled in Hamilton as a trainer and took on horses for owners such as George Robertson (above) and John Kirby.  The racing career of Kirby’s horse The Parisian was all but over when he arrived with Agnew with the horse failing over short distances .  James saw the staying potential in the horse and trained him accordingly.  As a result he won the Warrnambool and Hamilton Cups.  Kirby then too saw The Parisian’s potential to win a Melbourne Cup and moved the horse to a Melbourne trainer, thus robbing James Agnew of a chance to win a Melbourne Cup, as The Parisian saluted in 1911.  If it wasn’t for James Agnew, James Kirby is unlikely to have held the Melbourne Cup in 1911.

Charles BRADSHAW – Died August 13, 1944 at Portland.  Charles Bradshaw lived his entire 89 years at Portland, the son of William Bradshaw, operator of a wool washing business.  Charles worked in several industries including bone crushing, tomato growing and like his father, wool washing.  He married local girl Eileen Robins and they raised two sons and two daughters.


Passing of the Pioneers

Welcome to July 2013 Passing of the Pioneers, the second birthday of  Western District Families monthly feature.  Including this month’s obituaries, there are now 372 pioneer obituaries recorded here.  You can view all of them on this link – Pioneer Obituaries – or search family names using the search box on the side bar.

I didn’t expect Passing of the Pioneers would continue this long.  In July 2011 I didn’t even think I would be blogging this long.  Also, I have had a few desperate moments when I thought I would run out of obituaries.  I started using only the Portland Guardian and the Camperdown Chronicle  and then the Horsham Times but thankfully papers like the Port Fairy Gazette (1914-1918) and the Ararat Advertiser (1914-1918) came online.  Now with the likes of the Hamilton Spectator(1914-1918) and the Coleraine Albion (1914-1918) coming online I’m reassured that Passing of the Pioneers should see at least a third birthday.

As it is birthday month it is only appropriate that one of the obituaries belongs to one of the great pioneering women of the Western District  who left a legacy that is still around today and has a link to Trove, a source I’m totally dependent on for the obituaries in Passing of the Pioneers.  .

Janet NICOL – Died July 1903 at Bridgewater.  After reading two obituaries and an entry in the Portland Pioneer Women’s Book of Remembrance, I have concluded that Janet Nicol was an intelligent woman and one of the most significant pioneers to appear in two years of Passing of the Pioneers.

No title. (1936, May 5). Border Watch (Mount Gambier, SA : 1861 - 1954), p. 7. Retrieved July 29, 2013, from

No title. (1936, May 5). Border Watch (Mount Gambier, SA : 1861 – 1954), p. 7. Retrieved July 29, 2013, from

Janet Nicol was born in Lankashire, Scotland in 1822, the daughter of Professor Andrew Nicol a linguist, University lecturer and head of a boys college.  Janet, one of eight daughters, attended boarding school and like her father could speak several languages.  In 1841, she married the Reverend Alexander Laurie and shortly after they sailed to Port Phillip aboard the William Nicol, appropriately, arriving in February 1842.  After a short time in Melbourne they sailed for Portland Bay.

On arrival at Portland, Janet was carried ashore on a chair by the crew through the surf.  It is unclear whether it was before or after her disembarkation , but on that same day, she gave birth to her first child,  Alexander.  The Lauries couldn’t stay at any hotels when they first arrived because of quarantine restrictions and instead camped under a shelter near the flour mill.  The  draughts left Janet with a severe cold and a lifetime of deafness.

Alexander had been appointed minster for the Portland Bay Presbyterian ministry and went about setting up a church.  In  he then took an interest in newspapers and became involved with the Portland Herald.  After his death in 1854, Janet took over the running of the Herald.  By that time she had four children.  Interestingly the first child, Alexander was not one of those children.  I can find his birth record from 1842, but in 1854 Janet gave birth to another Alexander.  Therefore I would assume the first Alexander passed away some time before 1854, however I can’t find his death record.  He may have been a victim of that cold introduction to the world.

That is the glossy story so far taken from the Pioneer Women’s book and the obituaries, however I found another side of the story that I can support with articles found at Trove.  The Pioneers of Port Phillip Inc website includes articles from the group’s newsletters.  One of those entitled “Portland – The truth, the whole truth and anything but the truth” submitted by Jan Hanslow reveals research by Ann Grant about stories passed down over the years and the facts behind them.  The Reverend Laurie and Janet are mentioned.

The first revelation is the cause of Janet’s deafness.  It was not the cold draughts on the first night in Portland, rather a blow allegedly inflicted by Alexander for which Janet had him charged for assault, as recorded in Police records.  This and various other incidents  saw him removed from the church.  A report of his falling out with the church appeared in the Geelong Advertiser of July 11, 1848.  That is how he really came to be at the Portland Herald, not a voluntary swing from God to journalism.

THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH IN PORTLAND. (1850, April 16). Geelong Advertiser (Vic. : 1847 - 1851), p. 3 Edition: MORNING. Retrieved July 29, 2013, from

THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH IN PORTLAND. (1850, April 16). Geelong Advertiser (Vic. : 1847 – 1851), p. 3 Edition: MORNING. Retrieved July 29, 2013, from

The next revelation from Ann Grant was that Alexander got himself into trouble with the paper and Janet had to take over.  The following articles support that claim.

LOCAL. (1851, July 12). The Cornwall Chronicle (Launceston, Tas. : 1835 - 1880), p. 436. Retrieved July 29, 2013, from

LOCAL. (1851, July 12). The Cornwall Chronicle (Launceston, Tas. : 1835 – 1880), p. 436. Retrieved July 29, 2013, from

Alexander died in 1854 and after a short break, the Portland Herald resumed publication every Friday with a promise that the paper would be “renewed in strength and efficiency”.

Advertising. (1854, November 9). Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 - 1876), p. 3 Edition: EVENING.. Retrieved July 29, 2013, from

Advertising. (1854, November 9). Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 – 1876), p. 3 Edition: EVENING.. Retrieved July 29, 2013, from

ESCORT. (1854, December 1). Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer (Vic. : 1851 - 1856), p. 4 Edition: DAILY. Retrieved July 29, 2013, from

ESCORT. (1854, December 1). Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer (Vic. : 1851 – 1856), p. 4 Edition: DAILY. Retrieved July 29, 2013, from

Janet finished up the Portland Herald in 1860 and she and the children went to Mt, Gambier where she assisted two of her sons in setting up the Border Watch, a paper still published today.  The first edition was published on April 26, 1861 and is online at Trove.  The eldest son was only 17 then, so Janet must have been the main force behind the paper’s establishment.  The name was definitely her idea as there was a Border Watch newspaper on the border of Scotland and England.  Given the close proximity of Mt Gambier  to the South Australian/Victorian border, she though the name appropriate.

(1861, April 26). Border Watch (Mount Gambier, SA : 1861 - 1954), p. 1. Retrieved July 28, 2013, from

(1861, April 26). Border Watch (Mount Gambier, SA : 1861 – 1954), p. 1. Retrieved July 28, 2013, from

Also in 1861, Janet married widower Joshua Black of Cork Hill, Bridgewater.  Joshua was father to seven children and Janet must have had a busy time running a paper in Mt. Gambier and the duties of matrimony at Bridgewater.   Janet and Joshua had three children together, the first in 1862 when Janet was 40.   By 1865 there were 15 children from the combined marriages, aged from 22 to newborn.  One would hope by this time Janet was leaving the running of the newspapers to her sons.

Janet was buried in the North Portland Cemetery  in the same grave as Alexander Laurie .  The Portland Guardian of July 29, 1903 reported that “the funeral procession was one of the largest, if not the largest seen in Portland”.

The Glenelg Shire have completed a Heritage study of Cork Hill and there is a good history of the Black and Laurie families

The State Library of South Australia website includes a history of the Border Watch

The entry for Janet in the “Book of Remembrance of the pioneer women of the Portland Bay district”  including a photograph is found here

Janet’s obituary from the Border Watch, July 29, 1903   and from the Portland Guardian

132 (2)


Henry DOWN – Died July 4, 1914 at Port Fairy.  Henry Down arrived in Victoria around 1856 aged 21 and his first employment was at Yambuk,  He was then appointed manager of St Helen’s were he displayed successful farming practices.  He purchased his own land at Coddrington and continued his success.  Henry married twice.  His first wife, Susan Dawe was the mother of all of Henry’s six children.  She passed away in 1893 and Henry married the widow of Mr William Cain.   Henry returned twice to the north of England to visit his two brothers, both coal miners.

James FRY – Died July 26, 1914 at Broadwater.  James Fry was born in Gloucestershire, England in 1830.  He married Sarah Brown in 1853, in Gloucestershire.  They left England in 1857 aboard “Chance” bound for Port Fairy.  He set up a business as a plasterer in the town and was deeply involved in the Oddfellows and the Farmers Rest Lodge.  He even built a lodge room at Broadwater for the Farmers Rest masons, at his own expense.  James and Sarah had 11 children and Sarah predeceased James in 1907.

Silias SMITH – Died July 5, 1915 at Hamilton.  Silias Smith was born in Somerset, England in 1824.  He arrived in Hobart in 1855 and then in 1857, sailed for Portland, settling in the Narrawong area.  Silias worked in the horticultural field and had great knowledge in both this and general agriculture.  In later life, he lived with his married daughter in Heywood and later in Hamilton.

Mrs Bridget O’BRIEN - Died July 16, 1916 at Crossley.  Born in Ireland around 1835, Mrs Bridget O’Brien arrived in Victoria in the mid 1850s. Bridget and her husband lived at Crossley for many years before leasing their land and moving to Port Fairy North.  The O’Brien’s had four children, but lost three of them at a young age.  They had one son to survive them, John,

Francis McSORLEY – Died July 16, 1916 at Port Fairy.  Francis McSorley was born in Ireland around 1826 and arrived in Victoria in the early 1860s aboard the Mindora, along with his wife and two sons.  Francis was an expert on the Crimean War and the early history of Victoria.  He worked on the railways for many years before retiring to Rosebrook.  He left six sons and one daughter.  Another son Patrick, a jockey was killed in a race fall in Adelaide.

Thomas SHANLEY – Died July 12, 1917 at Killarney.  Thomas Shanley took up residence at Killarney in 1856.  He married Ellen Malone, a Passing Pioneer last month, in the same year.  Thomas was the road overseer for the Belfast shire for 22 years.

John WILLIAMS – Died July 26, 1917 at Port Fairy.  John Williams was born in Hobart in 1834 and arrived in Victoria as a 14-year-old in 1848.  He worked on stations doing stock work and around the time of the discovery of gold, he was droving stock to Ballarat and Bendigo.  He tried his luck while at each of these goldfields  with no success and returned to station life and marriage in 1855.  He later went to Port Fairy were he remained for 49 years.  During that time he worked at Guinn’s Brewery and at the harbour.  John and his wife raised 13 children.

Kate St George McCANN – Died July 27, 1929 at Coleraine.   Kate McCann was already well travelled by the time she reached Melbourne in 1866 aboard the “Great Britain“.  She was born on a ship just off shore of San Fransisco in 1849.  Her birth certificate would have stated she was born in Stepney, London as all children born at sea under the British flag were allocated to the Parish of Stepney.  Kate grew up playing on her mother’s ranch in the Rocky Mountains, California.  After her mother’s death she travelled to England with her sister, living with her aunt, Emma Crouch in London.  It was with Emma that Kate and her brother and sister sailed on the “Great Britain“.  They caught the steamer “Edina” to Portland.

In 1876, Kate married James Trangmar.  They moved from Portland to Coleraine and ran a family store.  The store was run by members of the Trangmar family until 1969.  Kate and James had eight children, six surviving at the time of Kate’s death.

Lottie McKEAND – Died July 11, 1942 at Casterton.  Lottie was the daughter of Mr and Mrs Andrew McKeand of Penola and she was born there in 1875.  She married James Carmichael of Argyle Station at Lake Mundi near Casterton and they moved to their own property Argyle after their marriage.  James passed away and Lottie moved to Melbourne with her three sons to enable them to finish their education.  She later married James Mitchell of Moredun Hills, Casterton, however he predeceased her.  Lottie was keen on dogs and horses and will still riding only a few years before her death.  At the time of her passing,  her three sons were serving with the A.I.F, with Thomas missing in Malaya.

Passing of the Pioneers

June Passing of the Pioneers features the obituaries of several former Councillors, Mayors and a Mayoress.  There are members of  well known pioneering families and a man who died with no other relatives in Australia.  There is also a Hamilton cricket champion who had the potential to play for Australia.

William RUTLEDGE – Died June 1, 1876 at Farnham.  William Rutledge, born in Ireland, arrived in Sydney in 1833 aged around 27.  After his marriage in 1839, he headed south to Queanbeyan, N.S.W. then Kilmore, Victoria in 1840.  A visit to Port Fairy in 1843 saw him buy the business of John Cox and he transformed it into William Rutledge & Co, importers.  He also selected a large amount of  land at Farnham near Koroit.  William also sat on the first Victorian Legislative Assembly in 1851.  The Christ Church Anglican church at  Warrnambool has a  memorial window dedicated to the memory of William.

DEATH OF MR. WILLIAM RUTLEDGE, OF FARNHAM. (1876, June 2). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 5. Retrieved June 25, 2013, from

DEATH OF MR. WILLIAM RUTLEDGE, OF FARNHAM. (1876, June 2). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), p. 5. Retrieved June 25, 2013, from

A biography of William Rutledge (below) by Martha Rutledge in the Australian Dictionary of Biography tells of Edward Henty having referred to William as “Terrible Billy”.

WILLIAM RUTLEGE.  Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria Image no. H5056/68

WILLIAM RUTLEGE. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria Image no. H5056/68

George OSBORNE – Died June 14,  1884 at Geelong.  George Osborne was born in Sydney around 1809, his father a member of the 45th Regiment of Foot.  George was a ship maker’s apprentice and worked on a whaling ship as ship’s carpenter.  George first arrived in Victoria  in 1840 at Portland.  He then went to Melbourne before returning to Portland where he remained with his family. While he had lived in Portland for 25 years, after his wife’s death, George moved amongst his family members until his death.  He was buried at the Port Fairy Cemetery.

Eliza PITTS – Died June 2, 1914 at Edenhope.  As an infant, Elizabeth Pitts travelled to Victoria with her parents aboard the “Severn” in 1846 and they settled at Wattle Hill, Portland.  In 1860, Elizabeth married Richard Guthridge.  They raised a family of six sons and six daughters.  Son Frederick has also been a Passing Pioneer.  In the early years of their marriage Richard and Eliza moved several times between Portland, Mt Gambier and Carapook before settling in the Edenhope district.  They were a well respected family, renown for their longevity.

Walter DISS – Died June 3, 1916 at Port Fairy.  Walter Diss died with no relatives in Australia.  He was born in London around 1851 and arrived in Victoria during the 1880s.  He ran bakery businesses in Port Fairy and for a time ran the Exchange Hotel at Sale, East Gippsland.  He returned to Port Fairy after the death of his wife, two years before his own passing.

Ellen MALONE – Died June 20, 1916 at Killarney.  Born in Queen’s County, Ireland around 1831, Ellen arrived at Portland in 1855 aboard the “Caringorm“.  In 1856, she married Thomas Shanley and they settled at Killarney and raised seven children.  At the time of her death, Ellen had 42 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Robert WOOD – Died June 27, 1917 at Warrnambool.  Robert Wood was born in Scotland in 1847 and arrived at Port Fairy, with his parents, aboard the “Athletae” in 1854.  He farmed around  Hopkins Point and Woodford before taking up a job as a storeman for R.H. Patterson of Warrnambool.  He had a strong association with the Warrnambool Fire Brigade, serving as a member for 42 years, 20 years of which he was the station keeper.

Agnetta VIGAR – Died June 24, 1917 at Ararat.  Agnetta Vigar was born on the island of Guernsey around 1831.  She arrived in Adelaide in 1852 and married William Aggett.  They moved to Ararat during the 1860s, settling on the Stawell Road.  She left one son, Thomas, serving in Europe at the time of her death.

John TWOMEY – Died June 30, 1918 at Lilydale.  John Twomey was born at ‘”Banmore” Penshurst, the son of John Twomey a pioneer squatter of the district.  John Jr entered in the stock and station business and lived at Warrnambool.  He was a member of several racing clubs and was a successful owner.  In the years before his death he moved to Melbourne then Lilydale where he passed.  He was buried at Warrnambool Cemetery.

John DOYLE – Died June 8, 1922 at Heywood.   John Doyle was born in Tipperary, Ireland around 1842.  He arrived in Port Fairy about 1856 with his twin brother and they set up a carrying business.  John then bought land in Casterton before purchasing the Hamilton Inn at Hamilton.  Tired of life as a publican, John bought land at Cape Bridgewater and Heywood and  farmed dairy cows.   He served as a Councillor with the Portland Shire. After the death of his first wife in 1877, he remarried.  He left five sons and two daughters.  A sixth son predeceased him.  John’s twin brother died five weeks before at Hamilton.

James GOLDIE - Died June 4, 1924 at Port Fairy.  James Goldie’s death was tragic  but it should not take away from the contribution he made to Port Fairy.  James was born around 1860, the son of John Goldie of Port Fairy.  He was the first butter factory manager in Victoria, running a factory at Rosebrook.  He later managed a large butter factory in N.S.W.

James’ father, John Goldie tended his farm using the latest scientific practices.  A photo of his farm is below.  Taken in 1895, it shows trial crops of sugar beets.  After John died, James took up part of the farm and became a respected breeder of Ayrshire cattle.

SUGAR BEET GROWING AT PORT FAIRY ON THE FARM OF JOHN GOLDIE c1895.  Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.  Image No. IAN01/10/95/20

SUGAR BEET GROWING AT PORT FAIRY ON THE FARM OF JOHN GOLDIE c1895. Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image No. IAN01/10/95/20

James served on the Council of the Borough of Port Fairy with two terms as Mayor.  He was also a member of the Agriculture Society committee and he was one of the men that established the Glaxo Milk Company at Port Fairy.

Mary FLETCHER – Died June 19, 1942 at Sandringham.  Mary Fletcher was born in Scotland around 1847 and arrived in Victoria as a child.  Her parent settled at Goroke and in 1865 she married William Affleck.  William passed away in 1867 and in 1869 she married James Wooton Shevill.  James was a Warrnambool Councillor from 1875-1878, holding the Mayoral role in 1877-1878.  In later life the Shevills moved to Melbourne.

Peter DUSTING – Died June 30, 1946 at Melbourne.  As Peter Dusting was the last surviving member of the family of  John and Sally Dusting of South Portland, this obituary is more a Dusting family obituary rather than Peter’s.  In fact I was able to find little about Peter from it.  He was born in Portland around 1866 and followed his father and brothers into the fishing business.  Later he moved to Melbourne and remained there until his death.

Emma Watsford TERRILL –  Died June, 1948 at Hamilton.  Emma Terrill was born at Cape Bridgewater around 1880, the youngest daughter of Mr & Mrs George Terrill, pioneers of the district.  Emma married William Jennings in 1905.  William was the grandson of Cook Abraham Jennings and Hannah Birchall, also Cape Bridgewater pioneers.   Emma was an expert on poultry and was often sought after for advice.   After living all her life at Cape Bridgewater, two years before her death she moved into Portland.  Emma passed away in the Hamilton Hospital.

George KENNEDY – Died June 1950 at Hamilton.  When I think of Hamilton cricket, I think of Kennedy Oval.  George Kennedy is the man who the oval was named for.   An obituary for  George Kennedy  in the Portland Guardian of June 29, 1950, suggests a decision by Melbourne born George to leave the city for Hamilton as a young man in 1905, may have cost him the opportunity to compete at interstate or even at international level.  He played for the Grange club in Hamilton and excelled at both batting and bowling, the later his specialty.  His talent was on display in 1912, when a touring English team played at Hamilton and George’s bowling figures where 3/35.  After the match, the ball and a bat signed by the English team was presented by one his scalps, Sir Jack Hobbs, the most prolific scorer in first class cricket history.  George was 71 at the time of his death.

Passing of the Pioneers

Welcome to a bumper May Passing of the Pioneers.  So many interesting pioneers passed in  the month of May,  I had to leave some for next year.  Those that remain had such great stories that it was necessary to share some extra bits and pieces found about them.  Some just passed through the Western District from time to time, others lived there only for a short period while others were residents for over 50 years, but they all left their mark in some way.    They include army captains, ship captains, a dentist and a naturalist.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Captain Alexander CAMPBELL:  Died May 25, 1890 at South Yarra.  Alexander Campbell was born in 1803 in Argyleshire, Scotland and followed his brothers to Tasmania in 1825.  After farming for a few years, Alexander left for Sydney in 1831.  The following year a position in charge of the whaling station at Portland was offered to him but he didn’t take up the role until 1836.  In the meantime he went whaling, sailing as far as Japan.  After Portland, he went on to Port Fairy where he stayed for about 15 years.  In that time he built at least two cottages, one occupied by his sisters.  In 1851, he became a harbour master and later moved to Gippsland where he returned to farming.  In his last years, Alexander and his wife moved to Caroline Street, South Yarra where  he died aged 87.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Janet was 88 at the time of her death and had kept relatively good health and was still tending her home.  However it was a once in a lifetime chance to see Halley’s Comet in 1910 that led to her demise.  She had been out early on cold mornings trying to catch a glimpse of the comet and developed a chill, too much for her weak heart.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

mccorm mccorm1 mccorm2

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

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

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

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

 John James VILLIERS:  Died May 1917 at Warrnambool.  London born John Villiers was a talented man.  He arrived in Victoria in 1858 aged around 17 and headed to the diggings.  In the early 1860s he went to Warrnambool and his obituary in the Argus May 12, 1917 said he ran a painting and decorating business in Libeig Street and imported crockery.  John’s  interest in painting went beyond house painting.  He enjoyed painting landscapes in oils and watercolours and once he presented a painting to the Warrnambool Art Gallery.

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

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

Sarah, from Norfolk, England and her first husband James Ward , arrived at Portland in 1852.  She was 23.  Sarah remained there until the late 1890s when she moved to Ararat.  Prior to that  Sarah and James had seven children. including second youngest Stephen in 1867.  James died in 1879 and Sarah married Francis Jerrett in 1883.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Captain Robert Ernest BAKER:  Died May 4 at Larpent,  What an interesting character Captain Baker was.  Not a ship’s captain, but a captain in the AIF during WW1 he served with the 8th Light Horse.  Reading his 88 page service record, I found that Baker was actually a Lieutenant when delisted and was a just temporary Captain at one time during his service.  “Captain” does have a better ring to it.

This wonderful photo from the Australian War Memorial has a real Western District flavour but sadly only one, Robert Baker, returned.  Captain Baker is seated on the left.  He was 41 at the time of enlistment.  The other men are, seated right:  Keith Allan Borthwick of Armadale.  Standing from left:  Major Thomas Harold Redford of Warrnambool, Lt Edward Ellis Henty of Hamilton, Lt Eliot Gratton Wilson of Warrnambool.

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

Image Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial P00265.001

Image Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial P00265.001

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Passing of the Pioneers

April Passing of the Pioneers includes members of some of Western Victoria’s well-known pioneering families including Bell, Learmonth, Trigger, Kittson and Coulson.  There is also the great character of Thomas Tattersall of Ararat, a train driving pioneer.

Edwin CUMMINGS:  Died April 2, 1892 at Portland.  Edwin Cummings, originally from Tasmania, had only been in Portland around 16 years but in that time he worked hard to improve his lot.  On his arrival in Portland he ran a successful saw-milling/cabinet making business.  Edwin then moved to farming pursuits.  Using modern farming methods, he was able to improve his holding.  Edwin also lost several adult children to consumption.

Thomas TATTERSALL:  Died April 24, 1894 at Ararat.  Lancashire born Thomas Tattersall died from fish poisoning on his birthday.  He was a pioneering engine driver and his death was recognised by the  Governor of Victoria who sent a telegram of condolence to the Ararat railway station.  Thomas drove the first train from Melbourne to Bendigo and was one of the first drivers to Portland.  He had also driven the train for many dignitaries including the Governor and the Premier of Victoria.

Thomas BROWN:  Died April 1903 at Hamilton.  Thomas Brown went to Hamilton with his parents, after their arrival in Victoria from Scotland in 1852.   Thomas was an elder of the Hamilton Presbyterian Church and a long time member of the Sons of Temperance and was also involved with other temperance movements.  Active in many charities, his obituary noted that the poor of Hamilton had lost a friend in Thomas Brown.

Alfred COWLAND:  Died April 27, 1908 at Casterton.  Alfred Cowland was born in Kent, England and arrived in Victoria around 1858 aged 22.  He travelled with his parents, and Alfred and his father began farming at Greenwalde.  Alfred married the widow of Fred Spencer, but they did not have any children.

Mrs W.H. OSMOND:  Died April 8, 1915 at Port Fairy.  Mrs Osmond’s husband Harry was a partner in Osmond Bros., hotel keepers and butchers.  Mrs Osmond was hostess at the Market Hotel, Port Fairy, and considered  a most popular landlady in the Western District and if the races where on, she was there.

Thomas Ferry PEARSON:  Died April 24, 1915 at Port Fairy.  Thomas Pearson was born at Newcastle-on-Tyne, England and arrived in Portland in 1852.  He married Jane Strachan there before moving to Port Fairy in 1855.  He went to work on the pilot boats under Captain Mills and then for 13 years was keeper of the Griffiths Island lighthouse.

Francis Stubbs COULSON:  Died April 10, 1916 at Hamilton.  Francis Coulson was the husband of my gg aunt Harriet Martha Diwell.  He was the son of Christopher Coulson and Mary Frances Stubbs and was born in Yorkshire, England in 1842.  He married Harriet in 1873 and they had 13 children.  Francis ran a carrying business between Portland and the inland towns.  He also farmed at “Rosebank” Dwyers Creek and hard work saw him turn it into a “nice property”.

Mrs DIGBY:  Died April 23, 1918 at Port Fairy.  Mrs Digby was born in Somersetshire, England and arrived in Victoria in 1852.  Soon after she married Joseph Digby.  They had a large family of nine sons and daughters.  She was 88 at the time of her death.

Kate CUE:  Died April 23, 1917 at Port Fairy.  Kate Cue was from the Casterton district.  Her brother  Tom Cue, a miner, had the town Cue, Western Australia named after him.  She married William Sutherland McPherson of “Nangeela” station, Casterton.  They took up residence in Port Fairy and had seven children.

James MAHONEY:  Died April 27, 1918 at Port Fairy.  James Mahoney of Killarny was a member of one of the oldest families in the district.  He was the son of Mrs Quirk and had three brothers and a sister living at the time of his death aged 69.  James had travelled extensively throughout Australia and never married.

James BELL:  Died April 1923 at Mt. Eckersley.   James Bell was a member of the well known Bell family of Mt Eckersley near Heywood.  James, his parents and siblings arrived in Victoria in 1841 and they settled at Mt Eckersley.  James was the last surviving member of the original family known for their longevity.  James was 97 at the time of his death and his father John Bell lived to 101.

Jonathan HARMAN:  Died April 1930 at Heywood.  Jonathan Harman, my ggg uncle was also from a family known for longevity. He died at the home of his daughter, Amelia, wife of the nephew of James Bell (above).  Jonathan was 92 years old and a colonist of 76 years.

Kate Isabella HILL:  Died April 1934 at Wodonga.  Kate Hill was the daughter of John and Isabella Hill of West Portland.  She was better known as “Kitty Hill” and her and sister Lizzie were household names in their early days.  John Hill was a local school teacher.  Kitty married William Smith of Wodonga and was 75 years old when she died.

Alexander MOTT:  Died April 12, 1934 at Casterton.  Alexander was born in Millicent, South Australia and went to the Casterton district in the early 1900s.  He farmed at Carapook and Bahgallah before settling in the Casterton township.  His wife predeceased him and he left seven sons and daughters.

Mary Simpson LEARMONTH:  Died April 2, 1939 at Hamilton.  Mary Learmonth was from one well-known Hamilton family and married into another when she wed David Laidlaw.  Mary was the daughter of Peter Learmonth of “Prestonholme” Hamilton.   David’s father was David Laidlaw, a saddler who arrived in Hamilton with no money and become one of the town’s most prominent citizens.

Mary was quite the sportswoman and was 17 times female champion of the Hamilton Golf Club.  This was according to her obituary in the Portland Guardian however her obituary in The Argus of April 4, 1939 states she was club champion 39 times.   She was also a talented tennis and croquet player.  Other than sport, Mary was president of the Australian  Women’s National League prior to her death and was a member of the Hamilton Horticulture Society.

Mary died at her home “Eildon” on the corner of Thompson and French Street Hamilton.  Everyone who has lived in Hamilton will know the Laidlaw’s former home, just on the edge of the CBD and overlooking the Hamilton Botanic Gardens.  The house, designed by Ussher and Kemp, was sold after Mary’s death to the Napier Club, a club formed by the female counterparts of the Hamilton Club.  The club, formed around 1931, still occupies “Eildon” today.

"Eildon", Hamilton

“Eildon”, Hamilton

Alice M. WYATT:  Died April 23, 1940 at Hamilton.  Alice Wyatt, the daughter of Mr and Mrs T.L. Wyatt, spent her childhood in Portland before moving to Hamilton around 1878 when she was 20.  She did spend some time in Melbourne working for Sir Edward Miller and his wife Lady Mary Miller.  Sir Edward was a politician who made his money in finance and pastoral pursuits.  Alice spent the last 25 years of her life in Hamilton.

Irwin BELL:  Died April 1940 at Hamilton.  Irwin Bell of Dartmoor was a son of James Bell (above).  Irwin was born in Portland around 1874 and lived at Mt Eckersley until the Bell family property was sold.  He married Ann Letts of Heywood and together they led a life dedicated to the Church of England.  They established the first Sunday School at Dartmoor and prepared parishioners for their first communion.  Irwin also worked for the Department of Forestry and in later years was a Justice of the Peace.  He died at KiaOra Hospital in Hamilton and was buried at Heywood cemetery.

James TRIGGER:  Died April 25, 1945 at Macarthur. James Trigger was the son of Samuel and Eliza Trigger of Warrabkook near Macarthur.  Born in 1859, James selected land at Mt Eccles at a young age and he farmed there for the duration of his life.

OBITUARY. (1945, May 24). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 3 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved April 27, 2013, from

OBITUARY. (1945, May 24). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 3 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved April 27, 2013, from

James was interested in horse racing and was an owner of a number of horses.  He left a widow and a son and daughter.

Mr R.S. KITTSON:  Died April 8, 1948 at Lower Cape Bridgewater.  Stephen Kittson was the son of James Kittson and Catherine Trotter and the last surviving member of the first family of Kittsons to arrive at Cape Bridgewater.  A deeply religious man, he was involved in many church activities.  Having had two sons serve in WW1, Stephen showed an interest in returned servicemen and with his passing “ex-servicemen have lost a loyal friend”

Mary Ann ALLSOP:  Died April 10, 1953 at Port Campbell.  Mary Ann was the daughter of Mr and Mrs Samuel Allsop, pioneers of the Port Campbell district.  She married Thomas Wiggens at Purrumbete.  After the death of Thomas, Mary Ann moved to Camperdown.  She left one son and three daughters and was buried at the Camperdown cemetery.

Passing of the Pioneers

March Passing of the Pioneers  once again gathers together a diverse group of Western District pioneers.  They include a winemaker and a lighthouse keeper.  There are links to some well-known Western District properties and families, and a Portland resident that grew up with an English author.

Eliza Mary KEARTON:  Died March, 1891 at Creswick.  Eliza Kearton was a long-time resident of Portland.  She had gone to Creswick for an operation, but  died of complications.  She was born in London in 1820 and married William Tulloh in 1844 in Tasmania.  William’s obituary appeared in Passing of the Pioneers in July 2011 and includes a lot of detail about their lives in Portland.

James ROBERTSON:  Died March, 1892 at Portland.  James Robertson was born in Alvie, Scotland.  Once in Portland, he set up the Iron Store business with his older brothers John and William Robertson.

Anne WILCOX:  Died March 12, 1894 at Portland.  Anne and her husband Thomas Must were well-known residents of Portland.  Anne was from Sydney and married Thomas a Sydney mechant in 1842  before they travelled to Portland to set up a branch of Thomas’ business, Must and Flower.  A few years after his arrival in Portland,  he had an architect design a home resulting in “Prospect“, built in 1855. The couple lived there for the rest of their lives.  In 1908 at St Stephens Church, unveliled a stained glass window in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Must.




Ann PAXFORD:  Died March 1900 at Portland.  Ann Paxford was the daughter of Jonathan Paxford and Ann Bray and was born around 1818.  She married Edward Francis Hughes and they arrived in Victoria in 1853 and Portland in 1854.

Ann had an interesting life while a child in England.  She spent time with a young Marion Evans better known as George Elliott, writer.  Looking further into the story, which appears correct, proved intriguing.  Ann, through her mother, Ann Bray was related to Charles Bray a ribbon manufacturer and a leader of the “intellectual elite”.(Oxford Dictornary of National Biography)  He described his house, Rosehill, as “a mecca for radicals and intellectuals” (The Continuum Encyclopedia of British Philosophy in Oxford Reference).  Marion Evans lived at Rosehill and that is where Ann would have come to know her.

Janet McCRACKEN:  Died March 1911 at Stawell.  Born in Scotland around 1840, Janet McCracken arrived in Melbourne with her parents in the early 1850s.  After a few years they moved to Stawell and Janet married James Mathers.   The couple lived in Stawell for the rest of their lives and had four sons and three daughters.

Daniel TYERS:  Died March 15, 1915 at Byaduk.  After arriving in Victoria around 1856, Daniel Tyers lived at Port Fairy.  He later moved to Byaduk where he remained until his death at the age of 95.  He was buried at the Byaduk Cemetery along with his brother Samuel and sister Jane.

John MOONEY:  Died March 29, 1915 at Mooney’s Gap.  In 1854, John Mooney from Ireland, travelled to Australia aboard the “Great Britain“.  His brother Lawrence had arrived the year before, so John joined him on the Ararat diggings.  In 1858,  the brothers planted grape vines at Mooney’s Gap near Ararat and started the “Emerald Vineyard“.  In the same year, just down the road, Jean-Pierre Trouette, his wife Ann-Marie and brother-in-law Emile Blampied, were the first to plant vines at Great Western.  While Troutte’s winery “St. Peters” no longer exists, other wineries from the early days, Best’s and Seppelts are still in production there.

OBITUARY. (1915, March 30). The Ararat advertiser (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 2 Edition: triweekly. Retrieved March 26, 2013, from

OBITUARY. (1915, March 30). The Ararat advertiser (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 2 Edition: triweekly. Retrieved March 26, 2013, from

In 1925, Lawrence Mooney uprooted the vines at “Emerald Vineyard” and used the land for other purposes.

Elizabeth Robertson MURDOCH:  Died March 7, 1916 at Port Fairy.  I did a little extra research at on Mrs Whiting because I wanted to find her name, in preference  to listing  her as Mrs Albert Edwin Whiting.  Elizabeth grew up around the Geelong area and married Albert Whiting in 1878.  Albert was a son of Edwin Whiting and Hannah Manifold.   Hannah’s brothers were Thomas, Peter and William Manifold, original owners of the “Purrumbete run.

At the time of marriage, John was station manager for the Chirnsides property “Boortkoi” .  Their wedding was at  “Woolongoon” ,Mortlake then owned by Anthony McKenzie.  Elizabeth and Albert moved to Port Fairy and lived at Boodcarra before moving to “Loongana” for several years before Elizabeth’s passing.

Family Notices. (1878, May 6). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), p. 1. Retrieved March 28, 2013, from

Family Notices. (1878, May 6). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 1. Retrieved March 28, 2013, from

William HILL:  Died March 14, 1916 at Warrnambool.  Born in Ireland, William Hill spent the first 20 years of his time in Victoria working for Henry de Little, owner of Caramut station.  He then began farming himself, first at Woodford and later at Framlingham where he had dairy cows for 17 years.  In the early 1860s, William married Mary Hassett of Caramut.

Mary FITZGERALD:  Died March 17, 1916 at Tower Hill.  Mary Fitzgerald lived in the Tower Hill district since she was 10 years old, around 1849.  She married John Fitzgibbon and she left two sons and eight daughters at the time of her death.  Her funeral was attended by a large crowd of mourners.

Mr J.J.T. COOPER:  Died March, 1918 at Port Fairy.  Mr Cooper was born in Somerset, England and arrived in Victoria with his parents as a baby.  He became an assistant life boat pilot in 1883 and became the Superintendent of Life boats at Queenscliff in 1892.  Around 1905 he moved on to lighthouse keeping, working at Queencliff, Port Fairy, Cape Nelson and Warrnambool.





Mrs Letitia EMERY:  Died March 13, 1918 at Port Fairy.  Letitia Emery was born in London in 1848 and arrived in Port Fairy four years later.  She lived with her aunt, Mrs Gillespie at the Union Inn at Port Fairy.  Letitia’s husband died eight years before her and she left no children.  She had two cousins surviving and two nieces.

Margaret WHITE:  Died March 4, 1925 at South Portland.  Margaret White spent most of her life living in the Narrawong and Portland districts, an estimated 82 years.  She married James Grant in 1870.  She left two sons and three daughters.  Margaret’s obituary mentions the hardships faced by the early settlers.

Old Resident Passes. (1925, March 5). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING.. Retrieved March 26, 2013, from

Old Resident Passes. (1925, March 5). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING.. Retrieved March 26, 2013, from


Florence EDSALL:  Died March 22, 1944 at Geelong.  Florence Edsall was born at Warrenheip near Ballarat around 1858.  She married W.J. Silvester and they lived in Cobden during their working lives, before retiring to Geelong.  Florence’s husband was a Councillor with the Heytesbury Shire and was the first child of European descent born at Cobden,

Passing of the Pioneers

February Passing of the Pioneers has obituaries from some of the Western District’s early colonists.  They include Fanny Fisher and John Kelly, both born in Tasmania. They each lived in Victoria for 79 years by the time of their deaths.

Alexander LEARMONTH:  Died February 8, 1874 at Hamilton.  The Learmonths were one of Hamilton’s most noted families.  Alexander was the eldest of four brothers to immigrate to Australia and in time their paths led to  Hamilton.  Alexander arrived in 1857 and immediately took an interest in the town’s affairs.  He  founded the Hamilton municipality and was the first Mayor of the Borough, holding the office for six years.  The contribution Alex Learmonth made to Hamilton in those early days was immense.

OBITUARY. (1874, February 24). Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 - 1876), p. 6 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved February 20, 2013, from

OBITUARY. (1874, February 24). Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 – 1876), p. 6 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved February 20, 2013, from

Alexander was a trustee of the Hamilton Mechanics Institute.  After his death, funds raised built an extra room named the Learmonth Memorial Hall.  He also served as a territorial Magistrate, Coroner, Government Auditor and many other offices, too many to list, but all are in his full obituary.




John KELLY:  Died February 7, 1914 at St Helens.  John Kelly, born in Tasmania, was one of the oldest residents in the Port Fairy and Yambuk district when he died in 1914.  He had been in Victoria for 79 years, having arrived aged three.  He first resided at Casterton, then near Port Fairy and later he ran a general store at Yambuk.  His wife passed away 41 years before him and he left seven children.

John Wishart GIBSON:  Died February 10, 1914 at Colac.  John Gibson was a Geelong importer before purchasing a large amount of land in and around Colac.  He was a keen golfer and enjoyed playing the Port Fairy Golf Links on his summer holidays.  John’s wife Grace signed the 1891  Women’s Suffrage Petition at Highton.  They had five children.

Fanny Mercer FISHER:  Died February 25, 1914 at Dobie.  Fanny Richardson was the oldest resident in the Ararat district at the time of her death, aged 81.  She had been in Victoria for 79 years and that was also thought to qualify her as the oldest lady colonist in the state.  Apparently she shared the title with a Mrs Pearman and Mrs Creswick until they both passed away.  Fanny, born in Tasmania, was the daughter of David Fisher.  He took up the position of manager for the Derwent Company bringing him, and later his family, to Geelong in 1837.  A letter from David appears in Letters from Victorian Pioneers.  In 1850, Fanny married James Richardson.

Mr John Henry JACKSON:  Died February 2, 1915 at Casterton.  John Jackson was born in Longford, Tasmania in 1829.  At 14 years, he travelled to Victoria to work for his uncles Samuel and William Jackson near Sunbury,  When his uncles purchased “Sandford Estate” from John Henty in 1847, John rode from Sunbury to Sandford by himself aged 18.  He remained there for the rest of his life.  John married Marianne Bowtell in 1855 and they had two sons and three daughters.  John was one of the earliest J.P.s in the area and was a Honourary Magistrate.

John HOWELL:  Died February 17, 1915 at Orford.  John Howell was born in the Port Fairy district around 1843 to Irish parents.  He selected land at Orford in 1867 and remained there until his death.  He never married, and thanks to his thrift was a donor to many worthy causes.  He left three brothers and five sisters.

Reverend Mother Josephine:  Died February, 1915 at Ireland.  The Reverend Mother Josephine was one of the founding members of the Brigidine Convent in Ararat, arriving around 1888 from Ireland. With  guidance from the much admired Mother Josephine, the convent school, was highly regarded.  Marian College still operates today. Sadly, after a trip home to Ireland, Mother Josephine passed away on the ship during the return voyage.

Jane O’MAY:  Died February 17, 1916 at Buckley Swamp.  Referring to my Family Tree Maker program, I found Jane O’May defined as the “Paternal grandmother of husband of 1st cousin 4 x removed” of me.  Jane was the wife of William Kirkwood.  Their grandson William married my 1st cousin 4 x removed, Sarah Ann Reed in 1903.  Sarah was a niece of James Harman and Susan Reed.

First Issue, August 20 1842. (1916, February 23). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved February 22, 2013, from

First Issue, August 20 1842. (1916, February 23). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved February 22, 2013, from


Hugh CAMERON:  Died February 1934 at Drumborg.  Born in Portland around 1855, Hugh Cameron moved around the Western District for several years,  finally settling at Drumborg.  He lived at Condah, Willaura, Telangatuk and Branxholme.  He married Mary Cameron of Toorak and they had five boys and two girls.

Mrs Ellen HICKEY:  Died February 4, 1937 at Portland.  Ellen Hickey lived in Portland for most of her 76 years, but moved to Moonee Ponds for the last 13 years of her life.  During her time in Portland, where her husband Thomas Hickey ran a livery stable, Ellen attended All Saints Church.  After the move to Melbourne, Ellen enjoyed returning to Portland for her annual holiday.  She left Thomas, five sons and two daughters.  A son John, a veteran of the Boer War, predeceased her.

Samuel ARTIS:  Died February 1938 at Port Fairy.  Samuel Artis was born around 1858 and worked for the Belfast and Koroit Steam Navigation Company  for many years and was at one time, foreman of the wharf.  Samuel was also an expert on the history of Port Fairy.

Mr Frederick H. BEST:  Died February 29, 1940 at Winslow.  Frederick was born in England in 1849 and arrived in Portland with his parents, in 1852.  He began work as a tanner at 15 and work around Australia and New Zealand for the following 10 years.  He married Louise Cardinal at Woolsthorpe in 1875 and set up a tannery business at Winslow.  It became the biggest tannery outside the larger cities.

William McKENZIE:  Died February 2, 1949 at Newfields.  Born at Carranballac Station in 1868, William McKenzie was the youngest of 13 children.  He worked as a shearer through the Western District and N.S.W. before taking up dairy farming around the turn of the century.  William married Augusta Schmidt in 1896.


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