Tag Archives: Best

Passing of the Pioneers

Most of the pioneer obituaries found in the newspapers are for men which is unfortunate because we are always searching for more information about our female ancestors.  For the month of October the obituaries for pioneering women outnumber the men.  And great pioneers they were, making great contributions within their communities and all living to a very old age.  But none lived longer than Margaret Walker (nee Brown) of Hamilton.  Passing away in 1939, Margaret reached the age of 104 and remained healthy  almost to the end

Mark Nicholson – Died October 27, 1889 at Warrnambool.  Mark Nicholson was born in Gloucestershire in 1818 and arrived at Port Phillip in 1840.  Rather than practice his profession of law, Mark chose to run cattle at various stations across the colony.  In 1848,  Governor LaTrobe selected him to act as a Justice of the Peace at Warrnambool and in 1853 he was elected as the Warrnambool and Belfast (Port Fairy) representative in the Victorian Legislative Council.  In the following years, Mark spent time in England but returned to Warrnambool to settle in 1873.  A full biography of Mark Nicholson is available at the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

John BEST – Died October 9, 1907 at Portland.  John Best was born in Ireland in 1835 and arrived at Portland in 1857 aboard the General Hewitt.   He travelled with his parents William and Letitia Best and his six siblings.  The family settled at Heywood and John took up work as a carrier.  Later he built bridges and roads for the local Shire. He purchased a farm at nearby Mt. Clay and he remained there until his death.  He left a widow and seven children.

William SCOTT – Died October 7, 1909 at Wallan.  William Scott arrived in Victoria for the gold rushes and settled in Camperdown around 1860.  He took an active role in local politics, serving on the Hampden Shire Council.  He was also secretary of the Camperdown P&A Society.  There was barely an organisation around Camperdown that did not have William Scott on the committee.  His obituary read,

In him has passed one of the rugged pioneers who came magnificently equipped physically, and with the indomitable energy and capacity for sustained effort responsible for the remarkable development that has marked the brief history of this country.

Williams remains were returned from Wallan by train and he was buried at the Camperdown Cemetery.

Euphemia McLEOD - Died  October 3, 1914 at Purnim.  Euphemia McLeod was born in Scotland around 1826 and travelled to Australia on the Edward Johnston around 1854.  She eventually settled at Purnim with her husband George Crowe and she lived there for 50 years.  Euphemia left three daughters and a son.

Ann Rebecca EAGAR - Died October 12, 1917 at Hamilton.  Ann Eager was born in Devon, England around 1832 and sailed to Adelaide in the mid 1850s.  It was there she married George Rowe and they made their way to Victoria, settling at Wickliffe.  They remained there for around 30 years before taking up residence at Hamilton.

Only six months before her death, Ann and George had celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary.  An article appeared in the Ballarat Star of April 14, 1917 reporting on the couple’s anniversary.  It  told of George’s work as a builder.  He worked on several notable buildings in the district including the Coleraine Catholic Church and the Argyle Arms Hotel in Hamilton.  During the war years, Ann supported the cause, knitting socks for soldiers and by the time of her  wedding anniversary, she had knitted 120 pairs of  socks. Ann and George had three sons and two daughters, 28 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.

Margaret BROWN - Died October 1939 at Hamilton.  Margaret Brown was a great Hamilton pioneer living until the grand age of 104.  In her last years, her life was documented as she reached milestone birthdays  Margaret was born in Launceston in August 1835 with her parents having come from Scotland in 1830.  The family sailed to Victoria around 1840 aboard the City of Sydney and in 1852 Margaret married Thomas Walker at Portland.     In the mid 1860s they settled at Hamilton where they remained.  They had eight children but two died as infants.

When Margaret was 98, she was given a walking stick but she had not used it by the time of her 99th birthday in 1934.  That was also the year of the Portland Centenary and Margaret attended the town’s celebrations. During that year she had also produced 17 pieces of eyelet linen work.  In 1935, Margaret’s 100th birthday celebration was held at the Hollywood Cafe in Hamilton with the Mayor of Hamilton, Cr. Stewart, in attendance.  She also planted a commemorative tree for Victoria’s centenary celebrations.  For her 101st birthday, 25 friends and family gathered at Margaret’s home at 5 Shakespeare Street.  The highlight was a birthday cake with 101 candles.  The next three birthdays were celebrated quietly at home but Margaret continued in good health.  That was until only weeks after her 104th birthday when Margaret became more fragile, eventually passing away in October.  During her life, Margaret saw the reign of six British monarchs.

Margaret’s birthday articles 90th Birthday    99th Birthday  100th Birthday   101st Birthday   104th Birthday

Elizabeth SILVESTER – Died October 7, 1940 at Noorat.  Elizabeth Silvester was born in England around 1852 and arrived in Cobden with her parents as a two-year-old.  She ran a business in Cobden for 50 years and attended the Cobden Methodist Church.  Married to William Gilham, Elizabeth left two sons at the time of her death, one of who she had lived with at Noorat for the last year of her life.  She was buried in the Cobden Cemetery.

Robert Thomas SILVESTER – Died October 7, 1943 at Portland.  Robert Silvester was born in Merino in 1862 but as a young man he moved to Portland and trained as a solicitor.  He worked in the partnership Lynne, Silvester and Fielding before going in to practice alone.  From 1910-1920 Robert was president of the Portland Racing Club and was also president and captain of the Portland Golf Club.  Robert was also a member of the Portland Bowling Club and the following link is for a obituary from the club –   http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64386872

Catherine McLURE – Died October 29, 1952 at Camperdown.  Catherine McLure was born at Mepunga in 1866, the daughter of James and Eliza McLure, early pioneers of the Warrnambool district.  In 1885, Catherine married  Benjamin Jeffers at Warrnambool and they moved to Strathbogie.  They later returned to the Western District and lived at Timboon, Kellambete and finally Chocolyn were they resided for 40 years.  Catherine enjoyed making toys with her five grandchildren and 10 great-children and telling stories of days past.

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 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/17942

WILLIAM CORNEY (1872). Photographer Thomas Foster Chuck. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image no. H5056/211 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/17942

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 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119505339

THE PASSING OF THE PIONEERS. (1918, August 15). Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 4. Retrieved August 30, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119505339

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 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article73052506

Obituary. (1919, September 9). The Horsham Times (Vic. : 1882 – 1954), p. 5. Retrieved August 28, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article73052506

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

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 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64743791

OBITUARY. (1874, February 24). Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 – 1876), p. 6 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved February 20, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64743791

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 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64013668

First Issue, August 20 1842. (1916, February 23). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved February 22, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64013668


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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