Tag Archives: Branxholme

To Catch A Thief

Well, well, well, what an exciting surprise. While searching the newly released digitised copies of the Mt Gambier paper, the “Border Watch“, I discovered that in 1877, ggg grandfather James Bishop was nabbed for horse theft and remanded pending trial.

I suppose the find was more exciting than surprising.   Why wasn’t I surprised?  Well, Jim was a drover and the article revealed he was also a dealer.  Many horses would have passed through his hands, probably unbranded. Being a drover/stockman I would doubt bookkeeping was a strong suit and after reading many Pound Notices in the newspapers of the time, a lot of horses were wandering the countryside.  Mix ups could easily happen.

SUMMARY OF NEWS. (1877, October 27). Border Watch (Mount Gambier, SA : 1861 - 1954), p. 3. Retrieved February 28, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article77048847

I was, however, very excited with this new discovery. Enough to tweet about it!  To find some “dirt” is always exciting.  Why is it that we always get the most satisfaction from finding a record of an ancestor’s misfortune?  Criminal records, wills and obituaries are favourites of mine, but don’t forget inquests and asylum records.  Obviously some of the excitement is just because we have found something, anything, but it also makes the family member more interesting.  These finds give them character.  An extra dimension.

On the point of character, I would have assumed Jim’s was nothing but respectable.  A Harman/Bishop marriage (that of my gg grandparents) took place in the same year as the arrest with another in the years following. With the Harmans being self-respecting church people, I am sure neither would have occurred if there was any doubts about Jim.

I had to find the outcome of the matter.  I had thought of going to the Ballarat Archives Centre (PROV) where the Branxholme court registers are held (Series VPRS 4892 Court of Petty Sessions Registers).  This however was not going to shed much more light on the trial itself.  Surely there was more than one newspaper report.  Country newspapers reported on even the smallest of stories, and the fact James was remanded made it newsworthy.  Now that I had the date of the court case, I could narrow a Trove search down.  Believe me, this is a great help when searching a name like Bishop where a match to the Bishop of Ballarat is more likely than any members of the my Bishop family.

I narrowed down a search of “Bishop Branxholme” to 1877 and bingo, the top two matches were about James.  One, I had already found, but the other from the “Portland Guardian“, reported on Jim’s trial in November 1877 after his first court appearance.  While I had searched the same paper for the Bishops, I had not found this article.  The value of dates!  Oh and some knowledge too.  If I had of found the article earlier I may have picked up it was one of my Bishops but I would have been unsure which one.

The barter system was alive and well in the Western District in the 1870s with James trading a horse and £5 for a buggy.  The question was where did the horse come from and was it one of Mr Officer’s of Harton Hills Station

Upon questioning on this matter, Jim replied he did not know how he came to have the horse. Not a good start.

Evidence then moved to that of Constable Foster who arrested Jim in a plain clothes operation.  Who would have thought?  Jim didn’t .  When asked by the plain clothed Constable at Lower Byaduk, prior to his arrest, if he had sold mares at Branxholme lately, Jim said “…no, he had none to sell”  but added that Mr Madison had sold two colts for him at Branxholme.  As two of the four missing horses were colts, Foster arrested Jim and sent him to the lockup.

While incarcerated, Jim had plenty of time to think over his recent conversations and must have realised he said the wrong thing to Foster and raised it with him.  Jim told Foster he had thought he was “…one of Chalico’s men come to look after some of my horses, and this is why I told you I sold no mares at Branxholme.”

Then it became clear Jim was not a good bookkeeper, with him stating at the time of sale he did not get a receipt from Ted Lee the postman from whom he had bought the horse.  Then Ted was hurt, so Jim went to Belfast (Port Fairy) to get a receipt from Ted, but he was too sick.  Oh dear, things were not looking good.

At last, a savior.  Witness Samuel Taylor took the stand.  He had seen Jim and Ted Lee together with four horses.  Ted told Samuel he had sold the horses to Jim.  The horses were then agisted at Taylor’s property for the next fortnight.  Phew.  Case dismissed and Jim was off the hook.

BRANXHOLME. (1877, November 5). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENINGS.. Retrieved March 2, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article63339852

So Jim didn’t go to jail, but if it wasn’t for Samuel Taylor’s evidence, he may have. I hope he had Ted Lee lined up as a witness.

Now the excitement has subsided and I can continue to consider Jim Bishop an honest man.  But deep down inside, a small part of me is crying…I could have searched prisoner records!  Sorry Jim!


Histories of South-West Towns

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

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

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

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

To listen to the interviews follow the link:

http://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2011/06/03/3234418.htm?site=southwestvic


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 with the information coming from the knowledge of those still living and I have noticed errors in obituaries of my family.  But they can offer  leads to look in places you may never of thought of  such as Masonic lodge records and local council records. What ever 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 south-west 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  July 6, 1889, 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 July 19, 1889, Portland.  This is a lengthy obituary of a Portland resident of nearly 50 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 July 18, 1892, Portland.  James was known as “Old Barney” around Portland and while the Guardian credit 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.

Alex THOMSON:  Died July 1897, Hamilton.  Scottish born Alex THOMSON was prominent around the Hamilton area as a Shire of Dundas Councillor for 21 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.

Mr Thomas Webb SMITH:  Died July 29, 1914, 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 July 2, 1921, Hamilton.  Annie was from the most famous south-west 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.

Ann Eliza KEEPING:  Died July 9, 1921, Portland.  Annie Eliza KEEPING arrived in Australia aboard the “Eliza” and married John FINNIGAN in 1857.  She was 82 at the time of her death.

Joseph Bell PEARSON:  Died July 7, 1922, 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.

Mrs Sarah BEAUGLEHOLE:  Died July 7, 1923, Gorae West. Sarah was the wife of the late Richard BEAUGHLEHOLE and she died at 73.  Richard selected land at Gorae West and transformed swampland into flourishing orchards.  Sarah and Richard had 12 children.

Mary HEDDITCH: Died July 1, 1930, 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.

Mrs Phillipa DELLAR:  July, 1931, Portland.  Mrs DELLAR, 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.


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