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

Established August 1842. The Portland Guardian,. (1899, July 7). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876-1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved July 19, 2011, from 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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