Passing of the Pioneers

Despite little time to devote to Western District Families as regularly as I would like, there is always time to remember the great pioneers of the Western District with the monthly Passing of the Pioneers.  There are just a small band of pioneers for May, but they each have wonderful stories.  Be sure to click on any of the links for more information, especially the link to the wonderful recipe and remedy collection of Mrs Eliza Duckmanton.

James HANKS – Died May 21, 1909 at Horsham.  While James Hanks was not an old pioneer, he was from a large pioneering family.  He was also my great grandmother’s brother-in-law.  James was born at Branxholme in 1871, the son of Thomas Hanks and Sarah Ashton.   He married Ellen May Harman of Byaduk in 1901.  James had worked in Horsham previous to his marriage and took Ellen to live there.  He worked for Messrs Broadbent Bros., carriers of Horsham and by the time of his death, he was the head carter.  James and Ellen had three children by 1909 and while Ellen was pregnant with a fourth, James fell ill with typhoid fever and died before their fourth child was born.  Poor Ellen was exhausted when her husband’s died, caring for him, the three children, one of those also ill, and coping with pregnancy.

Michael COTTER – Died May 10, 1913 at Dunrobin.  Michael Cotter arrived in Tasmania around 1844 and after 10 years, travelled to Victoria spending time at the Bendigo and Ballarat diggings.  During the 1860s, he started farming at Branxholme and remained there until later in life when he farmed at Carapook.   For a detailed history of Michael including his wife Catherine McIntosh and children, follow this link to the SW Pioneers site

Wilhelm PETSCHEL – Died May 1914 at Hamilton.  Wilhelm Petschel born in Saxonby, Germany was one of Hamilton’s earliest pioneers.  Arriving in Adelaide in 1848, he made his way to Portland before taking up a job as a groom at Heywood.  He heard of the land sales at The Grange (Hamilton) and upon inspection of the land available was so impressed he purchased a block, declaring that day the happiest of his life.  William married in 1856 and two children were born from the union.  He was a founding member of the South Hamilton Lutheran Church (today at the Hamilton Pastoral Museum)

SOUTH HAMILTON LUTHERAN CHURCH.  Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.  Image no. H97.250/65

SOUTH HAMILTON LUTHERAN CHURCH. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image no. H97.250/65


Rev. Samuel FRASER – Died May 1914 at Terang.  Born in Scotland around 1844, Samuel Fraser arrived in Terang  around 1871 sick from consumption, but still able to take up his duties as Minister in the Parish of Mortlake,  based at the Terang Presbyterian Church. His health improved and he remained in the role until his death 43 years later.  Samuel was also the Honorary Treasurer of the Presbytery and clerk of the Presbytery.  Among Presbyterians, his was considered a “model presbytery”.  He married Miss Hamilton, the daughter of the Reverend William Hamilton of Mortlake and they had two daughters and four sons.  Several obituaries were published and they appear on the following links. 


TERANG PRESBYTERAIN CHURCH.  Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.  Image no. H32492/3044

TERANG PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image no. H32492/3044



John DUCKMANTON – Died May 1915 at Dunkeld.  John Duckmanton was born in Nottinghamshire, England around 1833 and arrived on the Yorkshire to Victoria about 1860, settling at  Dunkeld.   John was a carpenter and wheelwright and built the first state school at Dunkeld, among other buildings.  He belonged to the St Marys Church of England, sitting on the committee when the foundation stone of the church was laid and was an active member of the Loyal Duke of Edinburgh M.U.I.O.O.F.   He and his wife had a family of 12 and he left 33 grandchildren. I found an absolute treasure on the Museum Victoria website which is worth a look.  John’s wife Eliza Womersley was a bush nurse and in 1870 recorded her recipes and remedies in a book, using handwritten notes and cuttings from other publications.  The original book can been seen on the M.V. website on the following link – Eliza’s book.

Patrick BALKIN – Died May 17, 1916 at Hamilton.  Born in Kilkenny, Ireland around 1831, Patrick Balkin arrived in Newcastle, N.S.W. aboard the Red Jacket.  After two years he arrived at Port Fairy and then on to the Grange (Hamilton) with his wife Hannah Quinlan.  On arrival at the Grange, the town was only young, with just one hotel.  They settled at their property “Knockaney” where they stayed for the rest of their lives.  Patrick was a member of the Dundas Shire for 22 years and had a wish to advance his chosen place of settlement.  Hannah predeceased Patrick and he left a family of two daughters and three sons.

Jane MASON – Died May 14, 1918 at Strathkellar,  Jane Mason was born in Norfolk, England and arrived in Portland in 1852 aboard the Marmion with her parents.  The Masons settled first at Balmoral before moving close to Hamilton.  In 1865, Jane married Robert Fraser of Glencoe, Hamilton.  Around the beginning of the 20th century, they purchased Seesford at Muddy Creek. They retained the property until only months before Jane’s death when she moved to live with her daughter at Strathkellar.

OBITUARY. (1918, May 18). Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 4. Retrieved May 25, 2014, from

OBITUARY. (1918, May 18). Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 4. Retrieved May 25, 2014, from





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