Thursday, 4 June 2009

Ruffy Brothers of Cranbourne

The Ruffy Brothers were some of the earliest European settlers in the Cranbourne area. They squatted on the Tomaque run, after having arrived from Tasmania in 1836 (though some sources say they left Tasmania in March 1837). Tomaque was situated between Dandenong and Cranbourne. The brothers had Tomaque until 1850, however in the 1840s they also took up the Mayune Run of 32,000 acres. Mayune was situated around what is now the town of Cranbourne. The Brothers held Mayune collectively, until Frederick took over the lease from 1845 to 1850. The Ruffy brothers also owned the Cranbourne Inn, which some suggest was the original source of the name of the town of Cranbourne. Cranbourne is a town in Berkshire, England.

Frederick Ruffy. Drawn by George Henry Haydon. Reproduced from The Good Country : Cranbourne Shire by Niel Gunson.

Who were the Ruffy brothers? There is not a lot of information on the brothers but from various sources we can piece together a bit of their family history. William Joseph Ruffy and Louisa Ann Kingham were married at St Martin in the Fields in Westminster in London on May 15 1799. Ruffy was a joint editor of the Farmers Journal and Agricultural Advertizer, an English publication, from 1808-1832. The Farmers Journal was one of the first Agricultural journals in England. They had nine children of which five sons lived at Western Port - Thomas (1800 - 1882) William James (1802 - 1884) Frederick (1804 - 1872) Henry (1808 - 1847) and Arthur Wiggett (1817 - 1893). William Joseph Ruffy died in Launceston in 1836 aged 61 and Louisa Ruffy died in Campbell Town in 1859 aged 79.

Of the five sons who came to Cranbourne - Henry died while the brothers where at Tomaque, Arthur married Caroline Sawtell in 1852. She was the daughter of Edwin Sawtell. I presume that this is the same Edwin Sawtell, after whom Sawtell Inlet in Tooradin is named. Sawtell was a storekeeper who arrived in Melbourne in 1838. It seems likely that he had land in the area and that Thomas Rutherford, after whom Rutherford Inlet is named, managed his run. Sawtell died in 1892 aged 94. William married Janet Stewart in 1867. I cannot find any record that the other Ruffy brothers married and the only off spring I can locate of the two married brothers were the two children of Arthur & Caroline, of whom the eldest Frederick lived only 15 months (1853 - 1854). Their other son was Arthur Edwin Sawtell Ruffy, born in 1861.

Squatter hut, drawn by George Henry Haydon. Reproduced from The Good Country : Cranbourne Shire by Niel Gunson.

By the 1850s the Ruffy Brothers had moved on and had taken up leases on various runs around Seymour, Avenel, Longwood and Molesworth, and since the township of Ruffy is in the centre of these runs they presumably had the township of Ruffy named after them. Frederick Ruffy was at one time (from 1860-62) the licensee of the Royal Mail Hotel in Avenel. There are accounts of the Ruffy Brothers and other early squatters in the novel The Australian Emigrant : a rambling story containing as much fact as fiction by George Henry Haydon. Haydon spent New Years Day in 1845 with the Ruffy Brothers at Mayune, and sketched them and their hut - shown above. Haydon himself was an adventurer, who arrived in Melbourne in 1840 and returned to England in 1845. During this time he spent six months on French Island chopping mangroves and reducing them to ash for use in salt making, he also sold illustrations to the news papers. Collections of his illustrations are held at the National Library of Australia.

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