Monday, 29 September 2014

Martha King - Pioneer woman

Martha Jane King took up the Bunguyan run lease in 1845.  The run was of 15,000 acres and takes in modern day Hastings and Tyabb. Mrs King held the lease until 1859. It was unusual for a woman to have a lease hold in her own name, so in this post we will take  a look at the life of Mrs King, who also had a connection to the Casey Cardinia region. King’s Creek in Hastings was named for Martha King and her family and was the original name for the township of Hastings.

Much of the following information comes from Valda Cole’s research, presented in her book Western Port: Pioneers and Preachers (citation below). Mrs Cole gave a talk about the life of Martha King and the early history of the Hastings Tyabb area at the South Eastern Historical Association Discovery School held in 2012  and other ever since I have been fascinated about Martha and the life she lead as an early pioneer, so even though she only has a short association with our area, her life is well worth recording in our blog.                                                                                                                                                                         Martha was born Martha Jane Henry in County Down  Ireland in 1790 and married Henry King in 1814, who was also from County Down They had seven children (Mary b. 1815-1942), John (1817-1870), Sarah (1819-189), Ellen (1822-1903), Robert  (1825-1883) Alexander (1827-1885) and James (b.1830-d.1831) The eldest son John came to Sydney in 1838. Whilst in Sydney he heard favourable reports about the Port Phillip Region, so returned to Ireland to pass this onto his family. Thus in August 10, 1840 Martha and Henry King and children, plus John King, his wfe Elizabeth (nee Johnstone)  and their two children, Frederick and Annie, all embarked for Australia. Martha and Henry’s daughters, Sarah and Ellen, were listed on the shipping records as dairymaids and their other daughter Mary as a housemaid. 

Sadly, on the way out Martha’s husband, Henry died on October 30 aged 49. The family landed in Melbourne on January 4, 1841, six years after the region had been ‘discovered’ by Eurpoeans such as John Batman and John Pascoe Fawkner in 1835 and four years after Governor Bourke proclaimed the town of Melbourne in 1837. Melbourne’s non-Indigenous population in March 1841 was 4,500 and at the end of 1842 it was around 8,000. (Encyclopedia of Melbourne) thus the King family was one of many new arrivals seeking to start a new life in a ‘new’ country.

In spite of the fact that Martha was recently widowed and her daughter Mary died in 1842 aged 27, Martha had to continue on.  The family was living in Moonee Ponds and to support her children she took charge of John Pascoe Fawkner's father's dairy herd - 113 head of cattle. John Fawkner had become insolvent and so had had to relinquish most of his farm at Pascoe Vale. The herd provided Martha with a source of income as she could sell the cheese that she made from the milk and the herd also provided employment  for her children – daughters Sarah and Ellen were already experienced dairy maids. 

It is this dairy herd that brings Martha King into our region. Martha needed a large area of land to run a dairy herd and she had access to land leased by her brother, Robert Henry. Robert had the Cardinia Creek No.1 run of 5,120 acres from October 1842 until May 1851. It was later taken over by Terence O’Connor. This run was based, as the name suggests, on the Cardinia Creek, the west side. It is believed that Martha took on adjacent land on the corner of Pound Road and Thompsons road to look after the Fawkner herd.  However as we know she wasn’t there for long as in 1845 she took up the 15,000 acre Bunguyan lease  but the family lived in a cottage on the property whilst they were developing  Bunguyan.  



Click on map to enlarge it. This is part of the Cranbourne Parish Plan and shows the Cardinia Creek pre-emptive right of 640 acres, which was once part of the 5,120 acres leased by Martha's brother, Robert Henry. Gunson describes the Cardinia Creek run as being north of St Germains, so I assume that the original run extended west (perhaps to Pound Road) and possibly north of the pre-emptive right. 

Martha and her brother Robert Henry had another close connection as two of Martha’s sons married their first cousins – it was not unusual to marry your first cousin in the ‘olden days’ – the daughters of Robert Henry. Robert King married Annie Henry and Alexander King married Mary Henry. Another of Martha’s daughters, Sarah, married Richard Rogers,  whose brother John married Sarah Henry, Martha’s niece.

Although Martha took up Bunguyan in 1845, the actual formal application wasn’t lodged until 1850 and it was gazetted in the State Government Gazette of December 11, 1850. 



This is notice in the Port Phillip Government Gazette of December 11, 1850 concerning Martha King's lease of the Bunguyan property, near modern day Tyabb. 

In 1856, Martha purchased the 160 acre pre-emptive right of Bunguyan (which was on the south east corner of modern day O’Neills Road and Frankston Flinders Road in Tyabb). The property was sold in February 1860. Martha King then moved to the property owned by her daughter and son-in-law, Sarah and Richard Rogers,  Tanti Grange, in what was then called Schnapper Point and is now known as Mornington. She died there on August 11, 1860 and was buried in the old cemetery that was located on the corner of Queen Street and Victoria Street in Melbourne (now the site of the Victoria market) There is a memorial plaque to Martha King at the Bunguyan Reserve in Tyabb. 


Mrs King's death notice in The Argus of August 14, 1860

Martha’s son John King  was appointed the first Town Clerk of the newly established Melbourne City Council in December 1842 and was later a Member of the Legislative Assembly and later still the business manager of The Argus.  You can read his entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography here.

Source: Western Port: Pioneers and Preachers by Valda Cole. Published by The Hawthorn Press, 1975.

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