Friday, 22 June 2018

Charles and Ellen Rossiter

Rossiter Road is named after Charles Rossiter. Charles and Ellen Rossiter took up 317 acres of land at Yallock in 1873 and called the property Hawkesdale. It was located at Lot 10b, Parish of Yallock and situated between Koo Wee Rup and Bayles, near Bethune's Road.  Before this Charles and Ellen lived at Ravenhurst (later called Tulliallan) on Clyde Road, south of Grices Road in Cranbourne North. You can read about the history of the Ravenhurst / Tulliallan property, here.



Charles and Ellen Rossiter, early 1890s.
State Library of Victoria Image H82.96/39

Ravenhurst was part of the Garem Gam Run of 3,200 acres (1300 hectares) taken up by James Bathe and T.J Perry in 1837. In 1845, Garem Gam was subdivided and the eastern part was called Ravenhurst.  Ravenhurst was taken up by Benjamin Rossiter (Charles’ father) and Maurice Feehan in 1850. In 1851 it appears that the property (Garem Gam) was leased as a whole by Benjamin Rossiter, Maurice Feehan and Sarah O’Shea. Sarah had been leasing the other section of the Garem Gam property with John Crewe.  By 1854, Benjamin Rossiter had the entire property.

Benjamin Rossiter (1786 - 1858) and his wife Zillah Baynton (1789 - 1871) had arrived in the Western Port area in 1842, having come out from Somersetshire in 1841. Benjamin Rossiter died in 1858 and his sons Charles and Thomas, took over the property. As well as the two boys Benjamin and Zillah had two daughters - Ann who died as a teenager and Mercy who married Henry Wedge. Henry Wedge and his bothers Charles and John had the Bangam and Ballymarang Stations. Bangam was located between the Dandenong and Eumemmerring Creeks (so modern day Doveton) and Ballamarang, which is around modern day Carrum Downs and across to Seaford and Port Phillip Bay. Wedge Road in Carrum Downs is named for the family. Mercy Wedge died in 1903 aged 80. Thomas James Rossiter, who died in Parkes in New South Wales, married Mary Ann O’Shea in 1854, the same year his brother, Charles, married Ellen O’Shea.  One source on the internet says that Mary Ann and Ellen were sisters. I can confirm that Ellen’s father was John O’Shea (died 1852 aged 51) but I am guessing that Sarah O’Shea is the wife of John and the mother of Mary Ann and Ellen. O’Shea’s Road is named for the family.


Claude, Nellie and Norton Rossiter at Hawkesdale, early 1880s
State Library of Victoria Image H82.96/17

Charles and Ellen O’Shea had eight children -  Edwin Augustus (1856 - 1939, married Ellen Louisa Craig in 1890), Emily Baynton (1857 - 1883), Helena Ellen Teresa (1859 - 1902), Charles Benjamin (1865 - 1942, married his first cousin Zillah Rossiter in 1899), Hubert (1869 - 1870), Ellen Teresa (known as Nellie, 1871- 1926 married William Brierley in 1906), Norton Baynton (c. 1875 - 1947, married Hilda Hodgson in 1906) and Claude Cecil (c. 1878 - 1947, married Stella Mary Paragreen in 1907). Charles died in 1895 aged 74 and Ellen died in 1909 aged 73. They are both buried at the Cranbourne Cemetery

What do we know about their life in Koo Wee Rup? Niel Gunson in his book Good Country: Cranbourne Shire says that Rossiter’s property Hawkesdale was regarded as a show place in the district and the homestead was set off by a profusion of flowers – geraniums, dahlias, rhododendrons, roses, broom and cactus. Besides bloodstock and a shorthorn dairy herd, Rossiter applied intense cultivation – in a paddock on the east side of the homestead seventeen successive crops have been grown and for the last fourteen years without manure - the present crop will yield 2 ½ tons of hay to the acre. You can see some of the garden in the photograph, below.



The Rossiters at Hawkesdale, early 1890s.  Photographer: Sydney Herbert Edwards. 
The photo shows Charles on the left,  seated are Ellen and one of the daughters, possibly Nellie. Son Charles is at the back and Norton is lying on the ground.
State Library of Victoria Image H82.96/88


Charles was an original Committee member of the Mornington Farmers Society from 1856, a Cranbourne Shire Councillor from 1869 to 1884 and Shire President on four occasions. Charles and his brother, Thomas, bred horses, amongst their other agricultural pursuits. As he had many children, Charles was interested in having a school established in the area and was one of the local land owners to sign a petition for its establishment. Subsequently, Yallock State School No. 2629 (later called Koo Wee Rup State School) was opened on November 1, 1884 at Bethune's Road.



Hawkesdale, Koo Wee Rup, 1890s. 
I presume this is the building described as 'the dairy, meat room and buggy rooms' in the sale advertisement, below.
Photo shows Norton, Claude, Nellie, Charles and their cousin, Zillah. Charles and Zillah married in 1899.
State Library of Victoria Image H82.96/45


The Hawkesdale property was put up for auction in November 1898, by Charles’ executors. It was described at the time as being only two miles from the Koo Wee Rup Railway Station. There was a good four roomed brick house, kitchen and kitchen bedroom, 2 pantries, a large building comprising a dairy, meat room and 2 buggy rooms; 10 stalled cow shed, refrigeration room, good orchard. There was a State School and creamery adjoining the property and it was one of the finest farms in the district.


The sale of Hawkesdale. 
The Australasian November 12, 1898

After the farm was sold, Ellen went to live with her son, Norton, in Hedley (near Welshpool)

We are lucky that a member of the Rossiter family donated some family photos to the State Library, so we can get  a snap shot of their life at Hawkesdale and other properties. The photos were given by Mrs Leila Trickey (1908 - 1985) the daughter of Claude Rossiter.

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Sarah Fagan - hotel keeper

Sarah Fagan operated a hotel in Lyndhurst in the 1850s. She had arrived in Victoria in 1853 and after her husband Alexander died in 1857 she opened the hotel in Lyndhurst (this part of Lyndhurst is now called Lynbrook). Not only was she, by all accounts, a strong personality she like many other pioneer women, such as Martha King, had to just 'get on with it' after their husband's death and make the most of it in their new home. Sarah had come out on the Earl of Charlemont, which sunk off Point Henry in June 1853. You can read an account of the sinking here. Interestingly, another local publican, Eliza Gooch of the Mornington Hotel in Cranbourne, had also been involved in a ship wreck, you can read about her, here.

I first learnt about Mrs Fagan from Niel Gunson's book, The Good Country: Cranbourne Shire. This is what he has to say about the Fagan family.

Another buyer [of land in Cranbourne] in 1859 was Colin Crillie Clarke of Beaulieu who had arrived in the late 1840s....a school teacher, experimented with vitculture and made his own wine. In later life regarded as a somewhat eccentric recluse....Margaret Fagan, his wife, was a North of Ireland woman. Her father and brother, John, had arrived several years earlier and they sent for Mrs Fagan at Clonvaraghan to bring out the remaining members of the family. Mrs Fagan came out by the Earl of Charlemont which was wrecked off Point Henry in June 1853. All the passengers were saved and no personal property was retrieved.  Alexander Fagan died at Lyndhurst in 1857; the sons farmed Algernon Lindsay's property. The widow occupied the block adjoining, known locally as Fagan's Hill (Lyndhurst Radio Station) Here she is said to have dispensed the 'water of life' to the coach drivers who stopped at her house. A colourful character she was known as Granny Fagan..... Both she and her daughters, Mrs George Hall and Mrs Nelson shared a reputation for two things: generosity and kindness to the deserving stranger and a fearlessness in rebuking injustice or cruelty. These women were also marathon walkers, Mrs Hall walking from Narre Warren to Dandenong (at the age of 80) shortly before her death.  Part of Beaulieu was leased to George Hall and James Henderson and later bought by the Facey family. Colin Clarke's daughter Jane was a talented artist and her paintings of Western Port and Gippsland scenes were at one time exhibited in Melbourne. 


Sarah Fagan
Photo from The Good Country: Cranbourne Shire.

So let's look at the Fagan family tree in more detail. Sarah Fagan was born Sarah Jones in Northern Ireland. On her Death Certificate, her father is listed as Evan Jones, a farmer. She married Alexander Fagan, who died in 1857. He was 65 when he died. Traditionally, hotel keepers are seen as being of Irish and Catholic background, but in the 1850s and 1860s in this area it was not unusual to have Protestants, such as Sarah Fagan, operating hotels. By the 1880s there was a movement towards abstinence from alcohol with the rise of groups such as the Band of  Hope, the Independent Order of Rechabites and the Woman's Christian Temperance. Many Protestant Churches promoted abstinence and Gunson writes The Gooches, Tuckers and Duffs and Mrs Bowman of the Gippsland Hotel were perhaps the last of their kind to combine Evangelical piety with the publican's profession.

Sarah died on January 12, 1879 at Eumemmerring and her son, William, also of Eumemmerring was the informant. Her occupation was grazier. She was buried at Dandenong Cemetery and her age was listed as 89, which means she was born around 1790.  Her children are listed on the death certificate as Mary Ann, aged 58; Margaret, 56; John 54; William, 52; Sarah 50 and Nancy 48. According to the shipping records on the Public Records Office of Victoria website Sarah was 58 when she arrived in 1853 on the ill fated Earl of Charlemont. Also on the ship were three of her children -  William, aged 17; Sarah, aged 16 and Ann aged 12.  If this age is correct then Sarah was born around 1795. As you will see below there are a lot of discrepancies in the birth dates of the Fagan family, depending on what source you use - one of the challenges of family history research!

Let's look at Sarah and Alexander's children in more detail and as you will see they inter-married with other local Casey Cardinia families.
  • Mary Ann - b. c. 1821. I have no other details at the moment. I wonder if she came to Australia? 
  • Margaret - born c. 1822, died 1889 aged 67. Margaret was the wife of  Colin Crillie Clarke (1807-1880) who as we saw before, had arrived in Victoria in the 'late 1840s'. We can actually narrow this date down to 1849 as their daughter, Mary Ann, was born 'at sea' in 1849. Mary Ann died in 1866 aged 16. They had one other daughter, Jane, who was born in 1868 at Cranbourne and died at the age of 25 in December 30, 1893. She was the 'talented artist' that Gunson refers to in the excerpt, above.


Death and funeral notice of Margaret The Age December 17, 1889 

  • John - born c. 1826, died 1917 aged 90. Can't find any indication that he married and the obituary, below, from the Lang Lang Guardian suggests that he didn't marry.
Lang Lang Guardian June 6, 1917

  • William - born c. 1827 according to his mother's death certificate or 1836 according to the shipping record.  I have no other details at the moment.
  • Sarah - died 1915 aged 80, which means she was born c. 1835 or 1829 according to her mother's death certificate or 1837 according to the shipping record. Sarah was the one who used to walk from Narre Warren to Dandenong! Sarah married George Hall in 1855.  They were the first name on the Cranbourne Presbyterian Church Marriage Register, according to a history of the church published in the Dandenong Journal in December, 1935. You can read it, here. George Hall was a 'bullockie' and had  a team of bullocks and lived at Narre Warren  North where many of the children were born.  They had Margaret (1856), George (c. 1858), Mary Ann (1863), Susan Emily (c. 1865), Annie (1869), Jane (c. 1870), William John (1871), Alexander (1873), Herbert Henry (1876). Jane married William Cadd of Clyde in 1887 and they lived on Patterson's Road. Sarah married, firstly, Thomas Williams and when he died she operated the general store at Clyde. She married for the second time to Thomas Ridgway and they lived at Clyde. Thomas had been born at Clyde in 1860 to Anthony and Sophia (nee Cadd) Ridgway.

South Bourke & Mornington Journal June 17, 1915


  • Agnes - died 1914 aged 74, which means she was born c. 1840 or 1831 according to her mother's death certificate (where she was called Nancy) or 1841 according to the shipping record (where she was listed as Ann).  Agnes married James Nelson (1831 - 1916)  in 1855 when she was just 16 years old, according to Niel Gunson, which makes her birth c. 1840, so as with her sister Sarah I have no idea what her exact year of birth is.  James was a blacksmith and had arrived in the area in 1854; his father, also called James, had  a property at Eumemmerring. James was a man of  Evangelical religious conviction, according to Gunson, and had a library which included many theological books. In 1868 James and Agnes and their family moved to Bay View at Lang Lang. They had eleven children - Alexander (1856), Sarah (c.1858), James (1860), William (1862), John (1865), David (c. 1866), Elizabeth (1868), Mary (1871), Margaret (1875), Henry (1877) and Agnes (1879). Sarah married Daniel Gunson (1847 - 1915) in 1882. He was a Methodist Minister whose parish went from Yannathan to the Powlett River (Wonthaggi) - it was fortunate for him that he was an experienced bushman. Sarah and Daniel are the grandparents of Niel Gunson, the author of The Good Country, which I have quoted and used many, many times in this blog.

Dandenong Advertiser July 23, 1914

I have created a list of newspaper articles about the Fagan family on Trove, click here to access the list.