Deaths and Marriages

Part VI of An Australian Emigrant Family

Peter Blackwell, Ph.D. Brown University '88 (Rhode Island) and Mark Blackwell, B.Com. B.D. (Euroa, Victoria, Australia) [[email protected]]

It was at Wynyard that on January 26, 1860 young George Blackwell, now 18 years old, was drowned in the Inglis River. As procedure required at that time, George Shekleton, a local farmer serving as coroner, assembled a jury of citizens at the Wynyard Arms Hotel who all swore the required oath that they had indeed seen the body "then and there lying dead" and were duly charged with inquiring how George died. They determined that he was "accidentally drowned while endeavouring to swim his horse across the Inglis river" and placed their seals next to their signatures, or in the case of James King, his mark which was witnessed by the coroner.

The rest of the Blackwell family stayed on in the Longford area. Caroline and Annie received some tuition at a girl's school but Edwin learned the trades of flour milling and blacksmithing at which he was adept at age twelve.

On July 4, 1865, Caroline was married to Mr. John Ridge from Table Cape at the Anglican Church at Longford by the Rev. A. Stackhouse and moved to John's farm just near the River Inglis. Two years later the rest of the family moved to the Wynyard area as the economic stagnation of the south spread to the wheatlands of Cressy, Longford and Westbury causing the Newry Mill to close. George Sr. bought 269 acres of land from the Crown for 278 pounds, 3 shillings and 10 pence in August of 1867 near the Flowerdale River.

They found a growing sense of community as more and more settlers purchased holdings from the Crown. The property to the west was owned by Samuel Deans who had come to Geelong from Londonderry in 1850 as a carpenter and wheelwright. He had just recently settled in the Jacob's Boat Harbour-Wynyard area. The farm beyond him was owned by his son, James Dean, and to the north and east the property belonged to William Moore, who would become the Chief (Colonial) Secretary in the 1880s. To the east there was some Moore-Quiggin property. The Margetts were not far away.

Some of the families began to hold monthly church meetings at "Springfield" and sometimes they would go by boat around the coast aways to Tollymore on Table Cape where George Shekleton had a prefabricated interdenominational church building he had brought from Ireland and erected in the corner of his farm looking out over Bass Strait. He named the little church, "Grove Chapel".

The fabric of the community was severely tested when on the 29th. of September, 1868, Edwin's other brother, Thomas William, drowned in the same river that had claimed George eight years before. Tom was 22 years old. This time the coroner was neighbor William Moore who assembled the inquest at the home of John Ridge, Tom's brother-in-law. Having viewed the body lying dead, the jury determined that Tom had been "engaged in driving a calf across the "Ford" at the Inglis River...and the said Tom William Blackwell accidentally and casually and by misfortune fell into the aforesaid River Inglis and in the waters thereof was there suffocated and drowned..." Among the inquisitors were John Alexander, Thompson Brown, Thomas Wiseman and Tom's uncle, William Margetts.

A week later, on the 7th. of October 1868, George Blackwell died of a heart attack. The two bodies were added to the tiny cemetery at Grove Chapel where young George already lay.

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