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Crooke, Edward (1810–1873)

by J. Ann Hone

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (MUP), 1969

Edward Crooke (1810-1873), pastoralist, was born on 24 May 1810 at Bevington Bush, Liverpool, England, the seventh son of Nicholas Crooke, tea dealer, and his wife Anne, née Jolley. He was educated at Seaforth vicarage with W. E. Gladstone and then apprenticed for seven years to Ewart & Myers, the latter his brother-in-law. In 1835 Edward decided to join an elder brother at Canton but on arrival found that deteriorating business had caused his brother's departure for India. Although offered a partnership with Goddard & Co., Edward sailed instead for Sydney, arriving in the Adelaide in February 1837. In May he moved to Queanbeyan and in an agreement with John Hamilton and J. S. Smith, from whom he bought stock, used their pasture and was entitled to two-thirds of the lambs born. In 1839 a catarrh epidemic forced Hamilton and Smith to sell out and Crooke pastured his sheep with David Parry-Okeden and his cattle with R. C. Cuninghame of Ingebyra on the Snowy River. In 1840 Crooke took up the rights to Hinnomunjie on the Mitta Mitta River, 36,000 acres (14,569 ha) on which he ran 2000 cattle and 12,000 sheep. Cut off from easy access to the Sydney and Melbourne markets, he reached an agreement with Walter Curlewis of the Holey Plain on the La Trobe River near Rosedale. Crooke stocked the run, enabling Curlewis to fulfil leasing requirements, and used it as a depot for shipping stock from Port Albert to Van Diemen's Land. In 1845 Crooke bought the rights of this 13,000-acre (5261 ha) run and in 1848 of a heifer station, Benambra, also on the Mitta Mitta. In the 1850s he added Tongio Mungie, Bindi and the 78,000-acre (31,565 ha) Lucknow on the Mitchell River to his holdings in the Omeo district.

At first Crooke was chiefly concerned with raising fat cattle and he persevered with his efforts to have the road to the Melbourne market improved. With others in January 1863 he bought the Rebecca for the New Zealand trade. Next month, carrying seventy prime bullocks from Port Albert, she was wrecked off Clarke Island in Bass Strait. By then Crooke's interest had switched to horses and, encouraged by his brother in Calcutta, he became an important supplier for the Indian market. By the 1870s there were 1400 horses at Lucknow station and 500 at the Holey Plain.

Crooke sold his rights to Benambra in 1858 and Tongio Mungie, Bindi and Hinnomunjie in 1859, partly because diggers in Omeo stole his cattle and partly to raise funds to buy more freehold, for in 1855 his brother had warned him: 'I doubt your rights in the lands you squat on will not have full justice administered'. In 1853 he had secured freehold of the 640-acre (259 ha) homestead block of the Holey Plain. By 1868 much of Lucknow had been selected and it was with great difficulty that Crooke prevailed upon James Grant to put up for sale the blocks he wanted. Over the years Crooke had many dealings, not always harmonious, with Commissioner Charles Tyers. In 1870 he publicly accused the Lands Department and John Alexander MacPherson, M.L.A., of corrupt practices. This caused a heated debate in the Legislative Assembly, one member accusing Crooke of lunatic tendencies and another calling for his removal from the magistrates' list (Crooke was gazetted justice of the peace in 1852). A Geelong newspaper, 9 June 1870, claimed that the long-talked-of royal commission on the Lands Department would have found Crooke's accusation worth consideration.

Although he opened up large areas of Gippsland, Crooke played little part in its non-pastoral development. However, in the early 1860s, fearing the introduction of pleuro-pneumonia to Gippsland, he strongly advocated banning cattle imports. He thought that 'other colonies made a charnel house of [Victoria]'. In 1870 Crooke moved his family to Melbourne. He died at his home, Rockley, South Yarra, on 7 November 1873, survived by his wife, Maria Matilda, daughter of Sir John Jamison whom he had married in 1860, and by four daughters and one son, Edward Jolley, member of the Legislative Council in 1893-1921, and minister without portfolio in the Peacock government in 1901-02.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Henderson (ed), Early Pioneer Families of Victoria and Riverina (Melb, 1936)
  • Argus (Melbourne), 31 Dec 1858, 7 June 1870
  • Gippsland Times, 18 Dec 1861, 11 Nov 1873
  • Crooke papers (privately held).

Citation details

J. Ann Hone, 'Crooke, Edward (1810–1873)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/crooke-edward-3293/text5005, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 15 October 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (MUP), 1969

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