Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Hobler, George (1800–1882)

by W. G. McMinn

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966

George Hobler (1800-1882), grazier, was born on 6 September 1800 at Islington, London, son of Francis Helvetius Hobler and his wife Mary, née Furby. After some five years study of agriculture in various parts of England he began about 1820 to farm in Hertfordshire. On 21 October 1822 at Cadbury, Devon, he married Ann Turner. In 1825, attracted by the prospects of fine-wool growing, he decided to emigrate to Van Diemen's Land, and was recommended by the Colonial Office for a grant proportional to the £3000 or more which he proposed to invest. He arrived at Hobart Town in 1826 with his wife and two children; nine more were born in Australia.

He had bought ten stud merinos, but eight of them died on the voyage, and when he applied formally for his grant he told the lieutenant-governor that he had temporarily left most of his capital in England. (Sir) George Arthur consequently delayed making the grant for nearly a year. Meanwhile Hobler bought 600 acres (243 ha), Killafaddy, near Launceston. After receiving his grant, 2000 acres (809 ha) in the western district, he made some minor improvements and then sold it. About this time he was overreached in a business transaction, lost nearly £1700, and then claimed that this loss forced him to sell the grant; the sale was contrary to the regulations, and consequently a later application for another grant was refused. However, his resources were concentrated on Killafaddy; by 1832 he was making £1500 a year from sheep, and also selling cattle, hay and tan bark, the bark in large enough quantities to justify charter shipments to England; by 1835 he was contemplating the purchase of another property for £12,000.

While other pastoralists turned to Port Phillip in 1836, Hobler believed that he could see better opportunities in New South Wales. Leasing a property near Maitland, he transferred his family to the Hunter River, and five years later sold Killafaddy. By then he had bought the Maitland property, Aberglasslyn, become a justice of the peace, and was letting the land to tenant farmers, playing the part of the local squire and starting to build an appropriate mansion. He was also depasturing stock on the upper Hunter, the Barwon River and the Namoi, and had interests in a stock-selling agency.

Like many others he became insolvent when the boom collapsed, but he took advantage of the Insolvency Act and started afresh. Up to this time he had been a gentleman farmer speculating in squatting. In 1844, however, he became primarily a squatter, moving gradually farther out in search of land. He spent some months on a lease near Goulburn before catarrh in his sheep drove him out into the Murrumbidgee district. At first he was apparently financed by a partner, but within a year he took up independently a run west of the Murrumbidgee, fronting the river from its junction with the Lachlan downstream to the later site of Balranald. This station, Paika, was unlicensed, being outside the proclaimed squatting districts. Hobler also took up a smaller area in the settled districts near Bacchus Marsh, to which he moved his family in 1848, leaving his eldest son to manage Paika.

After promulgation of the 1847 Order in Council the land between the Murrumbidgee and the Darling was gazetted as the Lower Darling district and opened for occupation by tender. Hobler was over-bid for Paika by William Charles Wentworth and lost the run. In 1851, inspired partly by a sense of injustice and partly by low wool prices, he sailed for California, where he once again began to farm, though apparently on a smaller scale, and also developed interests in trapping and prospecting. He died at Alameda, California, in apparently straitened circumstances, on 13 December 1882 and was buried at San Leander.

Although he is usually credited with an important share in the introduction of the Hereford cattle breed into Australia, Hobler is probably most significant as a man in many ways typical of the settlers and squatters in the period 1825-50 who documented his activities and his difficulties well, for he kept a comprehensive journal, primarily for the benefit of his brother in England. He had the outlook and taste of an English gentleman farmer, being greatly interested in agricultural techniques and fond of shooting, fishing and claret, but his Australian ventures ended in failure, as a result at first of over-speculation in the boom of the late 1830s and later of his inability to overcome the competition of bigger men. His nearest neighbour in the Lower Darling district, James Tyson, surmounted similar competition and eventually became a millionaire.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 3, vol 4
  • P. L. Brown (ed), The Narrative of George Russell (Lond, 1935)
  • S. H. Roberts, The Squatting Age in Australia, 1835-47 (Melb, 1935)
  • R. B. Ronald, The Riverine: People and Properties (Melb, 1960)
  • Wagga Express, 6 Nov 1915
  • Farmer and Settler, 9 Sept 1955
  • Hobler papers (State Library of New South Wales)
  • Henty papers (State Library of New South Wales)
  • correspondence file under George Hobler (Archives Office of Tasmania).

Citation details

W. G. McMinn, 'Hobler, George (1800–1882)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/hobler-george-2187/text2817, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 23 March 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966

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