Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Patterson, John Hunter (1841–1930)

by Donald Boadle

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

This is a shared entry with Daniel Whittle Harvey Patterson

John Hunter Patterson (1841-1930) and Daniel Whittle Harvey (1848-1931), graziers and mining investors, were born on 6 April 1841 at Collingwood, Melbourne, and 14 November 1848 at Tooboorac station, Heathcote, second and third surviving sons of John Hunter Patterson (1810-1859), pastoralist, and his wife Martha Moody Whittle, née Reeves. The brothers were educated privately until 1854 when the family visited Scotland; John completed his schooling at the Edinburgh Academy. Returning to Melbourne in December 1859, he attended lectures in medicine at the University of Melbourne, but persistent ill health forced him to abandon his studies. Harvey was tutored in history (by James Bonwick) and music, and later in surveying and book-keeping. On coming of age both brothers purchased pastoral properties in New South Wales; with his elder brother Myles, John bought Boonoke cattle-station near Conargo in 1862, restocking it with sheep next year, and Ulonga near Hay in 1869. Soon afterwards they quarrelled; Myles bought John's interest in both stations, enabling him in 1871 to acquire Binya near Barellan (sold in 1876). Harvey meanwhile in 1870 purchased Tchelery, between Hay and Moulamein (sold in 1878) and, with his cousin Thomas Frederick Patterson, Ulonga in 1876. He married Catherine Eliza Irvine (d.1902) at East Melbourne on 21 August 1878.

In 1875 John and Harvey had begun acquiring large leaseholds in the Western Division of New South Wales: John bought Gol Gol near Balranald and Topar near Broken Hill; while Harvey acquired Menamurtree station at Wilcannia and Corona near Broken Hill. The brothers had ready access to finance from Dalgety, Blackwood & Co. through a long-standing association with James Blackwood, who had been their father's banker and a trustee of his estate. Dalgety & Co. Ltd later secured the loans with mortgages over six of their stations. With additional acquisitions, John and Harvey held leases over some four million acres (1,618,760 ha) by 1886.

In 1885 Harvey paid £1800 for a twenty-eighth share in the Broken Hill mine, and persuaded an initially cautious John to take shares in the Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd; Harvey was a director in 1885-88 and 1893-1926 and chairman in 1900-07. In 1888-1913 and 1918-26 he was a director of the Kauri Timber Co. Ltd with responsibility for exploitation of its auriferous lands in New Zealand. Henceforth his mining investments steadily eclipsed his pastoral interests. In 1894 he sold Corona, and with John travelled through the Western Australian goldfields, investing in scores of mines; they made some spectacular profits, but most of their investments were entrepreneurial and risky, with comparatively small returns.

Such risks were not uncongenial to Harvey, whose enthusiasm for coursing and racing peaked in 1889 with the establishment of a thoroughbred stud on a 7500-acre (2833 ha) freehold at Melton, Victoria, which he landscaped to resemble an English country park. His horses proved disappointing; however, Thackeray won the Williamstown Cup in 1907. He aspired to be an English gentleman, but with characteristic flamboyance overplayed the part. A caricature in the Bulletin (21 July 1921) displays his distinguished appearance and conspicuously elegant attire. He sent his son to Harrow School, then settled in England in 1926. He died at Wimbledon on 13 May 1931, survived by a son and two daughters of his first marriage and by his wife Athel Eleanor Sharp whom he had married on 21 July 1913.

John shared none of his brother's recreational interests and, even after his marriage to Charlotte Rodier on 31 March 1881 at Albert Park, Melbourne, spent much of the time touring his stations. Big, robust and apparently stolid, he was not altogether without humour. He owed his success in surviving prolonged periods of drought and depression in chancy country to the diversification of his non-pastoral interests and his avoidance of freehold tenure. Following a serious buggy accident at Gol Gol in September 1905 he began selling his properties and investing in bonds and city businesses like the Standard Brick & Tile Co. Ltd, Box Hill, Melbourne Chair Factory and Tasmanian Timber & Tramway Co. Ltd. Survived by his wife, son and daughter, he died at Hawthorn on 7 July 1930, and was buried in Melbourne general cemetery.

John's son, also named John Hunter (1882-1963), was born on 31 October 1882 in Melbourne and educated at Camberwell Grammar School. After three years working at Dalgety & Co. in Melbourne, he went abroad, returning in 1905 to take charge of his father's interests. He bought Gol Gol in 1911, then in 1913 acquired the 41,000-acre (16,600 ha) Hartwood at Conargo from the Blackwoods. He turned Hartwood into a showplace, greatly augmenting its water supply and laying out fine formal gardens with his wife Matilda (d.1949), née Noyes, of Deniliquin, whom he married on 8 March 1916 at Scots Church, Melbourne. Their only child died in infancy. In 1926-32 he owned a two-thirds share in Moroco East station between Deniliquin and Tocumwal.

Hunter Patterson served on the Graziers' Association of Southern Riverina (vice-president, 1919-25; president, 1925-45; treasurer, 1946-62) and on the Australian Meat Board in 1936-46. He was president of the Graziers' Federal Council of Australia in 1944, a Conargo shire-councillor in 1914-48 and president of the Australian Club, Melbourne, in 1954-57. His varied pastoral experience, organizational skill and meticulous attention to detail made him a hard-headed leader. He was large, solidly built and exuberant, with many friends and an unabashed enthusiasm for picnic races. An exacting employer, he left generous bequests from his estate of over £400,000 to his employees and to the Presbyterian church. In 1952 he had endowed the Patterson travelling scholarship at the Alfred Hospital, Melbourne. Crippled in his last years by arthritis, he died at his Toorak home on 21 November 1963, survived by his second wife, Vare Paxton, née Smythe, a divorcee whom he had married in Melbourne on 28 October 1955.

Select Bibliography

  • R. Bridges, From Silver to Steel (Melb, 1920)
  • J. O. Randell, The Pastoral Pattersons (Melb, 1977)
  • J. O. Randell, Teamwork (Syd, 1983)
  • Pastoral Review, 16 Jan 1928, p 21, 16 July 1930, p 655, 18 Dec 1963, p 1313
  • Smith's Weekly, 4 Nov 1939
  • Argus (Melbourne), 15 May 1931
  • B. Carter, The Kauri Timber Co. 1880-1914 (M.A. thesis, University of Melbourne, 1972)
  • J. Lee, A Black Past, a Black Prospect: Squatting in Western New South Wales 1879-1902 (M.A. thesis, Australian National University, 1980)
  • Patterson family papers (Melbourne University Archives).

Citation details

Donald Boadle, 'Patterson, John Hunter (1841–1930)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/patterson-john-hunter-7983/text13905, published in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 22 September 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2014