Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Snodgrass, Peter (1817–1867)

by Alan Gross

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

Peter Snodgrass (1817-1867), by unknown engraver, 1867

Peter Snodgrass (1817-1867), by unknown engraver, 1867

La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, IAN20/12/67/13

Peter Snodgrass (1817-1867), pastoralist and politician, was born on 29 September 1817 in Portugal, the third son of Lieutenant-Colonel Kenneth Snodgrass. He arrived at Sydney with his parents in December 1828. From New South Wales he overlanded to the Port Phillip District in 1838; he himself gave the date as 1837 but memory played him false. His first property was Murrindindi, near Yea, on the Goulburn River. His timing was unfortunate because the depression of the early 1840s brought him and many others to insolvency. However, he battled on and for the rest of his life was interested in other stations, sometimes on his own account and sometimes in partnership. As a young man he was adventurous, high-spirited and a reckless horseman. On 1 January 1840 in Melbourne he figured in a duel with another young squatter, William Ryrie, on the site of the present Spencer Street railway station; after Snodgrass fired precipitately and grazed his own toe, honour was satisfied. On another occasion when bushrangers were active beyond Eltham, he was among a group of young squatters whose help Superintendent Charles La Trobe sought for the police. Snodgrass and other volunteers were sworn in as special constables, issued with firearms and captured the gang.

In 1851 he was elected to the first Victorian Legislative Council and retained his seat until responsible government. He was then elected member for Anglesey in the Legislative Assembly and in 1864 member for South Gippsland, a seat which he held until his death. He was not a good speaker and his main activity in parliament was the advancement of the squatters' interests.

His public activities included that of a trustee of Scots Church, Collins Street, Melbourne. On the visit of the Duke of Edinburgh in November 1867 he went by steamer to Queenscliff to witness the arrival. On his return he suffered pain and, soon after reaching his home at South Yarra, died suddenly from aneurism of the heart.

In 1846 he had married Charlotte Agnes Cotton who survived him with six sons and three daughters. One daughter married Major-General F. G. Hughes. The eldest daughter, Janet Marian, married Sir William Clarke.

Select Bibliography

  • Garryowen (E. Finn), Chronicles of Early Melbourne, vols 1-2 (Melb, 1888)
  • C. S. Ross, Colonization and Church Work in Victoria (Melb, 1891)
  • T. F. Bride (ed), Letters from Victorian Pioneers (Melb, 1898)
  • M. L. Kiddle, Men of Yesterday (Melb, 1961)
  • Argus (Melbourne), 26 Nov 1867
  • F. J. Corder, Case book of Henry Moor (copy held by Royal Historical Society of Victoria).

Citation details

Alan Gross, 'Snodgrass, Peter (1817–1867)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/snodgrass-peter-2676/text3739, published in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 20 August 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

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