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Samuel Anderson (1803–1863)

by Niel Gunson

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Samuel Anderson (1803-1863), agriculturist and explorer, was born (with a twin sister) on 25 September 1803 at Kircudbright, Scotland, fourth child and second son of Thomas Anderson, merchant and shipowner, and Janet, née McNaught. He was educated at Kircudbright Academy and became a bookkeeper in London. He wrote in favour of emigration, particularly to the Swan River settlement. In 1830 he migrated to Van Diemen's Land where he worked for the Van Dieman's Land Company.

At Launceston he became acquainted with the projected expeditions of John Batman, John Pascoe Fawkner and John Aitken and fitted out his own vessel for a similar venture. In 1835, a few weeks after Fawkner's party reached Port Phillip, Anderson sailed to the eastern shores of Western Port Bay, then the centre of a thriving bark trade. With his partner, R. Massie, he began an agricultural settlement on the Bass River. They established a flour-mill, salt-works and an orchard. Anderson made a number of exploratory journeys and discovered the Tarwin River and Anderson's Inlet. At Cape Patterson in 1837 he found an important outcrop of coal which attracted miners to the area; near-by Wonthaggi later became one of the principal coalfields in Victoria. Anderson also found by accident on the Powlett Plains wild cattle traceable to the 1826-28 military settlement at Corinella, and often led hunting expeditions there; for half a century the area around the site of Wonthaggi was known as the Wild Cattle Run. In 1838 Anderson and Massie held a pastoral licence for the land between Griffith's Point (San Remo) and Old Settlement Point (Corinella). However, they concentrated exclusively on growing wheat which, at 23s. a bushel, realized some £1400 in 1839. They also exchanged wheat for beef supplies at near-by pastoral stations.

In June 1837 Samuel was joined by his brother Hugh (1808-1898), a former clerk in the crown prosecutor's office, who had some knowledge of medicine and who emigrated as a ship's surgeon. In 1841 Hugh Anderson dressed a wound in the head of Truganini after the capture of the outlawed Tasmanian Aboriginals at Cape Patterson. He successfully acclimatized plants from Scotland and the Cape of Good Hope, but his treasured thistles from the Burns monument at Dumfries were to prove noxious. He took an active interest in civic affairs as a justice of the peace and shire councillor.

A third brother, Thomas Anderson (1814-1903), master mariner, emigrated in 1842, farmed for several years with Hugh at a station on the Plenty River, married in 1852, and finally settled with his brothers at Griffith's Point. In 1854 they bought the freeholds of part of their squattage, and built their homestead at Netherwood, San Remo. Resourceful and enterprising, they pioneered agricultural methods, and were widely respected as Scottish gentry.

Samuel died at San Remo in 1863 and was commemorated as the pioneer settler of Western Port. Hugh died there on 22 June 1898 and Thomas on 27 April 1903. The children of Thomas Anderson had been sent to Scotland to be educated at Kircudbright Academy. Hugh and Patrick carried on the properties. Mary (1854-1943) married Rev. H. E. Potter (1846-1915), the first Anglican clergyman to live in the district. The locality of Anderson is named after the family.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Sutherland, Victoria and its Metropolis, vol 2 (Melb, 1888), 390
  • C. S. Daley, The Story of Gippsland (Melb, 1960), 186-7
  • H. Peck, Memoirs of a Stockman (Melb, 1942)
  • Royal Commission on Coal, Final Report, Parliamentary Papers (Victoria), 1891 (178)
  • Samuel Rawson diaries and papers, MS 204 (National Library of Australia).

Citation details

Niel Gunson, 'Anderson, Samuel (1803–1863)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 17 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (Melbourne University Press), 1966

View the front pages for Volume 1

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


25 September, 1803
Kirkcudbright, Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland


1 August, 1863 (aged 59)
San Remo, Victoria, Australia

Cause of Death

inflammation of lungs

Cultural Heritage

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