Australian Dictionary of Biography

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William Anderson (1828–1909)

by J. Ann Hone

This article was published:

William Anderson (1828-1909), farmer and politician, was born on 3 January 1828 in Montrose, Scotland, the son of James Anderson, mechanic, and his wife Hanah, née Aikenhead. The family decided to migrate, arrived in Van Diemen's Land in April 1842 and settled in Launceston. In 1844 they crossed to Port Fairy where father and son entered the building trade; in 1849 Anderson senior transferred the flourishing business to his son. William left the trade in 1854 to join his father in purchasing Rosemount, Southern Cross, one of the richest farms in the Koroit district. William bred Ayrshire cattle and fat lambs and greatly helped the agricultural development of the area. A member of the Koroit and the Villiers and Heytesbury Agricultural Societies he served a term as president of the Royal Horticultural Society. In 1887 he won the minister of agriculture's prize for the best managed farm in southern Victoria.

Elected to the Camperdown Road Board in 1857 William Anderson resigned on the formation of the Belfast (Port Fairy) Road Board and later served on the Shire Council for many years and was president in 1864, the year he was appointed justice of the peace. In 1880 he was returned to the Legislative Assembly for Villiers and Heytesbury. He urged reform of the council, protection of infant industry, rabbit extermination and a greater share of revenue for country districts. The Warrnambool Standard, 15 January, supported him as a local man of 'sterling honesty'. Anderson bore out this testimony by pressing for railway extension to Warrnambool and for the establishment of a local lands office. As a member of the Railway Standing Committee he did much to secure the construction of the Nirranda railway. He was on the police commission appointed after the Ned Kelly episode and on the commissions on shop employees and the coal industry. He was minister of public works from September to November 1890, resigning with the rest of Gillies's government. In February 1892 Anderson convened a meeting of country members of the assembly with the object of increasing the effectiveness of the farming representatives.

A good platform speaker with a ready fund of colonial reminiscences, Anderson's election speeches were inspired. However, he was defeated in April 1892 and 1894 and his political career ended. More unpleasant, though so common an occurrence at the time that it evoked little public reaction, was his involvement with the collapse of the Mercantile Bank. With fellow directors James Bell and Sir Matthew Davies Anderson faced charges of fraud but was acquitted.

An ardent Presbyterian, Anderson was a founder of the Port Fairy and Koroit charges. At one time he walked seventeen miles (27 km) to church and back again. At 26 he was elected an elder of the church, retaining the office for fifty-five years. He was representative elder in the church courts where his common sense was much appreciated. His greatest interest was the Sabbath schools and for fifty-three years he conducted one in his kitchen. President of the Sunday School Union of Victoria in the 1880s, though childless himself, his love of children and his influence with them were well known. Anderson was also vice-chairman of the Central Board for the Protection of Aborigines, an original member of the Koroit Acclimatization Society and vice-president of the 1888 Temperance Convention.

He had married Ann, daughter of William Broadbent of Sheffield. After her death at Southern Cross on 13 May 1906, Anderson made two trips to Britain. On a third trip he reached Colombo where he died on 6 May 1909.

Select Bibliography

  • Messenger of the Presbyterian Churches of Victoria and Tasmania, 14, 28 May 1909
  • Warrnambool Standard, Apr 1892, 10 May 1909
  • Koroit Sentinel and Tower Hill Advocate, 15 May 1909
  • M. J. Finlayson, Victorian Politics 1889-94 (M.A. thesis, University of Melbourne, 1964).

Citation details

J. Ann Hone, 'Anderson, William (1828–1909)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 19 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (Melbourne University Press), 1969

View the front pages for Volume 3

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


3 January, 1828
Montrose, Forfarshire, Scotland


6 May, 1909 (aged 81)
Colombo, Sri Lanka

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