Australian Dictionary of Biography

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James Buchanan (1827–1914)

by J. Ann Hone

This article was published:

James Buchanan (1827-1914), farmer and politician, was born on 12 February 1827 at Chryston, Lanarkshire, Scotland, son of John Buchanan, farmer, and his wife Elizabeth, née Bullock. He arrived at Port Phillip in 1849 in the Reaper. His lungs were weak so he made for the warmer Riverina and worked in the Edward River district until attracted back to Victoria by the discovery of gold. Buchanan carted potatoes and wheat to the Bendigo and Castlemaine diggings while farming in the Plenty district. In 1857 he bought the Ardblair property at Berwick and in 1858 won a gold medal from the Port Phillip Farmers' Society for the wheat he grew there. As the price of wheat dropped he broadened the scope of his farming to include dairying, cheese making and the breeding of Ayrshire cattle; he achieved some note with his bull, Lord Beaconsfield. In 1859 he won the Mornington Farmers' Society award for the best managed farm in its area. Buchanan remained an active member of this society and gave it a ninety-nine-year lease of the showground for a token sum. He was also an executive member of the Royal Agricultural Society. By the end of the 1870s Buchanan owned houses and 2033 acres (823 ha) in Berwick.

Buchanan was an original member of the Berwick District Road Board created in 1862 and remained a member of it and the later Shire Council until 1875. In May 1865 he was appointed a presiding magistrate at the first Police Court Sessions in the district. In 1876 he was elected to the Legislative Council as member for the Southern Province. His distinguished career in the council ended in September 1898. Buchanan supported protection, advocated the opening up of the Mallee as a wheat-growing area, and supported the introduction of irrigation to the Mallee and other schemes of water conservation. He was a member of the first Viticultural Board and was for many years government representative on the Council of Agricultural Education. Buchanan was prominent in the foundation of Dookie Agricultural College and a member of its first council. In 1890 he was a member of the first committee appointed by the Victorian parliament under the Railways Standing Committee Act.

Buchanan was active in the development of medical services in the colony. He had some medical knowledge himself and in his first years at Berwick was sometimes called on for help and advice. He persuaded his nephew, James Buchanan, to qualify as a doctor. He had wide veterinary knowledge and helped to bring about the appointment in 1884 of the board to report on tuberculosis as affecting both mankind and cattle, on which he was the only layman.

Buchanan was widely esteemed for his kindliness and charity. He was elected to the local Presbyterian Church Board in 1876 and remained a member until his death on 11 September 1914. His wife Anne Jane, née Wilson, whom he had married in 1859, predeceased him, as did his two sons. He was survived by two daughters, Mrs W. Wilson and Mrs L. D. Beaumont, and he bequeathed his house in Berwick, Burr Hill, and seven acres to the Presbyterian Church for a manse.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Henderson (ed), Early Pioneer Families of Victoria and Riverina (Melb, 1936)
  • N. E. Beaumont and J. F. Curran, Early Days of Berwick (Melb, 1948)
  • Messenger (Presbyterian, Vic & Tas), Sept 1914
  • Berwick Shire News, 16 Sept 1914.

Citation details

J. Ann Hone, 'Buchanan, James (1827–1914)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 21 April 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]


12 February, 1827
Chryston, Lanarkshire, Scotland


11 September, 1914 (aged 87)

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