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Charles John Carter (1797–1875)

by L. J. Blake

This article was published:

Charles Carter, n.d.

Charles Carter, n.d.

photo privately sourced

Charles Carter (1797-1875), pastoralist, was born on 1 May 1797 in Cambridge, England, son of Charles Carter, farmer, and his wife, née Barrett. He migrated to Van Diemen's Land, where on 29 March 1829 he married Thomasina Matthews (1799-1889) who was born at Marazion, Cornwall; they had three sons and three daughters.

After managing a farm at Constitution Hill Carter embarked in 1838 with his family in the Black Squall for Port Phillip, where Superintendent Charles La Trobe later appointed him to make a road to Sandridge (Port Melbourne) and build a breakwater across the Yarra River. He witnessed the riot of two thousand road workers which William Lonsdale suppressed by reading the Riot Act and reducing wages. In May 1842 he and his family left Melbourne on a nine-week journey with the overlander James Monckton Darlot and his party to drive four hundred cattle and two bullock teams to the unsettled west. By the Wimmera River on 10 August Darlot established the Brighton (Dooen) run of 102,000 acres (41,278 ha). Carter, who managed the station, explored the river with Henry Darlot as far as Lake Hindmarsh. In October 1845 Carter took up his own cattle run at Brim Springs and later stocked it with sheep. Till 1874 he held this station, and also Rosebrook and Wartook, both of which he bought in 1858 with his sons Samuel, William James and John Charles. Short and rotund in appearance, dour and practical in manner, Carter successfully faced hostile Aboriginals, bushrangers, droughts and bush fires as a pioneer Wimmera settler. He was an Anglican and died on 8 October 1875 at Rosebrook station.

His eldest son Samuel was born on 7 October 1834 at Constitution Hill, Tasmania, and educated by a tutor at Brim Springs station. He worked in the district as shepherd and horse-breaker and once walked to Melbourne and back in eleven days. In November 1872 with his brothers, William James of Brim Springs and John Charles of Rosebrook, he bought the lease of North Brighton run with 28,000 sheep, all improvements and 9035 acres (3656 ha) of freehold for £34,555. Carter Brothers also acquired Glenisla North and South (1874) and Walmer (1876), occupied Chaves Plain in the Mallee (1879), then Wirrengren Plain, where a condenser was used to obtain water for stock. When the partnership was dissolved in 1884 Samuel retained Glenisla; he bought Pine Plains in 1887 and worked it with another northern station, Sunset. At Glenisla he represented the government in Aboriginal welfare matters. He served as justice of the peace and on the Wimmera Shire Council in 1880-87. While shire president in 1882 he drew attention to the possibility of water storage on the McKenzie River. He advised the Victorian royal commission on water supply in 1884-85 of appropriate storage sites in the Grampians. From the position of a foundation commissioner of the Wimmera United Waterworks Trust in 1882 Carter became in 1886 first chairman of the shire of Wimmera's Waterworks Trust, which let the contract to John Derry to construct at Wartook on the McKenzie River what was destined to be the first large irrigation storage. On 10 January 1889 Carter was elected chairman of the Western Wimmera Irrigation and Water Supply Trust which planned irrigation of 200,000 acres (80,938 ha) of Wimmera farmlands and an extension of a stock and domestic supply system to the northern plains.

Carter remained a commissioner until 1892. In appearance he was a jovial, intelligent type of country squire. He made an outstanding contribution to water conservation in the Wimmera. Carter married Jane Muirhead of Stirling, Scotland, by whom he had five sons and three daughters. He was a Presbyterian and died on 12 April 1910. His Reminiscences of the Early Days of the Wimmera (Melbourne, 1911), were printed and privately circulated.

Select Bibliography

  • R. V. Billis and A. S. Kenyon, Pastoral Pioneers of Port Phillip (Melb, 1932)
  • A. S. Kenyon, ‘The Story of the Mallee’, Victorian Historical Magazine, vol 4, no 1, Sept 1914, pp 23-74, vol 4, no 3, Mar 1915, pp 121-50, and vol 4, no 4, June 1915, pp 175-200
  • Horsham Times, 8 Oct 1886
  • Shire of Wimmera Waterworks Trust minutes, 1885
  • Western Wimmera Irrigation and Water Supply Trust minutes, 1889-90 (State Rivers & Water Supply Office, Horsham, Victoria)
  • family records (privately held).

Citation details

L. J. Blake, 'Carter, Charles John (1797–1875)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 15 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

Charles Carter, n.d.

Charles Carter, n.d.

photo privately sourced

Life Summary [details]


1 May, 1797
Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England


8 October, 1875 (aged 78)
Rosebrook, Victoria, Australia

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Convict Record

Crime: theft
Sentence: life