Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

William Crowe (1837–1931)

by John Warhurst

This article was published:

William Crowe (1837?-1931), farmer, was born at The Glen, County Clare, Ireland, son of Thomas Crowe, farmer, and his wife Margaret, née O'Donnell. He was educated at the near-by town of Upper Kilbane, where he grew up with his maternal grandparents; he was still young when first his mother and later his father died.

Following the example of his uncle, Crowe migrated to Australia in 1855. After first landing in Adelaide, he sailed to the Western District of Victoria, and disembarked at Belfast (Port Fairy), before moving further east to Koroit where land was more easily available. Within two years he had purchased his first land—a single acre (0.4 ha). On 20 April 1863 at Belfast Catholic Church, he married Catherine Aldworth, Irish-born daughter of a Koroit farmer; they had nine sons and four daughters.

Crowe was an energetic and successful farmer. The Victorian gold rushes had raised the prices of primary produce, especially potatoes, and he travelled long distances in a dray to fields near Stawell and Ararat to market his crops. At a time when traditional methods were being displaced, he was noted for his innovative approach to agriculture, a skill inherited by his son Robert. He was reputedly the first in the district to introduce aids such as reapers and binders, milking machines, potato diggers and windmills. Several of his own inventions, including a system of water-cooling, were also used on his property. He was a keen businessman, remembered as hard but fair; in order to employ workers who would not need overseeing, he was said to have offered his employees five shillings per week above the going rate.

Crowe had a long career in local government. After the proclamation of the Borough of Koroit on 7 October 1870, he stood for election and was successful in November as one of nine new councillors elected from fourteen candidates, polling the second highest number of votes. He served until August 1910, with only one twelve-month break, and was mayor six times between 1878 and 1903. From all accounts he was a popular mayor. He was a founder of the Koroit Agriculture Society and of the town's butter factory. He supported a number of sporting clubs, and was a successful greyhound owner. There is no evidence of an interest in politics at the parliamentary level, although he agitated for the continuation of the railway to Koroit after it had reached Warrnambool in 1890. A Catholic, Crowe was a strong supporter of his church's charitable organizations. Aged 93, he died at Koroit on 3 January 1931 and was buried in Tower Hill cemetery. He was predeceased by his wife and two sons.

Select Bibliography

  • J. A. Allan, The Victorian Centenary Book (Geelong, 1936)
  • H. A. McCorkell, A Green and Pleasant Land (Koroit, 1970)
  • Koroit Sentinel, 27 Jan 1892, 10 Jan 1931
  • family papers (privately held)
  • private information.

Citation details

John Warhurst, 'Crowe, William (1837–1931)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 22 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (Melbourne University Press), 1981

View the front pages for Volume 8

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


Upper Kilbawe, Clare, Ireland


3 January, 1931 (aged ~ 94)
Koroit, Victoria, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.