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Annie Maria Dawbin (1816–1905)

by R. Else-Mitchell

This article was published:

Annie Maria Dawbin (1816-1905), pioneer and diarist, was born on 24 November 1816 in Devon, England, the daughter of James Hadden, an English army officer. She was married first to Lieutenant Andrew Baxter (b. 7 December 1813) on 8 February 1834 in England, and second to Robert Dawbin (b. 21 October 1827) on 1 September 1857 at St Paul's, Melbourne.

Soon after her first marriage Mrs Baxter left England in the Augusta Jessie with her husband, an officer of the 50th Regiment, which was to be stationed in Van Diemen's Land. She began a diary upon embarking on 12 September 1834 and continued it until 1868, though with gaps totalling about six years in all.

On arrival in Van Diemen's Land she lived with her husband in Hobart Town and Launceston where she made many friends and became a figure in the social world of both towns and a close companion of Richard Dry and other colonial notables. She left Launceston for Sydney whither her husband had been transferred in September 1838. In Sydney they lived in barracks and their marital relations became strained. After being stationed at Port Macquarie convict settlement for about two months Baxter resigned his commission and settled in the Macleay River district. He took up land near Kempsey and, with financial assistance from one of his wife's relatives, established a homestead at Yessabah. Here they lived until 1844 when Baxter decided to sell out and to go to Port Fairy; Annie Maria reluctantly agreed to go with him despite the fact that they were husband and wife in name only.

After reaching Sydney by steamer in March 1844 they travelled overland to Melbourne and Port Fairy; this journey took two months and was fully recorded in her diary. At Port Fairy Baxter established a homestead on Yambuck station which had been taken up in the previous year on his behalf. Mrs Baxter became friendly with many pioneer families who had preceded them; she made occasional visits to Launceston and Hobart to see her brother, Captain William Hadden of the Royal Engineers, and her old friends; and on 15 June 1849 finally left Yambuck because her husband's conduct made her life intolerable. She went to Hobart and there kept house for her recently widowed brother and his children until 23 January 1851 when they all left for England in the Calcutta.

In England Mrs Baxter lived with her sister Harriet Woodward at Wednesbury in Staffordshire and with her brother and friends at Devonport, Cork (Ireland), London, and Pau (France) until 17 January 1857 when she left for Melbourne in the Anne Royden to wind up the affairs of her husband who had committed suicide in 1855. On this voyage she met Robert Dawbin, of Bridgewater, Somerset; soon after arrival in Melbourne they were married and immediately set out for Portland. She and Dawbin spent some months on Bongmire station in the Wannon valley and later acquired Springburn and an adjoining station, Alcove (later Sinclair's). While on these stations she resumed the friendship of many Western District pioneers including the Hentys, Learmonths, and Rutledges.

Dawbin proved incompetent in business matters and, as a result of his incapacity and the prevailing economic depression, his assets were taken by the mortgagee in 1861 and he was later declared insolvent. Dawbin and his wife went to Melbourne where they lived in poor circumstances, dependent entirely upon Mrs Dawbin's small income until 5 May 1863 when Dawbin left for England in consequence of his father's death. Mrs Dawbin was to follow as soon as he could send money for her fare, but he failed to do so and she stayed in Melbourne in lodgings until 5 April 1865 when she left for England in the Nimrod.

She joined her husband in Somerset in August 1865, and in January 1868 they left for New Zealand in the Celestial Queen, Dawbin having been appointed to take salmon ova to Otago to stock the Waiwera River hatchery. They remained at Waiwera until 1870 when, after some unhappy incidents, Dawbin's appointment was terminated.

Dawbin and his wife left New Zealand and later she went to Melbourne where, in 1873, she published Memories of the Past by a Lady in Australia, drawn from her early diaries. She lived at various places around Melbourne and died without issue on 22 November 1905 at South Yan Yean where she had a small farm and was buried in Melbourne general cemetery.

Mrs Dawbin was a woman of outstanding personality, with intellectual gifts and education well above the average. The thirty-two volumes of her diary, which are in the Dixson Library, provide an intimate account of her experiences and emotions as an army officer's wife, a pioneer settler, a social figure and a traveller, and show deep insight into the social life of town and country in three Australian colonies between 1834 and 1865.

Select Bibliography

  • P. L. Brown (ed), Clyde Company Papers, vol 5 (Lond, 1963).

Related Thematic Essay

Citation details

R. Else-Mitchell, 'Dawbin, Annie Maria (1816–1905)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 23 June 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]

Alternative Names
  • Hadden, Annie Maria
  • Baxter, Annie Maria

24 November, 1816
Devon, England


22 November, 1905 (aged 88)
Yan Yean, 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.