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Horace Dean (1814–1887)

by Ruth Teale

This article was published:

Horace Dean (1814-1887), physician, journalist and store-keeper, was born on 10 November 1814 in Chicago, United States of America, probably son of Horace Williams who had migrated from London with his mother, née Dean. He claimed an education in medicine but the diplomas he later exhibited have not been acknowledged by Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, or the St Louis School of Medicine, Missouri. In 1846 he was a surgeon and cavalry captain in the Mexican war. In a duel next year he killed an officer and fled to England where he spent some months in a lunatic asylum. As Horace Dean on 25 April 1849 at Hastings he married Jane Ann Mitchell, and in November arrived at Adelaide as surgeon in the Augusta.

With a forged medical diploma, Dean set up a practice in Angaston; in October 1850 he was naturalized and admitted to the roll of qualified medical practitioners. He became a justice of the peace in March 1851, and acted in 1852 as an honorary special magistrate. As second stipendiary magistrate of the northern districts early in 1853, he fell out with George Fife Angas, who claimed that Dean had reported to the governor 'that all in Angaston hated the landlord and were afraid of him'. Angas then wrote to friends in America who challenged Dean's identity and qualifications. Before Sir Richard MacDonnell in September 1855 Dean allowed himself to be passed off as Colonel Thomas Haskell; in reply to the governor's letter Jefferson Davis, the United States secretary of war, showed conclusively that this claim was false. Meanwhile the 'persecution' by Angas continued; Dean had to resign as magistrate in November 1855 and was struck off the medical roll in 1857. Convinced that it was 'necessary to remit these questions to the decision of the people', he stood for Barossa in the first Legislative Assembly elections. On the hustings Dean professed contempt for all 'would-be aristocrats' who attempted 'to monopolize the fat of the land', and urged electors to 'overwhelm the Upper House in its own ruins' if Angas attempted to 'control the representatives of the people'. Dean was elected in March 1857 but disqualified in May by the Court of Disputed Returns. He was re-elected in June but again disqualified. He then proposed to start an 'altogether democratic' paper, but could not find the capital.

Dean went to Melbourne, then Sydney where he wrote for the Empire and in 1858 settled as a storekeeper at Tinonee on the Manning River. He practised medicine although he never registered in New South Wales. He encouraged attempts to grow sugar-cane, cotton and tobacco and to mine for gold, copper and limestone. In April 1865 he started the Manning River News. Still an artful demagogue, he was elected in December 1869 for the Hastings but was disqualified because he was in government pay as a postmaster. In July 1870 he was returned by what he called 'the unanimous will of an outraged people' but was again disqualified under naturalization conditions. Still hopeful of re-election, he proposed in 1872 to start a Sydney daily; when Sir Henry Parkes refused to be his political editor, his enthusiasm waned. After a short stay in Uralla, in 1875 Dean bought a store in Grafton and entered local politics. He became mayor in 1878 but was removed within six months for 'gross mismanagement'. His intention to stand again for parliament aroused opposition and he retired to write an autobiography, but a flood carried away his papers and ruined his store. He died on 8 May 1887, survived by four sons and four daughters; his wife predeceased him by seven weeks. His estate was valued at £7236.

Select Bibliography

  • Grafton and District: Its History, Trade and Industries: Fifty Years of Progress, 1859-1909 (Sydney, 1910?)
  • F. A. Fitzpatrick, Peeps into the Past (Parramatta, 1914)
  • Government Gazette (South Australia), 3 Oct 1850, 19 Feb 1852, 27 Jan 1853
  • Register (Adelaide), 10 Nov 1849, 2 Jan–18 July 1857
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 6-24 Dec 1869, 7 May, 23 June, 8 July, 24 Sept 1870
  • Empire (Sydney), 24 Sept 1870
  • Clarence & Richmond Examiner, 16 Feb, 17 Aug–14 Sept 1878, 10 May 1887
  • Henry Parkes letters (State Library of New South Wales)
  • D. McFarlane newsclippings (State Library of New South Wales)
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Ruth Teale, 'Dean, Horace (1814–1887)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 14 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (Melbourne University Press), 1972

View the front pages for Volume 4

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


10 November, 1814
Chicago, Illinois, United States of America


8 May, 1887 (aged 72)

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