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John Gardiner (1798–1878)

by Leslie J. Wilmoth

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John Gardiner (1798-1878), pastoralist, was born on 5 July 1798 at Dublin, the second son of John Gardiner, a property owner of independent means, and his wife Martha, née Fletcher. At Colp, County Meath, on 9 September 1819 he married Mary Eagle; in October 1822, accompanied by his wife, her parents and their three sons, he sailed for Van Diemen's Land in the Andromeda. He arrived in Hobart Town in May 1823 and a month later was granted 800 acres (324 ha) of land near Ross. Next year he accepted employment with the Bank of Van Diemen's Land. His only child, Anna Maria, was born in Hobart in July 1827. During March 1828 he left the bank to become a successful country store-keeper in the Macquarie River district. In March 1834 he rented 5250 acres (2125 ha) of land at Lovely Banks and ran sheep.

Twelve months later the farm was sold and Gardiner, losing his tenancy, sailed for Sydney. He looked for land about Yass but was discouraged by the severe drought. In 1836 he returned to Van Diemen's Land, went to the Port Phillip settlement and thence to Sydney, where he left his wife and daughter. He bought 300 cattle from Joseph Hawdon, and with him and John Hepburn drove them overland to Gardiner's Creek, near Melbourne, with a further 100 beasts belonging to Hawdon. Because of this journey, the first with stock, Gardiner is often called 'the Overlander'. Leaving his cattle and men at Gardiner's Creek he returned immediately to Sydney and arranged to send 200 more cattle to Port Phillip.

In 1837 he sailed with wife and daughter to Port Phillip in the Regia, built a house at Gardiner's Creek, bought at Melbourne's first land sale a corner lot at Elizabeth and Little Collins Streets for £22, and established a cattle station of 15,000 acres (6070 ha) at Mooroolbark, where he was joined by his brother David and his cousin William Fletcher. In the same year he became the first president of a new Temperance Society, and his home was used for a meeting which formed a committee to build Melbourne's first Independent Church. Drawn to urban business in 1839, he presided at the formation and became a director of the Melbourne Fire and Marine Insurance Co. and a local director of the Melbourne branch of the Union Bank; later he resigned from the Union Bank, was appointed manager of the Port Phillip Bank, sold his Gardiner's Creek property and built a home in Bourke Street, Melbourne. In March 1841 he was sent to London where he tried without success to raise fresh capital for the Port Phillip Bank and served on the committee for political separation of the Port Phillip District from New South Wales. In September 1842 he returned to find Melbourne in financial crisis; he left the bank and lived at Mooroolbark. After the return of prosperity he sold Mooroolbark and other assets in 1853 and, with his brother David and William Fletcher, returned to England, where he retired to Leamington Spa, Warwickshire. In March 1863 his wife, who had stayed in Melbourne with her daughter, died. Three months later Gardiner married his cousin Sarah Fletcher (1812-1918) of Maryport, Cumberland. He died on 16 November 1878 at Leamington Spa.

Select Bibliography

  • A. S. Kenyon, ‘The Overlanders: Part 1: New South Wales (The Middle District) to Port Phillip’, Victorian Historical Magazine, vol 10, no 3, June 1925, pp 138-58
  • 'Part 2: New South Wales (The Middle and Port Phillip Districts) to South Australia', vol 10, no 4, Dec 1925, pp 173-207
  • Age (Melbourne), 9 Feb 1935
  • L. J. Wilmoth, John Gardiner (State Library of Victoria)
  • correspondence file under Gardiner (Archives Office of Tasmania).

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Citation details

Leslie J. Wilmoth, 'Gardiner, John (1798–1878)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 21 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]


5 July, 1798
Dublin, Dublin, Ireland


16 November, 1878 (aged 80)
Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, England

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