Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Joseph Hawdon (1813–1871)

by Alan Gross

This article was published:

Joseph Hawdon (1813-1871), pioneer and overlander, was born on 14 November 1813 at Wackerfield, Durham, England, the son of John Hawdon. In 1834 he came to Australia at the suggestion of his brother, John (b.1801), who had arrived in Sydney with his wife and two sons in September 1828, when he rented a property, Elderslie, at the Cowpastures. After he advised Joseph to join him, he settled at Burgalia, near Bateman's Bay. Joseph had already made some mark as a cattle-breeder and the two brothers seem to have worked in partnership for some time.

In 1836 Joseph Hawdon joined John Gardiner and John Hepburn in overlanding cattle to Port Phillip. The enterprise was successful and the three men remained in Victoria. Hawdon took up land near Dandenong being attracted by 'its rich black loam covered with rib-grass, one of the most nourishing grasses found in Australia'. He also secured a contract at £1200 a year to carry the overland mail fortnightly to Yass, at which point his post-boy passed it to the mailman from Sydney who transferred the south-bound mail to him. This was a pioneer service; hitherto the mail had gone by sea. Hawdon's first post-boy was John Conway Bourke; in 1838 he rode 11,000 miles (17,703 km).

In 1838 Hawdon and Charles Bonney drove cattle from a station near Howlong to Adelaide following the course of the Murray River for most of the way. This venture helped to fill in the map. Next year, with Lieutenant Mundy, he drove tandem over a more direct route between Melbourne and Adelaide. He now made his headquarters in Melbourne, where he lived on his property, Banyule, at Heidelberg. He was a founder of the Pastoral and Agricultural Society and the Victorian Horticultural Society. In 1848 he took the Tallarook run of 27,520 acres (11,137 ha) at the junction of the Goulburn River and Sunday Creek on crown lease. He remained in Victoria until 1858, when he returned to England. In 1863 he migrated to the Canterbury province of New Zealand where his name was given to the Hawdon River and Lake Hawdon. He took up large pastoral runs, visited England in 1867, and was a member of the Legislative Council in 1866-71. He died at Christchurch on 12 April 1871.

Hawdon married Emma Outhwaite in Durham on 19 January 1842. She died in 1853. In 1872 his son Arthur Joseph married Sarah Elizabeth Barker, reputed to have been the first child of European parentage born in Canterbury, New Zealand. Hawdon was adventurous and alert to opportunity, and by his own success gave valuable service in developing new territory.

Select Bibliography

  • T. F. Bride (ed), Letters from Victorian Pioneers (Melb, 1898)
  • J. Hawdon, The Journal of a Journey from New South Wales to Adelaide (Melb, 1952)
  • Port Phillip Government Gazette, 1848, p 411
  • A. Andrews, 'The First Overland Mail and the Howlong Station on the Murray', Victorian Historical Magazine, vol 5, no 3, Mar 1917, pp 107-112
  • 'Notes and Queries: Joseph Hawdon', Victorian Historical Magazine, vol 6, no 1, Sept 1917, p 42
  • T. O'Callaghan, 'The Origin of Postal Services in New South Wales, and the Extension of the System to Port Phillip', Victorian Historical Magazine, vol 7, no 3, July 1919, pp 97-115
  • John Conway Bourke papers (Royal Historical Society of Victoria).

Citation details

Alan Gross, 'Hawdon, Joseph (1813–1871)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 13 July 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]


14 November, 1813
Wackerfield, Durham, England


12 April, 1871 (aged 57)
Christchurch, New Zealand

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