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William Fergusson Hunter (1828–1906)

by Lyndsay Gardiner

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HUNTER BROTHERS: John (1820-1868); Alexander Maclean (1821-1892); James Arthur Carr (1824-1889); Andrew Francis (1827-1854); and William Fergusson (1828-1906), pastoralists, were five of the six sons of Alexander Hunter, a writer to the signet in Edinburgh.

Alexander Maclean Hunter was born on 25 November 1821 and at 18 migrated to Port Phillip. An elder cousin John Hunter traded with James Watson in 1839-43. Alexander became one of the pioneers of Gippsland after a successful expedition with his brother James from the Monaro south through the mountains to the sea in 1844. At the end of 1844 he took out a licence for Tarwin Meadows station at Anderson's Inlet which he held till 1851. He next served as a major in the mounted police, and in 1853 became their studmaster. Like all his family, he was a fine horseman and very interested in horse-breeding and horse-racing. For some years he was honorary secretary of the Melbourne Turf Club, only resigning when he left for South Africa about 1864. In South Africa he grew sugar-cane successfully for six years and then returned to Victoria where he took up Balla Balla station near Cranbourne in 1872. He married in 1850 Eliza Anne Bostock of Hobart Town, by whom he had three sons and two daughters. He died at sea on 16 November 1892 in the Tongariro while returning from a visit to Scotland.

John Hunter, born on 21 April 1820, arrived at Port Phillip in the Culdee soon after his brother. Known as 'Daredevil Jack' he was a fearless horseman and reckless rider. He held a property at Mount Napier in 1841-42, but was soon in financial difficulties. Later he settled in South America where he married Martena Ariola. On 17 February 1868 he died of cholera at Buenos Aires, survived by two daughters; his two sons predeceased him.

James Hunter, who was born on 30 June 1824, arrived in Sydney in 1840 and took part in many of Alexander's pastoral activities. It was in James's name that Calagandoo station in South Australia was taken up in 1847, though Alexander and Francis were associated with him in this venture. Later he accompanied his brother William to Fiji intending to take up land there, but soon returned and took up land at Minnieburn in Gippsland. He married Louisa Harriet Utterson and by her had four sons and two daughters. He died at St Kilda, Melbourne, on 19 December 1889.

Francis Hunter served with the Cape mounted police in South Africa and then went to the Victorian police before joining Alexander and James at Calagandoo. Later he took up Moorak station. He was not married. He was killed by a bull in the Compton yards near Mount Gambier on 24 September 1854.

William, a cripple but nevertheless a fine horseman, arrived in Australia in 1851 but, after some time in South Australia, went to Fiji where he spent twenty-five years. On his return he took up land near Warragul, Victoria, where he died on 9 March 1906. He was not married.

This family of pioneers, pastoralists, and horsemen represent a type of colonist described by Rolf Boldrewood as 'well-born, cultured, fearless, adventurous', leading 'the half-laborious, half-romantic life which to the cattle-station holder of that day was allotted'. They played a considerable part in opening up the interior of Port Phillip, especially the Gippsland district.

Select Bibliography

  • R. Boldrewood (T. A. Browne), Old Melbourne Memories (Melb, 1884)
  • T. F. Bride (ed), Letters from Victorian Pioneers (Melb, 1898)
  • C. Fetherstonhaugh, After Many Days (Syd, 1918)
  • R. V. Billis and A. S. Kenyon, Pastures New (Melb, 1930)
  • R. V. Billis and A. S. Kenyon, Pastoral Pioneers of Port Phillip (Melb, 1932)
  • H. J. Malone, A Short History of South Gippsland (Buffalo, 1934)
  • C. Daley, ‘How the Hunters Came to Gippsland’, Victorian Historical Magazine, vol 11, no 3, Mar 1927, pp 156-69
  • Hunter papers (State Library of Victoria)
  • Ac no 615, 616 (State Records of South Australia).

Citation details

Lyndsay Gardiner, 'Hunter, William Fergusson (1828–1906)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 19 May 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]




1906 (aged ~ 78)

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