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James McLaurin (1821–1891)

by Ruth Teale

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James McLaurin (1821-1891), grazier, was born on 23 July 1821 at Dunoon, Argyllshire, Scotland, the second son of James McLaurin (1771-1864), farmer, and his wife Mary, née McGibbon (1783-1856). On 20 January 1838 he arrived at Sydney in the Brilliant with twenty-seven members of his family and went to Singleton, where his father was manager of James Bowman's station. In October 1839 he and his brother Alexander (1823-1872) overlanded cattle to Adelaide for Edward and George Howe. Next year on a similar trip he had many skirmishes with Aboriginal people and named the Edward River. After cattle dealing on the Melbourne market, he formed Allanvale station in the Westernport district with his brother Alexander and John Webster as partners.

About 1843 McLaurin worked on the Howes's Murray runs and made many trips with stock to Melbourne. When the Howes went bankrupt he took cattle for wages and by 1845 with his father and three brothers had occupied an abandoned run near Deniliquin, renaming it Cornalla. His unpublished 'Memories of Early Australia' (in the Mitchell Library) records that he and Archibald 'had to milk twenty cows before breakfast, split posts all day and thresh wheat by candlelight … and it was not uncommon to see the milk cows coming home with spears sticking in them'. In the early 1850s the five partners bought Derulamein for £3000 on the breakup of Benjamin Boyd's Deniliquin run and in November 1855 paid a record £24,000 for the near-by 50,000-acre (20,234 ha) run of Moroco; later they acquired the 64,000-acre (25,900 ha) cattle run of Billabong in the Murrumbidgee district. By 1866 the family held over 203,000 acres (82,151 ha) in the Riverina.

In 1852 James had been attracted to the Victorian goldfields but within three months went to Albury where he built the Fanny Ceres flour-mill. In 1859 he was appointed a magistrate and in 1859-60 served on the first town council. In 1861 he sold the mill to George Day in exchange for the 90,000-acre (36,421 ha) Yarra Yarra run, near Germanton (Holbrook). When their father died in 1864 the brothers dissolved the partnership and James took Yarra Yarra and Billabong. When Yarra Yarra was threatened by the bushranger Daniel Morgan, McLaurin led his sons and station hands in a raid on Morgan's camp, only to find it deserted; in his absence the homestead was plundered by the bushranger. In 1862 McLaurin petitioned parliament for pecuniary relief after 6305 cattle worth £20,132 had been compulsorily slaughtered in an outbreak of pleuro-pneumonia. By the 1870s he had restocked with sheep and was growing wheat. An elder of the Presbyterian Church, he liberally supported its local causes. In March 1872 he was elected to the Legislative Assembly for the Hume; a petition against his return was dismissed as 'frivolous and vexatious'. He resigned in February 1873 and refused nomination to the Legislative Council. In February 1891 he sold his holdings to his four eldest sons. He died on 10 November at Yarra Yarra and was buried in the Germanton cemetery. Predeceased by his first wife Ann, née Sparrow, who died in 1853 without issue, and by his second wife Isabella McDonald (d.1887), née Rankin, he was survived by five sons and three daughters of his second wife.

Select Bibliography

  • E. W. O'Sullivan, Under the Southern Cross (Syd, 1906)
  • J. Webster, Reminiscences of an Old Settler (Christchurch, 1908)
  • Pastoral Review Pty Ltd, The Pastoral Homes of Australia—NSW (Melb, 1910)
  • C. Fetherstonhaugh, After Many Days (Syd, 1918)
  • A. Henderson (ed), Australian Families, vol 1 (Melb, 1941)
  • W. A. Bayley, Border City (Albury, 1954)
  • R. B. Ronald, The Riverina: People and Properties (Melb, 1960)
  • Albury Daily News, 11 Nov 1891
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 11 Nov 1891
  • Border Post (Albury), 13 Nov 1891
  • J. D. Lang papers (State Library of New South Wales).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Ruth Teale, 'McLaurin, James (1821–1891)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 22 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (Melbourne University Press), 1974

View the front pages for Volume 5

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


23 July, 1821
Dunoon, Argyll, Scotland


10 November, 1891 (aged 70)
Holbrook, New South Wales, Australia

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