John Hepburn

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John Hepurn married Elizabeth Combes [1] at St Anne, Limehouse on 17 May 1830.

Smeaton was named by Captain John Hepburn after Smeaton in South Scotland. [2]

Captain Hepburn died on 07 August 1859, and was buried at the family cemetery on his Smeaton property.[3]

On the 7th inst., at Smeaton House, Smeaton, John Hepburn, Esq., J.P., aged 60 years. The funeral will take place at two o'clock p.m. on Friday, the 10th inst.[4]

In the News

Port Phillip Immigration Society.
THIS Society is formed for the purpose of introducing labour from Van Diemen's Land, and Settlers and Agriculturists subscribing 10s per annum for every servant employed by them, are members of the Society. A Committee has been appointed, who will receive subscriptions from parties resident in the country. Subscriptions will be received in Melbourne by the members of Committee resident there, by the Treasurer, Mr. Archibald M'Lachlan, and by the Secretary, Mr. F. Pittman. The Committee would urgently impress upon parties interested the necessity of paying their subscriptions immediately.
Names of the Members of the Committee appointed to receive subscriptions.— John Aitken, Mount Aitken; William Firebrace, Milford ; M. F. Scobie, Goulburn River; W. M. Anderson, Goulburn River; John Purcell, Murray River; John Murcheson, Goulburn River; Wm. Hamilton, Goulburn River; John Hepburn, Smeaton Hill; Wm. Coghill, Loddon; D. C. Simpson, Loddon ; Alex. V. Mollison, Mount Macedon; Edward Bryant, Loddon; Henry G. Bennett Campaspe; Charles Ryan, Broken River; G. C. Curlewis, Murray River; Arch. M. Campbell, Murray River ; Patk. Brougham, Edward's River ; Arthur Ruffy, Western Port; J. Martin Western Port; William Kaye, Avoca River; Charles Barnes, R. Fennell, Isaac Buchannan, F. G. Dalgetty, Captain Cain, L. Roston, Melbourne. [5]

BEFORE GOLD SENT MEN MAD - Captain John Hepburn, of Smeaton Hill, Blazed the Trail of the Pioneer
WE have celebrated the achievements of the pioneers who came by sea to Portland and through the Heads to Port Phillip. Now comes the turn of those who drove their flocks and herds through the dense bush and over hills and streams along the way traced by Hume and Hovell.
One of the earliest among these overlanders was Captain John Hepburn, who had followed the sea from the age of 13 years, and whose ship, the Alice, was well known in Australian waters. It was from John Gardiner, who had made a passage with him from Van Diemcn's Land, that the suggestion came to try life as a settler at Port Phillip.
It may seem a matter for regret that the daily entries made by Captain Hepburn, of Smeaton Hill, in a certain old leather-backed ledger, affectionately preserved by his granddaughters, should not date from that 15th day of April, 1838, when he took up the country on a spur of the Dividing Range, the beauty of which had charmed him on his first visit with Gardiner in 1836.
Captain Hepburn had Joined forces with the Coghill brothers, three of whom settled on Glendonald and Glendaruel, in the Immediate neighbourhood of Smeaton. According to the diary, there was frequent and friendly intercourse between the two families. Situated as Smeaton Hill is, in the heart of the gold country, It must however be conceded that the years 1846-51, covered by the diary, are of particular interest.
THE pastoral life, depicted from day to day in the plainest terms, was about to be interrupted, and Captain Hepburn appears as a typical and impressive figure, dismayed at the inrush of gold seekers into his lately won pastures.
"The captain's domicile," says "The Argus" of 1851, "has the appearance of an English gentleman's park." Then follows the significant announcement: "A Government township is to be immediately surveyed and sold close to the house."
This house had replaced the primitive hut of the 'thirties, and the diary traces every stage of its construction, which lasted over two years. It still stands, and is occupied to-day by a prosperous dairy farmer.
"Brought John Gill from Melbourne," one entry runs. John Gill was the architect of the Baptist church in Collins street, and he designed two buildings in 1848 in Bourke street for Mr. A. F. Mollison. Another entry tells us that the name of the builder was Lake.
A few more quotations may be permitted:
"All hands digging at the foundations... Two sawyers to saw timber for the house... Self in search of a quarry for stone... A heavy fall of snow... Builders and trenchers all idle... Two men to prepare yards for brick making... Teams drawing wood to burn bricks... Bennett burning his first bricks... Returned from town with carpenter to put up roof... A dray arrived with the hearth stones from Geelong ... all safe . . . Harry went to the forest for rafters..." And at last he is able to write on 19th October, 1850: - "Plasterers finished their work this day."
CAPTAIN HEPBURN and his wife were married in London in 1830. Of their four sons and six daughters all but two were born at Smeaton Hill. During the building of the new house it is recorded in the diary that the Rev. Mr. Chyne came from Burn Bank (Lexton) and "baptised Jane and Annie, also the joiner's child."
Names of other visiting ministers of religion recur, among them that of the Rev. Thomas Hastie, so long and so prominently associated with the Ballarat district.
Benjamin Hepburn was John's half brother and many years his junior. He spent some time at Smeaton Hill to gain the experience which enabled him to set up a stock and station agency in Ballarat. His doings' are recorded in the diary: now mustering cattle with Captain McLachlan, their neighbour at Glengower, at another time visiting the pound at Macedon to recover strayed beasts.
Benjamin Hepburn's wife provided one of those links, with the past which some delight in tracing. She was born in Brussels during the Waterloo campaign, her father being an officer In Wellington's forces.
One of the best-known features at Smeaton Hill was the water-mill on Birch's Creek, erected by Captain Hepburn about 1841. Hither came drays with grain from neighbouring stations; from Captain Langdon at Bullarook, from Mr. Hunter at Tarringower, from Mr. D. C. Simson at Charlotte Plains. In 1848 there was a dry season, and in July the mill temporarily stopped working.
Fiom the diary a clear picture emerges of the early times before the days of fencing, surveying, and of well defined boundaries. The run consisted of several stations, each with its hut, its shepherd, and flock. At night the sheep were folded inside hurdles, and there were watch-boxes for the men. The supply of reliable shepherds was very inadequate, and the diary abounds with expressions of anxiety on that subject.
Of free labourers, It is noted that 20 absconded during the two and a half years beginning at the close of 1840. Men deported on the Pentonville system are mentioned as well as old-time convict servants. Delinquents had to appear before the bench of magistrates at Burn Bank (Lexton).
Many sheep were lost owing to "rushes" by native dogs, to straylng, theft, smothering during a panic, to storms, fires, and floods. The names of the different out-stations have a pleasantly familiar ring in Australian ears: The Plain, the Tea-tree, the Lagoon, the Springs, &c. Koorootyngh, the native name for the locality, was retained for part of the run, Smeaton being a Scottish name with family associations.
The nearest post-office was at Jim Crow, now Daylesford. This peculiar name was bestowed not only on the township, but also on a creek, and on a local mountain range; Its origin was a popular ditty of the period, introduced into London in 1830 by a negro singer known as Adelphi Rice. It is said to have created an absolute furore, and was the first of a flood of negro songs.
Another theatrical memory is stirred by the mention in the diary of a traveller calling himself "The Wizard of the South," who must have delighted the unsophisticated station hands with his tricks of ventriloquism. By 1855 this man, Jacobs, had developed into "The Wizard of Wizards," and was playing to crowded audiences at the Royal Montezuma Theatre in Ballarat.
Captain Hepburn's diary comes to a close in the early years of the gold era. After the finds at Creswick's Creek on Clunes Station, in July, 1851, at Buninyong in August, and at Ballarat and Mt. Alexander in September, Smeaton seemed to be at the very heart of a golden circle, and gold was found in lesser quantities on Smeaton Hill ground. There is a distinct note of regret and bewilderment in the diary.
"Short of hands and no likelihood of getting any more."
Another entry follows: "Many thou- sands of men passing during this week to the gold diggings at Mt. Alexander . . . counted ... 59 carts and 1.149 men between Mr. Campbell's station and this ... 17 miles . . ."
The new era had begun.
Captain Hepburn died on August 7, 1859, and was buried at Smeaton. [6]

In the Supreme Court yesterday, Mr Justice Holroyd dealt with a friendly suit by beneficiaries under the will of the late John Hepburn to obtain the sanction of the Court to the concurrence of the trustees in a certain compromise or arrangement with the Country Estates Company. Mr Hepburn died in 1860, leaving a large estate, and a will by which he directed that it should be divided among his children in equal shares. The most valuable portion of the property consisted of the Smeaton Estate, and in 1887 the trustees sold the bulk of that estate, amounting to 22,839 acres to the Country Estates Company, the price being £293 000. The con tract contained a schedule of the prices to be paid for the different allotments, and it was provided that these sums must be paid to the trustees before the latter transferred to sub purchasers from the company. A large number of sales were effected, and payments amounting to about £160 000 were made to the trustees in accordance with the contract. Further sales were then negotiated for allotments the schedule price of which came to a total of £28,563 which the trustees were entitled to demand before they could be called upon to make the transfers. The company found that it could not pay that price, but offered, if the transfers were granted, to pay £9 950 and a further sum of £5,000 as accrued interest on the total balance of the purchase money. The trustees considered that the acceptance of this offer would be in the interests of the Hepburn Estate. the beneficiaries under the will concurred in the arrangement, but as some of them were infants it was thought desirable to obtain the sanction of the court. Mr Justice Holroyd doubted whether he had Jurisdiction to make am order which would afterwards be binding on the infant beneficiaries. For the reasons given in the affidavits, however, the arrangement proposed appeared to be a most beneficial one for the estate, and he would make the order for what it was worth. Mr Neighbour, instructed by Messrs Davies and Price, appeared for the trustees under a settlement by Mrs W. A Murton, a daughter of the late Mr Hepburn , and Mr Goldsmith, instructed by Messrs Malleson, England, and Stewart, for G S Hepburn and W.A. Zeal, the surviving trustees of Mr Hepburn's will. [7]
The Smeaton Estate, Victoria, owned by the late John Hepburn, has been sold for £262,005. This is one of the largest freehold properties sold in Victoria for many years.[8]

See also

Benjamin Hepburn

Elizabeth Hepburn

Ballarat Gas Company

Further Reading

Corfield, J.,Wickham, D., & Gervasoni, C. The Eureka Encyclopaedia, Ballarat Heritage Services, 2004.


  1. The Argus, 31 December 1938.
  2. Centenary of Smeaton, 1838-1938 : a souvenir booklet with historical sketches …, Smeaton Centenary Committee, 1938, p13.
  3. The Argus, 31 December 1938.
  4. Ballarat Star, 8 August 1860.
  5. The Argus, 21 August 1846.
  6. The Argus, 31 December 1938.
  7. The Argus, 21 April 1894.
  8. Brisbane Courier Mail, 23 November 1937.

External links

--Clare K.Gervasoni 20:32, 25 October 2013 (EST)

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