Saturday, November 23, 2013

Sepia Saturday: An independent colony

The Sepia Saturday theme photo, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 28 June 1914, and the call to find an association between an important date in history and our own family.

Today is an anniversary for the state I live in, the state of Victoria in Australia. On this date in 1855 the 'Act to establish a constitution in and for the Colony of Victoria' was formally proclaimed. It had been drafted in Victoria and sent to the British Parliament for formal approval. It followed the 1 July 1851 declaration of Victoria as a colony independent of New South Wales. (Since the first permanent European settlement in 1834 it had been called Port Philip District.) In 1901 the colony became a state when the six separate colonies in Australia became the Commonwealth of Australia.

As an aside, I had a look for our state's Coat of Arms (not granted until half a century later). I've never noticed before, but there's a kangaroo holding the royal crown for some reason and appears to be standing in a top hat! At least our state's emblems make more sense - Common Heath Epacris impressa (floral), Weedy Sea Dragon Phyllopteryx taeniolatus (marine) and Helmeted Honeyeater Lichenostomus melanops and Leadbeater's Possum Gymnobelideus leadbeateri (fauna).

Weedy Sea-dragon
Common Heath
Helmeted Honeyeater
Leadbeater's Possum
So I got to thinking. Which of my ancestors were living in the state when it was declared an independent state? Only four. John Brown and Maryanne Howe who were both Irish and migrated separately in the 1840s and married in Melbourne in March 1850. And William Chaundy, who was sent out here in 1849 by the English courts, and his wife Rachel who was sponsored to join him out here by her parish.

Maryanne Lee nee Howe who migrated to Victoria in 1849
By the time Victoria's constitution was approved on 23 November 1855 almost all my ancestral families were out here. William and Ann Wyllie arrived in 1853, William and Mary Ann Cook arrived in 1852, James Taylor arrived 1853, Ephraim and Elizabeth Smith arrived 1852, John Hillgrove arrived in 1852 and so did his future wife, Janet Blair. The only one of my ancestors who wasn't here by 1855 was Gabriel Duckett who didn't arrive until 1868. And my husband's family follow the same pattern.

So what happened in the early 1850s to prompt all this immigration? Gold. Gold was discovered in the state about a fortnight after it was declared independent. It was the catalyst for a huge influx of people. The population increased from 77,000 to 540,000 in ten years.

In 2012 a fifth emblem was added to the state of Victoria's list. Gold became the state's mineral.

Welcome Stranger, the largest gold nugget, was found in Victoria.
 It weighed 71 kg.


  1. Interesting about the gold! I think I heard this before (many years ago in a World History class); it makes perfect sense that a surge in immigration took place back then. Thanks for the history lesson.

  2. A good introduction to history. A kangaroo on a coat of arms somehow makes better sense than a unicorn or griffon. Maryanne looks a bit overdressed for Australia's climate, and maybe Ireland's too.

  3. A lovely photo of Maryanne. Descriptions of the coat of arms make no mention of the 'top hat', and i think it is really just a kind of vase to hold the wreath of the colours. You would think that when they added in the heath in 1973, they might have included the other emblems somewhere as well, why not :-)

  4. My ancestor came to Victoria for gold too and I think arrived about 1851. He set up grocery shops. He was very hard to trace! He eventually came to NZ and settled here, following all our gold rushes around without success. I didn't realise that my ancestor arrived only a couple of months after Victoria being declared a state separate from NSW. Very interesting to me. Thanks!

  5. Thank You for this history lesson on Victoria. The coat of arms is beautiful. I always find fascinating old photographs of our ancestors and the one of Maryanne is so striking.. .

  6. I didn't know there was a big gold rush in Australia.

  7. California was also welcomed into the union as a new state because of the discovery of gold. One of my ancestors came west to California because of the gold - but not to look for it. He was a doctor and came to administer to the miners - traveling from camp to camp.

  8. Your post makes me realise how little I know about Australian history and the states in particular.

  9. Most of mine were here by then too, and in Victoria. I knew about the coat of arms and emblems but had forgotten, thanks for the interesting reminder.
    My 4x great grandfather was the first mayor in 1842.

  10. This has been puzzling me for days and finally - the shiny thing on the coat of arms is a helmet. With all the stuff on the internet that word only cropped up once in the government information I have been reading. A similar jousting helmet can be seen at On the coat of arms the helmet has a circlet at the top which to me looks like a favour from the knight's lady - similar to the headdress she would wear. - though what that has to do with Victoria in 1901 when the Colony became a State I do not know. Great post and a great reminder of our history.

    1. Hah. A helmet! That doesn't exactly match with the banner of 'peace and prosperity' :) Apparently the state's colours are silver and blue so maybe they just wanted something traditional and shiny.

  11. Over the past year I've read many blogs mentioning ancestors immigrating to Australia, but I never read any mention of the gold. Thanks for clearing that up!


I love to read your comments. Thankyou for your interest.



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