John Hensley was a Barrabool Shire councillor, serving from 1866 until 1871, but his life in Australia began many years before he came to the Geelong district. He was born in 1821 in Bristol, England. In 1838 at the age of 17 he emigrated with his 24 year old brother, Charles, on the Pestonjee Bomanjee to South Australia. In 1852 they bought the 79 square mile property Cairnbank in the south east. A number of successful years allowed them to pay off their loan in six years and then to have a two storey Georgian mansion to be built on the station. For eighteen years he had prosperity he never expected allowing him to expand to Pinnaroo, Mount Elgin and Bleak House stations. His brother, Charles, died on 30 April, 1878 at Cairnbank.
During this time in South Australia he had married Mary, daughter of John and Elizabeth (née McLean) Hay and they had several children:
Richard — born 1847
Elizabeth — born 1849, married Rev John Sinclair on 27 August 1878
Mary Harriet — born 1851, married Robert Laidlaw Fletcher on 5 June 1873, buried in an unknown location in the Mount Moriac Cemetery on 17 November 1942
William Hay — born 1753, married Mary Annie Hudson in 1888 at Norwood, Adelaide
John Alexander — born 1856, married Katie McCullock on 21 May 1891, died 21 February 1921
Jesse Susan — born about 1859, married Robert Henry Boadle on 5 June 1888 at Cairnbank, died on 22 October 1946 at Nhill Hospital
Margaret Annie Stewart — born 1861, married George McCoy on 16 April 1885 at Ewerby Mount Moriac
Charles James — born 1863
In 1865 he moved to the Geelong district. In 1872 he was at Ewerby in Mill Road (Hendy Main Road, north of the Colac Road), Mount Moriac, a property previously owned by Benjamin Tindale, a native of Ewerby near Sleaford in Lincolnshire. In 1875 he bought Minter's Mount Moriac Estate of 680 acres. He eventually owned 5112 acres.
His first setback was in November 1872 with the failure of the Provincial and Suburban Bank. The directors were prosecuted for fraud. Then the pastoralists started to have their land forcibly resumed for agricultural selection. These events caused him great financial hardship.
In 1874 he was elected a trustee of St Thomas' Church of England in Winchelsea. In 1882 he retired to a new house built in Latrobe Terrace, Geelong, leaving his son-in-law to run Ewerby. He died of bronchitis on 29 September 1891 at the age of 70 at the Free Presbyterian Manse in Great Myers Street, the residence of his son-in-law with whom he had lived for the previous two years. Mary had died the previous year on 5 January aged 66. They are both buried in the Presbyterian section of the Geelong Eastern Cemetery.
In 1875 the families moved to the Shepparton area. John took up a selection at Tallygaroopna and Matilda took up the allotment next to it. John and Mary retired from farming in 1890 and moved into a small cottage in Shepparton where John died on 8 May 1998. Mary died on 29 August 1904 at the home of her daughter at Tallygaroopna. They were both buried in a family grave at Shepparton Cemetery.
A book written by Bob Argus traces the Argus family back to villages in Devon and Cornwall, where the family name was Hargest. The difficulties of his ancestors are described in interesting detail. They were very early settlers of this district where three of John Argus' children married three of Lawrence Trewin's. In the mid 1870s the families shifted to the Shepparton area to gain more land and a better future. Although the book is written as a story it includes maps, documents and family trees.
The Bible Christian Ebenezer Chapel, Sandlands Road (now Hendy Main Road), Mount Moriac was opened with a service on Christmas Day 1856. This was followed by a tea provided by the ladies at 5pm. The cost of the 24 x 18 feet building was £190 of which £120 had already been raised. The tea raised an extra £30. It was built on the west side of Hendy Main Road, north of Colac Road.
On 24 August 1869 church services were disrupted by six lads between the age of twelve and fifteen years who threw rotten eggs and stones at worshippers and into the church. John Argus, who was attending the meeting was struck by a rotten egg.
In 1952 working bees were held to clear away the stone from the original church that had been erected in 1860. As the old church was unsafe after the recent storm damage it was decided to rebuild the new church on the foundations of the old church. Built of Mount Gambier limestone, the cost was £5000. The old steeple was incorporated into the new design. It was hoped to find records of the laying of the foundation-stone (31 October 1858) in a bottle inserted into one of the stones, but this did not happen.
The new church was not as large as the old one which had beautifully carved doors and windows. When it was erected in the early 1860s there was also a presbytery and school. It had been built to serve a much larger population. The Mount Moriac country was once thickly populated. Evidence of this could be seen from the number of deserted and decaying houses fifty years ago. The blocks were relatively small and as families grew the settlers found they could not make ends meet. These farmers often shifted to remote areas where blocks were larger such as in the Wimmera.
A large proportion of the earliest settlers in Mount Moriac were Catholic and as this was the only Catholic church between Geelong and Colac parishoners flocked to it. It was reported that the stone used in the construction of the first church was faulty, and on many occasions the church had to be repaired. In 1869 the walls, erected at a cost of £4,500, were cracking and needed a large amount of money to make them secure. This damage was caused by the loose manner in which the foundation was put in. Alterations were again carried out in 1887. Damage to the church in that year included broken slates, and the destruction of the large stained glass western window which was shattered by a furious hailstorm. In 1929 leadlight windows were broken by someone throwing stones.
In February 2017 more than 200 people watched at the auction when the property was sold for $605,000 to a local buyer.
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