article and pictures contributed by John Stewart
John Stewart was born in 1802 in the soldier settlement village of Strelitz, Cargill Parish, County of Perthshire, Scotland. He qualified as a stonemason. After marriage to Lillian McFarlane in 1831, they moved to Dundee, where they had three children, Isabella (1832), James (1834) and Rhoda (1835), who died aged 9 months.
John is believed to have worked on one of several lighthouses then being built around the Scottish coast following which stonemason work was scarce. So when the Australian government advertised for stonemasons to work on the Parramatta gaol, the family came out as bounty immigrants in 1837. Unfortunately James died of Typhus in the quarantine station on arrival.
In Parramatta the family increased, with another six children being born – John (1837), Cunningham (1838, died in infancy), Jane (1841), Alexander (1843), another James (1845) and Lillian (1849). As members of the breakaway Free Presbyterian church, the family followed their minister, Rev. John Tait, to Geelong in 1852. Here, at the Scotch Free Church Little in Malop Street, they became acquainted with John Armstrong, the squatter whose run included Mount Duneed. When the Parish of Conewarre was surveyed and offered for sale in 1856 John Stewart bought two allotments (B&C) in Section 8, immediately south of Armstrong’s Pre-emptive Right. Here he built a homestead with bricks made from clay excavated on the property. The property was called Dooliebeal, an aboriginal word thought to mean “place of the red gums”.
In 1861 he bought Armstrong’s Connewarre Flour Mill, in partnership with a Thomas Palmer, from the Estate of John Armstrong who had died in October, 1856. In 1864 Stewart sold out to James Brown, but bought out the Palmer-Brown partnership in 1866 to become the sole owner. He also bought Allotment D, Section 8, from Palmer. The Stewarts operated the mill until they closed it in 1892.
As well as the mill, the family continued to farm, eventually owning all the land between the (now) Surf Coast Highway and Horseshoe bend Rd. by purchasing Allotment A. This, and the mill land opposite, remained in the family until 1981.
John Snr. Died in 1894; his wife, Lillian, predeceased him in 1889. Both are buried in the Mt Duneed cemetery.
Of their children, Isabella never married, lived at Dooliebeal all her life, died in 1926 and is buried in the Mt Duneed cemetery. Her younger sister, Jane, also never married, lived at home, died in 1881 and buried in the Mt Duneed cemetery. The youngest daughter, Lillian, married and left the district.
Alexander, the second surviving son, was a teacher. He was the first teacher at the Mt Duneed Anglican church school, later to become the Mt Duneed State primary school. He ultimately became Chief Inspector of schools in Victoria. James, the youngest son is dealt with elsewhere in this blog.
John Jnr., the first born in Australia, married Mary Webb, the eldest daughter of Alexander Webb, the colonial artist. They lived and farmed at Dooliebeal as well as running the flour mill. John died in 1922; Mary in 1935 and both are buried in the Mount Duneed cemetery. They had seven children, only one of whom (Henry, known as Harry) stayed at Mount Duneed.
Harry (b. 1887) married Myrtle Allen. They farmed Dooliebeal until they sold it in 1981 to move to Derrinallum, thus ending 125 years of Stewart association with Mt Duneed. Their older son, Jack, had moved away whilst their second son, Don, stayed with his parents through the move to Derrinallum. Both Harry (d. 1983) and Myrtle (d. 1995) are buried in the Mount Duneed cemetery.
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Geelong and District Database
Geelong Cemetery Index
Australian War Memorial
Surf Coast Early Schools
Barwon Heads History