article contributed by John Stewart
James Stewart was born in Parramatta in 1845, the youngest son of John and Lillie Stewart. He came to Geelong with his family in 1852; thence to Mt Duneed in 1856, where his father farmed and later owned the Connewarre flour mill. James assisted his father and one brother on the farm and with the flour mill.
James became a member of the Connewarre Road Board. The earliest reference confirming this was found in the Geelong Advertiser of 10 September, 1868. Since, from other information, member elections seem to have taken place each August, it is likely that he was elected in August, 1868. He would have been aged 23, rather young to be on the Board.
The earliest reference to James being Chairman of the Board is in the Geelong Advertiser of 31st July, 1874. In July 1873, Andrew White was known to be chairman. As the Chairman was elected at the AGM and the 1873 AGM was on 19th November, it is assumed that this was when he became chairman. He was then 28.
In 1874 the government legislated to amalgamate the Borough of South Barwon with the Connewarre Road Board. The first meeting of the newly constituted Shire of South Barwon took place on Wednesday, 20th January, 1875, and James was recorded as Chairman of the Connewarre Road Board. Thus, he must have been re-elected as Chairman at the Road Board AGM in November, 1874. So that is how he became to be an inaugural councillor of the Shire of South Barwon. He would not have been eligible for re-election in 1875 as, by that time, he was resident at Hillside which is in the Parish of Duneed and thus outside the South Barwon boundary.
At some stage James qualified as a surveyor and in the off season for the flour mill travelled around Victoria surveying. It is assumed that this is how he met and married, in 1875, Jessie Wilson at Boradomamin, her father’s large pastoral lease between Benalla and Alexandra. It is possible the families knew each other earlier through the Scotch Free Church in Geelong.
After their marriage they lived back at Mt Duneed at Hillside, on the south west corner of what is now Whites and Williams roads. Hillside was leased by the Stewart family from James Henty. After the expiry of the Hillside lease James and his then young family went to NSW where he managed, and later became partner, in a property owned by his father-in-law. He died in 1899 and is buried in the West Wyalong cemetery.
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