Soon after the marriage of John, son of Nicholas and Priscilla (née Allison) Argus, and Mary Bassett they applied to leave England as bounty emigrants. John had learned his trade as a stonemason and considered that he would have good work opportunities in Australia. Mary's brother, Thomas, and his wife Mary were booked to travel with them on the Sea Queen which set sail from London on 29 November 1843 picking up Irish emigrants at Cork. The first night after leaving Cork, twenty three crew members mutinied and the ship returned to quell the rebellion. Bad weather caused the ship to return four times before it was able to finally start its southward journey. It was a long journey taking 138 days before arriving in Melbourne. John was engaged by John Wippell of Heidelberg for seven months, working 10 hour days, six days a week.
John and Mary stayed in Collingwood where their first child was born two months after their arrival. The family lived at Brighton for a few years, where their next two children were born. By 1853 they were living at Darebin where their next child was born. They then moved to the Barrabool Hills, renting a 200 acre farm from John Honey. Back then there were no bridges to cross the Barwon. The alternatives were a punt or the breakwater or one of the two fords — Dewins's or Pollock's. Roads were either bad or non-existent. Before the Colac Road was made the track to Moriac was along the south side of Waurn Ponds Creek.
In 1858 a bush fire devastated Mount Moriac, which was thickly timbered at the time. Although all efforts were made to control it they were unsuccessful. The long grass and other flammable material made their task hopeless. WC Haines lost most of his crop, which was cut and in stooks. The fire burned for several days and was a splendid sight at night. Cows and bullocks often wandered onto crops, which were generally unfenced.
Some time after 1858 John rented a farm from John Heard. The family remained there until 1875. The advertisement in the Geelong Advertiser prior to the sale of John Heard's land gives some indication of the location of the farm (portion of section 1 of the parish of Barrabool and portion 1 allotment B of the parish of Duneed). John was paying rates on land in the Parish of Barrabool, Ceres riding and the Parish of Duneed, Moriac riding. This is consistent with the advertisement. Ian Wynd in Barrabool — Land of the Magpie states "Heard acquired portions of WC Haines land on each side of Waurn Ponds Creek which he offered at auction in 1875 as magnificent land with a 5 room house". This land of 259 acres in section 1 Parish of Barrabool and portion 1 allotment B in the Parish of Duneed. Haines had owned land from Reservoir Road, Mount Moriac to the Barwon River at Pollocksford.
The family attended the Bible Christian Church in Mill Road (now Hendy Main Road). Proximity to the church may have been the reason the family chose to settle in Mount Moriac. In 1869 John was hit with a rotten egg thrown by a group of troublesome lads.
John and Mary's sons, William and John enjoyed ploughing matches. It may have been where they met their future wives, Mary Ann and Emma Grace Trewin.
John and Mary's children were:
William Bassett — born 14 January 1844 at Collingwood, married Mary Ann Trewin 13 April 1868, died 15 January 1910 at York WA
John Thomas — born 1847 at Brighton, married Emma Grace Trewin on 21 December 1873, died 1929 at Wagga Wagga NSW
Matilda — born 1853 at Brighton, married William Trewin in 1868 and John Coldwell in 1891, died 21 August 1926 at Shepparton
Elizabeth Ann — born 1753 at Darebin, married John Coldwell in 1872, died 13 May 1888 at Tallygaroopna
Mary Ann — born 1863 at Mount Moriac, married William Bowey, died 12 October 1944 at Mooroopna
In the year 1874-5 John Argus paid rates on 105 acres in the Parish of Barrabool (Ceres riding) and 156 acres in the Parish of Duneed (Moriac riding). He leased this land from John Heard. I have given an indication of the approximate location of this land in the map above (allotments marked WC Haines and Joseph Hawdon). This land was north of Colac Road, east of Hendy Main Road and straddled the creek.
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.