Edward and Fanny Shepherd in Australia

(last updated 16 February 2021)

Edward and Fanny Shepherd nee Chaffe and their family emigrated to Australia in 1852. They came on the sailing ship STEBONHEATH which had left Gravesend on 25 September 1852 and arrived at Plymouth on the 30th. On 7 October 1852 it set sail for Australia and arrived at Geelong on 18 January the following year, Mastered by John Sergeant with James Kilgour as Surgeon Superintendent, the STEBONHEATH carried six cabin passengers and 364 immigrants. Its cargo included six cases of pianos, 30 barrels of raisins and 30,000 pounds in coins for the Union Bank. The ship's record of passengers shows that Edward (pictured below) and Fanny had come 'of their own account', that Edward was then a 38 year-old agricultural labourer and Fanny was 39. Both they and their two eldest daughters, Mary (17) and Anne (15), could read and write. Their four other children - Edward (12), John (10), William (8) and Robert (5) - could only read. All were said to be of the Anglican faith.

edward shepherdOn arrival the family immediately travelled from Geelong by bullock wagon to the Sutherland (later Rich Avon) Station on the Richardson River near Cope Cope in central Victoria. According to Victorian Heritage, the property had been first settled, in 1844, by James Horsfall and was taken up by Robert Sutherland four years later. Not long after the Shepherds arrived at the station, Sutherland sold it to Archibald and Ronald McLachlan who named it Rich Avon (due to its proximity to the Avon and Richardson Rivers). They later subdivided the property into separate eastern and western runs, the latter eventually being taken up by the Geelong wool merchant Thomas Guthrie.

According to an account of their lives given by his son Robert to the St Arnaud Mercury many years later, Edward was employed as a shepherd on the Sutherland run, 'the remuneration for himself and wife being 55 a year with rations. These consisted of a bag of flour, 40 lb of black sugar, [and] 5 lb of tea each ten weeks'. They were able to supplement this meagre fare with mutton obtained by killing an occasional sheep although this had to be carried out under the stricture of 'no waste'. 'The mansion they lived in', the article continued, 'was composed of logs, with earthen floor, and roof thatched with rushes...There was only one white woman on the station when they arrived, but blacks were very plentiful'. Indeed, 'the only playmates the Shepherd children had were the natives and black and white mixed together without distinction of racial superiority or inferiority'. In a later interview with the same author, Robert's older brother, William Shepherd, recalled that the journey from Geelong to Rich Avon took a fortnight and went via Moonambel and Navarre. 'There was no such town as Donald in existence then [and] the district was known as Richardson's Bridge'.

fangy shepherd graveAfter spending three years at Rich Avon the family went to live and work on the West Charlton station which was then owned by Swanston and Clarke. 'At that time there was no town of Charlton', the article continued, but 'game such as emus, kangaroos, bustards (or wild turkeys) and native companions were very plentiful. The blacks were also numerous and Mr Shepherd had ample opportunity of studying their habits ... They showed keen appreciation of kindness, but had no respect for anyone who broke a promise made to them'. A few years later the family moved again, to Colin Simpson's sheep run at York Plains (located to the south of Rich Avon). Here, Robert recalled, his father frequently went kangarooing and duck egg hunting with the local aborigines who readily shared their spoils with their white companions. They also had occasional contacts with wandering horsemen a few of whom, they later discovered, were bushrangers such as 'Bill the Native'.

The Shepherds remained at York Plains for some seven years before Edward selected land at Gooroc located roughly mid-way between Cope Cope and Coonooer Bridge. Robert recalled that he and his father ploughed the land with a single furrow plough and reaped their crops with scythes. Edward and Fanny eventually sold their land (to a Con McKew for 11/1/- per acre) and moved to St Arnaud to live (the St Arnaud rate books record that Edward, described as a farmer, was living at 17 Jones St in 1872). Fanny Shepherd nee Chaffe died of 'nervous debility and exhaustion' at Bald Hills in the Shire of St Arnaud on 19 December 1871. Her death certificate shows that she was then only 58 years old, her parents were 'Thomas Chaff (labourer) and Mary unknown', and her children at the time were Mary (aged 37), Ann Maria (35), Edward (33), John (30), William (27) and Robert Shepherd (24).

Edward Shepherd died of 'heptactic diseases with jaundice and old age' at St Arnaud on 30 June 1887. His death certificate, which was informed by his youngest son Robert, states that his parents were named Edward and Elizabeth Shepherd (Elizabeth was actually Edward senior's second wife, Elizabeth Brooks, and our Edward's step-mother) and he had been married three times: first to Fanny 'Chaff' in Devonshire when he was 21; second to Elizabeth Jeffrey at St Arnaud in 1872 (Ancestry's index of Australian bdms shows that Elizabeth was the daughter of Richard Jeffrey and Sarah Hart, and that she died at St Arnaud on 1 December 1884, aged 58 years); and third to Ann Froreich (nee Sharpe) who he married at St Arnaud two years before his death in 1887. The following death notices appeared in the St Arnaud Mercury on 2 July 1887:

SHEPHERD - On the 30th at his residence, Inglewood Road, Bald Hills, Edward Shepherd, aged 73 years, deeply regretted.

It will be observed by an obituary notice in this issue that Mr Edward Shepherd departed this life on Thursday last, and the interment will take place on Sunday (tomorrow) at the St. Arnaud cemetery...The deceased was 73 years of age and one of the oldest residents in the district, where he was both well known and universally respected. Mr Shepherd leaves a wife and a large family all of whom are grown up and married and residents of the district.

The 'WILLS and BEQUESTS' section of Melbourne's Punch newspaper dated 1 September 1887 informed its readers that 'Edward Shepherd, of St Arnaud, land owner', had 'bequeathed to his wife the sum of 100 pounds and the rent of houses and land situated on Napier Street St Arnaud' (allotments 10 and 12), and to his son Robert Shepherd, '320 acres of land being allotment 13, Section A, Parish of Gower, the choice of any two horses, and 100 pounds'. The remainder of Edward's real and personal estate was to be divided equally between his sons John, William and Edward Shepherd and his daughters Mary Fyffe and Maria Jones. The notice added that 'on the death of his wife the allotments 10 and 12 are to be sold and the proceeds to be equally divided between all of his children.

We believe that Edward had no children with his second and third wives. As we have seen, he and Fanny Chaffe had six children all of whom were born at Buckfastleigh in Devon and accompanied their parents on the long voyage out to Australia: Mary Lee nee Shepherd (1834-91), Ann Maria Allen nee Shepherd (1836-1912), Edward Shepherd (1839-1919), John Shepherd (1842-1918), William Shepherd (1845-1932) and Robert Shepherd (1846-1932).

edward shepherd fanny chaffe

Edward and Fanny Shepherd nee Chaffe.

unknown photo

Mystery photo

Among my mother Elsie Cheeseman nee Hickmott's possessions is a locket and chain that was in an old trunk her mother, Frances Alice Hickmott nee Free, had thrown onto their farm's rubbish dump following one of the many Mallee mouse plagues. Also in the trunk were the photos, letters and postcards sent to Australia from Europe by Frances' brothers, Samuel and Albert Free, during the time of the First World War.

My mother has told my sister that the locket and chain were given to Frances by her mother, Fanny Johanna Free nee Shepherd, during a visit Frances and her family made to the Free family's farm at Lalbert in Victoria shortly before her mother's death there in January 1927. The locket contained the photo shown on the left. My mother, who is now in her mid-nineties, thinks the locket although included a photo of a woman although she is unsure now whether it was destroyed in the mouse plague or subsequently lost.

I have not seen the locket but my sister says it is similar to the ones being worn by Fanny Johanna's grandmother, Fanny Shepherd nee Chaffe (see the photo above) and by her sister, Lucy Catherine Shepherd, in the photo of her parents, John and Johanna Shepherd nee Mulchay, and family shown here.

Who might it be? We will probably never know, but the two most likely candidates would seem to be Fanny Johanna's father, John Shepherd as a young man or, if all the lockets in the story are one and the same, her maternal grandfather Thomas Chaffe who died and was buried at Buckfastleigh in Devon in 1851, one year before his daughter Fanny emigrated with her husband and young family to Australia.

(last updated 20 July 2011)

Image sources
'Edward Shepherd', courtesy of Gloria Reilly.
'Edward and Fanny Shepherd nee Chaffe', courtesy of Robert White.

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