Betsy Blackham, James Hickman and James Unwin.

Pioneers of Blackwood – Betsy Blackham,  James Hickman and James Unwin.

By Margot Hitchcock, Historian for the Blackwood & District Historical Society. ©

Betsy Blackham came to Blackwood in 1855 with Mr and Mrs Beddard as a servant. She married James Hickman in 1858 at Kyneton and after his death at Blackwood in 1866 she married William Unwin in Blackwood  in 1869.  Mr Beddard returned to England in 1868 and she was left running the business as storekeeper and she later was found to be running a hotel. 

Marriage records have her name as Elizabeth Blackham in 1858 married  James Hickman in 1858.   James Hickman was listed in 1860 in the Victorian Government Gazette (VGG) as the Publican of the ‘Victoria Hotel’ in Red Hill, Blackwood.  He was followed in 1861 by Joseph Cruise.  In 1860 James Hickman was recorded as having bought the small Allot. 15, Sec. D. Red Hill, at the end of Martin Street (near the Lerderderg river). The next year Hickman moved into his new ‘Royal Hotel’ on that Allotment.  The Hotel was  small and valued in 1863 at £20.    (Ref – ‘Hotel & Hotelkeepers of Blackwood’ by Andrew Robertson)

James Hickman died age 36 1866, parents – William Hickman and Elizabeth Pearce, Birth Place: Staffordshire.   Inquest into death of James Hickman – death – Dropsy of the heart, Blackwood, Miner – ref-468/1866. (buried Blackwood cemetery 17 May1866, age 36, Meth I – grave 18.)

After the death of James Hickman in 1866, a notice was found to Betsey Hickman in –

The Bacchus Marsh Express newspaper – Saturday 3 October 1868.

“A title deed awaits issue at the Office of Title, Melbourne, to Betsey Hickman, Blackwood.” 

‘In 1868 James Hickman’s wife Betsy is listed in the ‘Blackwood Petition’ January 1867 as a storekeeper of Red Hill, while the Post Office Directory 1868 records her as a hotelkeeper of Mount Blackwood (Red Hill).  Land Titles records show Betsy Hickman bought Allot. 14, Sec. B. Red Hill on 21 July 1868.  ‘It is probable that Betsy had a licensee at the ‘Royal Hotel’ while she had a store elsewhere on Red Hill.  Storekeeping was a very marginal business activity anywhere in Blackwood in the late sixties and she may have turned back to hotel-keeping at the ‘Royal’ after a year or two.  Betsy Hickman is last recorded as a hotelkeeper of Mount Blackwood in the Post Office Directory 1871-2.’  (Ref – ‘Hotel & Hotelkeepers of Blackwood’ by Andrew Robertson- out of print.)

Betsy Hickman re-married William Unwin (from Cambridge U.K.) of Barrys Reef, Blackwood at the church of England. Red Hill, Blackwood in 1869 and she died 18 months later  from child-birth on 15th Nov 1871 at Red Hill, Blackwood, Victoria, age 33 yrs, born Staffordshire.   Father listed as Joseph Blackham.  Betsy Uwin is buried in the Blackwood cemetery in grave C of E Sect P no. 34, next to William Unwin.

William Unwin  died at Barrys Reef, Blackwood age 55 on 26 July 1888.  (Buried Blackwood cemetery – C of E, Sect P – No. 35.)  (there is no Uwin headstone.) 

 The Bacchus Marsh Express newspaper – Saturday 25 September 1869

“To the Bench of Magistrates at Blackwood, I, Betsey Hickman, the holder of a Publican’s License for the house and premises known as the Royal Hotel, situated at Red Hill, Blackwood, do hereby give notice that it is my intention to apply to the Justices sitting at the Court of Petty Sessions to be held at Blackwood on the 8th day of October, 1869, to Transfer the said License to William Unwin, of Blackwood. Given under my hand this 22nd Sept., 1869, Betsey Hickman.”

The Bacchus Marsh Express newspaper – Saturday 9 October 1869

“Publicans’ licenses were granted to Messrs. Webb and Ogle, both of Yankee Reef. The transfers of licenses from Mrs. Cruise to Mr. Buckley, and from Mrs. Hickman to Mr. Unwin, were postponed for a week, owing to the neglect to post notices outside of the Courthouse.”

 The Bacchus Marsh Express newspaper – Saturday 4 September 1869 –  “The widows of Blackwood are fairly beating the young women in a hymeneal sense. Last week, Mrs. Hudson, of Hudson’s hotel, Barry’s Reef, changed her name to hostess Hansmann; and this week Mrs.Hickman, of the Royal hotel, Red Hill, transformed her name to hostess Unwin, of the Royal, Red Hill.”

james-hickman   click on photo to enlarge

 Grave of James Hickman, Blackwood cemetery.  (photo by Margot Hitchcock 2012) ©

 Engraved on tombstone – To the memory of James Hickman, Formerly of Dudley, Worcester Shire England, Who died suddenly, On the 17th May 1866, Aged 36years. Therefore be ye also ready, For in such an hour as ye, Think  not the son of man, Cometh.”       ©

 Researched by Margot Hitchcock from her forthcoming book “The History and Pioneers of Blackwood” hopefully to be published soon.    For help with research of Blackwood ancestors contact Margot Hitchcock – email –