GRAVES IN THE BLACKWOOD CEMETERY – JAMES FERGUSON – The grave is in the Presbyterian section A, numbers 37. Compiled by Margot Hitchcock, Historian for the Blackwood & District Historical Society. 2017.
Photo of the grave of James Ferguson and his wife Mary in the Blackwood cemetery, unfortunately it is very hard to read. (courtesy of Carol Judkins – Carol’s Headstone Photographs Index – http://www.ozgenonline.com/~Carols_Headstones/
The erection on the grave is described as follows :–The lower basement consists of four massive blocks of Newport bluestone, rockwork dressed; and the second basement is of polished Malmsbury bluestone surmounted by a substantial bar railing. The covering slabs are of polished Kapunda slate, and the tombstone bears the inscription in deep cut gilt lettering ” Also of James Ferguson, J.P. Died 18th July, 1892, aged 65 years.” With a blank, followed by the words, “Death is the gate of life.” On the other side is – “In memory of David Hunter. Died 7th May, 1859, aged 39 years.”
JAMES FERGUSON was an early pioneer, author, newspaper correspondent, Justice of the Peace in Blackwood, and builder of the Mechanic Institute (Blackwood Hall). He was the newspaper Correspondent for the Bacchus Marsh Express paper prior to his death in 1892 age 66 yrs.
As reported in the Bacchus Marsh Express in 1894 – “A handsome tomb-stone has been erected in the Blackwood Cemetery to the memory of the late Mr. James Ferguson. Two years previously was reported the following on James Ferguson, an early pioneer, author, newspaper correspondent, Justice of the Peace in Blackwood, and builder of the Mechanic Institute (Blackwood Hall). Mr. Ferguson wrote much as Correspondent for the Bacchus Marsh Express paper, and walked many miles to get columns of information which is very readable now on TROVE.
1892 – Mr. James Ferguson, J.P., a resident of over 30 years at Golden Point, Blackwood, died at Kyneton on Monday last, where he had been taken for the purpose of undergoing an operation. The deceased had been suffering from dropsy for some time. His age was 66 yrs.
Bacchus Marsh Express Saturday 30 July 1892, Blackwood. By the death of Mr. James Ferguson, J.P., as reported in last week’s Express, Blackwood loses a noteworthy personage, and the following remarks by one who has known him since 1857 :-Mr. Ferguson was born at Burnhaugh, near Edinburgh, Scotland in the year 1827; was brought up and served his apprentice-ship as a carpenter at Linlithgow, and came to Victoria in 1854 (as an unassisted passenger on the ship ‘Contest’, age 25 yrs) .. He carried on carpentering work at Brighton for a while, and then, hearing wonderful reports as to the richness of the newly discovered goldfield at Blackwood, came hither in 1855. In reference to the condition of Blackwood at that time, I cannot do better than quote from Mr. Ferguson’s own writings, in which he said:-” Blackwood was first known as a goldfield in November, 1854, and the ground first opened for mining was called Jackson’s Gully. This gully was not of great extent, being only about half a mile in length from where it was goldbearing to where it joins the Lerderderg River. The gully was rich, and nuggets of gold were found varying in weight from 1dwt. up to 24lbs. The news of these discoveries soon spread, and by the end of June, 1855, when the ‘ rush’ had reached its climax, it was computed that over 20,000 persons had congregated on the Blackwood diggings.” [The quotation is from a Short History of the Blackwood Goldfield.” compiled by Mr. Ferguson at the request of the then Secretary for Mines), which appeared in the report of the Mines Department for quarter ended 30th September, 1888, and is a valuable contribution to the mining literature of Blackwood.]
On coming to Blackwood Mr. Ferguson soon mastered the principles of alluvial mining. His principal mining for the first years was confined to about half a mile of the Lerderderg river in the vicinity of the famous Tipperary Point, he gradually but surely improved his financial position. He was married to Mrs. Ferguson in February, 1860. (Digger Records show James Ferguson married Mary Hunter in 1860. Mary’s first husband was David Hunter who died in 1859 a year after she married him. Her maiden name was Duncan.)
Soon after this they opened the first lending library in Blackwood. A variety of circumstances led Mr. Ferguson to visit New Zealand in January, 1862. Finding the gold prospects excellent, he sent for Mrs. Ferguson, and by combining gold mining with a general store business at goldfield prices succeeded in gathering a fair competency, returning to Blackwood in 1865. About this time the first fervour of gold mining was passing off. Great efforts were being made, by the aid of readings, concerts, &c., to erect new public buildings, of which the principal were the present Golden Point School, and the Mechanics’ Institute.
The builder of the Mechanics’ Institute was reported on – June 5, 1869 – The contract to erect the Mechanics Institute, Blackwood has been let and operations begun. The building is to be 52 ft x 24ft. James Ferguson is the contractor.
His principal carpentering work on Blackwood was the Mechanics’ Institute, and, although it has stood the test of upwards of 20 years’ service, it still remains one of the most substantial buildings in the district. (written in 1892)
In the early part of 1870 he bought a principal interest in the North Britain mine, which had during the previous year been discovered and partially worked by a man named Wright. The mine was worked for a few years, when his Melbourne partner offered him the management of a nickel mine in New Caledonia, which he accepted, and left for that place in 1877.
James Ferguson carried on the work most successfully for about two years, when, on account of a glut in the market for nickel ore, the mine was stopped. Mr. Ferguson then returned to Blackwood, and recommenced active work in the North Britain mine. For several years he struggled hard, either as chief proprietor or afterwards as manager, when the mine was formed into a company, to make it pay its way, but the refractory nature of the quartz to a great extent prevented him. He has often said since that his fortune had flowed into the Lederderg, because the process of saving and dealing with the goldbearing pyrites was not then sufficiently understood on Blackwood. Parcels of pyrites from the Britain mine forwarded to Germany for treatment since that time realized up to 12oz. gold per ton.
Mr. Ferguson was appointed a Justice of the Peace about 1883, and as he resided in the vicinity of the Blackwood Courthouse, he fell in for an extra large amount of the work incidental to the position. He also for a few years filled the position of one of the Shire Councillors for the East Riding of Ballan, and it was during his term as Councillor that some of the most effective work ever done on the Blackwood roads was carried out under the charge of the late Mr. Allan. During the last two or three years, although Mr. Ferguson was apparently quite unaware of it, the seeds of his fatal illness must have been working within him, for, although he kept himself employed at intermittent carpentering work, or at embellishing and improving his own house and garden, there was a remarkable absence of that energy which distinguished him in former years. When he knew his end was approaching he said he had no fear of death, his only regret was leaving Mrs. Ferguson to be all alone. She attended him with the most assiduous care, and is now lamenting her irreparable loss. Thus he passed away at 65 years, one of the best and most upright men Blackwood has known.
Bacchus Marsh Express – Saturday 17 March 1894. After a great deal of apparently unavoidable delay a massive and handsome tomb-stone has been erected in the Blackwood cemetery to the memory of the late Mr. James Ferguson, who for so many years filled a prominent position in the annals of Blackwood. The erection is 8 feet square, and covers the remains of both Mr. Ferguson and Mr. David Hunter, who was Mrs Ferguson’s first husband. (Mr. Hunter’s funeral in 1859 being remarkable for the fact that it was the first black-draped coffin used in Blackwood.) The erection may be briefly described as follows :–The lower basement consists of four massive blocks of Newport bluestone, rockwork dressed; and the second basement is of polished Malmsbury bluestone surmounted by a substantial bar railing. The covering slabs are of polished Kapunda slate, and the tombstone bears the inscription in deep cut gilt lettering “In memory of David Hunter. Died 7th May, 1859, aged 39 years;” and on the other, ” Also of James Ferguson, J.P. Died 18th July, 1892, aged 65 years.” With a blank, followed by the words, “Death is the gate of life.”
Digger records have James Ferguson’s father as William Ferguson and mother Christina Taylor. David Hunter’s father was William Hunter and mothers name unknown. (David Hunter was the 1st husband of William Ferguson’s wife Mary Duncan.)
A further report tells the death of his wife – Mary Ferguson. Bacchus Marsh Express, 25 November 1911. Mrs. Mary Ferguson, late of Golden Point, died on the 6th inst., at her niece’s (Mrs. M. Hunter) residence, “Yuruga house,” Ballarat road, Footscray, and was buried in the tomb of her late husband, Mr. James Ferguson, in the Blackwood cemetery on the 8th. The last 18 months she had been bed ridden, and wholly helpless; aged 95 years. She left Linlithgow, Scotland, for Victoria, in October, 1857. She lived for some time in North Melbourne, where she was married to Mr. David Hunter, then a widower, with one son.* They came to the Blackwood diggings, where her husband died about twelve months after marriage. Mrs. Ferguson married the second time to her late husband’s mate, Mr. James Ferguson. He was a miner and mine owner on Blackwood, and a Councillor for the East Riding of the Ballan Shire, and many years a Justice of the Peace. He was also correspondent for the Express and a great credit to himself. He pre-deceased his wife by nineteen years. His loss was long lamented by all who knew him, and he was one of the many remarkably able men Blackwood has had in her history. ©
From the Digger death and marriage records – Mary Ferguson’s maiden name was Duncan and her father was David Duncan, and she married her 1st husband David Hunter in 1858 and he died one year later in 1859. He had one son by a previous marriage. * (but no birth in Victoria was found)
* It appears from more research that the son of David Hunter was also called David Hunter, and he lived on with his step mother Mary Ferguson and his step father James Ferguson after the death of his father, David Hunter in 1859. (as noted below)
Researched by Margot Hitchcock from her forthcoming book ‘The History and Pioneers of Blackwood’, hopefully to be published soon. Other books published by Margot Hitchcock – “Aspects of Early Blackwood”, “Some History of Simmons Reef, Blackwood” and “The Billy Pincombe Tragedy”. See – www.blackwoodpublishing.com
For help with information on Blackwood ancestors contact Margot Hitchcock – email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Old photos of the back of the Blackwood Hall originally called the Mechanics Institute – to the right was the original kitchen. Added on section in middle for storage of seating when hall was used for a dance. The top end of the hall was the Mechanics Institute Library. Built by James Ferguson in 1869. (photos by Margot Hitchcock.)