The View From Mount Clarence

A look back at settlement along Western Australia's South Coast


Originally Published 16 July 2014:

Down on His Luck - Frederick McCubbin
Down On His Luck by Frederick McCubbin; National Gallery of Victoria


I fell for Campbell Taylor’s history for a whole lot of reasons, not least because he was among a select group of sons to first Albany settlers.  These sons will come to occupy slabs of space in future history books relating to settlement along the South Coast, but only when their endeavors are properly researched. Taylor was a contemporary of the Belches, Symers, Gillam, Dunn, Moir, Wellstead and Dempster families, between them pioneer settlers from Albany to Cape Arid. The Dunn family being of primary interest for now.

By first sons I mean they were first generation Australians, notable children of original settlers born in the short-promised land. They were the first of the European stock to have lived their entire lives in the new country and were men who left a mark on it which everyone should know about, or at least should have the opportunity of knowing about. What helps make Campbell’s story unique is that he is one of very few individuals from that era whose memory within the Indigenous community is fondly retained. This was a result of his behaviour, itself a result of being exposed to his father’s attitudes (much of which this blog series dwells upon), and because of Candyup’s relative distance from the town of Albany (12 miles) which not so much necessitated Aboriginal help but which certainly benefited from it. Patrick Taylor generously employed native assistance from the outset, something he describes in a letter he wrote to the Aborigines Protection Society in London during 1844, which I’ll feature in a later post, and something still evident in Mary Taylor’s Candyup diaries recorded some 30 years after that submission.


Campbell Taylor 1898, aged 56, approx 2 years before his death (260x405)

Opposite: Campbell Taylor in his mid 50’s. Not your standard pioneer. Image drawn from the Fairbairn Collection.

Campbell was Patrick’s second son, born at the Vasse River in December 1842, and he’s probably unique among pioneer pastoralists in that he understood Aboriginal culture better than most. Through this and a friendly and empathetic approach, rather than a purely exploitative one, he was able to avoid frontier violence over his own thirty year career running sheep, cattle and horses out along the coast between the Oldfield and Thomas Rivers. For all Campbell’s cross-cultural kindness however, and despite a 16 year marriage to school teacher and painter, Charlotte Gresham, he was to die childless and in great agony in August 1900 after the couple’s buggy overturned 60 miles east of Esperance. The accident left  him isolated and so badly injured it took two weeks to get him to the nearest hospital at Albany.  He passed away within 48 hours of arriving, aged 56 years. The landmark Candyup homestead was afterwards sold on but soon burnt down as a result of bushfire.


From the novel;


‘Watch,’ she said, suddenly aware of a stump at the edge of the track.


Campbell responded but the buggy’s left wheel collided with the butt and the jolt sent the boy flying. The impact ruptured the wheel rim causing the axel hub to shear. She reached to the buckboard as it slumped and found herself wholly at the whim of force. She was aware of Campbell grappling with the reins as she braced but the startled horses powered-on, pulling the broken axel down into the sand. She caught her breath as the buggy snagged, pitched and hurled her forearms, bosom and face a dozen yards into the scrub.


The horses pulled on for a few seconds, dragging the upturned wreckage like a plough. When they drew up their wet snorts seemed to hang in the air and for a moment, as if to acknowledge what had just happened, everything held perfectly still.


The contents of the provisions basket lay strewn across the track, the opened bible amongst them. The wind rose and the bible’s pages began to riffle, setting the coloured ribbons aflag. Rain spat then leapt and came squalling in. Thick, cold rain in a rush of biting air, drumming the capsized buggy, the sand, rock and bush, pelting the place, adding insult to unthinkable injury.


During his time Campbell regularly travelled between Albany and Cape Arid where his Thomas River pastoral station, Lynburn , was located, covering the 400 odd miles by foot, horseback or cart; or else he went by sea, via sailboat or steamer. Taylor witnessed the introduction and phasing out of convict labour, the installation of the original East-West telegraph line, the Perth-Albany railway line and the development of Hopetoun, Ravensthorpe, Esperence and Kalgoorlie/Coolgardie townships. He participated in exploration, watched as the Goldrush took hold, as the Afghan camel teams arrived from the east, water desalination plants sprang up along the inland tracks and the country as a whole pushed toward Federation, all the while stubbornly adhering to the unsteady business of growing wool.

During this period Campbell and his contemporaries also witnessed the change in the native race. They saw the dying and disintegration of the traditional bush-culture Noongar families and their ancient way of life, in their place seeing the emergence of a new mixed-race group which they viewed mostly as a working class solution to the chronic lack of labour. These pioneers, the children of the South Coast’s original settlers, made to establish themselves in their own right in what they called unopened country, leaving what was a more or less conquered frontier at Albany for new, altogether more remote ones to the east.


Name Born Age in 1870 Age in 1880
Hugh McKenzie (Whaler) 1835 35 yrs 45 yrs
John McKenzie (Publican) 1838 32 yrs 42 yrs
Mary Margaret (Maggie) Taylor 1838 32 yrs 42 yrs
Edward Dempster 1839 31 yrs 41 yrs
Elizabeth Moir 1840 30 yrs 40 yrs
John Taylor 12 Feb 1841 29 yrs 39 yrs
Albert Young Hassell 1841 29 yrs 39 yrs
Janet Moir 26 Apr 1842 28 yrs 38 yrs
Campbell Taylor 28 Dec 1842 28 yrs 38 yrs
John Moir 1843 27 yrs 37 yrs
Andrew Dempster 1843 27 yrs 37yrs
Jakbam (Polly Nailghan) Approx 1853 17 yrs 27 yrs
William Moir 1845 25 yrs 35 yrs
Richard (Dick) Belches 1845 25 Yrs 35 Yrs
Stewart Symers 1846 24 yrs 34 yrs
Alfred Meadows Gillam 21 Oct 1846 24 yrs 34 yrs
John Dunn 20 Oct 1848 22 yrs 32 yrs
Peter Belches 1847 23 yrs 33 yrs
James Dunn 8 May 1851 19 yrs 29 yrs
Elizabeth Wellstead 1851 19 Yrs 29 Yrs
Robert Dunn 1852 18 yrs 28 yrs
George Dunn 10 May 1855 15 yrs 25 yrs
Henrietta Gillam 1853 17 yrs 27 yrs
John Wellstead 1854 16 yrs 26 yrs
Alexander Moir 1855 15 yrs 25 yrs
Jane Wellstead 1857 13 yrs 23 yrs
Charlotte Gresham 1860 10 yrs 20 yrs


Campbell  Taylor was born into the conflict at the Vasse River, endorsed by Stirling’s Pinjarra put-down. He grew up in the knowledge his mother’s family had used killing as a means of establishment at Cattle Chosen but whose father was sympathetic toward and supportive of the native plight. He was closely associated with the above pioneering families some of whose inability to prevent conflict resulted in individual shootings and in the imprisonment of offenders on uninhabited islands in the Recherche Archipelago, both of which, along with the previous turmoil caused by the earlier arrival of those Rough Men In Small Boats, along with internal Aboriginal pressures between neighbouring tribes, culminated in the Cocanarup massacre of the 1880’s – which is really what The Lost Love of Henrietta Gillam is all about.

And so, to Henrietta…

Henrietta Balson Gillam was the fourth daughter and sixth child of Thomas Meadows Gillam and  Elizabeth Selena Jenkins.  She was born at Albany in 1853. We know her father was a shipwright who probably came to Albany around 1835 to build Thomas Lyell Symers’ doomed ship the Fairy.  Thomas Meadows Gillam married Elizabeth Jenkins, sister of  Henrietta Jenkins and wife of fellow shipwright John McKail. The Gillams lived in Albany town but when McKail took up a lease at the Porongurup Range in 1859 it looks as if it might have been something of a joint investment as McKail and Gillam were both auctioneers and in partnership. McKail ended up with ownership of the property but the Gillams lived there, Thomas Meadows in fact passing away there in May 1874. The Porongurup venture may have been part of an opportunity to exploit future land divisions and to rear cattle and sheep for slaughter, as Thomas Gillam had a slaughtering licence and worked, amongst other things, as a supplier to the steamships. In any case, the McKails never lived at the Porongurups, while the Gillams did, at a locality called Bolganup below the central northern slopes.

We know, also, that the third member of the Dunn/Gillam/McKail shipwright triumverate, former police constable and gaoler, James Dunn, took his 40 acres at the Porongurups in 1860 and that he moved his family there more or less from that time. This meant the Dunns and Gillams were neighbours some 25 miles out-of-town. No other settlers lived at the Porongurups at this time. The nearest farms being the Hassell ‘Kendenup’ and Spencer ‘Hay River’ properties some way north.

Woodburn and Bolganup - Porongurups - Goog Earth

Above: A Google Earth screen shot of the Porongurup Range. The original McKail/Gillam property called Bolganup is located on the central northern face while the original 40 acre Woodburn  farm, settled by James and Elizabeth Dunn and family in 1860, is located at the eastern end.


Naturally enough the Gillam and Dunn families got to know each other very well. So much so in fact that Alfred Gillam, second son of Thomas and Elizabeth, ended up marrying Margaret, first daughter of  the Dunn’s, in 1878. Eight years later, fourth of the Dunn boys, George,  married Selena Elizabeth, the Gillam’s baby daughter.

What is less known (but not at all hidden) is that Henrietta was engaged to John Dunn, James and Elizabeth’s second son, from 1874 until 1880. The engagement ending when John was killed by an Aboriginal man known as Yandawalla, at his Cocanarup Station at the top end of the Phillips River, 160 miles away to the east. What is less known again is that Henrietta Gillam had fallen pregnant to John Dunn some time between  mid 1873 and the early part of 1874. We know this because Mary Taylor reveals it in her diary. I made a decent study of that diary and following is what I found about the relationship between the Dunns and Taylors, as far as Mary revealed it. . .

The Dunns of Woodburn (Porongurups) were also well-known to the Taylors of Candyup as James Dunn had come out to Albany with Patrick and Mary on the James Pattison in 1834. Forty years later the Dunns and the Taylors had grown up families. In September 1873 Mary writes of a hastened visit from W Dunn (Probably William, as Walter was only 13) who arrived to take some cattle from Candyup, possibly first to Woodburn and then overland via Jerramungup to the Dunn station at Cocanarup on the Phillips River. “W Dunn left soon after breakfast, we had agreed that he would remain till the afternoon when I saw him pass my window with his horse saddled.”

On 21 February 1874 The Taylors learned that the youngest of the Dunn children, six-year-old Amelia, had lost her life but Mary showed little sentiment; “The Dunn’s youngest little girl has died from an infection of the throat.”

Two months later twenty-five year old John Dunn arrived at Candyup from the Phillips River. Mary learnt from him on April 16th,  that Campbell’s troublesome return to the Thomas River on Tom Sherrat’s boat had mended and eventually made good progress. She said; “Dunn came, he seems far from well; learnt from him that Sherratt’s boat three weeks ago was in Fanny Cove still on the way down, this intelligence has indeed been a great relief to my mind though it is but a slight circumstance to think of it.” The next day she added; “I talked a long time after breakfast with John Dunn but it is very heavy work, he feels ill but has no definite complaint, he can neither eat nor sleep.” 

This restlessness may or may not have had something to do with the impending birth of Grace Gillam, John Dunn’s daughter with Henrietta Gillam of Bolganup, at the Porongurup Range. The Gillams and Dunns were near enough neighbours out there. Mary Taylor had learned of Henrietta’s pregnancy (probably through her friend Mary Symers) since news of it broke in February, earlier in 1874; “. . . a great sorrow has fallen on the Gillam family and the poor girl is much to blame, she has no doubt been thrown into circumstances that no girl ought to be placed in.” Mary is discrete in not mentioning Henrietta’s name, but she can’t fully contain herself either and it seems clear enough what she’s talking about. Grace Gillam was born that year and John Dunn later announced his engagement to Henrietta, but six years on the marriage was still to take place.

In May 1875 James Dunn Snr, the ship’s carpenter aboard the James Pattison who had blown his hand apart with the government canon when saluting the newly-weds Patrick and Mary Taylor as they sailed back into Albany after their marriage ceremony in Perth in 1837, fell ill. Mary wrote on May 31st; “. . . the Dr. . . had gone out to Dunns, who was ill. I am afraid his (James Dunn’s) constitution is much broken, he could not stand much. All his elder sons are at their Eastern station.”  The following day  the Taylor’s groundsman, Pickering, came back from Albany with news the Doctor had come back from Woodburn with little hope for the 62-year-old, and on June 4th,  1875, Mary recorded his passing; “Dunn died on the second, poor Mrs Dunn has only her one young son with her. It will be a dreadful shock to the elder ones for they were a very attached family. I believe that Mr Belches and ourselves are the last of the grownup people of those who came out in the ‘James Pattison’. How many younger and stronger have gone before us?”

The big question I’ve been asking is whether or not there was any intention on the part of either John or Henrietta to actually tie the knot? They were engaged six years during which time Henrietta must have been an effective social outcast. When the couple’s daughter was born she was not christened Grace Dunn, but Grace Gillam. Surely, in a time when other people commented on unwanted pregnancies as ‘a great sorrow falling’  the method of rectification was to marry. John and Henrietta went part of the way in that regard by becoming engaged but the deal was never sealed. Of course it can only ever be speculation at this long distant point in time, but the implication is that there was a reluctance on the part of the Dunns (John at least) to claim the child.

I say that with a degree of confidence, for a few reasons. Grace Gillam is not mentioned in Marian Brockway’s narrative on the Dunn family. Grace is recorded in the Dunn family genealogy attached to the narrative but her name, the circumstances of her birth and the fact John Dunn died her father are all avoided.

From The Dunns of Cocanarup. . .

The following year, escorted by Walter and Robert, John Dunn’s mother, his sister Eliza and Henrietta Gillam came overland by wagon and buggy to Cocanarup, the first white women to come to the district.53 They wanted to see John’s grave and the land for which he had sacrificed his life. One can imagine Henrietta’s sadness as she thought of the life she and John might have had together in this beautiful place.


Oh forgive the wish that would have kept thee here.


Henrietta Gillam never married. The women stayed six months before returning to Albany. The diet of mutton and dried vegetables without fresh milk or eggs had effected Mrs Dunn’s health adversely.


That Henrietta Gillam journeyed out to and stayed six months at Cocanarup along with John Dunn’s mother and sister in the wake of the killing says something about the relationship which existed between the Dunn and Gillam women at least, and so is the sorry truth that Henrietta Gillam never married, but yet Grace Gillam grew up and married to commence a branch of the local Pendergrast family with her husband James.Why was it decided the existence of Grace Gillam should not be discussed?

Perhaps because in June 1874, around the time Grace was born, John Dunn was not working at Cocanarup but went off on an expedition instead? Rather than work on the station or be around to help his fiance and mother of his daughter at the Porongurups, John Dunn went with two Albany businessmen, Carl Lorenzer and Gustave Heinsmann, on a mineral and pastoral exploration trip from Albany as far as Eucla. Dunn kept a diary which Marian Brockway quotes from in The Dunns of Cocanarup.  John Dunn’s diary of the expedition, which was punishing, no mean feat and revealing as to the ruggedness of the man’s character, concludes eight months later on February 27th, 1875, while he was still at the McGill Station, Mundrabilla, way out near Eyre’s Sandpatch on the Nullabor Plain.

On the strength of that it seems to me John Dunn was not the marrying kind.

Another cause to query John’s commitment stems from something that happened a little further back in time when James Dunn, John’s father, apparently gave his name to another baby girl born out-of-wedlock. Again, to quote from The Dunns of Cocanarup. . .

In July 1853 a 700-ton sailing vessel, the Larkins, arrived in Albany’s Princess Harbour, to be demasted and used as a coal hulk for P&O steamships. By September, James Dunn was at work on the ship as a carpenter and builder, converting her to the new role. Records show that a child born on board the Larkins, while he was at work there, was registered as Cordelia Larkins Dunn, mother Sarah, father James Richard Dunn. It is thought by the family that he offered the protection of his name to the child.


Now this, I guess, is where it all gets a little like lifting the carpet in search of the dirt, but I did say earlier that there were a couple of episodes which made it difficult to completely dismiss certain aspersions relating to the behaviour of the Dunn men and we are at a point in the series where that needs to be looked at. There are two immediate questions arising from this revelation. First; if James Dunn was principled enough to offer the protection of his name to an out-of-wedlock mother he sheltered aboard a coal hulk he was working on in the harbour, why didn’t the family adopt the same principle when there was a much closer need to do it again? Secondly, was Sarah Masterman, the recorded mother of Cordelia Larkins Mary Dunn, in fact a lover of James Dunn’s?

Like I say, all speculation. There is no mention of Cordelia Dunn anywhere else in the State records that I could find, suggesting, perhaps, that she and her mother left the colony sometime later.  POSTSCRIPT 23.4.20: Cordelia Larkins Mary-Ann Dunn, did not survive her first year. Her burial was registered in  the parish of Camperdown, Sydney (close to the University of Sydney), N.S.W. on December 11th, 1853, a day after she died. She was 3 months old. The child was conceived around January, 1853, and born aboard the coal hulk, Larkins, which one-handed James Dunn was said to be renovating. As soonas the child was old enough to travel, her mother left Albany with her, determined to live on the other side of the continent.

There is also the curious case of the Dunn family intervening in the apparent introduction to prostitution of a young woman by her aunt by secreting the girl away at Woodburn. Garden (pg 170) raises it when talking about prostitution in Albany during the 1860’s citing a Colonial Secretary’s Office outward letter (483/80), which tells of the girl’s Aunt pursuing the Dunns for lost profits. Marian Brockway also notes the incident in which she references Nellie Eriksen, a descendant of William Dunn (John’s older brother) as the source. So, you see, it’s not an open and shut case of whether or not James Dunn Snr was a principled man, but a matter of weighing up all the evidence.  I don’t want to jump on James Dunn as if he was some kind of lecherous émigré, he was clearly a determined and hard-working person who met with significant adversity and persevered. Mary Taylor said of the Dunns on James Snr’s passing,. . . they were a very attached family.

Unfortunately, the association of the Dunn boys with matters of sexual behaviour only gets worse. I addressed this directly in story seven of the Outdone collection, William, John & Alfred, which explores the possible relationship of William Dunn, who inherited Woodburn and lived out his life there, and his brother John, who led his other younger brothers out into the bush to establish the now infamous Cocanarup Station. The Alfred in the story is Alfred Gillam, who went on to marry the oldest of the Dunn girls, Margaret. I’ll be doing a dedicated post on that in the not too distant future so wont go into any detail here, but you may now be beginning to see where this is all leading and why I am taking all the time necessary to lay out everything which is known about the main players in the saga and how they all came together.

The Lost Love of Henrietta Gillam may have been John Dunn but the question is when exactly was that love lost? When John turned his back and left her to fend for herself, or when he died at the hands of an Aboriginal warrior whose duty it was to execute an offender?


Alas My Lost Love
Alas My Lost Love by Count Elmo at deviantART


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