Matthew Gibb of Patrick's Day

by Phillip Doherty, Mt Rouse and District Historical Society, 2016

The Matthew Gibb story starts in the spring of 1836 when the Scottish Tasmanian pastoral syndicate, the Clyde Company, was formed. Seven joint stock partners each contributed £1200 to develop sheep stations in the Port Phillip district. The local partner was Phillip Russell who was instrumental in having his brother George appointed manager of the new enterprise. The company’s head station was on the Moorabool River opposite its junction with Sunderland’s Creek. Later the station was moved west to the Leigh River and named Golf Hill.

Another partner Captain Patrick Wood was based in Scotland and busy recruiting farm workers to send to Van Diemen’s Land. One such worker was Matthew Gibb.

The Clyde Company correspondence notes that on the 24th May 1838 the sailing ship Rajah, with Capt Ferguson in charge, arrived in Hobart from Leigh Scotland. Amongst the passengers were Gibb, Moffet and Muirhead. Matthew Gibb, Robert Muirhead and Robert Moffet all later became independent squatters in the Port Phillip district.

Reverend Russell (brother of George and Phillip) while in Hobart wrote to his brother George in the Port Phillip district that: Phillip (Russell) sends you over by the Adelaide which sails on Saturday two men. He expects to be able to make up the required number (of men) by the time you mention. A brother of Gibb(s) came out the other day, along with a person of the name Muirhead who has been accustomed all his life to the management of sheep.

This seems to indicate that Matthew’s brother Henry (later living at Eilyar and Bolac Plains stations) was already in Van Diemen’s Land. A further letter from Rev. Russell notes: Gibb(s) brother lately arrived with Mr Muirhead and a Mr Moffet a young lad - they are to have £28 per annum. Moffet will not have more than £15 or £20 the first year.

The Clyde Company letters also establish the whereabouts of Matthew Gibb.
       12th October 1838: Gibb bros and Moffet - with the idea to form a station (in the Port Phillip       district).
       31st January 1839: were to send over 3000 sheep with Gibb(s) to look after them.
      20th February 1839: Gibb(s) left with 1500 sheep 10 days ago (for Port Phillip).

Matthew Gibb worked for the Clyde Company until mid-1840. He was paid £30 per year or 5 shillings per day when washing sheep, and 20 shillings per hundred for shearing 1300 sheep and 506 lambs. He was also paid 15 shillings in April 1840 for killing 3 wild dogs.

Stony Plains Station

After working with the Clyde Company Matthew Gibb then took on the job of overseer at the Stony Plains station just south east of Mount Rouse in the Portland Bay district. This station was originally taken up by Bird but by mid-1840 was owned by Captain Swanston. Squatter Edward Bell wrote in his memoirs that: the original station of Mumumberich of which Greenhills formed a part was taken up in 1840 by Matthew Gibb for Capt Swanston - his original neighbours were John Cox, Mt Rouse, Henry Best who occupied Burchetts Run (originally known as Woburn then later The Gums Station) and Messrs Kemp who occupied what was afterwards Cheynes Station on Mustons Creek (Lawrenny Station).

Another informant about Matthew Gibbs was the chief protector of Aborigines George Augustus Robinson. Robinson toured through the Western District in 1841 and wrote in his journal (3rd May 1841): left Robert Whiteheads Spring Ck station heading for the protectorate station at Mt Rouse, noting the spring 1½ miles from Spring Ck (station) before reaching Gibbs Stony Plains formally Birds south of Mt Rouse.

Robinson also wrote that: the overseer (Gibb) was in Melbourne and the men were dressing sheep (for scab). A black man, a native of Baltimore in America was the hutkeeper. The hutkeeper and white shepherd were great blagards. They paid me not the slightest attention, nor would furnish me food although I was without any. The white shepherd who stutters said they (the Blacks) were a bad set and the sooner they were got rid of the better. The blacks referred to by Robinson were most likely the Moperer gundidj clan, who were to suffer at least two massacres in the early days of occupation.

Stony Plains was later sold to Robert Clerk in 1843 and renamed Mumumberich. Clerk then made a deal with Edward Bell who later wrote: in 1845 I exchanged the Englefield run for one near Mt Rouse, to which we gave the name Greenhills. The country about me has been all along settled excepting a small patch to the southwest of me into which Mr Gibb managed to squeeze himself. It seems that the original Stony Plains run was now split into two stations a smaller Mumumberich and a larger Greenhills.

St Patricks Day Station

Now that his overseer job was finished Matthew Gibb decided to try his hand at squatting. With his knowledge of the rough and ready rules of squatting, such as, find land that another squatter hadn’t claimed (the aboriginal inhabitants were never acknowledged), depasture a mob of sheep or herd of cattle onto the area and hire a shepherd to look after the stock. Build a hut occupied by a hutkeeper, then you could claim the land out to a mile from the hut. Gibb would have known of the uncertain boundaries of the Greenhills, Kangatong and Gazette stations. He moved in between them and took out a £10 squatters licence in October 1844 for St Patricks Day or Patricks Day, Portland Bay licence No 120. The station consisted of 12,000 acres and was capable of carrying 900 head of cattle and 6000 sheep. Billis and Kenyon (1974) recorded that Gibb also held Purdeet station from 1845 until 1849. This is incorrect as Alexander Donaldson held Purdeet during this period. Purdeet was on the northern boundary of Patricks Day. It was a small station of around 5,000 acres and later found to be almost entirely inside the boundary of the Aboriginal Protectorate of Mt Rouse Station. The licence for Purdeet was cancelled and any of its land outside the protectorate boundary was made to belong to Patricks Day.

Matthew Gibb married Isabella Ann Hutton on the 15th April 1852 at the Belfast (Port Fairy) Church of England. Isabella was the eldest daughter of William Hutton of Gazette Station. Matthew and Isabella were to have nine children. By 1853 he had built his station up to running 20 horses, 200 cattle and 5800 sheep. This was close to the estimated government carrying capacity of 8000 sheep.

In the early 1860s Government lands were surveyed and put up for selection. Daniel Ritchie of Blackwood near Penshurst wrote about the land sales of the 22nd October 1862 and that: Matthew Gibb has lost nearly all of his (land). Daniel’s observation wasn’t correct; in fact with the help of his brother James, Matthew managed to purchase over two thirds of his run. The Shire of Minhamite 1871 rate books show M & J Gibb owning 11,630 acres. James Gibb lived in a house on the Penshurst- Belfast road overlooking Lake Langulac. He called his property Marylands. In October 1872 James Gibb purchased Berthong Station (with 18000 sheep) near Young in NSW. He sold his share of Patricks Day and moved to NSW sometime in the mid-1870s. This reduced the size of Patricks Day to 7850 acres.

Meanwhile Gibb had built a modest nine roomed bluestone house on his pre emptive section situated on the southern part of his run. He also ran a successful draught horse stud. The Ballarat Star of June 8th 1867 advertised for sale at Hepburn & Leonard horse bazaar: 40 heavy and medium draughts, carriage horses and upstanding hacks from the favourable known stud of Mr Matthew Gibb. In addition 40 head colts and fillies of the much esteemed MG brand. Matthew Gibb also owned the Minhamite hotel(s) situated on the main Penshurst- Hawkesdale road. The first hotel burnt down in March 1871 in very suspicious circumstances. It was unoccupied at the time as the licensee Henry Scott had moved into the new hotel about a mile up the road. The Government offered a £50 reward for information about the arsonist.

The Warrnambool Standard of June 9th 1874 reported that an old resident of this district Mr Matthew Gibb of Patricks Day station died suddenly yesterday from a fit of apoplexy (massive stroke). On his death his estate was valued at £34700 with debts of £16050. The liabilities included two mortgages, over the land, value £3200. A Bank of Australia overdraft secured by a mortgage over the stock on Patricks Day, value £11292. Of interest in his probate papers were the names of the station employees with salaries and wages owed. The employees were: Miss Dickenson, governess, salary for half year £20; William Malcolm, overseer, salary for quarter year £15; Norah Downey, cook; Mary Williams kitchen maid; Robert Jackson gardener; William Reid boundary rider; David Englis labourer; David Ross, of Minhamite, drainer; for draining lands £20 and John Rich for like work £7.10.

Matthew’s widow Isabella only stayed long enough on Patricks Day to settle his estate before moving to NSW. Á clearing sale was held on the 30th January 1877 at midday. Offered for sale were: 8000 sheep, 315 head of cattle, 20 horses, one chaffcutter, one horse dray, harness and a variety of sundries. Patricks Day was at first leased to the Whitehead Brothers of Spring Creek before being sold to them in 1881. Isabella Gibb lived until the 8th June 1902. She died at her son in laws residence in Tumut NSW.

Clark (1995) notes in his register of massacres of Aboriginal people that Chief Protector Geroge Robinson learned in July 1841 that Henry Gibb, alias, ‘Piccaninny Mr Gibb’ had shot Carderneen and Pulletpuccoren (a Bulukbara from Lake Bolac). Earlier (3 April 1841) Robinson had visited Gibbs station (Gibbs was actually the overseer for Dr Officer) and learned that the station had been recently plundered. However Robinson also noted that he thought the attacks were in revenge by outrages committed on the natives by Gibbs. Henry Gibb was Matthew Gibb’s brother.

Clark I, 1995, Scars in the Landscape, AIATSIS, Canberra
Brown P L, Clyde Company Papers
Billis R V and Kenyon A S, 1974, Pastoral Pioneers of Port Phillip, Stockland Press
Trove, newspapers on line
The Journal of George Augustus Robinson
Yule P L, 1988, From Forest, Swamp and Stones     

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