Histories: James and Jessie McMillan


James McMillan born 1832 in Corpach, Kilmallie, Argyle shire married Jessie McLennan born 1834 in Leiter.

James was the youngest son of Alexander McMillan and Ann McLean, born on the 25th March in Corpach, a small village in Kilmallie parish, Argylshire, aprox. two and a half miles NNW of Fort William.

At the time of James' youth, measures were under way to reduce the "Highland Problem" which was manifested by the extreme poverty, overpopulation and recurring potato crop failure. Tenants were unable to feed their families properly and rents to the estate landlords were not being paid. The situation in the 1840's was developing as much concern and alarm as the Irish Famine. A report of the select committee on Immigration of 1841 came to the conclusion that there were between 45,000 and 60,000 people too many living in this region around Argyll, Inverness and Ross. Many of these families were evicted from their land as a result of the clearances of the Cameron of Lochiel estates.

In 1841, James' father Alexander was listed as an agricultural labourer of 50 years, the same age as his wife Ann. The children living with them were Mary 30, Una (Anne) 20, Donald 10, and James 5. Age records were rounded down to the nearest 5 years in the 1841 census. The family appears to have moved into Corpach just before the birth of James (his age at the 1841 census was probably 9). All the children with the exception of James were born in a small farming community called Blaich on the southern shores of Loch Eli.

We have little idea of James and his family's whereabouts in the next 10 years as they were not mentioned in the 1851 census for Kibnallie Parish. James was now 22 years old, and he sailed from Aberdeen on the "Ellon Castle" on the 19th December 1853. Up to the 1850s, Canada was the preferred choice of emigrants from the Scottish Highlands but one would guess that he was following his older brother Duncan to Australia and passage to Australia was cheaper.
Duncan had come with his wife Christina and family on board the "Marco Polo" in September 1852. Both the brothers settled in the Geelong area of Victoria.

Jessie McLennan was the youngest daughter of Ewan McLennan and Mary McCRAE, born in the village of Leiter in 1834, in Lochalsh Parish of the Kintail district, on the north shore of Loch Long.
Jessie's parents Ewan and Mary and their families were also evicted from their land as a result of the Highland Clearances and shortly after they were assisted by the Highland and Island Emigration Society on their passage to Australia. Ewan was paid 50pounds and rations by Thomas Chirnside, a wealthy Scottish landowner at Werribee, to be employed as a shepherd on his arrival in Australia.

They sailed from Liverpool on the "Arabian" on the 27th October 1852 and arrived in Port Phillip in February 1853 to start a new life. They moved to "The Werribee", (now the site of the historic Werribee Park mansion) to care for the Chimside flocks in the little river district. James also found work with Chimside at Little River as a boundary rider. James and Jessie were married by John McDougall on the 21st August 1857 in a Presbyterian ceremony in a private house at South Geelong. James was listed as a 25 year old stock rider from Little River and Jessie was a 23 year old spinster, also from Little River.

Little River was a small settlement which grew into a small town after the Geelong/Melbourne rail line was completed in 1858. It became a popular place for picnickers from the city.

James' and Jessie's first child was Alexander, born in Little River in 1858. He was followed by sisters Mary Anne (Annie) in 1860, Sarah in 1862, Catherine (Katie) in 1864, and Jessica in 1866. (Tragically Jessica drowned in 1868). Next born was a brother Ewan in 1868, James in 1869 and Jessie born 1870.

It has been reported that many people left the Werribee district in the 1870's to select land in Northern Victoria where it became available for selection. James and his brother were among those looking for good land. Duncan and his brother moved to LaLa near ballarat, while James and Jessie took up a selection of 320 acres of land at Morebringer Parish near Brocklesby, NSW in 1872. (Morebringer is now know as Howlong). They had less than a days travel to Albury. James and Jessie had three more children at Morebringer, Janet in 1874, James in 1875, (James born 1869 died 1872) and Donald in 1877.

Morebringer had its own school that the younger McMillan children would have attended whilst the older girls would have helped their mother with home duties elsewhere. Alexander the elder son helped his father on the farm.

In 1888 Jessie and James, who would have been 56 years old, left the district and returned to Little River with the three youngest children. The older children all appear to have married and stayed in the district. James died on the 21st of February 1902 at Little River at 73 years of age. He was buried at Rothwell Cemetery, Little River. Jessie remained there for some years having nursed her sister Christina (Mrs. Presley) till her death in June of 1902. Then after her youngest Janet, who had never married died at the age of 33 in 1907 Jessie moved back to the border district to live with members of her grown up family. She spent the last three years of her life with her youngest living daughter, Jessie. (Mrs John Thompson) at their property "Rosedale" at Tootool. She passed away there after a short illness at the age of 88 years in 1922 and is buried at the Rock Cemetery NSW. James and Jessie's children with the exception of James and Donald, were all settled in the Albury to Wagga Wagga area just north of the Victoria/NSW border.

Alexander moved to the Cookardinia district and married Ada Mary Joyce in 1895. They had 11 children, Ina, James A (Alex), Henry A (Alf), Irwin (Tom), Donald, John (Jim), Eliza M (May), Gordon, Norman and Amy. (researching this family was a challenge as most of this generation were known by nick names as seen above). Alexander moved to Henty on a farm he called "Daisyvale", before he died in 1917 at the age of 58. He is buried in the Henty Cemetery.

Mary Ann (Annie) stayed in the Morebringer district and married local farmer James Steel in 1884 at Selby Grange, Goomargana NSW. James was tragically killed about a month later by a falling tree. In 1890 she married his brother John Steel. They had one daughter. She died at Corowa NSW in 1912.

Sarah also remained in the Morebringer area to work and married local farmer and brother of her sister Annie's husband, William Steel in 1893, also at Selby Grange. They had 5 children, three girls and 2 boys. William was also tragically killed in a bushfire which swept the district on New Years Day 1905. He was assisting a neighbour to fight the fire when he realised his own property was in danger but before he could reach it he was engulfed in flames. Sarah died in 1933 at the age of 71 years and is buried in the Corowa Cemetery.

Catherine (Katie) also stayed in the Howlong district for some time. She married John Allum and settled in the French Park Area and later Matong NSW. They had three children, two sons and a daughter. She died of paralysis in 1917 at the age of 53 after being an inmate of the Wagga Wagga Hospital for several weeks. She is buried in the Wagga Wagga Cemetery.

Ewan followed his brother Alexander to the Cookardinia area, at Pulletop and took up a lease of land in the Westly Parish in the early 1890's. He married Amy Joyce, sister of brother Alexanders wife Ada. They farmed at "Trevellan" on Sawpit Creek at Jerra-Jerra. They had 8 children, six boys and 2 girls. One of the boys nicknamed "Hicks" is still alive at attended the reunion (Oct.8.2000 Wagga Wagga). Ewan died in 1926 and and is buried in the Wagga Wagga Cemetery.

Jessie worked in properties in the Germantown ( now Holbrook) area including "High Plain". She would ride her horse to her sister Katie Allum in the French Park area. Is is thought that this is where she met her future husband John Thompson in the late 1800's. John had established a farm at Tootool at the time of their marriage in 1901. As were her sisters Mary Anna and Sarah she was also married at Selby Grange, Goombargana. They raised 6 children, 5 boys and 1 girl. John Thompson died in 1919 and Jessie Kept the farm going with the help of her family and neighbouring families. She died in 1955 and is buried in the Rock Cemetery.

Janet never married and died at the age of 33 years in 1907 at Little River. She is buried at Rothwell Cemetery, Little River.

James remained a bachelor and settled eventually in Melbourne. He would visit his sister Jessie and her family at Tootool. He was described as a real caracter and a keen talker. There is a family legend of his giving "Sermons" from a soapbox on the banks of the Yarrah River in Melbourne. He worked on the Melbourne wharfs and in later life lived in Gordon House, Melbourne (a refuge for homeless men) His death date and place has never been discovered.

Donald was the youngest of Jessie and James' children. He worked as a labourer in his early years at Little River. He married Rosina Burchill in 1902 and later worked as a real estate agent in Hawthorn, Melbourne. They had two children, a boy and a girl. He died in 1961 in Melbourne.

The "Arabian"

Allan McMillan

note: Alexander and his brother Ewan , both raised enough sons to form a local McMillan cricket team which played in local competition in the 1920's in the Henty district.

To contact Olwyn Barnes
whose particular line of research is that of the first born son of James and Jessie, Alexander.
Write to Olwyn care of the Cowra Family History Group Inc. PO Box 495 Cowra, NSW. 2794

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