Gold seekers Thomas Nevin, John Thorpe and Duncan Chisholm 1869

JOHN NEVIN snr land grant
THOMAS NEVIN photographer
JOHN THORPE jun hotelier

The last dig at the Mt Mary gold mine Cygnet 1900
Mr Cowen, sitting, Mr Crowe & sons
Archives Office Tasmania Ref: PH30/1/5057

Gold at Port Cygnet Tasmania
It may have been an April Fool’s Day joke or it may have been a bonanza. The Tasmanian Times, which regularly published information for and about photographer Thomas J. Nevin and his father John Nevin snr throughout the decade of the 1860s, may have wittingly or otherwise informed their readers on the first day of April, 1869, that Thomas Nevin and his fellow gold seekers, John Thorpe jun, former licensee of the Bush Inn at Port Cygnet, and Duncan Chisholm, school master at Rokeby, Clarence Plains, were confident enough of finding sufficient gold deposits in the area to suggest that a subsidy from local residents would encourage them to continue with further exploration.


GOLD AT PORT CYGNET. – We learn that a party, consisting of Mr Thorpe, Mr Nevin, and Mr Chisholm, have been prospecting for gold at Maggoty Gully, in this district, They found gold in small quantities in every place they tried. Several of the inhabitants are talking of getting up a subscription to encourage the party, and enable them to fully test the land in the neighbourhood.

Gold at Port Cygnet, Mr Thorpe, Mr Nevin and Mr Chisholm
Source: Tasmanian Times 1st April 1869

In 1902 Government geologist W. H . Twelvetrees reported on 31st May that he twice visited Port Cygnet “where alluvial gold was found as far back as 25 years ago, and abortive lode-mining was carried on in 1898-9“. His mission was to ascertain how much the district had produced from first to last. The Mt. Mary mine, where gold was discovered in 1854, was abandoned by 1902, though a few specks were still to be found in the bedrock.

Source: Mineral Resources Tasmania

TRANSCRIPT (extract)

It is impossible now to find out exactly how much gold the district has produced from first to last, but the most trustworthy information which I have been able to collect places the figure at about 3000 ounces. Most of this came from the flats near Lymington, a township situate on the west side of the arm of the Huon called Port Cygnet, and 2½ miles south of Lovett, which is at the head of the inlet. These flats are surrounded by steep hills, from which the metal has beyond question been derived.

If 3000 ounces had been extracted from the Port Cygnet area by the time Mr Twelvetrees delivered his report in 1902, these three companions in 1869 – Thomas Nevin, John Thorpe and Duncan Chisholm – may have found enough gold to comfortably finance their next ventures.

The Three Goldseekers 
School teacher Duncan Chisholm, for example, although poorly paid for his efforts teaching children, courted and married Mary Anne Walter at Port Cygnet on 30th March 1872. He was 29 yrs old, a bachelor, she was 25 yrs old, daughter of a local farmer. The ceremony was conducted at her father’s house, Wattle Grove, on the Huon River. Duncan Chisholm was one of three sons of former armorer of Edinburgh Castle, James William Chisholm, a dear friend of Thomas Nevin’s father, John Nevin snr, who wrote a poem commemorating his friend’s premature death in 1863. James Chisholm snr and John Nevin snr had served together in the Royal Scots 1st Regiment at the Canadian Rebellion of 1839. Their respective sons, Duncan Chisholm and Thomas Nevin were close enough friends that Thomas photographed Duncan in several locations and on several occasions. This photograph, taken by Thomas Nevin outside the Chisholm family house at 70 Brisbane Street, Hobart, ca. 1870 with Duncan Chisholm posing at the front gate was printed both in carte-de-visite and stereographic format:

The verso was inscribed by a grandchild of James William Chisholm:
“Bathurst? or Brisbane St? Hobart 1870’s
“My father D. Chisholm at the gate Hobart Town”

D. Chisholm at the gate, 70 Bathurst St, Hobart
Photographer: Thomas J. Nevin, New Town Studio ca. 1870
Carte-de-visite (rectangular) on plain mount,
Photos recto and verso copyright © KLW NFC Imprint 2014-2015
Taken at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, 10 November 2014
TMAG Collection Ref: Q1987.388

The verso was inscribed by a grandchild of James William Chisholm:
“Bathurst? or Brisbane St? Hobart 1870’s
“My father D. Chisholm at the gate Hobart Town”

Stereograph of the same man, i.e. Duncan Chisholm in a pale suit and hat leaning on a fence outside the single-story house, identified as 70 Brisbane St. Hobart on verso of cdv above.
Photographer: Thomas J. Nevin ca. 1870
TMAG Ref: Q1994.56.17 [scans recto and verso 2015].

Again, in this photograph, Thomas Nevin’s companion seated in front of the tree, hat in hand, might have been Duncan Chisholm with a supine Nevin relaxing on a grassy slope, the new Government House on the Queen’s Domain clearly visible in the background . Not a selfie in today’s terms, but a self-portrait nevertheless. They may have been watching activities out on the River Derwent with the arrival of the Duke of Edinburgh’s yacht Galatea, January 1868, in which case the photographer who captured this scene was most likely Robert Smith, Nevin’s partner in the firm Nevin & Smith, 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart, who departed a few weeks later in February to set up his own studio in Goulburn, NSW. Other possible companions on the day might have been photographer Samuel Clifford, or even Thomas Nevin’s younger brother Jack (Constable John or Wiliam John Nevin).

Stereograph by Thomas J. Nevin, ca. 1868-70
Self portrait (in hat) and male friend reclining on the Queen’s Domain, Government House in distance.
Verso blank, inscription “Domain Hobart per G. T. Stilwell, Librarian, SLT.”
Photos recto and verso copyright © KLW NFC Imprint 2014-2015
Taken at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, 10 November 2014
TMAG Ref: Q16826.3

Another photograph of a young male friend, possibly Duncan Chisholm or even John Thorpe, captured him posed rather awkwardly with his left elbow propped into the crook of a bificurcated tree trunk in what appears to be an orchard.

Young man posing with left elbow against a tree trunk in an orchard
Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery
Photographer: Thomas J. Nevin ca. 1870
Ref: TMAG Q16826.6

John Thorpe jnr, who took over the license of the Bush Inn, Cradoc Road, Cygnet from his father John Thorp [sic] snr, between 1862 and 1864, was the oldest of the trio, a farmer by 1867 when at 35 yrs old he married Johanna Dillon, 24 years old at Port Cygnet on 14th January. A newspaper notice of a meeting held to elect Trustees of the Port Cygnet road district was attended by both father and son, differentiated for readers by the spelling of the surname: John Thorp senior – without the “e” and John Thorpe jun. with the “e”. Duncan Chisholm’s future father-in-law Mr H. Walter chaired the meeting.


(From a Correspondent.)
A meeting of Landholders of the road district of Port Cygnet, was held at Mr. Thorpe’s the Bush Inn here, pursuant to advertisement, on Saturday last, the 31st ult., for the purpose of electing Trustees for the current year. There was a large attendance and Mr. H. Walter, of Wattle Grove, acted as chairman.
Mr. THORP, Sen .of Cradoc road, moved that the meeting at once proceed to elect Trustees [etc etc]

John Thorpe jun and John Thorp sen.
Source; The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954) Thu 5 Feb 1863 Page 2 PORT CYGNET.

Thomas Nevin was well acquainted with the area around Port Cygnet, Cradoc, and Mt. Mary because his father John Nevin snr had received a land grant of 10 acres at Cradoc in 1859. Although John Nevin snr used the land to establish orchards, he settled his family at Kangaroo Valley (now Lenah Valley) near New Town on land in trust to the Wesleyan Church, but he may have profited from the gold mining activities around Mt Mary since he too was a gold seeker, if details about his venture at the Californian goldfields, which he published in 1868 in his poem “My Cottage in the Wilderness” are taken as based in fact. These are the very verses:

In early life I sought for treasure
In the Californian Mines;
Tempted oft to ease and pleasure,
And the treacherous gamblers wines;
There no lov’d one strove to cheer me,
No smiling prattlers to caress,
Or friendly hand when sick, was near me,
No cottage in the wilderness.

Now those freaks of youth are over,
Return’d to Tasman’s sea girt Isle,
A partner now reclaims the rover,
And youngsters cluster round the while,
In solitude and peace we slumber,
Far from the City’s wild excess,
No faithless friend home shall cumber,
My cottage in the wilderness. [etc etc…]

Kangaroo Valley, April, 19, 1868.

Google map 2017 showing Mt Mary, Cradoc, Port Cygnet and the Huon River, south of Hobart, Tasmania.

John Nevin’s Land Grant in the Parish of Bedford 1859
In 1859, John Nevin snr was granted ten acres one rood and seventeen perches in the parish of Bedford on the Huon River near Cygnet, about 60 kms south west of Hobart, but it appears he never moved his family from Kangaroo Valley to take up permanent residence on the grant. He may have used the land, however, to cultivate orchards, grow vegetables, and make jam for export. In 1870 he exhibited marrows at the Industrial Bazaar at the Hobart Town Hall. His eldest son Thomas Nevin also contributed to exhibits with photographs and stereoscopic views together with portraits by his close friend Henry Hall Baily (Mercury Friday 1st April 1870 Page 2 INDUSTRIAL BAZAAR AT THE TOWN HALL).

In 1873 he presented an exhibit of peat to a meeting of the Royal Society of Tasmania, and in 1877, he exported jam on the Southern Cross to the colony of Victoria. The peat may have been extracted from Kangaroo Valley, known originally as Sassafras Gully in the 1840s, a valley rich with the type of flora that grows as ‘wet’ and/or mixed forest in Tasmania. In 1891, the orchards on the land leased from Maria Nairn at Kangaroo Valley may have produced fruit in quantities large enough that John Nevin’s sons Thomas and Jack, may have attempted mechanised packing. Their application for a patent of their fruit packer was tabled by the Hobart Fruit Board in June 1891.


John Nevin (1808-1887)
John Nevin’s Deed of Land Grant
Ten acres one rood and seventeen perches in the parish of Bedford in the County of Buckingham
Dated 15th September 1859
Item Number: RD1/1/44: page 16
Description: Deeds of land grants
Further Description:
Start Date: 15 Sep 1859
End Date: 29 Oct 1859


In the Supreme Court of Van Diemen’s Land BE IT REMEMBERED that on the Fifteenth day of September One thousand eight hundred and fifty-nine, Henry Hardinge Clerk in the Office of the Inland Revenue Branch of the Colonial Treasury at Hobart Town brought into this Court a certain Deed Poll or Grant under the Public Seal of Tasmania and its Dependencies to be therein enrolled and recorded the tenor of which said Deed Poll or Grant is as follows (that is to say)

Victoria by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Queen Defender of the Faith To all to whom these Presents shall come Greeting KNOW YE that We of Our especial grace and favour have thought for to give and grant and do by these presents by these presents for Ourself Our Heirs and Successors give and grant unto John Nevin and his heirs ALL Those Ten acres one rood and seventeen perches of Land situate and being in the parish of Bedford in the County of Buckingham in Our Island of Tasmania and bound as follows (that is to say)

On the north west by thirteen chains and eighty five links south westerly along Lot 38 commencing at the east angle thereof on a reserved road on the south west by seven chains and forty eight links south easterly along parts of Lots 37 and 33 on the south east by thirteen chains and eighty five links north easterly along Lot 30 to the aforesaid reserved road and thence on the north east by seven chains and forty eight links north westerly along that road to the point of Connors Road [?]

Together with the Appurtenances TO HAVE AND TO HOLD the said Ten acres one rood and seventeen perches of Land with the Appurtenances unto and to the use of the said John Nevin his heirs and assigns for ever the same in free and common socage tenure of Us Our Heirs and Successors to be holden YIELDING AND PAYING therefore yearly unto US Our Heirs and Successors the Quit Rent of one peppercorn if the same shall be demanded IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF We have caused these Our Letters to be made Patent and the Seal of Our said Island of Tasmania and its Dependencies to be hereunto affixed WITNESS Our trusty and well-beloved SIR HENRY EDWARD FOX YOUNG KNIGHT Our Captain-General and Governor-in-Chief in and over the Island of Tasmania and its Dependencies at Hobart Town in the said Island the Twelfth day of August in the Twenty-third year of Our reign.

By His Excellency’s Command
Wm Henty
Colonial Secretary
Public seal of Van Diemen’s Land now called Tasmania and its dependencies affixed
H E K Young

John Nevin (1808-1887)
John Nevin’s Deed of Land Grant
Ten acres one rood and seventeen perches in the parish of Bedford in the County of Buckingham
Dated 15th September 1859
Item Number: RD1/1/44: page 16
Description: Deeds of land grants
Further Description:
Start Date: 15 Sep 1859
End Date: 29 Oct 1859

Detail of above: Nevin, John

Thomas Nevin photographed the area around the Huon in the 1860s, and acted as a guide to the Salt Caves near the town of Victoria for surveyors, providing the Lands and Survey Department with photographs of the area on commission.

Stereograph by Thomas J. Nevin, ca. 1870 of five men in a cave
Verso stamp with government Royal Arms insignia,
Inscription: “Salt Rock Cave, Victoria, Huon”
T. J. Nevin Photographic Artist, 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart Town
Photos recto and verso copyright © KLW NFC Imprint 2014-2015
Taken at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, 10 November 2014
TMAG Ref: Q16826.14

So, by 1869, 27 yr old Thomas J. Nevin, the third member of the goldseeking trio, for his part, had acquired the stock, studio, glass house and attached residence of photographer Alfred Bock at 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart when Bock departed for Victoria in 1867. Thomas Nevin continued its operation with the name “The City Photographic Establishment”, while retaining his professional studio at New Town and advertising in the Tasmanian Times that his stock of stereographs and portraits were for sale at the New Town Post Office. But to maintain the larger studio in the city meant increased costs. These were offset briefly by a partnership with Robert Smith during a busy time occasioned by the visit of HRH Prince Alfred on board his yacht Galatea. They advertised the business as Nevin & Smith until Robert Smith left to start a photographic business in Goulburn NSW. The partnership was dissolved by W. R. Giblin in February 1868 and by April 1869, Thomas Nevin was seeking revenue from additional ventures. If the newspaper report titled “Gold at Port Cygnet” in the Tasmanian Times of the 1st April 1869 was not a hoax and if the trios’ haul of gold from Port Cygnet was significant enough to alert the press, then Thomas Nevin could certainly proceed with his plans to marry his fiancee Elizabeth Rachel Day, the beautiful elder daughter of Captain James Day. They eventually married at the Wesleyan Chapel, Kangaroo Valley (near New Town, Hobart) in July 1871 and moved into the residence attached to their city photographic studio, 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart.

Thomas Nevin’s photographic excursions to places outside Hobart with friends and colleagues such as Samuel Clifford produced hundreds of commercially viable stereographs in the late 1860s, some on commission to the Lands and Survey Dept. This vista which looks south along the Huon foreshore to the buildings was taken a few years before the bridge was built in 1876, while the view with several people present looks backwards. This stereograph by Nevin bears his government contractor stamp with Royal Insignia and the name “A. Pedder” on verso, i.e. Alfred Pedder:

Stereograph by Thomas J. Nevin, ca. 1870 of river scene at Huon
Verso stamp with government Royal Arms insignia,
T. J. Nevin Photographic Artist, 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart Town
Pencil inscription verso “A. Pedder”.
Photos recto and verso copyright © KLW NFC Imprint 2014-2015
Taken at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, 10 November 2014
TMAG Ref: Q16826.19

This vista (stereograph above) looks south to the buildings on the foreshore of the Huon River, while the view with several people present (cdv below) was taken looking back towards the same buildings.Those present may have been Duncan Chisholm’s wedding guests, and no doubt Thomas Nevin would have attended the occasion on 25th March 1872 as one of Duncan’s closest friends.

Duncan Chisholm’s wedding party at the River Huon 1872?
Libraries Tasmania Ref: AUTAS001124075987

The House at Kangaroo Valley 1854
Thomas Nevin’s father, John Nevin snr had arrived in Hobart, Tasmania, as a pensioner guard on board the convict transport, Fairlie, in 1852 with his wife Mary Ann Nevin nee Dickson and their four children – Thomas James, Mary Ann, Rebecca Jane and William John, all under 12 years old . He was granted a parcel of land in 1859 in the shire of Buckingham, near Cradoc, in the Parish of Bedford, on the Huon River. Although John Nevin snr was able to settle his wife and their four children who had all arrived with him in 1852 on the land grant in the shire of Buckingham, he settled them instead on land granted to Dr. E.S.P. Bedford situated just above the Lady Franklin Museum at Kangaroo Valley (now Lenah Valley, Hobart). He was employed by the Trustees of the Wesleyan Church to teach school at Kangaroo Valley, and granted permission to use the one acre of land on which to establish orchards and build a house. John Nevin snr resided at Kangaroo Valley until his death in 1887, firstly with his wife Mary Ann Dickson and young family, and four years after her death in 1875, with his second wife Martha Nevin nee Genge and his grandchild Minnie Carr.

So, by 1854 John Nevin was registered in the Hobart Gazette as resident schoolmaster and leasee of the school house at Kangaroo Valley, and by 1858 he had built a house there, which he called “My Cottage in the Wilderness” in a poem he published in 1868. The house was located inside the boundary just above the Lady Franklin Museum on land which was sold by the Hobart City Council on it acquisition from the Church Trustees (those originally designated by Lady Jane Franklin) in the 1920s. The area is visible in this Southern Met map of 1973:

John Nevin built his house in 1854 on land in trust to the Wesleyan Church above the Lady Franklin Museum
Lenah Valley (1973).Ref: 5172-19.
Archives Office Tasmania

The cottage that John Nevin built at Kangaroo Valley
“T. J. Nevin Photo” inscribed on verso, 1868.
Copyright © KLW NFC Imprint & The Liam Peters Collection 2010.

The bridge in the foreground crosses the rivulet. The Lady Franklin Museum sits below the site where John Nevin built his cottage (now demolished), next to the house (pictured) above on the rise at 270A Lenah Valley Rd. Photos copyright © KLW NFC Imprint 2012 ARR.

Did John Nevin’s two sons inherit the original land grant at Cradoc and Port Cygnet on his death in 1887? Apparently not. Five years before John Nevin snr died in 1887, he sold the whole ten acres (10 acres, 1 rood, 17 perches) of his land granted in 1859 at Cygnet to Thomas Genge. The sale was registered on the 26th January 1882 for £10 (ten pounds). Thomas Genge was a successor ( a son or nephew perhaps) of John Nevin’s close friend and fellow Wesleyan, William Genge (1808-1881),  Chapel keeper, sexton and stonemason who had died aged 73 yrs,on 16th January 1881, one year previously. John Nevin wrote a lament on William Genge’s death titled “Lines written on the sudden and much lamented death of Mr William Genge who died at the Wesleyan Chapel, Melville-street, Hobart on the morning of 17th January 1881, in the 73rd year of his age.“.

William Genge was also John Nevin’s father-in-law, despite both men being born in 1808. He was 71 yrs old in 1879 when he married widow Martha Salter nee Genge, William Genge’s daughter, who was 46 years old. They married just four years after the death in 1875 of John Nevin’s wife Mary Ann Nevin nee Dickson, mother of his two surviving children, photographer Thomas James Nevin and Constable John (William John aka Jack) Nevin. One reason for the marriage was the desire on John Nevin’s part to provide a maternal presence for his grandchild Mary Ann (aka Minnie) Carr, daughter of his own daughter Mary Ann Carr nee Nevin who died in 1878 with weeks of giving birth at Sandridge Victoria. John Nevin brought his grand daughter back to Kangaroo Valley, near Hobart Tasmania, and raised her until his death. She then moved to 76 Patrick Street with her step-grandmother Martha Nevin nee Genge but died of gastric poisoning and haemorrhage in 1898.

Martha Nevin (1833-1925) was most likely instrumental in suggesting the sale of John Nevin snr’s ten acres at Cygnet to her relative Thomas Genge, a farmer and neighbour at Kangaroo Valley. Just months after the death of William Genge in January 1881, Thomas Genge’s wife Annie Genge nee Brown (m. 1864) gave birth at Kangaroo Valley to a boy who lived just twelve hours. The informant was the midwife, Sarah Blatherwick, nurse of Kangaroo Valley, who registered the cause of death on 24th September 1881 as  “premature birth”. John and Martha Nevin arranged the sale of his ten acrres at Cygnet to the bereaved couple in January 1882, which was probably the wisest decision at the time as neither of John Nevin’s sons had shown any propensity for farming. Thomas Nevin’s fourth son, George Ernest Nevin (1880-1957), on the other hand, who was born at the Hobart Town Hall during his father’s residency as Keeper, purchased land at Penna, 20 kms north east of Hobart, near Richmond, and farmed potatoes, although neither he nor any of his siblings resided there. On the death of their father Thomas James Nevin snr from natural causes at No. 270 Elizabeth St. Hobart in 1923, George Nevin and four of his siblings – May, Thomas, William, and Albert – moved to 23 Newdegate Street, North Hobart. Thomas Nevin’s younger brother Constable John Nevin resided at H.M Prison, Campbell Street, Hobart until his untimely death from typhoid in 1891.

ADDENDA: John Nevin’s deed of sale
Tasmania Historic Deeds  Lands and Titles Office

Thomas Genge  from John Nevin *DEALING 06/9071 Bedford January 1882
Tasmania Historic Deeds  Lands and Titles Office

*DEALING 06/9071 Bedford January 1882

Thomas Genge  from John Nevin *DEALING 06/9071 Bedford January 1882
Tasmania Historic Deeds  Lands and Titles Office

Detail below of above with signature of John Nevin and Thomas Genge

View here:
Or at the LIST

Pensioner Allotmentsl Parish of Bedford 1855
Archives Office Tasmania
Ref: AF396_1_88

John Nevin 1879

John Nevin senior (1808-1887), aged 71 years, photographed on the occasion of his marriage to his second wife, Martha Genge (aged 46 yrs) by his son Thomas J. Nevin at the New Town studio in 1879. Held at the Archives Office of Tasmania Ref: NS434/1/155,Photo copyright © KLW NFC Imprint 2012

John Nevin (1808-1887) died in the gardens of his much beloved cottage at Kangaroo Valley on 9th October 1887. His obituary was published in The Mercury on 11th October.

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