Campbell Taylor

campbell

Here is another 5 minute History article that I wrote for the Esperance Tide, our beautiful local magazine. This one was fascinating to research and write! Enjoy. 

Campbell Taylor was one of Esperance’s earliest pioneers, settling in the remote Cape Arid area. He was an adventurous and ambitious man who provided support to many other early pioneers. While his life was cut short by tragedy, his legacy in Esperance lives on.

The Taylor story begins with John Tailyour, born in Scotland in 1743. He was a merchant who travelled to Kingston, Jamaica, and became heavily involved in the slave trade. He was in business with his cousin, the very wealthy Simon Taylor. Tailyour, who later simplified his name to Taylor, had a ‘common law’ wife called Polly Graham who was an African slave. He had three children with her, and later petitioned for Polly’s freedom (she was ‘owned’ by his cousin Simon) then sent her and the children to England where the children were educated. In 1792, a very wealthy Taylor returned to Scotland, and a year later, he married Mary McCall. John and Mary had 10 children, including Patrick Taylor, the eighth child, born in 1807. John died in 1815, Mary died in 1818, and Patrick was left in the care of his older siblings. Patrick was in ill health, and apparently decided to migrate to Australia to see if the dry climate might suit him. He sailed on the James Pattison in 1834, meeting fellow traveller Mary Yates Bussell on board. Mary was one of the Bussell family that first settled south of Perth, in the area of Busselton, which was named for the family. Patrick and Mary married in 1837.

Patrick settled in King George Sound, which was to later become Albany. Patrick purchased a cottage which had originally been built in 1832, and is still standing today, the oldest surviving dwelling in Western Australia. This cottage is now Patrick Taylor Cottage museum, located on Duke Street in Albany. Patrick also bought land on the lower Kalgan River, which he called Candyup. Patrick and Mary had three children in quick succession, Margaret (Maggie), Catherine, and John. Then disaster struck – Patrick learned that his agent back in Scotland had swindled him out of most of his wealth. The change in fortunes made Patrick bitter and resentful, and he spent much of the rest of his life as a recluse at his property Candyup. Campbell was the next son to be born, in 1842, followed by two more daughters, Christina and Frances.

In 1865, Andrew Dempster visited Albany, and was a guest at Candyup. Perhaps this visit inspired the young Campbell Taylor to travel east, as he took over a lease at the Oldfield River in 1867, and moved a flock of sheep there. In 1869, Campbell’s older brother John was falsely accused of stealing a horse. Despite efforts on behalf of his family to clear his name, John fled to India. Even though he was eventually cleared of the theft, John never returned to Albany, settling instead in Victoria. Campbell, who had spent a lot of time exploring as far as Eucla, gave up his Oldfield river lease and applied for a lease at Thomas River in 1870. He moved his sheep to Thomas River, around 120 km from the Dempster brothers’ fledgling settlement at Esperance.

Campbell built a settlement on his new lease that he called Lynburn Station, probably with the help of the local Aboriginal people. His father had maintained good relationships with the Aboriginal people who lived near Candyup, encouraging them to stay around the station, and paying them much more than the usual going rate for their work on the property. Unlike some of Esperance’s early settlers, Campbell maintained good relationships with the local Aboriginal people of the area as well. Campbell also befriended many of the early pioneers of the area, assisting the Brooks family and the Ponton brothers to settle in the area around Israelite Bay. In 1884, a young German sailor Heinrich (Henry) Dimer and his crewmate jumped ship just out of Albany. Campbell found them and helped them to hide from the search parties, as jumping ship was strictly forbidden. Dimer then went with Campbell to Lynburn, where he worked as a shepherd. Dimer eventually took up a lease himself at Nanambinia. In 1867, Edward Dempster married Maggie Taylor, Campbell’s older sister. In 1883, Campbell married Charlotte Gresham, a governess who was related to the Dempsters.

In the 1870s, Campbell and the Dempster brothers were both expanding their leaseholds. They were in heated competition, each taking up adjacent leases of 30,000 acres. This expansion came to an end for Campbell in 1877 when his father died. Campbell inherited Candyup, and for a time, he tried to run both properties, even though they were separated by around 600 kilometres. In 1887, the pressure of running both properties became too much, and Campbell put Lynburn station on the market. By this stage, Lynburn and Campbell’s other runs totalled around 135,000 acres. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there were no takers for the remote property, even though it was good sheep country. Campbell’s mother, Mary, died in 1887, and his sisters helped to run the property at Candyup.

In 1900, Campbell and Charlotte were travelling from Lynburn to Esperance to cast their votes in the referendum on whether Western Australia should join the Federation of states. Charlotte was also able to vote, as women in WA were given the right to vote in 1899. Tragically, they were never able to cast their votes, as the buggy that they were travelling in overturned, close to Alexander Bay. Charlotte and the Aboriginal boy who was travelling with them were thrown clear, but Campbell was badly injured. The boy was sent to Esperance for help, arriving after midnight. Despite the bad weather, several men set out immediately in a small cutter, arriving at Alexander Bay the next morning. Campbell was carried on a stretcher to the boat, taken to Esperance, and then transported to the hospital in Albany, where he died of his injuries. He was 58 years old.

Charlotte continued to run the property at Lynburn for some time, then retired to Melbourne, where she became well known for the newspaper articles she wrote about her life on the remote station. The buildings at Lynburn still stand today on property that is owned by the Grewar family.

 

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