Though records are scarce and unconfirmed, it appears that William O’Dell Raymond was born c 1810 in Killmeany, Ireland. He is said to be the second son born to James and Aphrasia Raymond who apparently fled their homeland due to some involvement in disturbances that caused their lives to be threatened and forced them to leave their home – and James, his high office. James Raymond was reportedly the magistrate of the County Limerick, Ireland at the time . . .
Through reputable connections and pleas to grant the family free passage, they arrived in Sydney in the April of 1826 on the ship ‘Thames’.
WO Raymond’s father, James, held several government positions, including Coroner at Paramatta, Searcher & Surveyor of Customs, Postmaster, and then Postmaster General to the Colony. Prior to 1839 Raymond’s father had procured some land holdings in the area of Wellington in New South Wales:
” . . . The droughts of 1839, 1840, 1841 having caused great losses amongst our stock (sheep and cattle) at Wellington where I had the management of my father’s stations, I had recommended a removal of a portion of the sheep to the northward, and had fully made up my mind for a trip to New England with at least half our sheep. Just at this time, early in 1842, I got in possession of a pamphlet published by Count Strzelecki, giving a description of Gippsland, and pointing out by a chart the route into it. This caused me to immediately arrange for the removal of a portion of our stock to Gippsland, and I had, in three weeks after seeing the work, eight thousand sheep on the road . . . “
– Source: Letter from WO Raymond to Lieutenant-Governor La Trobe, dated 15th August 1853
Hence, William O’Dell Raymond became one of the first permanent settlers of Gippsland. His original runs were located on the banks of the Avon River, stretching all the way from the area known as Stratford to Lake Wellington in Gippsland. The ‘Stratford’ run comprised of some 16,000 acres on which he was recorded to run 6,000 sheep in the ‘Squatters’ Directory of the Occupants of Crown Lands of Port Phillip 1849′, whilst the ‘Strathfieldsaye‘ run consisted of a lease encompassing 64,000 acres – carrying 18,000 sheep and 1,000 cattle:
WO Raymond established the first community hub in the area which was the Shakespeare Hotel. It was located on ‘Gippsland’s Oldest Road’ which once ran through his ‘Stratford’ run – connecting Omeo to Port Albert – and from whence the township of Stratford was born . . .
It is interesting to note that Raymond Island was named after William Odell Raymond c 1841 – by John Reeve.
ON the 29th July 1853 His Excellency Lieutenant-Governor La Trobe addressed a circular letter to a number of the remaining early settlers (noting that many had already passed away by this time), requesting information as to the time and circumstances of the first occupation of various parts of the colony of Victoria, Australia.
The following transcript of the letters afforded by William O’Dell Raymond in response to this request, provides an insight into the region and its inhabitants at the time.
TO HIS EXCELLENCY CHARLES JOSEPH LA TROBE, ESQ.,
LIEUTENANT-GOVERNOR OF THE COLONY OF VICTORIA.
Stratford, 15th August 1853.
MY DEAR TYERS,
In reply to your note, enclosing me His Excellency the Governor’s favour of the 29th July, and requiring my reply on Wednesday at the latest, you give me but little time to collect my memory as to my first travels into this district, and certainly no time to enable me to address a letter to His Excellency upon the subject. I will therefore reply by giving you all the information I can bring to my memory, with the hope that you will put it in proper form, and at the same time express my regret at not being able myself to address His Excellency.
The droughts of 1839, 1840, 1841 having caused great losses amongst our stock (sheep and cattle) at Wellington where I had the management of my father’s stations, I had recommended a removal of a portion of the sheep to the northward, and had fully made up my mind for a trip to New England with at least half our sheep. Just at this time, early in 1842, I got in possession of a pamphlet published by Count Strzelecki, giving a description of Gippsland, and pointing out by a chart the route into it. This caused me to immediately arrange for the removal of a portion of our stock to Gippsland, and I had, in three weeks after seeing the work, eight thousand sheep on the road. I, however, had not started when I received information that Mr. Albert Brodribb had started from Bathurst, with a number of sheep belonging to Mr. Reeve, for the same destination (and I believe upon the same information the Count’s work).
I do not deem it required that I should enumerate all the casualties attending upon such a journey (say 700 miles), but suffice it to say that I arrived, after many difficulties, at the Mitchell River, Gippsland, upon the 20th June 1842, after a constant travel of four months, with my stock and working cattle in better condition than when I left Wellington.
With regard to that portion of His Excellency’s letter ” If preceded, accompanied, or immediately followed, by whom and when, and the general state of the district around and in advance of me at that period “I beg to state Mr. Curlewis’s and Mr. Reeve’s sheep preceded me a few weeks. Messrs. Loughnan and Taylor, with sheep, cattle, and horses, joined company with me at Maneroo; Mr. F. Jones at Omeo; and we travelled in company to the Mitchell River. As to the state of the district around and in advance of me at the period of my arrival, I am only able to refer you to a copy of a letter I wrote upon my arrival at Melbourne, at Mr. Parker’s request, for the information of Governor Gipps, as the only record of my first observations as to the state of Gippsland upon my arrival. Trusting that it may convey some of the information that Mr. La Trobe is requiring, I now conclude, begging that you will express my best wishes for His Excellency’s safe arrival and happy meeting with his friends in Old England, and believe me to be,
My dear Tyers, yours ever truly,
W. ODELL RAYMOND.
Letter forwarded by Mr. Raymond to Mr. Tyers:
Melbourne, 24th August 1842.
I should have before this written to you, according to my promise, but the sameness of the country through which I travelled, where you meet nothing pleasing to the eye or interesting to relate, induced me to defer writing up to this time, in the hope that I might be able to give you some information respecting Gippsland which may not before have reached you. Count Strzelecki’s description of it as an agricultural and grazing country is fully borne out. In all my travels in New South Wales for those purposes I have not seen its equal. His chart, however, gives you a very incorrect idea of the courses of the rivers, as you will see by Mr. Townsend’s survey, which I suppose will have arrived in Sydney before this. That part of the country marked in the Count’s chart between Gippsland and Omeo as Buckley’s and MacAlister’s stations is a very extensive country, and better suited for sheep than Gippsland, and I have no doubt the greater portion of it will be taken up next summer. The richness of the soil in Gippsland makes it, with the exception of small portions of it, less suited for sheep, but it is capable of feeding an immense number of cattle. The runs which I have selected are on the Avon River, and extend to a lake into which the river empties itself, and are a fine, open, undulating country, sound to the water’s edge. I, however, do not consider them equal to those I occupied at Wellington, had we the same moisture as I am led to suppose we have in Gippsland; the lake itself is a very large sheet of water, which I suppose to be in width about twelve or fourteen miles, and from what I saw of it from the mountains when coming to Gippsland, I should imagine it to be from fifty to sixty miles long. The water when I visited it was brackish, but not too much so for stock, and we were soon able to enjoy a good pot of tea made with it, after a long day’s ride. I am, however, assured by Mr. McMillan (Mr. MacAlister’s superintendent), and the first discoverer of this country, who had visited it three times in the summer months, that he never found it so before, and the only way in which I can account for this is that I suppose the rush of water into the lake at this time of the year is so great as to break through some outlet or sand bank, leaving a passage for the salt water to enter, which passage fills up in the summer months. I, however, intend on my return to make an excursion on the lake, and examine the coast side of it as well as the soundings, the particulars of which I will give you when I return to Sydney after shearing. I have not as yet fallen in with any of the aboriginal natives, but from what I can collect respecting them, they are a wild race, and have already committed some outrages on the settlers.
There are already in Gippsland about seven thousand head of cattle, belonging to Messrs. MacAlister, MacFarlane, Arbuckle, Cunningham, Pearson, Jones, Taylor and Loughnan, and some small squatters who, I understand, do not hold licenses; thirty-five thousand sheep, brought by Messrs. MacAlister, Curlewis, Reeve, Taylor and Loughnan, Jones, and myself; and about one hundred horses, and a population of one hundred and forty-four free men, thirty-three bond, twenty-six free women, and seventeen children most of them in service, the remainder living, God knows how, on the beach, where they have erected huts for themselves, waiting, they say, for the town allotments to be put up for sale. We feel the want of a police bench here very much. The servants do just as they like, work or walk away as they think proper, and are harboured by those people on the beach. If my father agree to my proposition to bring down the remainder of our sheep, and to reside there, I shall willingly do my best as a magistrate to keep the district in order, if His Excellency will give me the power by granting a Court of Petty Sessions, a clerk, and a few constables; or, perhaps, a party of the border police, under the direction of a sergeant of the mounted police, would be more available in the district. Mr. Curlewis, I understand, intends to reside in the district; so does Mr. Reeve; and these gentlemen would, I think, be eligible for appointment to the Commission of the Peace, and their services as magistrates would, I have no doubt, be of great advantage to the district.
I arrived here last week after a very severe journey by way of Western Port. Mr. Albert Brodribb, Mr. Pearson, I, and my black fellow whom I brought with me from Wellington, started on the information of a Mr. Campbell, who stated that he had ridden for three days in the direction of Western Port, and had got sight of that place. Upon this information we took with us ten days’ provisions and pack-horses to accompany us for two days; we, however, owing to the denseness of the scrub, found it impossible to bring the horses farther than the first day’s journey, about fourteen miles; consequently, we shouldered our pack (blessing the informer), and with great difficulty made about four miles that day; for fourteen days, during ten of which it rained without ceasing, we never could exceed eight miles in the day. On the fifteenth day we got into a lower and less broken country, the scrub still continuing, with water up to our knees, and our provisions, with the exception of a little flour and tea, were all exhausted. We, however, managed to exist to the end of the journey upon what the blackfellow could get in the shape of two pheasants, five monkeys [koala], and a parrot, a small portion of which was served out in the morning with about two table-spoonfuls of flour, which we put to boil in a quart pot of water. In the evening, by way of change, we had the monkey [koala], and tea without sugar.
In this way we lived for eight days, at times so exhausted that when we walked a mile or two we were quite done up, suffering severely from the cuts we got getting through the scrub our clothes and boots being completely torn off of us; and it was, I can assure you, to our great joy on the eighteenth day that we made Western Port, when we were picked up by Mr. Surveyor Smyth, who is surveying the coast, and who kindly conveyed us in his boat to Mr. Jamieson’s and thence to Mr. Manton’s, from whence we made this place, making the journey on foot in twenty-two days. As the mail by the Tambo is about to be made up, I must now conclude, assuring you that I will at all times be most ready to give you any information as to the district that may be in my power, and remain,
My dear Sir,
Yours ever truly,
W. ODELL RAYMOND.
Population, from 350 to 400, of whom 30 are bond.
Probable amount of revenue :
Reeve, Loughnan, Arbuckle
Raymond, Jones, Pearson
Curlewis, McFarlane, Scott
Cunningham, MacAlister, Klrig
Duncan and Mason, McMillan
There are several settlers squatting without license, keeping stores, grog shops, &c. If obliged to pay license their licenses would produce :
Campbell, Neilson, Fernham
Bunton, Kennedy, Cutts
Assessment for this half-year :
35,000 sheep £120 8 4 [?]
Assessment for next half-year (adding 50 per cent.) … £180 12 6 [?]
Probable amount of revenue for 1843 … … … … … … … £511 1 [?]
This amount is likely to be much increased, as follows, from the number of settlers going to Gippsland.
Probable amount of Customs duty now lost to the Government :
3,600 Ibs. of tobacco all can be landed free of duty from Van Diemen’s Land … … £360
Two public-house licenses … … … … … … £510
Spirits, at an average of 10s. a gallon … … £300
Total … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … £1,171
This is the amount of revenue that can be collected in Gippsland with proper officers.
This is allowing 12 Ibs. of tobacco to each grown adult male per annum known to be less than the average and say each man spends 5 per annum in drink, of this 4 is for spirits at 40s. (retail price) per gallon.
The Treasury has also received 10,240 for two special surveys at Gippsland, and also 5,120 for a third “special” there, but which has since been allowed to be selected elsewhere. The township is also being surveyed at this moment, and must bring a considerable sum to the Land fund.
NOTE: This document was not signed. It was found by Mr. Raymond amongst his papers, and forwarded by him to Mr. Tyers, along with the preceding letter.
William O’Dell Raymond is reported to have died on the 19th June 1859 at Strathlodden. He left a large estate . . .
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