BONNEY, Charles (1813-1897)


BONNEY, Charles (1813-1897)
pioneer
youngest son of the Rev. George Bonney, fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge, was born at Sandon, Staffordshire, England, on 31 October 1813. He was educated at Rugeley Grammar School, arrived at Sydney in December 1834, and became clerk to Mr Justice Burton (q.v.). Some 18 months later he went with C. H. Ebden to the Murray on about the present site of Albury. In December 1836, he crossed the Murray and took cattle to Port Phillip, having been preceded by only Gardiner and Hawdon (q.v.). In March 1837 he was the first to overland sheep, bringing some 10,000 belonging to Ebden to a station on the Goulburn. In January 1838, acting as a kind of first assistant to Joseph Hawdon, he went with him and a party with about 300 cattle, from the Murray, near Albury, to Adelaide. It was the hottest season of the year, and groups of aborigines were continually being encountered, but the party succeeded in keeping on good terms with them. It was not until 1 March that they came to the junction of the Darling with the Murray, and the whole journey took about three months. A beautiful lake was found on 4 March and named after the young Queen Victoria, and on 12 March another lake was found and named by Hawdon after Bonney. The Murray was left on 23 March, and after travelling many miles, Mount Barker was reached. About 1 April they reached the seashore near where the township of Noarlunga now stands. Meeting some settlers, they made for Adelaide, where they arrived on 3 April and found a ready market for their cattle. Returning to Port Phillip by sea Bonney brought another herd of cattle overland to Adelaide in February 1839, the route taken being through south-west Victoria. Near the border the country became so dry, that disaster was narrowly escaped. Fortunately water was found, and when the Murray was crossed only one bullock and one horse were lost. In spite of their difficulties, only 23 cattle were lost on the whole journey. Bonney stayed at Adelaide for a time and then joined Ebden again at the Murray. In 1841 a period of depression led to cattle becoming almost unsaleable, and in 1842 Bonney became a magistrate and commissioner of crown lands in South Australia. He held this position for about 15 years.
When responsible government came in, Bonney was elected a member of the house of assembly for East Torrens, and became commissioner of crown lands in the first ministry under Finniss (q.v.). This ministry went out of office in August 1857 and Bonney resigned his seat in the following January. He was in England from 1858 to 1862, and returning to South Australia, was a member of the legislative council in 1865 and 1866. From 1869 to 1871 he was manager of the South Australian railways. In 1871 he was appointed inspector of lands purchased on credit, and in 1880 retired on a pension. In 1885 he went to Sydney and died there on 15 March 1897. He left a widow, two sons and three daughters.
Bonney belonged to the best type of pioneer. He quickly adapted himself to the conditions of his new country, was an excellent explorer, and understood how to keep the aborigines in good humour. In later years he was a successful public official, held in great respect by the people of Adelaide.
The South Australian Register, 16 March 1897; The Advertiser, Adelaide, 16 March 1897; A. S. Kenyon, The Victorian Historical Magazine, June and December 1925; J. Blacket, The Early History of South Australia, pp. 94-105; T. H. James, Six Months in South Australia, p. 168.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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