James Ford in Ballarat and Bendigo

How and when James Ford arrived in Ballarat is open to speculation.  Perhaps he travelled along the series of well know ‘tracks’ leading from Melbourne to Ballarat.  On the other hand, he may have travelled by rail.  The Geelong to Ballarat railway was opened in 1862, the same year that the railway from Melbourne to Bendigo was opened.  At this stage, there was no rail connection between Ballarat and Bendigo.

Here is a copy of relevant information from Anne Beggs-Sunter (2012) writing for The Courier which began publication in 1867.

‘The opening of the railway was a marvellous advance for passengers. Trains left Geelong twice daily, at 10.30am and 6.30pm, and the journey took two and a half hours, stopping at Steiglitz Road (Moorabool), Lethbridge, Meredith, Lal Lal and Buninyong (Yendon) … The coming of the railway had a dramatic impact on the coach services between Geelong and Ballarat. The coach had taken all day to do the very bumpy trip. The train was much more appealing, although initially, Ballarat people complained about the high cost of tickets.’
It should be remembered that Ballarat was already a thriving city.  A copy of the Statistics of Victoria appearing in The Argus 24 October 1960 gives some idea of the size and prosperity of Ballarat.

From National Library of Australia

In the 1860s Ballarat and the surrounding district had a population approaching 67,000 serviced by a railway by the time James Ford arrived.  By comparison, Ballarat’s population in 2018 was a tad over 100,000.

Ballarat Station under construction in 1860. Photo The Courier 2016.

The next definite date we can establish for the whereabouts of James Ford is the birth of his son, Robert Muir Ford.  Robert Muir Ford was born 12 May 1869 at Ballarat West according to his birth certificate.

So, somewhere between 1867 when Margaret Ford was born in Wellington, NZ and Robert Muir Ford’s birth in 1869, James and his family moved from NZ to Ballarat.  In all probability, James and his family travelled to Ballarat by train which took over just two hours while a Cobb & Co coach took all day.

The next definite date we can find is contained in the Bendigo Rates Report where James Ford is recorded living at Forest Street (1879), Short and Queen Streets (1883-1886) and then Wills Street (1887-1902). The Bendigo Rates Report, obtained by my brother Tim Ford on his visit to Ballarat and Bendigo, gives us some valuable information.

James first entry in the record indicates that he is working, first as a carpenter then as an Inspector, then as an Inspector of Works.  Interesting, the Net Asset Value of the property steadily increased until 1890 after which the NAV declined perhaps indicating something of the economic fortunes of Bendigo.

Rates Record Bendigo. Photo by Tim Ford

James Ford was apparently well respected within the local community.  It is also apparent that he travelled outside the Bendigo district and supervised the building of ‘large public buildings’.

James died 3 September 1915, in his son’s arms according to one report, at his Wills Street residence.  His wife, Elizabeth Ford/Muir died in Ballarat 27 January 1882 at the age of 37.

Obituary for James Ford appearing in the Bendigo Advertiser 4 September 1915. National Library of Australia.

The obituary records James’ surviving family, Janet and Mollie (Mary) and Robert Muir Ford.  Mrs William Kinsey Bolton is Margaret Ford, who married William Kinsey Bolton 18 August 1894.

I came across this photographs recently from the Ballarat Museum collection taken in 1870 and gives an indication of the living conditions for the time.  Robert Muir Ford was born in Ballarat in 1869.

Copyright John Ford 2018.