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Barker, William

Pastoralist and Territorial Magistrate

William Barker came to Port Phillip from Glasgow and, in 1841, acquired the ‘Mount Alexander’ pastoral run which covered 20,000 acres (8093 ha). It was at Specimen Gully on this property that, in July 1851, gold was discovered by one of his shepherds, Christopher Peters. The following September, a letter from Barker announcing the find was published in the Argus. The news precipitated the gold rush at Forest Creek (Mount Alexander), which subsequently became the centre of the Castlemaine goldfields. Meetings were held in Barker’s woolshed by the local miners to protest against the monthly gold licence fee of 30 shillings. In 1852, in recognition of his prominence in the district, Barker was appointed a territorial magistrate for Castlemaine. He continued his pastoral run at Mount Alexander until the property was resumed under the Duffy Land Act.

Barkers Hill and Barker Street in Castlemaine, and nearby Barkers Creek were named in acknowledgement of his role in the development of the town and its surrounds.

Keir Reeves

Russell, K. F., 'Barker, William (1818 - 1899)', in Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 3, Melbourne University Press, 1974. Details