FREDERICK WILBRAHAM FORD
The purchase of Western Plains on the range of Green Hills followed that of Balleyedey and subsequently Highfield was acquired where Ford spent the greater part of his life. Highfield was first leased to Ford in 1857, however, many years later, it was purchased by the Ford family in 1914.
Ford, who was appointed justice of peace in 1855, had not been long in the colony before he married Eleanor Elizabeth King, a daughter of John King, who not long after drowned in the River Cam while crossing the stream on his way to Launceston.
For 36 years Ford did considerable business as a buyer of produce and dealer in cattle. Known as a large landed proprietor and extensive exporter of produce, he purchased from growers all along the coast between Latrobe and Circular Head and shipped them to Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne.
Ford, like all pioneer settlers, had his share of ups and downs and narrow escapes. Twice he was shipwrecked while sailing to Melbourne, first on the sailing vessel Paul Pry, when it was shipwrecked off Cape Schank. The second was on a recently purchased vessel, Prince of Wales, which was wrecked outside Port Phillip Heads. So much for the maiden voyage of his newly acquired sailing vessel. However, the Prince of Wales had been around for much longer, first brought to Stanley around 1855.
Ford was described as a man of great force of character with a large and generous heart, and it is said that he never turned from anyone in trouble, especially when they went to him direct.
Ford was certainly not adverse to new innovations as the first telephone in Circular Head was from Stanley to Highfield, an innovation of which his wife strongly disapproved. One of his grandsons introduced the first wireless set in Circular Head to Highfield.
Another of Ford’s grandchildren, Constance Wilbraham Ford, also led the way in pushing boundaries when at aged 17 she became the first woman to drive a vehicle from Stanley to Hobart.
Although Ford died in 1893, it is without a doubt that he would relish seeing aeroplanes in the sky. One of the paddocks on the western side of the house at Highfield was used extensively by visiting pilots in the early 1920s. It was from here that Captain Fred Huxley, accompanied by yet another grandson, Jack Ford, ascended and flew to Melbourne in 2.5 hours. The photo below was taken from Captain Huxley’s plane by H J King in 1921.
As previously mentioned, the Early Settlers list is continually evolving and no doubt there will be many more names to come. Frederick Wilbraham Ford’s name is now listed as among the early settlers who arrived on the northwest coast before 1850.
Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office: NS5748 Highfield, Stanley
Circular Head Chronicle, 11 October 1939, page 4
Daily Telegraph, 8 June 1893, page 2
Launceston Examiner, 12 June 1893, page 3
Wellington Times and Agricultural and Mining Gazette, 10 June 1893, page 3
Advocate 21 May 1934 page 8
The Tasmanian, 17 June 1893, page 35
The Stanley Discovery Museum is interested in hearing of any knowledge of the use of Highfield (including the exact location and pictures) during the inaugural crossing of Bass Strait by air by Lt Arthur Long in December 1919, in view of the upcoming centenary of this event.
There was an article published in the Bundaberg Mail on 26 January 1920 page 6 with the heading "Hobart to Melbourne," which stated there was a feature in the Tasmanian Weekly Courier. Have checked the online Weekly Courier from January to March 1920 but unfortunately couldn't find anything. Perhaps it was published but not available online.
Please also refer to the Facebook page as there have been a couple of responses to your query.
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