Winner of Family History Connections Don Grant Award 2017


In 1870, John Muston (1800-76) wrote a few lines about his English ancestry, in case ‘at some future period our Australian Descendants might be desirous of knowing something of their “Old Country” progenitor.’ Although John’s ‘few lines’ have been useful for research purposes, most of this book’s contents were not touched upon in them. In fact, John Muston seems to have excluded reference to anything he did not wish his descendants to know. Despite this, it is his own personal and very detailed letters, discovered in the Library of Birmingham in 2010, which form the basis of this book.


These letters, which John Muston had no reason to believe still existed in 1870, lay bare his personal, business and financial struggles in England and Australia from 1829-42. An energetic, intelligent and articulate man, born into a family steeped in commerce, John never doubted that his destiny was to be a successful merchant.


John Muston had an interesting life. He was in turn a grocer in Derby; draper in Hobart Town; squatter on the Barwon River and Muston’s Creek at Port Phillip; and a merchant, accountant and speculator in Sydney. When he sailed across Bass Strait in 1837, John’s baggage included a host of financial, marital and other personal problems. From insolvency in Melbourne in 1842, however, he moved to Sydney in 1846, rebuilt his financial affairs and found happiness with a new wife.


After a lifetime of hard work, John Muston died financially secure at North Sydney, in 1876. By then, he and his second wife Janet Millar had been together almost 40 years and ten of his 15 children survived him.  So successfully did John cover his tracks it is only in recent years that descendants from his second marriage learnt of his previous marriage to Mary Ann Joynes.


In his Foreword to this book, Geoffrey Blainey wrote:


Before commencing this biography, Robert Wuchatsch had written widely on Australian history, notably books on the early German settlers in Victoria and on the man who originally owned the racehorse Carbine, the country’s most famous racehorse in the 19th century. A patient and careful researcher, Robert not only pieces lucidly together the life of Muston but also reprints his letters so that we can share the excitement they once conveyed to people who had never seen Australia.

John Muston; Draper, Squatter, Speculator in Colonial Australia