The Esler Family by Geoff Esler

Part 1 – Emigrating to Australia

PHOTO: Robert Esler (1806-1884) and Martha (nee Martha Adams).

This is the story of the Esler family in Australia as far as I know, from the descendants of Robert Esler and Martha Adams.

Three of the children of Martha Adams and Robert Esler came to Australia from Co. Antrim in Northern Ireland where the family farmed at Lisnamurrican near Ballymena, in the Valley of the Braid. The first brothers, Robert the eldest, and Hugh next in line, landed in Australia about 1860, although I unfortunately have been unable to find details of their arrival in Victoria. I believe that Robert, who previously married Eliza Beattie in Ireland, came out with his young son Robert Charles, but I have not found any record of Eliza Beattie whom I suspect may have died in Ireland.

On 26/1/1864 Robert Esler married Ann Frances Ruddock and the witness was Robert’s brother, Hugh Esler. From this marriage was born Alfred William. Another child, Frances Martha, passed away as an infant. Ann Frances herself passed away in 1869, and in the same year Robert remarried to Eliza Palmer (maiden name Dodd or Dodds) and in 1870 Howard was born at St. Kilda.

When Robert and Hugh arrived in Australia they first went to Western Victoria, where the parents and brothers of Martha Adams were living at Wagoom, thus the boys had their maternal grandparents here, having also come out from Co. Antrim.

However, as happened to most new arrivals in those days, the boys soon went to the Bendigo goldfields, and apparently made some money, because Robert was later listed as a merchant at Maldon. Here again Robert must have done alright, because after the death of his third wife (An Eliza died on 30/6/1873, but I don’t know if the same Eliza) Robert took his three sons and headed back to Ireland. Having had three wives die I believe as a result of childbirth, it was not surprising that Robert would have been appalled at the lack of medical facilities than available in Australia.

It was surprising however that Robert, then in his late thirties, enrolled at the University of Dublin and studied to obtain his medical degree. His second son Alfred William also studied in Dublin to become a doctor.

Robert Charles Stewart Esler, the eldest son of Dr. Robert Esler, came back to Australia, arriving on the “Cephalonia” in March 1883. He was shown as 21 years of age, and he went to Tooborac near Heathcote where his Uncle Hugh had purchased land. In 1884 R.C.S. married Eliza Hall, who had followed him out from Ireland for the purpose, and they farmed in their own right at Tooborac until about 1895 when they moved to Upper Flynn near Traralgon. They sold up there in 1900 and apparently took their children back to Ireland where Robert’s father, Dr. Robert married again to Irminda Rentoul, and two more sons were born.

However, continuing the story of Dr. Robert and his family, his second son Alfred William, now Dr. Alfred returned to Australia and set up practice at Heathcote, near where his brother Robert and Uncle Hugh lived. Here he married a local girl, Isabel Christie.

The second son of Robert Esler and Martha Adams to arrive in Australia, Hugh, on 28/10/1867 at Bendigo married Helen Wilson, a school teacher and also of Irish birth. Hugh was listed as a quartz miner of California Gully, a suburb of Bendigo.

Hugh and Helen were to have a family of 11 children, one of whom, Ellen, died as a youngster. Hugh and Helen, as stated above purchased land at Tooborac, although it is known that Hugh would still chase gold at every opportunity, and Helen was forced to teach school at one time to keep the wolf from the door. Children born to Hugh and Helen were Martha Adams (1868), John Wilson (1870), Robert Craig (1872), Helen Jane (1874), Eliza Jane (1878), Hugh James (1880), Samuel (14/10/1880), William George (1883), James Gordon (1885), Helen Muriel (1888), and Margretta Evelyn (1889).

[Note: Part 2 of the Esler family (“The Eslers Settle in Gippsland”) by Geoff Esler has been abstracted. The abstract can be found in the Bulletins link.]