John Byng established the "first" inn at Mount Gambier, later frequented by Adam Lindsay Gordon. The first Mount Gambier hotel was on the site of Jens hotel and should not be confused with the existing M G hotel on the corner of Commercial Street and Penola Road. John Byng was the son of Thomas Byng (or Bing), a black loyalist slave from South Carolina who joined and fought alongside the Brit-ish in the American War of Independence 1775-83. Thomas was apparently promised his freedom along with 50 acres of land in Halifax, Nova Scotia by the British forces. After the war was over he was granted just one acre. Thomas Byng/Bing was born c1757 in South Carolina, USA. According to the Book of Negros (pages 78-79) he was one of the African American loyalist refugees who left New York between April and November 1783 bound for Nova Scotia. "Thomas Bing, 26, likely lad. Formerly the property of John Miles of Salt Ketcher, South Carolina; left him 5 years." His son John Byng, was born in April 1809, at Digby, Nova Scotia. He came to Melbourne in 1839, probably on a whaling ship. He married Mary Ann Wallace on 30 April 1840 in Melbourne, Victoria. She was a recent emigrant from Ireland. He had the Victoria Tavern in Queen Street from 1840. He was in attendance at the first public execution in Melbourne on 20 January 1842 when he was described as “a tall, well developed Yankee blackfellow, who was dressed in the latest style, and astride a well-appointed prancing white horse”. By 1845 he had the Victoria hotel in Bourke Lane, this hotel had to be sold in 1846 “in the interest of the insolvent Byng”. In 1846 he obtained permission from Foster Fyans, the Commissioner of Crown Lands to establish an inn on Bryan's Creek (now Col-eraine) and apparently commenced construction of a building. The establishment of a network of inns throughout the western district occurred at this time to provide staging posts for the newly established overland mail service. The Geelong Advertiser and Squatters' Advocate published on Tuesday 19th January 1847 reported that Byng's application for a licence to occupy Crown land at Bryan's Creek was refused due to an objection by Edward Henty of Muntham. Later in 1846, Henty's candidate, Richardson Bell came from Portland and established the Korite Inn on Bryan's Creek. As you know, in later years, this hotel was owned by William Trainor. Having been denied a licence at Bryan's Creek John Byng moved on to Mount Gambier. He applied for a licence to run a hotel in the “new country” at Mount Gambier on 23rd June 1847. At first his application was refused, but a licence was granted on 18th Septem-ber 1847. Byng left Mount Gambier in 1853 returning to Melbourne where he took over the Victoria Inn in Little Bourke Street, then from 1855-56 had the Digby Hotel in Stephen Street (later Exhibition Street), before moving later that year to Kyneton where they took over the Gold Diggers’ Arms hotel. John Byng died of TB at Kyneton on 14th January 1858, and his wife of the same disease five weeks later. They had numerous chil-dren the descendants of whom are now scattered throughout Australia and New Zealand.
John Byng was a mighty man, 18 stone in weight, with biceps measuring 18 inches. His Mount Gambier building was composed of primitive slabs with a bark roof, lit by tallow candle. Being the only hotel, It was the haven for the very early settlers. Adam Lindsay Gordon is recorded as being in the hotel on the night of 26th December 1861 between 7:30 and 9:15 pm, the evening of his win on “Sandlark” in the then hotel proprietor, A. Alexander’s paddock, . (Border Watch Friday 17 January, 1862 Pg 2)
RIDING READING AND WRITING
Photograph of a painting of first hotel in Mount Gambier - The A Mitchell Hotel, with A. Mitchell store and saddler alongside. ca.1856 National Library Aus. BRG 347/855. We are indebted to Graeme Wallis from The Coleraine Historical Society for presenting to us his information on the first Mount Gambier Hotel.
1862 Dec15 Hamilton Hurdle. Unplaced on Modesty
1862 Gordon was the Orderly to Mr Justice Gwynne who conducted the first circuit court in Gambiertown. (The Manning Index. S.A.)
1863 Adam Lindsay GORDON was a frequent visitor to William ROBERTSON at Wando Vale. Gordon was training horses at Digby and
boarding at Bilston's Hotel, both were great lovers of horses. William ROBERTSON had six children.
The big stone stables at Wando Vale, north of Casterton were built by William ROBERTSON. ( From Book Wando Vale Closer
1863 April 7 Charley Walker marries Sarah Bridges , at the Abbey Church, Great Malvern, by the Rev. G. Fisk, Mr. Charles Palmer Walker, to
Sarah, second daughter of the late Joshua Bridges, both of this city. (Worcestershire Chronicle - Wednesday 8 April 1863 Page 3)
1863 May 5 A win at the Border Steeple race. Mount Gambier First on Blakesley’s “ Modesty”
1863 May14 Came third at Great Western Steeple-Coleraine (Vic) on Wilson’s “Modesty”
1863 June Wrote letter to his Uncle in Britain.
1863 Sept 10 Second at Adelaide Steeplechase on Wilson’s “Cadger “( horse ridden for the first time by Gordon, not yet the owner)
1863 Oct 1 Unplaced on “Modesty”. Hurdle Race, Ballarat- Ballarat “Star” 2/10/63
1863 Oct 3 Unplaced on Mount’s “Tam O’Shanter”, Grand Amateur Steeple, Ballarat – “Bell’s Life “
1863 Dec 22 Unplaced on “Modesty”, Corinthian Hurdle, Hamilton. “Bell’s Life” 26/12/63
1863 Dec 30 Unplaced on “Modesty,” Portland Steeplechase- “Border Watch” 8/1/64; “Bell’s Life” 9/1/64 “Modesty” injured.
1864 Purchased land in Mt Gambier.
1864 Mar. 8 Dingley Dell transferred by George Randall (Transfer No. 7076 Title Deeds) to Adam Lindsay Gordon, Gentleman. 101 Acres
Approx) (J.K. Moir Border Watch (Mount Gambier,Thursday 2 December 1937, page 1)
1864 Apr. 21 Second on “Modesty”, Great Western Steeple- Coleraine. “Border Watch,” 29/4/64; Bells Life 30/4/64
1864 May 18 Third on Bell’s “Vandyke”, Penola Steeplechase. “Border Watch” 20/5/64; “Bell’s Life”, 28/5/64
1864 June Gordon Lectured to a church literary group in Mount Gambier on the subject of Phrenology
1864 July 27 Third on “Modesty”, Mount Gambier Border Handicap Steeplechase- (:Border Watch 29/7/64) (Border Watch (Mount Gambier,
Saturday 16 December 1911, page 4)
1864 July 28 Gordon leapt his horse over a post-and-rail fence on the edge of Blue Lake, Mt. Gambier.
1864 Aug 30 Poem The Feud published in Mt. Gambier “Border Watch”-Ledger. Gordon charged £6
1864 Sep 15 Second on Gaylad, Adelaide Steeplechase- “Bell’s Life” 24/9/64
1864 Oct 1 First issue of “The Australasian,” incorporated with “Weekly Argus,” “The Yoaman” and “The Examiner.” A journal of politics.
Literature, Art, Commerce, Pastoral and Agricultural Pursuits, Horticulture, Mining, Acclimatisation, Athletic and Field Sports.
1864 Oct 22 Verses inspired by “My Old Black Pipe” appeared – Bell’s Life, 22/10/64
1864 Nov Modesty dies. (Border Watch (Mount Gambier, SA Wednesday 11 November 1914 Page 4 –Fifty Years Ago)
From the above, it can be seen that Gordon's main occupation was racing with his horse "Modesty". There are some stories about Gordon from the local residents at that time.
When he visited his Doctor in Mount Gambier he would go straight for the Doctor's library of books.
He visited the Mount Gambier Hotel and wrote his poem "The Feud" based on illustrations that were hanging on the hotel's walls.
He exercised his horses near to the Blue Lake and told a young female admirer that she should not be there watching him every day.
William Trainor was with him from time-to-time but there is no record of his wife Maggie except that they looked "odd" walking together in the street as to the disparity in their heights, and he visited the offices of the Border Watch on a regular basis and read their publications, in and out of print.