The Life of Jane Copeland

We have recently been contacted by a descendant of Jane Copeland to inquire if we are planning to order a brass plaque for her to place in the cemetery, as we have done with the first three burials.

The good news is that she will be commemorated by a plaque. She was the eighth person to be buried, so she is definitely ‘on the list’ and her plaque is likely to be in the next batch.

We did present Jane in a Cemetery Tour last year, which covered the females of Kilmore and was organised for International Women’s Day. Her life was fascinating and eventful. As a result of this tour Barbara Wilson wrote an article for our newsletter, largely based on information provided by Travis Ibrahim, a descendant.

As we have now had contact with another descendant we have decided to republish that article here.


At the International Womens’ Day walk at the Kilmore General Cemetery recently, Jane Copeland (formerly  Heels and Hangan)  was remembered as one of the earliest burials in the cemetery.    

Still a teenage girl, Jane was married to John Heels, convicted of horse stealing and transported on the ‘Calcutta’.   (pictured above) The fleet consisting of the ‘Calcutta’ and the “Ocean” was under the command of Colonel David Collins who had been made responsible for establishing a new settlement at Port Phillip to deter the French.

After a journey of 168 days the ‘Calcutta’ arrived in Port Phillip on 9th October 1803,  the first Europeans to attempt a settlement on the south coast of Terra Australis.    The settlement at Sullivan’s Bay, (modern day Sorrento)  was a disaster with many deaths including that of John Heels on 3rd January 1804, one of 25 convicts to die.   On 30th January 1804, the settlement was abandoned, and  widow Jane along with the rest of the surviving settlers, were bound for a small settlement recently established at  Risdon Cove, on the Derwent River,  4 miles north of current day Hobart     Like Sullivan’s Bay, the  site was deemed unsuitable by Collins, and on 20th February 1804 moved to a new site upriver named by Collins Sullivan Cove, but soon known as Hobart Town.

Jane was one of the few unmarried women in the fledgling colony.  Convict John Hangan was assigned to her as her servant and on 30th July she married him.  Between 1805 and 1816, seven children were born to the couple, 6 sons and 1 daughter.   By 1805 they acquired a 50 acre land grant known as Hangan’s Point, today known as Pavilion Point and the site of Government House and the Botanical Gardens.  Eleven year old John Hangan Jnr went missing in 1817 while searching for stray cattle;  his skeleton was found nearly 12 months later.  A further child was born in 1819 but died two months later.

In 1821 John was granted 50 acres of land at Tea Tree Brush, 15 miles north of Hobart, near Brighton.   Then in February 1826 John Hangan died  – and Jane was a widow for the second time.    But worse was to follow – on 23 May 1828, Jane’s first born John Edward Hangan was hanged – a bushranger – and the first native-born youth in the colony to be executed.

In June 1827 Jane gave birth to another son, Peter Hannagan, no father listed on the baptism record, but likely to have been free settler Peter Copeland, who Jane married in Hobart Town on 3 August 1829.  In November she gave birth to a daughter Mary Jane Copeland.

On 10th of June 1849, Jane & Peter Copeland arrived in Melbourne on the “Flying Fish”, a far cry from Jane’s original experience at Sorrento 46 years earlier.  Three of her sons were already on the mainland and two in Kilmore.

Her time in Kilmore was short – on 15th November 1851, at the age of 66 years, Jane Copeland died and was buried here in the Kilmore cemetery on 17th November, most likely  in the Old Church of England section as the service was conducted by the Rev. Singleton.  No cause is given for her death.    Interestingly Jane’s burial is only the eighth in the cemetery which opened in 1850, as shown on the Burial Register for the Parish of Bylands, County of Dalhousie, in the Colony of Victoria.  Peter Copeland died and was buried in Kilmore in 1859. 

What a remarkable woman and a remarkable life.  

Book Sale Returns 21st

Our Book Sale will return this weekend (21st and 22d August) at the Old Post Office, 2 Powlett Street. We expect to be open from 10 am till 4 pm on both Saturday and Sunday, assuming there are no lockdowns before then.

PLEASE NOTE: We must comply with Covid restrictions so there will be a limit on the number of people in the building at any point in time and we will be compelled to check your address to ensure that only regional residents can attend.

SUGGESTION: At our last Book Sale the big rush happened around opening time. It might be sensible to turn up later to avoid congestion and being forced to wait for other buyers to exit.

As usual, there will be plenty of bargains and a “fill a bag for $10” table.

Re-Opening as of 10 August 2021

With the relaxation of restrictions for regional Victoria, we are now able to re-open the Old Post Office for our usual hours as of today. Note that other restrictions such as social distancing remain in force. We will be open 10am-3pm on Tuesday and Thursday, and 10am-1pm on Saturday, assuming there is no further change in the lockdown situation between now and the weekend.

Of course access via email or physical mail remains an option for those who would rather not come in personally.

Hume and Hovell Debate Continues

This Tuesday’s edition of the North Central Review (July 20, 2021) contained an article titled “History Dispute”. The substance of this item is that historian Martin Williams has published a peer-reviewed article in this month’s Victorian Historical Journal which concludes that Hume and Hovell’s 1824 expedition south from Sydney did not cross Monument Hill, and thus did not traverse the site of the present Monument.

The significance of this finding is that the submission for heritage listing of the Monument was based on the assumption that the site of the structure did form part of the route. Martin Williams has now applied for that heritage listing to be reviewed, and it is likely that the current listing will be voided as a result of his research.

This is not the place to go into his findings in detail. The current issue of the Victorian Heritage Journal is not available online, but his conclusions are based on an analysis of the explorer’s diaries and sketch maps.

His conclusion concurs with the findings of our own Grahame Thom, who analyzed the same material in an attempt to trace the route taken by the explorers some years ago, and concluded that the nearest they had come to Kilmore or Monument Hill on their outbound expedition was some eight kilometers to the East of the present Monument, where they had crossed the Sunday Creek and arrived at a point near the current Hume Highway.

What I find particularly interesting is the fact that the impression that Monument Hill formed part of Hume and Hovell’s route seems to have arisen after the erection of the Monument, and was not aired before.

The Argus for 11 October 1924 contains an article with the following text:

In connection with the forthcoming Hume-Hovell centenary, the committee formed at Kilmore is making good progress. A combined cairn, with spiral stair, will be built on the lookout which overlooks Mount Disappointment and the track taken by the exploring expedition 100 years ago. The cairn will be of blue stone, given for the work by the Kilmore Dairy Company. The stone formed a portion of the old Kilmore gaol.

This makes it fairly clear that even at the time of the erection of the Monument there was no claim being made that Hume and Hovell had actually traversed the Hill. The lookout on the top of the tower allowed visitors to see Mount Disappointment, which does appear to have been part of their trip, and this is quite a different claim to stating that Monument Hill was on their route.

There does not appear to be any actual threat to the existence of the Monument from a voiding of its heritage listing. Monument Hill remains a Council owned reserve, and it is unlikely that there would be any proposal to demolish it.

One interesting question is whether there would be any grounds for a relisting of the Monument which did not include the question of its forming part of Hume and Hovell’s route.

Kilmore’s Monument was erected in 1924 as part of the centenary of the Hume and Hovell expedition, and is a good reflection of the community enthusiasm and spirit of nation-building that prevailed after the close of the First World War.

Is it possible that the listing be amended to preserving the Monument as an example of the nation-building enthusiasm of Australia in the 1920’s ? I would personally feel that its significance as a statement of the enthusiasm over the role of Hume and Hovell can stand irrespective of the fact that the evidence suggests that the explorers did not traverse the actual site of the Hill.

Identifying the Brick Makers

After our last General Meeting Brian Clancy left some bricks for our collection. These are stamped with the initials of the brick makers. Unfortunately there are few records of the names of Kilmore’s brick makers, and we are left to guess at the names behind the initials. Does anyone have any idea of the names of these individuals?



JL (or JI)

Illegible – is the first letter an ‘M’

CM and JP – evidently a partnership


A Message Of Thanks

It’s always nice to know that our work here is appreciated. Barbara Wilson recently received an email of thanks from someone who had requested family history research. To give credit where credit is due, much of the actual research was done by Vin O’Donoghue.

Attention : Barbara Wilson

My name is John from Hoppers Crossing and I was recently
assisted with some Family History on the Young family
at KHS centre. This was a very enthusiastic and rewarding session.

At the end of last week I received some additional information on the
Youngs in the mail —- BDMs, rates, and extracts from the Kilmore Free

Barbara, I wish to pass on my thanks to you ( and the researcher?) for
this bonus. Added to the first data it broadens the story of the Young
Family together with details regarding their residence etc.

With much appreciation and Best wishes.