1803 - 1875





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John Garrett Bussell - Battye Library 003049d
John Garrett Bussell



John was the eldest son of the Rev. William Marchant Bussell and Frances Bussell. There were 6 boys (John, William, Charles, Alfred, Vernon and Lennox) and three daughters (Fanny (Frances), Bessie (Elizabeth) and Mary.)

When John's father died his mother was left to care for the children on a small pension and the best option seemed to be to emigrate to the new colony of Swan River.

John had been trained for the priesthood but changed his mind, so with Charles, Alfred and Vernon he set off for Western Australia aboard the ship Warrior (1) (that was also carrying the Molloys and the Turners.) John's second eldest brother (William) remained behind in England to complete his studies in medical school and he, along with their mother, three sisters and Lennox would join the rest of the family in Western Australia when the four brothers had established themselves.

Due to lack of funds the four brothers had to travel steerage class but still managed to make friends with the Molloys on the voyage.


On arrival the new settlers were encouraged by Governor Stirling to take up land in the south west (as most of the arable land had already been taken up near to the capital).

A ship was hired for the exorbitant fee of 200 pounds but Stirling came with the group and used Government funds to help pay for the passage.

The group landed at Flinders Bay (Augusta) and began to clear land for houses and farms.

John and his brothers established their first property called Dachet but problems with soil fertility led them to move further up river and establish a new home that they called Adelphi.

Fanny, Lennox and Bessie Bussell arrived in Perth in January 1833 and after six weeks in the capital they joined their brothers in Augusta. Furniture and property shipped to Augusta on the ship Cumberland was all lost when the ship sank and the Bussells were helped to a great extent by the Molloys who loaned them household items and gave them much support.

The help was apparently not much appreciated and Georgina Molloy wrote of the Bussells as: 'perfectly selfish and inconsiderate as any people I ever knew.' This said, it appears that the Molloys and Bussells went on to become firm friends of many years, so the initial impression expressed by Georgina may not the the best indication of the long term relationship.

Mother Bussell and Mary arrived later the same year but a second disaster struck the family when the new house at Adelphi was accidentally burned down and they all had to move back to the old house at Augusta.

By this time the family had had enough of the difficulties at Augusta and decided to move north to Vasse River and to what was to become Busselton.

John wrote somewhat glowingly of the area by the Vasse:

'Here was a spot that the creative fancy of a Greek would have peopled with Dryad and Naiad and all the beautiful phantoms and wild imagery of his sylvan mythology. Wide waving lawns were sloping down to the water's edge. Trees thick and entangled were stooping over the banks.'

The Bussells set about making their third home in Australia. There was some disagreement about what to name the farm but the name  'Cattle Chosen' was selected when a cow named Yulika and its calf, that had been lost while they were further south, wandered into the new location.

Never ones to suffer the incursions of local Aborigines lightly, the Bussells were involved in a prolonged conflict with the local tribe and on a number of occasions participated in punitive raids where Aborigines were shot and killed. The claim has been made by one source that John was once prosecuted for manslaughter when he killed a young Aboriginal girl but he only received a 1 shilling fine. (Please refer to the note at the end of this document with regard to this information.)

By 1836 all the Bussells had moved north to Vasse from Augusta and with a large family of young healthy adults they quickly set about building their own empire in the south west. By May 1839 the Molloys joined the Bussells at Vasse but they never achieved the same success.

In 1838 John returned to England to seek the hand in marriage of Sophie Hayward but the prospect of a pioneers life, coupled with the presence of the domineering Bussell matriarch, was too much for her to face and John eventually returned having married a widow - Charlotte Cockworthy.

Charlotte had been a member of the fanatical sect, Plymouth Brethren, and when she married John, she was excommunicated and her 3 children held captive by the sect. The couple had to kidnap the children before taking ship back to Australia.

The family gradually drifted away from Cattle Chosen to their own properties. In 1864 John taught classics at Hale school in Perth and also became a Justice of the Peace for the Busselton area. He was elected to the Legislative Council in 1870 and died at Cattle Chosen in 1875.

He had 4 daughters Capel Bussell, who became Mrs. E. Brockman, Emily Bussell who became Mrs. F. Vines, Caroline Bussell and Josephine Bussell who became Mrs. H. C. Prinsep.

Never ones to suffer the incursions of local Aborigines lightly, the Bussells were involved in a prolonged conflict with the local tribe and on a number of occasions participated in punitive raids where Aborigines were shot and killed. The claim has been made by one source that John was once prosecuted for manslaughter when he killed a young Aboriginal girl but he only received a 1 shilling fine.

Note: This information is disputed by descendants one of whom states the following:

"John Garrett Bussell (known as Mowen by the local tribe) never shot or murdered anyone and I believe you are confusing the accident of the aboriginal child with his brother Charles Bussell... ...saying Charles was convicted of manslaughter is wrong as well, as he was only fined a shilling for not taking proper care of his weapon. 

The laws were very strict despite what today's activists say as they do not appreciate or understand what life was like during settlement 200 years ago. 

Neither Charles or any of the Bussell brothers were ever convicted of murder"...

Obvously this is a contentious issue and not something we are able to verify one way or another. We cannot simply remove information we have discovered during our research but believe the family do have the right of reply which we have included above. The original source that we are using may be incorrect but we have no way of knowing that. As we always do when there are conflicting sides to historical information, we will simply provide boths sides of the story.

There is some evidence that this death was caused not by John Garrett Bussel but by Charles Bussell. We have added a link to this information at the end of this article. There is no way that we can comment conclusively on whether this is in reference to the same death or not but it does seem likely to be the case given the similarities.

The information we have is not something we contend that occurred, it is information from another source and we are simply re-stating it as part of the historical narrative that we have found during our research. We take these matters seriously and do not include any information with malicious intent. It is our mission to provide information from the research we do without fear or favour and that is what we always attempt to do.

We have added two more references to this page that certainly seem to substantiate information on the conflict with Aborigines that we discovered.

It is impossible to judge history by modern standards because attitudes have changed so much. It is important to tell the history of our state as it was and not to try and either cover up or embelish things that happened.

Our (European) history in W.A. was a violent one that disposessed the people who had lived here for thousands of years. That is the truth we need to acknowledge today.


John Garrett Bussells grave
John Garrett Bussell's grave.





1803 - Born August 16th.

1820 - Father died.

1829 - John with his brothers, Charles, Vernon and Alfred sail for Western Australia aboard the Warrior.

1830 - Moves from Perth to Augusta.

1831 - Re-locates 19km up river to a new holding named 'Adelphi'.

1833 - Fanny and Bessie and their brother Lenox arrive.

1834 - The family begins to move 97km north to Vasse (now Busselton).

1836 - All the family are now at the new settlement.

1838 - John goes to England to marry Sophie Hayward but returns with Charlotte Cookworthy, (Spicer). (One source says 1837).

1839 - Returns to Western Australia.

1855 - Becomes a Justice of the Peace.

1861 - Becomes a member of the Vasse Board of Education.

1864 - John starts teaching at Hale school in Perth.

1870 - Elected to the Legislative Council on November 4th. Serves until July 3rd 1872.

1875 - Died September 21st (many sources say the 17th but we feel his gravestone has to be accurate.).


Links to more information:


Bussell, John Garrett (1803-1875)

John Bussell

Charles Bussell article on Trove

Bussell family

The Ghosts are not silent




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