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Who was CB Alexander?

Go west young men

Nhill is a small town in the heart of the Wimmera wheatbelt of Victoria. In the 1840s, squatters and prospectors were pushing the boundaries of exploration further west. Settlers and their sheep followed, and by 1874 wheat-growing began in earnest.

The Alexander family arrived at Nhill about 1880, where they serviced the needs of local farmers rather than diggers. David, William and Robert set up a blacksmith business in the town and continued there until 1887. John and Charles then joined the business, and with the combined skill of the five brothers the enterprise was highly profitable.

By 1886 the Alexanders began their first forays into serious land ownership when William took licences for land in several Parishes. By 1887 William, David, Charles, Isabella, Robert, John and Jean all held land under licence, and in 1900 they began to convert these licences to outright ownership.

The Alexanders

Above: The Alexander boys (clockwise from top left John, Charles, Robert, David, William, then Isabella and Jean (right).

In 1890 John opted out. In 1892 he married and disappeared off the family radar until his death in 1929.

The Alexanders' business thrived and expanded as wheat land was selected and the mallee scrub cleared and ploughed.

While all this was happening, Nhill and the western districts were suffering. In the 1880s, rabbit plagues, wild dog attacks and wheat rust frustrated the efforts of many local pioneers, and in the 1890s drought struck the district, as it did the whole nation. In 1897 a major tornado ripped through the town, destroying most buildings.

All these tribulations may have led to the Alexanders' decision to 'pull up stakes' and look for more favourable prospects elsewhere. At the turn of the century, the fortunes of Nhill improved, but the Alexanders were restless. They had spied a new promised land in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales.

Alexander's foundry in Nhill

Above: Corner of Nelson and Campbell Streets, Nhill, about 1910. The Alexander's old foundry is on the left.

The information on this web page is taken from the book Who was CB Alexander? which sells for $10 plus postage [details]