Hume, Alexander Hamilton (DNB00)

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HUME, ALEXANDER HAMILTON (1797–1873), Australian explorer, was born at Paramatta, New South Wales, on 18 June 1797. His father, Andrew Hamilton Hume, was born in the parish of Hillsborough, co. Down, 24 June 1762. received a commission in the Moira regiment of volunteers in 1782, fought a duel at Greenwich in 1786, went to New South Wales in 1788, on receiving an appointment in the commissariat, was farming in Norfolk Island in 1791, obtained a grant of land in Australia, and died there 23 Sept. 1849. His mother, whom his father married in 1796, was Eliza Moore, daughter of the Rev. John Kennedy, rector of Nettlestead, Kent; she died 14 Aug. 1847, aged 86. Alexander was educated by his mother. When seventeen, he with his brother, John Kennedy Hume, and a black boy, made his way through the mountains, and in exploring the southwest country for about sixty miles in August 1814, discovered Bong Bong and Berrima. He spent the greater part of the next eleven years in similar work, growing intimately acquainted with the aborigines, and finding his way through the bush without a compass. In March 1817 he accompanied Surveyor Mehan to the south-west for further explorations, when the upper portions of the Shoalhaven river, Lake Bathurst, and the Goulburn plains were discovered. Hume was rewarded with a grant of three hundred acres of land near Appin. In 1819 he explored Jervis Bay with Messrs. Oxley and Meehan, and then returned overland to Sydney by way of Bong Bong. Two years afterwards he discovered the Yass Plains. In 1822 he, in company with Lieutenant R. Johnson, R.N., and Alexander Berry, sailed in the cutter Schnapper down the east coast, and from the upper part of the Clyde river they penetrated inland as far as the site where the town of Braidwood now stands. In 1824 Hume undertook the first overland journey from Sydney to Port Phillip. W.H.Howell and six convicts accompanied him. Leaving Appin 2 Oct. 1824, they reached Yass Plains 18 Oct., and the Murrumbidgee river 19 Oct. In the next two months they discovered five rivers. The first was the Tumut (discovered 22 Oct.); the second they named (16 Nov.) the Hume river, after Hume's father, but it is now known as the Murray; the third was the Mitta Mitta (20 Nov.); the fourth they named (24 Nov.) the Ovens river, after Major Ovens, private secretary to the governor of New South Wales; the fifth they named (3 Dec.) the Howell river, but it was afterwards called the Goulburn. The explorers finally reached Port Phillip Bay on 16 Dec., and, turning homeward, arrived at Hume station, Fort George, on 18 Jan. 1825. For this important exploration Hume received from the government twelve hundred acres of land, then valued at half a crown the acre. In after years Howell unjustly claimed the chief credit for the success of this expedition. Hume, in justification of his own character, published 'A Brief Statement of Facts in connection with an Overland Expedition from Lake George to Port Phillip in 1824,' 1855; 2nd edit., 1873; 3rd edit., 1874. On the appearance of the first edition (1855), Howell printed a `Reply.' Hume's last public service was to accompany Captain Charles Sturt in his expedition down the banks of the Macquarie river. Starting on 7 Dec. 1828, they reached the Darling river 4 Feb. 1829, and traced it down to latitude 29° 37', longitude 145° 33'. The want of fresh water then obliged them to retrace their steps, and after suffering great hardships they reached Wellington valley on 21 April. He spent the remainder of his life in farming his lands. He was made a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society in 1860, and died at his residence, Fort George, Yass, 19 April 1873. A monumental pillar was erected by the colonists to his memory at Albury, on the Hume river. He married Miss Dight, but had no issue. His brother, John Kennedy Hume, was shot by bushrangers at Gunning, New South Wales, in January 1840.

[Gent. Mag. April 1850, pp.434-6; Labillière's Hist. of Victoria, 1878, i. 188-232; Sturt's Two Expeditions into Interior of Southern Australia, 1833, pp. 5-150; Bonwick's Port Phillip Settlement, 1883, pp. 80-93, with portrait; Heaton's Australian Dict. of Dates, 1879, p. 98; Lang's New South Wales, 1875, i. 164, 182-4 ,233, 237; Proc. Roy. Geogr. Soc. 22 June 1874, pp. 532-3.]

G. C. B.