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Coppin, Christopher (Chris) (1839–1915)

from Western Mail (Perth)

Another old pioneer—Mr. Christopher Coppin, familiarly known as "old Chris"—recently passed away at the ripe old age of 76 years. Hale and hearty to within a brief period of his decease, his genial happy comical disposition enabled him to live a life of pleasure to himself and all who happened to be brought in contact with him. That is if they were men; for the "waster" he had no time. Born near Croydon, Surrey, England, in the year 1839, the late Mr. Coppin left England in 1842, in the ship Diadem for Western Australia. His father having been despatched by the Australind Land Company to assist in the development of the vast concessions of southern country secured by them, two brothers of his father also adopted Australia as an outlet for their energies. One won high positions in Victoria, vis., the Hon. George Coppin, comedian, polician and philanthropist. A man concerned in every good and useful movement in Melbourne's advancement, and the public weal during his long and stirring life, he died honoured and loved by all classes. In his youth and early manhood the late Mr. Chris Coppin was engaged in farming in the Bridgetown district. Anyone with any knowledge of what a heartbreaking task the clearing of this country even with the present up-to-date appliances and conveniences is, can understand how herculean was the struggle in which he was engaged. It was fitting, therefore, that he should be selected for the difficult occupation of protecting the lives and properly of the inhabitants of Western Australia who resided north of the Geraldine mine. A truly stupendous proposition, but well was it executed. The State owes to Christopher Coppin a tremendous debt for the way he administered law and order over this vast territory. His name was a terror to the disorderly and a protection to the quiet citizen, whether black or white. His even handed rough justice smoothed over many a delicate situation and stopped impending difficulty and possible clash between black and white. He exercised a benevolent autocracy. So it was that he proceeded to the Roebourne district in March, 1874, to take charge of this contract. He had in the meantime married Miss Eleanor Rose, his faithful helpmate through all the vicissitudes of early pioneering and consequent roughing and isolation. She with her young family accompanied her husband on this first stage of the rough journey they were about to embark. A true mother she reared her children in a manner simply wonderful considering the difficulties of education, etc. They are a credit to her. He always had a hankering after stock working, and in 1879 having been offered a billet to take charge of the Muccan cattle station, he promptly accepted. Muccan is situated about 150 miles from the coast on the De Grey River. The whole family moved out also, and there for many years Mrs. Coppin was the only white woman within hundreds of miles. The abnegation of our womenfolk surpasses all knowledge.

In 1882 a larger tract of country being vacant Coppin applied for it, and being successful, he started a station on his own account. Eel Creek was the name of the locality. One of his hobbies, a most useful one, was the planting of a vegetable and fruit garden. In after years what a boon to the scurvy-stricken prospector was this garden. Securing a plentiful supply of good well water natives were employed keeping full to the brim immense wooden troughs chopped out of huge logs. This water was used for irrigation purposes. The vegetables produced were of marvellous size and quality, I never saw ironbark pumpkins grow to such size anywhere else, while the cabbage and cauliflowers would have taken prizes at most of our southern shows. Tomatoes of all shapes and sizes grew in protection. This, too, in the dry season of 1888, when the writer, in company with R. C. S. Macphee, was endeavouring to prospect the country at the head of the Nullagine. We were baffled by the drought. In 1889, returning to the attack, we discovered Macphee's gully at the head of Mosquito Creek, the first payable patch worked on the Nullagine. We and every prospector had good reason to bless the name of Coppin for he and his admirable spouse extended royal hospitality to all and sundry. Many a man was taken in, fed, and looked after in a motherly fashion, leaving Eel Creek station a rejuvenated creature. What a grand body of men were those old prospectors. Men themselves they recognised Chris as one, and respected him. For starting the station a mob of ewes were secured from Cobilanna. Coppin was more experienced in cattle than sheep, and the account of that droving trip with his assistant, J. Kiely, was most amusing. With the advent of the gold digger, a store was opened. Having plenty of motive power in the shape of bullock and horse teams a splendid and paying business was carried on for many years. The garden from being a hobby grew into a highly remunerative trading concern. Although he purchased a number of properties in the south and came down to spend a few months in civilisation, still the call of the bush imperatively demanded Coppin's attention, and for over 40 years the bulk of each was spent in the north on the station—a truly wonderful record of endurance, for the tropical climate is more than trying. The late Mr. Coppin leaves behind to mourn his loss a widow, five sons (Christopher, Herbert, Harry, Ross, and George), and five daughters (Mrs. Charles Ball, Mrs. Fred. Robinson, Mrs. B. Demarche, Mrs. Milton Murray, and Miss Ivy Coppin).

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'Coppin, Christopher (Chris) (1839–1915)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/coppin-christopher-chris-248/text1667, accessed 13 November 2019.

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