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Hopwood, Henry (1813–1869)

It is our painful duty to announce the death of Mr. Henry Hopwood, the founder of the town of Echuca, who expired at his residence, Conolly Street, at 5 o'clock yesterday morning. We need scarcely say that the intelligence of his demise threw a gloom over the town, for the deceased gentleman was so universally known and respected that it would have been strange had that not been the case. Mr. Hopwood was born in the year 1805, at Bolton-le-Moors, Lancashire, and he left England in the year 1834. He first visited the Murray in 1850, as clerk to a boiling-down establishment, an institution which then, as in these days, was extensively patronised; but the outbreak of the goldfields caused an enormous advance in the price of stock, and the boiling-down collapsed. Mr. Hopwood, with the discrimination which distinguished him in after life, fixed upon Echuca as a site whereupon a township might at some day or other find a place. He erected a public house, which is still in existence, and until lately was known as "Hopwood's Old House." At this time the only ferry across the river Murray, from Goolwa to Wahgunyah, was at Moama, then known as Maiden's Punt, distant only three miles by river and one and a half by land from the site fixed upon for the Victorian township; but Mr. Hopwood boldly built a punt, and successfully plied it, establishing in the course of time a crossing place at Echuca. His next step was the erection of the Bridge Hotel — a building which would reflect credit upon any town in the colony — and he subsequently bridged the Murray by means of pontoons. In order to facilitate the transit of travelling stock to the Sandhurst [Bendigo] and Melbourne markets, Mr. Hopwood, at a large cost, threw a bridge over the Campaspe River. This bridge was built upon entirely new principles, and subjected to very severe tests before it was placed in position. At the time the railway was being pushed on towards Sandhurst he bethought himself of the advantages which would accrue from an extension of this line to the Murray, and he made many representations upon the subject. The scheme was finally accomplished, and it is due to that eminent statesman, the Hon. John O'Shanassy, to mention that it was under his immediate auspices that the Murray was first tapped by the iron horse. During this time Mr. Hopwood conducted all his business, including that of a large store, in the most enterprising spirit, and when a population became settled in the town, he gradually withdrew from active life — retaining only his punts and pontoon bridge. The property accumulated by him, and the profits arising from tenements formerly in his occupation readily permitted him to do this, and he accordingly built a handsome villa, and found in the cultivation of his vineyard and grounds an occupation congenial to his tastes. Some disputes, however, respecting his right to the ferries within a certain distance of Echuca led him recently to visit Sydney and to this journey, together with the harassed state of his mind, may be ascribed his death.

Foremost in works of charity, and a warm supporter of anything calculated to advance the interests of the town, Mr. Hopwood will for long years be missed from amongst us. Small townships like Echuca possess the happy privilege of being without the presence of many destitute persons, but those whose needs required an open hand to supply them have lost a friend, who never was appealed to in vain, and whose ear and purse were always open to a tale of distress. Of him it may be justly said that his virtues will live long after his harmless failings are forgotten, and many a kindly story of "The King" will be told, let us hope, to those who will follow us.

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'Hopwood, Henry (1813–1869)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/hopwood-henry-3795/text23975, accessed 15 November 2019.

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