Peter MacPherson

Rev. Peter Macpherson Biography

Born:  2 July 1826. Bathurst NSW

Died: 30 July 1886.  187 Albion Street Surry Hills, NSW, age 60

Wife: Margaret Lorraine Armstrong (1843-1875)

Died 21 March 1875, East Maitland, NSW)

Son: Sydney Ronald (Peter) Macpherson


Peter’s parents John MacPherson and Helen Watson arrived in Port Jackson, Sydney 25th October 1825. Soon after arrival in Australia most members of the McPherson family had journeyed across the Blue Mountains in the footsteps of the explorers Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth. Initially John was employed by merchants Aspinall & Browne in the Bathurst region where John’s father Peter had been granted 640 acres of land at Wallerwarang.

Peter was born in the Bathurst region on the 2nd July 1826.

John and Helen were the first resident white landowners on Limestone Plains. Their first two children Peter and Catherine had been born at Bathurst and Lithgow respectively. Their second daughter Helen Jane, born at Limestone Plains on January 27th 1830, is believed to have been the first white child born in this region.

In 1831 John McPherson was granted 640 acres of land to the east of Black Mountain at Limestone Plains, in what was to become the Australian Capital Territory. It is speculated that the Macpherson’s were the first free settlers in the ACT.

He named the property Springbank.

Before the formation of Lake Burley Griffin, what is today’s Springbank Island was McPherson’s safe haven in times of flood, and was known as ‘Noah’s Ark’. Also included in his grant were part of Acton Peninsula, and that part of the now Australian National University which is to the west of Sullivan’s Creek.

Peter was sent to Sydney around 1838/9 to study at John Dunmore Lang’s Australia College. He was one of the first Australian students to receive a university degree in the United Kingdom. He travelled to Edinburgh University at the age of 19 in 1845, and eventually graduated with a credit. He returned to Australia in 1857 to begin his career. He was appointed the acting Free Church Minister of Meredith and Lethbridge, Victoria, 1858ca-1878 and moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Eastern Australia, at Maitland, 1876-1878.

Reverend MacPherson was one of the first settled Australians to take an interest in, and publish his research regarding Indigenous Australian language and culture. His work in this area printed in the mid to late 1880s was progressive, ahead of its time.  It was essentially a call to preserving native Australian culture. He is acknowledged as possibly the first Australian to “Estimate the antiquity of Indigenous occupation” in 1884 when he estimated 400 years on the basis of his excavations of Oven Mounds. (Smith and Burke | Digging it up down under: A Practical Guide.  Flinders University 2007, page 2)

In 1876 he lost his wife and daughter to Typhoid fever.

In 1879 he moved to Sydney with his sons, and began a career training students for ministry.

He met and married Miss Isabella Burgess in 1882.

Peter passed away of heart failure in 1886.