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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Forsyth, George (1817–1887)

by K. J. Swan

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

George Forsyth (1817-1887), store-keeper and stock and station agent, was born at South Shields, County Durham, England, son of James Forsyth, shoemaker, and his wife Isabella, née Williamson. He arrived in Sydney in the early 1840s and for some years superintended a station on the lower Murrumbidgee River. In 1850 Forsyth with his brother Thomas established a store where the Port Phillip road crossed Tarcutta Creek near its junction with the Murrumbidgee. There on 31 December 1851 he was married by Bishop William Grant Broughton to Margaret Anne, sister of John Gordon, a neighbouring pastoralist. In 1855 Forsyth bought a store in Wagga Wagga, then a thriving village of about 300 people. In the next twenty-one years the town's population grew to 3000 and the district prospered, and G. Forsyth & Co. developed a large wholesale and retail business. The firm was a 'universal provider' ever ready to diversify and in 1868 set up a bonded store for wholesale trading. In the gold rush G. Forsyth & Co. established a stock and station agency to capitalize on the thousands of stock passing southward through Wagga Wagga to the markets of Bendigo and Melbourne. In the Goulburn Herald, 1856, the firm advertised monthly sales because the travelling stockholders were often willing to sell on the hoof. In the late 1860s the firm of Wilkinson & Lavender emerged from G. Forsyth & Co.

For over twenty years Forsyth was also a civic leader in Wagga Wagga. He was prominent in the establishment and management of the Mechanics' Institute, the hospital, the National school and the Presbyterian Church and was a founding director of the Wagga Wagga Bridge Co. which built the toll bridge across the Murrumbidgee in 1862. He was voted to the chair at many meetings and in 1870-74 he was first mayor of Wagga Wagga. In these faction-ridden years Forsyth was respected for his integrity. In 1876 when he decided to leave the town the Wagga Wagga Advertiser suggested that local residents plan 'a right royal parting testimony to the worth of our good King George'. In 1876 Forsyth retired to his property near Yarrangobilly and about 1880 moved to South West Rocks on the Macleay River. He died aged 70 in Kempsey on 26 May 1887 and was buried at Frederickton by a Wesleyan minister. He was survived by his widow and only daughter.

Select Bibliography

  • K. Swan, A History of Wagga Wagga (Wagga Wagga, 1970)
  • Goulburn Herald, 19 July 1856
  • Wagga Express, 27 Aug 1859
  • Albury Banner, 3 Oct 1860, 29 May 1861
  • Wagga Wagga Advertiser, 27 Apr 1870, 23 Feb 1876
  • Wagga Wagga Bridge Co. report, 31 Dec 1875 (Wagga Wagga Historical Society Archives).

Citation details

K. J. Swan, 'Forsyth, George (1817–1887)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 21 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

View the front pages for Volume 4

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