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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Manning, James Alexander Louis (1814–1887)

by Suzanne Edgar

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

James Alexander Louis Manning (1814-1887), pastoralist, was born on 9 April 1814 in Exeter, England, third surviving son of John Edye Manning and his wife Matilda Jorden, née Cooke. Educated in France and Exeter, he travelled in Europe. In 1830-33 he attended Hohenheim Agricultural College near Stuttgart and visited Goethe nine months before he died and discussed foreign missions.

In 1834 Manning arrived at Sydney and next year settled on Cumbamarra, near Yass. He established rapport with the Aboriginals, whom he called 'nature's gentlemen', and gathered details of their religious beliefs which he later published. He became a magistrate in 1836. In 1840-41 he capitalized on the Port Phillip District's need for meat by sending overland large drafts of cattle but the value of his own property was diminished by catarrh which attacked his sheep for five successive seasons after 1848. In 1853 he joined his brothers Edye and William Montagu, Thomas Mort, E. and R. Tooth and John Croft to form the Twofold Bay Pastoral Association which held 400,000 acres (161,876 ha) in three stations on the Monaro and three in the Bega district. From 1854 Manning, as managing partner, lived on the central estate Kameruka. Enterprising and energetic, he overcame a labour shortage by introducing German families and cleared a road route from the Monaro to the coast at Merimbula, making that port the trade outlet for the southern Bega Valley.

As part of their vigorous efforts to hinder free selection the partnership was dissolved in 1860. Manning retained Wolumla and Towamba and bought Kameruka in 1861, but John Robertson's Land Acts, combined with floods and disease, broke up their huge holdings. In 1862, after losing 7000 cattle through pleuro-pneumonia, Manning sold Kameruka. Assisted by his brother William, he began again at Warragaburra, 2000 acres (809 ha) near Bega in 1864. An enthusiastic innovator, he planted thriving vineyards, introduced maize to the district, initiated scientific American methods of cheese making and agitated for a telegraph between Bega and Sydney, sending the first message in 1868. In 1870 he moved to Queensland, where with Mort he spent huge sums experimenting with freezing and preserving meat. From 1871 Manning lived in Sydney, keeping an interest in Warragaburra, managed by his son Albert after 1869, and Black Flat in the Bombala district.

In 1873 Manning joined the Royal Society of New South Wales and read papers which were published in its Proceedings and as pamphlets Our Coal and Coal Ports (1874), Sydney Water Supply by Gravitation (1874) and Notes on the Aborigines of New Holland (1882). He promoted plans for a railway linking Illawarra and Sydney and, at the government's invitation, in 1873 guided the engineer surveying this difficult route. On the trip he made plans for a water supply by gravitation for Sydney which he persistently but unsuccessfully advocated for three years in pamphlets, letters and the press; it was an excellent and professional feasibility study which he effectively developed on a smaller scale on his own property. Manning can well be described in the words he used for his uncle James, 'a man of most versatile information and learning'.

In 1845 at Melbourne Manning had married Mary Mehitabel, eldest daughter of Major Firebrace. He died at Double Bay on 26 October 1887 and was buried in Waverley cemetery, survived by his wife, to whom he left £15,000, and three sons and three daughters.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Gormly, Exploration and Settlement in Australia (Syd, 1921)
  • W. A. Bayley, The Story of the Settlement and Development of Bega (Bega, 1942)
  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, New South Wales), 1877-78, 4, 400, 1878-79, 7, 6
  • B. Ryan, ‘Kameruka Estate, New South Wales, 1864-1964’, New Zealand Geographer, 20 (1964) no 2
  • Illawarra Mercury, 3 Jan 1860
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 27 Oct 1887
  • Bega Standard, 29 Oct 1887
  • Town and Country Journal, 29 Oct 1887
  • K. B. Ryan, Towns and Settlement of the South Coast, New South Wales (Ph.D. thesis, Australian National University, 1965)
  • Macarthur and Deas Thomson papers (State Library of New South Wales)
  • Henry Parkes letters (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

Suzanne Edgar, 'Manning, James Alexander Louis (1814–1887)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 24 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

View the front pages for Volume 5

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