Edmund Steel, who sometimes appears in records as Edward Steele, was born about 1789 in England, the son of James Steel and Jane, nee Bulpit. He married Maria Thatcher on 30 September 1811 at Newbury, Berkshire and they had about eight children.
Edmund was described as a farm labourer, ploughman and maltster when he was tried on 27 December 1830 for machine breaking and sentenced to life in prison. His involvement as a machine breaker in the Swing Riots has been recorded elsewhere by Jill Chambers of Hertfordshire, England and Geoffrey B. Sharman of King's Meadows, Tasmania.
Edmund was transported to Van Diemens Land on board the "Eliza" and was assigned to work for Robert Taylor at Macquarie River. He committed no further offences and was given a free pardon on 24 April 1837.
In 1834 Edmund applied to have his wife and children brought out to Van Diemens Land. Though he apparently gained approval for this it is thought that his wife refused to come out to Australia.
Edmund Steel was described as a widower when he married Martha Saunders at Launceston 13 November 1837. Martha was the widow of William Saunders, a blacksmith who had come out to Australia in 1832 with his family to work for the Van Diemens Land Company at Circular Head. When William drowned there in 1835 Martha moved to Launceston with their three children, William, James and Emily.
Edmund and Mary had two further children, Sampson (or Samuel) (c1838) and Martha (c1841). It is not known what became of Sampson but Martha was married in 1863 to Samuel McWilliam, the founder of McWilliam's Wines.
Little is known of the family from 1837 until their appearance in the Geelong area in the early 1840s. Martha's son, William Saunders married Mary Booth at Geelong on 19 March 1841, and Edmund Steel was in partnership with Mary's father, William Booth until a notice appeared in the "Geelong Advertiser" of 11 April 1842 that the partnership between Edmund Steel and William Booth had been dissolved on 6 April 1842.
In "Pastoral Pioneers of Port Phillip" Billis & Kenyon list 'Edmond Steele' (sic) at Point Henry from 1841-47 and 'Saunders and M. Steel' in County Grant in 1844-45. However they mistakenly identify M. Steel as the Michael Steel who was at 'Steel's Horse Station,' Darraweitguim from 1840 onwards. Saunders and M. Steel would have been the young William Saunders and his mother, Martha Steel, wife of Edmund. Their station was located just south of present day Torquay. It was at this station in September 1844 that a group of aboriginals from the Cape Otway area killed James Saunders, Martha's second son. Following this, Edmund Steel, who had been at the Point Henry property, apparently moved to this station and the remaining Saunders moved to Point Henry where William Saunders held numerous blocks of land up until his death in 1876.
On a map engraved by Thomas Ham (above) the following station-holders appear:
STEELE - A Return of Station Holders prepared in August 1845 by Crown Lands Commissioner E. B. Addis, lists Edmund Steel at 'South Beach' Station which consisted of about 2,000 acres and held about 12 cattle and 800 sheep. Edmund Steel is thought to have sold his 'South Beach' Station to Elias Harding about 1847. Billis & Kenyon list Elias Harding at 'South Beach', Saltwater Creek, near Bream Creek from 1841-60. However 'South Beach' and 'Saltwater Creek' were probably two different stations and the August 1845 Return by Commissioner Addis shows Harding at 'Salt Marsh' which consisted of about 2,000 acres and ran 1 horse and 140 cattle. Also, there were two or three stations in this area called 'South Beach.'
THOMSON - Dr. Alexander Thomson, described as being at 'Thomson's Cattle Station' at Bream or Thomson's Creek from 1840-50. Described in August 1845 by Commissioner Addis as 'Thomson's Station', covering 20 miles and running 17 horses, 140 cattle and 1,200 sheep.
GUNDRY - Joseph Gundry and brothers, described as being at 'Ironbark Forest' with John Kiddle from 1844 to 1852 and then on their own from 1852 onwards. In 1845 it was described as covering 9 miles and running 1 horse, 90 cattle and 700 sheep.
TAIT - Henry Tait and widow, described as being at Spring Creek from 1841 to 1865 onwards. Described in 1845 as 'Spring Station' covering 6 miles and running 70 cattle.
NEALE - Thought to have been the William Neil, described by Billis and Kenyon as being at 'South Beach' (or 'Burt-buc-guar-yup') Station, Port Addis from October 1841. Ownership was transferred to Rob. Zealley in December 1851 and held by him until December 1869. The 1845 Return by Commissioner Addis lists William Neil at 'South Beach', covering 3 miles and running 1 horse, 8 cattle, and 600 sheep.
Edmund Steel, his second wife Martha, and their two children sailed for London in 1847 per "Bombay." They returned to Victoria the following year on the "Adelaide" in company with children from Edmund's first marriage. Little is known about what they did after arriving but Edmund's wife Martha was described as an overseer when she died on 1 June 1851 at Timboon, Camperdown and was buried in the Saunders family grave in the Eastern Cemetery in Geelong.
One of the sons from his first marriage, also named Edmund Steel went to the Californian goldfields for a few years.
Edmund Steel died on 22 June 1865 at Chapel Street, Richmond, Victoria and was buried on 24 June 1865 at the Melbourne General Cemetery, Carlton.
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