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James Cain JP (1803 - 1848)

Captain James Cain JP
Born in Irelandmap
Ancestors ancestors
Son of and [mother unknown]
[sibling(s) unknown]
Husband of — married 5 Oct 1826 in St George in the East, London, Englandmap
Husband of — married 14 Nov 1844 in Melbournemap
Descendants descendants
Died in Melbourne, Victoria, Australiamap
Profile manager: Rory Cain private message [send private message]
Profile last modified | Created 28 Jan 2018
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James was born in 1803. Like the Cains of Port Fairy, it is stated that he was born on Man and like the Cains of Port Fairy there is no record to support that claim. Man has good records, like England and Scotland. Lack of a birth record is more consistent with Irish origins. He was likely born in Ireland and may have grown up in the Channel Islands while his father Private William Cane was stationed thereon garrison duty May 1804 - Nov 1810.

By 26 May 1826, James was master of the "Fanny", 120 tons, registered in Bristol, possibly his first command. He married Elizabeth Matilda Miles in St George in the East, London, on 5 Oct 1826. His two sons were born there in 1830 and 1834. Master of the "Superb" 21 Feb 1828. He made a voyage to Hobart in 1833 on the "Prince Regent"; to Launceston in 1834 on the "Lavinia"; to Launceston and The Fishery (Portland and Port Fairy) in 1835 on the "Lavinia"; to Launceston and Port Fairy in 1836 on the "Arabian". Captain Cain settled in Melbourne in 1840.

"In June 1839 James Cain, who from 1833 to 1840 had commanded Brooks' ships Lavinia and Arabian on the Launceston run, lost his wife Elizabeth. Desirous of withdrawing his daughter from what he felt to be the pernicious influence of his mother-in-law, Cain decided to emigrate. Cain chose Melbourne as his destination, probably influenced by the enthusiasm at Launceston, but the assurance of Brooks' support and patronage was certainly equally important. In September 1840 he reached Melbourne and immediately commenced Brooks' agency with the advertising of an extensive range of merchandise he had taken out on joint account ofBrooks and himself. 'Captain Cain' soon became a versatile and wellknown businessman,his actvities mostly slanted towards the maritime sector of Melbourne's economy. " [Mr Brooks and The Australian Trade]

He also had business interests at Belfast (Port Fairy). "In 1843 George Urquhart (together with three others later to come to Port Fairy, Messrs Alison and Knight and James Cain) had joined a syndicate to search for coal at Western Port." (Powling, p. 33).

In 1843 Captain Cain was on the Council for Lonsdale Ward. He tendered his resignation in a letter, "Gentlemen, I have the honor to inform you that since being elected to the office of Elector for Lonsdale Ward, circumstances have transpired which render it necessary to return to England by the ship Arab announced to sail on Saturday next. Had I remained in Melbourne it would have given me great pleasure to have been of service to my fellow burgesses as an Elector of the very aforesaid Ward and I should have endeavoured to the best of my ability to have so discharged my duties as to have given satisfaction to the kind friends who have conferred upon me an honor so very unexpected. But it will now be utterly out of my power to act in such a capacity and I have therefore to request that ..[line missing] Resignation."

25th April 1843

Captain James Cain Esq (returning after an absence of 8 months) on the Platina which departed London on 9 Sep 1843 and arrived in Geelong on 9 Jan 1844. James married Jane Williamson on 14 Nov 1844. His two sons and their grandmother, Mrs Miles, arrived in Victoria in 1845. On 7 Nov 1846 Captain Cain and family arrived in Port Phillip from Sydney on the "Wave", which then went on to Port Fairy.

"Once it was opened for settlement in 1835, the Port Phillip District was a popular destination and in 1838 the population was 3511. From 1840 the majority of arrivals came direct from Britain, and the ‘Port Phillip boom made it the most magnetic’ of the Australian districts. By 1841 the population had risen to 20,416.

"The property at 43 Aitken Street was originally part of Williamstown allotment number 17, section number 2, sold at public auction on 5 January 1841. Facing Nelson Place between Thompson and Cole Streets, it consisted of 1 rood 36 perches. The purchaser, or Crown Grantee, was James Cain, who had arrived in Port Phillip from Launceston on the Tamar on 31 August 1840.[11] Cain paid the sum of two hundred pounds sterling for the land.[12] We know that Cain was a merchant, born in London in 1803 and that prior to his departure for Australia he was an associate of the merchant Robert Brooks of St Peter’s Chambers, Cornhill, London.[13] Information gleaned from the contemporary diary of Georgiana McCrae, newspaper articles, births, deaths and marriages records, the deeds and memorials found at Land Victoria, and Cain’s will, reveal that he had arrived in Melbourne alone and a widower. His two sons, James William (born 1830) and George (born 1835) remained in England until 1846 (sic. 1845).

Cain first found accommodation in Collins Street, where one of his neighbours was Captain George Ward Cole who had arrived from Sydney in July 1840.[14]The meeting was probably advantageous to Cain, as Ward had also set himself up as a merchant in Melbourne. Cain quickly began to advertise, selling tea chests and half chests, tobacco, ‘Negrohead, Colonial Brandy and Rum’ in hogsheads, Port and Sherry in hogsheads and cases, ‘Sheet, lead, loaf sugar, Mauritius loaf sugar, hay, oats and flour’.[15] Subsequent advertisements indicate he sold schooners and other naval equipment as well as wine and general merchandise. By 1842 Cain had become a Justice of the Peace. His name appears on the Melbourne Electoral Role twice in 1847 at both his residence in Bourke Lane and at a freehold residence in Flinders Street, close to Queen’s Wharf, one of his business addresses.

The Marriage of James Cain and Jane Williamson Four years after arriving in Melbourne, on 14 November 1844 James Cain married Jane Williamson, the daughter of James and Isabella Williamson, pastoralists of Edinburgh and ‘Viewbank’, Heidelberg. ‘Viewbank’, named after a Scottish property, was built in 1839 and was one of the first grand homesteads on part of a large 1830s pastoral holding at the confluence of the Yarra and Plenty rivers on the outskirts of Melbourne.[16] The marriage took place at St James Church of England, then located on the corner of King and Collins Streets.[17] The artist and diarist, Georgiana McCrae, noted in her diary that when solicitor James Graham dined with the McCraes that evening, he commented that he had seen Captain Cain and Miss Williamson’s wedding party ‘going to the church this forenoon’.[18] James and Jane had two children, Isabella Jane (born 1846 and named after Jane’s mother) and Hannah La Protier (born 1847).[19]

Cain’s business prospered in Melbourne and, serving the pastoral industry as a merchant, it made sense for him to own warehousing in Geelong and Melbourne. From 1846, all of Cain’s property transactions were linked to Elizabeth Miles, the grandmother of his two sons who had brought the boys with her to Melbourne. He provided for her, ‘in gratitude for care and affection bestowed … upon his sons James William and George Cain’ because, having emigrated to Australia, she had been ‘obliged to relinquish a certain annuity’ when she left England. Her interest in the properties included collecting all the rents until her death, when they passed to James William and George.[20] In 1847 Robert Towns purchased two properties from Cain, one in Williamstown and one in Corio for the sum of ₤450.[21] This purchase divided the original Williamstown property of 1 rood 36 perches into two equal size blocks. One became the property at 46 Cecil Street, Williamstown and the outline of a large Victorian house is visible on the 1855 Plan of Williamstown.

"The Sudden Death of James Cain On 27 January 1848, Cain celebrated the arrival from London and the launching of his new clipper, the Jane Cain, named after his wife. Georgiana McCrae noted that the brig was launched ‘in the presence of six thousand people’.[22]This fine beginning to the year was shattered when James Cain died, probably suddenly, on 27 June 1848 at the age of 45. It was widely reported that Cain had died ‘on Tuesday afternoon at five o’clock’and that his death was ‘deeply regretted by a numerous circle of friends’.[23]On the day of his funeral, Mr Charles Smith of Little Collins Street West invited his friends to ‘meet at three for half-past three in this day, to accompany his remains from the residence of Mr Charles Smith … to their last resting place’.[24]A few days later the Port Phillip Gazette provided more detail of his demise:

THE LATE CAPTAIN CAIN – The remains of this gentleman were conveyed to their final resting place on Thursday last, and we have to mourn the departure of one whose enterprising spirit would have prompted the development of colonial resources, whilst from his great experience there could have been little fear of his judgment erring in the means adopted to attain that end. The Jane Cain, a splendid instance of the enterprise to which we have referred, in which the deceased gentleman had contemplated paying a visit to his native land, will in all probability sail for her destination in about a week from this date; some little difficulty has, we believe, arisen in consequence of the unfortunate deceased being the only party thoroughly acquainted with what cargo was actually on board the vessel, but a particular clause introduced on the bills of lading signed by the Captain has we believe remedied the difficulty.[25]

While the newspapers failed to state the cause of death, this notice is nevertheless informative. That Cain had not fully conveyed the details of the cargo to anyone may suggest his death was sudden. It may have been coincidental that his last will and testament was written only two months prior to his death. Alternatively it might suggest he was ill when he wrote his will.[26] We will never know.

In his will dated 3 May 1848, Cain bequeathed to Jane ‘the clear annual sum of one hundred and fifty pounds by equal quarterly payments’, even if she remarried. A sum was held in trust for his daughters, Isabella and Hannah, ‘and any future born child’. Probate was granted to his executors Robert Brooks, Charles Smith and Jane Cain on 22 July 1848. The executors declared that his property and effects did not exceed the value of £8,000.[27]Jane Cain did not remarry; she died as Jane Cain at the age of 69 in 1879.[28] Of Cain’s sons, James William died in Melbourne, aged 20, on 28 April 1850. George Cain attained the age of 21 on 22 February 1855, and while Elizabeth Miles still legally owned the properties he inherited, George was involved in the later subdivision of the Williamstown land."

Captain James Cain was also a importer of bounty immigrants. For instance, all the (mostly Irish) passengers on the Enmore in 1841 were brought out by the importer, James Cain, of Melbourne. He brought his mother-in-law and two sons out from London this way in 1845. As a shipping agent, he may have been involved with arranging passages for his nephews, John, William and Thomas, at the time of his death in 1848.


  • Billis, RV & AS Kenton: Pastoral Pioneers of Port Phillip (Melbourne 1974) p 37
  • Farr, G. E.: Records of Bristol Ships, 1800-1838
  • Fletcher, BJ: Broadford - A Regional History (Kilmore 1975) p 3
  • Maher, JA: The Take of a Century - Kilmore 1837-1937 (Kilmore 1938)
  • Powling, JW: Port Fairy, The First Fifty Years"(Melbourne 1980)
  • Shelby, Isaac: The Old Pioneers Memorial History of Melbourne (Melbourne 1924)
  • NSW Marriages, 1844, No 746 Vol 29:

James Cain married Jane Williamson, Melbourne, Port Phillip District, NSW

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