Update 10 Jan 2019


The Dardels come to Victoria

James Henry Dardel senior (1811 - 1903)
James Henry Dardel junior (1858 - 1933)

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by Michael Jessop

This essay has been written in response to a request to have some record and comment regarding the life of James Henry Dardel (JHD) senior and JHD junior (referred to as JD) in this narrative for purposes of differentiation in Australia. Some of the details are from records as noted and some are anecdotal from family or other sources.

It is not known why the possibility of a migration to Australia from Switzerland was considered at the time. There may have been political issues changing their lifestyles due to the aftermath of the Napoleonic wars or there could have been economic reasons arising from poor crops affecting the general population. In the case of JHD, family differences also may have been involved.

To appreciate the conditions that prospective immigrants had to consider included the short history of Australia and living conditions at the time in a developing country. Originally, Australia had been established as a penal settlement in 1788 at Port Jackson, now Sydney. The Port Phillip District existed as an administrative division of New South Wales (NSW). The first settlement started in 1803. By 1821, the European population of NSW was about 36000. The Port Phillip District remained from September 1836 to 1 July 1851[1] after which there was separation from NSW and it became known as Victoria, named after the queen.

JHD obtained his passport in 1834 to go to Germany and onward to Australia. The purpose was to investigate the potential of opportunities. He first came to Port Jackson in 1836 on a short exploratory trip and visited Camden, an area close to Sydney with farming and viticulture development. John Macarthur, a pioneer farmer and grazier, had planted some vine cuttings originally from Switzerland. The visit was likely to have been encouraged by knowledge passed on to JHD by Count Louis de Pourtalès who had been to school in Vevey in 1815 with William Macarthur the young son of John Macarthur the pioneer. JHD was interested in looking at the winegrowing industry, particularly the Macarthur's plantings and other farming possibilities. There is no record that he visited the Port Phillip District (Melbourne) at that time. Many commentators believe it is likely that he did[2] - considering his interests, the motivation of his intended migration and the effort he made to come to Australia to investigate the potential for a new life.

He was 25 years of age and in 1839, he married 20 year old Uranie Bouvier from Peseux.

Eventually JHD returned to Australia on board the barque Caroline arriving in Melbourne February 1840. He would not have known at that time he was the father of a daughter. Adèle Uranie (Blanche) was born 28 January 1840. JHD would have intended to prepare for the later arrival of his family when Blanche was old enough to travel, necessary preparations had been completed and accommodation made ready. Tragically, wife Uranie died suddenly in March 1842 and so his daughter had to be left in the care of her grandparents in Switzerland. This was truly a dreadful start to a new life in a foreign country.

At this point in the story, it is appropriate to connect the lives of C J La Trobe and his wife Sophie with JHD.

Charles Joseph La Trobe (1801 - 1875) was born in London. His family was of Huguenot origin and had arrived in England in 1688. La Trobe did not enter the ministry as had his forebears but began teaching. In October 1824 he went to Neuchatel as tutor to the Pourtalès family who were also of Huguenot extraction and he stayed until February 1827. He travelled through America beginning in 1832 and published several travel books. La Trobe was described as a botanist, a geologist, a mountaineer, a musician and a painter. He displayed a well earned reputation of great energy in all endeavours.

Eventually he returned to Neuchatel and stayed at the country house of Frédéric August de Montmolin as a tutor. Montmolin was a Swiss councillor of state with substantial interests including banking, vineyards and textiles. Sophie de Montmolin (1811 - 1854), the ninth of sixteen children, became fascinated by the charm and intelligence of the active Charles. Soon they became engaged. They married in Bern aged 34 and 24 respectively on 16 September 1835 at 8.30 am. In 1837, La Trobe was sent by the British government to report on negro education in the West Indies following abolition of slavery. No doubt, due to his experience, the British Colonial Office appointed him in 1839 as superintendent of Port Phillip District, later named Victoria after separation from New South Wales in 1851. There was no house or even land provided as part of his posting. He arrived in Melbourne on 30 September 1839 with his wife and daughter Agnes (1837 - 1916). At that time, the population of Melbourne was estimated to be about 3000 and expanding rapidly.

It would have been normal for JHD to have had discussions regarding Australian conditions and lifestyle with the La Trobes, particularly with his cousin Sophie. They were well known to each other and lived close by. The change from the sophisticated Neuchatel society and the affluence of her home environment would require major adjustment for Sophie. The later return in 1845 of Agnes at age 8 years of age for education was indicative of the limitations in the developing society of Australia. Agnes lived under the care of Sophie's widowed sister Rose.

Arriving in Australia in November 1839 as fully paid migrants were the skilled wine growers Jean Belperroud (1801 - 1883) and his brother Alexandre Belperroud (1804 - 1875) from Cornaux. JHD also had vineyards in the same location with his vineyard at Le Maley. All three were good friends and probably had served together in the cavalry[3]. JHD was said by S Wegmann to have travelled with them[4]. This does not appear to be in accord with shipping records where the Belperrouds are not listed as passengers whereas JHD is. The Belperrouds travelled overland to Melbourne from Sydney by January 1840 and soon met up again with JHD. The three men called on La Trobe as confirmed by his letter to James Macarthur 9 March 1840[5] when he wrote:

Some months ago three of good Neuchâtelois, seduced by the knowledge that we were here (Neuchâtel is Mrs La Trobe's native town) came out to cultivate the vine here, with the purpose of engaging a large number of their fellows to follow in case they found the prospects favourable. The country and climate they find everything they could wish but the enormous price of land has taken them aback - They had only brought out hundreds & it requires thousands. You know I have no power. They are still undecided what to do - but I hope to get them the rent of a government reserve or some other advantage to engage them to persevere. They are of a superior class & are unwilling to throw away their labour upon what is not their own.

The price of land was indeed a major factor facing migrants wishing to establish themselves with dwellings, viticulture, farming or other commercial enterprises. In addition, there was a reluctance to allow non-British migrants the acquisition of quality land in the preferred areas near to Melbourne. The right to crown land was granted automatically to British applicants. The La Trobes assisted through passive encouragement and an understanding of their needs. Hence, there was direction towards less expensive land in such places as Geelong (previously called Jilong), Barwon, Lower Plenty and the Yarra Valley.

La Trobe well understood their situation. He had to purchase land himself for a home site as neither the Colonial Office nor the New South Wales made any such provision. He regarded even his salary as inadequate to discharge his duties. In order to acquire a home site he had to bid at an auction in the same manner as all others. The sympathetic population did not bid at the land auction making it possible for him to purchase 12.5 acres (5.05 hectares) at a nominal rate of #20 per acre.

JHD helped the Belperrouds set up a vineyard, the second vineyard in the Port Phillip District. While living with them for a while, JHD took up opportunities as they arose.

In 1841 he managed a newly established cheese factory for the Robert Laidlaw and Alex Duncan partnership at Bulleen and built a home nearby. He stayed for 4 years at Bulleen until 1845. By 1842 he had started his Doola farm at Batesford on land leased from Dr John Learmonth. The vineyard called Paradise became Paradise 1, 2, 3, and 4. During this period, he met the proprietors of the Port Phillip Winery Company at Brighton and as a result, he managed the business for them as a vigneron from 1845 until 1848. In addition, he continued assisting the Belperroud brothers to establish their vineyard at Plenty.

All the time he was developing his Paradise vineyards of 45 acres (18.2 hectares). Baron Sir Ferdinand von Mueller (1825 - 1896) botanist, developer and the first director of the famous Melbourne Botanic Gardens that he had designed, was involved also for many years with Batesford. He had come to Australia in 1848 for health reasons. The King of Wurtemberg granted the title of Baron in 1871, in addition Queen Victoria knighted him. Baron von Mueller was a great friend of JHD. He would often stay at Batesford and together they would walk around the garden and orchard planning the design and the planting programme. JHD created over 60 acres (24.3 hectares) of orchard, surrounded by cropping plus a further area totalling 1500 acres (607 hectares) for his own sheep grazing. Produce of the orchard has always provided fond memories discussed by aunts and uncles in family talk. Reminisces of the eating of fresh cherries grown from Swiss cuttings of the highest quality was a sheer delight. The same applied to many other seasonal fruits including apples, pears, walnuts, and apricots available straight from the tree. There were varieties of the fruit grown extending the bountiful supply..

He was always interested in obtaining suitable cuttings for his Paradise development as evidenced by a La Trobe recommendation letter written in 1847 for him to the naturalist Ronald Gunn when seeking cuttings in Tasmania. In addition to local sourcing of cuttings, he made seven trips back to Switzerland for additional cuttings and at the same time to recruit vinedressers and vignerons for a new life in a developing Australia. The discovery of gold and the export of Australia's produce made promising opportunities for those willing to accept challenge. The trips back to Switzerland were financed by leasing parts of his land. Copies of leases made by JHD on 1 April 1865 for 3 years and on 13 April 1867 for 1 year are on hand. These leases were between JHD and Martin Buchter (1835 - 1891), a Swiss neighbour whose descendants still reside on their Batesford property.

Although of limited value as a source document, the following text encapsulates some of the family talk and knowledge[6].

The brief biographies of several of the more prominent vignerons which follow indicate that a large proportion of Batesfords early inhabitants were of Swiss origin. Many of these settlers were assisted in their passage by J. H. Dardel, the first Swiss to settle in the area.

JAMES HENRY DARDEL came to Melbourne from Switzerland in 1840.
He took a situation as superintendent of a cheese and butter-making establishment, eventually becoming overseer. He owned a property at Bulleen for five years before managing the Port Phillip Vineyard Company, during which period he bought and cleared fifty acres of ground. He finally settled in Batesford, purchasing land and establishing the Paradise vineyards on the Bannockburn side of the river. Dardel embarked on a scheme of landscaping and decorating using horses and a scoop to excavate a small artificial lake on his property.
Onto this lake he introduced swans, geese and other birds. Later he built a series of gently curving drives through his landscaped gardens.

Dardel had as many as 23 men working for him, the majority of whom were runaway sailors of different nationalities. Each man was given boots and clothing and a numbered bottle which was placed in a rack outside the cellar door to be filled with wine morning and afternoon. These men were not paid until they had worked off the cost of their boots and clothing. The Dardel residence was built onto the four roomed police station overlooking the bridge when this was abandoned in 1858. The bluestone was quarried on the property and the extensions were carried out by two of the Cameron brothers, who were Scottish stonemasons dwelling in Batesford, and one of whom, Hugh Cameron, was in charge of the erection of the Batesford bridge and had a position of authority in the erection of the railway viaduct. The Dardel house is at present being occupied under lease. Dardel who was one of Batesford's most colourful residents was a fine horseman and possessed the best horses in the district. He always drove with a pair of these Arabs in harness and at full speed.

He was a very astute and keen businessman, possibly too keen to ensure his popularity. One example of this is his driving a dray load of fruit to Ballarat where the price was better than in Geelong. Another example is that to avoid paying the toll of 3d. (3 pence) per horse being levied on the bridge he bought a small allotment across the river from his property and built a ford across the river on his own land.

The comment about the horses in harness being driven at full speed is also known by the charge made that JHD had been driving dangerously at excessive speed. His defence at the Magistrates Court was that he was not racing them but in fact was holding them in.

After Paradise 1, JHD established further vineyards on his own freehold land. Paradise was described in 1859[7] as:

“...a model by reason of its aspect, which is facing the rising sun, and sheltered from the cold westerly winds; its site, a gentle slope; and its soil a light deep and warm reddish sandy loam.”

Due to his reputation of vineyard cultivation and winemaking skills, La Trobe introduced JHD to Donald Ryrie of Yering who lacked any viticultural skills. Donald was one of three brothers (the others being William and James) who left their father's Monaro (NSW) to take up a 43,000 acre pastoral lease. As Yering had been planted in 1838 - 1839, it was the most advanced vineyard in the Port Phillip District. It was the first vineyard in the District with JHD's being the second. Donald and JHD were good friends. Batesford would have been a stopover for Donald Ryrie after 1842 as he left or returned to the Western District cattle runs using the route that passed the door of JHD[8].

JHD would ride twice a year to the Yering vineyard to prune the vines and to make the wine. His role as a winemaker is recorded at Yering today with a full-length portrait photograph and the acknowledgment that he was Victoria's first winemaker. He became a seminal figure in the wine industry through involvement in the development of numerous vineyards and winemaking.

JHD vintaged his first Paradise label at Doola in 1845, the same year he made the first Yering label. He continued with Yering until the Ryries sold the property in July 1850 to Paul de Castella and Adophe de Meuron. The partnership dissolved in 1853.

Paul's nephew recounts[9]:

“...A French sea captain to whom my uncle had extended hospitality had sent him, as a parting gift, some cases of Pommard, which was much appreciated as a welcome accompaniment to the evening meal after a strenuous day in the open air, at these occasional foregatherings. One evening, my uncle's announcement 'No more Pommard' was met with cries of consternation. But he produced some wine, made locally by an old Burgundian Swiss employee from the original Ryrie vineyard. It was brought from the cellar in a hand-wash jug and sampled. 'Better than Pommard' was the enthusiastic verdict.”

The phrase “Better than Pommard” has become a catchcry used in appreciative circles including Dr Dunstan's publication - Better than Pommard! A History of Wine in Victoria (1994).

In 1848, JHD moved permanently to his Doola farm property on the Moorabool River at Batesford and in addition to the Paradise vineyards developed orchards and grazing activities. He was well diversified which helped him to survive the depressions of later years.

On 12 March 1857, JHD married Mary Ann Burroughs (1834 - 1867), the daughter of Geelong solicitor James Frank Burroughs. Mary was a striking dark haired girl of 23 years with an Irish background. The following year JHD extended his bluestone cottage and called it Chaumont.

It is interesting to note JHD's friend Jean Belperroud of the brothers Belperroud connection married an Irish girl, Catherine Staunton, three days after arrival in Sydney December 1839. They both had been passengers on the same ship, the Mary.

JHD had a history of helping the Swiss arrivals in the area but not with straight out charity; benefits to be received had to be earned in the manner of his support to ship jumpers and others. An example of his reputation is demonstrated in the address given to the Geelong Historical Society in 1968[10].

“My father had a big load of responsibility from my uncle, Mr. Dardel, most of whose assistants were Swiss men. Mr. Dardel was a real Swiss and he believed in helping every Swiss man. He believed in doing everything that Switzerland expected him to do as an ambassador to Australia, and he helped almost every Swiss who came from Melbourne to Geelong at least, if not from almost all over Victoria.

Now I don't want to go into the history in detail of the Dardels, for that would take all night but I want you to know that Mr. Dardel was a man whom you had to admire.

Most of all he was a cavalry man, a military man, a man of precision who had everything done according to his ideas, particularly for time. He took no excuse for being late, especially if you were late for work. He was a man who was sympathetic, a man who had very wide visions of lots of things; in particular his aims or his ideas were to support his own nationality.

We in 1884 arrived from Basle where everything is neat and clean. When we got to Batesford and saw what it was like, it was not very appealing, because it was after the biggest flood ever on the Moorabool and things still weren't in order by that time. However, gradually it was cleared up and got into order, largely through the efforts of Mr. Dardel. He was a man who was scrupulously clean himself and he wanted everybody to be the same; he induced the people round him to clear up this and clear up that, and it wasn't so easy to do because there was such a lot of timber and stuff lying about that you just couldn't get rid of it quickly.

Mr. Dardel had decided that he would make a Switzerland out of this place, because he considered that the lay of the land presented itself to what he had in mind. He selected a piece of ground where there had been a police station built during the gold rushes. After the gold diggings finished, they didn't require the station any more, so he bought it. Now he had all his land ready to plant vines. He didn't believe it was a good thing to plant vines on a river flat. Vines require limestone marl which was to be found in the hills all around Batesford, and that's where the vineyards were.

Another thing he believed in - and what I can see of the New Australians I have met they have the same idea - that is, if you want to be healthy, drink a glass of wine. I say that myself too, because my father and mother lived to the ages of 89 and 88, and I am 91, and I put that down to the fact that practically every day I have drunk a glass of wine. I still do it, and I advise you to do the same; it is better than some of your doctors' medicines that you are getting today, I can assure you.”
Edited version 2012

At this stage of his life, JHD must have felt rather comfortable. His plans had resulted in a satisfactory life style achieved through hard work and his expertise as a vigneron, orchardist and sheep grazier. He was well respected by the community and he had friends of influence. The marriage to Mary Burroughs in 1857 had produced three children James Henry Dardel junior (1858) Marie (1862) and Elizabeth (1864). Sadly, in 1867, Mary died at the early age of 33 years.

Further disaster lay around the corner however. It came in the form of phylloxera vastatrix, the vine root aphid that struck the Geelong area in 1877. The wine industry in the area was devastated.

Wine label
After numerous unsuccessful efforts to eradicate the problem, the State Department of Agriculture ordered in 1881 that all vine within a 20 mile radius had to be pulled out and burned. JHD persisted at Batesford, concentrating on his orchard of over 60 acres. He grew various fruits and different varieties of them. It not be until 1970 that vineyards for wine growing recommenced around Geelong. The famous Paradise wine label has been reintroduced in 1988 by the current vignerons. [See the wine label front and back].

James Henry Dardel junior, referred to as JD in this narrative, was sent to Switzerland at a very early age with his sister Marie. They were put in charge of the ship's captain for the journey but the experience must have been a challenging one for them at that age. JHD intended that a satisfactory education was required for JD to the age of 17 years. JD lived in Neuchatel with his relative aunt Madame Perrier who had two sons of her own of a similar age.

The story of JD has been told elsewhere in the memoirs of one of his children, Marguerite Violette Gray (nee Dardel) affectionately known as Aunt Rita. She wrote most eloquently from first hand knowledge. There is little to add at this point but reference may be made to her memoirs.

In 1870 JHD married Margreth Dorothea (Gertie) Weitnauer (1845 - 1903). She was born in Basle. Their four children were Frederick (1872), Charles (1873), Emile (1876) and Barbara (1878). JHD meanwhile continued at Chaumont eventually dying on the property in 1903. It required more than 60 vehicles to convey those who attended his funeral.

JD subsequently carried on the Chaumont operations.

JHD had been a leading contributor to the development of Victoria through his expertise as a vigneron, wine maker, horticulturist and farmer. Above all, he encouraged many Swiss, particularly those with vine dressing skills, to come to the growing country. He has been written as: “James Henry Dardel is a dynamic, somewhat forgotten pioneer. He brought with him his legion of vine dressers to the Moorabool and was so confident of the wine's fortunes.”[11]

There is much to be told about these two Dardels but it cries out for further research and examination of various records. Passenger records of arrivals, departures and the connections with other family records would be particularly rewarding. The purpose of this narrative is to have an initial starting point that will assist a competent researcher from a younger generation to add information for the skilful telling of the saga.

Michael Henry Dardel Jessop
December 2012

Michael Jessop is the great-grandson of James Henry Dardel Sr.


Clottu O, Les anciens Moulins de St Blaise et autres engins, Commission du 3 Février, 1979

[1] Dunstan Dr D, Charles and Sophie La Trobe and the vignerons: the birth of an industry in nineteenth century Victoria, AGL Shaw lecture, 2011.
Dr Dunstan is a senior lecturer with the National Centre for Australian Studies at Monash University.

[2] Henderson R, From Jolimont to Yering, Raymond F. Henderson, 2006, p. 9.

[3] Henderson R, ibid., p. 172.

[4] Wegmann S, The Swiss in Australia , E.Rüegger, Grüsch , 1989.
Susan Wegmann came to Australia as part of her Zurich University studies to gain material for her thesis regarding Swiss in Australia. The Swiss community found her understanding not compatible with community values and were reluctant to give assistance beyond that which was necessary. For example, she was critical of the Dardels who fought for Australia in World War 1. Her belief was that as Swiss they were neutral. In fact, citizenship had been granted in 1856 and four boys fought with distinction.

[5] James Macarthur papers vol. 26, pp. 179 -82, Mitchell Library A2922. Cited by Dr David Dunstan.

[6] Unknown author, Extract of a thesis written by a student of Deakin University, unknown date

[7] The Vine, p. 7.

[8] Henderson R, op. cit.., p. 385.

[9] Dunstan Dr D, op.cit.

[10] Weitnauer E, Investigator, Magazine of the Geelong Historical Society, Address given, May 1986.

[11] Henderson R, op. cit.., p. 370.

Tétaz J, From Boudry to the Barrrabool Hills: the Swiss vignerons of Geelong, Publishing Australian Scholarly, Melbourne, 2004

Letters of Charles Joseph La Trobe, edited by L.J. Blake, Government Printer, Melbourne, 1975.

Petitpierre, Jacques, Patrie Neuchâteloise, chroniques Charles Joseph La Trobe: Deux hymens neuchâtelois.

Weitnauer E, Investigator - Magazine of the Geelong Historical Society, May 1968

Weitnauer E, Investigator - Magazine of the Geelong Historical Society, December 1999

Genealogic sheet of James Henry Dardel Sr.
Genealogic sheet of James Henry Dardel Jr.
See also Aunt Rita's chronicle about Dardels in Australia.
Link: Today's Paradise winery.

Famille Dardel

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