Historical information

1823-1923.MR. JAMES VENN MORGAN. "FATHER OF" KEW."In a Village in Somersetshire in England on February 21, 1823, a son was born to George and Sarah Morgan. The child was so delicate that his parents feared that he would not live. How little ground the parents parents had for their fears may be judged from the fact that the boy, christened James Venn Morgan is still alive and hale. He is able to exhibit with pride the paper with its faded ink on which a clergyman wrote the certificate of his baptism almost 100 years ago. But for some slight infirmities of sight and hearing, Mr. Morgan, who is within six weeks of completing the 100th year of his life, is in good health, and is well able to attend to his business affairs. His immediate cause for regret is that he is not now able to do a day's work in his garden, as he was 12 months ago. After spending his early life in England, where he learned his trade as shoemaker, Mr Morgan came to Australia in April, 1851. He carried letters of introduction to Mr. Tripp, a solicitor, of Melbourne, who strongly recommended him to begin business as a shoemaker, and accordingly he opened a shop at the corner of Swanston and Bourke streets, where the Leviathan Stores now stand, and was not long in working up a good connection. Among his customers at that time Mr. Morgan recalls Mr. Justice A'Beckett and many leading men in law and medicine of the day. Then the news was flashed through Melbourne of the discovery of gold at Ballarat. Nothing can give a clearer idea of the excitement this news caused in Melbourne than that Mr. Morgan, who was a member of one of the first parties to leave for the diggings, left uncompleted in his workshop one of a pair of riding boots he was making for Mr. J. B. Weir. As the purchase of suitable clothing would have taken time, he set out to make his fortune wearing a top hat. At Ballarat he stayed for five or six weeks, and returned to Melbourne with 10oz. of gold. He remained in the city long enough to finish the second of the two riding boots, and then, with three companions, set out for Chewton, near Castlemaine. Here fortune smiled. The party tried their luck in an abandoned shaft, and in two weeks returned to Melbourne again after having won 35lb. weight of gold.

How Kew Was Born. Mr Morgan was content with his success, and induced his partners to invest their money with him in land. After obtaining the advice of a friend, the party negotiated with Mr Samuel Watts, of Collngwood, who had recently purchased land from the Crown, and from him they took over at £15 an acre about 32 acres of land in the district that is now known as Kew. This land extended from where the Kew Post-office now stands to the locality of the Boroondara Cemetery. At that time there was not a house in the district, and there was a fairly large population of aborigines, but no white men. Here it was that Mr Morgan decided to settle, and, after having had the land surveyed, the partners apportioned it by drawing straws for the four sections into which it had been divided. One of them sold his holding later in the year for £100 an acre, and was sorry for it afterwards. In 1853 Mr. Morgan built the first house in Kew, and this house is the one in which he still resides. Here with his wife, he settled down to market gardening and dairying. He tells with a laugh how he was paid 1/ a lb for the first potatoes he grew, and 1/ a quart for milk. So successful was the new venture that he induced his father and other members of the family to come out to Australia to assist him. How different Kew of those days was from the Kew of to-day will be understood from Mr. Morgan's statement that for weeks at a time they never saw a a white face other than those of the family. The blacks, he says, although very noisy, were entirely friendly. Gradually the district became settled, Mr. Morgan parted with a portion of his holding, and subdivided and built on the remainder which he still retains. In 1884 he found himself in a position to retire from active business.
Youth in Old Age. In Mr Morgan's garden, which is a large, one trees which he and his father planted more than 60 years ago are still bearing heavy crops of apples. Mr. Morgan has been a widower since 1915. He has three daughters all of whom are married, and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren. One of the great-grand children reccntly informed Mr. Morgan that he was about to be married. Perhaps the most striking characteristic of Mr. Morgan to-day is his activity. Not only does he move about with surprising alacrity, but is able to go into the streets and attend to his business affairs with but little fatigue
The Argus, 17 January 1923, p.12.


This work forms part of the collection assembled by the historian Dorothy Rogers, that was donated to the Kew Historical Society by her son John Rogers in 2015. The manuscripts, photographs, maps, and documents were sourced by her from both family and local collections or produced as references for her print publications. Many were directly used by Rogers in writing ‘Lovely Old Homes of Kew’ (1961) and 'A History of Kew' (1973), or the numerous articles on local history that she produced for suburban newspapers. Most of the photographs in the collection include detailed annotations in her hand. The Rogers Collection provides a comprehensive insight into the working habits of a historian in the 1960s and 1970s. Together it forms the largest privately-donated collection within the archives of the Kew Historical Society.

Physical description

A group portrait on the occasion of the 100th birthday of James Venn Morgan in 1923. Dorothy Rogers used this photograph in 'A History of Kew' (1973). It faces page 17. In the book, the caption reads "JAMES VENN MORGAN'S 100TH BIRTHDAY ANNIVERSARY. The party was held at 'Morganville'. Mr Morgan is shown with a group of descendants."

Inscriptions & markings

James Morgans 100th Birthday Party.