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The Back River Tribe


James Junior, since his shotgun marriage in 1815, has been largely absent from the story. All that youthful drive and arrogance, like many a good man before him, dissipated in a flood of children. He settled on his land, made babies and grew vegetables. When his father moved away he took over all the land and main property at New Norfolk, and bought and sold properties at an alarming rate. All up, he had eleven children. It was no wonder he kept a low public profile – he had no time to be a star.

Here they all are:

Ann Triffitt b. 25 Mar 1816 in New Norfolk

James Triffitt b. 12 Jul 1818 in Hobart

John Triffitt b. 3 Oct 1820 in Back River New Norfolk

Phoebe Triffitt b. 1823 in New Norfolk

Christiana Elizabeth Triffitt b. 6 Jan 1825 in Hobart

Martha Triffitt b. 13 Dec 1826 in New Norfolk

Joseph Triffitt b. 3 Nov 1828 in New Norfolk

Henry Edward Triffitt b. 4 Dec 1829 in New Norfolk

Ellen Triffitt b. 30 Mar 1832 in New Norfolk

Samuel William Triffitt b. 9 Nov 1834 in New Norfolk

Josiah Augustus Triffitt b. 3 Oct 1836 in New Norfolk

As we’ll soon see the surviving kids were quite a handful.

All this time James and Elizabeth have been churning out babies – for twenty years – infant after infant every 18 months or so. They seem in the grip of something bigger than themselves. All the Triffitts are prolific breeders in this generation – some voice inside them has whispered ‘reproduce, reproduce’ and they have done that voice’s bidding, unaware, intuitively increasing the threatened herd. Something had sunk into them – they were doomed unless they bred. Without a mass charge into the communal cot there would be no community, so they each and all set out to multiply with a fervor that is incomprehensible today.

When, in 1839 Elizabeth died unexpectedly James was left with a houseful of children. Only Ann had left the roost to begin her family life, so James was left with his eldest son aged 21 and a family of 8 decreasing in age to the youngest, Josiah, just 3. All his energies would have been involved in maintaining that daily drama. Just how he did it, ran a farm and a market is a mystery. Plain bloody hard work probably helped.

He had a long haul ahead of him. It would be at least a decade, twelve, maybe more years before the last of the boys was finally able to look after themselves, but each year or so, as another of the children came of age and married, the load got lighter. One by one they dropped off the vine and headed off to start little dynasties of their own, just down the road, over the hill, in the next town.

Of the eleven children two died as babies and one, Josiah, didn’t get much of a run in the reproduction stakes, being cut down in his prime – but of all the rest rutted like there was no tomorrow and lived lives full of light and darkness in equal measure deep in the Derwent Valley, mutely living and dying, sending the next, ever-expanding generation of Triffitts out, blinking, into the night.

By the time James Jnr. died, safe in the knowledge that they dynasty was well established, positively thriving, he already had 51 grandchildren – there were another 25 to come. He expired with 76 of them all up, rather unexpectedly in Victoria. Most inconvenient.


In 1839 James Jnr’s wife died of unknown causes – probably exhaustion after eleven children – she was only thirty-eight. James was left with five children still at home, the eldest, Christina, fifteen, the youngest just three. James never remarried. Eleven children was enough.

MISSING YEARS 1840 – 1852

The Argus [Melbourne]:Monday 2 June 1851

This C TRIFFITT is likely to be James Srs’s son with Sophia Daniels.  -or the CHAS TRIFLET


Colonial Times: Friday 6 August 1852



Here’s a just found clip – quite why he was in Victoria eludes me.

He was drowned, just two months after his father karked it.

The Argus [Victoria] Saturday 11 June 1853

also The Courier Hobart, Tas Saturday 18 June 1853

Note the missing years in James Jr. Jr’s [his son] history. He disappears till 1860 ish. Possibly with Dad in Victoria.

Where is Mt. Talbot, Upper Glenelg?

A town originally known as Upper Glenelg was established in the 1840s and is claimed to be the oldest inland town in Victoria. The Post Office opened on 1 March 1849 as Upper Glenelg (Harrow from 1854). At its peak, the town included a range of shops and services including two hotels.

Harrow is a town in the Wimmera region of western Victoria, Australia. The town is located in the Shire of West Wimmera Local Government Area, 391 kilometres north west of the state capital Melbourne, overlooking the Glenelg River valley. At the 2006 census, Harrow and the surrounding area had a population of 96.

The first European explorer of the area was Thomas Mitchell and a monument marks the spot where he crossed the Glenelg River.

Harrow (including Douglas and Balmoral) Small town in the Wimmera Harrow is a small and picturesque hamlet of 150 people on the banks of the Glenelg River in Victoria’s Wimmera district. Surrounded by mountains it is located 376 km north-west of Melbourne via Coleraine. Part of the town is situated on a hill overlooking the Glenelg River Valley. A steep and scenic road leads down to the main street which has a number of historic buildings.

Claiming to be the oldest inland town in Victoria the first business enterprise was established here c. 1840 on the boundary of three large properties. As the properties grew so did the business centre. At its peak the town had two hotels, three general stores, a blacksmith’s, a saddlery, a drapery store, a shoemaker, a baker, flour mills, a brickworks and Chinese market gardens. Recently people have drifted to the larger towns to the detriment of local farms. The National Bush Billy Cart Championships are held here in November of each year.


But we have to travel 70 kilometers north-east to find Mount Talbot.

Here’s picture of what you’ll see when you get there. This is like ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’.

What on earth was he doing there? No idea. I’ll find out one day.


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