Robert Bob Ewart Track Cutter Explorer Prospector bushman

Famous Tasmanian Prospectors, Explorers and Track Cutters

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Robert Bob Ewart Track Cutter Explorer Prospector bushman

Post by Philski » Wed Nov 21, 2012 11:17 pm

Robert Ewart is easily the most venerable of the Tasmanian track cutters. He opened up some very hard country. Including re cutting tracks from Gould's party many years before, He cut hundreds of Kilometers of tracks in Tasmania. And many towns and mines owe there existence to him.
The overland track is a prime example. As well as the side tracks East into the Mersey Headwaters to connect Pellion and St clair and the west
He prospected Mount Arther and Mt Victoria, Crotty, Heemkirk, Corinna, Browns Plains and Long and Worked at Mount Bishoff as a kid! to name a few. Later going to Victoria and returning.

later part// 1900+

Tyndall Range - Eldon Bluff. February - May 1900
Party: Robert Ewart, Marcus Hardwicke, William Johnstone.
This track began at Lake Selina, where there were prospecting sections, not far from the pack track to Red Hills. It followed the Anthony River downstream for a short distance before turning east and crossing
another large tributary of the Murchison River a short distance above its junction with the Murchison. Ewart took this tributary to be the Murchison itself, and the main stream to be the Canning. The tributary was spanned by a log and handrail 10m above the water. The track was cut up the long spur which Gould had followed forty years earlier, and terminated at Lake Dorothy (Ewart thought this was Lake Augusta), which nestles into the northern side of Eldon Bluff. The work was hampered by rain and snow, and during the last seven weeks Ewart had only one man to help him.

Eldon Bluff - Lake St Clair. January - April 1901
Party: Robert Ewart, Alan Pybus, James New, Leslie Ims. (Charles Roberts later replaced Ims).
A continuation of the earlier track, Ewart took this across the saddle between High Dome and Pyramid Hill.
Starting from Lake St Clair, he followed the route of Burgess, Gould, Moore and Counsel past Lake Petrarch
onto Coal Hill and along the crest of the range west of Gould's Sugarloaf to a point between Pyramid Hill
and Rocky Hill, where it swung north to High Dome. The track may still be traced through the scrub in the
saddle between Gould's Sugarloaf and Pyramid Hill, and down the spur into the head of the Murchison
River, and old stakes can be seen across the high ground below High Dome, though most of the large ones
date from a later period when the track was restaked.
On completion of the Lake St Clair track, Ewart shortened the track of the previous year by making a
deviation off the main spur, across the watershed between the North Eldon and the large Murchison
tributary, and over the Sticht Range to Lake Rolleston, where it joined the Lake Dora pack track.
Pelion Plains — King River Bridge January - May 1902
Report: Corr. Ewart - Counsel LSD File 8100G - 208 AOT.
Map: 33 Tracks, Lands Dept.
Party: Robert Ewart, Alan Pybus, William Buddon, Henry Edwards. (James O'Meara later replaced
This was one of the link tracks connecting two main access routes: E. G. Innes's track from Liena to
Rosebery and Ewart's track from Lake Rolleston to Lake St Clair. Ewart commenced work on the Innes
track close to the foot of the descent from Pelion Plains to Frog Flat, about 3 km from the Forth River.
(Innes's track crossed the Forth 30 miles from Liena; Ewart's track left it 28 miles 28 chains from Liena). The
track reached its highest point on the saddle above Frog Flat, between Mts Thetis and Achilles, before
beginning a graded descent into the valley of the Wallace River, around the eastern and southern slopes of Perrin's Bluff.
In the month from mid-January there were five snow-falls, and only twelve fine days. During
this period Ewart went ahead and roughly marked the route of the track as far as Eldon Bluff, but in such
poor weather that for much of the way he could see for less than a hundred metres.
The track crossed the Murchison ('Canning') a kilometre above its junction with the Wallace, then
climbed steadily S.W. to Dome Hill, where it turned south to join Ewart's earlier track on the high ground
just west of Lake Ewart ('Augusta') at the end of March. Ewart and his men had a short break in Zeehan
before resuming work on the second stage. While two of the men worked up the banks of the King and
South Eldon rivers from the King River Bridge on the Linda Track, Ewart took one man ahead and
completed the high level section from Lake Ewart, between Eldon Bluff and Castle Mountain, down a spur
to the South Eldon. The track kept to the south bank of the river all the way down to The Long Marsh.
In 1909 a track was cut by Ewart from the Gordon near the mouth of the Smith River, in an attempt to
connect with R. A. C. Thirkell's re-cut and extension of J. L. A. Moore's track of 1900 from the Linda Track
to the lower Jane River. The season was a very wet one and the scrub in this area — the Smith River Valley
— was extremely bad. The party ran out of supplies and the track was discontinued. (Surveyor-General's
Report 1908-9; Map 42 Tracks, Lands Dept.)
(taken from Explorers of Western Tasmania, Mr C J Binks)

by the end of 1902 he went bankrupt.
2 years later

16 August 1904
Zeehan,.— Robert Ewart was charged by John
Connor with having maliciously wounded (axe handle)
him, and was committed for trial.
Robnert Ewart Replied, he gave provocation, including improper intimacy on the part of
Connor with his (Ewart's) wife.

his Death Notice from the Mercury in 1929
Noted Prospector Dead - Mr Robert Ewart
Pioneer of the West Coast - Signal Service for State

Signal service to Tasmania in the work of opening the mining fields of the West Coast
was pioneered by Mr Robert Ewart, 70, whose death occurred in the Zeehan District
Hospital on Saturday.

The early exploration of that little known and most inhospitable portion of Tasmania,
the West Coast, called for men of the highest calibre, men of stamina and exceptional
physique combined with an unswerving determination which nothing could daunt.
Fortunately for the state, these men as Frank Long, T.R. Moore, Owen and George
Meredith, Steve Erland and Alan Karlson, Tom Farrell and Robert Ewart - were to be
found, and were willing to carry out the pioneer work which made available to a large
extent the mineral wealth of the West Coast, and so played their part in the
development of Tasmania. Most of these men have gone, and it is regrettable that
very few have come forward to take their places, even though there are yet large belts
in Western Tasmania practically unexplored, but nevertheless known to be favourable
to the existence of minerals. And so, in the death of Mr Bob Ewart there has passed
away one of the best bushmen that Tasmania has ever seen and known. His many
friends in the state and on the mainland will regret his demise after five months in
hospital. It is said by the matron that she has never known a man with such a heart,
nor one to fight against the inevitable, as he did. Everything possible was done for his
comfort by the hospital staff and by a man with whom he has been closely associated
for many years, Mr Selby Wilson.

Seeking Adventure


Ewart was born at Longford in 1858, his father then being head shepherd for
Mr Joseph Archer, of Panshanger. There his boyhood was spent but early in
life the roving spirit showed up and with some other youngsters, all about 15
years of age, he made his way to Mt Bischoff. They obtained work at 3s. 6d.
a day. This they found would not pay for their food, so Bob drifted along the
North West Coast, where he worked on road construction for 5 shillings a
day. He then went to Mt Arthur where he put in two years fossicking at
alluvial diggings, erecting post and rail fences and anything else that came
along. His luck then turned, he becoming associated with Mr C.W. Lord, an
uncle of the present Commissioner of Police, who was then district
Government surveyor for the Lefroy district.

The Gold Boom

For eight years he acted as chainman for Mr Lord, and assisted in the survey of the
whole of the leases in that and other districts, among them being the Pinafore,
Shamrock, Banner Cross, Land of Lakes, New Chum, Volunteer etc. This was at the
time of the gold boom in that locality. Having saved some monev here, Bob went to
the mainland, but soon returned to Tasmania, and went to Mt Victoria, now called
Alberton. His first job there was assisting in a search for a missing prospector named
JJ Hunkin, who was a married man, and had disappeared in mysterious
circumstances. He was never found. This district proving a disappointment, and
knowing that the shearing season was to commence shortly, he left and shore in
various sheds, finishing at Swansea. His mate on the job was named Bob Hewitt, and
to distinguish them they were called "Black Bob" and "White Bob". Deceased
mentioned some of the escapades in which he and his partner were mixed up, and
from what could be gathered thev held their own, both men being of exceptional
physique. The shearing season over, he returned to the North West Coast, and did
more road work at the rate of 5s a day. It was at this time that he met Mr John
McKenna, who now resides at Sulphur Creek, and with whom a lifelong friend-ship
has existed.

Blazing West Coast Track

Bob returned to the Midlands untill 1887, when, with John McKenna and Dan Griffith,
on behalf of the Public Works Department, he started to blaze a track from Chudleigh
to the West Coast. The indicator of the great Mt Lyell mine, the Iron Blow, at that time
had been recently discovered by Steve Karison. Ewart's party had no charts to guide
them, and after swimming rivers and living principally on badger for three weeks they
found themselves on Pelion West; that is on the south spur of Mt Tyndal, where they
experienced the worst night of their trip. When morning dawned they saw the
welcome camp smoke to the south, and breaking through arrived at Harvey's Hotel,
Queen River. This point is about three miles south of what is now the prosperous
town of Queenstown. It can be well imagined what that camp smoke meant to them,
as each man was then reduced to his last 1/2 lb. of flour, and in an exhausted
condition. After a short spell, the party walked to Old Strahan, and waited for three
weeks in the hope that a vessel would come in. No boat arrived, so they resolutely
turned their faces up the coast, and walked to Trial Harbour, and then followed the
route of the old Corinna track to Waratah. It may be mentioned that this trip cost the
party over 50 pound more than they received from the Government.

A Record Walk

After spending some time at Emu Bay, Bob decided to walk back, and on this trip he
was accompanied by a well know Zeehan resident, Mr John McDermott. This journey
occupied three days - that is from Emu Bay to Waratah, thence to Corinna, and the
third day carried them to Zeehan, surely a record performance with weighty swags up.
Bob then joined Mr J. Power, a Government surveyor, and for a few years assisted insurveying township allotments and mineral leases in the various coastal centres, also at the Long Plains gold rush. In 1892, when the Zeehan field slumped so badly, he went prospecting for gold at the Ring River, and then for tin at South Heemskirk, where in one place now known as Mayne's, with Mick Curtin as a mate, he washed
from 8 lb to 9 lb to the dish of dirt, This proved to be onlv a patch, and on the revival of
mining at Zeehan in 1899, his outstanding qualities as a bushman and prospector,
prompted the Government to entrust him with the carrying out of important exploration
work in the district. In this work he located and cut a track from Lake Selin to Lake St
Clair for the purpose of making that line of country accessible to prospectors. He also
cut a track to connect with the Overland Track and in the vicinity of the recent

Unenviable Experience

About the last work of this nature carried out by him was done in conjunction with Alan
Pybus and W. Buddon in 1900. This was a pack-track from Mt. Pelion to Mole Creek
and proved to be a very rough job. On one occasion the party were snowed in, and
were without food for two days, until the inevitable badger turned up to relieve their
hunger. Another track was started from the upper reaches of the Gordon River to
Adamsfield, but this was not completed. Some time later, during 1909, he prospected
at Mt. Balfour and on the Norfolk Ranges for tin and copper, and on that occasion
was accompanied by the late Mr Harry Judd, the "Mercury" representative for the
West Coast, who is remembered as one who did much towards advancing the
immense possibilities of mining in Western Tasmania. He and Bob Ewart were close
personal friends and shared many a rough trip. From that time Mr Ewart resided
mostly on the West Coast, and was one of its best-known and respected men. He
was a member of the Mersey Masonic Lodge, No 21, T.C.

Mr Selby Wilson's Tribute

Probably the most interesting feature of his life was his long association with Mr Selby
Wilson, who, when spoken to on the matter, stated that they had been associated for
long intervals since 1893, and in the passing of Mr Ewart he felt he had lost a real
friend. During their work together in the bush he had every opportunity of studying his
character, and in him he had found a man to be admired, and Bob admired his
foreman as a man whose knowledge of the West Coast mineral belt was unique. Mr
Wilson lamented the passing, one by one, of the big-hearted pioneers, who were truly
giants in every sense of the word - the Merediths, Tom Moore, the Karlsons, "Taranki,
Frank Long, Jim Crotty, Tom Farrell, Jack Harris, Con Curtain and now Bob Ewart.
What signal service they have given to their State and to the present and future
generations! For themselves, in almost every case, they received no reward, but the
knowledge that they had done something worth while.

Robert Ewart 1858-1929

The Late Robert Ewart - His Worst Experience

J.E.P. writes - The Mercury's tribute to the late Bob Ewart (12/8/29) omitted mention of
what was probably his most trying experience. The writer, was in 1909, engaged with
Ewart and "Dick" Rumney in cutting an exploration track from the Gordon River
towards the Prince of Wales Range, in conjunction with a track put through to that
point the previous summer.
Ewart and Rumney left our camp on Sunday, March 14, taking a tent fly and two days
tucker to break through to this track to get some idea of the country that lay out our
route. On the third day, as they had not returned, I began to get anxious, The weather
was very unsettled - rain and fog each day. Taking some food, the writer broke
through to get some high ground in the direction taken, but had no marks to show
precisely the line they had taken, With field glasses the country was searched with not
even a smoke sign. I had finally given up all hope of seeing them alive when on
March 22, they struggled into camp, pretty well at the last stage. For six days they
had no food, but had taken the precaution to heat all the water they drank. They were
not bushed, but both described the belt of country traversed as the worst they had
encountered on any part of the West Coast. They carried on in expectation of
reaching a depot of stores left by the writer's party at the Prince of Wales. They failed
to find this or the track, and battled back on a compass course. Considering the
weather conditions, they were extremely fortunate to have weathered out such a
stressful hazard. Luckily we had some extract of beef amongst our stores. This and
careful dieting for a few days soon pulled them around, but it was a close shave. I
may add that the tracks have never been junctioned. Poor old Bob!

taken from Kerrie Blyth

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Re: Robert Bob Ewart Track Cutter Explorer Prospector bushma

Post by Philski » Wed Sep 04, 2013 11:30 pm

i asked for permission from Kerrie of to link to some more important family information on Robert Ewart. Family history is always so amazing. And full credit to them for compiling such a wonderful list of records on Bob Ewart.

The land he opened up is still one of the hardest to traverse and supply in Tasmania. It is also one of the most beautiful. I have been going a zillion miles an hour with work so research time is limited. But i do intend to find out as much as i can about each and every main character in our Tasmanian Mineral Fields and Provinces and record them.

i got the opportunity to speak with Mr Christopher Binks about our West Coast history and prospectors and his writings and gained permission to source his works. So thats really cool. He is a remarkable man. And i am very grateful for his assistance.

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