STEVENSON, George (1799-1856)


STEVENSON, George (1799-1856)
pioneer and first South Australian newspaper editor
was born at Berwick-on-Tweed, on 13 April 1799. His father, a gentleman farmer', died when he was 12 years old, and shortly afterwards he went to sea with an uncle. Not liking the life, he returned to Great Britain and began the study of medicine, but did not go far. He next went with a brother to Canada and worked on the land, and subsequently travelled in Central America and the West Indies. About this time he began writing for the press and contributed to the London Globe and Examiner. He returned to England in 1830 and it has been stated that he collaborated with Henry Lytton Bulwer in his books on France. These appeared in 1834 and 1836, but Stevenson's name is not mentioned in connexion with either of these works. It is possible that he may have been employed to collect materials for them. In 1835 he became editor of the London Globe, but becoming interested in colonization he resigned this position and went to South Australia. He travelled on the Buffalo as private secretary to Captain Hindmarsh (q.v.), arrived at Adelaide on 28 December 1836, and read the governor's proclamation. Before leaving London he had entered into partnership with Robert Thomas with the intention of starting a newspaper in South Australia. A preliminary number of the South Australian Gazette and Colonial Register was published in London on 18 June 1836, and about a year later, on 3 June 1837, this paper made its appearance at Adelaide. It was edited with ability but not without partisanship, and an attack on G. M. Stephen (q.v.), who became acting governor in July 1838, led to an unsuccessful libel action against the paper.
Governor Gawler (q.v.) arrived in October 1838 and soon afterwards the Government Gazette was separated from the newspaper which then became the South Australian Register. In the beginning of the eighteen-forties bad times came to Adelaide, and in 1842 Stevenson was obliged to give up his interest in the paper. It continued in other hands for about 90 years; Stevenson afterwards established the South Australian Gazette and Mining Journal, but it did not survive the exodus front South Australia which occurred after the discovery of gold in Victoria. Stevenson was appointed coroner at Adelaide and carried out his duties with ability. He died at North Adelaide on 18 October 1856. He married Margaret Gorton, and was survived by a daughter. Though an able man Stevenson was not fortunate as an editor, but he did extremely useful work in another direction. His house at Adelaide stood in about four acres of land and he planted there every variety of fruit-tree and vine he could procure. When settlers complained about the hardness of the soil, he demonstrated its suitability for vegetable and fruit growing, and confidently prophesied that in time South Australia would boast "orange groves as luxuriant and productive as those of Spain or Italy". At the time of his death he was widely recognized as "the father of horticulture in South Australia".
The South Australian Register, 20 October 1856; G. E. Loyau, The Representative Men of South Australia; A. Grenfell Price, The Foundation and Settlement of South Australia; J. Blacket, History of South Australia; B. T. Finniss, The Constitutional History of South Australia.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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