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                RALSTON Matthew Bryce (bp 02/08/1808 - 11/10/1887)  05RAM1
Father   :     RALSTON    * Robert                                       
Mother  :     BRYCE    Elizabeth
Siblings:     *Janet    Agnes    Margaret    John    Jane    Mary    Sarah    William

      BRYCE    Elizabeth (29/12/1835)
Issue    :
      Robert   Elizabeth  Marion   William  James  Hampden  John           

Matthew was born at the Aird, Inch, Wigtownshire, Scotland. Matthew sailed on the Amity with his father, arriving in
Hobart on April 15, 1824. 

                                   Matthew Ralston of Hampden and his wife Elizabeth Bryce. (Russell Collection)

Matthew, in partnership with his father *Robert, purchased the brig Amity for the passage to Van Diemens Land (Tasmania). (See Robert's Personal Profile for more information.) Although only 15 years old Matthew probably had partnership in the Amity to inhance his standing and thus increase his chances of gaining a land grant. After arriving he opened a fruit store in Goulburn St. Hobart Town. By the Mid 1820's he was farming on his own account. He leased 500 acres next to his father Robert's land (Logan) and after initially being rejected through no fault of his own was granted 640 acres (Hampden). By 1829 at the age of only 21 Matthew was farming over 1100 acres. He later applied for the position of Special Constable and Pound Keeper for the Nile River District, Morven (Evandale). This appointment was approved in 1833. In the 1830's he went into partnership with his brother-in-law Adam Beverage in the Supply River Mill on the West Tamar and with his brother John Ralston in the Strathmore Flourmill near Evandale. In various partnerships he also took up large runs in Queensland.

Matthew married Elizabeth Bryce, a native of Scotland, who died 29/06/1881 at Forest Hall, aged 71. Matthew's mother and wife both had the same name - Elizabeth Bryce. His wife is said to be his cousin. A gentleman by the name of Matthew Bryce arrived with the Ralstons on the Amity and left on the Amity with Robert and Matthew Ralston when it sailed for Sydney. It is probable that this Matthew Bryce is Matthew Ralston's uncle.

Matthew used convict and non-convict labour to carve out Hampden, eventually about 4000 acres near Deddington, and to build the homestead. Some early mistakes were made as the Australian newspaper on 22 August 1828 reported Matthew Ralston as being fined £335 for employing a runaway. Matthew also shared labour with his brother John of Logan.

                                         Hampden homestead taken by Anntoinette Ralston in 2004

In 1836 Matthew rented Hampden to James Bryant and went to Victoria . Matthew returned within the year

John was a trusted member of the community.

There was always the threat of bushrangers and on 12th December 1835, just a month after she had come from Logan to stay at Hampden, Matthew's sister Jane was in the homestead at Hampden with her sister. Matthew wasn't there and the following court account tells of a frightening experience.

                           Decisions of the Nineteenth Century Tasmanian Superior Courts
                  Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University and the School of History and Classics, University of Tasmania
               burglary - capital punishment]

R. v. Lawrence

Supreme Court of Van Diemen’s Land

Montagu J., 17 August 1836

Source: Cornwall Chronicle, 27 August 1836

            Nathaniel Lawrence stood charged with feloniously entering the dwelling-house of Matthew Ralston, on the night of the 12th of December last, and taking there from divers articles of property.

            Jane Ralston, sworn - I live at Hampden, on the Nile River, with my brother, Matthew Ralston; I was living there before Christmas last - quite a month before; remember two men coming into the back-room of the house; it was about ten o’clock in the morning, the prisoner Lawrence was one of the men - he remained outside; the other came in and said – “Stand!” I saw but little of the prisoner; they were both armed; the prisoner walked to and fro with two guns in his had; the other man searched and rifled the house; he took two lbs. of tea, six lbs. sugar, twenty lbs. flour, half a ham, half a blanket, some silk handkerchiefs, and several books - one of the books belonged to my cousin; he took them outside, and put them in a knapsack; they were not longer than a quarter of an hour, or twenty minutes in the house; they had each a gun - and the one that came into the house had a pistol; the property taken away belonged to my brother, Matthew Ralston. I was not the least afraid of myself - they were very quiet; my Christian name is Jane; my sister was in the house at the time; I was standing in the back room; they were both of the armed when they came to the door; the prisoner turned to a man (Riley) and said – “I thought you said your master was in!” There was no threatening or violence used; they allowed us to go where we liked; they might have been there about a quarter of an hour; there was no other person about the premises but Riley; they left, going up the hill at the back of the house. From first to last, I never heard a threat used; never saw them attempt to use any violence to Riley; they neither of them told me to be alarmed; I certainly should have been afraid to make any attempt to interfere with them; it never occurred to me to do so; I should have considered it useless; there was no farm within call; Mr. Pike has a farm a quarter of a mile off; I was much afraid my brother might return, and some act of violence ensue. The prisoner Lawrence was outside the door; he did not speak to me - he had a hat on.

            This witness was much affected, and almost overcome by her feelings in giving evidence.

            John Riley sworn - I am in the service of Mr. Robert Ralston, of the Logan Falls; I was at Mr. Matthew Ralston’s, at the Nile River, in December last; I remember two armed men coming there about that time; they had two fowling pieces and two pistols; a man, that I supposed to be Hunt, took off his neck-kerchief, and tied my hands behind me; the prisoner Lawrence stood over me with his piece, and said, if I offered to stir, he would blow my brains out; he then walked up to the door, and continued marching up and down before it, whilst the other went in; when they came out, they put the things they had taken into a knapsack; Lawrence then untied my hands, and told me to put the knapsack on my back, and come with them; I remained in the bush, about a mile and a half from the farm, from eleven that morning until six or seven o’clock the next day. I have no doubt as to the prison being the man.

            William Jones sworn - I am the Keeper of the Penitentiary at Launceston; I know the prisoner Lawrence; he was confined in the Penitentiary on the 9th September last; I saw him in the morning of that day; I missed him in the evening; in the December following I again saw him; another man escaped at the same time; cannot say whether he absconded from the Penitentiary or chain gang.

            John Ralston sworn - This witness merely appeared to identify the property alleged to have been stolen from Hampden, by the prisoner, to belong to his brother, Matthew Ralston.

            This closed the case for the prosecution.

            Upon His Honor asking the prisoner if he had aught to urge in his defence -

            He replied – “I am innocent of the crime for which I now stand before your Honor.”

            In summing-up, Mr Justice Montagu told the Jury, that if they felt satisfied in their own minds of the guilt of the prisoner, he should feel it his [?] duty to tell them his life would become forfeiture; and, knowing the responsibility they had, he was quite sure they would most carefully weigh the evidence that had come before them, and form their decision accordingly.

            The Jury returned a verdict of Guilty.

            His Honor then told the prisoner, he could not hold the slightest hope that mercy would be extended to him in this world, and trusted that he would not deceive himself with such an expectation.

            The Judge remanded him, however, waiting the final determination of the Solicitor General, who, as yet, has not decided whether he will proceed on another information now pending against him.


Before his death, Matthew had gained the trust and respect of people throughout the colony. He was mainly a sheep man but also raised quality cattle and was interested in horses. He was interested in new farming methods and was a member of the Cornwall Agricultural society formed in Launceston in 1833. He died at Hampden and his demise was hastened by a fall from a cart.

Some Notes about Matthews Children

Marion Bryce
Ralston born 1841, died 1897, married 1860 Robert Taylor of Valleyfield, near Campbell Town, Tasmania

Robert 1838, Elizabeth 1839 and Hampden (or Matthew) all died in the year of their birth.

William Bryce Ralston born in c1842 and died 14/01/1907at Kingsdon, Needles, in the Mole Creek District, Tasmania. Un married and no known issue.

James Ralston, born 1844, died New Norfolk, Tasmania in April 1905. He married a woman called Amelia and there is no known legitimate issue. On the 7th January 1905 James was admitted under private orders to the New Norfolk asylum and died there on the 13 April 1905. He experienced a mental breakdown of some sort. James' medical practitioner reported James had no previous history of this sort of illness.

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