William Benjamin Chaffey was born 21 October 1856 in Brockville, Ontario, Canada to George Chaffey (1818-1884) and Anne Maria Leggo (1823-1903) and died 4 June 1926 Mildura, Victoria, Australia of heart attack. He married Harriet Schell (1854-1889) 23 May 1877 in Ingersoll, Oxford County, Ontario, Canada. He married Heather Sexton Schell (1867-1950) 27 April 1891 in Hamilton, Butler County, Ohio, United States.


Offspring of William Benjamin Chaffey and Harriet Schell (1854-1889)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Arthur Elswood Chaffey (1878-1951)
Karl Schell Chaffey (1881-1926)
Evelyn Frances Chaffey (1883-1964)
Helen Wilhelmina Chaffey (1885-1886)
William Herbert Chaffey (1887-1966)
Maurice Murray Chaffey (1889-1899)

Offspring of William Benjamin Chaffey and Heather Sexton Schell (1867-1950)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Lillian Hattie Chaffey (1892-1892)
George Frederick Chaffey (1894-1917) 2 July 1894 Mildura, Victoria, Australia 25 April 1917 Ypres, West Flanders, Belgium
Edward Lamport Chaffey (1896-1897)
Emily Marion Chaffey (1899-1966)
Robert Hugh Chaffey (1902-1958)
Isobel Marjorie Chaffey (1903-1987)


The Founder of Mildura.

MILDURA, Friday.—Mr. William Benjamin Chaffey, the founder of Mildura, died as a result of a heart attack this morning while attending to business at the Merbein distillery.

Mr. Chaffey, who was 71 years old, and a native of Canada, came to Australia in 1886 from Canada, as a result of Mr. Deakin's representations regarding the opportunity for the foundation of irrigation settlements in Victoria. With his brother, Mr. George Chaffey, he negotiated with the Victorian Government for tbe purchase of 250,000 acres on terms providing for a clear title to 50,000 acres when the sum of £5 per acre had been expended on improvements. Work was begun immediately under the personal supervision of the Chaffey brothers. The land was cleared, channels were made and settlers were given occupation. The venture attracted world-wide interest, and for some time everything went well. Then financial troubles arose, due entirely to under-capitalisation, and for some time the existence of the Mildura settlement was endangered. Renmark, which had also been established by Messrs. Chaffey, was similarly jeopardised. Eventually Mr. George Chaffey went back to California, but "W.B.," when urged to follow him, firmly declined. Financially ruined for the time, he refused to admit failure, and so inspired the settlers by his example of hard work and cheerfulness that most of them decided to stay with him and share his fortunes. After a long period of penury and difficulty the tide turned, and the fruit-growing industry became prosperous. Mr. Chaffey concentrated all his energies on meeting his obligations to the Government and private creditors, and, although it took years to accomplish, he succeeded. In the same year there was a surprise reunion of Mildura pioneers to present Mr, Chaffey with an illuminated address expressing high appreciation of the great personal courage and magnificent leadership he had shown throughout a trying perod. The settlers also presented him with a motor car as a token of esteem and gratitude. He was known in the early days as "the boss." The title remained long after it ceased to be applicable as a synonym for employer, and for years it was regarded as a term of affection. When the position of the fruit industry became serious in the nineties Mr. Chaffey conceived the idea of an industry wide marketing organisation to prevent ruinous cut-throat competition between the growers, and the Australian Dried Fruits Association was evolved. For 23 years it controlled the industry and kept it stable, and it was regarded as the world's finished example of the voluntary co-operation of a scattered industry. It was to some extent superseded by the present Government board, but it is still operating to cover the gaps left by legislation in the industry's organisation.

Mr. Chaffey took a prominent part in public matters until a breakdown in his health about four years ago. Everywhere he was held in high esteem, and all the settlers feel a sense of personal loss in the death of a man of fine personality, modesty and genial nature. A widow, three sons and three daughters survive.

Another son died only a few weeks ago.

The Age, 5 June 1926, page 16


Footnotes (including sources)

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