On 30 January 1854, American businessman Freeman Cobb and three associates started a passenger coach service to Castlemaine and Bendigo.

Cobb and Co's announcement in 'The Argus' of its coach line.

The Argus, Tuesday 31 January 1854, page 3 (column 4)

The passenger service left the Criterion Hotel, Collins Street every morning (Sundays excepted) at 6:00am. The coach stopped at Essendon, Keilor, Gap, Gisborne, Woodend, Carlshrue, Kyneton, Malmsbury and Elphinstone. Through spring to autumn they arrived in Castlemaine before sunset. Connecting services to Bendigo and Maryborough left from the Victoria Hotel Castlemaine at 6:00am the following morning.

All aboard for the Cobb & Co. coach outside Harcourt, Warburton, Victoria.

[Cobb & Co. coach and horses outside Harcourt, Warburton, Victoria], H94.30/7

Their business proved so successful that routes were expanded across Victoria. They transported not only passengers around the state, but also prisoners, VIPs, and the mail. Their services to the goldfields were particularly popular. A fare to Castlemaine cost five pounds, to Bendigo seven pounds and to Maryborough, 124 miles away, seven pounds, ten shillings. (1)

In 1897, poet Henry Lawson described the coach-towns and experiences of the drivers in the poem The lights of Cobb and Co.:

‘Five miles this side the gold-field, a loud, triumphant shout:
Five hundred cheering diggers have snatched the horses out:
With ‘Auld Lang Syne’ in chorus through roaring camps they go—
That cheer for her, and cheer for Home, and cheer for Cobb and Co.’ (2)

In May 1856 Freeman Cobb sold up and returned to the United States. He eventually settled in South Africa where he established another Cobb and Co., providing transport between Port Elizabeth and the diamond mines of the Kimberley.

The article in 'The Argus' in 1856 notes the farewell dinner for Freeman Cobb.

The Argus, 26 May 1856

In Australia Cobb and Co. was purchased by American James Rutherford. He expanded business to New South Wales and Queensland. The final Cobb and Co. coach journey took place in South West Queensland on 14 August 1924. The coach which made the run was bought by the Federal Treasury for £100 and eventually placed in the National Museum. (3)

In Australia, Cobb and Co was purchased by Americain James Rutherford.

 James Rutherford [developer of Cobb and Co. coaches],  H38849/3935

The Library has many Cobb and Co. resources, including books and illustrations, a cashbook, annual reports, a leather money pouch and letters from saddlers and drivers. You can also read more about Cobb and Co and the American contribution to the Australian gold rush in this article in the Victorian Historical Magazine.

Written by Andrew McConville
Librarian, Digital Access Team

Bibliography

1. Rutherford J.E.L, [1971], Cobb & Co. by J.E.L. Rutherford, [Bathurst, N.S.W.], p.13
2. Roderick, C (ed) 1967-69, Collected verse / Henry Lawson, Sydney: Angus and Robertson, p.337
3. Austin, K A 1972, The lights of Cobb and Co: the story of the frontier coaches, 1854-1924, [Adelaide]: Rigby, p.200

 

 

Tags:

This article has 30 comments

  1. Great stuff but I’m trying to find some reference to the Cobb&Co Reenactment circa 1965 to 1968. As I witnessed it as a young child as it stopped at the corner of Ballarat road and Station road Deer Park, (there was about 20 to 30 people there I’m sure that the event was advertised in the newspaper maybe the Herald Sun. I don’t think it traveled the whole route from Ballarat, I seem to remember that it started from Bacchus Marsh and traveled to Melbourne stopping at all the Original coach stops. But I can’t find any historical reference to this event.
    Can you help me?
    Jim

    • Hi Jim, Thanks for your interest in our blog. We will email you with a response to your inquiry. Regards, Sarah

  2. Great stuff

  3. Interesting article. I have been researching information re Cobb & Co’s Victorian operations in the 1850s. In particular I’m looking for information on a Thomas Mason, who a great Aunt once told me, worked for Cobb & Co in the 1850s in Benalla Vic. He may have worked directly for the Company or been an “Agent” for them. Any information, or other lines of inquiry I could check about Thomas Mason, would be appreciated.

    Thank you.

  4. Christopher Cobb

    Good article… always interested
    Christopher Cobb

  5. Where can I find any historical information (years of operation, route etc) about a Cobb & Co staging post situated in Marshall (town) just south of Geelong. I understand it was in operation around 1860s?
    Thanks

    • Thanks for your enquiry Ross.
      I will pass it onto our Ask A Libraian service and a staff member will get back to you.
      Paul

      • I am trying to get information on Rice stagecoach line who operated in competition to Cobb and co on the Geelong to Torquay route
        Also information on a fatal accident involving rice stagecoach lines

        • Andrew McConville

          Hi John, We will see what we can find on the Rice stagecoach line and any fatal accident that involved the line

  6. Mrs Sandra J Bishop

    I am trying to locate information about Cobb and Co’s change over at “Sunnyside” Lexton Victoria in the 1800’s and wonder if you have any information relating to this?
    They also changed horses at the Pyrenees Hotel in Lexton.

  7. Hi, is there a location can be directed to that might have a map of some kind that might be able to view a lot of the routes taken ? thankyou

  8. Hi
    I am trying to find the exact location of a pub/accommodation hotel which was a Cobb and co stop that my great great grandparents owned at bulla called the holiday inn. Family information tells me that it is near calder park
    I am not quite sure what years they owned this establishment but I am estimate sometime in late 1800’s

    Wendy

    • Hi Pam

      Hi Wendy,
      Thanks for reading the blog. I’ve entered your enquiry on our Ask a librarian service and someone will be in touch.

      Cheers
      Paul

      Sarah

    • Hi Wendy,
      There was a Cobb & Co stop behind the Diggers Rest Hotel, built about 1850 during gold rush times. My parents bought the hotel in 1956 and as children observed remnants of the blacksmith and stables . Not far from the thunderdome and the road to Bulla is immediately in front of the hotel.
      There is also a Cobb & Co stop at Faraday on the old highway. The original house is still standing with out buildings and ‘lockup’ at the rear. It is a BandB presently.
      There was a hotel at Bulla where we visited with parents. The bar was tiny
      Jill Troutbeck-Noy
      Maldon

  9. Hi

    Just wondering if there is any more come to light about the date of the photo. The catalogue record has it as [ca. 1895 – ca. 1917], which is quite a wide range.

    By the looks the trees are recovering from a relatively recent fire. Just googling, bushfires 1905/6 perhaps? So a couple of years later?

    Or the clothes? Or model of the Cobb and Co coach?

    My interest is that my great grandfather was there with wife and children at Harcourt house in the mid 1910s-1920.

    • Andrew McConville

      Hi Geoff We haven’t been able to definitively identify a clear date. I think you are right that the trees do look like they are recovering from bush fire. Lucky Harcourt House didn’t go up! There were several fires in the area over that time, 1905,1906, 1909, 1913. The clothing also could be from anytime over that period. I think it will be hard to get a more definitive and accurate date.

  10. I am interested in learning of Cobb & Co routes in Western Victoria as my late wife was a descendant of the owner of Farrell’s Inn at Farrell’s Crossing beside the Hopkins River. The town is now known as Wickliffe. Any information you can offer would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

    • Andrew McConville

      Hi Clive, thanks for the question I will do some checking and email you the information I find, Regards Andrew

  11. Hello. I would like to know if Cobb & Co had a passenger route to Western Australia, please. It may have been only to the goldfields (Kalgoorlie / Coolgardie) but possibly also to Perth?
    Thankyou for the interesting info and comments above

  12. I have been investigating further, and recently met the current owners of Harcourt House Warburton where the photo was taken. They are also most interested in the history of HH and the coach, and this photo.

    We think it might be dated 1895. Bushfires in 1893 which went close to HH, and burnt the surrounding forest.

    If one looks closely there is a diagonal line running across the top of the photo. We believe it is a telegraph (not power) line. Trying to find out just when the telegraph was connected to Warburton, but it was on by 1903 (and probably well before that)

    https://www.victorianplaces.com.au/warburton

  13. Thank you SLV who have found articles confirming the telegraph was connected by Jan 23 1993.

    I also have from a Warburton local historian (Ellena, who was very knowledgeable and helpful) a scan of a page from the book “Warburton Ways” which has the same photo in it and says

    “Cobb & Co. coach photographed at Harcourt Corner during the mid-1890s – passengers packed tightly, with no room to move. Such heavy loads carried over rough roads, testifies to the sturdy construction of these vehicles”.

    So mid-1890s would be after telegraph was in (Jan 1893), and fits.

    Also, at Upper Yarra Museum, also very helpful, an article about bushfires 17 Feb 1893 in which Harcourt House was saved, but the hills and other buildings burnt. Thus the regrowth sprouting in the large trees would be around 3 years after the fire, looks about right.

    Ellena also had titles of ownership of Harcourt House. The chances are the people on the porch and around but not in the coach were then then owners. Will look up who they were at the time.

    The photo is for many important historically for Cobb and Co. But from some also about Harcourt House, built 1887 and still standing, and the various owners and occupiers over the 135 years or so, and its place in Warburton’s history.

  14. Here’s Trove link to bushfire story in Lilydale Express

    https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/252179996

    And story about telegraph (from SLV) in The Age

    http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article193433421

  15. Hi I have recently bought a property called Mikado Park, Old Sale Rd, Garfield North, Victoria. I am told it was used as a stop over for Cobb and Co coaches travelling from Melbourne to Sale ? I would like to find any information / photos supporting or not this story or about the history of Mikado Park, built in the Late 1800s. If you can supply anything helpful I would most appreciative. Thank you Laurie Lever.

    • Hi Laurie, thank you for your query. I will log your question with our Ask a Librarian service and one of our librarians will be in touch. Kind regards, Kylie

Leave a Reply to J Cancel

Your email address will not be published.

*

Terms & Conditions