Life Stories- Mytilenians in Australia

MICHAEL MANUSU (1826-1902)

                            A Greek Pioneer
By Vasilis Vasilas
Edward Hargrave’s discovery of gold (1851) triggered waves of migrants seeking their fortune on the Australian goldfields. Among them were a couple of hundred Greeks, who may be regarded as the pioneers of the Greek community in Australia. One of these early settlers was a Mytilinean, Michael Manusu (Mihalis Manousou), who is arguably he first successful Greek settler in New South Wales.
While there is a minor discrepancy over Manousou’s birthplace, his written outline of his life and family in the family Bible ascertains he was born in Mytilene in 1826. Manusu’s colourful early life highlights the adventurous spirit of human movement across the world at the time. Living a comfortable life in Mytilene, Manousou fell out of favour with the local Ottoman authorities. His mother, fearing the worst for her son’s fate, paid for his passage to the United States. It was in the United States that he changed his name to Manusu. His articulate grasp of several languages, including English, enabled him to easily settle in Californian goldfields for three years. However, the combination of “some trouble with hostile Indian” and booming opportunities of finding gold in the British colonies (of Australia), he undertook another journey of migration which saw him settle in southern New South Wales. Working as a second mate on the General Veazie, he landed in Sydney in 1853, and immediately set off to try his luck on the goldfields in southern New South Wales, Braidwood and Araluen. Only a year later he married a young 17 year old daughter of Worcestershire farmer, Sarah Anne Baldwin, and they stayed on at Majors Creek, continuing his efforts at gold prospecting, before moving with their first daughter, Sarah Ann, to the small town, Bodalla, in the Moruya District.
Above: Two portraits- Michael Manusu and his wife Sarah Baldwin.
Over the next fifteen years in the Moruya area, Manusu took further significant steps in his settlement in Australia: firstly, the birth of another nine children; secondly, he became the third naturalised Greek migrant in New South Wales, thirdly, acquiring 320 acres in the Eurobodalla area (under conditional purchase) and named his farm, “Badji”, and 1865 either built or bought the ‘Grecian’ Hotel in Eurobodalla, thus possibly sharing with John Johnson the title of Australia’s first Greek hotel-keeper. Historian, Gibbey, accounts for Manusu’s relatively ‘quick’ rise in property, and business to his successful mining at Majors Creek and elsewhere.
In the years 1865-67, the area was terrorised by the notorious Clark gang, holding up stagecoaches and robbing farms. In 1866, the Clark gang visited “Badji” farm, but the bushrangers did not harm or rob the Manusu family. Family legend has it that it was only after a second visit – where one of the bushrangers showed disrespect towards one of the Manusu girls that Michael joined a local posse to capture the Clark gang. Manusu played a significant role in one episode where he came face-to-face with four members crossing the Tuross River; “he fired upon them and they fled, abandoning their booty”. When the Clark gang was finally brought to justice, he was a witness to their trial.
 The Manusu family remained in the Eurobodalla area until 1874; after a series of disastrous floods, Michael decided to accept this considerable losses and move away from the area. According to anecdotal family history, there seems to be a time gap between his move from Eurobodalla and his eventual settlement in Mendooran, near Mudgee. During this period, the Manusu family probably stayed with the Morts family in Mendooran, near Mudgee. During this period, the Manusu family probably stayed with the Morts family in Darling Points, Sydney, “according to entries in Lady Mitchellmore (nee: Dutton) grandmother’s diary”. From this base, Michael was able to make several reconnaissance trips for places to settle. Although he considered Parkes, the area was experiencing drought at the time, and he decided to settle in Mendooran. The relocation of his family and his cattle on a two-hundred-mile trek proved costly; according to his late son, Themistocles Alexander’s recollection, it took three months to reach their destination and most of the cattle perished from the scorching conditions.
Above: The family bible, Manusu gives a brief account of his life: his birth in Mytilene, marriage to Sarah Anne Baldwin and their children:
Sarah Ann (Boyd), Amelia (McGregor), Christopher, Angelina (Dutton), Thomas Pericles, Archilles, Themistocles Alexander,
Alfred Arisitides, Francis Homer Richard, Mary Louisa (Humphries), Ellen Maude (MacLerie).
 The thousand-acre “Biambil Park” estate was meant to be the beginning of the Manusu dynasty, as the comfortable family home was complimented by a beautiful garden. Michael and Sarah also lived comfortable lives; for example, they went about twon with a horse drawn carriage which fit all the family, including the new additions to the family, and was driven by the local sergeant’s sons. Family anecdotes claim Michael was an enthusiastic chess player, who would invite stagecoach travelers for games. Upon his death, Manusu’s vision of a dynasty was never realized. Michael Manusu’s importance in the local area of Mendooran has not been forgotten; a bridge bears his name.
 One interesting point to arise from Manusu story is the reality that he did not teach any of his children Greek; despite Sarah and him giving Greek names to most of their children, it seems he did not pass down the Greek language or culture to the next generation. Moreover, family anecdotes reinforce Manusu’s reluctance to speek Greek when he came across another migrant Mytilinean, Prokopis Kostantinidis, and he would not allow Kostantinidis to speek Greek during their conversations. Glichrist point out in Australians and Greeks, Volume 1: The early Years that Manusu’s descendants did not identify with the later Greek migrants. Manusu’s significance as a pioneering migrant in New South Wales, whose life has been highlighted in many exhibitions on migration, has generated a lot of enthusiasm and interest among his descendants. Robert Watt, of the branch in the Manusu family tree has created a comprehensive family tree of the Manusu clan, and is seeking further information on Lesvos. Furthermore, Howard Pericles visited Lesvos in the early 1970’s in search of his ‘roots’, meeting a Manousou who bore several facial characteristics as his great grandfather.

Hugh Gilchrist, Australians and Greeks, Volume 1: The Early Years, HalsteadPress, Sydney, 1992, P89
H.J. Gibbney’s, Eurobodalla: History of the Moruya District
Joan Messaris, “At Sydney New Darling HArbour; A Trip down Memory Lane is Must”, Kosmos Greek Australian Newspaper, March 10, 1988.
Moruya Pioneer Directory, Volume 2, P80
Interview with Stephanie Marshall (nee: Manusu), Thursday, October 5, 2006
I would like to thank Nick Voudoukis who sent me and feature article on early Greek migrants, which included Michael Manusu, and started my research, Special thanks to Helen Ryan, the researcher at Moruya and District Historical Society, for her help and pointing me in the right direction. Howard Pericles Manusu, Stephanie Marshall and Robert Watt were also extremely helpful in this project. All photographs were provided by Howard and Stephanie...
Copyright Syndesmos 2006