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The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Hack, John Barton

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Hack, John Barton, one of the pioneer colonists of South Australia, was the descendant of one William Hack, who died at Froyle, Hants, in 1699, and was the son of Stephen Hack, banker, of Chichester in Sussex, by his marriage with Maria Barton, sister of Bernard Barton, the Quaker poet and friend of Charles Lamb. Mrs. Hack was the author of "Grecian Stories," "English Stories," and other works, which had a large circulation in their day. John Barton Hack was born at Chichester on July 2nd, 1805. Having decided to emigrate, he first went to the Cape, and thence to Tasmania, proceeding to South Australia in Feb. 1837, three months after the colony was founded. From Tasmania he brought a considerable number of sheep and cattle in the ship Isabella, which he chartered for the purpose, and which was commanded by Captain John Hart, afterwards several times premier of South Australia. There was great difficulty in securing suitable land for farming operations, owing to the backward state of the Government surveys; but ultimately Mr. Hack took up a property at Mount Barker, most of his stock having in the meantime perished. Having considerable capital, he engaged in commercial pursuits, and became probably the principal merchant in Adelaide. In the meantime he carried on his agricultural operations at Mount Barker, opened a dairy farm at Yankalilla, and associated himself with the South Australian Company in whale fisheries at Encounter Bay. The whaling was conducted under the supervision of Captain Hart, but involved Mr. Hack in heavy pecuniary losses. His ruin was completed in the financial crisis which resulted from the dishonour of Governor Gawler's drafts on the Home Government. Most of the business residents were in his debt, and he was mixed up in government contracts and transactions. Mr. Hack was the first colonist of South Australia to take out special surveys of land—viz., at Little Para and the Three Brothers, near Echunga. He was one of the committee appointed to name the streets of Adelaide, and purchased sixty-four acres at the first Government sale of town lands, so that had he been able to retain his property he would have become one of the wealthiest men in Australia. As it was, he had to begin life over again, and was much handicapped in the race. When the Burra mines were opened he started as a carrier between the capital and the mines, and then took the position of mercantile manager in a solicitor's office. In 1852 he went to the Victorian diggings, and was fairly successful. Returning to Adelaide, he embraced various employments, and then purchased a station on the Coorong, which also proved a failure. After further vicissitudes he was, in 1870, appointed accountant in the goods department of the Government Railways. When the Goods and Traffic departments were amalgamated he became assistant accountant, later on accountant, and finally accountant and comptroller of all railway accounts. This position he held until his retirement, owing to failing health, in June 1883. Mr. Hack married at Hardshaw, Lancashire, on July 9th, 1829, Bridget, daughter of William Watson and Martha his wife, who died in 1881. He died at the Semaphore on Oct 4th, 1884. His brother, Stephen Hack, who shared his misfortunes, did some valuable exploring work under the South Australian Government. One of Mr. J. B. Hack's sons, Mr. Theodore Hack, was elected a member of the Legislative Assembly in 1890; and a granddaughter, Miss Guli Hack, daughter of his son, Charles, was the winner of the Elder Scholarship to the Royal College of Music, where she greatly distinguished herself.