John Percy Hamilton Baxter O.B.E.
1886 - 1954 (photo taken about 1935)
Mr John Percy Hamilton Baxter OBE (1886 -1954) was the only son of John Francis Baxter and Isabella Baxter (nee Hamilton) who both lived in Geelong, Victoria from the 1850’s to the 1940’s. He spent his whole life as a resident of Geelong and in 1911 he married Hilda Gertrude Hocking of Ballarat, Victoria (1885 -1975) who had been born in Moonta, South Australia. She was the daughter of a Cornish mining engineer involved in the ‘copper triangle’ on the York Peninsula and later in the Ballarat goldfields.
The Baxter family first arrived in Geelong in the sailing ship ‘Sea King’ in 1855 when John Francis Baxter was only one year old. His father, John Baxter, a migrant from Ipswich, Suffolk, set up a sawmill on Western Beach, which was later moved to Hope Street, Geelong West, where a timber yard and construction business was established. John Percy Hamilton Baxter was born in Geelong West in 1886 and attended the Ashby School. His father, John Francis Baxter spent his whole life in the timber and construction business and as a boy in the 1890’s young John Percy also assisted in that business. Not wishing to spend his whole life in it, however, he set out to obtain experience in the real estate business and then, in partnership with Mr William Reid, set up ‘Reid & Baxter, Real Estate Agents’ in Malop Street before the First World War.
He retired from the real estate business in the late 1920’s and spent some time as Managing Director of the Geelong Aerated Waters Pty Ltd, helping to steer that business through the Depression. By the time the Second World War commenced he had become a Director of a number of local companies and at various times was the Chairman of the Geelong Gas Company, the Federal Woollen Mills, and the Regent Theatre, and was also an Alderman of the City of Geelong. In addition he had acquired a substantial interest with Mr Everest York Seymour in a New South Wales soft-goods retailer, Fosseys Pty Ltd. It was the Mr E Y Seymour’s Trust which later funded the Seymour Centre, located beside the University of Sydney.
During the Second World War, in which his son John Russell Baxter served as a Spitfire fighter pilot, John Percy Baxter was very active in the Geelong Branch of the War Funds Board, which gathered funds for support the war effort, and was the Chairman of that Board for some time. It was for that work and also for local charitable work that he was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1951. He had become active in charitable work before the War, when he was a member of the Geelong Rotary Club, but in 1949 he formalised that activity by establishing the Percy Baxter Charitable Trust in co-operation with the Perpetual Trustee Company, now Perpetual Limited.
A sizeable portion of his wealth was vested in that trust when it was formed, but its funds were further increased when he died of a heart attack in 1954 and later when, following the death of Mr Seymour, the Fosseys group of companies were sold to a large department store chain. His son Mr John Russell Baxter, who was by then an aeronautical engineer, then became a co-trustee of the trust with Perpetual Trustee Company.