Saturday, November 23, 2019

Record consignment of cattle brought to Monomeith, April 1967

These great photos (the colour ones), courtesy of Neville Clark, are of Hugh Bourke, off-loading cattle at Monomeith Railway Station. They had been sent from Casino in New South Wales. There was an article in the Koo Wee Rup Sun of April 26, 1967, about the shipment.  Neville thought it was 760 head of cattle, the paper quoted 731, which ever is correct, that is a lot of cattle.  I have transcribed the Koo Wee Rup Sun story.

Koo Wee Rup Sun April 26, 1967, page 1

From page 1 - Record consignment of cattle brought to Monomeith
Cattle made the news this week when a record shipment of731 head arrived at Monomeith in a  53 car special train. The cattle had been bought in Queensland by Mr Hugh Bourke and their arrival created somewhat of a flutter in the local community.  See story inside.

Koo Wee Rup Sun April 26, 1967, page 3

From page 3 - Off-loading 731 cattle at Monomeith Station
A record consignment of 731 head of cattle, transported on a special train of 53 stock cars arrived at Monomeith on Monday afternoon. The cattle had been purchased two weeks ago by local graziers, Mr Hugh Bourke and his son, Mr David Bourke at sales in southern Queensland.  The cattle travelled over 1000 miles by the time they had arrived at Monomeith.
It was by far the biggest consignment of cattle to come to this area and was also the biggest one train load.
The cattle were loaded at Casino. They had to travel upwards of 20 miles on foot before undertaking the long rail trip to Monomeith.
It was certainly a memorable sight to see the big diesel pull into the Monomeith station hauling 53 trucks. A large number of people were on the station to see the operation completed.
An inspection of the cattle, mainly Herefords, revealed that they were in remarkedly good condition. 
The cattle were unloaded in three lots, the same as they had been purchased. Each lot was driven up to the Bourke property to begin the term of fattening for the Melbourne market.
Mr Hugh Bourke says the operation of buying cattle in 1967 was quite a business and involved quite a deal of air travel. On this buying trip he had been accompanied by his son David and Mr Stan Teague from Younghusband & Co. Mr Teague inspected all the cattle prior to the sale.
Mr Bourke said that he purchased the first lot of over 300 cattle and left to attend another sale by air. The remaining four hundred odd head were purchased by David.
On the trip the cattle were accompanied by big Bill McCormick and his nephew Mr Peter McCormick from McCormick and Co. Livestock agents from Casino.
Mr Bill McCormick had the touch of the big outback about him, but he was the essence of efficiency and had complete control of the operation.
The Bourke family at Monomeith have landed two prior shipments of cattle from the north at their property. The first was of over 300 head and second one was over 500 head.

The cattle at Monomeith Railway Station April 1967.
Photo courtesy of Neville Clark

The 'big diesel' Monomeith Railway Station April 1967.
Photo courtesy of Neville Clark

The 53 stock cars - Monomeith Railway Station April 1967.
Photo courtesy of Neville Clark

Monomeith Station, April 1967.
Photo courtesy of Neville Clark

Monday, November 11, 2019

A canal from the Yarra River to the Latrobe River via the Koo Wee Rup Swamp

On July 20, 1867 The Age published this letter to the Editor, from J. Wood Beilby of Dandenong. Mr Beilby suggested the construction of a 140 mile long canal from Yarra River to the Latrobe River, via the Koo Wee Rup Swamp and the Bunyip River flats. The canal would be 30 feet wide and four to five feet deep and suitable for stern-paddle wheel steam tugs and barges. The canal was never built.

John Wood Beilby arrived in the Port Phillip District in 1841 and ran stock on the Gardiner's Creek, he then worked on various runs from Flowerdale to the Glenelg River and was an early explorer of the Mallee region. In 1850 he was associated with the Wedge Brother at Corhanwarrabul on the Dandenong Creek and and took over the Tirhatuan run from the Reverend James Clow (1790-1861), also on the Dandenong Creek. He later spent much time contributing to the Press and he died in 1902, aged 83. The Australasian of June 6, 1936, published a short biography of him and other Pastoral Pioneers, in serial form, you can read his story, here.

Sir, — I beg space to draw the attention of the Government and of all interested in the speedy opening up of a ready and economical mode of communication between Melbourne and the Gipps Land Lakes, by means of a canal suited for stern-paddlewheel steam tugs and barges. The route from the Yarra via the Tanneries or valley of Gardiner's Creek, Leman's Swamp, the Brighton Reedy Swamp, with fall to the edge of Carrum Swamp; thence the Teatree Swamp, through Berwick to the Koo-wee-rup Swamp; thence the Bunyip river flats, and across to the Moe Swamp margin, and thence by the Latrobe River to the Lakes, is throughout, with short exceptional localities, through a low-lying country, which would be immensely reproductive if drained. Much of the land is in the hands of the Crown, and if a liberal grant were made to a canal company, and debentures secured upon it, the undertaking would secure much of the capital required. The work would be of immense value to agriculturists and road boards in the districts intersected, in furnishing an outlet for draining operations, and, would yield an immense return to Government in the shape of reclaimed lands available for agricultural occupation, and by facilities for location upon rich lands now shut out from population by want of means of communication. Moreover, cheap freight or carriage, and facilities for landing goods anywhere along the route traversed, would tend more to development of local enterprise than rapid railway transit, to such stations as would be appointed as such on a line of railway. There are an infinity of products, available for increasing city trade and the general commerce of the colony, besides agricultural produce. Timber, bark and gums of various kinds; granite as varied in color and beautiful as any imported for our public buildings; clay suitable for pottery, or brick or tile, and drain pipe manufacture; coal too, and hosts of other mineral products would teem in from every direction. The expense of a canal, thirty feet wide by four or five feet deep, with all locks, fences, canal boats, bridges, &c., has been estimated on the confident authority of a canal engineer to cost not more than £3000 per mile. The distance from the Yarra or Melbourne to a navigable part of the Latrobe river would be under 140 miles. We have but little material en route harder than blue clay to excavate. We require no imported materials (or scarcely any) and the work throughout would enlist the favorable interest of the neighboring population, who would largely avail themselves of, and by increased production would reciprocate to the proprietors the benefits derivable from water carriage, accessible without necessary stations, at their very doors. The flow of water from the creeks and rivers intercepted in the course traversed would amply supply waste by evaporation and locks by the intervention of equivalent precautions. The colony would go ahead on its own resources without further increase of our national debt ; and room, and a suitable sphere of operations would be provided amidst rich arable lands rendered thus accessible and valuable for location of small capitalist immigrants, to whom a wise policy would offer special inducements to resort to our shores. — 
Yours obediently.
Dandenong. J.WOOD BEILBY.
The Age July 20, 1867, see it on Trove, here.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Henry James Boxshall (1880 - 1968) obituary from the Koo Wee Rup Sun

Henry Boxshall wrote a history of the early families at Yallock - you can read it here. I came across his obituary which was published in the Koo Wee Rup Sun of November 27, 1968. It is an interesting account of early Yallock, his life and the early life of the Boxshall family in Victoria. It is transcribed here.

Well Known Yallock Resident Passes
 A very highly respected resident and member of one of Yallock’s early  pioneering families, Mr Henry John Boxshall passed away at the Westernport Memorial Hospital, Koo Wee Rup on Saturday November 23 at the age of 88 years.
Confined to a wheel chair for several years, the late Mr Boxshall was, however in his usual health and good spirits till he became ill and was admitted to hospital just the day before he died.

His grandfather, Mr James Boxshall was a landscape gardener in Dorset England, before migrating with his family to Australia with the Dendy Migrants, in the sailing ship, ‘The Earl of Durham’
On arrival in Victoria in 1842 they settled in Brighton and owned property there to the extent that Boxshall Street, Brighton was named after them.
Harry Boxshall’s father, Mr Thomas Boxshall married Miss Elizabeth Mills of Brighton on February 27th 1875 and they had a family of eight children.
For fourteen years Thomas Boxshall was the curator of the Exhibition Gardens, Carlton, and was responsible for the layout of a large area of those gardens.

Boxshall Street in Brighton - that's the Brighton Town Hall in the background. 
Photo: Isaac Hermann.

In 1895, when the depression hit Melbourne and the Yallock Village Settlement was proclaimed, Thomas Boxshall was one of the many pioneers who left the city and purchased a Yallock Settlement block. Harry Boxshall at this time was a young lad of 14 years.
This property where the late Harry Boxshall resided is one of the few original properties that has not changed hands. Thomas Boxshall died at Yallock in September 1917 and was buried in the Brighton Cemetery.
For the past 73 years Harry Boxshall had been dairying, in conjunction with another property which he purchased later.
Harry was a member of the Brighton Historical Society and furnished much information to Mrs. Sambells*, secretary of the B.H.S about the early days of Brighton.

An event remembered in the district for many years was the marriage in 1905 of Harry Boxshall and Violet Izzard performed at a double wedding ceremony with Jim Hatty and Letitia Cox, both now deceased, but also of early Yallock families.
The marriage took place at the Yallock Hall, St Savour’s Church of England, Yallock, being built shortly after. The ceremony was followed by a grand reception and dance to which all the district was invited and helped to provide the repast.
Harry and Violet Boxshall raised a family of 3 sons, Oswald, Horace and Roland and one daughter, Beatrix, who with the exception of Horace (Moe) reside at Yallock.
Mrs Boxshall passed away in 1961.

The late Harry Boxshall was a foundation member and secretary of the first Yallock Cricket Club and was recognised as a champion back-stop in the district associations. He played in Yallock’s first match against Yannathan team in 1896.
He had a very retentive memory and could relate amusing anecdotes and interesting details about early matches.
Of special interest to him was the Yallock State School, of which he was correspondent for a period of 20 years.
An accomplished historian on the Yallock district, Harry Boxshall compiled a history of the school, district and personalities, which was recently published in this paper.
He was a regular guest at the Yallock school education days and this year enjoyed his day out at both the Yallock and Caldermeade schools’ open days.

To members of his family is extended the sympathy of the community in the passing of this respected gentleman.
A very large crowd of local identities gathered at St Savour’s Church of England, Yallock on Tuesday for the funeral service following which the cortege proceeded to the Lang Lang Cemetery.

* I think it is Sambells, I can't read the first letter of the surname in the newspaper report, as it is in the fold of the pages.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Families at Yallock by H.J. Boxshall

Families at Yallock this was written by H.J. Boxshall, it was published in The Good Country: Cranbourne Shire by Niel Gunson.  Families at Yallock was from Mr Boxshall's  work History of Yallock Village Settlement - it was published in the Koo Wee Rup Sun over three weeks in June /July 1968 - I will transcribe it one day.

Henry John Boxshall was born on December 31, 1880 to Thomas and Elizabeth (nee Mills) Boxshall, they had seven other children. Thomas was the curator of the Exhibition Gardens in Carlton for fourteen years, and in 1895 the family moved to Yallock.  Thomas died in 1917 and Elizabeth in 1925, they are both buried at the Brighton Cemetery.  Thomas' father James Boxshall, was a Dendy migrant and he and his family had come to Victoria on the Earl of Durham in 1842 and settled at Brighton. Boxshall Street in Brighton is named after the family. You can read Thomas' obituary in the Brighton Southern Cross of January 9, 1904, here. In 1905, Henry married Violet Izzard, from another pioneering Yallock family. They had three children who died as infants, Clifford, Daphne and Donald and three sons, Oswald, Horace and Roland and one daughter, Beatrix, who all lived to adulthood.  Violet was born in November 1880 and died in September 1960. Henry remained at Yallock until his death on November 24, 1968. He and Violet are buried at Lang Lang. Most of this information comes from Henry's obituary in the Koo Wee Rup Sun of November 27, 1968. It is transcribed, here.

The following is Mr Boxshall's account, which I transcribed from The Good Country: Cranbourne Shire. I haven't altered the punctuation but I have separated the text into paragraphs, to make it a bit easier to read.

 Families at Yallock by H.J. Boxshall

The following are the names of the firstcomers to settle on their blocks at Yallock, starting at the corner of Finck’s Road - the No. 5 Road; when known, former occupations are given in brackets. The corner block was occupied by W. Donaldson (bricklayer) them A. Renfrew (furniture salesman) H. Treeby (labourer) J. Treeby (farm labourer) were next, then my father T. Boxshall (landscape gardener). Mr Boxshall was for 14 years foreman of the Exhibition Gardens, Carlton, and had laid out a large area of those gardens, an elder brother of mine A. Boxshall (engine driver Vict. Rlys) was next. H Scharf (carpenter) came next. Mr Scharf had left Germany to escape militarism, two of his sons enlisted in World War 1 and both were killed in France. W. Chance was on the next block and next to him O.W. Reitchel (bricklayer) on the corner block at the Hall Road was M.O Donald (mail contractor and studmaster), the last four allotments mentioned are now occupied by Mr Geo. Peck.

The block now owned by Mr Deppeler was occupied by E. Rossiter, the 60 acres now owned by Mr Still belonged to the Lyall family, on the corner block now F. Stephens’ was Mr Simmill (blacksmith). Mr J. Jones was first on the block now owned by Mr F. Ashby. Mr Jones was a saddler by trade, next to Jones was Arthur Orford (labourer) his house was burned down during the bushfires of 1897, he then left the district.

The first on the block opposite the Hall and now belonging to the Bailey family were Mr Kroschell, Mr Glowasky whose son was later a well known member of the Victorian Police Force. Mr Chas Woodman owned these two allotments for some years. One of the earliest settlers was Mr F.P Stephens (farmer) he donated land for the Church of England, his son Mr F. Stephens now resides on the property, next was Mr Priestly, Senior. Mr E. Bateson followed him and lived on the property some years. Mr Bateson was a member of the first School Committee, he donated land for the Methodist Church, the Ashby family now own that farm, Mr Geo Wright (builder) lived on the corner block owned by Mr C. Brazil - names I recall further east and on McKays Road are G. Richardson, Geo. Casey, J. McKay, J. Orchard. B. Lineham, W. Cadee, L. Coates, J. Teckleson, T. O’Shea and W. Cameron.

The land for the hall was given by Mr Fred. Simmill who owned that block, next on O’Brien’s Road was T. Harker, now owned by Stephens and Thompson, Mr J. McGhee was next, Mr F. Lineham occupies that property now. Mr W. Harker owned the block at the corner of O’Brien’s Road and No. 6 road, also on O’Brien’s Road lived Mr J.T. O’Brien, a local Cranbourne Shire Councillor for many years, he was a former overseer on the drain works. Mr James Stevens (a Sailor) was next, this farm was afterwards owned by Mr A. Dalyrimple, a School Committee man for some years, after his departure it was taken over by Mr Horace Barr (A.I.F.) Mr W. Fechner now owns it.

The first to live on the block now owned by Mr W. Thomas was Mr A.T. (Dick) Priestly, son of Mr Priestly mentioned before. Mr Priestly afterwards had a general store in Lang Lang and a farm at Yannathan, next to Priestly’s was Mr E. Powis who kept a boarding house at Dandenong, his son H. Powis lived on the block, he was a well known footballer at Dandenong and at one time played for Essendon League, he was also a member of the local cricket and football clubs. On the outbreak of the Boer War he enlisted, was a member of the Fifth Contingent and served in S. Africa, when World War 1 started he again enlisted and saw service abroad.

Early comers who did not stay long were Chas. Williams and a man named Rodgers, the latter was the first on the block lived on for years by the Gudgin family. Salisbury was the name of the man who took over from Rogers, then came the Gudgin family. Mr Gudgin Sen. Was followed by his son William and then his grandson Harold, this property is now owned by Mr Geo. Light. On the School Road, close to the School was Mr C.J. Izzard (saddler) who donated the ground for the school. Mr Izzard was Secretary of the first Yallock Progress Association. Where Mr Light now lives was Robert Fountain, on the next block was Mr D. Ware, Mr E. Collyer, one of our earliest School Committee men, followed Mr Ware, that block is now owned by Mr W. Fechner, on the block now occupied by Mr Fechner was Mr W. Hatty Sen., others to live on that block were Mr Savage, D. Cahill and S. Flewin, Mr W. Hatty Jun. was on the next allotment, the corner block was first owned by Mrs Brown, Mr D. Abel now owns those blocks, Mr W.A. Cox lived for a while on one of those blocks now owned by Mr A.M Bethune.

The first to live on the block now occupied by Mr T. Light was Charles Ware a former road contractor, on the next block was Thomas Kirwin (farm labourer) and next was Mr A. J. Cox (Bootmaker). Mr J. C Hatty was first on the block now where Mrs. Humphrey lives. Mr Wise (late A.I.F) also loved there for some years. Early settlers on the No.6 or Catani Road were: Mr F. O’Neil, E. Giggins, W.R. Donaldson, V. Blythe (Mr Blythe was an ex-serviceman and was for some years president of the local branch of the V.D.A.)

On Finck’s Road adjoining Donaldson’s were: J. Yeaman (Engine Driver) next B.J. Cox, father of George Cox who now lives there. On the next allotment was H. Reid who left his block when his house was destroyed by fire. On the Finck’s and No. 6 Roads where Mr E. Kane lives was W. Nichol’s and later Chas. Woodman, the block across the road was first owned by W. Scanlon. Mr L. W. Finck Sen., was next. Mr Finck was Secretary for the School Committee for many years and also Secretary for the Hall Committee.

A former member of Parliament names Tetherly, who at one time represented Ballarat in Victorian Legislative Assembly, had a block on the Yallock creek bank, there he put up  a tent and started to clear some of the land for a garden, he had only put in  a few weeks work when the creek flooded over and washed him out, he gathered up his belongings and left, never to return. Next to Tetherly’s  Mr T. Pretty built a home right on the creek bank, when the creek flooded the water was soon running through the house and Mr Pretty and his family had to wade knee-deep through the flood and take refuge with a more fortunate neighbour, by midnight the house was half submerged, after the flood subsided Mr Pretty lost no time in moving his house to higher ground. Another sufferer from that flood was a Mr Taylor who built himself a wattle and daub hut close to the creek, the water rose too fast for Mr Taylor, an elderly man, to get out and he managed to get on to the roof of his shack where he remained all night, he was rescued early next morning by Mr. C. Ware, who rode his horse, a powerful draught, through the flood to the hut and brought Taylor to dry land, that experience was enough for Mr Taylor, he also departed never to return. Mr David Gray then took over the blocks vacated by Taylor and Tetherly and later he bought Mr Petty’s farm, after World War 1 he sold the place to the Repatriation Commission. Mr H.V. Izzard (late A.I.F.) lived there for some years, when owing to illhealth, he had to leave and go on to a small farm at Hallam Valley. Mr L.W. Finck Junr, also a former serviceman now owns that property.

I would like to record here the name of Fred Crispin who was a share farmer on ‘Quamby’ for a few years prior to 1914. He enlisted soon after the outbreak of the war. Mr Crespin was an accomplished organist and piano player. During his residence at Yallock he was Organist at St Saviour’s Church of England and was also in great demand as a pianist at local dances. Mr Crespin was also a good cricketer and captained the local Eleven during his stay at Yallock, on his return from war he was unable to take up farming again owing to failing health and was given employment in the Lands’ Office at Melbourne, he died soon after taking that position, his passing was greatly regretted by all who knew him.

Monday, August 26, 2019

William Lyall and the Acclimatisation Society

William Lyall, the owner of Harewood, on the South Gippsland Highway, introduced deer to his property in 1868. Lyall was an enthusiastic member of the Acclimatisation  Society which was started in Victoria  in 1861.The object of this Society was the introduction, acclimatisation, and domestication of all innoxious animals, birds, fishes insects, and vegetables, whether useful or ornamental ; - the perfection, propagation and hybridisation of races newly introduced or already domesticated; - the spread of indigenous animals, &c. from parts of the colonies where they are already known, to other localities where they are not known. (The Argus February 26, 1861, read full article, here)

From the First Annual report of the Acclimatisation Society,  1862, listing William Lyall as a Committee member.

William Lyall also introduced other species to his property including partridges, pheasants and hares. The following is a report of William Lyall’s attempt to introduce hares and the casual manner in which some early settlers sought to eradicate native fauna to protect the introduced species.

Hares. — Mr. Lyall, of Frogmore [Carnegie], turned out some English hares a year or two ago on his property at Western Port. The spot he selected lies between the shore of the bay and some cultivated ground. About the spot there is plenty of clover in the form of low bushes and tall grass and solsolaceous plants. Since the hares were first turned out they have been occasionally seen, have bred, and have also appeared to be thriving well. We regret to learn, however, that an enemy, has lately attacked and killed one or two grown ones. This is a species of hawk, which either strikes them when running or darts down upon them. We should like to know what hawk it is for there are very few here large enough to attempt anything of the kind. The Australian eagle commonly called an "eagle-hawk" has been known to stoop and carry off kangaroo rats, &c, and we suppose it is this bird which has killed Mr. Lyall's hares as it is also often very destructive to young Iambs.

Strychnine is the best remedy, and in many parts of the colony it has been so much used in that eagles are not so numerous as in former years. The best mode of applying it is this - Place the skinned carcase of any dead animal on an open piece of ground that it may be seen easily; score the fleshy parts with a knife, making the cuts within half an inch of each other, and sprinkle into them a few grains of strychnine crushed to a fine powder between two pieces of writing paper. We have seen five or six poisoned a single day. (Freeman’s Journal April 5, 1862, see article here.)

Hard to believe that you would kill a wedge-tailed eagle, they are so magnificent to watch. I was going to say that they were different times then, but there was a case last year where a man was charged with poisoning over 400 eagles in East Gippsland, so sadly, it still happens.

This is a letter, written to the Acclimatisation Society, from William Lyall about his success with some of his introduced species.
Yallock, Sept 29, 1865.
Dear Sir - A sight of the Sambur deer has just put me in mind of my duty to the  Society - that is, to report progress. The animals entrusted to my care have, l am happy to say thriven remarkably well. The three does have three fine fawns, and all are in fine condition. To-day, a doe and a buck were enjoying themselves by taking a swim in a waterhole—indeed, they appear to be fond of the water: so much so, that I am bound to believe that swamps must be their natural habitat. I feel certain that all the islands in the great swamp will, in time, become stocked with the magnificent Sambur deer. At present there is rally one of the bucks (the youngest) remaining with the does: another has taken possession of the garden here, and a very bad gardener he has proved himself to be, I propose having him taken over to join the does in the swamp, where he will he out of harms way. I believe that this part of the colony is, perhaps, better adapted for a home for the pheasant than any other part of Victoria. If the council will send a few down, I win take charge of them.
My hares are doing well and are spreading over the country.
Wishing the society every success, believe
me, dear sir, yours very truly.
WILLIAM LYALL.  (Australasian, October 7, 1865, see letter, here)

A report in 1919 said that deer are to be found in the scrub around Koo-wee-rup
Swamp and Lang Lang, but they are scarce now, having been thinned down by settlers. (The Argus, March 21 1919) There are still plenty of hares around, we have heaps of them at Cora Lynn, which I guess we can ‘thank’ Mr Lyall for.

Monday, July 1, 2019

The Mickle Family

John Mickle (1814-1885) arrived in Melbourne in 1838. He came from Berwickshire in Scotland, where his family were farmers, and not especially wealthy, but John was ambitious and an astute businessman. He set up as a Stock and Station agent and was later joined by John Bakewell.  In 1848, they sold out to Richard Goldsborough who later established the Goldsborough Mort Company which merged with Elders Smith in 1962.

In 1851, Mickle and Bakewell joined with William Lyall and formed the partnership of Mickle, Bakewell and Lyall.  Previous to this, John had built a house in Collingwood, and owned seven acres of land adjoining Chapel Street in Prahran, which was valued at £100 per acre. Mickle and John Bakewell then purchased 159 aces in Kew  - the 75 acres facing Studley Park Road cost them £20 per acre and the rest £13 per acre. The pair then held various large properties in Victoria and in 1851 Mickle and Bakewell with William Lyall took up the Tobin Yallock (also called Yallock) run of 1,920 acres – this run was located on the Yallock Creek. In the same year they acquired Red Bluff (south of Lang Lang) and then the Tooradin Run in 1852 and the Great Swamp Run in 1854. The partnership was dissolved in 1857 and Mickle ended up with the Upper Yallock Run, renamed Monomeith.

By 1854, the trio were seriously wealthy. Mickle had married Margaret Lyall (William’s sister) in 1851 and in 1854 they all returned to Great Britain for a holiday - John and Margaret Mickle, her mother and her brother, William Lyall, and his wife Annabelle and their three children; John Bakewell and his brother also went plus about seven others. The group embarked on February 25, and did not clear the Heads at the entrance to Port Phillip Bay until March 1; they arrived in London on May 22. The party toured London and other parts of England.  John and Margaret Mickle returned to Melbourne in 1857 and had a house at the top end of Collins Street. However in 1861 they left again and sailed to the port of Suez in Egypt and then overlanded to London and then onto Scotland. They purchased a house in Scotland and John died there in 1885 at the age of 71.  Two personal facts about John Mickle - he was  a man who strictly celebrated the Sabbath and he was described as a  ‘huge man’, well over six foot tall, taller than his wife Margaret who at six foot tall was extraordinarily tall for  a woman in those days. They must have been an imposing looking couple.

Other members of the Mickle family also came to Australia including John’s brother, Alexander, in 1855 and his cousin Andrew Hudson. It was Alexander, Andrew and William Lyall who managed the Mickle property on behalf of John and Margaret whilst they were overseas. Alexander and his wife, Agnes, settled on the Yallock property, having come by bullock dray to Tooradin, and then by boat to the Yallock Creek. They later moved onto a new house on the Monomeith property. Sadly, in November 1861, at the age of 33, Alexander died from appendicitis and peritonitis leaving Agnes a widow, with two young children, David (b. 1858) and Margaret Isobel (b.1860) and eight months pregnant with their third child. On the day Alexander died, the only other person on the property was “the lad” John Payne, who had to ride into Cranbourne for the Police and to arrange the funeral. Four weeks after the death of his father, John Alexander Mickle, was born on Boxing Day.

Right - John Mickle (1814 - 1885)

Agnes married Andrew Hudson in 1865 and she had two more children. They lived at Monomeith where Andrew operated a dairy and made cheeses, and later lived on the Warook property (the existing Warook homestead was built by the Greaves family in 1906). Again sadly, Andrew Hudson died in 1888, aged 55, shortly before the family were to move into the newly built The Grange, in Koo Wee Rup. Agnes remained at The Grange until she died in 1913, aged 86.  The Grange was sold out of the family by her son, James Hudson, in 1920; some of the land was sub-divided and Sybella Avenue was laid out in 1921. The Grange homestead is still standing and was also used for the first Presbyterian Church services in Koo Wee Rup, until the existing church opened in 1896.

Back to Alexander and Agnes - their son, David, married Alice Atyeo and they were the parents of Alexander; David, the local historian, and Fred.  They lived at Wellfield a property on the south side of The Grange, consisting of 300 acres. It was named because of the good supply of underground water.  Isabel married Richard Scott of Poowong and they had seven children.  John, the baby born after his father died, married Laura Leggo of Ballarat and they had two children. John owned the 300 acre Lauriston Park in Koo Wee Rup. The part of his land with a frontage to Rossiter Road was subdivided in the 1920s and later, around 1926, John and Alexander and Mickle Streets were created.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Thomas Roxburgh - Asparagus Pioneer

Over ninety percent of Australian asparagus is grown on the Koo Wee Rup Swamp and asparagus has been commercially grown in this region for over 100 years, so this is a look at the early history of asparagus growing on the Swamp.

The first mention I can find of asparagus was in The Australasian of October 31, 1896.  There was a report on James Pincott’s farm about three miles from Bunyip, one of the most interesting and best managed in the settlement. Mr. Pincott carried out some experiments for six months for the Agricultural Department on this plot, when the fertility of the soil was being tested, and the place locally has consequently become known as the “experimental farm." He grew potatoes, onions, strawberries, and clover, amongst other crops and found that Asparagus and celery can be raised to wonderful perfection.

The next reference was in The Age of May 10, 1912 when it was reported that Thomas Roxburgh, had planted asparagus at his farm on the Koo Wee Rup Swamp. Mr. Roxburgh who, although a busy man in Melbourne, pays a good deal of attention to his farm at Iona, and for a considerable time has experimented in the cultivation of asparagus. Some three years ago he put in one acre as a test, adopting the American principle of planting 1 foot in depth and 3 feet between the plants, with rows 10 feet apart, so as to allow of cultivation between, the soil being of a peaty nature. Now he has nine acres under asparagus, and intends extending the area, as the managers of hotels and cafes in Melbourne have advised him that the asparagus is of the finest quality. This article puts Roxburgh’s first planting in 1909; he had imported the seed from California.

Who was Thomas Roxburgh and where was his farm? His farm, Cheriton Park, was on the corner of Fallon Road and Simpson Road at Vervale, even though it is also listed in the papers as being at Iona, Garfield or Catani. The farm was locally known as Roxburgh Park and was 350 acres.

Thomas Roxburgh was born in Jamaica, West Indies to Adam Roxburgh and Jane Watson. The family arrived in Melbourne on September 28, 1853 when Thomas was two years old. They moved to Ballarat which was where he married Sarah Anne Holthouse on July 2, 1879. Sarah was the daughter of Ballarat’s well known and most esteemed citizen, Dr Thomas Le Gay Holthouse, as he was described in a newspaper report,  and his wife Hanna (nee Pratt).

Thomas and Sarah had seven children - Edith Jenny (1880-1881), Mabel Stella (1881-1970), Leslie Le Gay (1884 -1969, married the delightfully named Miss Widgie Potts of Narrabri, NSW,  in 1915. Her real name was the more prosaic Ann), Reginald Owen (1889-1953, 1st A.I.F), Dorothy Alice (1890-1987), Leeuwin Beatrice (1895 - 1981, married Peter Charles Ferguson, of Barcaldine, QLD,  in 1924),  and Mary Hope Bradgate (1899 - 1978, married Jeffrey Ivey Retallack in 1942). The first two children were born in Ballarat and the rest in Hawthorn. Sarah Anne Roxburgh died on 1942, aged 84. Thomas and Sarah are buried at Brighton Cemetery. Interestingly, their name is spelt as Roxburghe on the head stone. 

Thomas Roxburgh (1851 - 1931)
The Argus December 31, 1931

According to his obituary, Thomas became a member of the firm of James Fry and Co., wheat millers and ship charterers. In 1895 Mr. Roxburgh commenced business on his own account as a grain and shipping broker in Collins-street, and this business he personally conducted practically up to the time of his death. He did a large business, with the East, and was agent for steamers trading with Japan. (The Age, December 30, 1931)

Thomas died on December 29, 1931 and his pall bearers were - Sir James Elder, trade advisor to the Commonwealth Governement and Director of Goldsbrough Mort pastoral company. Read his entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography, here; Japanese Merchant, Mr T. Hirai - I have no more information about him at the moment, but maybe connected to the Japan-Australia line of which Roxburgh was an agent; Walter Herbert Sollas, shipping agent, died 1933 aged 78; William Howell Swanton, Director of William Crosby & Co. - Ships Agents, Charterers and merchants, died 1951 aged 88; John Fordyce, General Manager Union Bank, Collins Street, died 1942, aged 78; Norman Seale, chairman of the Victorian Stevedoring Co.; Aubrey Clifton Matthews, who later became a Director of the Roxburgh Company; W. Parbury - presumably connected to the firm of Parbury, Henty & Co, merchants and importers and exporters.  

Back to Thomas and his asparagus - Roxburgh did not personally work on the farm, he employed a farm manager and by 1927 it was reported he had planted 100 acres of asparagus, and his farm was one of the most lucrative farms on the Kooweerup Swamp area, as a ready sale is found for the product at £1 per box. The rich, peaty soil is particularly adapted for the production of the plant, which grows to perfection. (The Age, September 28, 1927). By 1932, the farm had 120 acres under asparagus and in the cutting season 20 to 25 men are employed every day, and from 10cwt. to 15cwt. of asparagus a day are despatched. [cwt - hundred weight or 112 pounds or 50 kg]. (The Argus, April 2, 1932)

It seems that most of the asparagus was canned by either the Gartside cannery at Dingley or the Rosella Preserving Company or A.J.C. (Australasian Jam Company).

During the Second World War, the Roxburgh farm had the Australian Women’s Land Army (AWLA) girls working on the property. The AWLA was established to fill the gap in agricultural workers due to the War. They had training at Mont Park or the Werribee Research Station and were then allocated to farms.

Australian Women's Land Army girls - Naida Rose and Jennie Shouewille working on Roxburgh's farm.
The Australasian November 21, 1942.
View this and other photos here

The Argus of November 11, 1942 interviewed Mr G. Roxburgh (this was Thomas’ son Leslie Le Gay, who was listed in the Electoral Roll at Vervale, occupation farm manager) - about the Land Army 'girls' and the  family farm which was growing asparagus for the use of the Army. Mr Roxburgh was quoted as being “very proud of the girls. He finds them fine workers, though physically they cannot stand up to the same speed of work as the men. He thinks that 5 girls can do the work of 3 men”. “They are steady workers," Mr Roxburgh said, "and once I have told them what fields I want done I do not have to worry again.” The women did the cutting, placing the spears into bundles, the picking up of the bundles onto the cart and also worked in the packing shed. The report goes onto describe the living conditions - There are 20 girls, and they live in a camp on the estate, where they sleep in tents and have a small recreation hut. The camp is run on the lines of a Girl Guides' camp, as 2 of the girls first there are Guides, and they helped to establish the camp. The day is a long one. The girls rise at 6.15 and are in the fields at 7.30. They have one hour for lunch, 12 to 1, when they all go to the cookhouse for a generous hot meal, and then spend 20 minutes or so in their tents resting. Work finishes about 5.30, or sometimes earlier if they are able to get through their day's work quicker. In spite of this long day, the reporter said that after work the girls often ride the 6 miles on bicycles to Garfield, to go to the pictures or to a dance. The day I was there several girls were going to walk 2 or 3 miles to a dance!

Australian Women's Land Army girl - Norma Elliott working on Roxburgh's farm.
The Australasian November 21, 1942. 
View this and other photos here

All the asparagus produced was being sent to the canneries for the American Army, as it had been declared a ‘luxury item’ by the Commonwealth Government. Mr Gartside was not happy about this and he was interviewed by the Herald on June 1, 1943 - Canneries which had processed practically the entire output, were virtually told that tins could not be provided for asparagus designed for civilian consumption. Instead of canning asparagus in long spears, canneries had been ordered to cut it into small soup pieces, which turned good food into pig's food, claimed Mr Gartside. Both civilians and service personnel were prevented from eating asparagus as it should be eaten—long spears dipped in melted butter or iced — and troops would have to eat it in soup or with a fork.

Australian Women's Land Army girls - setting out for the field after their midday rest on Roxburgh's farm.
The Australasian November 21, 1942. 
View this and other photos here

From October 1944 there was a small Italian Prisoner of War Camp at Koo Wee Rup (read more here) and the men were allocated to work on various local farms, including the Roxburgh farm. My Dad, Frank Rouse, who was ten at the time, remembers truckloads of the prisoners driving down the road to the farm in the morning, one guard on each truck. At lunch time a food van with a portable cooker would go the farm to feed them. 

Cheriton Park was sold in 1947 to A.J.C and by that time it had 125 acres of asparagus under production. A report in the Weekly Times of November 24, 1939 said that the Koo Wee Rup Swamp had 1,300 acres under asparagus. There were two other early growers that I found reports on.  The Weekly Times of March 22, 1941 reported that Mr Alf Ellett had noticed that after the 1937 flood, asparagus that he had planted in his garden grew well, so he started planting the crop on a commercial basis and by 1941 had nineteen acres sown with seedlings in hand to sow another 10 acres. Also, in the Weekly Times, this time on September 14, 1944, there was an obituary for Charles William Wadsley, who died in 1944 at the age of 53. The Obituary described him thus -  He was an expert on asparagus growing, and in addition to his own property [Strathellen]  supervised an asparagus farm at Geelong.

Finally, there was an interview in the Pakenham Gazette of December 8, 1999 with Bill Roxburgh, the grandson of Thomas. In the interview Bill talks about how his grandfather, who owned Cheriton Park, had planted all different kinds of trees on a five acre section of his land and had built his own park to relax in. Some of the trees are still there.

Some of the trees planted by Thomas Roxburgh at Cheriton Park.
(photo taken about 2010)

I have created a list of newspaper articles on Trove on asparagus growing on the Koo Wee Rup Swamp in the early days and Thomas Roxburgh, you can access it, here.