About this blog

This blog is about the history of the Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp and neighbouring areas, such as Pakenham, Cranbourne and Garfield, and any other historical subjects I feel like writing about. It's my own original research and writing and if you live in the area you may have read some of the stories before in the Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp Historical Society newsletter or the Koo-Wee-Rup township newsletter, The Blackfish, or the Garfield township newsletter, The Spectator.
Heather Arnold.

Friday, December 22, 2017

A short history of Bunyip

I wrote this for the 35th birthday of the Bunyip & District Community News, and it was published in the October 2017 edition.

The first European settlers in the Bunyip region were squatters who leased the two Connabul Creek runs, which were located between the Ararat Creek and the Bunyip River. In 1845, Connabul Creek 1 run of 8,960 acres was leased by Michael Ready (or Reedy) and James Hook and Connabul Creek 2 run was leased by Terence O’Connor and a Mr Hayes. The other squatting run in the area was the 30,000 acre Bunyeep Bunyeep Run, which was located between the Bunyip River and the Tarago River and taken up in 1849 by Henry Jennings. Around the same time as these squatting runs were taken up (1847) a road was surveyed from Dandenong to the Bunyip River (in the vicinity of were Ellis Road meets the river) and the township of Bunyeep developed there.

This town was surveyed in the 1850s - it had a High Street and a Barkly Street and eleven blocks - two owned by A. McKinnon, two by W.M.K Vale and the rest by David Connor, who built the Bunyeep Inn around 1854. In 1867, Connor built a new hotel called the New Bunyip Inn.  This was built on the Bunyip River on the Gippsland Road, as the Princes Highway was then called. It was on the south side of the Highway, just east of A'Beckett Road and the west side of the Bunyip River.  A small settlement developed around the Inn, William Snell built a bakery in 1878 and a dance hall was erected by Mr Hyne, opposite the Inn. The New Bunyip Inn was closed by the Licensing Reduction Board in 1917.  It is possible that this small township on the Bunyip River would have developed into a sizable town however the arrival of the railways in 1877 moved the settlement further south and the modern town of Bunyip developed around the railway station.

Bunnyip Hotel, North Gippsland.  [David Connor's New Bunyip Inn] Photographer: Fred Kruger
 State Library of Victoria Image H41138/11

The railway line from Oakleigh to Bunyip opened on (depending on what source you use) October 4 or October 8, 1877.  There is a description of Bunyip in The Argus of October 4 from a journalist who took a trip down the railway line before the official opening - There are no visible settlements at the Bunyip at present, save such as have been temporarily called into existence by the railway works, but the hills on the north are stated to have been all selected. Two red-wood cottages have been built at the back of the station, apparently for the purposes of trade. On the whole, the scene is very desolate, and the traveller tempted by railway time-tables to ran down into Gipps Land, will be strongly persuaded when he steps from the train into the open space which has been hewn out of the Bunyip forest to postpone his visit, and hasten back to Melbourne, unless he is of dauntless mind, and hardened to toilsome bush roads.

Another report that contains a description of Bunyip was in the South Bourke & Mornington Journal on August 3, 1887 -  it has two hotels, well conducted by Messrs. Hanson and Finch. These two hostelries, with Mr. Barrow's general store, amicably uniting themselves pretty well form the township. There are also one or two unpretentious dwelling houses about, and a State School.

As is usual in many country towns some of the first establishments were hotels and, according to Denise Nest’s book The Call of the Bunyip, two Hotels opened in 1876 - the Butcher's Arms and the Bunyip Hotel. John O'Brien had the licence for the Bunyip Hotel and in January 1877 he took up the licence for the Railway Family Hotel.  I don’t know if these hotels were the ‘red wood cottages set up for the purpose of trade’ as described by the journalist above.

John O'Brien's tenure at the Family Hotel didn't last very long as it was sold up by the Sherrifs Office in May 1881, according to an advertisement in The Argus. I am a bit hazy on the early details of these hotels - by 1884 there are various advertisements for Lawrence Finch's Gippsland Hotel at Bunyip - this Hotel is still in existence (it's known as the Top Pub); in 1897 Sarah Alice Finch was listed as the licensee and William Kraft took over, sometime between October 1898 and September 1899, according to the Shire of Berwick Rate Books.   I don't know when the original building was replaced by the existing two storey brick building. The other hotel in Bunyip today is the Railway Hotel - Thomas Stacey is listed as a publican in the Shire of Berwick Rate books in 1890 and he had it for many years, but I am unsure of the connection, if any, between the Railway Hotel and early hotels - was John O'Brien's Railway Family Hotel the same hotel as the Railway Hotel or was it the Butcher's Arms? The Railway Hotel was destroyed by fire in 1924 and the new building, which is the existing building, opened in October of the same year.

The settlement on the Koo Wee Rup Swamp from around 1893 helped the development of Bunyip and Garfield as they were service centres for the surrounding farm lands. The 1903 Electoral Roll shows that Bunyip had 355 adults enrolled of which just under half were female. The occupations listed in the Roll give us idea of the sort of services were available in the town. As you might expect, most of the men were farmers or labourers but there were also railway employees, a carpenter, draper, coach builder, store keepers, baker, gardener, butcher, Hotel keeper and even one sailor. The women overwhelmingly had their occupation listed as ‘home duties’ but there was a dressmaker, a music teacher, a teacher and a saleswoman.

The population of Bunyip increased at a steady rate - in 1921 it was 694; 1933 - 744 and 1961 - 959. It then remained almost static for 25 years as in 1986 it was still only 986. The largest increase has come in the last 20 years when from 1996 to the 2016 Census the population doubled from 1,011 to 2,468.

As the population grew all the necessary trappings of a 'civilised' life developed - the State School opened at the start of 1880; the hotel keeper William Kraft built a hall, which was replaced by the original Mechanics' Institute Hall in 1906 (this hall burnt down in 1940 and the existing hall was opened in1942). Church services had taken place in the hall and private homes until the Methodist Church was opened in 1899 and the Anglican Church in 1902. The Presbyterian Church (now Uniting) was not opened until 1954.

Community groups such as the Agricultural, Pastoral and Horticultural Society was established in 1899; a football club and a cricket club sometime in the 1890s and Bunyip even had ‘young ladies’ cricket team which started in 1909.  The ‘ladies basketball’ club (netball) began in the 1930s. The Fire Brigade started in October 1942. The First Bunyip Scout Troop commenced in 1910 and the Girl Guides in 1959. On the welfare front - the Country Women’s Association started in 1936 and the Baby Health Centre the same decade.  A private Hospital was built in 1912 and another in the 1930s. The Shelley Memorial Hospital at Bunyip was officially opened on March 19, 1966 and closed on May 1, 1991. The building is now part of Hillview Hostel.

There are, of course, many other Community groups or institutions which have played a role in the life of Bunyip residents but we don’t have the space to go into it here. The Call of the Bunyip by Denise Nest, which I mentioned before, has information on some of these groups. You can buy this book from the Bunyip Historical Society. However, we can’t finish this short history of Bunyip without mentioning this publication, the volunteer run Bunyip & District Community News, which has been recording the activities of the area for 35 years.  Congratulations to the News team and we look forward to the next 35 years!

Koo Wee Rup Water Tower

As early as 1918 there was agitation for a water supply scheme in Koo Wee Rup and this issue came up periodically with the Koo Wee Rup Progress Association. In 1927, the Victorian Railways said that they would be able to use about 14 million gallons of water annually from any water supply scheme (this was in the days of steam trains) which would make a system more viable and so a Committee was formed to push the issue and get rate payer support. Eventually, the Koo Wee Rup Water Works Trust was formed and the first meeting was held at the Memorial Hall on Tuesday, March 12 1929. We don’t really know what happened at this meeting as the next edition of the Koo Wee Rup Sun reported that the Press was ‘gagged’. According to the Sun, Commissioner William ‘Ernie’ Mills was apparently of the opinion that ‘the public should only be supplied with information that the Trust deems fit’. Ironically it was the rate payer’s representatives on the Trust - Mills, W.K Paterson and William Eason - who voted for the exclusion of the Press, while the Government nominees - Matthew Bennett, M.L.A. and George Burhop - voted against the exclusion of the Press.

The next evidence we can find regarding the workings of the Trust was that the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission had approved the plans for the water scheme and applications for tenders for the work were advertised in the June 27, 1929 Koo Wee Rup Sun and the results were announced in the October 24 paper. The tenders were for the construction of Head works, including an elevated reinforced concrete tank and settling basin - awarded to Monier Pipe Construction Co. - tender price was £4985.00; Supply of pumping machinery- McDonald & Co.; Trenching and laying of pipes - G.L Clemson £628.00; Manufacture of cast iron pipes - Monteath & Sons, South Melbourne £1214; Galvanised pipes - John Danks & Son £287; Cartage of pipes - A.J Gilchrist of Koo-Wee-Rup £18 18 shillings. The Engineer in Charge was Mr A.C Leith, who was also Secretary of the Society of Engineers.

The Sun reported in their March 6, 1930 edition that the Press gag was lifted and there was a report on the progress of the works. The official opening of the Water Scheme took place on Thursday, May 1 1930. The Opening Ceremony was attended by Mr Matthew Bennett, M.L.A, who was standing in for the Minister of Lands and Water Supply, Mr Bailey; SRWSC Engineer Mr Neville and representatives from the Companies involved in the construction of the scheme and the Victorian Railways. Commissioner W.E. Mills said in his address that the area was going ahead and would continue to forge ahead due to the surrounding rich agricultural land. He also said that old residents would know that land that was worth 5 shillings per foot, ten to fifteen years ago, was now worth £12 per foot. Another benefit of the water supply was that it would make their homes more picturesque and that from a social point of view the water supply would enable the construction of a bowling green and croquet lawn. Mr Bennett, M.L.A., talked about the health benefits of a water supply as streets could be flushed and that would make for cleanliness and health and the water supply was also a protection against fires. Mr Bennett, then turned a tap and allowed water to flow into a street channel and the scheme was declared open.

How did the Scheme work?
Water was obtained from the Bunyip Canal (Main Drain) and was pumped into a concrete settling basin of 160,000 gallons (one gallon is about 4.5 litres) having passed through a filtration process. It was then pumped into a 90 foot (about 27 metres) tower which had an 83,000 gallon capacity. The water was then distributed around the town. In the March 27, 1930 Koo Wee Rup Sun there was a notice to owners of properties that pipes had been laid in Station, Moody, Salmon, Henry, Gardiner and Charles Streets; Rossiter and Denhams Roads and Alexander and Sybella Avenues. Householders were required to lay a pipe and stop cock to their properties to be connected to the main pipe. The water rates were set at minimum charge of 30 shillings for a residence and 15 shillings for a vacant block. In the December of 1930 the water consumption since the Scheme started was 800,000 gallons of which the Railways had used 635, 000 gallons. On January 13, 1931 35,000 gallons was consumed in one day.

In the end, Koo Wee Rup not only got a reliable water supply but also a landmark construction which is still prominent today.

The Western Port Road

The Western Port Road started at Dandenong and traversed the old Shire of Cranbourne from Cranbourne to Tooradin to Tobin Yallock (the original Lang Lang township). This section is now known as the South Gippsland Highway. The road later continued onto Corinella and Bass and this section eventually became known as the Bass Highway.  The section of road from Dandenong to Tooradin had obviously been passable to some extent as early as 1839 because we know that Samuel Rawson and Robert Jamieson overlanded their cattle to Tooradin in the December of that year and then continued on by boat to their Yallock Station on the Yallock Creek.

Niel Gunson in his book The Good Country: Cranbourne Shire says it was fairly clearly defined by the 1850s, however it wasn’t until 1859 that a permanent roadway was surveyed which allowed access by wheeled traffic and livestock. In spite of this, Gunson writes that transporting stock from the Yallock Creek Station to Melbourne still took four days in the 1850s and 1860s. Even though the road was formed it wasn’t until 1868 that the section from Dandenong to Cranbourne was metalled.

The main problems with the road was the need to cross the inlets (such as Lyall’s and Moody’s Inlets) before bridges were constructed.  In 1845, Edward Cockayne was given the right to operate a ferry service but he was a bit eccentric and unreliable and sometimes ignored the signals of the travellers (such as a lit fire or the firing of a pistol) so they were forced to spend a night marooned on the side of the inlet. His licence was finally cancelled in 1853. Cockayne occupied a hut where Harewood is now located and it is believed that the stables on the property date back to the time of Cockayne’s occupancy. Cockayne Inlet in Western Port Bay is named after Edward.

In 1864, a John Carson offered to conduct a ferry service, but this was declined by the Cranbourne Road Board. In 1865 James Smethurst erected two bridges  over the Inlets, according to Gunson, I am not sure which Inlets he is referring to but the same year the mail contractor, John Murphy, complained about the state of the Yallock and Tobin Yallock bridges.  The bridge at Tooradin was built in 1873.

However, people were resourceful in those days and traversing creeks and inlets didn’t stop commerce and the trappings of civilisation as on November 13, 1860 a weekly mail service was introduced to Corinella via Yallock and by 1865 there was a two day a week coach service from Cranbourne to the Bass River also via Corinella.

The southern end of the Western Port Road was constructed in the 1860s. Joseph White, author of the book One hundred years of history: Shire of Phillip Island and Woolamai 1875-1928, Shire of Bass 1928-1975 said the road was originally surveyed in 1862 and the first route from the settled areas near Tobin Yallock in the Shire of Cranbourne was by a cattle track that kept to the tops of the range as the coastal route was swampy and needed many creek crossings. The opening of the road led to settlement being opened up and as we said before the establishment of a Cobb & Co. coach service. Very little work was done on this section of the road until the Shire was formed in 1875 and it received another boost in 1913 when the Country Roads Board was established and took over responsibility for the road.

There was a report on the state of the Western Port Road in the Leader newspaper of September 19, 1874. The newspaper correspondent was talking about the development of the Grantville area and had this to say about the journey to the settlement.

 A coach (Cobb's) leaves the Star Hotel from Dandenong every morning in week days. There is a very good metalled road from thence to the flourishing post town of Cranbourne - 9 miles - but the remainder of the road from the latter place here is simply execrable. Some portions of it are even worse than execrable, for they are, in this season of the year, and the three months just passed, absolutely dangerous, and do anything but credit to the road surveyor's department. After leaving Cranbourne, there is a couple or three miles of fairly metalled road, but after that (and this passage I pen for the especial benefit of the above department) come the counterparts of the Great Dismal Swamp, and the Valley of the Shadow of Death. One spot in particular, called Frenchman's Hole, or Flat-bottomed Creek, is highly dangerous to a stranger. The mails are carried over this beautiful spot twice a week, on horseback, and no doubt the man who carries them could give a much more graphic account of this picturesque route than myself. Be that as it may, the traffic on it is much on the increase, and I consider it shameful neglect on the part of the post-office authorities not to organise a better system of mail delivery for this district; and the sooner they let us have three deliveries a week instead of two the better for our convenience and their reputation. 

Frenchman’s Hole was near Lang Lang and according to Niel Gunson, a Frenchman had tried to cross the two miles of the flat land but he disappeared down a hole, covered with water and only his hat was ever discovered or so the legend goes.

An Acrostic History of Koo-Wee-Rup

This is an eclectic look at some themes from Koo Wee Rup's  history and the first letter of each theme spells a seasonal greeting!  I did this one for the Koo Wee Rup township newsletter, The Blackfish, in December 2016. I did a similar one for the Garfield township newsletter, The Spectator, in December 2017.  You can read the Garfield one, here.

M is for Mickle. A well known, early family in the area. John Mickle (1814-1885) owned land from the 1850s.  His nephew, also called John Mickle, sub-divided John Street, Mickle Street and Alexander Avenue (now incorrectly called Alexandra) in 1926. Dave Mickle, the great grand nephew of John Mickle wrote the local history books Mickle Memories of Koo-Wee-Rup and More Mickle Memories of Koo-Wee-Rup

E is for Education.  The first School was established in 1884 between Koo-Wee-Rup and Bayles (at Bethunes Road). It was known as the Yallock School, until 1903 when the name was changed to Koo-Wee-Rup. In 1910, the school moved to Rossiter Road (to the Secondary College location) and a new building was built in 1915. In 1953, the Higher Elementary School was completed. This School included both primary and secondary classes (Forms 1 to 3 or Years 7 to 9). The School became a High School in 1957 and shared the building with the primary school students until November 1960 when the Primary School opened in Moody Street.  St John the Baptist Catholic School opened in 1936.

R is for roads, rates and rubbish - the historical purpose of local councils. Koo-Wee-Rup was part of the Cranbourne Road Board district when it was established on June 19, 1860. Then it became part of the Cranbourne Shire when it started on February 24, 1868. Then it was part of the short lived City of Cranbourne which lasted from April 22, 1994 until December 15, 1994, when the City of Cranbourne and was broken up and Koo-Wee-Rup became part of the newly created Cardinia Shire.

R is for Recreation and other Community activities. A Cricket Club started in 1893, the Recreation Reserve opened in 1906, and a football team had started by 1907. The Royal Hotel was erected in 1915. The Masonic Lodge commenced in 1923. The Wattle Picture Theatre was opened in 1927, the same year the Koo-Wee-Rup Electric Light and Power Company supplied electricity to the town. In 1929, the first Koo-Wee-Rup Scout Troop was formed. To add further to the amenity of the town in 1930 the water tower and the water supply system opened and in 1943 the Fire Brigade was formed.

Masonic Lodge at Koo-Wee-Rup. The Lodge was built in 1923 and has since been extended and new facade fitted. Photo courtesy of  Graham Elso.

Y is for Yallock.  The first European settlement in the area was established by Samuel Rawson and Robert Jamieson on the Yallock Creek in 1839. The Yallock Village Settlement, established in the 1890s, was based around Fincks, School, Hall and O'Briens Roads, off Koo-Wee-Rup Longwarry Road. The Bayles Railway Station, which opened in 1922, was the station closest to Yallock and the township which grew around the railway station soon overshadowed the original Yallock settlement.

C is for Carlo Catani. Catani (1852-1918) was a Public Works Department Engineer responsible for the drainage works on the Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp from 1893. He also established the Village Settlements at Yallock, Five Mile, Cora Lynn, Iona etc. The town of Catani is named after him.

H is for Historical Society. The Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp Historical Society was established in 1974 and operates a Museum at Mallow, 325 Rossiter Road, Koo-Wee-Rup.

R is for Religion.  In 1896 the Wesleyan Church from Cranbourne was moved to Koo-Wee-Rup and became the Presbyterian Church. The first Catholic Church was built in 1902 and the current church dates from 1962. The Anglican Church was built in 1917 and closed in 2012 and the congregation moved to the Uniting Church. The Methodist Church (now the Uniting Church) was moved from Yallock to Rossiter Road in 1932.  

St George's Anglican Church, Koo We Rup, 1940s. The building opened in 1917.

I is for Inundation. Early pioneers had to cope with numerous inundations or floods- 1901, 1911, 1923, 1924, 1934, 1935 and 1937 being some of the worst historically. The 1934 flood resulted in the Koo-Wee-Rup township being under two meters of water in places.

S is for Swamp.  The Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp originally covered about 40,000 hectares or 96,000 acres and is part of the Western Port sunkland.  The Chief Engineer of the Public Works Department, William Thwaites (1853 - 1907) surveyed the Swamp in 1887 and his report recommended the construction of the Bunyip Main Drain from where it entered the Swamp, in the north, to Western Port Bay and a number of smaller side drains. A tender was advertised in 1889. In spite of strikes, floods and bad weather by March 1893, the private contractors had constructed the 16 miles of the drain from the Bay to the south of Bunyip and the Public Works Department considered the Swamp was now dry enough for settlement. At one time over 500 men were employed and all the work was done by hand, using axes, shovels, mattocks and wheel barrows. By 1904, over 2,000 people including 1,400 children lived on the Swamp. Many more drains have been added over the years.

T is for Trains. The Koo-Wee-Rup Railway station was opened on August 18, 1889. The Station was originally called Yallock and was re-named Koo-Wee-Rup in 1892. In 1922, Koo-Wee-Rup became a railway junction with the opening of the Strzelecki railway line. This was a boom time for the Station. In 1926 eleven people were employed at the Koo-Wee-Rup Station and they dispatched 50,000 tons of goods and around 7,000 head of livestock were sent or received there. There were 48 passenger trains and 72 goods trains per week. The Strzelecki line was closed in stages and the last stretch from Bayles to Koo-Wee-Rup closed in 1959. Passenger services to Koo-Wee-Rup ceased in June 1981, were reinstated December 1984 and ceased again in July 1993.

M is for Medical Matters.  A Bush Nursing hospital was built in 1910. In 1923 the Memorial Hospital opened in Station Street and moved to a new building in Rossiter Road in 1955. In 1946, the Infant Welfare Centre was opened in a room at the Memorial Hall and in 1953 the Pre-School opened.

The Westernport Memorial Hospital in Koo Wee Rup under construction, photo taken February 5, 1955.
Koo Wee Rup Swamp Historical Society collection

A is for Agriculture. By the 1920s, the Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp was producing one quarter of Victorian potatoes and was also a major producer of dairy products. Today, 93% of all Australian asparagus is produced on the Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp and many other food items are grown including broccolini, strawberries, cabbage, leeks, celery and lettuces. If the Government can resist the temptation to rezone all the rich agricultural swamp land to residential then the Swamp should continue to produce food for at least another 120+ years.

S is for Shopping. The first shop was opened by John O’Riordan in 1890 in a tin shed where Light’s Garage is now located. Many of the shops in Rossiter Road were built in the 1920s and 1930s, as was the old Theatre and a few garages. This was a boom time for the town with the Hospital, State Rivers & Water Supply Commission, surrounding farms and the railways all providing a steady source of employment.

The 1937 flood

It is eighty years since the Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp experienced the second largest flood in its history. The largest flood took place in the first week of December 1934. The 1937 flood hit the area on October 18 and water was 60cm deep in Rossiter Road and Station Street in Koo Wee Rup. The flood peaked at 20,000 cusecs (50,000 megalitres) about half the 1934 flood volume. There had also been a smaller flood of around 10,000 cusecs in April 1935. 

Station Street, Koo Wee Rup October 20, 1937
State Rivers and Water Supply Commission photograph

The 1937 flood was caused by an extraordinary amount of rain over the proceeding few days. The Argus of October 20 1937 had a map showing the rainfall totals of the five days from the 14th to the 18th of October and Dandenong had 532 points (just over 5 inches or 125 ml) and Gembrook had 977 points – close to 10 inches. The Pakenham Gazette reported that Pakenham had over 4 inches at the same time and Pakenham Upper 7.5 inches.  As you would expect, with that amount of rain, parts of Melbourne including the Yarra River and the Patterson River also flooded.

The Koo-Wee-Rup Sun of October 21 1937 reported that the experience of previous floods had taught Swamp settlers the lesson of removing stock and what property that could be shifted to higher levels and this precaution, as far as possible, was taken. Therefore although the body of water was almost as great as the 1934 flood, damage to the above was in no way as large. Crops however suffered in many cases owing to the waters being diverted since then, there were many cases in which settlers fared worse by this deluge. The Koo Wee Rup Sun estimated the damage at £50,000.

The townsfolk placed the blame for the water in Koo Wee Rup squarely on the closure of the openings in the railway embankment which caused the water to be bottled up in the town. They were made even angrier by the fact that this was seen to be the cause of the town being flooded in the 1934 and 1935 floods and there had been no action to rectify the problem. The Koo Wee Rup Defence Corporation was established after the 1937 flood, at a representative meeting of trades people, residents and farmers of the township and district... Nothing but bitterness was expressed at the continued apathy of Government bodies in ignoring all the past representations and in failing to at least take measures to ameliorate the consequences of the disastrous flooding.  The Koo Wee Rup Sun reported that in 1934, the Premier, Mr Dunstan, had promised to go into the question of co-ordination of the Railways and the State Rivers & Water Supply Commission but up to the present had sat idle.

Letter to the Editor of The Argus October 25, 1937

There was a lot of publicity about the effect of the flood in the Koo Wee Rup township but surrounding areas also suffered as testified in this letter to the editor of The Argus on October 25, 1937 signed ‘Also a mug’ from Cora Lynn.  
 It is a cause of annoyance to residents of Cora Lynn and adjoining districts to read in the newspapers, and to hear over the air, the plight of the people of Koo-wee-rup. We are sorry for them, but they have the railway to remove them from the danger zone. They have many more hours of warning than we, with greater facilities for getting away. The water that floods Koo-wee-rup has previously surged over our lands and homes. Long before the flood reaches us in Cora Lynn all means of exodus have been cut off by the flooding of such towns a Vervale, Iona, Tynong, and Garfield for the most part. Cora Lynn is in a very decided depression, and, in my opinion, suffers more than most of the unhappy districts during the awful floods which visit us with monotonous regularity.

Click here to see photos of Cora Lynn in the 1937 flood.

The Age of October 19, 1937 had this report about the effect of the floods in the local area.
The rain continued almost continuously until to-day, when about 4 inches had been registered. At Picnic Point the Tarago River overflowed several properties. At Longwarry it flooded the butter factory to a depth of 4 feet, causing considerable damage to the machinery. Stores had to be removed to the mechanics' hall for safety. North of Garfield, Cannibal Creek over flowed its banks by 5 feet, and properties in this area were flooded. The Ararat Creek between Tynong and Nar Nar Goon became flooded, and there was 3 feet of water on Princes Highway. The
Longwarry-Nar Nar Goon road, which runs parallel to the railway line, was submerged for more than half a mile. The railway embankment and line was washed out for a distance of 26 chains, and the railway service was disorganised. Buses had to run from Nar Nar Goon to Bunyip.
 The main canal fed by Bunyip and Tarago rivers first overflowed its banks at Cora Lynn, but later it overflowed near Long-bridge, between Longwarry and Bunyip. The water is now over the Princes Highway and the the Longwarry-Nar Nar Goon road. Many residents have been compelled to go to Bunyip, as their homes have been flooded. Stock, sheep and pigs, wherever possible, have been removed to higher ground.
At Cora Lynn there is 5 feet of water in the Drouin Co-operative Cheese Factory, and at Keast Hall the water is flowing through the windows. At the railway bridge between Bunyip and Longwarry the river overflowed its banks. The Bunyip show ground is submerged to a depth of 2 to 3 feet, and water is flowing copiously across the old racecourse. The golf links is a lake of water. Many residents have water running through their homes and women and children have been removed to places of safety. It is feared that if the rain continues throughout the night the record flood of 1934 will be eclipsed.
A report in The Age of October 20 said that the ballast that had been washed away from the railway line between Nar Nar Goon and Tynong was replaced the day before and by 10.00am the line was ready for light traffic. The Argus of October 20 reported on the telephone lines The exchange at Iona, near Bunyip, went out of order when flood waters reached the cables. The exchange was in touch with Melbourne, but could not give connection to subscribers. Men were working on the fault last night, and expected to have the lines clear by this morning. All other country exchanges carried on services.

Koo Wee Rup October 19, 1937 - the water tower in the background gives an indication of the location of the photo. 
State Rivers and Water Supply Commission photo

As we saw before there was widespread unhappiness and anger after the 1934 flood and, as a result, the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission (SRWSC) worked on new drainage plans for the Swamp and these plans became known as the Lupson Report after the complier, E.J Lupson, an Engineer. A Royal Commission was also established in 1936. Its role was to investigate the operation of the SRWSC. The Royal Commission report was critical of the SRWSC’s operation in the Koo-Wee-Rup Flood Protection District in a number of areas and it ordered that new plans for drainage improvements needed to be established and presented to an independent authority. Mr E. G Richie was appointed as the independent authority. The Richie Report essentially considered that the Lupson Report was “sound and well considered” and should be implemented. Work had just begun on these recommendations when the 1937 flood hit the area

The main recommendation of the Lupson / Ritchie report was the construction of the Yallock outfall drain from Cora Lynn, cutting across to Bayles and then essentially following the line of the existing Yallock Creek to Western Port Bay. The aim was to take any flood water directly to the sea so the Main Drain could cope with the remaining water. The Yallock outfall drain was started in 1939 but the works were put on hold during World War Two and not completed until 1956-57. The Yallock outfall drain had been originally designed using the existing farm land as a spillway i.e. the Main Drain would overflow onto existing farmland and then find its own way to the Yallock outfall drain. Local farmers were unhappy at this, as the total designated spillway area was 275 acres. They suggested a spillway or ford be constructed at Cora Lynn so the flood water would divert to the outfall drain over the spillway. The spillway was finally constructed in 1962.

An Acrostic History of Garfield

This is an eclectic look at some themes from Garfield's  history and the first letter of each theme spells a seasonal greeting! I did this one for the Garfield township newsletter, The Spectator, in December 2017.  I did a similar one for the Koo Wee Rup township newsletter, The Blackfish, in December 2016. You can read the Koo Wee Rup one, here.

M is for Movies, shown at the Picture Theatre. The Garfield Picture Theatre opened with a Grand Ball on Monday, December 22, 1924. Apart from the Picture Theatre locals could also view movies at the Wattle Theatre at Koo Wee Rup and King’s Picture Theatre at Pakenham, which both opened in 1927. Harrington’s Electra Pictures had been shown at the Garfield Hall and films were shown at Tynong - there is still a bio box or projection room, which is currently inaccessible, at the Hall.  The original Bunyip Hall also showed movies however, when it burnt down in March 1940, the ‘picture plant’ was destroyed. The Garfield Theatre closed in the early 1960s although it did reopen weekends in 1970 and 1971.

Garfield Picture Theatre, 1920s/1930s

E is for Education.  The first school in town, the Cannibal Creek State School, opened in 1886. The School was located on the Princes Highway, west of North Garfield Road. The school changed its name to Garfield around May 1887. In 1899, the School building was re-located to Garfield Road at the top of the hill, half way between the Princes Highway and the Railway Station. In 1910, the Garfield School No. 2724 moved to a new building on its present site near the Railway Station. The old building was removed in 1914 to North Garfield where it became State School No.3489.

R is for Religion.  Garfield has had a number of Churches - St Mary’s Church of England or Anglican Church was opened in March 1935 by Archdeacon Weir of Sale. It was dedicated to the memory of the late Mrs Beswick, who had raised funds for the building.  It was demolished in 2010. The Uniting Church began life as the Methodist Church. There was a Methodist congregation in Garfield from the 1910s, but I am not sure if they met in the Hall initially or a purpose-built Church as I don’t have a date for the construction of the church. There was a Presbyterian Church at Iona which opened in 1908 and, also at Iona is St Joseph’s Catholic Church which opened in 1900. The existing brick church dates from 1940.

R is for Racing. The first race meeting was held on Wednesday, March 12, 1902 at the Recreation Reserve. The Garfield Race Club had fluctuating fortunes - it went quiet over the War Years but had a revival in the 1920s - a Race meeting held in November 1920 had so many horses entered that the last race had to be abandoned or else the horses and patrons would miss the special train back to Melbourne at 5.55pm. In March 1923, a report says that over £400 was spent in remodeling the track. However, in 1933 the Chief Secretary wanted to curtail the number of race meetings in country areas and thus at a meeting held in the July, Garfield had its races reduced from two to zero, and Bunyip, Iona, Cora Lynn Clubs also suffered a similar fate. So, it was all over for Garfield and these other Clubs.

Y is for Youngsters.  The Garfield Baby Health Centre was opened in July 1935 with Mrs J. Patterson as President and Mrs A. Nutting as Secretary. Sister Mitchell was in charge. A new Infant Welfare Centre and Pre-School was constructed on the corner of Main Street and the Fourteen Mile Road in 1952. It was built by E.C Cox & Sons.  In that year, the Clinic cared for 42 babies under two years old and 6 infants over two - with a total of 351 visits for the year. 

The  Infant Welfare Centre and Pre-School that was built in 1952. Photo taken 1980s.

C is Cars. The first cars appeared in the town in the 1910s and by the 1920s cars were increasing in popularity.  From the 1940s Frank Dean had the garage near the bakers and George Hamm had the garage near the Hotel. Hamm’s garage was taken over by L.J Brenchley in March 1947 and the Brenchley family operated the garage for decades after and were Austin and Morris dealers.

H is for Hall. The Hall was built by Ingebert Gunnulson and opened December 1904. The usual range of events were held in the Hall - dances, dinners, use as a polling booth, concerts, wedding receptions etc. Then on Thursday, April 15 in 1937 the Hall was destroyed by fire. It had apparently started at 1.30am in the supper room and everything was destroyed. It was rebuilt and was re-opened possibly as early as September 22 the same year. The Hall was destroyed by fire, once again, in February 1984.

R is for Reading Newspapers (the way we used to get news before the Internet). This area is fortunate that its history has been recorded in local newspapers since the 1860s. The South Bourke and Mornington Journal was published from 1865 and covered everywhere from Dandenong to Warragul to Phillip Island to Mornington.   Garfield and Bunyip have had coverage in the West Gippsland Gazette which started in 1898 and became the Warragul Gazette in 1931. The same publisher also had the Bunyip Free Press from around 1909 to 1915. The Bunyip & Garfield Express was published from 1883 to 1979. The area is now covered by the Pakenham Gazette, which started in 1909 and is still owned by the Thomas family.

I is for Iona Hotel.   The Iona Hotel at Garfield was originally opened around April 1904. A newspaper report of April 13, 1904 said the hotel is of very pretty design, presenting a thoroughly up to date appearance. The hotel had twenty-nine rooms including the bar room, parlours, commercial room, dining rooms, drawing rooms, billiard room with a full sized Alcock's table and fixtures and sixteen bedrooms. The building was constructed of weatherboard and had gas lighting and an 'excellent' septic sewerage system. There was also substantial stabling. Sadly, the hotel was destroyed by fire on April 23, 1914. I believe the existing Hotel was erected the next year as there is report, in the South Bourke and Mornington Journal from May 27, 1915 that no expense had been spared by the proprietors to make it all respects one of the best equipped hotels in the colony.

S is for Swamp.  Garfield owes some of its early prosperity to the drainage of the Koo Wee Rup Swamp as it became a service town for the Swamp residents.  The Swamp originally covered about 40,000 hectares. The Chief Engineer of the Public Works Department, William Thwaites, surveyed the Swamp in 1887 and his report recommended the construction of the Bunyip Main Drain from where it entered the Swamp, in the north, to Western Port Bay and several smaller side drains.  Work started in 1889 and despite strikes, floods and bad weather by March 1893, the private contractors had constructed the 16 miles of the drain from the Bay to the south of Bunyip and the Public Works Department considered the Swamp was now dry enough for settlement. At one time over 500 men were employed, and all the work was done by hand, using axes, shovels, mattocks and wheel barrows. By 1904, over 2,000 people including 1,400 children lived on the Swamp. Many more drains have been added over the years.

T is for Timber Industry.  The Gippsland Railway line to Sale was opened in stages between 1877 and 1879. Sidings developed along the line which allowed timber to be despatched and so the local timber industry boomed.  In Garfield, Jefferson’s Saw Mill and brick works and the Cannibal Creek Saw Mill Company were established. Joseph Jefferson established a saw mill in 1877 on the site of what was to become his clay pit, off Railway Avenue. He sent this timber out via Bunyip Station until the Cannibal Creek Siding was built in 1885 to accommodate the timber tramline which run for about 8 kilometres, to the Two-Mile Creek. The Garfield North road basically follows this tramway.  As well as producing timber products Jefferson also mined the sand on his property to be used in the building industry in Melbourne and when he discovered clay on his property he began making clay bricks. The 1880s was a boom time for Victoria and Jefferson could produce over 50,000 bricks per week and fire 75,000 at a time in his kiln. The Depression of the 1890s saw a decline in the building industry which flowed onto his business and the brickworks eventually shut down in 1929.

M is for Medical Matters - the Garfield Hospital. The push to get a hospital in Garfield started about 1930 when the community raised around £340, but due to the Depression the momentum for Hospital slowed. Money continued to be raised, new Committees were formed in 1940 and again in 1945 but all the development was stalled due to the Second World War. After the War there was still no government finance available. Various submissions were made in the 1950s to the Hospital Commission to get the Garfield Hospital established but to no avail. In the end the Garfield money (over £2,600) was added to the money left to the community by local chemist, Mr Emile Shelley, and it went towards the Shelley Memorial Hospital at Bunyip which opened in March 1966 and closed in May 1991. The building is now part of Hillview Hostel.

A is for Agriculture. Garfield is surrounded by farms - apple orchards were planted north of the town in the hills area from around 1890.  South of the town was the Koo Wee Rup Swamp which by the 1920s, was producing one quarter of Victorian potatoes and was also a major producer of dairy products. Today, over 90% of all Australian asparagus is produced on the Koo‐Wee‐Rup Swamp and many other food items are grown including broccolini, strawberries, cabbage, leeks, celery and lettuces.

S is for Shops and Businesses. According to the 1903 Electoral Roll the following businesses were in Garfield - there were three bakers, two blacksmiths and two butchers. There was a Draper and three men with the occupation of storekeepers. George and Thomas Ellis were Produce Merchants and Joseph Rutledge was a saddler.  Garfield had one builder and three carpenters - Ingebert Gunnulson, Samuel Harvey and Phillip Leeson. Joseph Jefferson is listed as a brick maker and John Jefferson as a wood merchant. To satisfy the grooming needs of Garfield, Percy Malcolm was a hairdresser and John Daly, the School Teacher, took care of educational needs. There was also one woman with an occupation listed – Florence Mason was the Post Mistress.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

A trip from Dandenong to Bunyip by rail

In a previous post we did a road trip from Dandenong to Garfield along the Gippsland Road - so this month I thought we will take the same journey on the railway. Interesting to note that the line from Dandenong to Bunyip was finished by 1877 and all the railway stations we pass today (except one) were in place by around 1885, about 130 years ago. Given that the population of the area (the old Shire of Berwick) in the mid 1880s was around 6,300 and the population of the same area today is about 200,000 and given that the only new station in all that time (apart from the short lived industry specific General Motors Holden stop) is the Cardinia Road Station and, thirdly, given that the majority of the stations are now unmanned and have minimal shelter structures  it seems that there has been a remarkable lack of government money spent on public transport infrastructure in the area in the last 130 years. There was however some money spent on the line in the 1950s as it was duplicated from Dandenong to Morwell and also electrified due to the need to transport briquettes from Yallourn to Melbourne.

The railway line from Oakleigh to Bunyip opened in October 1877 and originally the only stations between Dandenong and Bunyip were Berwick and Pakenham. For the pedantic amongst us, the official opening according to newspaper reports at the time, seems to have been October 5 even though most sources say that it is October 8, so that may have been the first day of passenger services. When the line opened it did not actually get you into Melbourne as the section from South Yarra to Oakleigh didn’t open until May 1879.

Railway Timetable
South Bourke & Mornington Journal June 1 1881.

As a journalist in the South Bourke and Mornington Journal of October 10, 1877 wrote after his trip on the railway line   It is not necessary to dwell on the mistake now so lamentably obvious, which was committed in beginning the line at a point 10 miles from Melbourne - only to be reached by means of horse drawn wagons and carts - but practical men outside of the service of the Government, which, of course is prudently reticent on the subject, estimate that as much money has been wasted in the cartage of materials for the first section and part of the second as would have built a large part of the now needed section from Melbourne to Oakleigh.

So we’ll start at the Dandenong Railway Station. This station became a junction station on October 1, 1888 when the Great Southern line, which eventually went to Yarram, opened as far as Tooradin.  The information about the date of the railway station openings comes from an interesting website http://vicsig.net/  which calls itself the ‘Premier Victorian Rail resource’.   The next station along the line was opened on November 18, 1956 to serve the General Motors Holden Factory which at one stage employed 3,000 people.  The Station closed July 2002 and you can still see remnants of it as the train passes by.

The Hallam Station opened on December 1, 1880 as Hallam’s Road and changed its name to Hallam in May 1904. Hallam was a ‘flag station’ when it opened and only stopped when there were passengers to discharge or a  flag was displayed to indicate that there were passengers to be picked up.  As early as May 1883 the local residents were asking the Railways for increased platform accommodation (according to a newspaper report) and if you have ever been past the station in the morning peak hour you would know that the platform accommodation is still inadequate.
The Narre Warren Station opened on March 10, 1882. A local influential resident, Sidney Webb agitated for the railway station and after it was completed he agitated for a road to be put from the Princes Highway to the railway station, the road was not surprisingly called Webb Street. The original Narre Warren settlement, well north of the Highway was renamed Narre Warren North after the new town developed around the station.

Woodcut of Berwick Railway Station, 1877

Berwick opened October 8, 1877, one of the original stations. Beaconsfield opened December 1, 1879. The Officer Railway Station began as Officer's Wood Siding, constructed to despatch timber from land owned by the Officer family to Melbourne. It was renamed Officer in February 1899. Sir Robert Officer was at one time the Health Officer for Hobart and a member of the Legislative Council and in the early 1840s he moved some of his interests to the main land. It was his son, William, who had their Mt Misery property, near Beaconsfield, and after the railway line was opened he used to rail his sheep from his other property at Deniliquin to Officer in times of drought.
Cardinia Road station opened on April 22, 2012. The next stop, Pakenham was an original station. The town that developed around the station was known as Pakenham East, initially in opposition to the ‘old’ town of Pakenham which had developed around the La Trobe Inn (also known as Bourke’s Hotel) on the Gippsland Road, near the Toomuc Creek which we talked about last month. Eventually Pakenham East over took not only the original town of Pakenham, but its name as well although it was still referred to as Pakenham East well into the 1960s.

Nar Nar Goon. There were various reports in the papers saying that the residents of Nar Nar Goon had petitioned the Minister of Railways for a siding and platform in August 1878, they tried again a year later in August 1879 but were told there was no money and even if there was the Railway Department considered a station at Nar Nar Goon unnecessary. A railway timetable from June 1881 shows that there was station at Nar Nar Goon then so that narrows the opening date from August 1879 to June 1881, but that’s as close as I can get.

Tynong - like Nar Nar Goon there are newspaper reports that Tynong residents agitated for a railway station after the line was opened, but the earliest mention I can find of a station is in April 1881. The Garfield station developed from a timber siding in the same way that Officer did. The Cannibal Creek Siding opened in December 1884 to accommodate the Cannibal Creek Saw Mill Company and it was renamed Garfield in March 1887.

Garfield Railway Station, c. 1910
Image from the book North of the Line: a pictorial record 
published by the  Berwick Pakenham Historical Society.

Bunyip was opened October 1877 as one of the original stations and the extension of the line from Bunyip to Moe opened March 1, 1878. Just before you get to the Bunyip Railway Station there is an electricity substation which has been heritage listed, which I must say was a surprise to me. The Heritage citation says that it is one of ‘19 sub and tie stations constructed between 1952 and 1954 from Nar Nar Goon to Traralgon for the electrification of the main Gippsland line.’  It is listed as it is historically significant ‘as it serves as an important reminder of the electrification of the first main line in Australia’; it is technically significant ‘as it serves as an important reminder of the electrification of the first main line in Australia and the system of electric locomotives associated with the transportation of briquettes and the industrial growth in the Latrobe Valley’ and it is socially significant ‘as it represents an important tangible link with the transportation of brown coal and the associated coal and briquette industry located at Latrobe Valley which was central to the economy and economic development of the State of Victoria particularly in the 1950s’.