It was obvious however that major works needed to be undertaken to sucessfully drain the Swamp thus 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.
The picturesque Bunyip Main Drain, taken in the 1940s.
Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp Historical Society photograph.
Under this Scheme, all workers had to be married, accept a 20 acre block and spend a fortnight working on the drains for wages and a fortnight improving their block and maintaining adjoining drains. The villages were Koo-Wee-Rup, Five Mile, Cora Lynn, Vervale, Iona and Yallock.
Many of the settlers were unused to farming and hard physical labour, others were deterred by floods and ironically a drought that caused a bushfire, however many stayed and communities developed. By 1904, over 2,000 people including 1,400 children lived on the Swamp. By the 1920s, the area was producing one quarter of Victorian potatoes.
There was a second wave of settlers in the early 1900s where those selected had previous farm experience, such as my great grandfather, James Rouse who had been a market gardener in England. James, a widower, arrived in 1903 with his eleven year old son, Joe. He had selected 56 acres on Murray Road at Cora Lynn and his arrival started the Rouse family's 110 year connection to the Swamp.
That's James Rouse, my great grandfather, above. He was born July 26, 1862 at Stratford on Avon in England and died at Cora Lynn on August 29, 1939. He had married Annie Glover of Clydebank (Victoria) on February 2, 1892 and they had five children. Sadly Annie, born July 7, 1865 died in February 7, 1899 aged 33. She was pre-deceased by their two daughters Ruth and Annie. Another daughter Emily died in tragic circumstances - she was found drowned in the Yarra on August 24, 1919 aged 25. Lucy (born September 2, 1895) died October 27, 1981. We knew her very well and saw a lot of her. She was living at Garfield when she died. Finally, my grand father Joseph Albert Rouse was born at Clydebank on November 9, 1892 and died September 3, 1954.