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.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Agnes Mickle - Pioneer woman

Alexander and Agnes Mickle (nee Johnston) arrived in Victoria in October 1857 on the ship, Blackwall. Agnes was 28 and Alexander was 27. They had tried to come to Australia the year before but their boat, the Mull of Kintyre, was shipwrecked just after it had left Scotland. They both came from Berwickshire, on the Scottish border.  Alexander was the third of the Mickle brothers to arrive in Melbourne, with John having arrived in 1838 and Thomas in 1841. John Mickle, who along with his partners, William Lyall and John Bakewell, had amassed a large amount of land which they divided up in 1856. John Mickle’s share included parts of the Yallock Run, which he renamed Monomeith and Alexander and Agnes came out to manage this property.

Alexander and Agnes took a bullock dray from Melbourne to Tooradin, then went by boat to the mouth of the Yallock Creek. They lived in the original homestead until 1860 when a new house was built. In November 1861, Alexander died suddenly from appendicitis and peritonitis and Agnes was at Monomeith, eight months pregnant and with her two children David, aged 3 and Isabella Margaret, nearly 2. The only other person on the property was “the lad” John Payne, who had to ride into Cranbourne for the Police to make arrangements for the burial. Their third child, John Alexander, was born four weeks later on Boxing Day, 1861.

Agnes Mickle

Their son, David, was the grandfather of the local historian Dave Mickle. He has written various books and was instrumental in establishing the Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp Historical Society. Dave Mickle has written about Agnes, but no where does he write about what must have been the sheer horror (or so it seems to me) of the situation that Agnes was in - alone on the farm at the Monomeith; no close neighbours; about 30 kilometres from the nearest town which was Cranbourne, which at the time was a small town with a population of 115; and two little children and a baby on the way.

The management of the Monomeith property was taken over by Andrew Hudson, who was a cousin of the Mickles. Andrew planted wheat and operated a dairy farm. Agnes married Andrew on May 17, 1865 and had two more children, Agnes Lilly, who was born in 1866 and in 1868, when Agnes was 40, she gave birth to James Johnston  (Johnston was her maiden name). Andrew and Agnes and family moved from the Monomeith property to Protectors Flats near Lang Lang, where along with the dairy farm, they also grew tobacco. In 1879, they moved to the Warook property on the Yallock Creek and built a house (not the existing Warook house) and a dairy. They leased this, on a ten year lease, from William Lyall. Towards the end of this lease they started building The Grange, in Koo-Wee-Rup. Sadly, before they moved, Andrew Hudson died suddenly at the age of 55 on August 3, 1888. Agnes, a widow once more, moved into The Grange a few months later on October 1.

After Andrew died it seems that her sons, John Mickle and James Hudson, took over the farm and they operated Koo-Wee-Rup Dairies, where they purchased milk from local farmers and made cheese, then later (after 1899) James worked on his own and milked  cows and produced cheese.

Agnes also faced the death of her two daughters, who both died within a year. Isabella Margaret had married Richard Scott of Poowong in 1886 and had six children. She died in February 1902. Her other daughter, Agnes Lilly, had a more tragic life. She married George Hook in 1899 and their first child, Isaac, died in 1905, aged 5. Their second child, George was born on February 2, 1903 and sadly Agnes Lilly passed away six days later on February 8. Maternal mortality at this time was in the region of 40 to 60 deaths per 1,000 births, this means about 5 mothers died giving birth out of every 100 births. This didn’t decline until the 1940s, largely due to the arrival of antibiotics. Interestingly, little George, was adopted by his uncle, John Mickle and his wife Laura (John Mickle being the child Agnes gave birth to, four weeks after Alexander died)

Agnes Hudson died on December 10, 1913 aged 86. Her obituary in the Lang Lang Guardian describes her as having had a long, useful and honourable life …the deceased lady who was loved and respected by those who had the priviledge of knowing her, possessed the sterling attributes of the great Scottish race whose early pioneering enterprises left such as impress on the early land settlement in the colonies…. her mind was bright and active to the close.. and her health was remarkedly good.  So this is a tribute to a remarkable pioneer woman, Agnes Hudson, who survived a ship wreck, the birth of five children, the death of two husbands and that of her two daughters.

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