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.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Official visit to Koo-Wee-Rup December 1893

This is an interesting account of the early days of Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp settlement from page six of  The Argus of December 22, 1893.  I have transcribed the article.

The Minister of Public Works, Mr Webb, paid his first official visit yesterday to the drainage works and village settlement in connection with the Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp. He was accompanied by Mr Methven and Mr Winter M.L.A’s; Mr Davidson, Inspector General of Public Works and Mr Catani, the engineer in charge of the drainage works. At the Bunyip end of the Main Drain the prospects of the Village Settlers seem very good, the land being exceptionally rich, though heavily timbered. Very good progress has, in some cases, been made with gardens, and the Government experimental plot, though the results are those of  a few months’ work only, forms a very useful object lesson to those not familiar with the cultivation of the soil. All the fodder grasses as well as Lucerne, maize, mangels [a type of beet, related to silverbeet and beetroot], flax, hemp, beet and vegetables of many varieties were growing splendidly, though the land, cropped for the first time has hardly lost its sourness. Early potatoes especially give a splendid crop. 

There can be no doubt as to the value of this Bunyip land eventually, but the clearing is heavy work, and though there is an impression in Parliament at one time that 20 acres was too large a block here, a visit to the spot shows that by the time the land has been brought into proper cultivation the new home will be well earned. A wooden tram has been laid down for the carriage of goods and this worked on co-operative principles, has already paid a dividend. There were a great many children running about idle in the settlement and the school, for which residents are still pressing, is badly needed. 

The principle of a fortnight’s work on the Swamp and a fortnight on their own land works admirably and a vast improvement is manifest since May, when the first settlers were just building their huts and not a tree had been cut. The Department consider that they will be able to provide work on those lines for the next tree years and by that time the settlers at the Bunyip end at any rate will be in a position to get a profit from their blocks.

Travelling down towards Koo-Wee-Rup the land is not nearly so good. The clay is at too great a depth and the surface is soft and peaty, so that now, even in dry weather a horse cannot leave the beaten track or he is at once bogged in the soft soil. The Minister and members saw for the first time a sled for dragging up scrub by the roots at work, but though it has achieved good results on sounder land, the soil was too soft here for a team of 18 bullocks to do much good. It would appear as though the cost of clearing here and getting land ready for grass even has been somewhat under-estimated. The bullocks in this case were, however, new to the work, and much more better results are obtained when they become accustomed to sinking in the treacherous soil. Most of the ti-tree has been burned off, but the thick network of roots and short stumps remain, making it almost impassable. Most of the settlers at the Koo-Wee-Rup end of the drain are making gardens, but the results are not quite so good as at the other end, through the land apparently being more sour. 

The first steps towards building a second school here are being taken. By-and-by a tramway will run the whole length of the Main Drain from Bunyip to Koo-Wee-Rup, but at present there is a gap of several miles in the middle of it. Mr Webb was not at all impressed with this end of the Swamp and to anyone acquainted with the difficulties of clearing scrub lands; it was obvious that with hand labour only it is a slow and toilsome task. The Minister was inclined to think that the same amount of work given to the founding of a home in the northern irrigable lands would give a better result in quicker time. All, or nearly all, the men settled in the Swamp at present are married men with large families, who prior to coming here were barely able to keep body and soul together.

Newspaper article from trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper

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