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.

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.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Local High Schools

In Victoria, the Education Act, which came into effect on January 1, 1873, made State education ‘secular, compulsory and free’. The Act said that parents of children of ‘not less than six years and not more than fifteen years’ were required to send their children to school. Primary schools in those days went up to Year Eight. 

For children who wanted further education, if their parents were wealthy enough, they would have been sent to a private school as the first Government High School in the area didn’t open until 40 years after the Education Act came into effect. This was Warragul High School, the construction of which began in March 1911, however classes started in the Shire Hall in the August of that year and the School was officially opened in 1912, with Mr J. McLennan as Head Master and a staff of four.  The School was opened as an Agricultural High School. It was situated on 23 acres, and the first students had to help with the clearing, draining and fencing of the site.  By the 1930s, enrolment numbers in the agricultural courses had declined so this arm of the curriculum was dropped, and the school concentrated on the Academic curriculum and introduced Technical courses. In 1936, Domestic Science was introduced for the girls and by 1940 there was a blacksmith, metal work and wood work rooms.

In 1940, enrolments were around 400 and accommodation was at a premium, so much so that in 1945 when my father, Frank Rouse, started his Form 1A had all their classes at the Warragul State School, where Olive ‘Bonnie’ Marrabel, instructed the pupils in all subjects. The school bus, which had picked up students from Garfield, Vervale, Modella and Bunyip used to drop Dad and his fellow students at the High School and they had to walk the mile every morning and night to and from the State School.

It seems that Cora Lynn was the border of the Warragul catchment area, as pupils who lived on the west side of Cora Lynn State School went to Dandenong High School and pupils on the east side went to Warragul.  The Dandenong High School (DHS) was opened on March 10, 1919. This was later than the usual School opening date due to the outbreak of pneumonic influenza that was prevalent at the end of the First World War. When the School opened it was in temporary premises with the junior students housed at the old Fire Station and the senior students at the Temperance Hall and Church of Christ. There were 104 students. The foundation stone of the permanent building was laid on November 21, 1919 and the School was officially opened in late 1920. In 1920 the DHS enrolment was 150 of which 60 students came from the Berwick, Pakenham, Garfield, Bunyip, Hallam, Lyndhurst, Cranbourne, Koo Wee Rup, Carnegie and Murrumbeena areas.

However, the journey to these schools often required an early start and a late return – there was one report in a paper that said that pupils leave home at 5.45 a.m. and did not reach home until 8 p.m. (This was for students who lived around Heath Hill / Yannathan  - Dandenong Journal, January 12, 1944) so it was not surprising that there was agitation for closer school.

On Friday, August 27, 1926 there was a meeting held at the Cora Lynn Hall and representatives were present from all parts of the Kooweerup swamp area, from Lang Lang and Yannathan to Nar Nar Goon…..The meeting was organised by the Iona women's section V.F.U., who have for some months been engaged in a movement to establish a high school in the swamp. A motion in favor of this was carried. (The Age, August 28, 1926). A further meeting was held a month later where Sites at Cora Lynn and Bayles were reviewed, and it was unanimously decided to recommend an area of Crown land at Bayles. (The Age September 17, 1926)

In February 1927, a deputation made of Councillors from the Cranbourne Shire and the Berwick Shire was formed to request the minister for Education to establish a higher elementary school at Bayles. A temporary school at Cora Lynn is also to be recommended. (South Bourke & Mornington Journal, February 24, 1927)

Two years later, in June 1929, The Argus reported that The Education department has decided to establish a temporary elementary high school at Cora Lynn if sufficient inducement offers. A permanent site has been chosen at Bayles. Clearly, nothing happened about that as there was never a secondary school built at either Bayles or Cora Lynn.

Students were still going to Warragul High and the Herald of December 14, 1943 reported that The High School, which serves from Moe to Pakenham and from Noojee to Korumburra, has been asked to take more than 500 pupils next year, although it was over crowded this term with 390.

As we saw before, with students having to start their journey at 5.45am a new bus service commencing in February 1944 would  have been unlikely to have made this day any shorter -  a new daily school bus route will be commenced from Yannathan to the Dandenong High School, opening up the way to a High School education for about 26 pupils who would otherwise be unable to attend….starting from Yannathan, thence to Catani, Cora Lynn, Bayles, Five Mile, Island road, Cardinia and Clyde North. Any students on the train line such as Lang Lang, Caldermeade, Koo Wee Rup or Tooradin would have caught the train to school. (report from Dandenong Journal, February 2, 1944)

Dad had been at Cora Lynn State School and he had to sit an exam, in Grade 6, before he was accepted into the High School. His brother, Jim, who was two years older than him, completed Grade 8 at Cora Lynn, and also went onto Warragul High School in 1945. Despite Jim having his Merit certificate and being two years older, he was also put into Form 1. This appeared to be a common practice.  Apart from Miss Marrabel, Dad also specifically remembers two other teachers - Gladys Worthington (later Mrs Lindsay Jones) and Roma Bull (Mrs Gordon Jenkins).

In 1953, the Dandenong Journal reported Tynong, situated roughly half way between Dandenong and Warragul High Schools….. feels that it has strong claims for the establishment of a High School there - and is pushing them. (DJ October 28, 1953)

Buses at Warragul High School
State Library of Victoria Image H2008.12/44

By this time (1952) the enrolment at Warragul High was around 800 and was obviously not relieved by the establishment of a High School at Tynong (that never happened) but did decline with the establishment of Drouin High School. Drouin High opened in 1956 and classes were held at the primary school and various Halls. It opened on the current site in 1957. This was the same year as Koo Wee Rup High School. Koo Wee Rup had started as a Higher Elementary School in 1953 with classes up to Form 4. Drouin State School operated a Form 1 and Form 2 from 1953 to 1955 as Drouin Central School. Dad’s sister, Marion, had been at Cora Lynn State School until May 1951 when it became part of Pakenham Consolidated School, she then did the rest of Grade 5 and Grade 6 at Pakenham, then Form 1 and Form 2 at Drouin Central and finally went on to Form 3 at Warragul High.

Pakenham High School, the other nearest High School to Garfield, opened in 1967 with classes being held at the Consolidated School and moved to its current site in 1970.  Interestingly, when Pakenham High was established the population of the town was something like 1,700 - it is now over 46,000 and there is still only one Government High School in Pakenham and no additional High School between Pakenham and Drouin.  If you want a prime example of how none of the State governments of either persuasion have planned for infrastructure in growth areas, then this would be it. Getting back to Warragul High School - in the late 1950s there was a move to separate the Technical and High School streams and in 1959 Warragul Technical School opened. In 1994 they were merged to form the Warragul Regional College. 

All the Grenda's buses lined up at Pakenham High, early 1980s.
Casey Cardinia Libraries photo

I have created a list of newspaper articles, on Trove, relating to High Schools on the Koo Wee Rup Swamp, which includes all the articles I have referred to in this article. You can access the list, here.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Koo Wee Rup Swamp - where birds and beast gather to elect a King

This interesting, but sort of weird, story was published in the Weekly Times of January 12, 1895. It is called False Friends and True and was written by E. Marcus Collick.  I came across it when I was looking for evidence of Lyrebirds on the Koo Wee Rup Swamp (see here)  The fictional story is about a group of birds and animals who have come together to elect their King and they meet on the Koo Wee Rup Swamp (hence my interest). The last King, the Koala, says they have even begun to drain our dear old Koo-wee-rup, the place where our kings have been elected from time immemorial. It's a bit violent  at the end as they go into battle against their enemy, the fishes. Sadly, the Lyrebird, which I am rather fond of, is portrayed as duplicitous and a 'false friend'.   You can see the story on Trove, here.

False Friends and True.
By E. Marcus Collick.

I tell you the Kangaroo is the rightful king of Australia, argued the Opossum.

Prove it, answered the Lyre-bird.

With the greatest of pleasure, returned the Opossum,  first of all, the Kangaroo is the largest and strongest of Australian animals, to say nothing of being the best mannered. Why! just look at the graceful hop.

Like the proverbial cat-on-hot-bricks, snapped the Lyre bird.

And think how fond men are of Kangaroo tail soup, murmured the timid little Wallaby.

Well! all I can say is that I would rather be a biped, than a half and half sort of creature, said the Lyre-bird,  It would simply be a disgrace to Australia to have for a king a creature who might be called anything between a biped and a quadruped.

That's just it, piped the Opossum,  that is his great recommendation, for, besides being the best natured fellow on earth, he is perfectly original. Now tell me, please, what other country can boast of an animal at all like the Kangaroo?

Well! perhaps not, said the Lyre-bird, but originality is not always a charm. I for one don't see that the Kangaroo is anything to be compared to the Emu. Such a retiring, aristocratic bird, advocating women's rights, too. 

New-fangled bosh, growled the Opossum. Women's rights, indeed. The Kangaroo has too much sense to uphold such nonsense.

What is all this? said a deep voice. The trio looked up quickly. and were surprised to see the very gentleman whom they had been discussing.

Oh, Mr Kangaroo, gushed the Lyre-bird, blushingly,  your friend Mr Opossum has just been saying that the Emu has the best right to the sovereignty of Australia. I for one do not agree with him.

Is that so? answered the Kangaroo, casting a look that meant mischief at the modest little Opossum. The talk about friendship, he continued, it seems to me that it is only a guise for the intrigues of interested and politic persons. Allow me, Mrs Lyre-bird, to assist you to a good place, the election is about to begin.

This conversation took place at the Koo-wee-rup Swamp, in the south of Victoria, where the birds and beasts had gathered together to elect a king. The two candidates were the Emu and the Kangaroo, and, as the latter was a very sociable fellow, it was thought that the question of succession would be easily settled.

The performance was about to begin. A general rush towards the place of election began; and here were soon assembled all our Australian birds and beasts - old enemies looking askance at each other out of the corners of their eyes, for by the rules of the place they were forced to be neutral.

An old and hoary-headed native bear was assisted to the chair, followed by a general burst of applause, for this was their last king, forced through old age to resign his position.

My friends, began this individual with emotion, this hearty token of affection is very pleasing to me. I have been your king for many, many years, long before the white men entered our country, spoiling all our hills and valleys with the abominations they call towns. Why, pointing with his paw,  they have even begun to drain our dear old Koo-wee-rup, the place where our kings have been elected from time immemorial (groans.) Ah, he proceeded, well do I remember the time when the only human beings were blacks, and I used to have sweet young piccaninny soup everyday. But things were all spoilt by the whites, because they frightened all the blacks away, and the white piccaninny did not make nice soup - too tough.

Well, my friends, to return to business, I wish you to choose between these two candidates - the Kangaroo and the Emu. Both of these gentlemen are highly respected by me; so put it to the vote!

Then began that commotion which usually attends on such an important performance, each creature endeavoring to drop his vote into the box first. During the fuss the Lyre-bird found time to steal to the side of the Emu, and say It is well seen whom His Majesty the Bear would prefer to succeed him; of course, he only mentions the Kangaroo out of politeness. I think your claim is indisputable.

You traitoress, sneered the Black Snake, who was stealthily creeping past,  I heard what you said to the Kangaroo; so you can just look out for your eggs this year.

When the votes were counted, it was found that the Kangaroo had a large majority; and, after the Emu had solemnly sighed, and exclaimed, Just my luck! the successful candidate made a speech which ended with - And now, dear friends, as you have seen fit to elect me king, I think that we should first subdue that impudent family which has lately separated from us - the fishes.

The successful upholders of the Kangaroo now began to flock round him to offer him their congratulations; among them came the Lyrebird, who said Oh, Mr Kangaroo, of course, we all knew that you would be successful. I am delighted to see you made a parent of this happy multitude.

Thank you, Mrs. Lyre-Bird, answered  the Kangaroo. I am deeply indebted to you for the way in which you have canvassed for me. (He had been informed of this by herself.)

Humph barked the Dingo, a parent of this happy multitude, indeed, it's not apparent to me how he could that!

I am so very glad at your success, murmured the opossum, timidly.

I think I can do without your congratulations, answered the Kangaroo, with more sincerity than politeness.

Oh, please believe that I am sincere, said the poor little Opossum, but the Kangaroo had turned and was talking to the Porcupine.

Some days afterwards the campaign began against the fishes, who had mustered in the Murray for the purpose of election also. Many indecisive battles were fought, but at last the Kangaroo concocted a simple plan which promised success. This was to have a net drawn around a shallow corner of the river, drive a few stragglers into this and attack them, and when the main army, which was in the neighbourhood, rushed down to rescue the net was to be drawn up suddenly above the level of the water. Thus the whole army would be imprisoned, to be slaughtered at leisure.

The post of honor and of danger - that of  drawing up the net at the right moment - had been allotted by the Kangaroo to the Lyre-bird as a reward for services rendered. So Mrs Lyre-bird took up her position on a log jetting out into the stream, and all went well until, when the fishes made their downward rush, and danger seemed imminent, she showed her true colors, grew frightened, dropped the cord into the river and flew away.

The Opossum, happening to glance that way, saw the danger, and without a thought of the way he had been treated, plunged into the stream, seized the cord, and regaining the log, succeeded, by an immense effort, in drawing up the net at the right moment.

The campaign was over; and, tired with his efforts, the Opossum was dolefully trudging homeward, when he heard steps behind him. On turning, he was surprised to see the kangaroo hastening towards him, in a series of graceful hops.

My friend, said the Kangaroo, with emotion, will you ever forgive me?

Oh! there is nothing to forgive, returned the happy Opossum.

You thought I did not notice you, continued the Kangaroo, but I did. Your unselfishness gained our victory, and I know now who was the false friend, and who the true. We must be friends for ever.

The Opossum unhesitatingly agreed, and they shook paws on it.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Lyre birds and Koalas on the Koo Wee Rup Swamp

This interesting article about fauna on the Koo Wee Rup Swamp in 1894 - 1895 - when there were still koalas and lyre birds. It comes from a column in The Argus of September 12, 1934 called Nature Notes and Queries by Alec H. Chisholm. You can see it on Trove, here.

Koalas at Koo-wee-rup
Stating that he has been very interested in the discussion on koalas' food trees, E.A.B. (St. Kilda) recalls that in the years 1894-95 he was camped at the Koo-wee-rup swamp and saw many koalas in swamp gums there. The trees were on a narrow ridge parallel with and about 20 chains east of the main drain, and the ridge was entirely surrounded by real swamp and tea-tree. A young koala taken to camp would climb tea-trees and black-woods, but would not feed there, although he throve on leaves from the swamp gums. That young bear was kept for about three months, and was never seen to drink. The writer wonders, therefore, if the moisture in leaves is sufficient for them.

It is added that the swamp gum ridge was cleared for cultivation and the koalas disappeared. In the clearing of the eastern end of Koo-wee-rup many lyrebirds must have been destroyed.

An illustration of a lyrebird from 1872.
Illustrated Sydney News and New South Wales Agriculturalist and Grazier  June 8, 1872. 

The same column also talks about Lyrebirds on the Moe Swamp in the 1870s.

Lyrebirds Near the Moe Swamp
An interesting bit of history is given by C.P. (Melbourne) in reply to a reader's recent inquiry whether lyrebirds were ever known about the north bank of the Moe swamp. C.P. says that he travelled by the first train that left Prince's Bridge for Gippsland-that was in the 1870's and camped that Easter on the Moe River. It was understood among the settlers then that the "Australian pheasant," as the lyrebird was called, was frequently seen or heard in the vicinity of the swamp.

"People," it is added, "were moving freely about Moe that year as Weinberg, the mailboat carpenter who stole 5,000 sovereigns, was at large somewhere in the district. The police visited our camp at midnight on Good Friday and asked us, should anyone come to us for food, to be sure and let the stationmaster know. At that time there was only one tumble-down building in the Moe of to-day."

Martin Weinberg is alleged to have stolen 5,000 sovereigns in 1877 and was at large - read about him here or here or here.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Life on the Swamp in the early days - from newspaper reports

In 1893, the Koo Wee Rup Swamp was opened for settlement and this created some interest in the newspapers. In fact, a report in the Warragul Guardian of February 6, 1894 starts off with So much has been said and written about Koo-wee-rup Swamp, its reclamation works and its people, that it would almost appear that the subject was worn threadbare. 

The settlers were under the Village Settlement Scheme - a scheme where unemployed men from the cities were given a land allocation (usually 20 acres) on the Swamp and they then spent two weeks clearing drains for wages paid by the Public Works Department and two weeks working on their block with the hope of becoming self-sufficient. They also had to erect a dwelling on their block. The first 103 blocks under this scheme were allocated in April 1893.  This didn’t always work as one of the correspondents pointed out that The men are mostly raw to cultures of any kind, and inexperienced in the matter of cutting drains, at which they are to be found employment every alternate week, in order to obtain the wherewithal to procure the necessaries of life. (Australasian June 3, 1893)

The fact that the settlers had some assured wages was a clearly a benefit to the settlers, many of whom had been unemployed. A reporter from The Argus July 11, 1893 interviewed a woman and she had this to say about her new life -

On one of the side drains I met a decent old dame who was busily engaged in stacking driftwood alongside her tent. She explained she was laying in a stock of firewood from what had been brought down by the flood. "Yes," she said, "it's a damp place and a dismal; but what are you to do? My husband is a plumber, and you could count the number of days he was working at his trade last year on one hand. We've been here nine months, and although it's rough enough, we're not going to leave it, especially now when we are getting the chance of a bit of land. There's my daughter, too, and her husband, who is a house-painter. They are living up at the top end (near Bunyip), and their children that were always sickly in Melbourne are fine and healthy. I didn't like the life, and I don't like it now; but where the fun comes in is on Monday morning, when there's no landlord.

One issue the settlers had to face was the lack of schooling. The Warragul Guardian reported on February 6, 1894 - As yet the Government have not seen fit to provide schools for the children, who are running about in scores, and it is estimated that there are 150 children of school ago at the Bunyip end. The neglect to provide school accommodation is a serious reflection on the Education department. The Iona State School and the Koo Wee Rup North State School were both opened in July 1894. Read about them, here.

Iona - looking to the south side of the Main Drain.
Berwick Pakenham Historical Society photo

The Age of Jan 22, 1894 had a glowing report about the fertility of the soil All down the line of the main drain are settlers' houses of canvas, felt, or weatherboard, and around them are vegetable gardens of luxuriant growth. Nearly every settler is already practically independent of the rest of the world in the matter of food. They would certainly be entirely so if vegetarians. They have potatoes in abundance and of most excellent quality, cabbages weighing from 10 to 15 lb. apiece, turnips of prodigious size, and a multitude of other garden products of really superior quality, and when you taste them you have to confess that the sour land yields very palatable food. [Sour land is a term for acidic soils]

There were a few shops on the Swamp including a store run by the Government, however for the women used to the range of shops available in the City, they had a very limited choice. Farther on we arrived at a store run by the department in the interests of the settlers. As is known the settlers are allowed to earn certain amounts per month, according to the numbers of their families. The amounts are small and have to be made the most of. It was found that local price for necessaries were beyond their slender means, so this store was opened under the management of the department to supply groceries, clothing, &c., at the lowest possible prices. It is State Socialism without disguise. The goods are retailed at a profit only sufficient to meet the expenses. (The Age January 22, 1894) Another report said All the provisions are distributed from the various stores by hand, the storekeepers or their assistants plodding manfully through the heavy mud every afternoon with baskets on their bucks, containing from 90lb, to 100lb. weight of provisions. (The Argus, July 11, 1893) The same report said that Sly grog-shops and beer shanties are numerous, so the settlers didn’t miss out there.

Public transport was also another benefit of living in the City - however a report in The Australasian of September 29, 1894 seemed to think that the horse tramway was a good alternative to the train and tram network in the City At each end from the railway station along the side of the main channel a horse tramway has been constructed and in this respect few places in the colony, both for railway and postal service, are better served. All these conveniences are appreciated by people who have previously lived in town, and without which some of them would probably not stay at all.

So, what was the reality– many of the blocks were too wet to make a good living, some were too small – only five acres and even the 20 acre blocks were not necessarily large enough to make a living. The work was hard The men work up to the knees in slimy mud. The surface roots of ti-tree are very numerous, but a second and far more troublesome layer of roots is met with about three feet down. As well, many of the settlers did not re-locate voluntarily – A large proportion of the colonists are artisans from the cities, and the wife of one of these men expressed to us her disgust of her present surroundings, and preference for her old home in one of the suburbs, and there are, doubtless, many others who find the situation trying. Some few have joined the settlement from choice, seeing in it a means of ultimately rendering themselves practically independent. (Warragul Guardian February 6, 1894) It would appear that the settler’s willingness to move in the beginning had an influence in the success of the scheme.

Many of the settlers relied on the wages they received for working on the drains, however this work finished in November 1897, so unless they could find other employment, or their farm was enormously successful this would have been another reason to leave. The Village Settlement Scheme on the Swamp was abandoned in 1899 and the land was opened for selection in the regular way.

I have created  a list of articles, on Trove,  from 1893 and 1894 which describe life in the Village Settlements on the newly drained Koo Wee Rup Swamp.  You can access it here. All the articles referenced here are on the list.

I must acknowledge the book  From Swampland to Farmland: a history of the Koo Wee Rup Flood Protection District by David Roberts. (Published by Rural Water Commission in 1985) in preparation of this blog post.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

The Minister of Lands visits the Koo Wee Rup Swamp January 19, 1894.

On Friday, January 19, 1894 the Minister of Lands, Mr M'Intyre, the Chief Surveyor, Mr Callinan and the Chief Engineer of the Public Works Department, Carlo Catani, visited the Koo Wee Rup Swamp. It was reported in The Age of January 22, 1894. It is transcribed below and you can see the original on Trove, here. It is a good description of life on the Swamp.


Mr. M'Intyre, Minister of Lands, accompanied by Mr. Callinan, chief surveyor of his department, and Mr. C. Catani, engineer in charge of roads, bridges and reclamation works, made a visit of inspection on Friday to the Kooweerup Swamp. In 1890 this particular area was 52,900 acres of water 2 to 3 feet deep, shaded by scrub.In 1892 a drain had been constructed to 4 miles from Western Port. Bloomfield Brothers then contracted to carry the drain 2 miles further inland, and subsequently (when the unemployed difficulty had to be faced by the late Ministry) that contract was extended indeinitely on condition that no fewer than 400 men were employed on the work. In March, 1893, the arrangement was terminated and the 400 men were thrown out of employment.Next month the new and present Minister of Lands appeared on the scene, and he found the men clamoring for work. "Look here," he said, "if I give you a block of land each and employment at the drainage every alternate week, you to work every other week on your own land, will that suit ? " The answer came immediately in loud cries of "Yes!" Mr. M'Intyre had no legal power to do this, but he believed it to be a right thing, and took the chance of Parliament ratifying his action. The land along the main drain was duly plotted out in 20 acre lots, and the men returned to work under the new system.

 It is no exaggeration to describe what has followed as a wonderful transformation scene. The water has been gathered into channels, and the main channel forms a rapid little river, whose velocity has to be checked by means of artificial "drop downs " or falls every mile or so. The reclaimed land is of very extraordinary richness, having some 6 to 9 feet of vegetable mould on a bed of clay. The mould is no longer actually boggy, but it is nearly as pervious as a snow drift. You can easily push a walking stick into it to the handle, and it is quite elastic or springy under the feet. It Is evident that this is soil which is not only in want of the sweetening influence of the sun, but that it is very much in need of compression. It is also evident, however, that it is not necessary to wait for the sweetening and the compression before putting this land to a good use.

All down the line of the main drain are settlers' houses of canvas, felt, or weatherboard, and around them are vegetable gardens of luxuriant growth. Nearly every settler is already practically independent of the rest of the world in the matter of food. They would certainly be entirely so if vegetarians. They have potatoes in abundance and of most excellent quality, cabbages weighing from 10 to 15 lb. apiece, turnips of prodigious size, and a multitude of other garden products of really superior quality, and when you taste them you have to confess that the sour land yields very palatable food.

The Koo Wee Rup Swamp - a settler's home.
A vegetable garden of luxuriant growth as described in the article.
ImageThe Illustrated Australian news, February 1, 1894.
State Library of Victoria Image IAN01/02/94/4c

The settlers' houses are well scattered, but those of them on the main channel standing in line seem to form at one place a street three to four miles in length. Then comes a break in the settlement due to the reservation of land for sale by auction, and nearing the Great Southern railway primitive houses again come into evidence scattered broadeast over the reclaimed swamp. To Mr. M'Intyre it was truly a very gratifying sight.

At the Bunyip railway station Mr. M'Intyre was interviewed by Mr. Charles Wilson on behalf of himself and 11 other men who desire to form what they would call the Blue Gum Valley Land Settlement Association It was stated that the men were all hard workers and residents about Longwarry and Drouin, and they coveted 2000 acres on the highest part of the swamp to the south of Longwarry. Mr. M'Intyre asked that the names should be forwarded to him, and promised to give the matter consideration. He however pointed out that Parliament had determined that in future swamp land should be sold. Mr. M'Intyre and party next embarked on a very primitive but serviceable tram car which was drawn by a reinless horse over a tram line built by the settlers, with timber provided by the Government at the small cost of about £50 per mile. The car was loaded with bags of flour, boxes of provisions and eight passengers ; and although the progress made was slow, it was safe and sure. At the end of a mile and a half we came to a locality known as the Bunyip Junction, where there is a general store and an experimental garden - the latter being a departmental affair.

Behind the store half a dozen men were working one of Davies and Company's Bennett American stump pullers. This seemed rather slow work, but the settlers said it was very effective and satisfactory. The machine is provided by the department, and the settlers are charged about 1s a day for the privilege of using it. The experimental garden is a plot of 2 acres, and it is a complete success. It was only started in August last, but it is already covered with all kinds of vegetables, fruit trees and grasses. Apricots and cherries are doing remarkably well, cabbages are as big as cheddars and as hard as boulders ; there are heavy crops of very toothsome peas and beans ; also splendid samples of sugar beet, lint, maize, buckwheat, clover, &c.

The Koo Wee Rup Swamp - Settlements on the bank of the Main Drain.
This is the serviceable tram car which was drawn by a reinless horse over a tram line built by the settlers, described in the article. 
Image: The Illustrated Australian News, February 1, 1894.
State Library of Victoria Image IAN01/02/94/4a

At the Minister's request some potatoes wore dug up; and there was a pot full at every root; although they were only planted four months ago. A medium sized cabbage weighed 10 lb.This garden has  served its purpose. It has demonstrated what the soil of the Kooweerup swamp is capable of in the immediate present, and it will now be disposed of by the department, probably to the gardener, a Mr. Pincott, who is one of the settlers.

Two houses, alleged to be sly grog shanties, were called at, and the occupants received what should prove vary salutary warnings from the Minister. A settler named West, who has 20 acres allotted to him in one part of the Swamp and who has cleared several acres there, expressed a desire to change his 20 acres for 5 acres nearer Bunyip. There are about 30 others anxious to make a similar exchange. The complaint is that the land they hold is not yet sufficiently dry for cultivation. The land they now desire is part of an area on a slightly higher level reserved for sale ; but no sooner did Mr. M'Intyre see the land objected to than he jumped at the proposal made. "Five acres elsewhere for 20 acres here? Yes," he said, " It's a bargain." There could be no doubt that the despised country was of immense value, which was indicated by luxuriant crops of thistles wherever clearings had been made, and that the bargain, although it may suit the present settlers now, will be to the ultimate advantage of the State.

Farther on we arrived at a store run by the department in the interests of the settlers. As is known the settlers are allowed to earn certain amounts per month, according to the numbers of their families. The amounts are small and have to be made the most of. It was found that local price for necessaries were beyond their slender means, so this store was opened under the management of the department to supply groceries, clothing, &c., at the lowest possible prices. It is State Socialism without disguise. The goods are retailed at a profit only sufficient to meet the expenses. The consequence is an all round reduction in prices by about 33 per cent. Boots for which 16s. had to be paid elsewhere are here obtainable at 9s. 6d. ; mole trousers are sold at 5s. instead of 6s. 6d., ling at 5d. instead of 1s. per lb., soap at 4½d. instead of 6d., tea at 10d. instead of 1s. 6d., sugar at 2d. instead of 3d., and so on. The amount of business done by the store is about £30 a week, and it has been in successful operation since November last.

Close to Kooweerup railway station a stump extractor was examined with much interest. It is a heavy triangular structure with two steel edged beams, and is pulled by a team of oxen. It tears up every root. The department have provided this implement; and let it out at a price equivalent to 8s. an acre. Some of the local settlers asked for the construction of a bridge over the main drain on the ground that they had been debarred from using the railway bridge. Mr. M'Intyre seemed rather indignant at the action of the Railway department in this matter, and he promised to provide the material for a small bridge if the settlers would erect it themselves. This was eagerly agreed to. On the whole of the swamp there are now 368 settlers, representing about 2000 souls, and it was estimated by a local official, who has full knowledge of them, that at least 70 per cent, are permanently fixed on the soil. As to what might happen to the reclaimed swamp in case of a phenomenal flood, time only can reveal. It was pointed out to the visitors that whereas the water in the main channel is only from 6 to 18 inches in depth it ran a banker in the flood of last year, but that it only overflowed and caused damages at certain points, where flood gates to keep the water back have now been constructed. Mr. M'Intyre and his party returned to town on Friday night by the Great Southern line.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Train Mystery - Alexander Eastman never made it to Koo Wee Rup

In June 1919, Alexander Gordon Eastman and his aunt, Miss Annie Maria Smith, boarded the 6.30pm Gippsland train at Hawksburn, bound for Koo Wee Rup, where they were going to stay with another aunt, Mrs Thompson. Alexander never made it, his body was found on the roof of  a carriage, when the train arrived at Korumburra. The Coroner called it a most extraordinary case and in the end decided that there was no foul play. 

Did the Coroner get it right? There are two reports in The Argus, that cover the incident - they are transcribed, below, so you can make your own mind up. There is some information about the family at the bottom of this post.

The Argus June 10, 1919

Gold Ring Missing from Finger.
What is regarded by the detectives as one of the most remarkable sets of mysterious circumstances met with for some time surrounds the death of Alexander Eastman, whose dead body was found on the roof of a railway carriage when the Melbourne train arrived at Korumburra late on Saturday night. Detective-sergeant Sullivan was sent to Korumburra yesterday to investigate the case, but up to late hour last night no information was received at headquarters which would indicate that the solution of the mystery was nearer. Constable C. G. Marchasi arrived from Korumburra last night with the body of Eastman, which was identified by his brother, and was taken to the City Morgue, where a post-mortem examination will be conducted today. 

Miss Annie Smith, Eastman's aunt, who left Melbourne with him with the intention of spending the week-end with another aunt, Mrs. Thompson at Koo-wee-rup was interviewed by the police at Koo-wee-rup on her arrival there on Saturday night. From her it has been learned that Eastman boarded the 6.30 p.m. Gippsland train with her at Hawksburn, and had with him a rifle and handbag. When the train reached Dandenong her nephew left the compartment in which they were travelling, saying that a friend of his was on the train, and that he desired to have a chat with him. Miss Smith did not see the young man again. He had her ticket as well as his own in his pocket, and on reaching Koo-wee-rup she made inquiries as to his whereabouts, and found that he was not on the train. She thought that he had missed the train when it left Dandenong, and would follow by another.

The police have learned that Mr. S. A. Marchbanks, of Vickery street, East Caulfield, who was a passenger on the train that reached Korumburra at about 10 o'clock, expressed the opinion that the body found on the roof was that of a young man to whom he had spoken on the platform at a station between Dandenong and Koo-wee-rup. Mr. Marchbanks asked him if he had seen a bag for which he was searching, but received no reply. 

A puzzling feature about the case, which seems to suggest foul play, is the fact that a gold band ring having Eastman's initials (A.G.E.) engraven upon it, which Miss Smith says he was wearing on the little finger of the left hand at Dandenong, was missing when the body was found. He had had the ring for some considerable time, and it fitted too well to permit of its dropping off. On leaving Melbourne, also, he had much more money than the 3½d. found in his pockets. The theory of robbery is, however, weakened by the fact that a gold and a silver watch, which had both stopped at about 10 minutes past 7, remained in his vest pockets, while gold links were still in his shirt sleeves.

In bright moonlight the fireman on the train, Frederick Mills, noticed the body lying on the sloping portion of the roof of the carriage just behind the engine tender. The lead was nearly 2ft. below the level of the feet, and the steel flange of the folding leather passage-way alone prevented the body from falling into the tender. Death had occurred only a very short time previously, as the body was warm and the night was bitterly cold. The train had passed under four or five railway bridges, but if the man struck his head against one of them it is regarded as practically certain that he would have been thrown off the carriage roof. The youth's hands, which were in his overcoat pockets, were blackened with soot, but it is thought that this came from the roof of the carriage, suggesting that he had been on his hands and knees on the roof. An examination of the interior of the compartment below showed that it would have been a comparatively easy matter for an agile person to draw himself on to the roof from a ledge above the door at the end of the corridor.

The Argus  June 26, 1919.

No Foul Play.
An inquiry was held yesterday at the Morgue by Mr A H Phillips J.P, deputy coroner, into the circumstances surrounding the death of a young man, Alexander Gordon Eastman, whose body was found on the roof of a railway carriage at Korumburra on June 7.

Herman Eastman, a brother, said that deceased was 21 years of age, sturdily built with keen faculties. He drank little. Witness had lent him a rifle for use on a weekend visit to Koo-wee-rup. On the journey he was to meet a man named Morrison, either at Caulfield or Dandenong.

Dr C.H Mollison gave evidence in regard to the post mortem examination which showed that death was due to suffocation, the result of regurgitation of food into the air passages. In answer to Sub-inspector Wardley, witness said that suffocation could not have been caused by fumes from the engine.

Annie Maria Smith, an aunt of deceased, said that she and her nephew left Hawksburn together at 6.30 on the night of the tragedy they changed trains at Caulfield for Koo-wee-rup. At Dandenong he left the train to see his mate, and she saw him standing at the carriage door talking. At Koo-wee-rup she went to the smoking carriage to look for him, but could not find him. He had carried a Gladstone bag but there was nothing to eat or drink in it. They had dined before leaving home. She did not think that he had got out at any wayside stations for drink.

Thomas A. Marchbank, sawmiller, of Ruby, a passenger said that after the train left Dandenong he went along to a first-class compartment to look for his bag and inquired of a man there, the sole occupant, who seemed a bit confused and did not answer. On arrival at Korumburra, on hearing there was a man on the roof of the carriage, witness went up to see, and afterwords identified the body as that of the man he had seen in the carriage.

Detective-sergeant P. Sullivan said that said that at the time of his inquiries on June 9 he was not aware that there was a van between the carriage and the tender, but he had since learned that the van was taken off at Nyora. His theory was that deceased, finding the corridor door leading to the second-class compartment locked, and probably thinking that Marchbank was a railway official who would raise a question on his ticket, climbed to the roof at the engine end as a temporary place for concealment. He may have become frightened at an overhead bridge some 300 yards from Clyde, and in lowering his body struck his chin and became sick. To Sub-inspector Wardley - By means of the steps at the end of the van he could easily have crossed to the carriage top.

Charles James, guard on the train, said that he thought that it would be impossible to see the bridge on a dark night.

John F. W. Miles, engine fireman said that after leaving Nyora he noticed that the siding door of the concertina buffer was open. When the train was about to shunt at Korumburra the light from a signal-box revealed something on the carriage top, which was afterwards found to be a dead body.

William Ridd, a ganger, stated that the bridge would just knock off a man's hat were he sitting up on the carriage roof. It was quite possible that deceased was about to get down to a crouching position just as the bridge was reached. Witness had found deceased's hat near the spot.

Constable C.G. Marchesi said that when he was called to the carriage at Korumburra the sliding door next to the engine was open. He found on Eastman apart from small personal property, a farthing three half-pence, and a large string pocket knife.

Lavinia Naughton Smith, deceased's aunt said that she was sure that her nephew had a few pounds with him - probably part of his wages and perhaps more, as he had sold a saddle for £4 a short time before.

Frederick Girdlestone, assistant guard deposed that he had personally locked the sliding door before the train reached Dandenong. It could have been opened by a strong pocket knife or railway key.

The deputy coroner remarked that the case was most extraordinary. Whatever the deceased man's intentions were it was impossible to say. There was a good deal in Detective Sullivan's theory. He did not think a robbery occurred. There was no doubt how Eastman had died. He was a decent, hard working young follow and the post-mortem examination had not revealed any mental trouble. That there was no foul play was clearly proved. His verdict was that "on the night of June 7 at Korumburra railway station, Alexander Eastman was found dead on the roof of a railway carriage, having died by suffocation. There is no evidence to show how he got there, but I am of opinion that it was by his own act"

Family information
Alexander was the son of Alexander George Eastman and Sarah Smith, he was born in 1892. Sarah Smith was the daughter of Thomas Smith and Maria Norton and she was born in 1872.  Annie Maria Smith, the aunt travelling with Alexander, was born in 1861 and Lavinia Norton (listed as Naughton in the article) who also gave evidence at the Inquest was born in 1874 - they had nine other siblings as well. Mrs Thompson, whom they were visiting, was, I believe Elizabeth Thompson, who died at the age of 66 in 1919. In the Index to the Victorian Births, Deaths and Marriages her father is listed as Thomas and her mother as Maria Norton, she was born in 1853 - so that all fits in. Is that why they were going to visit her, because she was sick?

What happened in Koo Wee Rup in 1919

This is an eclectic look back 100 years at what happened in Koo Wee Rup and surrounds in 1919. 1919 is, of course, the year after the Great War ended on November 11, 1918 and the community was enjoying peace after four years of war. Most of these reports come from the various newspapers available on Trove,

The Koo Wee Rup Sun of March 12 had an article about the shortage of accommodation for teachers and an interesting solution.
The need for housing accommodation at Koo Wee Rup has long been felt, but it has never been so strongly accentuated as during this week. With the resumption of school on Monday, the local staff of teachers sought to take up their duties. Miss Fargie and Miss Mahony however were unable to secure accommodation at either the Hotel of the Coffee Palace. Nine private residences were also tried, but without avail. The teachers, therefore were left stranded and had no other option but to report themselves to the Education Department for duty on Monday.
The enforced absence of teachers makes a large gap in the staff of the local schools the carrying on of which, placed the head teacher (Mr W. Eason) at his wit’s end. The infant room was closed on Tuesday but was reopened on Wednesday, the head teacher securing the services of Miss Hope Galley, who is well qualified, Miss Fargie is now doing duty at Richmond school.
On making inquiry it appears that the price charged for accommodation is beyond the means of teachers. The department is therefore to blame for not paying them a sufficient salary. Something will have to be done to relive the present situation.

However, on March the 26th the Koo Wee Rup Sun reported that Miss Fargie’s statement that she was unable to find accommodation was absolutely without foundation, according to Mrs O’Brien of the Royal Hotel. Miss Fargie was given, at some inconvenience, a single room at the Hotel and arrangements were made for her to board. Miss Fargie left the Hotel, simply informing one of the employees that she did not intend to remain. It seems likely Miss Fargie had decided that she wanted to get back to the bright lights of the City and not work and live at Koo Wee Rup.

The Royal Hotel (taken in the 1934 flood)  
Koo Wee Rup Swamp Historical Society photo

On March 28, the Yannathan Honor was unveiled. It was made from Australian blackwood, was seven feet by five feet in size and had the name of forty-one soldiers. The Board was described thus - The top bears a beautifully carved laurel wreath, which is in itself a creditable piece of work, 3ft across, with the words ‘Pro Patria’ carved thereon. On shields, on both sides of the honor board, appear the names-France, Palestine, Gallipoli and Egypt, and above the centre panel is inscribed ‘Yannathan Honor Roll-They Heard the Call.’ (Koo Wee Rup Sun April 2, 1919, South Bourke and Mornington Journal March 13, 1919)

In June, the body of Alexander Eastman was found on the roof of a train carriage at Korumburra. Alexander had boarded the train with his aunt, Miss Annie Smith at Hawksburn, to spend a weekend with another aunt, Mrs Thompson, of Koo wee Rup. When the train got to Dandenong, Alexander told his aunt that he was meeting up with a man named Morrison, so she travelled on, got off at Koo Wee Rup and discovered her nephew was not on the train. She just assumed that he had missed the train at Dandenong and would catch a later one. When the train arrived at Korumburra, the body of Alexander was found on the roof. At the Inquest, a witness, Mr Marchbank, said that he had seen Alexander in a first-class carriage and he seemed a bit confused. The theory of Detective-sergeant P. Sullivan was that the deceased, finding the corridor door leading to the second-class compartment locked, and probably thinking that Marchbank was a railway official who would raise a question on his ticket, climbed to the roof at the engine end as a temporary place for concealment. He may have become frightened at an overhead bridge some 300 yards from Clyde, and in lowering his body struck his chin and became sick. His hat had been found at Clyde.  The Coroner’s verdict was that on the night of June 7 at Korumburra railway station, Alexander Eastman was found dead on the roof of a railway carriage, having died by suffocation. There is no evidence to show how he got there, but I am of opinion that it was by his own act.  One mystery that wasn’t solved (according to The Argus reporter) was - A puzzling feature about the case, which seems to suggest foul play, is the fact that a gold band ring having Eastman's initials (A.G.E.) engraven upon it, which Miss Smith says he was wearing on the little finger of the left hand at Dandenong, was missing when the body was found. He had had the ring for some considerable time, and it fitted too well to permit of its dropping off. So, did the Coroner get it right? We will never know. (The Argus June 10 1919 and June 26, 1919)

On October 16, the South Bourke and Mornington Journal (SBMJ) reported that the London Bank, in Station street, a brick building, is now being enlarged by the banking chamber being built out to the footpath; it is also being made a two-storey building. This building is the old ANZ bank that closed in 2015 (because apparently making a profit of over 7 billion dollars that year clearly meant that they were struggling so had to shut the branch down.)

On the right is the E.S. & A Bank building, later the ANZ Bank,  that was enlarged, including the addition of a second floor, in 1919.
Koo Wee Rup Swamp Historical Society photo

On November 20, the SBMJ published a report on the amount or traffic - passenger, parcels, goods and livestock - through local railway stations. Koo Wee Rup had £1,598 in passenger traffic - as a comparison Dandenong had £9,739 and Pakenham had £1,903. Dandenong also had the most parcel traffic - £2,140 worth, Koo Wee Rup had £486, overshadowed by Caldermeade which had £1,088 in parcel traffic.  Koo Wee Rup had, by far, the most Goods traffic £4,932 worth, with Tynong coming in second with £2,936 worth of Goods traffic. Dandenong also led in livestock traffic, £2,707 worth - not a surprise, as the Dandenong market was a major outlet for livestock in the region. You can see the full report, here.

Finally, the SBMJ reported on December 25, 1919 that a double line of rails to Dandenong is badly needed.  Nearly every day trains are held up until some other train arrives, and as the fires are kept going it means a big expense for coal, wear and tear and wages. Apart from the fact Koo Wee Rup no longer has a train, there is still only a one line rail from Dandenong to Cranbourne - so no change there over the past 100 years!

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Local Railway returns 1918/1919

I came across this report in the South Bourke and Mornington Journal (SBMJ) of November 20, 1919 about Railway returns in the SBMJ circuation district. 

South Bourke and Mornington Journal November 20, 1919

As you might expect, Dandenong had the largest passenger traffic volume- £9,739, followed by Warragul, Springvale, Drouin, Pakenham, Clayton and then Koo Wee Rup, with £1,598. Dandenong also had the most parcel traffic, followed by Cranbourne and then Caldermeade, which I find extraordinary, as it is a very small town. Koo Wee Rup had, by far the most goods traffic £4,932 worth, with Tynong coming in second with £2,936 worth of goods traffic. Dandenong also led in livestock traffic, again not a surprise, as the Dandenong market was a major outlet for livestock in the region.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

What happened in Koo Wee Rup in 1918

Here is a look back 100 years at what happened in Koo Wee Rup and surrounds in 1918. 1918, is of course, the year the Great War ended on November 11, so the local community was still involved in fundraising for the War effort, local men were still enlisting and soldiers who had served were returning home, but this article will mainly look at the other activities that went on in the area.

On Sunday, January 13 light rain began falling and by Monday the heaviest falls for some years occurred and there was 3 inches (75 ml) of rain in 48 hours. (Lang Lang Guardian January 19, 1918)

In the Dandenong Advertiser of January 31 there was this report - Mr P. Einsiedel, of ‘Myora Park’, Monomeith, who may be termed the ‘Cattle King’ of South Gippsland, last week sold to Mr E. Manifold, Camperdown, 420 bullocks and they are to be despatched to their western home by special train tomorrow. Back in the days when Monomeith had a railway station and cattle were carted by rail and not road. It would have been an impressive sight to see that many bullocks at the Monomeith Station. (Read the full report in the Dandenong Advertiser, here)

On March 9, the Lang Lang Guardian reported that the dredge is making satisfactory progress in widening and deepening the drain. It is now crossing the Yallock Creek and making towards Koo Wee Rup. This was the Lubecker Steam bucket dredge, imported from Germany by the Public Works Department Engineer, Carlo Catani, in 1913.

The Cranbourne Shire Health Inspector’s report was published in the Dandenong Advertiser on April 11. Dr Langley reported - The health of the shire has been very satisfactory, especially if we might judge by the very few cases of infectious diseases reported during 1917. There were 7 cases in all - three isolated, one case of diphtheria at Koo Wee Rup, two at Pearcedale, and one group (the McKay family) at Yallock, consisting of four cases. This outbreak at Yallock was looked into by your officers, and it was found that the disease was brought from the Infectious Diseases Hospital, where one child had been an inmate with scarlet fever. The premises and drainage were all in good condition and the house was fumigated. The Infectious Diseases Hospital had opened in 1904 at Fairfield and people with small pox, typhoid, scarlet fever, diphtheria etc were sent there for treatment and hopefully to isolate the outbreak of what could be fatal diseases.

On April 12, the Koo Wee Rup Red Cross met. The secretary, Miss Jack, reported sending to the Central depot for the quarter ending March 30 the following articles: 29 undershirts, 3 flannel shirts, 4 sets pyjamas, 18 handkerchiefs, 11 pairs of socks, 3 helmets, 8 scarves and 100 washers. (South Bourke and Mornington Journal, April 25 1918)

Also on April 12, Mr James Maroney the Station Master at Koo Wee Rup and his wife, Mary, were given a farewell, as he was taking up an appointment at Violet Town. Mr Maroney was presented with a wallet of notes and Mrs Maroney a prayer book, mounted in silver, by the ladies of the Church. (Lang Lang Guardian, April 20 1918)

The same article in the Lang Lang Guardian reported that Corporal Gilchrist and Privates Cochrane and McGree were warmly welcomed by a number of friends at the Railway Station. They later received a public welcome home at the Hall. (Lang Lang Guardian, April 20 1918). You can see a photo and more information about the Welcome Home, here, on one of my other blogs.

The Birregurra Times of July 23 had this to say about the Koo Wee Rup Sun - We have received the first issue of the ‘Koo-wee-rup Sun’ a well-written and cleanly-printed weekly. The journal, which is ably conducted by Mr G. F. Hopkins, should be a real acquisition to the whole of the Cranbourne shire, and if it goes on as it has started we predict a long and useful career for it. The Koo Wee Rup Sun was the successor to the Lang Lang Guardian.

Birregurra Times July 23, 1918

The Koo Wee Rup Sun of July 31 reported on the unveiling of the the Yallock Roll of Honor  at the Yallock Hall (read report, here) The board, made of blackwood, contained the names and photos of 57 local boys. The Honor Board is now at the Lang Lang R.S.L. More information, including all the names of the soldiers, can be found here, on one of my other blogs.

There was a flood in the Koo Wee Rup area in September - water was a foot (30 cm) deep in the Koo Wee Rup North State School and the teacher, John Donald, had water waist deep through his house.  The report in the Koo Wee Rup Sun goes on to say that this building is situated in a position particularly liable to flood, for every freshet in the Five Mile drain causes inconvenience. During the two years of the present teacher's regime he has suffered no less than 23 floodings, a record that must surely reach the limit of exasperation. The structure was removed about 100 yards some time ago, to evade or try to minimise the risk, but without any relief.  Water was also a foot deep in the Koo Wee Rup North Hall. (Koo Wee Rup Sun, September 11, 1918 - see full report, here)

In October, Mr M.D. Dalley of Koo Wee Rup, wrote the following letter to the Farmers’ Advocate newspaper - Among the papers of my late father the following recipe was found; it has been used by him on many occasions, and found an excellent embrocation (lotion). For the benefit of farmers I give it: - 1 oz. Laudanum, 1 oz. Tincture of Myrrh; 1 oz. Tincture of Aloes; ½ oz. Sulphate of Zinc; 1 oz. Carbolic Acid. Mix with 5 oz. salad oil. 
For the young readers of this article, the word oz is the abbreviation for an ounce which is about 28 grams. These ingredients were obviously freely available at the time; I am not sure how you would access them all now. Laudanum is opium mixed with alcohol and, not surprisingly, no longer available at the local shops; Myrrh is a type of tree resin and was one of the gifts given by the Three Wise Men at the birth of Jesus; Aloes is made from the leaves of the aloe plant; Sulphate of Zinc is the dietary supplement; Carbolic Acid or phenol is used as an antibiotic or disinfectant and is considered to be a poison. Salad oil sounds like the least dangerous and easiest to obtain ingredient out of this list. As a matter of interest, Mr Dalley’s full name was Moorabool Darriwell Dalley, quite an unusual set of given names. He was born at Batesford, which is on the Moorabool River, and Darriwell is the name of a land administration Parish, just north of Batesford. Darriwell was also the name of the 1879 Melbourne Cup winner. (Farmers' Advocate October 4, 1918)

Farmers' Advocate  October 4, 1918

In The Argus on December 19 there was a report headlined ‘Children without schooling’
Strong discontent is expressed over the delay of the Education department in providing a
School at Dalmore East. The residents have for 12 months past offered to provide and clear a site, but nothing has been done. There are about 40 children not receiving education, including families of returned soldiers, who were promised school facilities when they took up their blocks.  It is felt to be little short of a scandal that children within 40 miles of a big city have no means of acquiring education.  The school, on Island Road (and later called Island Road School)  eventually opened on June 23, 1919. The building they used was the original Koo Wee Rup State School located on the corner of Bethunes Road and the Bayles Road. This building was shifted into Koo Wee Rup in 1910 and used until a new school was built in 1915. Dalmore East closed in 1974 and in 1984 the building was shifted back into Koo Wee Rup and is now on the Primary School site.  Read the full Argus report, here