Friday, 21 August 2009

Silver Wells, Gembrook

The Ure family were early settlers in Gembrook. John Ure had selected 213 acres of land in 1874 and moved to Gembrook with his wife, Jane (also called Jean), and their two sons Alexander (b. 1872) and John (b. 1873), who were both born in Scotland.  Another two sons, Robert (b. 1875)  and James Buchanan (b. 1881) were born at Gembrook. The Ures named their property Silver Wells due to the pure water they found when they sank their first well. Silver Wells had a suite of buildings including a number of houses, machinery sheds, barns, a cheese room, dairy and boiler room. It also had a Post Office and a store with a butchers room which served the small mining community, which had come to the area to search the local rivers for gold and silver. The Ures continued to operate the Store, at what was called North Gembrook, until 1901 when the commercial focus of the town shifted to the area around the Railway Station, for the Puffing Billy line.

General Store at Silver Wells

Detail of General Store, showing some construction details.

The Silver Wells property is on the Victorian Heritage Register, which states that the complex is notable for the range of vernacular construction used in the buildings, constructed mainly during the 1870s. For instance, the Stables are constructed in the drop slab method, the original house and Post Office are notched logs, which is a rare form of construction in Colonial Victoria. The dairy extension is built with split weatherboards. The roofs are a mixture of bark or shingles, though they have since been covered by corrugated iron. The four photographs below show some of the buildings and construction details.

The Heritage Register also states that the complex of buildings is located in a most picturesque setting, under mature conifers and with the remnants of a very early garden and orchard surrounding them.

The Silver Wells garden.

John Ure, who died in 1926 aged 85, was a Berwick Shire Councillor. He is pictured below in 1900 outside the Shire Offices in High Street in Berwick. He is the tall chap, sixth from left at the back. According to Genseric (Bill) Parker, author of Forest to Farming : Gembrook an early history, John Ure was six feet two inches. Jane Ure, who was the sister of the Hon James Buchanan of Berwick, died in 1905 aged 69.

Berwick Shire Hall, c. 1900. Photograph reproduced from
The Early Days of Berwick and its surrounding districts.

John Ure owned a bullock team as did his son, John, known as Jack. Jack's two eldest sons, Bob and Dave, also worked bullock teams. Bill Parker has an interesting account in his book of the cartage of a steam engine , weighing eight or nine tons, from a timber mill site to the railway at Nar Nar Goon. Jack and his sons had a team of twenty bullocks and firstly they had to haul the engine up a slope from the Mill site using a block and tackle, and they then had to drag it into Gembrook, a distance of three miles. This proceduere took a whole day. The next day a team of twelve bullocks drove the engine to the Nar Nar Goon station , via Mount Eirene, this journey took another whole day. They then had to return to Nar Nar Goon on the third day to load the engine onto a flat top train truck.

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