Thursday, 25 February 2021

Progress of Pearcedale - hindered by bad roads - 1922

The Age newspaper of April 5, 1922 (see here) published an article on Pearcedale, about the vile unmade tracks that masquerade as roads in the area. These roads hindered the development of Pearcedale as the market gardeners could not easily get their produce to the railway towns of  Langwarrin, Baxter, Somerville and Cranbourne and hence to the markers. The Scottish investor referred to in the article is Donald Larnach, you can read about him here. A short history of the town of Pearcedale and the Pearce family, can be read here

The Progress of Pearcedale - hindered by bad roads.
Settlers tackle the job. From our Special Reporter.

FRANKSTON - Pearcedale is a small agricultural and market gardening settlement sprawled across the neck of Mornington peninsula. It lies between Frankston and Tooradin, and, like many other places 
of the peninsula, has scenic charms which eventually will give it greater prominence on tourist maps. But apart altogether from the magnificent views of Westernport and Port Phillip Bays that may be obtained from its uplands, the place has such a wealth of natural advantages - exceptionally fertile soil, generous rainfall and a genial climate - that it would have been a prosperous and progressive centre many years ago had its development not been paralysed by municipal neglect.

If you were to land at Pearcedale from an aeroplane and inspect its small holdings, apple orchards and market gardens, the crops on which reflect the wonderful fertility of the soil, you would wonder why so much of the surrounding country is still covered with the scrub growth of ages - swamp ti-tree and stunted eucalypt - and why it in still sheltering kangaroos and wallabies instead of supporting some hundreds of prospering families. But if you made the journey there over the vile unmade tracks that masquerade as roads you would understand. The shocking state of the "roads" linking up the settlement with the railway towns -  Langwarrin, Baxter, Somerville and Cranbourne - is an explanation in itself. Very little trouble is experienced in producing the goods; it is supremely difficult to get them out to the  market. 

The track out from Langwarrin to Pearcedale is a crazy one, like a bridle path through the ranges. It shoots into the forest soon after Langwarrin is left, and breaks into several pieces, which twist there and turn here, and leave one speculating as to whether he will emerge at Pearcedale or Timbuctoo. The tracks from Somerville and Cranbourne follow a more definite route, but the grades are bad, and they are sandy, desultory things over which it is impossible to haul heavy loads either in summer or winter. One resident, Mr. J. Barton (1), who retired from the business of a decorator of buildings in the city because it was not profitable after the great land boom had burnt, and who has now as fine a Jonathan orchard as exists in the State, almost explodes with indignation over the state of the roads. "The roads are worse now than, they were 25 years ago," he points out. "When I first started to grow apples I could take 70 to 100 cases over the track to Somerville. Now I can't take 40 cases."  The same story is told by everyone of the settlers.  Only the lack of decent roads has kept men from going to Pearcedale and settling down to the task of making a comfortable living from a small piece of land.

When the demand for building sites drove the market gardeners from their domain in the Brighton district, Pearcedale would have attracted them had the roads been fit for traffic. The land was available at ridiculously easy terms, which made it possible for the gardeners to become the owners of their own homes in a few years; clearing was an easy matter, and the soil and climatic conditions were better than those in the Brighton district. The market gardeners with experience of both Brighton and Pearcedale testify to that. One of these men, Mr. W. Hatch (2), when asked how long he had been at Brighton, replied. "Too long; I did not find this place soon enough." But only three or four of the Brighton district gardeners went to Pearcedale; the others regarded the transport difficulties as too great a handicap.

Making Larnach Road (Baxter-Tooradin Road) bridge near Pearcedale School.
Image: Male family collection, Pearcedale: Moments in History (Pearcdeale Public Hall Committee, 2003)

The settlement at Pearcedale dates back to the early "seventies." At that time a Scottish investor purchased several square miles of the country for his sons and established a sheep station. This was not a success because the boys were too fond of the sporting life. The story is told throughout the district that after the father had tired of sending out thousands of pounds to develop the place, he made a surprise visit from Scotland, and arrived on the property just as a large party had assembled for a kangaroo hunt and other festivities. Of course he spoiled the party. He turned the hunting horses loose on to the roadway, and eventually wound up the estate. 

The property passed into other hands, but portion of it has been held as a large area ever since. The original home of the Scottish investor's sons and 60 acres of land surrounding it are now owned by an industrious market gardener, Mr. J. Pearce, a son of the pioneer settler after whom the district was named. Ten years ago this market gardener possessed £30, and was working for wages - "five bob a day and no 'smoke ohs' and lunches, and a boss over me all the time to keen me at it." He put his £30 down as a deposit on the land, and started a market garden on the paddock from which the irate parent had turned the hunters loose. Prolific yields of vegetables and fruit soon put him on the road to prosperity, and he now owns two houses, 170 acres of land and a building block in Frankston, where he "will retire some day." 

His brother, Mr. S. Pearce, started market gardening "without a bean" eight years ago. He borrowed the money to pay a deposit, and now owns the property which he would not sell under £2000. "If the roads were good enough to enable us to cart stable manure", he states, "market gardening would be a gold mine in Pearedale."

That the land is easy to clear is evidenced by the progress made on an unimproved block purchased two years ago by Mr. C. Chandler (3), a former mayor of Williamstown. Mr. Chandler was nearly 60 years of age when he purchased his block. With the aid of a boy working three days a week he cleared six acres, and planted out 400 fruit trees in less than six months. He sees no reason why Government officials should go "careering round mountain areas in Gippsland, where the roads are difficult to make and the country difficult to clear," in search of land that can he worked profitably by soldier settlers, when the expenditure of a small sum on roads would make suitable areas available in the Pearcedale district.

Pearcedale East from front of school, Larnach Road (Baxter-Tooradin Road), c. 1920s. 
Image: Male family collection, Pearcedale: Moments in History (Pearcdeale Public Hall Committee, 2003)

The Country Roads Board is now making a road from Somerville to the southern boundary of Pearcedale, and has recently made the Frankston-Cranbourne road to the northern boundary of the settlement. This is a big improvement, but it still leaves six square miles of Pearcedale country without a satisfactory outlet to markets. The settlers recently met and decided to help themselves by assisting the Cranbourne council to form and grade the worst portion of the track connecting the settlement with the several railway stations. The Cranbourne council has also recommended the Country Roads Board to construct the Pearcedale road running through the centre of the district. This recommendation was made several years ago, but nothing further was done. 

Now that the Frankston-Cranbourne road has been made and the Somerville-Pearcedale road is in course of construction, the construction of the road suggested by the Cranbourne council through the heart of the Pearcedale country is all the more necessary, as it will provide a direct connecting link between Cranbourne and Somerville and join up the Mornington peninsular with Gippsland. A deputation of Pearcedale residents arranged to wait upon the Cranbourne council on Saturday to discuss the whole subject of road making in the district. Thus it will he seen that the Pearcedale people are starting out in the right direction to remove the disability that has so long checked progress.
(The Age April 5, 1922, see here). 

(1) You can read about the Barton farm at Pearcedale in the Weekly Times of April 23, 1932, see here.
(2) You can read the obituary of William Hatch, in the Frankston and Somerville Standard, of June 7, 1935, see here.
(3) Christopher Chandler, died March 20, 1944 aged 79 (death notice, The Argus, March 22, 1944).

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