Wednesday, 10 March 2021

A trip to Yannathan - 1887

This interesting article of  a trip from Berwick to Yannathan is from 1887. The route taken was the Berwick-Clyde Road, the South Gippsland Highway, through Cranbourne, then through Monomeith and to Yannathan. The trip was taken before the Koo Wee Rup Swamp, called here the Great Swamp, was drained. The article was in the South Bourke & Mornington Journal of June 8, 1887, see here.


My last expedition was "over the hills and far away," mid fairy-like bowers of fern trees, flowering eeries and trinkling streamlets of crystal water. No such beauties in this trip, but flat swampy country, ti-tree and mud are the only thing one finds to relieve the tedious monotony of such a journey. Starting from Berwick along the Cranbourne road the broad acres of Mr. Gibb's property (1) , stretching away park-like as far as the eye can see, impresses one with the care he bestows on his land. My guide  informs me that if a branch happens to fall on the ground, men are immediately  sent to clear it away, and I quite believe it, for, out of the Riverina district, the country about Sale or Maffra, or the midland counties of Tasmania, I have seen no estate kept so clear of fallen timber as that under notice.

Next to Mr. Gibb's is Taylor's estate (2), also well kept, where we shall shortly have one of the largest land rooms of the period. The estate having been cut up into handy allotments on which our city magnates may be expected to erect country residences at no distant date, a more beautiful or more salubrious position to which they may retire from the worry and turmoil of city life, it will be hard to find, some of the sites commanding magnificent views of the Beaconsfield ranges on the one hand and the bay on the other. Berwick people must surely be asleep, dead to their own interest, in that they make no effort to educate the Melbourne taste into an appreciation of the beauties of the district. They may not boast the grandeur of mountain sublimity, but they possess the equally beautiful, if less striking,  grandeur of rural simplicity so acceptable to the tired and weary brain of commercial workers.

Berwick in 1887, where the journey to Yannathan started.
Berwick 1887 (28 miles from Melbourne). Field Naturalists' Club of Victoria photograph album.
State Library of Victoria Image H2012.114/2

Onward still, until we reach the abode of Mr. Martin (3), not long since the scene of a sad fatality which no doubt casts a shade of sadness o'er the place, but why the room in which the accident occurred  should have been removed I cannot understand. Death comes to all, soon or late, and whether by accident or from nature, I fail to see that the house can be responsible. On, past Patterson's Estate, (4)  down to the Rev. Mr Duffs farm (5), where extensive alterations are being made, with a view to future contingencies. "Parson Duff, the contractor" seems to be an old identity in the district, having been settled at Cranbourne when Berwick was a wild, and the hut in which he first held divine service is still in existence in that town. It is said that he contemplates an early retirement from the ministerial work, and that he will spend the evenings of his days on this farm descanting on his treasures in heaven, by making his abode a heaven of rest upon earth.

Not far beyond this we enter on a veritable glue-pot, black mud everywhere; to do more than walk our horses is an impossibility, down into a lane through which no track has ever been made, we had to 
force our way into a dense patch of ti-tree, at the end of which we found the lane blocked by a wire fence. Nil desperandum and ever forward is our motto, so over the fence we go and find ourselves face to face with some navvies engaged in the construction of the Great Southern line.

From them we learn that we are on the Moy-Glass Estate, the property of Mr. Peers (6) not him of soap celebrity, but of the locally celebrated firm of Peers and Frew, tailors, Melbourne. We subsequently ascertained that the estate is let at an annual rental of 10s. per acre, which, considering its distance from a railway station and its proximity to the "Great Swamp," is, I think, a very good rental indeed. We were told that on moonlight nights deers are plentiful in that locality, and have no doubt but that the local Shakespeare may often be found guilty of illicit deer stealing. The flesh is weak, and the sporting instincts are strong in most men, and no law will restrain them.

From the junction of the Moy-Glass lane and the Main road as far as Monomeith, with the exception of a few miles formed and made of "burnt earth," the road is simply execrable, slush and mud everywhere. I suppose it is a sort of Hobson's choice with many people in the district, but certainly I shall never  voluntary take up my abode in a part of the country where nature has failed to complete her work. Years ago, before the days of the Moama and Deniliquin railway, when "Jenney," of Cobb and Co was boss of the road, a road to where metal was a stranger, I made that resolve and have so far adhered to it. When you require to burn clay to spread about your house, or along the roads to make them passable I do not think such parts were intended for human settlement. I once heard the Rev. Thos. Jones find fault with the plan of creation, because things were not so arranged that men in their journies could avoid the sea, or that their stomachs were so constituted that mal-de-mer would be unknown, but I think residents where all is clay can more justly find fault with creation. 

Apart from its roads, and where the surface is not broken, Monomeith is a pretty place. Last December it was cut up and sold. The railway goes right through the estate, and a station being located there greatly enhances its value. Glasscock, of "Kirk's Bazaar," (7) well known to all horse dealers, has a magnificent estate at this place, containing some 1500 acres of splendid grazing country, only rather sloppy in the winter in parts, but as the Yallock creek runs close by his property there is surely fall enough to drain it. "That costs money," is the reply; "why there's Macgregor, (8) he spent £10,000 in draining his land; I can't afford that." What's £10,000 to Glasscock? How  much did he "net" out of his shipment of horses to India per the "Melomope"? (9) And look at the increased value of his land as winter grazing country once it has been drained. In less than ten years it would repay itself and interest. 

When horses were King - Kirk's Bazaar, on the left, and E. Brown's Horse Bazaar on the right. 
George Glasscock traded at Kirk's Bazaar.
Horse Market, Bourke Street West, 1862
Published in the Illustrated Melbourne News, September 13, 1862. Publisher: Charles Frederick Somerton. 
State Library of Victoria IMP13/09/62/1

While on the subject of draining I may give as my opinion that individual effort is not what is required. There must be a uniform system adopted and carried out under the auspices or control of the State, otherwise there will be a waste of money and the result will always be unsatisfactory. I have no doubt that the completion of the Southern railway will give the drainage of that part of the country a greater national importance in the eyes of the "powers that be." Railways must be made to pay, and when the holdings are large and the carrying capacity comparatively small, through excess of water, the necessity to carry that water off becomes imperative.

Adjoining Glasscock is McMillan's estate of 5000 acres. These McMillans,
(10) in the years that are past, were well known to me. Poor Godfrey, the last time I saw him, Sheep Bills, by Horsham, I think had just been sold to Carter Bros., and he told me he was bound for New Mexico. The next I heard of him he had gone to the New Jerusalem. William had gone into a large squattage on the back blocks of the Darling, and Archie, he had just disposed of Arcadia, I believe, to Jacobs, and Alex. (the present owner of this estate) was at Glynwylln on the Doctor's creek. How things change in a few years. Lancox, the Brighton head quarters of the McMillan family, has, I hear, been subdivided and sold. Death, too, has been amongst them, but where is it not busy? I did not see Mr. Alex. McMillan or we might have spent the day in talking over the "brave days of old."

At Yannathan my business was completed and left me a day to look about the locality. The place swarms with "bears.'' In nearly every other tree they are to be seen. The name "bear" quite intimidates the "new chum," but no need of fear, for they are truly harmless beasts living on the gum leaves, and I am told are rapidly killing the gum trees as effectually as if they had been "rung". Sport, in the shape of hares, I was told is fairly plentiful, with an occasional deer, which sometimes come out to the clear patches after feed; ducks, too, and on the Westernport Bay swans may be shot, so that on the whole there would appear to be lots of shooting. Fishing is also said to be good in the Lang Lang river, a few miles further on. 

Regarding the uses to which this country is now put, grazing appears to the principal feature at present. Butter is the staple product, which is gathered weekly by various hawkers who perambulate the district, and I have no doubt that when the line of railway now in course of construction has been completed much more will be done in that direction. The land when worked and cleared is certainly good for grazing, but for the water which seems to lay wherever it falls, and as it rained most of the time I was there, the place resembled a morass about as much as anything. But it has grand future before it, and those who can live there and escape rheumatism will, I am sure, reap an abundant harvest, and having a railway they will in some degree be independent of the roads which are simply abominable.

As bearing upon local efforts at Narre Warren to obtain a school near the railway station, I may mention that at Yannathan there are two State schools (one full time)
(11) not more than about two miles apart, while according to the admission of the people one school would have been sufficient, only they could not settle where to locate it so the Department gave them two and gave a post office to one.

(1) Mr Gibb - James Gibb (1843 - 1919) was a farmer, Shire of Berwick Councillor and politician. He owned Melville Park (later called Edrington). In 1905 it consisted of 830 acres. You can read his obituary in the Weekly Times, March 8 1919, here

Sale of Gibb's Melville Park Estate in 1905

(2) Taylor's Estate - I believe this is G. W. Taylor, listed in the Shire of Berwick Rate books in 1886/87 as owning 600 acres. His occupation was Auctioneer. He was a City of Prahran Councillor and Mayor, you can read about him in this article in the Weekly Times of July 23, 1887, here, where he was  described as a 'land speculator'. There are various newspaper reports on Trove about people taking legal action against him, he sounds a bit dodgy. 
(3) Mr Martin - whose place was the scene of  a sad fatality. I haven't worked out who this is or what the circumstances of the fatality were.
(4) Patterson's Estate - Referring to Alexander Patterson, of Clyde and Cranbourne. You can read about him on the Clyde History website
(5) Reverend Alexander Duff, I have written about him, here
(6) Mr Peers - F. W. Peers - purchased 426 acres in March 1875, which was part of the Great Swamp run, previously leased by John Mickle, John Bakewell and William Lyall.  (Niel Gunson, The Good Country: Cranboure Shire, p. 125.) His land was in the Dalmore area. When the Dalmore Railway Station opened in August 1889, it was known as Peer's Lane (read more on the Great Southern Line, here.) Frederick William Peers died in St Kilda in 1896, aged 53. 
(7) Kirk's Bazaar - a horse bazaar ( or sale yard) in Bourke Street, between Queen and Elizabeth Streets. It was established in 1840 by James Kirk. George Glasscock had a stall there and later owned it. He died at the age of 59 in 1891. George purchased part of John Mickle's Monomeith Estate in December 1886 (Niel Gunson, The Good Country: Cranboure Shire, p. 129.)  The reference to George owning Kirk's Bazaar came from the obituary of his son, Herbert, see here. George's short obituary was in The Age of November 14, 1891, see here.
(8) Duncan MacGregor (1835-1916) , read his Australian Dictionary of Biography entry here. In March 1875 MacGregor  also purchased part of the Great Swamp run, previously leased by John Mickle, John Bakewell and William Lyall. His land holding was  3,871 acres in present day Dalmore (which was named after MacGregor’s property). MacGregor was instrumental in establishing the Koo Wee Rup Drainage Committee which from 1876 constructed channels to take the water from the Cardinia Creek and the Toomuc Creek to Western Port Bay at Moodys Inlet.
(9) Glasscock's horse shipment on the Melomope - it is actually called the Melanope. There a many reports of Australian horses being shipped to India. Glasscock's shipment took place in 1885.

Report of George Glasscock's shipment of horses to India in 1885.
The Australasian, May 23, 1885,

(10) The McMillans -  Archibald McMillan (1789-1863) purchased land south of Koo Wee Rup in 1856, and called it Caldermeade (hence the name of the town). Alexander McMillan (1825 - 1897), who was the fifth son of Archibald purchased the Caldermeade property in May 1881, when the property was put up for sale after the death of Archibald's widow, Katherine. At the time the Caldermeade property consisted of over 3,000 acres; there was also another 1,300 acres at Lang Lang (Niel Gunson, The Good Country: Cranboure Shire). Godfry was another son of  Archibald McMillan. There is an interesting account of the family in the Horsham Times August 27, 1926, here.
(11) Yannathan State Schools - State School No. 2510 opened at Yannathan South in 1881. It amalgamated with No. 2422 in 1890. State School No. 2422 opened at Yannathan in 1882. State School No. 2492 opened at Yannathan Upper (also called Lang Lang North) in 1883 and State School No. 3225 opened as Protector's Flat in 1895, later became known as Heath Hill and then Yannathan South. I presume the article is referring to the first two mentioned schools. The reference to Narre Warren - the Narre Warren Railway Station opened in 1882 and the people who lived in the town which developed around the railway station had to wait until March 1889 until the Narre Warren Railway Station school, No. 2924,  was opened. No wonder the writer thought that two schools close together in Yannathan was noteworthy. School information comes from Vision and Realisation : a centenary history of State Education in Victoria, edited by L.J. Blake ( Education Department of Victoria, 1973).

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