Monday, 19 April 2021

400th post!

This is our 400th post! The first post was on November 5, 2007 - thirteen and a half years ago. In that time so much has happened in the world of historical research and resources; the main change is the huge increase in freely available on-line content - photos and newspapers. Trove, the National Library of Australia's website, is one of the best resources - pages and pages of digitised newspapers containing a treasure trove of local and family information, it has really transformed research of our recent (last 170 years or so) history.

Most of the posts have been written by me, Heather, the Local History Librarian here at Casey Cardinia Libraries. This blog has covered so many topics and sometimes I go back to an earlier story and add to it or improve it and sometimes I forget I have a story and then Google a topic and the blog entry comes up! Sometimes I Google a topic and find the information has been used on another site, without attribution, but that is just one of those things - some people think that if information or images are on the Internet then they can be reused anytime or anyway.

So what are my favourite stories? Hard to say, this is a bit of an electic list of some of them.

Interesting Women - Martha King and Sarah Fagan are two of my favourites. Read about Martha, here and Sarah, here.

Arcuate Ridges - the sand ridges which are the remains of ancient lake beds - the town of Cardinia is built on one. Read about them here. I loved geography and history at school, maybe that is why I found this topic so fascinating.

Aerial photographs - I love aerial photos - these ones here of Doveton, Eumemmerring and Hampton are some of my special favourites.

Basalt columns at Narre Warren, see here. I just found this so interesting.

Quolls - I was really pleased with this story about Quolls which were once very common in this area. It really tells us how habitat loss due to settlement has disastrous implications for wildlife. Read it here.

Unexpected connections. I come across unexpected connections all the time between people and places, not always significant connections, just interesting. An early one was when I found that Captain Robert Gardiner, early European landowner at Berwick was the great grandfather of the Sir Robert Helpmann, the ballet dancer. I just found that to be such a fascinating connection. Captain Gardiner also had a connection to the Burke & Wills expedition. I did the post on Captain Gardiner in April 2008, so it was one of my earliest 'connections'. Read it here.

Family history - I like stories which combine family and local history, so for that reason I really liked the story on the Tulliallan property, see here.

I loved this post as well - Where does Gippsland start? My conclusion was the Cardinia Creek. Read the post here.

Two highlights - the blog was commended in the Victorian Community History Awards in 2010 (see here). I was so excited. Secondly, the Hollins Children's Centre in Pakenham is named for Sister Hollins, one of the first Infant Welfare nurses in the area and I suggested that name! I am still thrilled, you can read about Sister Hollins, here.

I'll be honest, I love all the stories, I am very proud of this blog. I love local history, a friend told me once that I had an innate religious curiousity into the parochial and obscure and that is true. No part of history is too obscure or parochial - that's what local history is. Everyone has a story, every thing has a story and this blog tells and shares these stories. Thank you for supporting it! Heather Arnold.

Monday, 12 April 2021

Geranium harvesting and 'ten acres of drugs' at Westerfield, Baxter

I came across these photos from 1929 of germanuim harvesting at Westerfield, at Baxter. Westerfield was a property owned by Russell Grimwade (1). He was the son of Frederick Shepherd Grimwade (2) who established the Company Felton, Grimwade & Co. They were manufacturers of drugs and perfumes and they also established a Chemical Company and the Melbourne Glass Bottle Works. Given that liquids, powders and potions were all packaged in glass bottles and jars at the time, this was logical move.

Geranium harvesting at Westerfield, Baxter, December 1929. Photographer: Russell Grimwade.
University of Melbourne Archives

was in Robinsons Road in Baxter (3), most of which was in the old Shire of Cranbourne, even though it is now part of the City of Frankston, but as I had never heard of harvesting geraniums before it is a story worth telling. The property also grew drugs for the pharmaceutical industry during World War Two, you can read about that below.

Geranium oil was used in the manufacture of perfume. Russell Grimwade gave an address on essential oils in 1924. It was reported on in The Age - The art of the perfumer, Mr. Grimwade said, was to gather from all possible sources the essential oils, and blend them in the proportions that gave the most beautiful perfumes. The oils generally known as essential oils were not really what they were called, because they were not pure oils, though they contained pure oils in various proportions. They were really volatile, or ethereal, oils, and were obtained in all forms of growing plants (4).

Geranium harvesting at Westerfield, Baxter, December 1929. Photographer: Russell Grimwade.
University of Melbourne Archives

It makes the process sound easy, however a large quantity of plants were required to produce the oil. An 1886 report in the Weekly Times on the Manufacture of Perfumery said that half an acre will sustain 800 geranium plants, giving 2,250lb. of geranium leaves. That's 1020kg of leaves. As a comparison jasmine requires about a third of an acre to produce, during the entire season, 30,000 plants, which will furnish 2,2501b. of flowers...the orange tree at ten years of age will require an acre to grow 100 trees, producing 2,2501b. of flowers (5).

Geranium harvesting at Westerfield, Baxter, December 1929. Photographer: Russell Grimwade.
University of Melbourne Archives

Geraniums were not the only plants grown at the Grimwade farm. I found this very intersting article about ten acres of drugs being grown there during the Second World War for the pharmaceutical industry. It is from The Herald, August 24, 1946 (6) and reproduced here in full.

Ten acres of drugs by Angas Brammall

On a secluded pine-sheltered hillside three miles from bustling Frankston are 10 privet-hedged acres of herb garden which through the war provided all Australia with drugs formerly coming from abroad. This garden even provided the drug used in the AlF's invasion anti-sea-sickness pills. The rows of purple, red and white blooms are the result of the enterprise and foresight of Mr Russell Grimwade.

Thousands of pounds worth of digitalis, heroin, hyoscine, opium, and other deadly, but life-saving drugs were produced during the war from the 10 acres, which are part of Mr Grimwade's beautiful estate. More than 20 years ago Mr Grimwade made a hobby of cultivating small patches of herbs and drug-yielding plants. When the Second World War started he foresaw a shortage of certain essential drugs. Immediately the war started he cabled an English firm for a pound each of five drug seed varieties. Within a few months rows of plants were showing their heads above the fertile, sandy loam.

The deadly leaf harvest was gathered and sufficient seed extracted to make a hundred-fold crop the following, season. Meanwhile, engineers, architects and industrial chemists had been busy. Drying rooms, were built which; could handle 700 pounds of leaves in a single day. Choppers and desiccators were designed, and the whole vast resources of the drug industry co-opted.

The next crop was bumper. Mr Grimwade's Welsh farm manager (Mr W. Griffiths) watched with pride the steady growth of the "deadly nightshade," or Atropa belladonna, from which atropine is extracted. He saw the dark-leaved foxglove, or digitalis, flourish in the summer sunshine. He beheld the tossing red or white heads of the popples from which came opium and morphine. That harvest, too, was gathered. The new drying-rooms worked perfectly, and soon the pungent bales of drug leaves were being transformed at a city ware-house into the drugs for which military and civil hospitals had been pleading so desperately.

Assay and analysis proved Mr Grimwade's digitalis and atropa superior to the imported drugs, and, with hyosclne and colchicum, they were soon in use in hospitals throughout Australia and on every battlefront in the North.

Although a deadly poison, hyoscine in minute doses, is an antidote to sea and air-sickness, and hundreds of pounds' worth was extracted by Mr Grimwade's company from Australian-grown plants. Hyoscine tablets were issued to troops before all major landings.

Digitalis contains four important glucosides, of which three are invaluable heart stimulants; but it is an extremely poisonous drug and a lethal dose causes almost instant death. Colchicum is an amazing substance derived from a bulb. It has an immediate depressant effect on the heart and speedily causes death from collapse if an over-dose is taken, It is used, medicinally, for gout patients. Its most extraordinary property is its effect on plant life. Injected into trees or shrubs it causes giantism and the tree will grow to many time's its normal size.

Russian scientists evolved perennial wheat by soaking hybrid seed grains in a solution of colchicum before planting. The digitalis and hycscyamus leaves are treated in very much the same manner as tobacco leaves. They are strung on poles and quickly dried off at a temperature of 150 degrees Fahrenheit. They are then baled under great pressure and sent to the Melbourne warehouse for the extraction of the drugs. Each bale weighs 130lb.

Atropin is extracted from the root of the belladonna plant. Dahlia-like in appearance, the root is first sliced in a chopper, then dried off and crushed. Opium and morphine normally come from the white latex which is taken from poppy heads before they have ripened and dried. But by a new Australian process morphine is now extracted directly from the poppy capsules. This eliminates the laborious scraping of latex from the poppy heads.

Other products of Mr Grimwade's farm are nicotlana rustica, from which nicotine is derived, and the squill plant, which yields a valuable expectorant. Geranium oil is extracted from the Pelargonium radula, and lavender oil from carefully selected strains of the ordinary lavender plant. 

(1) Sir Wilfred Russell Grimwade (1879-1955). Read his Australian Dictionary of Biography entry, here.
(2) Frederick Sheppard Grimwade (1840-1910). Read his Australian Dictionary of Biography entry, here.
(3) I found the address from this advertisement in the Frankston Standard, December 1, 1949 

(4) The Age, November 28, 1924, see here.
(5) Weekly Times, March 13, 1886, see here.
(6) The Herald, August 24, 1946, see here.

Friday, 19 March 2021

Meteor sightings in the Casey Cardinia area

This region is world famous for the Cranbourne Meteorites which were unearthed between 1853 and 2008. I have written about them here. I have found some newspaper reports of local observations of meteors, which are reproduced below. They are called meteors when they are in space and if they make it to earth they are called meteorites. I will confess I only found this out a few years ago when I did a talk at a school in Cranbourne to Grade 2s about the history of the area and one of the boys in the class mentioned this fact.

What is the chance of observing a meteor? The American Meteor Society says that several thousand meteors of fireball magnitude occur in the Earth’s atmosphere each day. The vast majority of these, however, occur over the oceans and uninhabited regions, and a good many are masked by daylight. Those that occur at night also stand little chance of being detected due to the relatively low numbers of persons out to notice them...A fireball is another term for a very bright meteor, generally brighter than magnitude -4, which is about the same magnitude of the planet Venus in the morning or evening sky. (

So sightings of meteors are relatively unusual and it is even rarer for a meteor to fall to earth. The American Meteor Society says that our best estimates of the total incoming meteoroid flux indicate that about 10 to 50 meteorite dropping events occur over the earth each day. It should be remembered, however, that 2/3 of these events will occur over ocean, while another 1/4 or so will occur over very uninhabited land areas, leaving only about 2 to 12 events each day with the potential for discovery by people. Half of these again occur on the night side of the earth, with even less chance of being noticed. Due to the combination of all of these factors, only a handful of witnessed meteorite falls occur each year. As an order of magnitude estimation, each square kilometer of the earth’s surface should collect 1 meteorite fall about once every 50,000 years, on the average. If this area is increased to 1 square mile, this time period becomes about 20,000 years between falls. (

We will have to wait a long time before another meteorite lands in this area, but if you want to see one now, the Cranbourne Meteorite No. 13, identified in 2008, is on display at the Casey RACE Leisure Centre, next to the Cranbourne Library.

Cranbourne No. 13 meteorite, identified in 2008 at Clyde. It weighs 83 kg. 
Photographer: Angela Muscat. Museums Victoria

Here are some reports of meteor sightings in the Casey Cardinia area and a little further afield.
1867 - Cranbourne
On Tuesday evening last a very brilliant meteor was seen at Cranbourne, at about twenty minutes past eight. It shot through the heavens with great rapidity, for an instant casting a glow on the ground (Mount Alexander Mail March 2, 1867, see here)

1881 January - south west of Warragul
One of the most brilliant meteors it has ever been our lot to witness made its appearance in the south western sky at about 10 o'clock on Monday night. The meteor, which first appeared like a large, very bright shooting star, started from high up in the heavens, and fell in the ordinary manner of such bodies for a considerable distance, apparently coming straight towards the earth. After falling some distance, it suddenly burst, when it closely resembled (but was far brighter and more beautiful than) a blue
light from a rocket. The light emitted was of a light blue color and so intense that the whole southern sky was lighted up, and the meteor continued on its way earthward till lost to view behind the trees. It did not seem to be very far off, apparently not more than a few miles. (Warragul Guardian January 13, 1881, see here)

1881 August - east of Dandenong
A very brilliant meteor was observed in the eastern direction at Dandenong on Saturday night last. It resembled a hugh ball of pale blue fire being rolled through the heavens, and as it continued its career it threw a light similar to a heavy flash of lightning, lighting up the whole township. The strange occurrence left a pale blueish line behind, and it was several seconds before the effects of this meteor had disappeared altogether. (South Bourke & Mornington Journal, August 24, 1881, see here.)

1910 - Woolamai
For a few seconds on Thursday the midnight sky was lit up by a most brilliant meteor, which, after travelling swiftly in a north-easterly direction, suddenly ended in a shower of flashing fragments. (The Age, September 12, 1910, see here. Woolamai, a stop on the old railway line which ran from Nyora to Wonthaggi, is inland from Bass)

1913 - south of Dandenong
A magnificent meteor was seen in the South the other evening. It lighted up the sky during its rapid flight. The ball appeared of bluish tint, while the edge had a yellow tinge. (South Bourke & Mornington Journal, June 12, 1913, see here)

1919 - Beaconsfield
A Startling Spectacle - Meteor explodes in Daylight. 
Beaconsfield -  About 11 a.m. on Thursday a dazzling ribbon of fire was observed to suddenly appear in the western sky, and as it vanished in a flash its position was plainly marked with a column of white smoke or vapor. One spectator, in vividly describing the incident, said that happening to be looking over the Berwick hills towards Melbourne it seemed as if the sky had suddenly split in half. The only explanation offered was that an unusually large meteorite had fallen in some part of Victoria. (The Age December 27, 1919, see here The same article reports sightings of this meteor throughout the State, including in the suburbs of Melbourne as well as Hamilton and Portland.)

1948 - Dandenong
Dandenong Man Reports Falling Meteor.
Among those fortunate enough to see the falling meteor which flashed a flaming trail across the sky early last Wednesday evening, was Mr. V. Matthews, of Dandenong. Residents, as far apart as Warragul and Gardenvale also reported the meteor. Mr. V. Matthews told a “Journal” representative that he was coming along Frankston Rd. about 6 o’clock in the early evening when he saw a huge object-like a house on fire sweep across the sky. It had a tremendous tail - to him it appeared to be half-a mile long - and was dropping balls of fire in its wake. So much did it appear under control that at first he feared it was a ’plane ablaze. It disappeared in the general direction of the city - an awe-inspiring sight (Dandenong Journal, June 23, 1948, see here)

Monday, 15 March 2021

Koalas at Yannathan

In the last post, which was about a report of a trip taken from Berwick to Yannathan in 1887 (see here), the unnamed writer of the report said that Yannathan was 'swarming' with koalas or bears as they were called - 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" (1).

Six years later there was another account of koalas at Yannathan, this one painting a far bleaker picture of their numbers. This was a letter published in the Weekly Times on July 1, 1893, addressed to Uncle Ben the editor of the children's section.
A Bear. — Yannathan.
Dear Uncle Ben,
This is my first letter to you. I am going to tell you a story about a bear. One morning early about three o'clock when my sisters were in bed they heard something scratching. They thought at first that it was the rats, but soon they knew that it was too loud for them. They looked down towards the window where the noise came from. Seeing a shadow like a man's hand, they got out of bed, went to the window and looked out. Then they saw a bear which had climbed up the wall and was trying to hold onto the window, but could not. Mother, who was in another room, heard them laughing. She asked what was the matter, and they told her, so she got up and went outside, and took the bear off the window and put him on the ground. In the morning when we got up it was in a pear tree in the garden. The bears that are about here are quite harmless. They are very scarce, but when we first came into Yannathan there was a great number.
I remain, your affectionate niece, Sarah Aitken, aged eleven years and  eight months (2).

The Koala or 'Australian Bear'
Australian Bear, c. 1880-1890. State Library of Victoria Image H29682/3

The cause of the decline in koala numbers in Yannathan can be attributed, mainly, to habitat loss due to the clearing of land for farming.  Dr Niel Gunson in his book The Good Country: Cranbourne Shire writes that early settlement in the Yannathan district started on the western boundary in 1875 and by 1878 all the dense forest country had been selected (3). Clearing at Yannathan began as soon as the settlers could undertake the work,  it has been said of this thick bush country (paperbark, tea tree, blackwood, silver wattle, musk tree and clematis) that 'when cleared it proved to be the best land in Gippsland' (4). 

The koala was also killed for 'sport'. There was a report in March 1882 about a fishing and hunting trip to the Bass [River] district which mentioned the amount of sport they were going to have! Ducks, swan,
hare, native bears, 'possoms and fish were to be got without the least exertion (5).  Given that the koala was also called the 'Australian sloth' it is no wonder that they could be got without the least exertion. 

The koala was also a component of the fur trade, not, however, the high-end garment segment of the market. This is part of a report from 1880 -  Another numerous marsupial is the native bear, or Australian sloth, possessing a short matted wool, and a thick pelt unamenable to softening influences. These inoffensive creatures are most tenacious of life, and when they are killed, sorely test the patience of the skinner. The best of the skins are made into carriage rugs, but the majority are only fit for mats (6)

The 'Australian Native Bear' was considered cute enough to feature in this postcard from c. 1908, even if some people still thought they were only fit to become a mat.
Australian Native Bear. Study by Muir. State Library of Victoria Image H42748/12

In Victoria, koalas gained some protection in December 1898, when they were deemed to be native game and thus protected (7).  This gave them year round protection, though this was objected to by the Fur Buyers' Association who thought koalas should only have protection for part of the year. As a matter of interest in 1899 the Fur Buyers' Association spokesman, Mr Coles said that last year on the London market a total  of 176,000 skins were offered. New South Wales sent 134,000 and Victoria and Queensland 51, 600. This showed that there was not such a slaughter going on here as there was in New South Wales (8).  The Government did not alter the year round protection for koalas and in 1938 strengthened their protection by including injuring and molesting the animals as well as destroying them within the scope of the bill (9). 

Of course protection from slaughter did not protect the koala from habitat loss, and one solution for this was to re-locate koalas from one area to another such as in the 1930s from French Island to Quail Island.  Quail Island is at the northern end of Western Port Bay - I have written about the Quail Island koalas, here.

(1) South Bourke & Mornington Journal, June 8, 1887, see here.
(2) Weekly Times July 1, 1893, see here.
(3) Gunson, Niel The Good Country: Cranbourne Shire (Cheshire, 1968), p. 112.
(4) Gunson, op. cit., p. 114
(5) South Bourke & Mornington Journal, March 15 1882, see here.
(6) The Argus, December 9 1880, see here.
(7) Victoria Government Gazette, December 9, 1898, p. 4238, 
(8) The Herald, July 11 1899, see here. The Fur Buyers' Association was also referred to as the Furred Skin Buyers' Association (The Herald, July 3, 1899, see here) I am not sure which is correct, and it doesn't really matter now, 120 years later, however I do like to be historically accurate.
(9) The Argus, December 14, 1938, see here.

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).

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).

Friday, 19 February 2021

Farming at Berwick - 1876

This account of farming at Berwick was published in the Melbourne Leader of March 25, 1876 (see here). It talks about three farmers, James Gibb (spelt in this article as Gibbs), Robert Buchanan and James Buchanan. James Gibb (1843 - 1919) was a farmer, Shire of Berwick Councillor and politician. He owned Melville Park (later called Edrington).  You can read his obituary in the Weekly Times, March 8 1919, here. Robert Buchanan, who died in 1899 at the age of 74, owned Burnbank at Berwick. His brother James (1827-1914) owned Ardblair. You can read James' Australian Dictionary of Biography entry, here. The brothers were born in Scotland and arrived in Victoria in 1849. It is interesting that the article considers that the special feature of the district is, however the manufacture of cheese by what is known as the Cheddar process.

Berwick in 1877, the year after the article was written. 
Wood engraving published in The Australasian Sketcher, October 27, 1877.

Farming at Berwick - From our travelling reporter
The prosperous-looking little township of Berwick is situated twenty-eight miles east ward from Melbourne, and is passed through by the main Gippsland-road at the point where it crosses the southern extremity of the Dandenong range. The district by which the township is surrounded formed originally the squatting station of Captain Gardiner, who purchased the best of the run from the Crown by auction and cut it up in farms, and resold it about twenty years since. Most of the original purchasers are still in possession of their holdings. The farming country much resembles that of the Kangaroo Ground and the Lower Plenty, being hilly, heavily timbered, and composed of dark basaltic soil, which is for the most part richest and deepest on the tops of the rises. The district, in soil and general appearance, resembles also that of Drysdale, and judging from a sample exhibited at the show held during my visit it appears to possess a similar adaptability for onion growing. Its capabilities in this direction are however yet undeveloped, the sample being an isolated one. 

The opening of the Gippsland railway, one of whose stations is to be at Berwick, will probably have the effect of directing attention to this profitable crop, and in the way that the opening of the Creswick railway has developed potato-growing in the Bullarook district will likely produce a similar result here. The Berwick district used to produce potatoes largely during its earlier career, when the work of clearing the farms from timber was being carried on, and when the high prices ruling for potatoes  handsomely repaid the carriage. During their career the settlers of the district have had their experiences of the unprofitableness of attempting cereal farming alone with harvests of wheat and other grain have been obtained, but these have been alternated with seasons of thin crops, and rust, which  while diminishing the profits of the farmer pointed out to him the necessity for a rotation of crops, combined with stock and cultivated grasses. 

The special feature of the district is, however the manufacture of cheese by what is known as the Cheddar process. So rapidly has this industry spread in the district that there are few farms which are not engaged in it. Amongst the few exceptions is the farm of Mr. Jas Gibbs, the president of the local agricultural society. This farm comprises Captain Gardiner's original pre-emptive selection, with a half section afterwards added, making the total holding now 960 acres. Mr. Gibbs devotes his attention to draught stock breeding, his stud comprising a very superior selection of brood mares, and the recently imported stallion King of the Valley, purchased, by his present proprietor at a cost of 1000 guineas. In addition to what he requires for his own stock, Mr. Gibbs grows a large quantity of oaten hay for the supply of Cobb and Co's. Gippsland line of mail horses. The cropped portion of the farm is worked in rotation, with cultivated pasture, on which some good long-woolled sheep are kept. The hay is stacked with the latest labor-saving derrick appliances and put into marketable form by means of handy chaff-cutting and bagging arrangements. Mr. Gibbs's barn and stabling accommodation is roomy and substantial, and the farm generally presents a most creditable air of trimness and order.

To Messrs. Jas. and Robert Buchanan the district is chiefly indebted for the introduction of cheese-making, an industry that is spoken of by all who have tried it as the most remunerative branch of husbandry they have yet had experience of. The Messrs.Buchanan are among the earliest of the Berwick settlers, having settled upon a 640 acre section which they purchased and worked at first in partnership. They now occupy the section in two separate farms of 320 acres each, which have been cleared, subdivided, partially sown down, and furnished with all the buildings and appliances necessary for carrying on the business to the best advantage. About 100 head of superior  Ayrshire  cattle are kept on each farm, and the number of cows in milk usually average about forty all the year round. The milking-house on both establishments is made with separate stalls and feeding places for each cow, and large sheds adjoining contain an abundant supply of hay for winter use; while mangels,  maize, and other green fodder crops receive due attention in the field. From the large area of roofing a full supply of water is obtained, conserved in tanks, and conveyed to the cheese houses as required. 

The distinguishing feature in the new, or Cheddar, system of cheese making consists in the application of heat to separate the whey from the curd, by which such a uniformity of quality is ensured as could not be calculated upon under the old method. All the various details of the process being reduced to a  system, and the labor connected with it being reduced to a minimum by means of the machinery and appliances used, the drudgery connected with the old method is obviated. The application of the necessary heat is obtained on each of the Messrs. Buchanan's establishments by means of steam apparatus and the processes as conducted on each farm are so similar that a description of one will do for both. 

Selecting Mr. Jas. Buchanan's the day's proceedings are briefly as follows : - The herd is milked twice a day, the evening's milk being kept over till the morning. Both milkings are then passed through the strainer into the milk tub, a large copper vessel of 200 gallons capacity, occupying the centre of the manufacturing room, this milk-tub has a double bottom and sides, into the space between which a jet of steam is introduced from the boiler sufficient to raise the milk to 84 deg., the temperature at which it is 'set' for coagulation. Cold water pipes also communicate with the milk vessel, so that the steam can be shut off and water turned on should the temperature be unduly raised. Annatto, for coloring, and rennet for coagulating, is now introduced, and the whole is completely mixed. Coagulation is completed from fifty to sixty minutes. As soon as the curd becomes moderately firm the process of breaking it up commences, which is done by implements made for the purpose, the temperature being raised meanwhile to 102 deg. This process, which is called "cooking" the curd, is carried on until a peculiar degree of firmness and consistency, known to the practical cheese-maker by handling, is attained, after which the whey is drawn off by a pipe communicating with the piggeries. The curd is then cooled, salted, packed into the cheese vats and placed under the presses, after which the cheeses are removed to the shelves of the store-room. 

The various processes, from the milking in the morning to the pressing, are got over generally not later than noon of the same day, and the cheeses remain on an average about two and a-half days in the  press-room and three months in the store-room, at the end of which period they are sent to market. The portable nature of the commodity is not its least feature of merit, a considerable amount of value going into small bulk. The Messrs. Buchanan produce a superior article which always commands the top price, and they are known in the district as always having shown the utmost readiness to teach their neighbors how to attain similar excellence. They believe that the greater the quantity of cheese produced in the colony (providing it is of first-class quality), the better will be the price and the more steady the demand, this effect following as a direct result of our present export trade being largely increased. 

Mr. James Buchanan's books show the following wholesale prices per lb., received for each month's produce during 1875 :- January, 10d.; February, 10¼d.; March, 10d.; April, 10d.; May, 10d.; June, 10d.; July, 10d.; August, 10d.; September, 10d.; October, 10½d.; November, 11¾d.; December, 10½d. The total quantity sold from the farm amounts to on average of ten tons per annum; and there is a considerable return from pigs and other sources. The animal yield of milk has been reduced to some extent during the past year or two by the pastures being rather badly overrun with what is known as the yellow weed (Hypoch√¶ris radiata). Mr. Buchanan seldom employs more than two hands, who, together with his own personal superintendence, and occasional assistance from one or two of his family, are found sufficient to carry on all the operations.
SourceMelbourne Leader of March 25, 1876 (see here)