Monday, 28 March 2011

Early Settlers of the Casey Cardinia district

The Narre Warren and District Family History Group (NW&DFHG) have produced Early Settlers of the Casey-Cardinia District. The book records the names of the early settlers in the area that was once the Berwick Shire and the Cranbourne Shire and is now covered by the City of Casey and Cardinia Shire. The book covers the prominent early landowners who arrived here from the 1830s through to the more humble families who worked the land and created the community spirit which built our towns and organizations.

It is naturally not an exhaustive list. Some information came from research from NW&DFHG members and some information was submitted by descendants of the settlers.

This is a valuable contribution to the history of our area.

The NW&DFHG, run entirely by volunteers, started in 1989 and has produced a history of their first twenty years, Kindred Spirits.

Their Research Room at the Cranbourne Library has an extensive collection of local, Victorian, Australian and overseas information.  For opening hours, meeting details and other information visit their website at

Friday, 11 March 2011

Parish and Township Plans

Parish and Township Plans are available on the Public Records Office of Victoria (PROV) website. These Plans are a great resource for both local and family history as they show the ownership of land after the Crown, so if your ancestors purchased land at a Government Land Sales or acquired land through a Closer Settlement or Soldier Settlement Scheme - then you might find their name on a Parish or Township Plan. To access these plans go to the PROV website and on the left hand side of the home page, click on "Access the collection", "Searching", "Search within a Series". The Series number (or VPRS) is 16171. Type in the town or Parish you are interested in. Plans can be saved (they are PDF files) or printed off. Alternatively, if you search by the "Find by Number" option (and type in 16171) then you can browse all the digitised plans.

The Series, officially called "Regional Land Office Plans Digitised Reference Set", have three consignments or components - (1) Parish and Township plans (2) Soldier Settlement and Closer Settlement Plans and (3) County and Parish Index. All these Plans are working plans, so some have annotations, tears and what appears to be coffee stains.

The Plan, above, is the Pakenham Parish Plan, part of the County of Mornington. The Pakenham township, shown on the Plan, is the original town on the Highway, near Toomuc Creek. This town grew up around the Latrobe Inn, established around 1850 by Michael and Kitty Bourke. Michael Bourke also acted as Post Master for nearly 30 years. Kitty Bourke kept the Hotel and Post Office from the time of her husband’s death in 1877 until 1910. The Latrobe Inn was a Cobb & Co. coach stop and for obvious reasons was later known as Bourke’s Hotel. The town, which developed around the Pakenham Railway Station, was officially known as Pakenham East until the 1960s. The Railway line from Oakleigh to Bunyip was completed in October 1877.

The township map, above, is of Emerald. Emerald is said to derive its name from nearby Emerald Creek, which had been named after an early prospector Jack Emerald. Jack had been found murdered in his hut; it is thought the culprits believed he had a quantity of gold hidden there. Gold was discovered in the area in November 1858 but the rush lasted only a few years, however some settlers remained in the area and small eucalyptus distilleries were established. A school was opened in 1878 at what is now called Avonsleigh or East Emerald. However the seminal event in Emerald’s history was the establishment of the Gembrook Nurseries by Carl Axel Nobelius in 1886.The name Gembrook Nurseries was taken from the Parish of Gembrook, where Emerald township is located.

Cockatoo is also in the Parish of Gembrook, and in common with Emerald has a Railway Station on the Puffing Billy line. This town was originally named Cockatoo Creek in 1859 by gold diggers, because of the abundance of cockatoos. The town was settled in the 1870s. The Railway Station was originally called Devon when the Puffing Billy line opened in 1900 but reverted to Cockatoo Creek in 1901and then shortened to Cockatoo in 1904, though the Post Office retained the named of Cockatoo Creek until the First World War. The School opened in 1907 in a corn store and moved into a new building in 1918. This building was re-located to its current site in 1951. A Public Hall and library opened in Cockatoo in 1914. Sadly, Cockatoo suffered badly in the 1983 Ash Wednesday fires when seven people died, 289 houses were burnt, 8 other buildings, including the Hall, were destroyed.

The second component of this Series are the Soldier Settlement and Closer Settlement Plans. The Chirnside Estate was a gift from Andrew Chirnside of Melville Park (later Edrington). The gift of land was reported in The Argus, a digitised version of which is available on the National Library of Australia's Trove

The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848-1954), Thursday 4 April 1918, page 9.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

How old is your town?

You may be aware that is 150 years since Cranbourne was officially proclaimed as a township and that celebrations are planned for later in the year. This is a great milestone and well worth celebrating, however it does bring up the question as to old your town really is and what do we actually use as the ‘start date’

We could use the dates in the Victorian Government Gazette,
which covers all official notifications of Government and Legal activities and was the main way that the Government communicated with the Public. The first mention of Cranbourne in the Gazette was on October 31, 1855 when Alexander Duff was appointed Deputy Registrar of Births and Deaths for the Cranbourne and Dandenong District. On October 23, 1856 Trustees were appointed for the land set apart at Cranbourne for the use of the Presbyterian Church – these Trustees were Alexander Cameron, Patrick Thompson, Alexander Patterson, James Leckie and Angus Kennedy.

Victorian Government Gazette dated Friday October 24, 1856, Issue 137, Page 1786.

Two years later on November 29, 1858 The Right Reverend James Goold, The Reverend Patrick Niall, Edward Malloy, Terence O’Connor and James Feehan were appointed Trustees for the site for a Roman Catholic School at Cranbourne.

Victorian Government Gazette dated December 3, 1858, Issue 164, Page 2445.

The Trustees which were appointed for the Cemetery site on December 11 1857 were Alexander Cameron, Patrick Thomson, James Smith Adams, William Sykes and Edward Malloy. Niel Gunson writes in his book Good Country: Cranbourne Shire that Cranbourne was surveyed by H.B Foot in 1852 and the Cranbourne township was ‘reserved’ and that the township lots were surveyed in 1856 and the first sale of town lots held March 25, 1857. The Cranbourne Road Board was proclaimed on June 19, 1860. All these events took place before the township was officially proclaimed on February 25, 1861.

A similar story can be seen at Berwick where the first mention in the Government Gazette was February 9, 1859 when Trustees were appointed for the site of the Roman Catholic School – once again the Right Reverend J. Goold, the Reverend Patrick Niall and Terence O’Connor were appointed as was Edward Malloy and James Feehan. On March 12, 1860 Matthew Brisbane was appointed a Deputy Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages for Berwick. July 25, 1860 Charles Rossiter, James Feehan, John Brisbane, Abram Gardiner and Adam Ritchie were appointed Berwick Cemetery Trustees.

Victorian Government Gazette dated August 3, 1860, Issue 95, Page 1440.

The book Early Days of Berwick states that the Berwick District, like Cranbourne, was surveyed by H. B Foote in 1852. In 1857 the Berwick Branch of the Mornington Farmers Society was established, the same year the first show was held at Cranbourne. As you can see all these events happened before the township was officially proclaimed on February 25, 1861.

In fact February 25, 1861 was a day when 188 townships were proclaimed – other Casey Cardinia towns (or close neighbours) were Buneep (the old abandoned town on the Bunyip River which would now be considered Tonimbuk), Dandenong, Emerald, Lyndhurst and Pakenham. So Happy Birthday to all these towns and in the end it doesn’t matter what date we use to signify the start of our towns – the important thing is that we preserve and celebrate our history.