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)

Saturday, 30 January 2021

Langwarrin Estate and Donald Larnach

Langwarrin Estate, owned by Donald Larnach, was sub-divided and put up for sale in 1888. We have some information on Larnach's Estate from Roy Scott who wrote a book The Early History of Langwarrin in 1966. Mr Scott tells us that Donald Larnach purchased 733 acres of land in the Parish of Langwarrin at auction on December 21, 1860. He later acquired several 1,000 acres and eventually had 7,400 acres, which he called Langwarrin Estate. The run was 5 miles by nearly 3 miles and 15 miles around the fence bounday and it also had 35 miles of inside fences that created mile square paddocks. Larnach did not live on the property but paid visits to his station. He was a banker and director of note in N. S. W. banks, in England and Sydney (1).  Donald Larnach was born on Caithness in Scotland in 1815 or 1817 (2) and came out to Australia at a very early age (3). In 1845 he married Jane Elizabeth Walker, the daughter William Walker, in Sydney (4). He obtained a position of commanding influence in the mercantile and financial world of Australia, and having acquired great wealth, he returned to England and settled in Sussex, of which county he was high sheriff in 1882 (5). Donald was the Managing Director of the Bank of New South Wales and was also President of the Associated Banks in London (6). Larnach died of pneumonia on May 14, 1896 in London (7). The Age estimated that he would leave an estate worth between £2 million and £3 million pounds, as it was, it was valued at a 'mere' £600,000, still serious money at the time (8)

Donald Larnach's two sons, Harold and James, looked after the property along with an overseer, Robert Connal. He also employed Tom Feltham (7) who was his full time fencer for a number of years, because that 15 miles of boundary fence took 9,000 posts and 18, 000 rails, each 9 feet long, and and the internal fences required 21,000 posts, with six strands of plain wire or 210 miles of wire. This was obviously an expensive property to maintain and Donald became concerned about the amount of money being spent so in 1880 he made an unexpected visit to his run, to see where his wealth was going and none coming, and found a kangaroo hunt was arranged and all invited to imbibe. He sacked his two sons and hands and the sons left for New Zealand (10).

We will let Roy Scott to tell us about the sale of Langwarrin Estate -
Before long the great landboom, as it was called, started and Larnach was selling the paddocks, the south end ones, during the late 1880's and here it may stated the town of old Langwarrin came to pass, this was a boom town known to few, the township proper was 40 acres, all building blocks, the shops faced the main road, butcher, baker, bootmaker, saddler, grocer, hay and corn store and a boarding house where land buyers could stay in comfort, sales were held regular and the 4 horse coaches would come put through Frankston, via Robertson Road [sic], stop at the "Lookout Hill" where there was a lovely view to Western Port, also the estate, then the coach went on to the town, where in a large seated marquee the blocks of all sizes were sold at auction and often sold again and again at following sales held there, while this land boom was on, till early 1893 when it folded as quickly and the land boom burst, the Banks closed their doors and what then was known as the gay 90's, for the big slump followed... people lost blocks, many going back to Larnach again. The town closed up: in 1895, an English family named Pearce came here and bought all the township blocks, got the streets free, pulled the shops down and built their house with them, all except the boarding house, which was opposite, he bought for a song and the old house stands today. The last of the Pearces, Jack and his mother left here in 1925 to live in Frankston (7). 

The Pearces are the source of the name Pearcedale and you can read about them here. Another interesting thing he mentions is "Lookout Hill" on Robinson's Road. This "Lookout" later known as Mount Grand View, was built all of timber, well known to old timers.....Finally it was burnt down and 4 main uprights were visible in 1920 (11).

The sale was well advertised with numerous advertisements in the newspapers, subdivison plans and this advertising material designed for the sale of Langwarrin Estate, lithographed by Troedel & Co.

Langwarrin Estate, looking south east from Mt Grandview, 1888.
Troedel & Co Lithographers. 
State Library of Victoria Image H2000.180/291a

Langwarrin Estate, view looking north west, 1888
Troedel & Co Lithographers. 
State Library of Victoria Image H2000.180/291b

Advertisement in the Weekly Times of January 7, 1888 for the Langwarrin Estate.

There were also various plans released of the land for sale, which was the finest orchard land in the Colony. The State Library has three of these plans.

Langwarrin Estate sale, February 18, 1888

Langwarrin Estate sale, March 3, 1888 

Langwarrin Estate sale, April 21, 1888
State Library of Victoria

(1) Scott, Roy The Early History of Langwarrin (The Author, 1966), p.11. 
(2) The Age, May 15, 1896, see here says he was born in 1815 and The Argus of  May 15, 1896, see here, in 1817.
(3) The Age, May 15, 1896, see here 
(4) The wedding notice was in The Weekly Register of Politics, Facts and General Literature on September 6, 1845, see here. New South Wales Births, Deaths and Marriages list the following children - William born 1846, James in 1849 and Sydney in 1852. Roy Scott also mentions a son called Harold and reports of the contents of his will also mention 'a daughter'.
(5) The Age, May 15, 1896, see here 
(6) Launceston Examiner, December 20, 1883, see here.
(7) The Argus, May 16, 1896, see here. Short obituary in The Age, May 15, 1896, see here and The Argus of  May 15, 1896, see here
(8)  The Age report was on May 15, 1896, see here. Contents of his Will was reported on in The Argus, July 6, 1896, see here.
(9) Scott, op. cit., p. 12
(10) Scott, op. cit., p. 13.
(11) Scott, op. cit., p  13 & 14.

Tuesday, 19 January 2021

The Rocking Stone - 'a tottery lump of granite'

The Rocking Stone is located somewhere between Ferntree Gully and Narre Warren. In 1917 the Melbourne Walking Club made three attempts to locate this natural feature. The efforts were reported in the Weekly Times. The short reports are transcribed below.

The Rocking Stone. Photographer: Charlie Hammond. 
The men are identified as Fred Swords and Cr Robert Kerr on the right.
They are both referred to in the November 10, 1917 article below. 
State Library of Victoria Image H90.72/63. It is dated c. 1900, but it is possibly from 1917.

Ten members of the Melbourne Walking Club on Sunday last sought the "Rocking Stone" that lies on a hillside somewhere between Ferntree Gully and Narre Warren, and they declare that they would have found it but for the "assistance" offered by a local resident. This is the second attempt the club has made to locate the tottery lump of granite, and the members went armed with the best available information as to its whereabouts. It was against their better judgment that they followed a resident who declared that he knew all about it, and their forebodings were justified, for he gave up the hunt after-wasting their afternoon, and once, more they had to return unsatisfied. Their consolation lay in the fact that they had
had a good breezy walk over picturesque country; even if they had not achieved their original aim. A third try will be made on Sunday, November 11, when the elusive rock will be stalked from the Narre Warren side.
Weekly Times November 3, 1917, see here.

Last week I described an unsuccessful effort made by members of the Walking Club  to locate the Rocking Stone, Sugar Leaf Hill. Mr Fred W. Swords, of Dandenong, writes for the benefit of those who intend making another effort as follows: - "Might I suggest that the walkers come to Dandenong by train on Sunday morning, ariving here from the city at 12 noon. Lunch at one of the local hotels, and then take a back road to the rock - a distance of seven or eight miles. There is a good stiff climb to the top of Sugar Loaf Hill with a very fine view of the surrounding country and away to Westernport. The return journey could be made to Narre Warren or Hallam railway stations, a walk of about eight miles. A train could be caught, arriving at Dandenong at 8 p.m. Cr. Robert H. Kerr, "Aura," is on the adjoining hill and if the secretary of the Walking Club writes to me at once I would arrange for Mr Kerr to provide afternoon tea. If the walkers decide to come to Dandenong, I would act as 'guide and friend,' and carry your camera, for I would have to drive, being incapacitated from walking by rheumatism." Mr Swords'  address is c/o "Dandenong Advertiser," Walker street, Dandenong.
Weekly Times, November 10, 1917, see here.

The Melbourne Walking Club officials noted with pleasure the generous offer made by Mr S. W. Swords, of Dandenong, in these columns, to lead them to the elusive rocking stone, and advantage would have been taken of it, but that arrangements were already perfected for a trip from Narre Warren. This was carried out on November 11, when eleven members, accompanied by some lady friends, made the excursion. The day was delightful until three o'clock, then a thunderstorm, with haIl, drove the party to the shelter of a hay-shed for half an hour. Lunch was held at a little creek some miles out, and at about five miles from Narre Warren, and about 5½ from Ferntree Gully station, the rocking stone was
located on the north-west side of a hill. It is a granite tor, said to contain about 9½ tons, and is so balanced on another mass of stone that It can readily be swayed several inches. In shape it is, as Hamlet remarked of the cloud, "very like a whale." After inspection the walk was resumed to Wellington road, along the Monbulk Valley, and so to the Ferntree Gully station, to catch the evening train home.
Weekly Times November 17, 1917, see here.

Fred Swords
This information about Fred Swords and his family, publishers of the Dandenong Advertiser, comes from the Weekly Times of January 13, 1934, see here. The Dandenong Advertiser ceased publication in 1959 (1).
The Dandenong Advertiser celebrated its 60th birthday on January 4. Established by the late James W. Swords in January, 1874, the Advertiser has had a successful career, and was the first newspaper printed in Dandenong, circulating at that time over a big area, including Phillip Island, Hastings, Flinders, the Mornington Peninsula, Bass, Leongatha, Warragul, Emerald, Ferntree Gully, and Cockatoo. On the death of James Swords, the business was carried on by his eldest son, Henry Falkiner Swords, who was later joined by his brother, Frederick Walter Swords, who succeeded to the control of the destinies of the Advertiser on the death of his brother late in 1917. The death of Frederick Walter Swords occurred on July 19, 1923. He bequeathed the business to his wife Joan E. Swords, and his eldest son, James Walter, the present owner. There are two other sons who are connected with the Advertiser, Henry Falkiner, compositor and machinist; and Robt. R. Falkiner, literary representative.

The late James W. Swords came out from the North of Ireland in 1840 on the barque "Theresa," as a writer to the staff of the Port Phillip Gazette. In 1842 he established the Portland Guardian, the first provincial press in the State, and after disposing of it, joined the staff of the Argus in 1846. Later still he left the Argus and established several country newspapers, including the Wahgunyah Watchman, Kilmore Free Press, and the Ballan Reporter. In the latter part of 1873 he went to Dandenong, and
it was on this visit that he decided to establish the Dandenong Advertiser. While on the Advertiser, Fred. Swords frequently rode on horseback to Tooradin to catch the boat to Phillip Island, in order to report the Phillip Island Council meetings. He also rode on occasions to Pakenham, Kooweerup and Ferntree Gully.
Weekly Times of January 13, 1934, see here.

Cr Robert Kerr
Robert Hart Kerr died on October 25, 1944 aged 87. The family property was Aura, in Narre Warren North.  This is his obituary.
Death of Mr. R. H. Kerr
Mr. Robert Hart Kerr, who had been a resident of the Dandenong district for many year died at Cheltenham on Thursday. Born at 236 Collins-street, Melbourne, on May 26, 1857, with his parents, he took up residence at Narre Warren in 1868. He was a member of the Berwick Board of Advice for 23 years. In 1890 he was elected to the Fern Tree Gully Shire council, and represented the South riding for 35 years. During that time he was president on eight occasions, and was absent from only one meeting. He represented the Fern Tree Gully council for 32 years at the annual municipal conference, He was chairman of the Fern Tree Gully and Gembrook Railway Trust for 20 years, and for 58 years was a member of the committee of the Dandenong Agricultural Society. He was responsible for the movement for compulsory registration of motor cars, the introduction of the Pure Foods Act, as well as several important amendments to the Local Government, Act. He was a Justice of the Peace for many years. The funeral will take place to day, leaving W. J. Garnar and Son's parlors, Dandenong, at 10 a.m., for the Boroondara cemetery, Kew.
The Age, October 27, 1944, see here.

(1) Brennan, Niall Chronicles of Dandenong (Hawthorn Press, 1973), p. 137.

Friday, 8 January 2021

Dr John James Helsham of Cranbourne

In 1866, James H. Watson, who later became the President of the Royal Australian Historical Society, spent some time on Quail Island, at the northern end of Western Port. You can read his account of his time, here. Of interest was that he described Cranboure at the time - Two or three small cottages, and the ruins of another with a big stone bush chimney still standing, completed the town of Cranbourne. The ruined cottage is mentioned because in it lived, or rather existed, the local doctor - a clever man, but one who had the habit that many an otherwise good man has fallen a victim to. The minister kept his books and instruments, and, for special cases, he was sobered up for a couple of days, the hotel being tabooed to him till he had completed the case in hand (1).

I have done some research and discovered that the local Doctor, who was sadly addicted to drink was John James Helsham.

Dr Helsham was born c. 1833 in Dublin in Ireland (2).  He was a Licentiate of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, 1857 (3). Family trees on Ancestry list his parents as Captain George Paul Helsham and Elizabeth Anne Conway, even though they do not list any sources. The trees list five or six other siblings including George Macklin Helsham (4). We know that George Macklin Helsham had a brother called John James Helsham. They both joined the Freemasons Lodge, No. 37 Kilkenny; George on January 4, 1853 and John on December 13, 1853 (5). Also, in 1875, John and George were listed in the Encumbered Estate (6) register as the sons of Captain George Paul Helsham. 

Encumbered Estates Registry, 1875 showing that there was a John James Helsham who was the son of Captain George Paul Helsham and the brother of George Macklin Helsham.
Ireland, Encumbered Estates, 1850-1885, Ancestry

George Macklin Helsham had also come to Australia and his 1870 Queensland Death Certificate lists his parents as George Paul and Elizabeth Ann Helsham (7).  The question is this - is Dr John James Helsham the same John James Helsham who was the son of Captain George Paul Helsham? There is every possibilty that there were two men of that name born around the same time in the same location; anyone who has done a lot of genealogical research would know that this occurs. However, I am leaning towards our Dr Helsham being the son of Captain Helsham and his wife Elizabeth Conway.

After our Doctor graduated he left Ireland for Victoria and the first account I can find of his life in Victoria was in November 1859 when Dr Helsham had a letter published in the Ovens and Murray Advertiser claiming that he had been libelled in another newspaper report concerning his treatment of a patient, John Bragg. In the letter he writes that  I took him from the wagon with the assistance of some friends, and carried him in, but medical assistance was of no avail. He never spoke one word, and was utterly unconscious until the time of his death, which occurred in less than half an hour, after reaching Longwood (8).  I don't have the full story, however it does place Dr Helsham in the Longwood area in 1859.

The Barkly Navarre Goldfield, c. 1861. This is a landscape that Dr Helsham would become familar with after his appointment to the area in 1860. 
The Barkly Navarre Goldfield. Photographer: Richard Daintree. 
State Library of Victoria Image  H9324

In 1860, he was appointed as the Public Vaccinator  for the district of Crowlands and Navarre (9).  The towns are both on the Ararat-St Araund Road. In August 1861, he performed a small operation on William Broadfoot who was suffering from varicose veins; he lanced an abcess on the man's leg  and apparently cut into a vein and Mr Broadfoot started bleeding. Helsham was called again and was satisfied with the patient's condition, however Mr Broadfoot later bled to death. An inquest was held into his death and in Mrs Broadfoot's evidence she said this about the doctor at the time I do not think Dr Helsham was sober. Another witness, William Smith, said on the second visit Dr. Helsham was tipsy (10).  The Ballarat Star in their report of the incident was quite scathing about Dr Helsham - this is how they reported the case - Unfortunately for him, some of his friends introduced, on Sunday last, a medical gentleman, from old Navarre, styling himself Dr Helsham. After manipulating the ailing limb of Mr Broadfoot, he expressed a most extraordinary surprise that another medical gentleman who had seen the swelling in the leg did not lance it at once. The bouncing charlatan tucked up the sleeves of his coat and commenced lancing what he deemed an abscess (11).

The Coroner ruled that the decased, William Broadfoot, came to his death having cut varicose veins and not taking proper precautions to stop the bleeding and he committed Dr Helsham for trial for manslaughter (12). The manslaughter trial was held at Ararat in October and the Doctor was acquitted (13).

The next two references I can find to Dr Helsham were both appointments as the Public Vaccinator in February 1862 to the district of Barkly (14) and then in May 1864 to the district of Dimboola (15). Two years later, according to James Watson's report of his trip to Quail Island, the Doctor had moved to Cranbourne. In March 1867, he held an inquest into the death of  a man found dead at Bass, a normal duty for  a country doctor to perform (16).  He was also the secretary of the local Court of Foresters Lodge (17) and in December 1867 was appointed the Public Vaccinator for the district of Berwick (18).

In July 1868 an inquest was held into the death of four year old Mary Mead, of Cranbourne, who was badly scalded when she accidently tipped a billy of hot water over herself. The Age reported that no doctor attended the child on the day of the occurrence, because the only practitioner in the neighborhood, Dr. Helsham, refused to come to see her. He, however, gave some dressing for her; and the resident surgeon at the hospital, where the child was removed the next day, deposed that medical aid would have been of no avail. A verdict of 'accidental death'  was recorded (19)

The Weekly Times reported on October 30, 1869 (20) that Dr Helsham had died of snake bite - this turned out to be untrue - he was bitten by a snake, but he did survive. The Herald of November 4, 1869 gave a report of the true version of events and it is worth repeating in full as an example of the medical treatments available at the time -
As a garbled account of this accident has found its way into print, a correspondent furnishes the following narrative: A very severe and almost fatal case of snake bite occurred at Tooradin, in Cranbourne district, on Wednesday, 27th October. The following are the facts as related by a young man who attended on the sufferer. As Dr. Helsham was out snipe shooting on the morning of the above day, his dog pointed to what he took to be a snipe, but on nearer approach found to be a black suake, about three feet long; he directly fired at the reptile, standing about a yard distance from it. The dog immediately rushed forward to seize the snake, which the doctor prevented, when the snake sprang up and bit him very severely on the second finger of the right hand. He then killed the snake, bound a ligature tightly round the finger, and walked to the homestead a distance of a mile, carrying the snake in his hand all the way. 

When he reached home, a young man on a visit to the place took him in hand, and first cut the piece out with a razor, and scored the finger to the bone from the root of the nail up to the second joint, and rubbed in some gunpowder. By this time, some brandy and ammonia, which had been sent for, had arrived. This was administered: half a tumbler full of brandy and ten drops of ammonia every half-hour. Within one hour of being bitten he became drowsy and insensible, and it took the united efforts of two men, slipping, pricking, pinching, and dragging him about to keep him awake. After a time, even these failed. After about two hours he became convulsed, frothing at the mouth very much; pulse became weak, almost ceased to beat; hands, face and lips turned black, extremities cold, and life almost despaired of. Ammonia was then applied to the wound, to his nostrils, and sprinkled over his face. This lasted for about half an hour, when he seemed to rally a little and breathe easier, and was allowed to sleep twenty minutes, and was afterwards only kept awake by the most severe treatment, being quite unable to walk and altogether paralysed. 

Towards four o'clock p.m., seeming a little better, he was taken to an hotel two miles distant. A medical man by this time having arrived, he continued the same treatment which had already been used. Between his removal to the hotel and two o'clock next morning he relapsed twice, both times his life being almost despaired of; but large doses of brandy and ammonia being given and vigorous efforts being used to keep him awake, he again rallied, and by four o'clock a.m., or eighteen hours after the accident, he had recovered sufficiently to walk about a mile to a friend's house, and was considered to be out of danger, although very weak and sick from the effects of the bite and the treatment (21)

Ammonia was a common cure for snake bite at the time and you could purchase special syringes to inject the liquid. Warning: Do not try this at home!

There are a few references in the newspapers to Dr Helsham after his recovery from snake bite - he conducted an inquest in 1874 (22) and was appointed Health Officer for the Shire of Cranbourne in 1876 (23).  He died suddenly at the age of 45 (24), on August 11, 1878 whilst at the Grantville Hotel, which was owned by John Payne.  This was a Sunday and evidence from the witness statements tell us what happened.  Dr Helsham had come to Grantville to examine James McMahon in the billiard room of the hotel. Afterwards, at around  6.00 p.m., he was having a meal with some others. Witnesses decribed him as his normal self, cheerful, pleasant and that he appeared sober. He was eating beef steak when he suddenly threw his head back made a choking sound and then he was dead. The Constable, George Ardill,  from Griffiths Point (San Remo) was called, and he took witness statements from Michael Richardson, James McMahon, Catherine Conner, Abram Field and John Payne. The information was passed onto the Coroner who decided than an Inquest was not necessary as there were no suspicious circumstances (25).  His death certificate says that Dr Helsham was buried on August 16, 1878 at the Grantville Cemetery; the undertaker was John Payne and that there was no minister of religion present but three witnesses - John Monk, James Cain and William Matthews.

Dr Helsham is in an unmarked grave at Grantville - the little marker on the right is his grave - it is row 31, plot 6. The Grantville Cemetery has a website, which has a list of those buried there. The grave in the photo belongs to the Sloss family, Margaret was buried there in 1891. The grave to the right with the wrought iron fencing, belongs to Isabella Jane Curr or Carr, who was buried in 1878. The next grave is George Casey, buried in 1880 and then Dr Helsham.

What was the reaction in Cranbourne to the death of their Doctor? The South Bourke & Mornington Journal reported that the sudden death of of Dr. Helsham at Grantville seems to have caused general regret in the Cranbourne district where he had so long resided, and dissatisfaction is expressed that a proper enquiry as to the cause of death was not instituted, it being believed by some that it may be possible he died from choking whilst eating. The supposition is that apoplexy was the cause (26). However for some there was no regret. At a Cranbourne Shire Council meeting discussing Helsham's replacement as the Shire Health officer,  Dr Phillips, who was addressing the meeting said that the late doctor was never fit for his duties (27). In response, Councillors Patterson and Poole spoke in favor of the late Dr Helsham, passed high eulogiums on the manner in which he had carried out his duties, and both very much regretted Dr Phillips remarks about him (28). 

It does appear that Dr Helsham had a drinking problem, he may even had been sent out to the Colonies  by his family for this reason either to make a fresh start or to rid them of an embarrassing problem. By 1861, when he was charged with manslaughter and he was only 28 he already had a reputation as a drunkard and a bouncing charlatan.  But in Cranbourne he still had friends, including the local Presbyterian Minister, the Reverend Alexander Duff (29), who looked after his books and instruments. I understand that Crabourne and other communties deserved a  better Doctor than Dr Helsham, but I can't condemn him completely and agree with James Watson's description of him as a clever man, but one who had the habit that many an otherwise good man has fallen a victim to.

Trove list
I have created a list of articles on Dr Helsham on Trove, access it here.

(1) On June 20, 1927, James H. Watson,  the President of the Royal Australian Historical Society, Sydney presented a paper to the Historical Society of Victoria - Personal Recollections of Melbourne in the 'Sixties. It was a look at various events and activities of the 1860s including this story - Dipping Sheep on Quail Island. The story was published in the Victorian Historical Magazine, v. 12, June 1928 available on-line at the State Library of Victoria  Niel Gunson also quotes this account on page 68 of his book, The Good Country: Cranbourne Shire (Cheshire, 1968) which is where I first saw it.
(2) His death certificate said he was born in Dublin and and he was 45 years old when he died in 1878, which makes his birth date c. 1833, although a family tree on Ancestry lists the birth date was 1831, see footnote 4. 
(3) Licentiate of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, 1857 - that is how Dr Helsham is listed in the 1875 UK & Ireland, Medical Directory, which are available on Ancestry

1875 UK & Ireland, Medical Directory: Practioners resident abroad. 

(4)  From information on Ancestry - Captain George Paul Helsham (1802-1861) married Elizabeth Ann Conway (1809 - 1841) in 1830 in Paris. He is listed in various sources as belonging to the  Irish Militia, Kilenny Fusiliers or the  Royal Irish Fusiliers.  In 1829, whilst in France, he shot  a man dead in a duel. It was reported in the Australian papers The Colonial Times of Hobart, January 29, 1830, see here and then there was a subsequent murder trail reported in the same paper on February 18, 1831, see here. His great, grandson John George Douglas Helsham was killed at Gallipoli and his obituary in the Bendigo Independent said that Captain George Helsham was the recipient of an inscribed dagger from the hands of H.R.H. Prince Albert. Private Helsham, therefore, is of a fighting family, and it was his lot to inherit a gold repeating watch and a gold seal which had been handed down from generation to generation for many years (Bendigo Independent June 12, 1915, see here)  George and Elizabeth had six children - the birth dates are approximate - George Macklin (1830-1870), John James (1831 or 33 - 1878), Elizabeth Ann (1833 - 1872), Rebecca Blount (1834- 1900), Amelia (1835 - 1835) Paul (1836-1836).
(5) Ireland, Grand Lodge of Freemasons of Ireland Membership Registers, 1733-1923, available on Ancestry. Technically, the fact that they both joined the same Lodge does not prove they are brothers.
(6) Encumbered Estate - This definition is from Ancestry The Encumbered Estates' Court was established to facilitate the sale of Irish estates whose owners were unable to meet their obligations because of the Great Famine, regardless of whether the land was entailed. The need for the Court was caused by the impoverishment of many Irish tenant farmers during the 1840s famine, rendering it impossible for them to pay their rents to the landlord who in turn could not make his mortgage payments. Until this Court was established, the lending bank could not get a court order to sell the mortgaged land because of the entail.
(7) George was the Town Clerk of Dalby in Queensland. He died in tragic circumstances at the age of 39. He was rushing to help out at a fire and run into a tree stump and sustained internal injuries and not recover. He left a wife and four children. You can read accounts of the accident in the Darling Downs Gazette February 12, 1870, see here, and the Queensland Times of February 19, 1870, see here. It was George's grandson who was killed at Gallipoli, see footnote 4. 
(8) Ovens and Murray Advertiser, November 5, 1859, see here.
(9) The Age, August 4, 1860, see here.
(10) An account of the incident can be read in the Ballarat Star of August 22, 1861, see here. The two quotes about his sobriety are from the Maryborough and Dunolly Advertiser of August 28, 1861, see here.
(11)  Ballarat Star August 22, 1861, see here.
(12) Maryborough and Dunolly Advertiser, August 28, 1861, see here.
(13) Ballarat Star, October 19, 1861, see here.
(14) The Herald, February 19, 1862, see here.
(15) The Argus, May 27, 1864, see here.
(16) The Age, March 25, 1867, see here.
(17) The Leader, September 21, 1867, see here. The Court of Foresters was a Friendly Society, which were formed to help members pay for medical care. Read about Friendly Societies here
(18) The Age, December 7, 1867, see here.
(19) The Age, July 29, 1868, see here.
(20) The Weekly Times, October 30, 1869, see here.
(21) The Herald, November 4, 1869, see here.
(22) The Argus, May 7, 1874, see here.
(23) The Argus, September 30, 1876, see here.
(24) He was listed as 45 years old on his death certificate.
(25) The information about his death comes from his Inquest record held at the Public Records Office of Victoria and which is also digitised on Ancestry.
(26) South Bourke & Mornington Journal, August 21, 1878, see here.
(27) South Bourke & Mornington Journal, October 2, 1878, see here.
(28) South Bourke & Mornington Journal, October 2, 1878, see here.
(29) Reverend Alexander Duff (1824 - 1890), read more here.