Category Archives: Contact History

Not a Saint-Arnaud

Not such a Saint-Arnaud

9 August 2020 (An earlier version of this blog was published in the ‘North Central News’, in St Arnaud, 29 August 2020)

This article is about a genocidal French Crimean War hero, after whom the Victorian township of St Arnaud was named. Jaques Leroy De Saint-Arnaud, the man, is a something of a large ‘elephant’ in the bigger ‘Black Lives Matter’ reconciliation ‘room’.

None of what follows diminishes my fondness for and deep family associations with the town of St Arnaud. The suggested renaming and reconciliation options I tease out, would if implemented, only serve to enhance to the national status of this proud and vibrant town and community.

Until recently I knew very little about the origin of the St Arnaud township name. Most people might also have thought it was something to do with a French Saint. Those who stop in St Arnaud and read the present inscription on the statue erected in the Botanical Gardens in 2005 will learn that Jaques Leroy De Saint-Arnaud (b.1796, d.1854), Marshal of France:

… although ill, commanded the French Army, combined with the British forces and a Turkish contingent against Russia in the Crimean War. In 1854, seven days after leading the victorious Battle of Alma, he was stricken by fever and died three days later on a vessel taking him home to France. This was around the time of the New Bendigo gold rush when the national spirit was running high.

 This heroic narrative that lionizes the ailing Marshall and the less than decisive Battle of Alma. It goes on to claim that by 1856, ‘the residents of the goldfield had already decided on both the site and the name for a village along the St Arnaud Creek’. The inscription is at best a half or partial truth. The Battle of Alma occurred in Crimea late September 1854. Dispatches about the Battle arrived in Australia at the time of Eureka Rebellion in Ballarat two months later in December 1854. The miners at that time were actually revolting against the colonial authority and reach of the United Kingdom, including in Australia.

Saint-Arnaud, as the North Central News Editor, Sue Hynes recently revealed in the paper’s brave and timely Editorial, was no Saint. Indeed, he was a genocidal, multiple mass murderer who had absolutely nothing to do with Australia or the town. The French General Saint-Arnaud ordered the massacre of approximately 800 Moslem women, children and older people in Algeria in 1845. He boasted about herding them into a cave and asphyxiating them. He was also involved in several other later, dreadful genocidal and ethnic cleansing atrocities including burning entire villages. In the face of this evidence, the State member for Ripon, Louse Staley recently suggested that we retain the name Saint Arnaud and “learn from history, not erase it”.

My view is quite different. It is impossible to erase the past, but it is possible to learn from and acknowledge the past in order to reconcile the future. I ask whether our descendants have to live with scars like this irrelevant mass murderer (and a monument to him) in our town and landscape?

We have many options. At the very least, we need to better learn and understand who this man was and decide via enlightened and informed debate as a community what we might do about it. Closing our eyes and hoping it will go away is not an option. Might we first add the honest truth to a new inscription on the colonial-inspired brass monument in the Botanical Gardens?

Might we also approach the descendants of those massacred by Saint-Arnaud in Algeria, for example via the Northern Grampians Shire through the Algerian consulate, and apologise to the Algerian nation that we had no idea who this man was? Might we commission an appropriate memorial to those who were his victims in both Algeria and St Arnaud?

In my view, this dreadful man played no part in founding Australia or the town. His name is an obvious, unnecessary, accidental blight on our community and landscape. Changing a name does not change history, but it does change the prospects for the future.

As essential historical background, the French invaded Algeria (in north Africa) in 1830. Its brutal colonial conquest and occupation lasted over 160 years until the Algerian War of Independence in 1962. During the initial conquest, the French troops, including those led by Saint-Arnaud, were known to have looted, raped and massacred entire villages, desecrated mosques and destroyed cemeteries. In recent years this systematic organised French violence, chiefly in the form of massacres known as ‘razzias’ have come to be acknowledged not as warfare but as genocide.

My previous travels have taken me to many countries including Vietnam where Australian troops were deployed alongside US troops less than 50 years ago. Most recently in 2019 I spent one month in Iran, a proud Islamic nation demonized for its many decades of Islamic resistance to US covert military and political violence. When being unconditionally welcomed into a mosque in Shiraz in Iran, I was asked, “Why does America and Trump hate us?” All I could do was weep with shame and wonder whether Iranian Moslems would be similarly welcomed into an Australian Christian church.

In both Vietnam and Iran, I have been incredibly warmly welcomed as an Australian. Both countries respectively have had a long and deep history of enlightened Buddhist and Islamic learning and scholarship that goes back hundreds of years, well before the European enlightenment of the 17th and 18th Centuries.

Because these colonized nations and their and associated religious cultures are respectively primarily Buddhist and Islamic, and their people are largely non-white and non-Christian, they have, like Algeria, both been subject to centuries of colonial (including French) invasion, occupation, brutalization and subjugation. It is into these and other Asian and Middle Eastern wars seeking liberation and independence from colonial occupation that Australia has sometimes blundered and become hopelessly enmeshed within my lifetime.

The very recent ‘Black Lives Matter Movement’ is a moment in history where a global realization of the brutalization of non-white people has finally come to the surface. I was heartened on 11 June 2020 see the AFL football players respectfully take a knee and acknowledge that ‘Black Lives also Matter’ in Australia, particularly in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. I could never have imagined any of this would have been possible even a decade ago. We can learn and reconcile from history.

Way beyond the brutal police murder of George Floyd in the US, Australians have also come to realise that all is still not right in Australia in terms of equity and justice. St Arnaud the township may be a long way from Algeria, but it is increasingly uncomfortable to deny the Marshall’s genocide and to retain such an odious name for the town. Closing our hearts and minds and hoping it will all go away denies that black (including Moslem) lives also matter.

Might we instead find an acceptable, alternative local name for the township used by the traditional owners going back one thousand generations? For example, Kara Kara, whose local and town associations are more appropriately with gold and quartz, and whose name subsumed the local government area including the St Arnaud township from 1861 to 1994. If an acceptable name change was negotiated with the traditional Dja Dja Wurrung owners, this would also be one appropriate and very generous act towards local and national Aboriginal reconciliation. It would be an incredible win-win.

In changing the name, we would acknowledge that some genocidal deeds against humanity, and the naming of places commemorating the people responsible, whether it be Hitler in Germany, Pol Pot in Cambodia or Saint Arnaud in Algeria, are unnecessary scars on the community and the Australian landscape. Saint-Arnaud’s now well-documented act of genocide is so abominable that at the very least, there needs to be a public reexamination and reconsideration of the name, and ideally a process leading to a suitable renaming.

It is not possible to erase history. But it is possible to learn about, reconcile and change the many things that clearly need changing. Future generations will thank us for our wisdom and bravery by acknowledging that black lives do matter, including here and in Algeria. In thinking globally and acting locally, our sustainability and lives in this violently inherited Australian Dja Dja Wurrung landscape will be further reconciled and greatly enhanced.

The forgotten story behind ‘Mount Franklin’ mineral water

View north along the elevated area that includes some overgrown Lime Kiln foundations. Limestone Creek is to the right. The shed in the right background is part of the abandoned ‘Mount Franklin’ mineral water pumping infrastructure.
View west across the largely mined out lime tufa quarry (where the spiny rush is growing). The elevated area beyond includes overgrown stone foundations of the Lime Kilns. Limestone Creek runs south along the near side of the background eucalypts.

Early Lime Kilns and Spring on Limestone Creek:

The forgotten story behind ‘Mount Franklin’ Mineral Water

Barry Golding*, Andrew Shugg & Stephen Carey*

*Federation University, Australia

A tantalising line in squatter, John Hepburn’s diary on 5 March 1848, cited in a biography of Hepburn (Quinlan 1968, p. 145) provoked Barry Golding’s interest several decades ago. It read simply, ‘Sent Harry to Jim Crow for a load of lime’. Jim Crow in the 1840s was the name of the district around present-day Mount Franklin in central Victoria north of Daylesford. The mountain was likely Lalgambook to Dja Dja Wurrung people, but before 1843 was widely referred to as ‘Jim Crow Hill’. Given there were likely only very limited limestone bands within the Lower Ordovician bedrock, it led to questions about whether, where and how the lime used to help build Hepburn’s mansion in 1848 was manufactured locally during the 1840s, and from which local limestone deposits.

Our article seeks to bring together all that is known to answer these questions and draw some conclusions about ‘what next’ for the site. We tease out the fascinating history of the mineral spring that quite recently lends its name to the best-known bottled water in Australia, now branded ‘Mount Franklin’ and owned by Coca Cola Amatil. It also chronicles the history of the adjacent former Lime Kilns located within the footprint of the former Loddon Aboriginal Protectorate (1841-49). We also identify how the associated deposits of limestone were likely formed, mined and turned into lime for building until the 1870s.

Given Mount Franklin’s stated commitment to ‘do the right thing’, we identify an opportunity for  the site’s unique history and heritage to be acknowledged and for a publicly accessible mineral spring to be restored on the site.

Acknowledgments

We are grateful for the advice and assistance of local historians, Eric Sartori, Gary Lawrence, David Bannear and David Endacott. We thank the current owners of the spring and Lime Kiln site, Frank and Linda Carroll, for giving us permission to access the privately owned site. This is a work in progress and we welcome new information and advice about any of the many gaps in our account.

Location and land status

The Limestone Creek Spring, also called ‘Gilmores/ Gilmour’s’ and more recently ‘Mount Franklin’, is one of many previously recorded mineral springs, most of which occur within 50 km of the Daylesford and Hepburn Springs region, that is promoted as the ‘Spa capital of Australia’.

The Limestone Spring and what we now confirm as the adjacent Lime Kiln site and limestone tufa deposit are in 2020 located immediately south-west of the present junction between the Midland Highway and Limestone Track in the Parish of Yandoit, within the northern part of the Hepburn Shire. The privately owned site fronts onto the west side of the Midland Highway and the east bank of Limestone Creek, 17 km north of Daylesford and 10 km south of Guildford.

Limestone Track to the east historically continued to the north west of the site, approximately paralleling Limestone Creek for several kilometres until it merged with Whitlock’s Road. The former northerly continuation of the Limestone Track is clearly visible in contemporary aerial photos. The current bitumen ‘Limestone Road’ connects Yandoit and the Midland Highway south of Guildford.

In the 1970s the mineral spring was in a privately owned paddock just west of the Midland Highway .The mineral water flowed out of a large pipe close to ground level with occasional large and audible gas bubbles, therefore also called ‘The Bullfrog’ by some locals. Locals then suggested that some of the rubble amongst the blackberries on the site was derived from the former Lime Kilns.

The Lime Kilns appear on several survey and geological maps produced between the late 1840s and the 1860s. The Lime Kilns were marked on Crown Allotment 3, Section 6A (previously section 6) of an 1862 survey map, but the mineral spring was not located. Thomas Fleming was the Crown Grantee in 1862 via purchase at a Crown Land Sale. The site was purchased by the current owners on 20 October 1987. In 2020, the site includes a  shallow, hummocky depression, where the original lime tufa deposits have been mined, and the stone foundations of several former Lime Kilns. An adjacent area to the south enclosed by a high wire fence includes former mineral water tanks and associated shedding from the 1980s. This was the former site of the mineral spring.

The historical evidence base from the 1840s

John Hepburn’s 1848 diary entry about lime being obtained from Jim Crow suggested that the Lime Kilns were operating during the late 1840s. The Jim Crow district of the 1840s referred to the area around Mount Franklin, including the 50 square mile Aboriginal Protectorate that operated from 1841-49 within an approximate 5 mile (8km) radius centred on present day Franklinford.

Detailed mapping of The boundaries of the Mount Franklin Aboriginal Reserve by Claude Culvenor in 1992 confirmed that the Mineral Spring and adjacent Lime Kilns were well within the Aboriginal Protectorate when its boundaries were surveyed in 1849. This being the case, it seemed likely there would be some mention of the Lime Kilns in the voluminous correspondence of the Aboriginal Protectorate.

The ‘smoking gun’ as to how, why, when and by whom the Lime Kiln was commenced and operated during the 1840s has not yet been located in the official Protectorate records. However, when Chief Protector of Aborigines, George Robinson visited Assistant Protector Edward Parker at his Mount Franklin Protectorate Station between 21-24 Sept 1847, he expressed a frank and negative opinion of what he saw on the Station in his personal diary. In the process, Robinson alluded to Parker personally profiting from lime produced on the Protectorate.

Robinson’s diary extract, below, provides a broader context for Robinson’s general irritation, and his specific suspicion that Parker was selling but not properly accounting for the sale of stone and/or lime produced. Robinson reported in September 1847 that there were:

… 30 natives on [Protectorate] station. … Wheat sown, Footrot in sheep … [flour] mill out of order and wheat sent to Hepburn’s [flour mill near Kingston on Birches Creek] to grind. Miserable place … orphan children. Parker [has] plenty pig, geese and cattle … Parker sells stone instead of lime. Parker to account for money for lime …. The first Presbyterian [actually Church of England] church at the Lodden (sic.) is a barn and shearing shed.

A full account of the Loddon Protectorate Era Flour mill alluded to in this quotation has been separately and recently posted as a blog by Barry Golding at https://wp.me/p3nVDL-tw. It would seem that Parker was operating several ‘small businesses’ aside from the flour mill and lime kiln and was in receipt of the profits of the wool and meat produced on the expansive Protectorate and Aboriginal Station.

By 1853, not only were there were perceptions that Parker was benefiting financially in this way, but there also existed concerns that the Aboriginal Station of the 1850s was too large, given the diminishing number of Aboriginal people at the station. The pressure for land from gold-mining families in the district led by 1853 to a flurry of government surveys that divided part of the Aboriginal station area, including the Lime Kiln site, into small Crown Allotments.

An 1853 ‘Plan of Allotments Laid out at the Lime Kilns at the Aboriginal Station Mount Franklin’ (CPO E74, 1853) is reproduced in David Rhodes’ 1995 study, An historical and Archaeological investigation of the Loddon Aboriginal Protectorate Station and Aboriginal Reserve (p. 101). The plan shows two, long rectangular ‘Lime Kilns’ at the western edge of one small allotment on the eastern edge of Limestone Creek. It also confirms that the Lime Kilns, at least to 1853, were still regarded as being within the bounds of the Mount Franklin Aboriginal Station, which operated in the same area for some years after the Aboriginal Protectorate system was disestablished in late 1849.

Rhodes (1995, p. 65) reported that he had made an attempt to locate the site of the Lime Kilns by comparing the positions of the structures, the creek and road alignments on historic plans with the [1995] course of Limestone Creek and existing road alignments. Rhodes concluded that:

Although the alignments of the adjacent roads have been altered, the course of Limestone Creek has not changed significantly, making it possible to pinpoint the kiln site in relation to the creek. Limestone can be seen outcropping in the creek banks at this point, but the surrounding area has been ploughed over, obliterating any trace of the kilns. (p. 65)

Rhodes (1995) also noted that the Lime Kilns were not listed in the official Protectorate building returns. In contradiction to Rhodes, our observations show that the surrounding area has not ‘been ploughed over’, evidence of foundations of the Lime Kilns remains, and that the lime tufa crops out in the adjacent paddock and also in the base of the shallow quarry. The creek was so overgrown with blackberries in 2020 it was not possible for us to see the limestone outcropping in the creek banks though Andy Shugg recalls it in outcrop there several decades ago.

Madden’s (1976) La Trobe University Honours Thesis, The Loddon District Aboriginal Protectorate (p. 33) suggests that the Lime Kilns in question were operating as early as 1842 but were not necessarily being operated directly by the Station. Rhodes (1995, p. 33) cites correspondence from Parker to Governor La Trobe (7 February 1851: VPRS 1851/341) who stated that the Lime Kilns were, by 1851, being operated by a contractor, who was at that time applying to build another two kilns.

If the Lime Kilns were operated as a semi-private business by Parker or a contractor, they would probably not have been established earlier than 1842 and were certainly operating by 1847.

The historical evidence base from the 1850s

A ‘Plan of Country between Guildford and Mount Franklin’ dated 15 October1856 appears to show two lime kilns. A ‘Map Allotments of Land on the Jim Crow Creek near the Lime-Kiln and North of the Proposed Township, Parish of Yandoit’, dated 5 May 1855, shows an oval-shaped body of limestone then outcropping on the junction between Limestone Creek and a tributary coming in from the south-east.

A very detailed ‘Plan of Allotments Laid out at the Lime Kilns North of Section XII of Lands Laid out at the Aboriginal Station Mount Franklin’, dated 20 June 1855, shows five allotments each of about one acre, all of which extended west to Limestone Creek. Four of these allotments are rectangular and extend east onto the main north-south road. There is a hut marked on allotment 1. Two adjacent lime kilns are close to Limestone Creek on Allotment 2. No structures are marked on allotments 3, 4 or 5. Allotment 5 is roughly triangular with its north-eastern boundary forming the edge of the original Limestone Road.

An 1856 survey, ‘Country lots on the Limestone Creek, Parish of Yandoit County of Talbot’ (MAP NK 2456/258, Surveyor General’s Office, 25 April 1856, on line through Trove), clearly shows four rectangular blocks each of approximately one acre in an area marked ‘Lime Kilns’. Each allotment fronted onto Limestone Creek as well as the main Castlemaine – Daylesford Road (now the Midland Highway). These blocks are very similar to those shown in the 1853 survey, though the position of the Lime Kilns was not marked on the 1856 map.

What is known about the adjacent mineral spring?

Unlike the limestone deposit and the Lime Kilns, what became known as ‘Gilmore’s Mineral Spring’ at Limestone Creek was rarely mentioned or mapped. It is mentioned as an aside as a ‘spring’ associated with the limestone in Ulrich’s (1866) geological report. The name ‘Gilmore’ comes from a farmer who lived near the Lime Kilns before selling up and moving from the area in 1877. Exactly where the spring was located before or after 1877 in relation to the lime tufa deposit is not known.

Most of the over 100 mineral springs now recorded in Victoria were discovered and later systematically documented during an era of extensive mining activity within 50 km of the best-known cluster around Hepburn Springs beginning in the mid-1850s. Many springs were renovated from the 1920s when bores were put down and pumps were added to some springs that did not issue to the surface naturally. Beginning during the early 1900s, a list of registered mineral springs in Victoria was created, all mapped and ascribed a unique MS (Mineral Spring) number to avoid confusion about names. Gilmore’s / Limestone Creek / Mount Franklin Mineral Spring is numbered MS 009.

 

Until the late 1860s, what is now widely known as ‘Mineral Water’ in Australia had not been popularised or bottled in Victoria. Maund’s paper on ‘The Mineral Waters of Victoria’ (5 April 1855) noted that he had received two specimens of ‘acidulous water’, ‘one from Hepburn near Castlemaine and another from the banks of the Merri Creek’ [in 2020 the Donnybrook Mineral Spring, 1 km north of the Donnybrook railway station in the Shire of Whittlesea]. A third spring, Maund had been told, existed at Ballan.

Contrary to popular folklore, what are in 2020 collectively known as ‘Hepburn Mineral Springs’ were not the first mineral springs to be discovered, popularised and commercialised. Many, including those which bubbled naturally into creeks, such as still occurs at Deep Creek near Eganstown, would have been known and used by Aboriginal traditional owners. The first pastoralists arriving on the Bellarine Peninsula in 1837 reported the existence of mineral springs at Clifton Springs. In 1864 the ‘Clifton Mineral Springs Company, Drysdale Limited’ was set up to collect mineral water and erect baths.

A chemical analysis of water that was later bottled and marketed in Melbourne as ‘Ballan Seltzer’ is reported in The Argus (14 Sept 1867, p. 5), as taken ‘from a spring near Ballan’. The Bacchus March Express (21 Sept 1867, p. 4) noted that the spring was situated ‘… in a somewhat wild and inaccessible locality a little off the track of the old Daylesford road … 100 yards from the Moorabool River’. This ‘Ballan spring’ water was probably taken from a third spring mentioned by Maund, now called Gunsser’s Mineral Spring MS 070.

The 1867 Bacchus March Express article records that while the ‘Ballan spring’ had only very recently been ‘introduced to the public’, its existence had been known for several years. The article noted that ‘The proprietor of an adjoining station has been in the habit of bottling it in large quantities for his own use and that of his friends, and that occasional parties have visited the spring‘.

… to drink its waters, with more or less admixtures of stronger potations. Like a good many other local treasures, it has been ignored, simply because it is local. … Messrs Joske and Morton have already commenced the erection of premises suitable for bottling the water, and in the course of a week or two it will have become a recognised beverage in Melbourne.

Several of the early Geological Survey of Victoria reports including those by Taylor and Newbery refer to the existence of mounds associated in central Victoria with several mineral springs. In 1930 Foster mapped some of these mounds and undertook analyses of the tufa. Mounds associated with mineral springs were mapped on some of the Geological Map Sheets including Korweinguboora. Baragwanath’s (1947) ‘Special Report, Gold & Minerals’ (G83) also mentions ‘mounds’, called ‘lime tufa mounds’ in Shugg’s (2004) PhD thesis, which analysed and discussed these mounds in considerable detail.

Baragwanath noted in his 1947 report that:

In the neighbourhoods of Glenluce, Lyonville, Glenlyon and Spargo Creek the remains of former springs can be seen. These comprise mounds sometimes a few feet above the general level of the surrounding country. The mounds are composed of travertine [a form of limestone deposited by mineral springs, sometimes hot springs], deposited over countless ages while springs discharged normally. Eventually the springs became sealed off. In a number of cases bores were put down, and at comparatively shallow depths travertine was passed through and supplies of mineral water were available for pumping.

Baragwanath’s explanation would appear to apply also to Gilmore’s (Limestone Creek) Spring. The relatively large (approximately 100 metre) but thin (perhaps 3 metre thick) lens of lime tufa which was mined on the site was undoubtedly deposited in situ from calcium-rich waters over a considerable interval. The spring that caused the deposit may have still been seeping through the deposit or into nearby Limestone Creek before the 1840s. It is possible that locals may have used the mineral water, if a spring discharged at the Limestone Creek site during Gilmore’s time in the district (i.e. before 1877), as the Spargo Creek Spring was used prior to 1867.

Evidence of the mineral spring from the past four decades

Gilmore’s (Limestone Creek) Mineral Spring is comprehensively described by Andrew Shugg (2004) in a report to the Victorian Mineral Water Committee, along with a description of what he calls its associated ‘calc-tufa mound’. Tufa is a variety of limestone formed when carbonate minerals precipitate from discharging groundwater. Tufa can contain fossils including shells, wood, leaves and their imprints. Though no such fossils were visible in hand specimens collected from the Limestone Creek site from the limited accessible outcrop in 2020, leaf and grass impressions have been noted by Shugg (2004) from other, similar mounds. Many of the hand specimens collected from the base and margins of the quarry comprise alluvial gravel cemented with carbonate. Keppel, Clarke, Halihan et al. (2011) studied tufa-mound springs in the Lake Eyre area. They noted that despite similar formations being found worldwide, few intensive studies of the formation and ongoing evolution of these structures exist.

Andy Shugg (1996) had undertaken a comprehensive study of Mineral Spring Water in Victoria. Table 2 in Shugg’s report lists ‘Victorian commercial mineral water, the sources, location, owner, licensed and authorised extraction rates (1993)’. Spring MS 009 located within the Hepburn Shire at ‘Limestone’ then had ‘Coca Cola APD’ listed as the owner and extractor. APD, Australian Property Developments, appears to be an Adelaide-based development and construction organization.

The year of last extraction of water was 1985/6 despite 35Ml/day being the authorised extraction volume from bores on the site. For laypeople, 35 megalitres is a lot of water: equivalent to 14 Olympic-sized (50-metre) pools.

Appendix D in Shugg (1996) listing all registered Mineral Springs in Victoria confirms that seven registered groundwater bores, six of them Mineral Water (MW) bores, had then been sunk at the Limestone Creek Spring (MS 009) site to extract the water. The seventh was the number of the previous mineral spring on the site in the groundwater database.

Shugg (2004, p. 4) provides detailed hydrogeological information about the mineral water from the Limestone Creek mineral spring. He observes that:

The mineral water is a sodium bicarbonate type … although the cations calcium and magnesium also occur in significant quantities. The water has around 3000 mg/L bicarbonate, 300-600 mg/l chloride, and with a total dissolved salts concentration of 4,000-4,500 mg/l, it is one of the more saline of the mineral waters from the Daylesford area.

The gas in the mineral water was, unsurprisingly, 98 per cent carbon dioxide.

Eric Sartori contends that ‘A unique mineral water spring flowed up through the limestone to the surface, near the present Midland Highway. In the late 1980s a water bottling company purchased the land, put down a bore into a saline aquifer and ruined the spring. This was environmental vandalism’.

Sartori’s contention is supported by the evidence. It appears that during the 1970s a casing was placed in the hole of the previous mineral spring, which would have previously been flowing out naturally into a hollow or ditch. An unsuccessful later attempt was made to clear the bore and enlarge the hole. In the process, it appears that all that was achieved was enabling drainage of reflux from the evapotranspiration of the area on the mound. The deep drilling subsequently undertaken by Scalex and later by Coca Cola sealed the fate of the previous mineral spring.

Precisely what happened to destroy the spring aquifer and/or lead to its abandonment as a pumping source is beyond the scope of the present paper. However, it might be a story worth investigating and telling in the future. One possible brief explanation is that as consumer tastes changed, the relatively high salinity as well as calcium and magnesium in the Limestone Creek mineral water was less desirable, less palatable or less commercial than that of other mineral water, and particularly freshwater bores that were being developed by Coca Cola as well as Pepsi after the 1980s. It likely became more profitable to bottle tankered still water, which involved less treatment and less inconsistency in comparison to natural mineral water.

The geology of the spring

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Alluvium and travertine occur at the surface overlying Ordovician bedrock at the Limestone Creek site. The travertine was formerly burnt for lime, and remains of the kilns may be seen on the alluvial flats. The existence of the spring and its accompanying limestone sinter mound was noted by Newbery (1867), while Ulrich (1866) included the lime kilns on the Geological] Quarter Sheet. The spring is located around 22 km from recharge areas at the crest of the Dividing Range.

 A portion of Ulrich’s (1866) geological map shows that the general area around the Lime Kilns consists of approximately north (340 degree) trending Ordovician bedrock, with north trending quartz reefs exposed on the ridges. The Lime Kilns in 1866 are shown as a sizeable rectangle located on the alluvium on a consolidated allotment, though no mineral spring is marked. The deposits that were quarried to produce the lime are not marked on Ulrich’s map. However, a note on the map reads, ‘Small patch of freshwater limestone, its margin consists of a breccia of slate and quartz cemented by lime.’

‘Breccia’ is a rock containing angular fragments. The lime tufa at Limestone Creek incorporates  variable proportions of mostly water-worn sandstone pebbles in the limestone and would not be called a breccia.

Eric Sartori notes in an unpublished report (pers. comm.) that Brough Smyth briefly mentions a limestone deposit north-east of Franklinford in his The goldmines of in 1882-3 Victoria report. It is possible that this might instead refer to ‘Murph’s Spring’ also NE of Franklinford and reportedly with a tufa mound. A geological plan of Ferguson (1911) had three kiln sites marked between the creek and the mound.

 Andy Shugg (2004) summarised the known geology, hydrogeology and recent use of the Limestone Spring as follows (lightly edited).

Ulrich (1864) drew attention to the lime kilns at the mineral springs on the Geological Quarter sheet 15 SE with the note that about 70 metres around the spring there was about 3 metres of travertine consisting of fragments of slate, sandstone and quartz in a calcareous matrix with some iron oxide.

Newbery (1867) also drew attention to the spring and noted the carbonate mound deposited from the alkaline earths, and its similarity with several other spring mounds exist such as at Spargo Creek, then referred to as one of the Ballan springs. Later, Ferguson (April 1911) noted that there was a white scum on the water suggesting active deposition of travertine. Near the small alluvial flat were the remnants of old lime kilns. The tuffaceous limestone originating from the spring covered an area of 0.5 hectare and had an average a thickness of 3 metres. Ferguson (1911) considered that the spring had been flowing for about 5,000 years based on the thickness of travertine deposits.

At some stage the spring was improved, and a bore was established from which the mineral water flowed. Local people used to fill bottles from the spring.

In 1976, Scanex Minerals cleaned out the existing bore, drilled 6 further bores and conducted a testing program. [Bores] Yandoit 10003 and 10004 were sampled in between June and December 1979. Further bores Yandoit 10005, 10006, 10007 and 10008 were drilled at the site of the spring for Associated Products and Distributors P/L. Analysis of pumping tests carried out on the test bores indicated transmissivities between 10 – 110 m2/d and storativity values from 0.002 – 0.011 (Szabo, for Scanex Minerals Pty Ltd, 1979). Later AGC (Australian Groundwater Consultants) conducted further testing at the site for the Coca Cola bottling company.

The private bores … drilled at the spring … penetrated around 35 – 50 m of deeply weathered rock, before entering a sequence of hard Ordovician sandstones and graphitic shales. Later deep bores to 150 m were proposed to develop the mineral water in 1980. In May 1980, consultants to the Coca Cola Company requested a permit to extract mineral water at a rate of 100 m3/d (36.5 ML/annum). In response, the Victorian Geological Survey recommended that extraction be subject to the following conditions;

  • The licence should be reviewed after two years,
  • Three observation bores should be constructed and monitored and,
  • That the interference with flow in Limestone Creek be ascertained.

Landowners downstream of the spring development complained to the Department that there was a possibility of diminished creek base flow resulting from pumping from mineral water extraction from the bedrock and this would impact on their stock and domestic entitlements and environmental flow in the stream.

Mineral water from Gilmore’s (Limestone Creek) Mineral Spring was at one stage extracted and bottled by Coca Cola. The name of the spring was changed to ‘Mount Franklin’ as part of a re-branding exercise. The last water extraction occurred in the fiscal year 1985/1986. The label “Mount Franklin” has the best-known bottled water brand in Australia.

Despite the name, the product ‘Mount Franklin’ water or mineral water has no current relation to nor contains and water from the Gilmores / Limestone Creek / Mount Franklin mineral spring. Sadly, the mineral spring that used to be used by locals on the roadside until 40 years ago has been destroyed. The area where the mineral spring was and where the holding tanks and associated shedding were constructed has been fenced off.

 Shugg (2004) summarised the then ‘Status’ of the Limestone Creek Spring, as below.

The spring was improved, and mineral water flows from a 150 mm bore casing. The bore was deepened and improved by Scanex Minerals (Szabo) in 1978. The bore was used for commercial purposes for only a short period till 1986. The site is no longer used for the commercial extraction of mineral water and is not developed for other purposes. In June 2004, the site [had] not been used as a mineral water source for nearly two decades. Two water storage tanks still exist, and the bores and several sheds are still maintained on site. Large amounts of spring tufa still exist at the site. It is comprised of hard dense light yellow – grey earthy or clayey calc-sinter and white porous calc-sinter with remnant structures after vegetable material.

Local knowledge suggests that during the process of ‘improving’ and deepening the spring for commercial extraction of mineral water, improper use of casing and/or pumping led the water to become contaminated by salt.

How was the ‘lime’ actually produced?

 All of the above does not explain to a layperson what calcium-rich rocks were actually used to manufacture the lime on the Limestone Creek site, how the lime might have been made and how and where it might have been used.

What follows uses a number of online and published sources from other lime kilns in Victoria and elsewhere to try to address these topics. A deeper understanding may follow more detailed field work, including a proposed subsequent survey for the Victorian Heritage Register.

Much of the general information below has been gleaned from two reports.

  • A hand-edited, unpublished document from a talk given by Joanna McClellan in 1986 to the Royal Historical Society titled Lime burning: An Early industry in Victoria.
  • A 50+ page report published by Heritage Victoria in 2000 titled An archaeological and historical overview of limeburning in Victoria, by Jane Harrington.

Insights from McClellan (1986)

McClellan identifies four main sites of ‘early’ lime-burning installations in Victoria: Limeburner’s Point, Geelong; Walkerville; Coimadai and Fossil Beach near Mornington. Most of the earliest sites were on the coast where shells or shell-rich sediments provided the calcium carbonate-rich raw materials.

Coimadai north-east of Bacchus Marsh (along with the Limestone Creek Lime Kiln) being inland sites developed on deposits from freshwater springs, are exceptions. Both had lime kilns operating by the 1850s. A post with original words by Anders Hjorth, available on line via the Federation University Industrial Heritage site, suggests a possible connection between the Coimadai site and the Lime Kilns near Mount Franklin, as Coimadia’s early (1850s) lime kilns were operated by a ‘Mr Brown’ while the Lime Kilns near Mount Franklin were known as ‘Brown’s lime kilns’ in 1858. Additional interest in the Coimadai deposit derives from its associated mineral spring and reported presence of large megafauna bones within the limestone. Some of what Hjorth is included below since it identifies the context for lime making on similar, though larger, deposits during the same era the Limestone Creek deposits were being worked.

“In 1861 I had occasion to call at Coimadai, for a couple of bags of lime. Shortly after leaving Toolern I entered on a very devious track, through primeval but not dense forest; found the kilns, in the front of which there was a small cleared space, but looking west, towards Coimadai flats, the vision was interrupted by a forest of gum and box trees, undergrowth, and reeds. I have often tried to form a theory accounting for the presence of fossilised bones embedded in the rocks of the limestone quarries at Coimadai.

Through the kindness of my son-in-law (Mr. A. Allen) who has been working in the limestone quarries at Coimadai, I have obtained several fossilised bones of various dimensions, some of them being very large—big enough to have belonged to some gigantic dinosaur of the past.

From what can learn, the first white man to make Coimadai his domicile was a Mr. John Hopgood, who lived in a hut on the left bank of the creek, opposite to what is now known as the sodawater spring. That was somewhere in the [18]fifties. Mr. Hopgood was also the discoverer of the lime deposits which were at first worked in a small way by him and his sons. After a while, the Messrs. Browne, Gamble and Munroe got possession of the deposits, and worked them on a larger scale, supplying the Messrs. Cornish and Bruce, contractors for the construction of Mt. Alexander railway, which was then building, with a large quantity of lime; that would be about 1860.

Between 1860 and 1863, about 50 men were employed, in the various vocations connected with the burning of and carting away of the lime. A local squatter, (Mr. Brown) [dissolved the partnership] and Gamble sold out to his partners for £1000. Immediately after he opened up a lime deposit on a hill opposite, which is now known as Mr. Burnip’s. Mr. Gamble did not seem to have stayed long here, but meeting Mr. Burnip at Bendigo he informed him of the existence of the deposit, which, with the block it was on, was secured by Mr. Burnip. It seems that, about the middle [18]sixties, Brown and Munroe, abandoned their interest in the lime kilns, which were afterwards for some time worked spasmodically by F. Gulliver, sen., and his sons, as well as by Mr. T. Hopgood’s sons.

The output mostly went to supply local demands. In the [18]seventies, a Mr. Blair, owner of limekilns near the Heads, on the eastern side of Port Phillip Bay, got possession of Coimadai lime deposits, but from what I can learn, he did not display much activity by increasing the output. In the [18]eighties, Mr. P. Alkemade, a native of Holland, who had a good deal of experience as a builder and contractor, as well as of opening up lime deposits in other parts of the State, obtained possession of part of the quarries.

At that time things were commencing to boom in Melbourne, through the influx of borrowed money; a number of ramshackle buildings were demolished, to be replaced by palatial structures. Mr. Alkemade, being an active, energetic, man with insight to the future, managed to get capital by floating a company, increasing the number of kilns, and fronting them by what was, for the locality, an imposing structure of rubble masonry. The company was floated under the name of The Alkemade Hydraulic Lime Company and inaugurated in bumpers of champagne and other joy conducers.

As Mr. Alkemade had only got possession of part of the deposits, a Mr. Debly took up the other part about the same time, and also fronted his kilns with rubble masonry, and porches where the burned lime could be drawn in all weathers. Those porches, in after years, when Mr. Debly had abandoned his portion of the quarries, often became the abode of non-residential employees of the Alkemade’s, who were, by “Rambler,” in one of the local papers, designated as “cave-dwellers.” During the building boom in Melbourne, things were correspondingly booming at Coimadai, and a considerable number of men found employment in the various vocations required for the production of and getting away the lime, which, after being carted to Bacchus Marsh, was railed to Melbourne.

In 1892, the boom collapsed, and the output at the kilns gradually declined, and ceased altogether as far as the Melbourne supply was concerned, a few bags went weekly to Bacchus Marsh, mostly carted by Mr. P. Alkemade, sen.. … [After his accidental death] the output having now almost become nil, with no immediate prospect of mending, Mr. Alkemade’s four sons (Cornelius, Robert, Peter and John) bought all the company’s interests, price I do not know. They managed gradually to increase the output, by supplying other parts of the State, as well as Melbourne with lime, which had by this time got a good reputation. Year by year the business kept extending; production having also been cheapened by the introduction of various labor saving appliances, and the turning out of a first-class article suitable to builders.

I understand that the weekly output now averages from 600 to 700 bags. Mr. Debly abandoned his part of the quarry when the boom burst. In the quarry today, consisting of a great pit, I am informed there is yet any quantity of stone to be obtained. The first settlers to obtain land on Coimadai flats … were attracted by the opening up of the lime deposits, as, in 1861, Mr. Bennett, before he got his block, had a small store, with a wine licence, a little below where the hotel now stands. … Mr. Bower was of an energetic, if somewhat sanguine, disposition, and assisted in furthering and developing the resources of Coimadai. He opened up a mineral spring on his property, erected machinery, for the treatment and bottling of its water, and forwarded the product to Melbourne, but did not seem to have taken too well with the public, and the attempt to establish a trade in that direction was abandoned.”

Returning to the coast, before 1840, McClellan suggests most of the lime around the shores of Port Phillip was manufactured in ‘bush type’ kilns. They employed a shallow pit filled with fuel on which the broken stone (typically coastal deposits of shells or dune limestone) was placed. The whole thing was covered with sod or bricks to retain the heat, and the fuel was fired perhaps through a channel. Though the process was inefficient and the product was contaminated with ash and unburned material, it was ‘good enough’ for early use in the building industry.

According to McClellan, ‘properly constructed’ kilns, exemplified by one built at Geelong around 1847, consisted of a vertical brick -lined shaft, a vaulted tunnel and long retaining wall. The stone and fuel were laid in alternate layers and fired from below as the lime was calcined. effectively being roasted by strong heat. The lime was raked out the bottom through the draw hole at the back of the vaulted tunnel. Theoretically such a kiln could be operated continuously by adding more layers of fuel and stone, thus creating a ‘running kiln’. By the mid-1840s sufficient lime was being produced in the Geelong area for a shipping trade to develop that took lime to Launceston.

By 1841 there were ten lime kilns on the Mornington Peninsula, at least some of which were likely to have been ‘properly constructed’. By 1849 there was a special wharf for the approximately 25 lime boats on the Yarra. Despite all this activity the output of the Victorian lime burners was not sufficient to meet the huge boom in the construction industry of the 1840s and particularly the 1850s. Overseas lime however was three times as expensive as the local product.

By 1858, McClellan (p.30) notes, half of the 47 state-registered lime kilns in Victoria were around Geelong and Mornington, with ‘the rest at Mt Franklin, Coimadai, Port Fairy, Portland, Sale and Hamilton’.

In 1860 a report on the lime resources of Victoria (Victorian History Pamphlets, Vol. 16, p. 18, cited by McClellan, p. 11) ‘a team of experts’ stated that ‘new sources of lime have recently opened up inland one at Mt Franklin and the other at Coimadai’.

Insights from Harrington (2000)

Harrington systematically lists the main lime production methods and kiln types. They are summarised, below, from the simplest to the most advanced. Particular attention is given to the method we might anticipate was used at the Limestone Creek site. Given the era, the position of the lime tufa deposit ‘on the flat’ and the possible stretched rectangular form of the kilns, as suggested on one of the early survey maps, the ‘pit burning’ method seems the most likely means of manufacture at the Limestone Creek kilns.

  1. Heap burning: burnt in a heap or pile of alternating layers of stone and wood on the ground
  2. Pit burning: as above but in a ground pit. Typical pits are around 2.75m X 2.5m, sometimes with a trench to provide a draft for the fire. Sometimes the edge of the pit is reinforced by flanking stone. Extended versions of the simple pit excavation, called ‘pye’ or ‘clamp’ kilns in Britain, were longitudinal pits (up to 20m long) with channels in the bottom. They had the advantage of being easier than shaft kilns to construct, and more expedient if the need was temporary and more efficient in terms of fuel consumption per load of lime. Kilns of this type from the 1840s in Scotland were referred to as ‘clamp or horseshoe’ kilns, in an online article, ‘Lime burning in clamp kilns in Scotland’s Western Central Belt: Primitive industry or simple but perfectly adequate technology.
  3. Intermittent kilns: either Flare kilns which involve burning lime over a grate or mixed-feed kilns.
  4. Continuous kilns.

The location map and list of lime kilns in Victoria in Harrington does not include the Mount Franklin site, thought it does show the Coimadai site and another at the 1870s Ebenezer Aboriginal Mission site near Dimboola. Maps from other sources as well as oral histories suggest that possible other lime kilns may have existed north of Limestone Creek in the Carisbrook, Talbot and Joyce’s Creek areas.

Who operated the lime kilns and lived in the Limestone vicinity from the 1850s?

Several early references in newspapers dating from the 1850s make mention of the locality ‘Limestone’, the Limestone Creek kiln site and the sale of lime from the Lime Kilns, on what is sometimes referred to as the Mount Franklin (Jim Crow or Mount Franklyn) site. Several of these articles during the 1850s make reference to ‘Brown’s lime kiln’ and to ‘C. Brown’ as the lime kiln owner or operator, but later (until 1877) the kilns was apparently owned by Mr Gilmour / Gilmore.

Christopher Brown was referred to in 1864 (Farmer’s Journal and Garden Chronicle, 1 July 1864, p. 8) as ‘… an old and respected inhabitant of the [Loddon District, Mount Franklin]’. Brown was at that time leaving the district, having ‘lived on the summit of the hill above the township reserve’ in ‘Kildare Lodge’.

This following information from primary sources is placed in chronological order.

  • Advertisement: 28 Dec 1855: ‘Lime: Fresh from the Mount Franklyn Lime Kilns, Jim Crow, and free from either sand, loam or other deleterious matter. The undersigned will have a constant supply of the above from this date. Price nine shillings per bag of three bushels for quantities over ten bushels’ [NOTE: 1 bushel approx. 25kg] (Mount Alexander Mail, p. 1).
  • 10 May 1858: ‘The telegraph party are at work to connect Jim Crow to the main lines, they have got as far as Brown’s lime kiln, near the Mount Franklyn’. (Mount Alexander Mail, 15 May, p. 3).
  • Advertisement 12 July 1858: ‘Roche Lime 8s per bag of three bushels or 6 pound per ton, Slaked [ditto]. 5 shillings [ditto]. Or 4 pounds per ton at the Mount Franklin Lime Kilns’ (more costs listed in delivered in Castlemaine)’. (Mount Alexander Mail, p. 4).
  • 9 May 1859: ‘Transfer licence of No. 3 and No. 4 allotments of the Mount Franklin Lime Stone Quarry’. Also ‘for sale’ advertisement: ‘The Quarry, known as the Upper Lime Stone, together with four substantial kilns, stone built shed, tools and tramway for conveyance of wood and stone and every other convenience for carrying on the extensive trade already established, apply to Newcombe and Laver Timber Merchants , Castlemaine or to C. Browne Esq. , Mount Franklin 599c’ (Mount Alexander Mail, p. 1).
  • 19 Aug 1859: ‘Mr Honey obtained a publican’s licence for the Lime Kiln Hotel on the Ballarat Road from Castlemaine. This house will, if well conducted, prove a boon to travellers between Castlemaine and Daylesford’. (Mount Alexander Mail, p. 4).
  • 9 Sept 1859: ‘John Honey, landlord of the Mount Franklin Lime Kiln Hotel.’ (Mount Alexander Mail, p. 2)
  • 27 June 1863: at a meeting of ratepayers of the parishes of Yandoit and Mount Franklin chaired by E. S. Parker Esq., J. P. ‘Mr Christopher Brown read the first resolution’. (Mount Alexander Mail)
  • 7 Dec 1874: A ‘terrible accident … on the road between Franklinford and The Lime Kilns’. Death of a boy aged 11, son of My James Gilmore ‘ … a famer residing near the Lime kiln’. (Mount Alexander Mail, p. 2).
  • 8 Dec 1877: Sale of the ‘property of Mr Gilmour of Limestone near Franklinford which consists of freehold lands with crops of wheat and oats, the limestone quarry, house, livestock farming implements, etc.’ (Mount Alexander Mail, p. 2).

In summary, the 1850s appear to have been a time of considerable activity in the Limestone area, including output from the lime kilns and the building of a hotel.

A separate ‘Clearing out sale notice’ (found on Trove) records that the sale was scheduled for 10 Dec 1877 as ‘Mr Gilmore of Limestone is leaving the district in consequence of ill health’. It included the whole farm, including ‘4 blocks of 1 acre each, known as the ‘Lime Kiln Lot’’. The improvements listed include ‘The Lime Kilns, Quarry etc’, noting that ‘its value [as a farm] is enhanced by the lime deposits and its never failing stream of water’.

 What is on the site in 2020?

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An of the site in May 2020 confirms that whilst much of the higher-quality limestone has been mined, there are significant, scattered outcrops of poorer-quality lime tufa within the area mostly covered by spiny rush and blackberries. There are also broken and overgrown foundations of rock walls toward the north western edge of the site which were probably part of the original lime kilns. A boundary fence separates the depressed, quarried out area from the elevated grazing land to the north. Several small outcrops of solid grey limestone crop out in the paddock. The spiny rush (Juncus acutus) on the quarry site is indicative of waterlogged and saline ground conditions.

Stephen Carey made the following geological notes after a May 2020 site inspection.

The modern expression of the limestone deposit consists of the quarry, now overgrown with spiny rush and briars, and scattered outcrops in the adjacent paddock to the north. No exposures were observed in the paddock to the south. The quarry is very shallow, being  ̴1 m deep. In the quarry, limestone crops out in the walls on the northern and eastern sides, while elsewhere limestone is present as low mounds of spoil. In the northern paddock, small, low outcrops, generally <1 m across, occur across a broadly horizontal surface with numerous metre-scale depressions which stretches from the fence at the northern edge of the quarry about 60 m further north to a shallow grassy gully. At the head of the gully are the ruins of a small stone building.

The limestone is highly variable. The following descriptions are based on field examination only. The purest occurrence observed is an essentially two-dimensional exposure in the northern paddock halfway along the fence and 1.5 m into the paddock. It appears to be massive, except for common centimetre-scale pits on the surface, though the lack of vertical exposure makes this uncertain. It is a grey lime mudstone, according to the classification of Dunham (1962). Where vertical exposure is available, that is, in the quarry walls, as well as in some discarded blocks, a distinct to diffuse, centimetre-scale, horizontal stratification is present. Many of the quarry occurrences, including spoil, have a component of rounded terrigenous gravel, mostly small-pebble-sized. At the extreme, the rock is a terrigenous conglomerate cemented by lime micrite.

Conclusion

All of the above points to a poorly known geological deposit that is unusual for Central Victoria. It occurs together with the overgrown remains of several historic, very early Lime Kilns dating from the Aboriginal Protectorate era of the 1840s. The Lime Kilns were most likely established between 1842 and 1848, and initially operated to the likely benefit of Edward Parker. The Lime Kiln business operated by Brown and later Gilmour appears to have boomed during the early Gold Rush years. The site to the south in 2020 includes an abandoned mineral spring, associated bores and pumping infrastructure.

The lime kilns operated on a busy intersection under several owners or operators at least until the 1860s that at one stage included a small settlement and hotel. The formerly reasonably large but shallow, lenticular, lime tufa deposit on the Limestone Creek site was developed in situ from the surface expression of a calcium-rich mineral spring. Though the deposit has largely been mined out and the former quarry area is in 2020 overgrown with spiny rush, briars and blackberry, the remains of the several original lime kilns on the site are important historically and worthy of closer survey and formal recording.

The associated, formerly delightful mineral spring may have been destroyed by apparently botched boring and pumping associated with 1980s commercial groundwater extraction by commercial operators including the Coca Cola Company. The historic mineral spring previously called ‘Gilmours’ on the site, was renamed ‘Mount Franklin’ by the company just prior to its destruction, when pumping and water extraction ceased.

While the water associated with ‘Mount Franklin’ brand lives on under the ownership of Coca Cola Amatil and has become nationally iconic and incredibly profitable to the Coca Cola company, no water has been extracted from the original site for approximately 35 years. The ‘Mount Franklin’  mineral spring is no more and the area has  become an overgrown and forgotten eyesore on the side of the Midland Highway. There is no signage on the site.

No one would know that the registered, arguably vandalised and now abandoned natural mineral spring on the site is the one today originally associated with the ‘Mount Franklin’ water brand. There is some irony that the Mount Franklin water web site in 2020 stresses it wants to do ‘… the right thing for the Australian environment now and for future generations … While we celebrate our great land, we do our part to protect it to. … We’ll stay determined to keep finding ways to lighten our touch on the environment, to protect the land dearest to our hearts.’

In our opinion, there is a case here beyond our historical narrative and anticipated heritage survey of this unique and important historic site, for a long-term recovery and site management plan. The recovery plan might involve removal of weeds and replanting of the Limestone Creek-side precinct, removal of unused or unnecessary modern infrastructure, some sensitive on-site historical and geological interpretation of the spring, the lime tufa deposit and the Lime Kilns, and reinstatement of a publicly accessible, roadside mineral spring.

Given the ‘Mount Franklin’ commitment to do the right thing, such a plan might be developed with support from Coca Cola Amatil as the most recent commercial operator on the site, in consultation with the Dja Dja Wurrung traditional owners, current land owners, the Hepburn Shire, other local landholders and community stakeholders.

Loddon Protectorate Era Flour Mill

CB7CE30E-32ED-4468-9DB4-CBF7675F7620Loddon Aboriginal Protectorate-Era (1840s) flour mill on The Mill Stream south of Franklinford

Preamble

One of the earliest water-powered flour mills in Victoria operated within the bounds of the Aboriginal Protectorate site south of Franklinford during the 1840s. This account seeks to consider previous and new evidence to establish where it was built, when and in what context. In doing so it seeks to distinguish between the Protectorate-era mill and a later, nearby flour mill from the Swiss Italian settler era of the 1860s. There is a case for this 1840s water-driven mill, perhaps one of the oldest in Victoria, subsequently being documented and recorded in the Victorian Heritage Register. I encourage anyone who reads this and has new evidence to support or refute my conclusions, to email me.

Other research underway on Victorian water powered flour mills

I note that Gary Vines has been actively researching all early water-powered flour mills in Victoria for a PhD at La Trobe University. Vines has been undertaking brief mill histories, mainly to try and track down where the millers came from. The main purpose of his research is looking at technology transfer in the mid 19th century. His hypothesis is that the nature of the technology introduced into Victoria was dependent in a large part to the particular background and knowledge of the individuals who came here.

It appears from Gary Vines’ research that a preponderance of Scottish settlers with experience of Lowland Manorial milling technology in Scotland influenced the form of early water mills in Victoria. In this context, the mills built by in the early 1840s by Hepburn and Joyce as well as the one on the Protectorate are a very important  but poorly known part of Victoria’s white pastoral heritage.

The Protectorate era mill elaborated below was not on Gary Vines’ data base before August 2020, but Hepburn and Joyce’s 1840s mills were. Some of Vines’ preliminary findings are accessible via Google Docs https://drive.google.com/drive/u/0/folders/0B9cLyWT58-K8Zm1EX1EzZHprLXc.  Gary has posted brief paper of early mills on the River Plenty: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/322737311_Mills_of_the_Plenty

Previous  evidence

Edgar Morrison, in The Loddon Aborigines (1971, p.48) recollected that:

In the horse and buggy day … each Boxing Day a group of neighbours of all ages from Franklinford and Yandoit would congregate at the old Mill Spring about half way between Franklinford and Shepherd’s Flat [under] … the spreading willow trees that grew nearby. Near by a strong flow of crystal clear water issued from the hillside, forming a pool fringed with watercress. From thence, the water gurgled down the grassy slope before plunging into the Jim Crow Creek about 20 chains to the westward. … Since the earliest colonial days it has borne the name Mill Spring.

A generation ago the older citizens could remember carting wheat to an old Flour Mill, the wheel of which was operated by water from a race branching northward from the Mills Spring stream. … Fragments of the water-wheel are still discernible as well as a few crumbling walls of the mill itself. Yet before that structure was built, the spring had long borne its present name. … Gabriel Henderson (1854-1944) … attributed the name to the fact that ‘a small flour mill, operated by a water wheel was erected there by Mr Parker when he first came to the district’. An early survey map corroborates Mr Henderson’s statement. A position southward of the natural watercourse is defined as “Ruins of an old Mill”. At this time (1843-44) they used to grow wheat in what they called the Swamp Paddock – and ground it somewhere nearby. … One wonders what became of the two steel hand mills [Parker] had brought up from Melbourne in 1840. It is tempting to wonder whether the small flour mill erected on the Mill Spring race was in fact a combination of the old hand mills. …

New evidence

The new evidence, below, confirms much of what Morrison wrote. However, it appears that the ruins of a stone ground flour mill powered by water from the water race branching northward from the Mill Stream that Morrison refers to is different from and two decades later than what was likely a water driven, steel flour mill operated by Parker from a shorter race to the south of the Mill Stream.

On 28 November 1842 the Chief Protector of Aborigines, George Robinson visited the Aboriginal Protectorate on the slopes of Mount Franklin. Robinson wrote that he:

… visited the crater at the mount called Willum-parramul [‘place of the emu’], otherwise Jem Crow [Mount Franklin]. It is an ancient crater of large dimension. … Had a fine view. This morning visited the spring at the establishment a mile and a half distant. In the evening attended corrobery (sic.) of Malle condeets [literally ‘men of the mallee country’]. … At the conclusion both men and women singing together … After viewing … I went to the house. The Jajowrong had remained to a late hour.

This mention of Robinson’s visit to ‘the spring’ at the Protectorate and its approximate location approximately 1.5 miles from Parker’s 1842 house site suggests he had perhaps visited the spring on the Mill Stream rather than what is now known as ‘Thomas’ Spring’ on the flat near the current Franklinford Cemetery. On a visit five years later, Robinson mentions (in September 1847) that ‘the mill’ at the Protectorate station was out of order and that wheat being grown on the Protectorate was being sent instead to Hepburn’s mill (that operated from the 1840s on Birch’s Creek near Kingston).

In a December 1848 ‘Return of the number and condition of the buildings at the Loddon Aboriginal Station’ [Appendix 4 to Parker’s 1848 Annual Report: VPRS 4410(2)64, reproduced in Rhodes (1995)], the ‘Mill house, water wheel &c’ then comprised ”Partly sawn timber, partly slabs and bark’ and had been ‘Built last year [1847] – requires about 20 slabs to complete’,

John Hepburn’s mill is reasonably well documented. He had established his flour mill around 15 km to the west below present day Hepburn’s Lagoon near Kingston in 1841.

Gary Vines’ research reveals that the Smeaton district in East Lothian, Scotland, ‘ was an important centre during the Scottish Agricultural Revolution of the mid-eighteenth century, with numerous mills on the river Tyne, although these were associated with the cloth industry rather than corn milling. The Preston Mill was on the Smeaton estate, immediately opposite the famous engineer Robert Meikle’s Houston Mill. It is believed that Meikle maintained the Preston Mill at times. Meikle is also associated with John Smeaton. another famous mill engineer, so it is plausible that Hepburn named the station and subsequent town either for his Smeaton Estate in Scotland, or in connection with John Smeaton’.

Hepburn’s flour mill was still operating on 1 March 1860 when Captain Hepburn donated most of the prizes for the local Agricultural Society Show and allowed the use of the then three storey brick and stone mill for the occasion. Hepburn died five months later, on 7 Aug 1860. The mill declined and was abandoned during the 1860s and a new, much bigger mill (the current historic ‘Anderson’s Mill’) was built on Birches Creek at Smeaton by the Anderson brothers, using the same water source from Hepburn’s Lagoon via Birch’s Creek.

The new evidence available on the Protectorate suggests that by 1850 Assistant Protector Edward Parker or a contractor was operating the flour mill as a private business. Parker appears to have been doing similarly with a Lime Kiln, also established during the 1840s next to present day Limestone Creek, again within the footprint of the Aboriginal Protectorate.

Parker was questioned in 1853 about the financial and other arrangements in place on his Mount Franklin Aboriginal Station, established after the Aboriginal Protectorate was abolished in December 1849. There was concern by 1853 that an Aboriginal Reserve of 50 square miles was ‘disproportionately large’ given that the area had become ‘very rich gold country’. There were suggestions that some portions ‘which, with the greatest advantage to the public and the least injury to the aborigines might be surveyed for sale’. Parker’s responses (reported in Council Papers, The Argus, 14 June 1854, p.6) include mention that he had:

‘… also supplied the [Aboriginal] establishment with flour and occasionally meat at prices fixed by the Commissioner of Crown Lands, being at his request, calculated merely to cover the cost of production. In 1852 the price of flour and meat was 2d [2 pence] per lb [pound] for the whole year’.

These responses suggest that flour was still being produced by Parker from a flour mill on the Protectorate in 1852, and that it was being sold back to the government. Separately, the government arrangement with Parker was that he was responsible for all of the costs associated with the sheep on his large pastoral property, but was entitled to profit from the wool he produced.

‘Mill Ruins’ downstream of the ‘Old Mill Spring’ are marked downstream of a water course and ‘Spring’ on an undated early survey map published by Morrison in 1971, approximately halfway between Franklinford and Shepherd’s Flat. The map reproduced in Morrison (p.49) clearly shows the location of the mill ruins and what appears to be a short water race leading south off the creek (marked on 2020 maps as ‘Bendigo Creek’) approximately 150 metres before it enters Jim Crow Creek. All of these features are marked within Allotment 4 of Section 6.

The site is today located west of the Daylesford to Newstead Road approximately half way between Franklinford and Shepherds Flat. In 2020 the surrounding agricultural land along the former Mill Stream (today marked on Google map as ‘Bendigo Creek’) is reportedly owned by a land developer. Bendigo Creek runs west under the road before it enters Jim Crow Creek, passing through a series of pools and a watercourse overgrown by blackberries. There is an unoccupied farm house and farm buildings on a rise south of where the water begins to pool.

A former water race to the north of the creek that originally led to a separate water driven, stone ground flour mill operated from the 1860s by Minotti and others is still visible on satellite images and on the ground. The longer northern water race appears to commence somewhat higher up the creek than a previously short water race south leading to a former 1840s Protectorate era mill.

On the ground, there is nothing exposed on the former 1840s mill site to indicate exactly where the mill might have been, though much of the area near the stream including several stone walls is overgrown with blackberries. However, some early survey maps show a sizeable pond dammed upstream of the likely early flour mill site that may have later supplied water to a north flowing water race. In 2020 the sound of water running over a rock barrier hidden amongst the blackberries is suggestive that part of the dam wall that may have fed the 1840s mill may still be in place.

Several large eucalypts are the only obvious remnants of original native vegetation. Most of the wet areas along the creek and former stone fencing are overgrown with willow trees and particularly blackberries. Watercress and other waterweeds cover part of the pool surface. The watercourse and associated pools reportedly lie within a public water reserve that extends along most of the creek west of the road. The water reserve boundaries appear to be delineated by broken down stone and wire fences. As a consequence, grazing stock (in 2020 including several horses) have ready access to the spring, pools and the creek banks. If this is a public reserve it appears that the adjacent landholder may possess or informally exert grazing rights over the area.

Eric Sartori (pers. comm., 31 May 2020) suggests that ‘Parker’s Mill was 10 chain down the flow, long before Pozzi  and Minotti  in 1865’. Sartori suggests, as evidence, the mention a former water powered flour mill in a letter penned by William Bumstead in the Mount Alexander Mail (8 April, 1859, p.5), which refers to a ‘Sale of Land at Franklinford’. William Bumstead then operated the store, post office and bakery in Franklinford in 1859 and was married to Charlotte Woolmer, a sister to Edward Parker’s first wife.

Bumstead’s 1859 letter expressed concern about the way gold mining, particularly the construction of water races, was adversely affecting the public interest. Bumstead was particularly concerned about the way miners had ‘… cut a race to bring them water from Allotment 4 of Sect. 6, through Allotment 3 of Sect. 6 to their claims a distance of near 2 miles, a great part of which is through solid rock.’

Bumstead proceeded to protest that:

Allotment 4 of Sect. 6 is one of the finest springs in the colony and ought not to be sold but to be preserved in perpetuity, for ever, for the public good. Think, Sir, for yourself, of a spring rising to the surface, running ten chains only, and then to drive a mill as this one has done, from whence it is named Mill Ruins Spring on Fraser’s survey, Parish of Franklin, County of Talbot.

The water-driven, stone ground flour mill known locally as Minotti’s Mill is approximately 400 metres NNW of the earlier Protectorate era mill site, powered from the same water source but coming north off the Old Mill Stream. David Bannear recorded and mapped ‘Minotti’s Flour Mill’ as a significant site associated with Swiss-Italian immigration for Heritage Victoria. The water wheel pit with remnants of the stone wheel and water race and associated buildings were recorded in some detail on allotments ‘PT21, 21A and PT58’ in 1998.

Bannear (1998) noted that this later mill was operated by Battista Monotti. The water was conveyed along a race to drive a 16 foot diameter waterwheel. Minotti operated the mill and perhaps the adjoining farm and gold mine with Guiseppi Pozzi. Bannear cites as historical information sources L. & P. Jones’ Flour Mills of Victoria: 1840-1890 and the  Ballarat Courier (10 Oct 1868, p.21).

What flour milling technology might have been employed here during the 1840s?

One of the items of agricultural equipment procured by Edward Parker for use at the original Aboriginal Protectorate site located on the Loddon River at Neereman (6km north of Baringhup_ in late 1840 was a ‘Steel Mill’. Presumably this would have been a hand operated, steel flour mill. The History of Agriculture in South Australia website notes that the earliest wheat grown in South Australia was hand ground with such steel mills.

The first flour stone ground flour mill in South Australia was opened in 1840.

These early mills used stone rollers (mill-stones), imported mainly from France, with a barrel type sieving which only sieved off the bran. Steam power was mainly used, but there were some wind powered and water powered mills constructed with an isolated horse powered or bullock powered plant.

The upper and lower millstones were typically made of a siliceous rock called ‘burrstone’, an open textured porous but tough, fine grained sandstone, or a silicified fossiliferous limestone

Those used in Britain during the second half of the 1800s were usually either:

  • Derbyshire Peak Stones of grey Millstone grit, used for grinding barley, or more often,
  • French buhrstones [or burr stones], used for finer grinding, not cut from one piece, but built up from sections of rock cemented together, backed with plaster and bound with shrink-fit iron bands.

Several Millstones are mentioned amongst ship cargo coming into Australian ports during the 1840s. On 14 June 1841 (p.2) the Port Philip Patriot reported the arrival from Leith of ‘29 burr stones and one mill stone.’ On 1 Sept 1842, 28 burr stones were exported from Melbourne to Hobart amongst  a cargo of sheep and flour on the schooner Truganini.

On 26 April 1841 the Port Philip Patriot reported that a very fine specimen of burr stone had been procured from Port Phillip, but that hitherto most burr stones had been procured from France. By 1844 the Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (4 May 1844, p.4)  again reported that rock had been found near Melbourne that might suffice as a millstone:

BHURR STONE. This stone so valuable in the construction of millstone has been found in the neighbourhood of Melbourne. In texture and geological relations it is said to resemble the costly bhurr stone of France, for which, within the island of Great Britain, a magnificent reward was once offered by parliament.

During the late 1830s it appears that flour imported into Port Phillip came from mills in Tasmania or Sydney which were water or steam driven. On 29 Dec 1841 the Port Phillip Gazette noted that  ‘a flour mill worked by water is in the course of construction at Coulstock’s station on the Plenty [River]’.

The best known early flour mill site in Melbourne was originally operated by John Dight of Campbell Town. He acquired portion 88, Parish of Jika Jika, County of Bourke, on 7 November 1838 on the Yarra River near Dight’s Falls. Over the next few years, he constructed a brick mill on the site and began the production of flour. In November 1843, ownership of the land passed to John Dight and his brother Charles Hilton Dight. In 1864, flour milling was abandoned and the mill was leased to Thomas Kenny. In the mid 1870s, the site was used by the Patent Safety Blasting Powder Co. The Dight family sold the mill site to Edwin Trennery in 1878 and he subsequently subdivided the land. The original mill on the river bank remained unoccupied until 1888, when flour millers Gillespie, Aitken and Scott, operating under the name of ‘Yarra Falls Roller Flour Mills’ constructed a new flour mill and associated buildings on the site.

There is a detailed account in A homestead history (pp.60-62) based on the letters of ‘Alfred Joyce of Plaistow and Norwood, 1843-64’ of  a flour mill constructed by Alfred Joyce, a self-declared expert in ‘millwrighting and engineering’. Indeed Joyce completed a four year apprenticeship as a mechanical engineer and millwright. His apprenticeship indenture papers are dated 25 March 1837 (Joyce’s 16th birthday).

Alfred Joyce, whose homestead was on present day Joyces Creek, claimed in his letters that John Hepburn’s Smeaton Hill station was named ‘after the celebrated hydraulic engineer whom he greatly admired’, and that John Hepburn’s water-powered mill was powered with a ‘pair of real burr stones’ (p.60). John Smeaton (1824-92) was an English civil engineer responsible for the design of bridges, canal, harbours and lighthouses, who also pioneered the use of hydraulic lime in concrete. He also credited by some for inventing the cast-iron axle shaft for water wheels. However Hepburn’s reference to Smeaton is more likely about his birthplace by that name in Scotland.

Alfred Joyce moved to Plaistow in May 1844, setting up his run on Joyces Creek. Joyce  noted that ‘turning the mill by hand was by no means a pleasant contemplation, but we had to go through it for a while until some mechanical contrivance was constructed’ (p.60). Joyce first attempted a wind-driven mill at Plaistow using ‘sails about nine feet across and fixed on the spindle of a small steel mill, fastened to a post that could be turned to the wind as required’. This contrivance worked well early on but ‘the uncertainty of the wind and its occasional violence’ led him to set up an undershot waterwheel on account of ‘little fall’. It was attached to two steel mills.

Given the likely short fall via a short southerly water race off the Mill Stream to the Protectorate mill site, the set up as described in detail by Joyce (summarised below) of a steel mill attached to an undershot waterwheel is the most likely one to have operated on the Mill Stream during the 1840s.

  • Two very strong posts sunk in the ground four to five feet on either side of the water races, firmly rammed round with stones
  • The shaft of the wheel made from dressed log 8 or 9 inches [approx. 20cm] through.
  • The journals of the shaft comprising the well-rounded edges of the log reduced to about six inches [15cm] and running in corresponding dry wood bearings, these moving up or down in a long slot as the water rose or fell and supported on iron bolts passed through the posts.
  • The lubricating material a mixture of tar or grease.
  • A stout chain and grooved pulleys used to connect the power with the work as no other material would have stood the splash of the wheel.

Joyce’s neighbour Mr Bucknall (on Rodborough Vale run) first copied the wind mill and later set up an overshot water wheel in a copious spring coming out of the banks of the elevated plains’, also attached to two steel mills.

Given that Hepburn (from 1841), Joyce  and Bucknall (from 1844) regularly passed through the Aboriginal Protectorate at Mount Franklin and sometimes stopped there on the way to and from Melbourne, and were on good terms with Edward Parker and family, it is likely that their expertise, experience and advice in flour milling might have been useful to those operating the Protectorate era mill. In the 31 Aug 1841 Protectorate report Parker noted that ‘about 35 acres of land have been enclosed and 13 acres prepared for cultivation, and five acres sown with wheat’.

As a postscript, once gold was discovered the need for flour milling increased exponentially. The foundation stone for a steam driven flour mill (Victoria Steam Mill) in Castlemaine was laid in December 1856. Many water-driven flour mills were also established across the goldfields towards the Great Dividing Range from the 1850s, wherever water was available to drive then.

Peaks, Wetlands and Rivers: 2020 Tour Notes

‘Peaks, Wetlands & Rivers’

Hepburn Shire Reconciliation Week

Tour Notes, 2020

Barry Golding, b.golding@federation.edu.au

Detail of the massive and ancient strap grafted river red gum tree on Merin Merin Swamp

The tour is a Reconciliation Week initiative of Hepburn Shire Council. 

  • Hepburn Shire Reconciliation Action Plan Advisory Committee (RAP AC)
  • Donna Spiller, Arts Culture & Reconciliation Officer Hepburn Shire
  • Uncle Ricky Nelson – Dja Dja Wurrung Elder
  • Barry Golding – RAP AC
  • Inga Hamilton, Community Development Officer, Hepburn Shire
  • Peter O’Mara – RAP AC

Why a virtual tour in 2020?

We originally planned to run ‘Peaks, Rivers & Wetlands’ as another ‘on Country’ bus tour during National Reconciliation Week 2002, 27 May to 3 June.

We conducted several days of planning in the field to make the experience of being on Country special. We deliberately chose three sites that participants and other members of the public would be able to later, independently access, enjoy and explore:

  • Mount Greenock Geological Reserve, at Dunach
  • Merin Merin Swamp, at Eglinton north of Clunes
  • Hamilton’s Crossing at Neereman, north of Baringhup

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic we were forced to come up with a Plan B at very short notice. Our filming and recording had to be undertaken with great care for the safety of those involved, with low technology, low cost and limited time frames.

Sincere thanks

Our sincere thanks to the RAP AC members and others listed above. A note of gratitude to Inga Hamilton, our filmmaker/editor for skilfully and generously collating  what we were able to film on-site and overlay with studio recordings.  We are grateful to Donna Spiller and Inga for the huge amount of work ‘behind the scenes’ to film, edit and get the three You Tube programs and ‘Welcome to Country’ to completion.

Barry Golding penned these notes to share with anyone who views the programs and is interested in knowing more or physically visiting the sites.

These notes have been made accessible for download as a blog on Barry Golding’s www.barrygoanna.com website via shortlink https://wp.me/p3nVDL-t1

Reconciliation Week Virtual Tour Overview

Presented by Hepburn Shire Council in partnership with Jaara Elder, Uncle Ricky Nelson and Professor Barry Golding AM. Truth telling and reconciling our shared history at contact in the three-part series ‘Peaks, Rivers and Wetlands’.

Time travel back 180 years to three seldom visited environments and events from the early contact period that marked the beginning of unimaginable loss and trauma for Dja Dja Wurrung people. Join Jaara Elder, Uncle Ricky Nelson and Professor Barry Golding as they stand together on the top of the iconic volcanic slopes of Mount Greenock. Explore the tranquil Merin Merin Wetland where kangaroos still graze and visit the deep pools on the Loddon River at Neereman, where traditional owners once camped and fished for Murray Cod.

Welcome to Country – Feel the spirit of Country as Uncle Rick Nelson welcomes you on to Dja Dja Wurrung lands, to commence your Tour of ‘Peaks, Wetlands and Rivers’. https://youtu.be/ERIkKIORQ98

‘Peaks, Wetlands and Rivers’ = PART ONE Mount Greenock  – https://youtu.be/5aav2w6gNyk

‘Peaks, Wetlands and Rivers’  – PART TWO Merin Merin  – https://youtu.be/qmfhOxb2pAM

‘Peaks, Wetlands and Rivers’ PART THREE – Loddon River at Neereman – https://youtu.be/vaL4YnMmfcU

About National Reconciliation Week – 2020

Theme (appropriately) ‘In This Together’

https://www.reconciliation.org.au/national-reconciliation-week/

Reconciliation is a journey for all Australians – as individuals, families, communities, organisations and importantly as a nation. At the heart of this journey are relationships between the broader Australian community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

We strive towards a more just, equitable nation by championing unity and mutual respect as we come together and connect with one another.

On this journey, Australians are all ‘In This Together’.  Every one of us has an essential role to play when it comes to reconciliation as we collectively build relationships and communities that value Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, histories and cultures.

When we come together to build mutual respect and understanding, we shape a better future for all Australians.

This year Reconciliation Australia marks 20 years of operations in shaping Australia’s journey towards a more just, equitable and reconciled nation. Much has happened since the early days of the people’s movement for reconciliation, including greater acknowledgement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rights to land and sea; understanding of the impact of government policies and frontier conflicts; and an embracing of stories of Indigenous resilience, success and contribution.

2020 also marks the twentieth anniversary of the reconciliation walks of 2000, when people came together to walk on bridges and roads across the nation and show their support for a more reconciled Australia. As always, we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us, and Australians now benefit from the efforts and contributions of people committed to reconciliation in the past. Today we work together to further that national journey towards a fully reconciled country.

Throughout this time, we have also learnt how to reset relationships based on respect. While much has been achieved, there is still more work to be done and this year is the ideal anniversary to reflect on how far we have come while setting new directions for the future.

What is National Reconciliation Week?

  • National Reconciliation Week (NRW) is a time for all Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures, and achievements, and to explore how each of us can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia.
  • The dates for NRW remain the same each year; 27 May to 3 June. These dates commemorate two significant milestones in the reconciliation journey— the successful 1967 referendum, and the High Court Mabo decision respectively.
  • Reconciliation must live in the hearts, minds and actions of all Australians as we move forward, creating a nation strengthened by respectful relationships between the wider Australian community, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The three sites in brief

The three sites featured in the virtual tour programs include public land that enables you to safely and sensitively access them, as below. All sites are reasonably distant from towns and none have services such as water or toilets.

Please note our safety cautions. Some notes are added, below, to help you find the sites, plan and enjoy your visit. All sites would be ideal on any mild, sunny day (not Total Fire Ban). If you visit Neereman or Merin Merin, note that both are water ecosystems and are therefore more likely to be home to snakes in season.

We include detailed access information for each site, as Google Map-type applications won’t necessarily recognise the sites and might lead you down some  rough ‘goat tracks’.

The Mount Greenock and Merin Merin sites are around 50km from Daylesford (via Clunes) but only around ten minutes driving distance apart. If you have the time and interest, visiting both these sites while in the same area would make sense.

Hamilton’s Crossing at Neereman is around 40km north-east of the other sites (via Carisbrook) on the Loddon River (and approximately 60km north of Daylesford via Baringhup), but is well worth visiting separately for its beauty, giant river red gums and riverine habitat quite apart from its Aboriginal Protectorate association.

  • Mount Greenock summit involves a steep and rocky walk up an exposed, windswept, treeless mountain flank, but with superb views.
  • Merin Merin is an expansive shallow swamp ringed by regenerating tree and shrub vegetation and some ancient remnant trees.
  • The former Neereman Aboriginal Protectorate is located on a very beautiful section of the Loddon River. It is a great place to appreciate nature and to swim in summer.

Mount Greenock

Monument to Major Mitchell on the summit of Mount Greenock, erected in 1936.

Mount Greenock is (today) an almost bald and reasonably steep, rocky former volcanic cone. The views from the flanks of the mountain and from the top and on a good day, are superb. Anticipate a windy (sometime cold) site and a steep, strenuous, rocky walk up to the memorial cairn towards the summit without well-defined tracks. Dress accordingly and wear strong shoes with a good grip. A grazing licence currently allows cows to graze on what is classified as a ‘Geological Reserve’.

Access

Mount Greenock Geological Reserve is actually on a large, approximately rectangular block of public land that includes the mountain and its crater partly bounded by several roads: see outline in red, below.

Red outline map of theMount Greenock Reserve: the recommended access road is to the south west. The former road easement to the summit from the west is not obvious on the ground today.

However, the only recommended safe access to the mountain is via the Union Mine site just off the Ballarat to Maryborough Road.

  • If coming from the south, you will travel via Clunes. If coming from the north you will travel via Talbot.
  • There is a Parks Victoria sign on the east (right) side of the road approximately 12 km north of Clunes (or around 6km south of Talbot) that says, ‘Union Mine & Mount Greenock Geological Reserve’.
  • A short track off the road near the sign leads to a gate. Open the gate and drive in (close the gate behind you).
  • Drive approx. 200 metres along a gravel track and park under the young gum trees near where there is a Major Mitchell display (with quartz gravel heaps from the former Deep Lead mine site alongside) and Mount Greenock right in front of you.

When you arrive, you will likely ask yourself, “Am I actually allowed in? The short answer is, “Yes. It is a public reserve.” However please avoid the grazing stock (and cow pats), leave nothing behind and take only your memories of the incredible vistas away.

The walk to the summit and the Major Mitchell cairn

If the access gate is locked you will see a wooden stile up the slope to help you cross a barbed wire fence onto the huge paddock that includes the mountain (and usually the grazing cows). Keep to the right around the rocky ridge immediately in front of you, and then pick a cow track (or any route that best suits you) to head up the steep, rocky slope towards the summit. To avoid the steepest climb, we suggest you keep to the slightly gentler slope towards the left. Once onto the broad crater rim, head for the big stone Major Mitchell cairn (a smaller rocky cairn is on the furthest edge of the crater). Wander and enjoy the 360-degree views!

Take care walking back down the slope to avoid slipping. Pick your way down the gentler slopes back to your car. Take care driving out onto the busy main road and shut the gate behind you.

Like us, you will probably ask yourself whether cattle grazing is an appropriate use of a publicly owned, iconic mountain in 2020. Maybe if more people knew about Mount Greenock something might be done in the future to remove grazing, sensitively revegetate the landscape, make its steep slopes less prone to erosion and make it more accessible for people to visit and enjoy. This might include interpretation other than about Major Mitchell that includes its important Dja Dja Wurrung connections.

For those that are interested in nature

From the broad summit on a good day you can see a vast swathe of country. The areas that are volcanic grassland now were largely grassland or open woodland in 1836. The main grass on the slopes would have been kangaroo grass and there were lots of silver banksia and buloke in the slopes of the mountain and volcanic grasslands. The areas of native forest now were largely forest in 1836. There are virtually no trees and only a few hardy native species on Mount Greenock, including the thorny Tree Violet bush (Melicytus dentatus) which clings on in rocky clefts despite the grazing.

You will see a broad volcanic crater breached towards the north east. The rocks are mostly scoria and vesicular lava (with gas bubbles). Some rocks are so full off gas bubbles they will float on water. The original ‘ropy lava’ flow structures are still evident in many of the rocks at the surface.

For those who are interested in post-contact history

 The deep lead (Union) gold mine where your car is parked tapped into the gold bearing volcanic gravels that run right under the mountain (the Mount Greenock Deep Lead). The water worn quartz gravels were piled up as refuse as the finer gold bearing material was processed. From the summit you will see white spoil heaps of former mines on the same deep lead heading south towards the Great Dividing Range.

The following is a brief post contact history summarised from the file on the mountain still in the Epsom (Bendigo} Crown files office.

  • The mountain and surrounding area would have been part of the Dunach Forest pastoral run during the 1840s.
  • On 9 Nov 1863 the Lands and Survey Office decreed that the area to be added to the Talbot’s United Town and Goldfield Common.
  • Gold mining during the late 1800s followed the Mount Greenock Deep Lead right under the mountain, extending several kilometres north and south. The white peaks on the south side of the Mount Greenock (below)are where shafts pierced the flanks of the mountain.
Signs of former gold mining on the south flank of Mount Greenock
  • By July 1894 it had been decreed that 360 acres be withheld from leasing and licensing.
  • The Major Mitchell monument was erected with huge fanfare and re-enactment in 1936 to celebrate the ‘Centenary of Discovery’.
  • On 17 March 1992 the mountain and 138 ha around it was declared as reserve, specifically for conservation of an area of scientific (geological) interest, consistent with the Land Conservation Council 1981 decision to zone it N1 ‘Geological Reserve’.
  • By 1997, the main use pf the reserve was for grazing, at which time it was described as ‘very rocky, steep country’.
  • A 2004 map shows Mount Greenock’s old geodetic trig (survey) point and rock cairn to north, and the Major Mitchell Monument to the south.
  • A 2006 Survey Report wrongly concluded that ‘There is no evidence of previous Aboriginal occupation’ on the Reserve.
  • There is an easement for an unused and unmade road from nearby Mitchell Road to the monument. Mitchell’s Road was not named after Major Mitchell, but after William Mitchell whose name is on a 40-acre original title to the NW of the reserve.

Merin Merin Swamp

 

Merin Merin Swamp is a hidden wetland gem now in public ownership around 10km north of Clunes ‘as the crow flies’, but we strongly suggest you follow the all-weather access directions, as below. Being a Game Reserve, you will definitely not take your dog.

Access

The recommended all weather access (including some gravel) into and out of the site is as follows (NOTE: other tracks in, including via the Mount Cameron Road are prone to be boggy or rocky and require high vehicle clearance). Drive slowly and safely on the gravel roads. Again, respect all protected wildlife on the site, leave nothing behind and take only your memories away. Take clothing appropriate to the forecast weather, necessary water and food. Don’t walk on a day of Total Fire Ban.

  • From Clunes, take the Ballarat-Maryborough Road, C287 north towards Talbot.
  • At the locality of Dunach, take the right fork along C288 (the Dunach-Eddington Road) towards Carisbrook.
  • After around 500 metres, turn right onto Fells Gully Road.
  • After around 500 metres, turn left along Wattle Gully Road. This gravel road takes you up to the elevated wetland along the remarkable margin between the rich volcanic plains of nearby Mount Glasgow, and the adjacent native forest growing on the much poorer soils developed on much older shales and slates.
  • Follow Wattle Gully Road for 4.4km until the intersection where you see the ‘Merin Merin Swamp’ sign (where Weathersons Road turns right).
  • Park safely off the road near this intersection and walk onto the reserve via an opening in the fence at the corner near the sign. Where you enter is on the NW corner of the Reserve [NOTE: Return the same way you came in].

The Reserve is an approximate rectangle bounded on most sides by minor roads [Please note that two blocks of land (fenced in) to the south west of the swamp are on private land]. The Reserve is bounded by Wattle Gully Rd to the north, part of Weathersons Road to the west and Middle Swamp Road to the south.

The strap grafted tree in the program might take some finding, but it’s within easy walking distance in from where we suggest you park your car: around 200 metres east of Weathersons Road and 100 metres south of Wattle Gully Road.

The wetland area is prone to be inundated in winter and spring, so wear shoes that anticipate water and mud, and long pants that anticipate snakes. It’s reasonably firm and very enjoyable walking around the shore of the swamp lined by regenerating red gums. Total distance is approximately 5km right around the edge.

For those who are interested in nature

Merin Merin Swamp together with Middle Swamp nearby, receive water via localised runoff from surrounding volcanic scoria cones and plains. Both swamps are locally important due to their high wildlife value. Previous land use had been timber harvesting during the gold rush era and beyond and grazing until the grazing licence was removed in the early 1990s and the area was properly fenced. The area is now a State Game Reserve managed by Parks Victoria. Recent extensive planting of local native species on the margins of the reserve has begun to enhance natural regeneration.

This shallow freshwater marsh contains a combination of Woodland dominated by Eucalyptus camaldulensis (Red Gum) and Open-Sedgeland dominated by Juncus (rushes), Carex (sedges), and Eleocharis (spike rushes). The swamp contains high habitat values due to the mixed age classes of Red Gums present and connection to the west with State forest. There is a very high proportion of introduced species, particularly Phalaris (Canary Grass). This is due to the swamp’s long grazing history.

For those who are interested in post-contact history

There was extensive mining in the region from the 1860s (though not close to the Merin Merin Reserve) and most original red gums were cut to supply the huge amount of firewood and timber the mines and miners consumed. The red gums were more recently used as fence posts and firewood until the area was made a reserve in 1977. Sheep grazing was phased out and ended in 1980. The area was severely burnt in the 1885 bushfires.

A 1987 Ballarat College of Advanced Education Draft Management Plan noted that an Aboriginal ‘canoe tree’ remained in the middle of the swamp, and a midden (oven mound) site and shield tree were also present on the reserve. There are other oven mounds on private land west of the reserve.

In 1989, 20 allotments totalling 202 ha were bought back by the state government at total cost of $110,800, a process that commenced in the 1976 on the basis that the area was of considerable value to wildlife, both for local and resident birds and also for migratory and nomadic species. The map below shows which blocks were bought back in 1989.

Merin Merin map. The purple shaded allotments were bought back by the government in 1989. The green area has not been alienated and is mostly wetland. Your car will be parked on the intersection just off the NW corner of this map. You will see the two privately owned blocks to the south west of the swamp.

Whilst in 2020 there are still two parcels of private land allotments towards the south west of the reserve, the original Parish Plan had 21 other parcels of private and of up to 50 acres that are now part of the 2020 reserve as well as three now closed roads.

In 2008 the area secured a Permanent Reservation of 324 ha for management of wildlife and preservation of wildlife habitat.

The current Game Reserve area was Zoned C5 as part of the Land Conservation Council zoning process along with Middle Swamp as a ‘a valuable part of a chain of swamps used by waterfowl’. Planting of native tree and shrub species in recent years has greatly improved the prospect of this being reinstated as an important wetland habitat on the elevated volcanic plains.

Neereman Aboriginal Protectorate

The images of the Loddon River at Neereman in the film show very old river red gums and long, deep pools at two sites. The site along the Loddon just upstream of the Hamilton’s Crossing streamside reserve, where the Uncle Ricky does the Welcome to Country under the huge strap grafted red gum (detail below) is beautiful. It is highly accessible and the one we provide access details for, below.

Detail of the massive strap grafted river red gum tree in the ‘Welcome to Country’. It’s on the north side of Loddon River about 250 metres upstream (east) from Hamilton’s Crossing.

Hamilton’s Crossing is well within the original Protectorate site, and regularly used by locals and visitors. The site is also an excellent and very amenable  place to swim, fish or bush camp.

Please NOTE: The centre of original 1840-1 Aboriginal Protectorate site that briefly included a ‘cultivation paddock’ is a few kilometers upstream of Hamiltons Crossing. It is only accessible through private property which we obtained for some of the Neereman filming. It should not be accessed for a range of good reasons: to do with its cultural and ecological importance, the currently fragile and erodible state of its steep cliffs and remnant vegetation, as well as its private status and the need to ensure the safety of its stock and crops.

 Access

 In summary, you are looking for ‘Hamiltons Crossing’, (not marked on many maps), right where the Baringhup West – Eastville Road (which you will find) crosses the Loddon River around 8km NW of Baringhup.

Make you way to Baringhup via either Newstead or Maldon. It’s a very spread out small town. From the Baringhup general store at ‘Loddon House’ (the only place for local supplies), head west along Baringhup Road towards Carisbrook, but turn hard right onto Baringhup West Road. There is a right turn after a few kilometers onto Baringhup West – Eastville Road which leads you to the (signposted) Hamiltons Crossing Crown Reserve where you will cross the ford over the Loddon River.

Park on the far (north) side of the Loddon River, and east (to the right) of the road. The river up or downstream is delightful and OK to explore as long as you don’t go through fences. The Loddon runs much of summer here and the gravel banks and pools make great places to picnic or swim.

The huge multi-stemmed, strap grafted river red gum tree featured in Uncle Ricky’s ‘Welcome to Country’ is upstream just a few hundred metres on the same side that your car is parked.

For those who are interested in post contact history

The centre of the former 1840-1 Neereman Aboriginal Protectorate (nominally 5 miles in diameter) is a few kilometres upstream of Hamilton’s Crossing on private land on long, deep pools in the Loddon River. The banks close to the waterline south of this wide and deep section of the river are lined with huge red gums. On the upper banks are a few remnant buloke trees. The flat and sandy area north of the river, where the ‘former cultivation paddock’ was marked in an 1856 survey, is still known as ‘Parkers Plains’ by some local old timers and has recently been irrigated by several huge centre pivot irrigators.

The river banks show no sign of the many wood and bark huts that were constructed for up to 200 Aboriginal people, Protectorate staff and families during the eight months that the Protectorate operated. Edward Parker’s son, Joseph Parker, writing in the Mount Alexander Mail in June 1916, recollected that in January 1840 his family had moved to  ‘the large waterhole’ on the Loddon at Neura Mong,  that he understood to be ‘the Aboriginal word for ‘hide here’ which also ‘proved to be the home of codfish’ (the Murray Cod).

Barry Golding recently found an entry to the word Neereman, spelt the same way, in an Aboriginal dictionary list from Coranderrk from 1909. Coranderrk was a government Aboriginal mission that operated in the post Aboriginal Protectorate era from 1863 and 1924, and to which several Dja Dja Wurrung people were forcibly taken from the Mount Franklin Aboriginal Station in the 1860s.  The entry read: ‘Neereman (high bank; bend in river), Coranderrk, Vic.’

Historical Post script to Neereman

Barry Golding has recently transcribed much of the original hand written Aboriginal Protectorate correspondence relating to the selection, management and abandonment of the Neereman site. Some of it was graphically written by Assistant Protector Edward Parker on site. What follows is a summary based on original records. It seeks to explain why the Neereman site failed, and why it was moved to the better known site near Mount Franklin. As a warning, it’s not a pretty story.

1840 was an unusually (El Nino) dry year. The English seeds and potatoes planted in the cultivation paddock on the Neereman site wilted and failed in the sandy soil and harsh summer of 1840. The Protectorate Overseer, Richard Bazeley quickly determined that  the Neereman site was totally unsuitable for cultivation. The food that had been brought up from Melbourne by cart was running out and Aboriginal people were starving and leaving.

The  Dja Dja Wurrung people from many Clans to the north had been encouraged  or forced to come to the site for their relative safety, but were  forced back onto Country to find food.  However they were also violently forced off the squatting runs, that by the  late 1840 had total encircled the Neereman site. Grazing stock were eating out their staple grassland food, the Myrniong or Yam Daisy. Aboriginal people were also hunted down, arrested or killed if they interfered with the squatter’s sheep and cattle.

The Protectorate was only five miles in radius and unfenced from stock. There was much conflict over access to land, traditional food and water. Many Aboriginal people (and some squatters and their ex-convict shepherds) died in the surrounding area in the violence and murder that followed.

It was difficult or impossible for people from neighbouring Aboriginal Nations, some of whom were at enmity with the Dja Dja Wurrung Nation, to live peaceably and  in such close contact on the Neereman site in the  Christian harmony envisaged by Parker.

Many deadly introduced diseases were rife amongst the Aboriginal people of all ages living on or visiting the site by early 1841. A medical officer sent from Melbourne to inspect the Neereman site found syphilis was widespread and deadly amongst the women, spread mainly through regular contact between Aboriginal women and the squatter’s employees.

Meantime Overseer Bazeley scouted around for a suitable alternative Protectorate site where the soil and rainfall were better,  and where there was  less deadly interaction with the surrounding squatters.

Meantime the deep pools in the Loddon River at Neereman were fished for their huge  Murray Cod and Maquarie Perch, which were dried and loaded onto a waggon. Carts were dispatched to Melbourne to try and obtain desperately needed flour, rice and sugar for the people who were starving.

The Aboriginal Protectorate at Neereman was finally moved from the Neereman site (despite further vehement opposition from the squatters) to a new site deemed more suitable on the flanks the of the Larnebarramul (Mount Franklin) volcanic crater in mid 1841.  The Aboriginal Protectorate with Edward Parker in charge struggled on the new site  for many of the same reasons.

The perceived  advantages of the Mount Franklin cite (centred on present day Franklinford) included  better soil and rainfall than at Neereman. It was also closer to Melbourne and had more thick forest on many of its margins, insulating it to some extent from the surrounding squatters, whose preference was for the former Aboriginal grasslands on the rich volcanic plains.

The Protectorate System was in tatters and politically unpopular with the squatters in the Port Phillip Colony by the late 1840s, and was abandoned in late 1849.

Edward Parker gave evidence to an official inquiry about the condition of Aborigines held some decades later. it also investigated why the Protectorate system failed. In Parker’s, opinion, the system failed mainly because he was not given enough support from the government  to properly implement the Christian side of his civilising mission.

Brief personal reflection by Barry Golding

Anyone who has just read the disturbing post script, above, and who is concerned about First Nations reconciliation in Australia in 2020, will likely have many unanswered questions in their heads. We all need  to keep asking and answering these questions,  in collaboration with the local traditional owners, the Dja Dja Wurrung people and their descendants, for many years to come.

As a non-Aboriginal person living on Dja Dja Wurrung Country for most on my 70 years, I acknowledge the Traditional Owners of this land, past and present, and pay my respects to their Elders and ancestors, past, present and emerging.

I acknowledge the generosity, knowledge and wisdom of Dja Dja Wurrung Elder, Uncle Ricky Nelson. Working with Uncle Ricky on Reconciliation initiatives with the Hepburn Shire over the past few years has been a great joy and inspiration. I am delighted that two of the film clips are dedicated to Uncle Ricky’s  late and great father.

In writing and reflecting on all this, I (Barry Golding) pose just one  unanswered question,.

Why has the Neereman site and what happened here effectively been lost or forgotten in the ensuing 180 years?

 

 

 

 

 

Abduction and child stealing: Re-examination of Mitchell in Dja Dja Wurrung Country, 1836

 

Preamble to a discussion about invasion  in 2020

Major Thomas Mitchell is widely acknowledged for his journeys of exploration and discovery of ‘new lands’ in inland Australia, albeit ones that had already been named, mapped and cultured by First Nations peoples for tens of thousands of years.

Critically interrogating Major Sir Thomas Mitchell’s achievement as inland Victoria’s preeminent colonial explorer including calling it and what followed an invasion is sort of like putting your favourite dog down or burning the family photos. Denying and destroying something inherited and passed down through generations is simply not done.

This account deliberately restricts itself to Mitchell’s 1836 expedition across Dja Dja Wurrung country. The Dja Wurrung Aboriginal Nation was one of around 250 separate and different Nations at contact. In outline it is located in central Victoria encompassing the southern catchments of the Loddon and Avoca Rivers.

For those unfamiliar with the area referred to in this narrative, Dja Dja Wurrung country is bounded in the south by the Great Dividing Range and extends all the way to the southern Mallee. It roughly encloses an expansive oval area bounded (clockwise) by present day Creswick, Lexton, Navarre, Donald, Charlton, Boort, Marong, Malmsbury and Bullarto. Larger former gold towns included within its footprint include Maryborough, Daylesford, Castlemaine, St Arnaud and Wedderburn.

So why is it important and why does it matter? 

Truth telling is an important part of any process of reconciliation. During the era of colonial exploration there was huge public interest and uncritical admiration for explorers and their deeds. One only has to see the huge monument erected on the top of the hill above Castlemaine to the ill conceived and clumsily executed Burke and Wills expedition, to understand how much the public cared for explorers, even after abject failure and death.

It is salient to recall that all of the dozens of those who followed Mitchell’s expedition’s wagon wheel tracks into and across Dja Dja Wurrung country to Mitchell’s promised land, Australia Felix, had a copy of Mitchell’s itinerary with them. Indeed Hepburn, Gardner and Hawdon’s overlanding party were fully briefed on their route south towards Melbourne by Stapylton on the Murrumbidgee near Gundagai as Stapylton was heading home and north with the expedition’s wagons.

A century after Mitchell and those that followed in his footsteps there was a rush to erect new monuments and re enact their achievements and heroism. The monuments on the top of Mount Greenock above Talbot in 1936 and to Hepburn in Smeaton in 1938 are good examples. Australian Prime Minister Joseph Lyons spoke to the three thousand assembled in Smeaton for the centenary celebrations in 1838. He used words that made the invasion of Dja Dja Wurrung lands and Australia more generally sound like a benign, bloodless coup.

Captain Hepburn, who, with his flock of sheep, his cattle, and his horses, crossed from New South Wales to the fertile land round Smeaton, where no white man had been before. … Compared with most other countries, Australia was young in actual years, it was old in experience. It was something to be thankful for that our history had been written not in blood but in the pioneering achievements of our forefathers.

A song was composed about the Dreaming Hills of Smeaton to acknowledge those pioneers who transformed ‘the pristine wilderness’ where ‘joy and peace together reign’.

The uneasy part for me, as an older white male who lives in an inherited invaded landscape of southern Dja Dja Wurrung country just five kilometres down the road from Smeaton (recently adorned by a suitably wooden statue of John Hepburn that the birds have roosted above), is to go beyond the now standard and important recognition of First Nations ancestors and Elders past and present.

My point is that we need to interrogate and recognise what actually happened here, what is officially and inappropriately acknowledged and commemorated, and also what is not. The next steps aside, from evidence-based truth telling, public education and some strategic renaming in the landscape, include one or more belated Treaties and restitution with Australia’s First Nations people.

Monuments are almost always erected to and by the victors and directed to the universally male expedition leaders, and also those first men to come behind them and seize Aboriginal land, including John Hepburn. There are almost no monuments to Aboriginal people who played often unrecognised but heroic roles leading, guiding, supporting and mediating such expeditions, and certainly none to those who were killed bravely resisting and defending their lands, families and clans.

There are few monuments to those who were typically forcefully and brutally moved off Country, killed and vanquished. Thus the use of the gentler term ‘settlement’ and the convenient fiction that people did not live on the lands we inherited or simply faded away. In fact some miraculously and heroically survived. The recent move by Hepburn Shire to support Erica Higgin’s idea of a memorial avenue of trees honouring  the tens of thousands of Aboriginal people who died in this way on Country is a welcome move in the right direction.

The gravesite of Yuranigh, another of Mitchell’s Aboriginal assistants in the countryside of his ancestors northwest of Orange I visited a few years ago is a notable exception to these generalities. It the only known site in Australia where Aboriginal and European burial practices coexist and one of the few where acknowledgement is respectfully commemorated. Yuranigh joined Mitchell’s fourth expedition in inland Queensland in 1845. The tombstone, placed with Mitchell’s support after the great man’s  death in 1850 acknowledges Yuranigh’s ‘courage, honesty and fidelity’.

There are virtually no monuments to the Aboriginal peoples and identities whose lives and Country were taken in the typically violent and brutal process of exploration, conquest and seizure of their lands. My hope is that the few people who read this account will share my view that even after 184 years, it is important as part of Indigenous reconciliation to honestly document what happened and to acknowledge that descendants of the losers and wounded in the battle for Country in our community are still suffering, hurting and grieving and owed dignity, respect and understanding.

My account was penned on 29 April 2020, exactly 250 years since Captain James Cook planted the British flag on the shores of Botany Bay. The celebrations planned and funded by the Australian government in 2020 to commemorate Cook’s arrival and mapping of Eastern Australia have fortunately been dealt a serious blow by the COVID19 epidemic.

Unbeknown then to the people of the Dja Dja Wurrung Nation in central Victoria, 66 years before Major Mitchell’s 1836 triumphant tramps across their country, Captain James Cook had already declared the continent legally empty and had claimed it for the British.

These expensive and jingoistic national celebrations ignore the fact that Cook actually landed in Australia several years earlier in 1777, first on Bruny Island off Tasmania’s south east coast. By 1780 when the British flag was finally hoisted near present day Sydney to ward of the French colonial intentions there had been around 60 other European landings all around the Australian coastline.

As a precursor to the first physical invasion of their lands locally, the Dja Dja Wurrung people in central Victoria had experienced several waves of a deadly smallpox pandemic that the invaders had somehow introduced to the continent.

It was far deadlier than the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, and perhaps also arrived in one of their less well appointed overseas convict ‘cruise ships’. Smallpox was the first of many introduced deadly pandemics that decimated Australian First nations peoples. Smallpox alone is likely to have killed as many as one half of the Aboriginal people living on the Murray-Darling River system of southeastern Australia between 1789 and 1820.

Mitchell’s two transits through Dja Dja Wurrung Country in 1836

This account is based mainly around insights from original transcripts from Thomas Mitchell’s 1836 diary as well as those of Granville Stapylton, Mitchell’s second in command, published in 1986 in Stapylton with Major Mitchell’s Australia Felix Expedition 1836  edited by Alan Andrews. Mitchell’s huge exploring party plus wagons loaded with two huge boats destined for an elusive (and non-existent) inland sea lumbered twice through their country.

If one imagines Dja Dja Wurrung country to be a rough oval, Mitchell’s expedition made two roughly parallel transits of approximately 80km across the oval around 80km apart. These transits crossed the upper and middle parts of river catchments now known as the Avoca and Loddon.

Mitchell’s total entourage of 23 European men became the first of dozens of troupes of invading explorers, then ‘overstraiters’  (from Van Diemen’s Land via Corio and Melbourne) and ‘overlanders’ (from Sydney) to set foot on,  transit and  ‘take up’ (seize) Dja Dja Wurrung country during the next five years.

Mitchell’s first transit, essentially southwest across the Wimmera, began after they crossed the Loddon River south west of Pyramid Hill in early July 1836. They exited west of present day Paradise on their way to the southern coast via the Glenelg River to Portland. Their second transit in October 1836 went approximately northeast from Lexton  to Sutton Grange in the central east.

During both transits a poorly known and tragic drama was playing out within Mitchell’s 1836 expedition. The drama does not make for easy or comfortable reading. Even though my narrative is restricted to sanitised evidence in the diaries of Mitchell and Stapylton as the two lead invaders, their own words paint a disturbing and self-incriminating picture.

Their second transit was on their journey back to Sydney. By then the expedition had actually split into two, with Mitchell’s lighter party heading home as fast as possible to break the news about the potential pastoral wealth of Australia Felix.

The rest of the party led by the second in charge, Granton Stapylton followed up with the wagons with an increasing distance between the parties, and also with his growing resentment and distrust of Mitchell and his motives. He actually called himself ‘Man Friday’ and rightly anticipated that all the credit would go to Tarzan, Mitchell.

The current narrative provides only brief contextual information from original expedition records about the country they travelled through. Instead ,it particularly focuses on the way two Aboriginal women (referred to in the original diaries as ‘gins’) and particularly one of their daughters, Balandella, were treated. Kitty was mainly referred to as ‘Pipers gin’, Piper being Mitchell’s invaluable Aboriginal guide.

came to the expedition as Piper’s wife. She joined the expedition at Lake Cargelligo after the lead Aboriginal man, Piper, temporarily left to ‘marry’  her. Kitty and Turandurey’s contribution to the expedition was huge, a fact finally acknowledged during the celebration of NAIDOC week in 2019, as below.

Kitty proved a wonderful guide, both on her own and also with Piper. She knew where to locate water and negotiated with the People they met on their way. It was she who she was tall and strong, but had a blind eye (opaque and white), likely from surviving smallpox.  … Kitty and Turandurey showed Mitchell where Oxley’s earlier survey and exploration party reached the Lachlan River and pointed out that they rescued one of Oxley’s men who nearly drowned there. They also mentioned three early white men on horseback and their boats on the Murrumbidgee. This advice by Kitty and Turandurey reminded the white explorers how keenly ‘strangers’ were observed on country. It also asserted their knowledge and ownership of place. Both Kitty and Turandurey frequently went ahead to negotiate. They answered Mitchell’s questions, providing cultural explanations: for example, as to graves and birthplaces. Kitty became an important scout for gossip and intelligence, faithfully reporting back to Mitchell.

Turandurey was a Wiradjuri woman with a totally blind young daughter, Balandella, mainly referred to as the ‘Picaninny’. The records and this narrative confirm that both women were being shamefully treated before, during and after both transits.

The term ‘gin’, ‘Jin’ (or djin) retained in the original documents as it refers to Aboriginal women is now acknowledged as an offensive term pertaining to ‘having sex’.

‘Pickaninny’ is a word applied originally by people of the West Indies to their babies and more widely referring to small children. It is a pidgin word form, derived from the Portuguese pequenino and subsequently used in Canada and the US as a racial slur referring to a dark-skinned child of African descent. In Australia it tended to be used in colonial texts to refer to Aboriginal children.

A fuller account of the abduction and later separation and kidnapping of The widow and the child was published by Jack Brook in 1988. It helped me tease out some of the missing contextual detail. It is important to note that Brook was more forgiving of Mitchell’s explanation of what I regard as a shameful abduction and unconscionable child stealing in my own narrative.

The first transit, May 1836

‘Kitty’ had, by the time this narrative begins, as the expedition crossed the Loddon River north east of present day Wedderburn, become a wife to John Piper, the unpaid Aboriginal guide and mentor to Mitchell. Both women and Piper played invaluable roles safely guiding the party out and back.

All three are conspicuously missing from the officially listed party of white male expeditioners. Turandurey and her daughter, Balandella had been ‘picked up’ on the Lachlan River north east of Booligal around two months beforehand on 2 May as teased out in more detail below.

We have no record of what actually transpired from a Wiradjuri perspective. Only Mitchell and Stapylton record the circumstances in which Turandurey and her daughter had originally been abducted.

Stapylton records that while travelling down the then deep, wide but dry Lachlan River in present day western New South Wales they arrived at water, where they : … much alarmed and put to flight a small family of wild Blacks. A remarkable instance of courage and true affection was displayed on this occasion by a little girl, who while the others fled, hesitated to stay behind by the side of her sister who was totally blind’.

Mitchell’s diary on 2 May 1836 neatly flick-passes the responsibility for the abduction to an ‘old Aboriginal man: ’ … having found two ponds of water we encamped beside them. … A fire was burning near the water, and at it sat a black child about seven or eight years old, quite blind. All the other natives had fled save one poor little girl still younger, who, notwithstanding the appearance of such strange beings, as we must have seemed to her, and the terror of those who fled, nevertheless lingered about the bushes, and at length took her seat beside the blind boy … a dog so lean as scarcely to be able to stand, drew his feeble body close up beside the two children, as if desirous to defend them. They formed indeed a miserable group, exhibiting, nevertheless, instances of affection and fidelity, creditable both to the human and canine species. An old man came up to the fire afterwards, with other children. He told us the name of the water-holes between that place and the Murrumbidgee, but he could not be prevailed on to be our guide. Subsequently, however, a gin who was a widow, with the little girl above-mentioned, whose age might be about four years, was persuaded by him to accompany us’.

Three weeks later the mother and child (who Mitchell also referred to as ‘the widow’  were still accompanying the expedition. When Mitchell departed for the Darling River on 23 May he directed Stapylton, who was to stay at the depot camp, to ensure ‘the widow had rations and that every care should be taken of the child’. Furthermore, Turandurey was to be prevented from ‘going back’, for in Mitchell’s words, to move the child could prove ‘injurious’ to her.

Stapylton records that the child was soon after seriously injured when she became ‘entangled in the bullock team and was thrown down the draywheel passing over and fracturing the creature’s thigh in two places.’ Stapylton saw a ‘providential’ upside of the accident, writing that he sensed it would prevent:

… collusion between the mother and some wild tribes of which there was evident signs of commencement, with what views it would be difficult to say except to our disadvantage. The mother is now at all events now a feature and it shall be my province to keep off the Black Gentry.

The ‘Black Gentry’ perhaps refers to two young Aboriginal (Wiradjuri) men who also joined Mitchell’s party. Because both were called ‘Tommy’, to distinguish between them, Mitchell gave them chronometrical surnames: ‘Tommy Came- First’ and ‘Tommy Came-Last’.

Arrival on the Loddon River

There are only occasional brief mentions of what Stapylton calls ‘the two black gins and the picaninny’ until they absconded on the night they camped on the stream they called the ‘Yarrayne’, now known as the Loddon River.

Stapylton was actually pleased they had ‘boulted (sic) so much the better’, but noted that Mitchell ‘… seems vexed about it. Why I am utterly at a loss to conceive. They were utterly useless to us and moreover a severe tax upon the flour bag [their food reserves]’.

In the same diary entry, Stapylton waxes lyrical of the then unnamed Australia Felix. He writes that: ‘The country promises well. Distant Hills to the southward [towards Dunolly] and westward [towards Charlton] … and fine rising level land up to the base of them’.

Anticipating that a future survey of the southern Australian coast would provide ‘fine outlets to the ocean’, Stapylton prophetically sensed they had:

… discovered a paradise unequalled in New Holland, and for as much as I know superiar (sic) in point of extent and fertility of any in the world. Pyramid Hill will perpetuate the discovery it is a land mark on a vast plain that can never be mistaken and must always convey and association of ideas which will improve on the memory, the circumstance of this expedition and the name of its leader. His Man Friday will not share the same good luck.

Mitchell records that the party ‘… crossed a deep but narrow stream flowing between high grassy banks … the plains beyond it were five miles in breadth, and of the best description’. Later to be known as the Loddon River, then dubbed the Yarrayne by Mitchell, it was a name he somehow understood that the Aborigines associated with the river.

As he approached the Loddon Mitchell wrote about the ‘Black-butted gum and Casuarinae [that] extended back to the mountains and forests’. He also noted the reappearance of Xanthonia (= Danthonia: a Wallaby grass) and was particularly impressed by the appearance of Anthisteria (= Themeda, Kangaroo grass). As in much of his diary, he was more interested in the plants in the landscape than the people.

While the deliberately fire-managed native grasses were dancing alongside the Loddon, Mitchell and Stapylton’s minds were turning to Greek literature and legend to put their mark on what they saw and sought to name through Greek classical and colonial lenses.

The  names he chose locally, most that are still used, commemorate a mix of Greek classical  heroes (such as Macedon, Alexander, & Campaspe), Scottish places ( e.g. Grampians) and military heroes from his time serving in the war on the Iberian Peninsula  in Europe (e.g. Beckwith & Greenock).

Mitchell hinted to Stapylton that he might appropriately call  ‘… this beautiful little [Loddon] river Ilyssus‘. His choice  was in reference to an ancient Greek narrative about Queen Dedo’s [=Dido’s]  forming a new colony in Africa. Michell was well aware that as he was the first European to venture into these ‘new lands’ shortly to be colonised that had re-naming rights over the already named mountains and rivers.

Ilissos  was Dido’s other name and also the name of a former stream in Athens. A fourth Century BC text refers to  the Illisos as a ‘little stream delightfully clear and bright; I can fancy that there might be maidens playing near’.

Mitchell’s allusion to the Greek story of Dido refers to her flight from her father, King Pygmalion in Phoenician Tyre (today in Lebanon). Dido founded a new colony which became the city of Carthage in North Africa (today’s Tunis) around 825 BC. The back story goes that Dido’s party of exiles travelled via Cyprus and seized about eighty young women who were prostituting themselves on the shore in order to provide wives for the men in the party.

I’ve added this detail to try and illustrate how Mitchell justified the violence that was being perpetrated. Winners in war and colonisation tended to take it all, including the women . He  knew the Dja Dja Wurrung  people and their rich grassland would soon colonised for king and country. It was for him and his party to do what he perceived as necessary to create and mark a path for others to follow. Picking up and discarding Aboriginal guides along the way was seen as essential and de rigeur for many Australian explorers.

Back in the real world the exploring party continued their journey southward, moving well south of Turandurey’s home Country and camping on  the Loddon Rivers north east of present day Wedderburn. The planned the next day to cross the river and move west into Dja Dja Wurrung country. Unsurprisingly, the mother and child figured it was time to made a break for home. Assisted by Kitty, they stealthily left camp in the middle of the night.

Mitchell and his party’s attempt to easily cross the Loddon River via a log bridge the next day  were thwarted by a remarkable overnight rise in the Loddon River. Meantime Piper had been missing for a day and ‘brought back one of the Jins and the Picaninny having tracked them to our last encampment’.

Mitchell was relieved, as according to Stapylton, Mitchell sensed ‘they might have made the wild blacks acquainted with our camp arrangement and that at night an attack might be made of the most serious consequences to us’. Stapylton noted that:

These Jins took their measure [of escape] very cunningly having left in the middle of the night during a very severe frost aware … that it would prove almost impossible to track them. They are shockingly frost bitten however in the feet and the mother [Balandella] would not come up tonight. There she is alone without a fire in the bush, and her feet described as being in a most dreadful state I think she will die the poor devil. What then shall we do with the Picaninny? It would have been much wiser to let them go when they desired it and damn their collusion with the tribes. The other Jin (Kitty] returned this morning with her feet in a deplorable state. Thus we are saddled with two useless devils who must be carried on the drays.

The next day on 6 July Stapylton noted that at ‘9PM Jin and the child again joined us this is a fixture now. I suppose she must have crawled about 15 miles on her hands and knees’. Putting aside the offensive language, the lack of compassion evident in their actions leaves me gobsmacked.

By 8 July they were camped on the Avoca River just west of Logan. Mitchell was impressed by the fitness of the land (for’ taking up’) and foresaw that it would ‘eventually become part of a great empire’. The country he was crossing would by Spring 1836 on his way home, be named for its perceived fertility, a land he considered was blessed by fortune, Australia Felix.

The ‘gin’ (Turandurey) is next mentioned briefly, again in very derogatory terms by Stapylton on 17 July having passed west out of Dja Dja Wurrung country. Stapylton writes while crossing broken country near present day Callawadda, the ‘Jin capsized from the top of the dray not hurt but she truly is an unfortunate bitch. Picanniny held on well.’

During the following month the expedition headed south west including down the Glenelg River and along the  coast to Portland. To Mitchell’s complete surprise the Hentys had arrived there as overstraiting pastoralists two years before and had already built houses. William Dutton had been living nearby, sealing with his Aboriginal wife for eight years since 1828.

Having resupplied, they started to head back towards Sydney, jettisoning the big boat near Mount Napier, increasing the mobility of the boat carriage and smaller boat across the swampy Western District volcanic plains.

The second homeward transit, October 1836

By 12 September 1836 whilst camping on the Wannon River towards the southern end of the Grampians, Stapylton writes that Mitchell as expedition leader had ‘resolved upon making a start home [towards Sydney] with pack horses and leaving me behind to bring up the expedition to the settlement’. By this stage the bullocks hauling the heavy wagons were starting to show the strain.

The revised plan was for Stapylton and the rest of the party to remain there ‘for one fortnight in order to give time for the bullocks to refresh then to proceed on his track’. Stapylton angrily noted he found Mitchell impenetrable in terms of his communication and guessed he might have been ‘meditating [him] mischief’.

Indeed Mitchell had decided to cruelly separate the mother and child and set off ahead with Turandurey’s daughter. Stapylton records Mitchell’s advice that ‘The Mother Jin stays with me [Stapylton] until I receive further directions respecting her’.

Mitchell writes of his arguably dubious rationalisation of the child’s abduction and separation a week later on 19 September.

When about to set out I observed that the widow ‘Turandurey’, who was to remain with Mr Stapylton’s party and the carts, was marked with white round the eyes (the natives’ fashion of mourning), and that the face of her child Ballandella was whitened also. This poor woman, who had cheerfully carried the child on her back, when we offered to carry both on the carts, and who was as careful and affectionate as any mother could be, had at length determined to entrust to me the care of this infant. I was gratified with such a proof of the mother’s confidence in us, but I should have been less willing to take charge of her child, had I not been aware of the wretched state of slavery to which native females are doomed. I felt additional interest in this poor child, from the circumstance of her having suffered so much by the accident, that befell her while with our party, and which had not prevented her from now preferring our mode of living so much, that I believe the mother at length despaired of being ever able to initiate her thoroughly in the mysteries of killing and eating snakes, lizards, rats and similar food. The widow had been long enough with us to be sensible, how much more her sex was respected by civilized men than savages, and, as I conceived, it was with such sentiments that she committed her child to my charge, under the immediate care, however, of Piper’s gin.

By the time Stapylton’s party including Turandurey re-entered Dja Dja Wurrung country near present day Lexton on 8 October, Mitchell’s advance party with her daughter Balandella in tow were approaching the Goulburn River north of Seymour. One can only guess at the likely heartbreak involved in this tragic separation as both mother and daughter mourned their separation. The brave explorer diaries are curiously both silent during the rest of the trip towards home.

The route home for both parties was something of a route march on a bearing of approximately 60 degrees magnetic. Their journey through the already densely populated, well watered and fertile volcanic country of the Dja Dja Wurrung in the upper Avoca and Loddon River catchments took them past Mount Greenock (near Talbot) into the Mammeloid Hills beyond Mount Beckworth and on to recross the Loddon River near present day Newstead.

Stapylton wrongly understood the Loddon to be a tributary of the Wimmera, but accurately described, then as now in the vicinity and downstream of Newstead, as:

A considerable stream … running between high rocky (grass) banks bare of timber forming a cavity for a river the size of the Murray. … The river frontage and the luxuriant flats on its banks and the splendid Downs to the South and Eastwards with the forest ground immediately adjoining would render in a most desirable spot for a grant [presumably for himself after the success of the expedition, which neither he nor Mitchell received].

Beyond Newstead the traverse towards present day Castlemaine took both parties over ‘a stoney barren range’ before crossing ‘a good stream running south [Campbells Creek] good forest hills and valleys’. Mitchell’s advance party found a way over the range through Expedition Pass past the southern end of Mount Alexander. They had time to take a southern detour beyond Dja Dja Wurrung country to climb and rename Mount Macedon, the ‘Mount Wentworth’ of Hume, though not marked as such on Hume’s map.

From Macedon’s summit Mitchell was again very surprised to see that the southern coast of the Port Phillip Colony was already being settled: there were white sails of ships at harbour on the north end of Port Phillip Bay. The embryonic settlement of ‘Batmania / Bearbrass’ that was renamed Melbourne a year later had again got under Mitchell’s radar.

Mitchell realised then that it was likely that  overstraiters would advance north into his fertile icon, Australia Felix from the southern coast even without news of his discovery. It was therefore timely for him to head straight home on a track largely identified by Hume and Hovell in 1824.

The back end to this tragic abduction

The next time the mother or daughter are mentioned in Stapylton’s diary is on 12 November when back in (squatter) settled country beyond the Murrumbidgee. He notes that ‘Turandurey has grown enormously fat which should speak well of the care we have taken of her & to the best on my recollection no improprieties with her as a female have ever taken place. She was married the night before to King Joey and she proceeds … to the Lachlan. The picaninny is kidnapped away to a station ten miles distant’.

Though he actually uses the term ‘kidnapping’ Stapylton seeks to distance himself from any responsibility for Turandurey’s evident pregnancy, adding, ‘With this I have nothing to do or much to say nor will I let those who projected this measure and carried it into execution be responsible to themselves and members of the public’.

In Mitchell’s later memoirs he obscures the reality of the abduction and his later action of separation, child stealing and dealing. Mitchell does not actually state that Turandurey ran away. Instead he wrote that ‘the widow was inclined to go back’ for she was ‘far beyond her own country’. He continues with an explanation that confirms that the mother, Turandurey knew all along of Mitchell’s wicked  intention to abduct her child.

I intended to put her on a more direct and safe way home after we should pass the heads of the Murrumbidgee on our return, I could not detain her longer than she wished …[She] seemed uneasy under an apprehension, that I wanted to deprive her of this child. I certainly had always been willing to take back with me to Sydney an aboriginal (sic) child, with the intention of ascertaining, what might be the effect of education upon one of that race. This little savage, who at first would prefer a snake or lizard to a piece of bread, had become so far civilised at length, as to prefer bread; and it began to cry bitterly on leaving us.

For Mitchell, this abominable act that was played out over six months was capped off by this dreadful, cruel and primitive social experiment. Mitchell records that he ‘took the little picaninny’ to Sydney and ‘introduced her to his home’.

Mitchell gushed that Balandella ‘was a welcome stranger to my children, among whom she remained, and seemed to adopt the habits of domestic life … con amore’, an Italian expression meaning ‘with love, tender enthusiasm or zeal’.

Nevertheless Mitchell soon tired of the experiment and palmed Balandella off to a ‘Dr Charles Nicholson’ when he and his family returned to England on 9 May 1837. There, Thomas Mitchell waited for the accolades to flow in and wrote and published his heroic opus about finding a new and happy land Australia Felix, ripe for the taking. There is no mention of her again by Mitchell.

Major Mitchell is seldom remembered for any of the above. Instead he is comprehensively lionised and commemorated by means of countless monuments in the Australian landscape along with several peaks and a high Plateau in the Grampians. A well known Australia cockatoo (Lophochroa leadbeateri) and a lesser known rodent, Mitchell’s Hopping Mouse (Notomys mitchellii, the latter currently ironically thteatened by habitat destruction associated with European settlement in Australia, also takes his name.

Angus McMillan also named the Mitchell River in Victoria in Mitchell’s honour in 1839. McMillan went on to lead many well-documented massacres of Kurnai people in Gippsland between 1840-1845. The former electorate of McMillan named in McMillan’s honour was therefore renamed ‘Monash’ in 2018. It is never too late to remove inappropriate names. The community consultation process seeking to remove the racist Creek name ‘Jim Crow’  is underway in 2020.

Balandella later ‘fell into service’ (= became a domestic slave) as a nurse to Nicholson family members, had a daughter to a labourer in 1846, and afterwards married an Aboriginal (Darkinjung, South Coast NSW) man, John Barber in the late 1840s. Some of her descendants are still living in the Hawkesbury area.

Ballendella is a tiny rural locality near Rochester in Victoria that likely takes its name from Ballandella. Her mother Turandurey is acknowledged by one street name in Balranald, NSW and a remote surveyed locality in the County of Lowan in the western Wimmera. John Piper was rewarded for his contribution with ‘certain material possessions’. Mitchell later got a Knighthood, while Piper got a brass plate inscribed ‘John Piper, Conqueror of the Interior’.

Stapylton is acknowledged in the landscape he surveyed with a Gold Coast suburb and several mountains (one near Brisbane and another in the Grampians). He was was fatally speared by Aborigines almost five years later on 31 May 1840 while surveying in the vicinity of the Border Loop on the present New South Wales Queensland border. Two of the perpetrators, who were effectively resisting the survey and acquisition of their lands, were hung in Brisbane in July 1841.

When anyone drives around northern and western Victoria in Dja Dja Wurrung country and sees the prominent stone Major Mitchell monuments with their brass arrows pointing to the way the Major went, it would be well to remember that Mitchell was also a self confessed Aboriginal child stealer. Mitchell was also officially sanctioned for his unnecessary dispersion (massacre) of Aborigines during this same expedition on the Murray.

State-sanctioned Aboriginal child stealing and domestic slavery continued in Australia for another 150 years until the 2008 National Apology to the many Stolen Generations. Few people in 2020 know that Kitty or John Piper, along with Turanduray and Balandella  also passed through this country.

The long tail of dispossession in Australia: Captains John and Robert Hepburn

 The long tail of colonialism in Australia: 

An interrogation of the family histories of two former Scottish sea Captains: Robert & John Hepburn

Barry Golding b.golding@federation.edu.au & Robert Hine

5 April 2020: minor edit 16 Sept 2020

Introduction 

What follows is our collaborative attempt to connect some complex family histories leading to Robert Hine (born in 1971) who lives in present day Tasmania. Our account illustrates how family histories become entwined with broader, often complex international and social trends, in this case with the long-term impact of slavery, colonialism and First Nations dispossession on two Hepburn family members who migrated from Scotland to become squatters on Aboriginal lands in Australia by the mid 1800s.

Our intention is to illustrate that Australian people have complex histories and multicultural heritages, in this case involving a West African slave on a Jamaican sugar plantation, Aboriginal Tasmanians, Van Diemen’s Land convicts, a Scottish folk hero and outlaw, as well as Scottish and English free settlers.

Some of the key individuals in our story include Captain John Hepburn (1803-1860), after whom the Hepburn Shire in Victoria, Australia (where Barry Golding lives) is named, and a cousin and also former sea Captain, Robert Hepburn born in 1782, around two decades before John and almost two centuries before Robert Hine. Our story and the family connections go back to Scotland, Africa and Jamaica in the 1700s, and unfold in Van Diemen’s Land (VDL, now Tasmania) during the 1800s.

This is our work in progress. We have drawn on a wide range of primary and secondary sources as well as oral histories, all of which are prone to error and inaccuracy. In Robert Hine’s words:

It is difficult to discover the true line of descent from family records and oral histories available today. Online ancestry sites can be inaccurate. There is also the possibility of some inbreeding in the original Jackson/ Pearce/ Hepburn line, and it is possible that some original documentation has been changed or substituted for close or fabricated records. We look forward to advice on what we’ve got wrong and what is missing.

 How this blog came about

Barry Golding has previously written about John Hepburn in his ‘Beyond Contact’ page on www.barrygoannna.com. He was prompted to research and write about Captain Robert William Hepburn by an unsolicited but welcome email on 8 February 2020 from Robert Hine. Robert’s email to Barry read:

Hi mate, haven’t read your [Beyond Contact blog] story yet, I will, but I just wanted to let you know I am a direct descendant of Captain Robert William Hepburn and his Daughter / granddaughter Jacobene or Jacobina. ‘Bene’ is what she went by. Married name Pearce. … I am Aboriginal through Jacobene’s daughter. I live in Hobart and while I can’t give you all the answers, as much history has been destroyed, I might be able to help you with stories passed down.

A follow up email from Robert Hine included a photograph of himself as a child, above, and a striking photograph, below, of Captain Robert Hepburn, that does not correspond to Lucille Quinlan’s claim of an unmistakable and persistent Hepburn family stereotype, ‘fair of complexion and blue-eyed, with hair that tends to wave crisply about the temples’, that appears in the opening paragraph of her 1967 book, Here my Home: The life and times of John Stuart Hepburn 1803-1860, master mariner, overlander, founder of Smeaton Hill, Victoria’about Robert’s cousin.

Background to John & Robert Hepburn’s Scottish ancestors

Lucille Quinlan’s book starts by painting a picture of ‘The Hepburn’s of Smeaton, Australia’ as descending from a long line of Hepburn’s of exalted calibres, including Scottish military heroes and lairds on huge estates. In fact the Australian Captain John Hepburn was the son of a Thomas Hepburn (1778-1857) a poor fisherman. John Hepburn’s reflected on his life age at 50, describing himself as ‘a mere adventurer cast upon the world since I was thirteen years old. For want of education, my progress was slow’.

John’s mother, Alison Stewart died when John was age four. It was John Hepburn who paid for his father’s tombstone in the Whitekirk, Scotland burial ground, curiously without his mother’s name but with the name of Agnes Whitecross, Thomas’ second wife. One of John’s much younger stepbrothers, Benjamin Hepburn (1826-88) emigrated from Scotland as a 23 year old to join John on the Smeaton Hill run in Australia.

When one puts ‘Smeaton Hepburn’ into a Google search in 2020, the’ Smeaton Nursery Gardens & Tearoom’ is one of the first listings.  The gardens, on the site of the likely former ‘Smyrton’ castle and later Smeaton Manor and Estate in East Lothian in Scotland, remains a working farm of 450 acres set in the Scottish countryside.

Prominent amongst the other ‘Smeaton Hepburn’ Google listings is the ‘Castles of Scotland’ website. It records that on the Hepburn Smeaton lands in the 1500s:

Adam Hepburn of Smeaton [was] supported [by] Mary Queen of Scots, and fought at the Battle of Langside in 1568, and is mentioned in a Summons of treason in 1567. Master Patrick Hepburn of Smeaton was a magistrate for the burgh of Haddington, and on a commission. … John Hepburn of Smeaton [in the 1640s] … was appointed as commissioner of the committee for purging the army within East Lothian. In 1661 Patrick Hepburn of Smeaton, Francis Hepburn of Beanston, and others, were on a commission for judging of Janet Hogg, spouse to George Harlaw in Linton, ‘guilty of the abominable crime of witchcraft’.

The original expansive Hepburn property in Smeaton, East Lothian passed by marriage to the Buchan’s when Elizabeth Hepburn, heiress of Patrick Hepburn of Smeaton, married George Buchan of Letham and the family took the name ‘Buchan-Hepburn’ from 1764. Their son, Sir George Buchan Hepburn, built the mansion in the 1790s. He was a lawyer and baron of the exchequer, and was made a baronet in 1815, four years before he died. Sir Thomas Hepburn-Buchan, 3rd baronet, was Conservative MP for Haddingtonshire from 1838-1847. The family held the property until 1934 when it was sold to the present owners, the Grays.

The very extended and dispersed family that Robert and John Hepburn were born into in the late 1700’s and the early 19th Century respectively had fallen on much harder times than this landed, privileged and knighted offshoot of the Hepburn family. In Lucille Quinlan’s words:

With the conquest of Scotland and England, the Hepburn fortunes declined. Then followed the agrarian and industrial revolutions and the long wars against Napoleon, with all their far reaching social consequences. The clan increased in spite of diminishing fortunes, so that more of the Hepburn’s were driven into renting small farms from richer cousins, or working at humble occupations in the villages around.

Both Robert and John Hepburn found a way out of the likely very limited local employment opportunities and went to sea for a living, both becoming sea captains, and adopting the title ‘Captain’. Near where Barry Golding lives in 2020 John Hepburn’s nautical legacy lives in the Captains Creek winery, Captains Gully Road.

As we will learn later in our account, it was the lure of the sea that had led several of Robert’s (MacGregor and Hepburn) forebears into rising through the ranks to become ship captains, including in the West Indian slave trave and the Royal Navy. By the time Robert and John rose to the rank of ship captains, slavery and the slave trade in North America was beginning wane, the military conflicts on the Iberian (Spanish) Peninsula had cooled off, and the new colonies in Van Diemen’s Land and Port Phillip on the other side of the world required ships to service them. They also provided the opportunity for many former ship captains with adequate capital to give up a lonely life at sea, spend more time with their wives and children and ‘take up’ huge acreages never dreamed of in Scotland.

In both cases, the land in present day Tasmania and Victoria was ‘taken up’ directly, sometimes with force and violence, from Aboriginal people. These acts of dispossession, which are still known euphemistically as ‘settlement’, were sanctioned by the colonial government. For very good reasons, neither John nor Robert documented what role they or their ex-convict employees actually played in this dispossession.

Some of this background helps explain how John and Robert Hepburn’s separate trajectories led them both go to sea and to later emigrate from Scotland and ‘take up land’. However it did not account for Robert’s complexion that was far from Anglo.

Robert Hepburn’s family background

Barry Golding looked at Quinlan’s one paragraph mention of Robert (p.17), describing him as a cousin of John Hepburn’s from Fife. As yet we are unable to identify their actual relationship, but it is clear that the areas in which they spent their childhoods was a reasonable distance apart. Fife is a Scottish county north of the Firth of Forth: East Lothian is the county to the South of the Firth. By road the distance between where Robert was brought up and John’s birthplace is around 60 miles (100 km).

Robert had settled in Van Diemen’s Land (VDL) for one year before John Hepburn sailed the Diadem up the east coast of Tasmania in January 1829. Quinlan described Robert as:

… a man of some substance, with sufficient capital to work the land, he had obtained the maximum government grant of 2,000 acres, situated on St Pauls Plains. Later he obtained 500 acres more to open a whale fishery at Oyster Bay … [Robert Hepburn was] very much a Hepburn in temperament and attitudes … and a reputation for having quarrelled with his neighbours and estranged members of his own family.

An online search confirmed that the St Pauls Plains area that Robert Hepburn farmed after he arrived from Edinburgh with his wife and eight children in 1828 is in the eastern Tasmanian Midlands close to the present day small town of Avoca. Hepburn set up a whaling station in 1829 at the foot of ‘The Hazards’, a mountain range now located within the Freycinet National Park on Tasmania’s east coast.

The Oyster Bay whaling station grant to Hepburn in 1829 included nearby Picnic Island that he used as a breakwater for his boat. The Oyster Bay Aboriginal tribe before this dispossession had frequented the island for many thousands of years, travelling across from the mainland in barks canoes or swimming. Their shell middens on the Western end of the island still contain the remnants of countless shared meals of seal, birds, crayfish, abalone, oysters, and other shellfish. When the whales weren’t running, Robert Hepburn would set his convict labour to work mining sandstone from the island.

 Barry Golding was prompted to look back into Robert Hepburn’s ancestry. The first surprising detail was his birthplace in ‘Wilkins Estate, St Dorothy, Jamaica’ on 28 January 1782. When he searched further he discovered that Robert was the ‘illegitimate son of Mary Ann Roy’ and son of Captain William Hepburn, born in 1738 in Scotland and who died in Fifeshire, Scotland ‘without surviving legitimate sons’ from his marriage to Penelope Willikin Newell. However there is a record of a daughter of William and Penelope, Penelope Newell Hepburn, born 13 years before Robert on 28 October 1769, who lived to adulthood and was Robert Hepburn’s half sister.

It transpires that the ‘illegitimate Robert by Mary Ann Roy (who perhaps died shortly after his birth) was given the Hepburn surname and sent to Scotland to be raised by his grandmother [Mary Olipher Hepburn, 1705-92] the widow of the Reverend Patrick Hepburn [1701-72] and after her death in 1792, by an aunt.’ Given that Robert’s father’s family were from East Lothian, it seems likely that being brought up some distance away in Fife might have been a deliberate strategy, given the then shame of illegitimacy, heightened by the fact that his mother was a young black slave.

Further searching revealed that Robert Hepburn’s mother, Mary Ann Roy, was born in Jamaica in 1766, daughter of Gregor MacGregor and a Jamaican sugar plantation slave, Isabella Diabenti. The Roy surname appears to have been taken from MacGregor’s forebear, Rob Roy MacGregor, a Scottish outlaw (1671-1734) in the ‘Robin Hood’ mould who became a Scottish folk hero. Gregor MacGregor (c.1742-1799) was a ship’s captain in the West Indian slave trade and son of Ranald McGregor (1706-1786). Rob Roy MacGregor was in turn Ranald’s father and therefore a great grandfather of Robert Hepburn.

Isabella Diabenti, whose African origin appears to have been ‘Koromanti’ in present day Ghana, was thus Robert Hepburn’s grandmother. Mary Roy would have been age no more than sixteen years when she gave birth to Robert. Koromanti (derived from the name of the Ghanaian slave fort Fort Koramantine in Ghana) was the English name for enslaved people from the Akan ethnicity from the Gold Coast in modern Ghana. Jamaican sugar planters used the term ‘Koramanti’ to refer to slaves purchased from the Akan region of West Africa.

The preamble in Robert Hepburn’s will, below, refers mostly accurately but somewhat hyperbolically to his proud outlaw and slave lineage.

This is the last will and testament of me Robert Hepburn of Roys Hill in the district of Fingal, Tasmania, Esquire, lineal descendant of my Father, Captain [William] Hepburn, of the family of Hepburn of Keith, East Lothian, Scotland, and my Mother, Mary Ann Roy, Great Grandson of Rob Roy McGregor, and by my grandmother Isabella, Princess of Diabenti, lineal descendant of the King of that nation of the Gold Coast of Africa. I am prince of Diabenti, King of that nation of Africa.

Robert Hepburn’s descendants

Robert Hepburn married Jacobina Hosie (born in Scotland 3 July 1884) on 18 May 1805 in South Leith, Edinburgh, Scotland. Jacobina and Robert had nine children between 1806 and 1824, eight of whom survived to accompany their parents to VDL / Tasmania following Robert’s retirement from the Royal Navy on 13 March 1827. Robert had been the Captain of a ‘revenue cutter’. The US Revenue Cutter Service (USRCS) was set up by George Washington to collect customs and taxes and to prevent smuggling.

Robert Hine suggests he was related to Robert Hepburn through Robert’s daughter, Lillias Hepburn, born in Scotland on 7 May 1817 and who died in Brighton, Tasmania in 1913 at the age of 96. Lillias married convict Matthew Frederick Pearce and had a daughter Jacobina Elizabeth Pearce.  Convict records show that Pearce had been transported from Liverpool, England, arriving in VDL on 14 January 1842.

Jacobena Elizabeth Pearce married William Isaac. Jacobena had a daughter, Mary Thelma Eliza Jackson born 23 Dec 1865. It seems that Mary’s biological father was not Isaac, but Captain George William Jackson who then worked then the prison orphanage. Not a lot is known about Jackson’s early life aside from being the son of Major J. S. Jackson, barrack master in Sydney who came to NSW in February 1823 in the Cumberland. In April 1831 George Jackson was appointed master of the cutter Charlotte, in which he made many voyages to the Aboriginal settlement at Wybalenna on Flinders Island. In September 1835 Jackson was appointed master of the Eliza, resigning to become a pilot in Sydney. There is evidence Jackson returned to Hobart from England in March 1846 in his wife and children. In 1846 Jackson was registered to the master and owner of the schooner Flinders.

Mary Jackson married William Joseph Bedford, son of Joseph Bedford and Sarah Briggs in 1886 in Pontville, Tasmania (As an aside, one of their six children was given the Christian names ‘Robert Hepburn’). Sarah Briggs (born with twin sister Fanny in 5 June 1833, died 28 January 1903 in Brighton, Tasmania, buried at St Marks Pontville) appears to be the Aboriginal connection to present day (2020) Robert Hine.

Sarah Briggs’ mother, Woretermotetey (given the English name ‘Margaret’) was born during the 1790s and died in 1841,  Margaret was the daughter of Mannalargenna of Plangermaireener Nation Pakana from Cape Portland, Tasmania.

Sarah’s husband was Joseph Leonard Briggs, born approximately 1808. Many Victorian (Koorie) and Tasmanian Aboriginal (Palawa) people have Briggs ancestry.

The University of Tasmania website entry for Mannalargenna suggests he:

… was about 55 years old when he met [George] Robinson on 1 November 1830 on the Anson’s Plain, inland from the southern end of the Bay of Fires. His country was Tebrikunna, now known as Cape Portland, in the far northeast of Trouwunna and he was the leader of the Pairrebeenne clan. Mannalargenna had four daughters and two sons and he is a direct ancestor of the majority of Aboriginal people in Tasmania today. Robinson considered Mannalargenna as being of ‘superior intelligence’, and there is no doubt that he was revered as a formidable warrior and seer amongst his people. He was extremely fond of smearing himself all over with grease and red ochre and he maintained his long locks of hair and beard with this material.

After losing his first wife he married Tanleboneyer who was one of Robinson’s early guides. Mannalargenna and his wife accompanied Robinson on his journey around the island from 1831 to 1835. He did not conform to Robinson’s wish to wear clothes and remained in his preferred ochred and naked state until he died.

Born about 1775 Mannalargenna had lived half of his life in a world of uncontaminated cultural traditions and the other half he experienced the full impacts of the British invasion. On the arrival of Robinson’s vessel to Big Green Island in October 1835 Mannalargenna cut the physical symbol of his role and status – his long ochred hair and beard. This seems to have been a final act in the face of his loss of connections to country and traditional practice. In the face of a life of exile in what his people believed were the islands of the dead. Mannalargenna died at Wybalenna [Flinders Island] on 4 December 1835 … Robinson attributed Mannalargenna’s death to him cutting off his long ochred and greased hair and claimed that this sudden change had led to catching cold and catarrh. As a final act of insensitivity Robinson buried Mannalargenna’s body on the burial ground in a coffin and allowed his enemies to participate in the service.

Robert supplied the following information on his complex ancestry during the most recent century.

I was born 7 April 1971 in Townsville Hospital according to my Birth Certificate. I have been DNA tested with my father, due to adoptions in the Bedford family, and if I wore a wig I would be a dead spit for my mother when she was a child. My mother was known by the name Maree Susannah Atkins (born 28th November 1939 at the Hobart Fire Station). But her real name was Maurie Susannah and her twin sister was Nancy, both were born on the 28 October 1939. Mum was secretly adopted by her aunt, Vildred Phyllis May Bedford. Her twin sister was secretly adopted by her uncle, Claude Hepburn Bedford.

Their real mother, my genetic grandmother, was Nancy Bedford, born in 1922 to William Robert Hepburn Bedford. William Robert Hepburn Bedford’s World War 1 enlistment papers describe him as of dark complexion and he was discharged as ‘not likely to become an efficient soldier’. This discharge reason was common with many Aboriginal or part Aboriginal soldiers in WW1. I share the same Grandmother as Tasmania’s most eminent Aboriginal photographic artist (Professor) Wayne Quilliam and his brother, contemporary Aboriginal artist Mick Quilliam.

Robert has spent much of five decades painstakingly uncovering and exploring his genealogy and cultural heritage. Some of the Aboriginal detail remained under the government ‘radar’ for very good reasons during two hundred years of Stolen Generations. Loss of identity for many Aboriginal children was a deliberate government strategy which started in Tasmania with white settlement and dispossession in 1803, became endemic everywhere in white Australia, and was only formally acknowledged with the National Apology in 2008. Robert Hine regards this process of reclaiming identity for himself and family as being a critical plank in national reconciliation. Mick Quilliam wrote in the Indigenous Law Bulletin in 2011 that:

Just as I was influenced by my grandparents and parents, I encourage everyone to explore their cultural heritage regardless of race. Ultimately, it is us who shape and influence our children in future generations so their identity is not lost. Encourage your children to explore, understand and appreciate their cultural background – be proud of who you are.

Robert Hine writes that:

I ran into Aboriginal Professors Marcia Langton (University of Melbourne) and Maggie Walters (University of Tasmania) at an Aboriginal shell necklace exhibition. I showed them a photo of my mother, standing with a group of other children. Both professors looked at each other and said, “That’s Cootamundra, your mother is a Stolen Gen child”.  Every time there was a family function, my adoptive grandmother, who I still regard as my grandmother, would say over and over again, “If anyone asks you why you have darker skin than them, tell them you are part Indian”. This was drilled into us. Perhaps it was due to my mum being taken, or due to the fact they were still taking children up until 1975 in Tasmania. The photo on the left, below, is my mother’s aunt to whom she was adopted, Vildred Phyllis May Bedford. The photo on the right below is my real (genetic) grandmother, Nancy Bedford.

In summary

Robert Hine’s ancestry, from our account, includes English, Scottish (Hepburn & Macgregor), African, English convict and Palawa (Aboriginal Tasmanian) connections and several adoptions.

Our account illustrates how revealing the truth about sometimes hidden or denied parts of our ancestry can help explain to our families and children who we are, where we come from, and what shaped the difficult decisions our very diverse forebears made. It is also, for Aboriginal and other Australians, an important and essential prerequisite to mutual understanding and national reconciliation. This is our intention for sharing this blog more widely with others.

 

‘Jim Crow Creek’ Information

Brief overview of evidence about the name ‘Jim Crow’ Creek

Professor Barry Golding AM

 b.golding@federation.edu.au

This is a very brief summary of what we know from the historical record about the origins and racist connotations associated with the naming of ‘Jim Crow Creek’ in the Central Goldfields of Victoria during the early 1840s.

A longer version with sources is also available by following this link, JemCrowAugustBG2019

I have added these documents to help inform the public about how our ‘Jim Crow Creek’ got its name, and to provide evidence that I believe argues for a process leading to a future name restoration.

Our local traditional owners, the Dja Dja Wurrung Aboriginal Nation, have requested that the offensive and racist name be changed for this significant, life-giving feature of their generously shared traditional lands.

‘Jim Crow Creek’ is a 26km long ephemeral creek, draining 123 square km of country, formed by the confluence of Sailors Creek and Spring Creek at Breakneck Gorge in Hepburn Regional Park, two kilometers north-west of Hepburn. A Streamside Reserve near Franklinford also shares the same name.

The creek flows in a northerly direction from steep, forested gullies to undulating grazing land and alluvial flats where it enters the Loddon River below the Guildford Plateau at Strangways, 8 km downstream of Guildford. As with other significant features in the local landscape, it had a previous Dja Dja Wurrung name.

The name ‘Jim Crow’ was likely first given to the mountain (previously known as Lalgambook,now called Mount Franklin) by squatter John Hepburn (or less likely Alexander Mollison) after April 1838. Its crater and the areas around it was also called Larnebarramul(literally ‘nest of the Emu’).

Later the creek, district, goldfield and, at times, the Aboriginal Protectorate, ‘Tribe’ and individual Aboriginal people were also called ‘Jim Crow’.

Part of Mollison’s run was called ‘Jumcra’ from 1840, on land that later become the Loddon (Mount Franklin) Aboriginal Protectorate from 1841.

Edward Parker, local ‘Protector of Aborigines’ used the term ‘Jim Crow’ Hill when referring to the mountain in his 22 September 1839 report.

‘Jim Crow’ was a widely used and racist, derogatory term used to describe black, mostly enslaved people in America in the 1830s.

A popular and catchy song ‘Jump Jim Crow’, sung in the 1830s by a black-faced US white minstrel negatively caricatured a clumsy, dim-witted slave. It became a huge hit with audiences worldwide.

An English poem similarly adopted and disseminated the US ‘Jim Crow’ theme to the British and colonial public from 1837. Called ‘The Jackdaw of Rheims’, it created a modern fable about how the crow (jackdaw) got its name ‘Jem Crow’. Again, the main character is a persecuted and dishevelled black crow.

The second last line of poem, above, makes clear, that empires, invaders and conquerors routinely bestowed new names on old geographical features.

George Robinson, ‘Chief Protector of Aborigines’ diary (14 Feb, 1840) noted ‘… a hill Mr Hepburn calls Jem Crow … on account of the small hollows about it’.

John Hepburn was previously a widely travelled international sea captain, including to the US. Like Mollison, by 1840 he would have been well aware of its racist connotations and familiar with both the popular song and poem.

The Jim Crow character in the song transferred to the now repealed ‘Jim Crow Laws’ that became part of several US state constitutions. The Jim Crow Lawsmandated the segregation of public schools, public places, public transportation, the segregation of toilets, restaurants, and drinking fountains for whites and blacks, in place from 1877 to the 1950s in the US. Understandably, in 2019 use of the term ‘Jim Crow’ is very offensive in the US.

The name of a former ‘Jim Crow Mountain’ and National Park near Rockhampton in Queensland was legally restored to Bagain Queensland in 2018 in collaboration with the Darumbal Aboriginal people and the local community.

There are other instances in Australia where similarly racist and offensive place names, such as ‘Nigger Creek’ have been officially expunged in consultation with the community and traditional owners as part of Indigenous reconciliation.

The Hepburn Shire and Mount Alexander Shire are actively engaged and supportive, with the traditional owners, in initiating a Reconciliation process to lead towards restoration of a more appropriate Dja Dja Wurrung name for the Jim Crow Creek.

‘Reading the Country at Contact’, Basic NAIDOC Tour Notes, 26 May 2019

Grounded in Truth: ‘Reading the Country at Contact’ Tour

Hepburn Shire Reconciliation Action Plan  (RAP) Tour Notes

A National Reconciliation Week 2019 Activity

Sunday 26 May 2019, 8.45am-4pm

National Reconciliation Week (NRW) is a time for all Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures, and achievements, and to explore how each of us can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia. At the heart of reconciliation is the relationship between the broader Australian community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. To foster positive race relations, our relationship must be grounded in a foundation of truth.

Join Adjunct Professor Barry Golding, and Dja Dja Wurrung Elder, Uncle Ricky Nelson for this one-day bus tour.

This tour invites you to experience a range of important sites in the Dja Dja Wurrung landscape where there is evidence of contact from the late 1830s between the peoples of the Dja Dja Wurrung Aboriginal Nation and the invading pastoralists, including John Hepburn, after whom the Shire is named.

There are seven stops, some as short as 20 minutes total time off the bus, so please follow instructions on the day to unsure we get to see all we planned. Most of our stops are on roadsides. To remain safe, please stay on the LEFT side of the road off the bitumen at each of these stops

ARRANGEMENTS: Registered participants will meet outside Daylesford Secondary College, Smith Street, Daylesford at 8.45am for departure no later than 9.00am. There is safe car parking outside the school. These tour notes with a route map (superimposed on an 1840s sketch map as well as an 1847 survey  map) will be provided on the bus. The tour notes prepared by Barry Golding that form the basis of the narrative during the tour will be posted after the tour in a ‘Reading the Country at Contact’ blog at www.barrygoanna.com

The two buses will return back to the starting point by 4.00 pm. We will visit, pass through or hear about a wide range of immediate post-contact sites that were significant between 1836 and 1841 in the Franklinford, Guildford, Strangways, Newstead, Neereman, Joyce’ Creek, Glengower, Campbelltown, Smeaton Plain, Smeaton, Kooroocheang and Kingston areas.

NOTE: All of what we see is on roadsides, ‘seen through the fence’, or in some cases with generous, one-off permission from landholders. Gaining permission for private entry on tours like this is a rare privilege.On no account should participants later trespass with others on private property or later contact private landholders to seek out what we look at from a distance.

PLANNED ITINERARY  (Please help us to keep to time …)

  • Board buses from 8.45am, Daylesford Secondary College, Smith Street.
  • Sharing of reasons for coming on the tour and expectations: on the bus.
  • 00am: Depart, travel towards Castlemaine, pass Mt Franklin (Lalgambook, withLarnebarramul volcaniccrater) to right; PASS second Protectorate site, June 1841-Dec 1849 to left).
  • PASS the Lime Kiln (on left), operating in the 1840s, supplied lime for John Hepburn’s House via the ‘Limestone Road’
  • Stop 1:30am: arrive at The ‘Big Tree’, Guildford, John Hepburn and family passed through here, April 1838.
  • 30 to 10.15am: Welcome to Country & Smoking Ceremony, Dja Dja Wurrung Elder Uncle Ricky Nelson; Welcome by Hepburn Shire Mayor, Don Henderson. Toilet available opposite the Big Tree.
  • Stop 2:45am-11.05am:The Loddon Valley at Strangways (considered but rejected as a Protectorate site, early 1841).
  • 15am brief Toilet Stopin Newstead & ‘Morning Tea’.
  • Stop 3:35am-12.00pm: The ‘Major’s Line’ October 1836 crossing on the Loddon at Newstead (later the Gold Escort route to Adelaide): Roadside stop opposite Mount Tarrengower, view towards Gough’s Range (Robinson & Parker reconnaissance trip, Feb 1840) and Neereman (Nov 1840-June 1841 Protectorate Site: 6km beyond Baringhup.
  • Stop 4:15am-12.35pm: Roadside stop above Joyce’s Creek opposite Moolort Plains, near remnant Buloke (Casuarina) trees to discuss the nature and importance of places where different ecosystems intersect.
  • Stop 5:55pm-1.25pm White Graves, the first burial associated with the 1840 Middle Creek Massacre, 1 km south of Campbelltown on Strathlea Road; narrative about Middle Creek, The Bloodhole’ 1840 massacre site..
  • 35pm brief Toilet Stop, Campbelltown Hall.
  • 45pm: PASS Aboriginal oven mounds (right) in private property woodland beyond Campbelltown fire station.
  • Stop 655pm-2.30pm: Roadside Lunch, Red Gums, Smeaton Plains, Williams Road, ‘A favourite place for the Aborigines’, described by G. A. Robinson in Feb 1840.
  • 40pm: PASSformerKooroocheang Swamp [private] (on right).
  • Stop 7:50pm-3.20pm: Hepburn Family Private Gravesite, off Estate Lane, below Mount Kooroocheang, [NB: Smeaton House is a private residence].
  • 3:30pm-3:40pm:Toilet Stop Smeaton Reserve
  • 40pm depart for Daylesford Secondary College, arrive by 4.00pm.

Map 1: March 1840 Edward Parker Rough Sketch Map, from E. Morrison, Frontier Life in the Loddon Protectorate, 1967, p.19. Most are pre 1840 sheep runs established mainly on the Coliban and Campaspe on Dja Dja Wurrung. When Parker drew the map he was likely unaware of the main branch of the Loddon. The ‘Polodyul or Loddon River’ shown is likely the stream called ‘Jim Crow Creek’ in 2019. Our tour route is marked in pink.

Parker Sketch Map 1840

MAP 2:  Main 1847 Base Map: copied from inside cover of ‘A Homestead History’(Reminiscences of Alfred Joyce 1843-64, Ed. G. James, 1942), redrawn from an 1847 Upper Loddon survey Map,

Upper Loddon Map 1847 (annotated 2019)

  • Our tour route is marked in pink; present day ‘towns’ in green; 2019 creek, river and mountain names added.
  • RUNS: Smeaton Hill(John Hepburn, from 1838); Glengower(Dugald McLachlan, from 1839); Plaistow (Alfred Joyce from 1843); Tarringower (Lauchlan McKinnon, 1839-41); Rodborough Vale (Thomas Chirnside 1839, Donald McKinnon then E. G. Bucknall from 1844); Boughyards (Alexander Mollison from 1837, Alexander Kennedy from 1840).
  • Note how quickly things had changed in the footprint of the current (2019) Hepburn Shire between 1840 and 1847.

‘Reading the Country at Contact’, May 2019, Extra Notes

 

Narrative for ‘Reading the Country at Contact Tour’

Hepburn Shire, NAIDOC Week Activity, 26 May 2019

Feedback and suggestions are welcome via b.golding@federation.edu.au

What these notes contain

These notes have been prepared by Barry Golding for tour participants to access later as a post at www.barrygoanna.com.  Further insights are provided on the site’s ‘Beyond Contact’ page and other posts.

These notes tease out Barry Golding’s tour narrative at the seven stops on the tour. There is also some narrative about places and sites we passed by between stops on the tour. Uncle Ricky’s important and complementary verbal narrative is not included in these notes.

Tour Rationale

  ‘to learn about our shared histories … [as an approach towards] reconciliation … grounded in truth’.

Tour invitation

…. to experience a range of important sites in the Dja Dja Wurrung landscape where there is evidence of contact from the late 1830s between the peoples of the Dja Dja Wurrung Aboriginal Nation and the invading pastoralists, including John Hepburn.

Tour Maps

The two base maps mentioned below, included separately in the tour notes, illustrate how quickly white invader knowledge of the ‘lay of the land’ in the footprint of the current (2019) Hepburn and Mount Alexander Shires improved between 1840 and 1847, as well as how quickly stations were created and new boundaries were established.

Map 1 (p.3 of participant notes): Parker’s March 1840 Sketch Map taken from E. Morrison, Frontier Life in the Loddon Protectorate, 1967, p.19, includes Hepburn’s (1838) run as well as earlier runs on the Campaspe and Coliban: including Mollison (1837), Orr, M[u]nro (1838-43), Thorn[e]loe & Ebden.

Parker Sketch Map 1840

MAP 2 (p.4 of participant notes) Main 1847 Base Map: copied from inside cover of ‘A Homestead History’(Reminiscences of Alfred Joyce 1843-64, Ed. G. James, 1942), redrawn from an 1847 Upper Loddon survey Map,

Upper Loddon Map 1847 (annotated 2019)

  • Our tour route is marked in pink; present day ‘towns’ in green; 2019 creek, river and mountain names have been added.
  • RUNS: Smeaton Hill (John Hepburn, from 1838); Glengower (Dugald McLachlan, from 1839); Plaistow (Alfred Joyce from 1843); Tarringower (Lauchlan McKinnon, 1839-41); Rodborough Vale (Thomas Chirnside 1839, Donald McKinnon then E. G. Bucknall from 1844); Boughyards (Alexander Mollison from 1837, Alexander Kennedy from 1840); Holcombe.

Travel towards Castlemaine

PASS Mt Franklin (Lalgambook) & Larnebarramul  (Mt Franklin crater) to right; PASS later Protectorate site, to left).

The main ‘Loddon Aboriginal Protectorate’ site was centred to the left of the road around present day Franklinford from June 1841-Dec 1848. Edward Parker was the Assistant Protector for the NW part of then Colony of Port Phillip. Hundreds of Aboriginal people (max 200 at any one time) lived or came here for safety, food and shelter whilst the Protectorate operated.

The central Aboriginal Protectorate area, radius ‘1 mile’, was for cultivation. A ‘larger 5 mile ‘radius (that went NS from approx. Hepburn Springs to Strangways, EW approx. to Glenlyon to Werona) was anticipated to be for traditional food gathering including hunting and fishing.

At the time the Loddon Protectorate closed only 30-40 Aboriginal people were living there. From April 1850 Parker was permitted to operate the Loddon station as a pastoral lease on the one square mile of land between Franklinford and the foot of Mount Franklin.  [often called the ‘Loddon’ protectorate (a) because the earlier (1840-1 Protectorate) was on the Loddon River (Polodyul or Pul-er-gil yal-loke) 30km to the NW, at Neereman 6km North of Baringhup, and (b) because the current ‘Jim Crow Creek’ catchments was sometimes called the ‘Loddon’, being part of the Loddon catchment).

The last of the Aboriginal people living at the ‘Loddon Aboriginal Station’ in 1863 were forcibly removed to Coranderrk Aboriginal Reserve near Healesville, which operated until 1924. In 2019 there are approx. 2,000 Dja Dja Wurrung descendants from around 20 apical ancestors who survived to the 1860s. Henry Harmony Nelson is Uncle Ricky Nelson’s apical ancestor.

To the right is Mount Franklin. Its peak was likely called Lalgambook. Its crater was usually referred to as Lar–ne-barramul, literally ‘place of the emu’, likely on account of the shape of its nest shaped crater. The original names are far from certain.

George Robinson first visited Edward Parker’s new Protectorate station site here (in June 1841) on 19 Nov 1841. He described it as being:

… on one of the sources of the Lodden (sic.), at a place called Willam.be.par.re.mal, a short distance from Lal.gam.book. The appearance of the place on approaching is rather pleasing; it is however surrounded by broken forest ranges containing abundance of game.

Robinson provides several variations of the Aboriginal name in his diary that same week. On 21 Nov 1841 he wrote that: ‘The hill at Loddon station is called Wil.lam.be.par.ra.mal(emu house). The creek or branch of the Lodden (sic) is called Lulgambook’.Robinson wrote on 28 November 1841 that he had:

… visited the crater at the mount called Willum-parramul, otherwise Jem Crow. It is an ancient crater of large dimension. … Had a fine view.

Hepburn climbed its peak soon after his arrival in April 1838 to get a better sense of the local topography. Called (and likely dubbed) ‘Jem Crow Hill’ by Hepburn, most likely because of a popular 1830s Poem, and 1830s minstrel song that referred to it as ‘Jem Crown’ and ‘Jim Crow’ respectively. It became Mount Franklin following a visit by former Van Diemen’s Land Governor, John Franklin in December 1843. The very negative, racist historic connotations of the term ‘Jim Crow’ arguably call for the original name of the Creek and the later name of the mountain (once clarified) to be restored.

PASS the Lime Kiln (on left),operating on the northern edge Aboriginal Protectorate of during the 1840s. It supplied lime via the ‘Limestone Road’ for John Hepburn’s mansion built in 1848-9. Likely the deposit was accumulated from as carbonate rich water from a mineral spring, colloquially referred to as ‘Limestone Spring’ or ‘The Bullfrog’ until it was tapped for spa water tanks built on the site in the 1980s.

STOP 1: The ‘Big Tree’, Guildford

 John Hepburn and family passed through here on the way to Kooroocheang, April 1838.

‘The Big Tree’: one of the largest Red Gums (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) in Victoria (height 32 metres; basal diameter 3m: age at least 500 years). It has a large branch graft on its northern side. The brass plaque records Burke and Wills camping here on their ill-fated northern expedition.

It is listed as a tree of State significance on the National Trust’s Register of Significant Trees of Victoria for its “outstanding size, curious fusion of branches, as an outstanding example of the species and as an important landmark“. The National Trust regards its conservation as vital to the local community and the State as a whole.

Due to its great age, numerous hollows have formed within the tree, providing habitat for many creatures. This tree is an eco-system which sustains a vast range of bird and animal life including magpies, rosellas, lorikeets, parrots, kookaburras, wood ducks, boobook owls, honey eaters, numerous species of insects, native bees and possums.

Already an ancient giant when the first white invaders arrived in the late 1830s, the Big Tree has played an important part in the cultural and social life of the Guildford community. This tree survives as an important symbol and a link between our community and its traditional owners, the Dja Dja Wurrung Aboriginal people.

John Hepburn likely camped nearby on his way to ‘take up his run’ around Kooroocheang in April 1838.

Welcome to Country & Smoking Ceremony, Dja Dja Wurrung Elder Uncle Ricky Nelson; Welcome by Hepburn Shire Mayor, Don Henderson.

STOP 2: The Loddon Valley at Strangways

This site was considered but rejected as a second Protectorate site in early 1841.

At this point we are on the fertile Loddon River flats. This was a former, important Aboriginal highway. To the south up the ‘Jim Crow Creek’ is a small amount of reasonably good volcanic soil that later became the centre of the former Loddon Aboriginal Protectorate. Opposite is the Guildford plateau, an elevated volcanic plain, which was grassland at the time of contact.

The current road between Newstead and Franklinford followed a narrow tongue of volcanic grassland that would also have been an Aboriginal highway between patches of forest on the older shales and slates.  These river flats are on the same highway that Thomas Mitchell crossed and camped at near present day Newstead in October 1836, later be referred to as ‘Mitchell’s Line’.

During 1837 several pastoralists used this river highway in to explore for new country to invade beyond already ‘taken up areas’. One group including Aitken (at Mount Aitken) swung up past Mount Macedon (Terawait) and Mount Alexander (Leanganook), along the Loddon and back to Corio via Ercildoune. Another group including Thomas Learmonth explored north from Buninyong, via Dowling Forest along the Loddon and back to Melbourne via Kyneton.

The huge quartz pebble to the right of the road came out of the gold bearing gravels on the edge of the Guildford plateau, an indication of how much bigger the stream buried by the basalt was several million years ago.

This area near the former Strangways railway yards (behind Don Hepburn’s house, perhaps a distant relation) became important in the early 1841 as Edward Parker looked for a Plan B right here as the original site at Neereman proved unsuitable. Lyon Campbell and other local squatters strongly objected. The objection was mainly because this area was already taken up by stations and was too close to what had become the main ‘overlanding’ highway on Mitchell’s Line between Sydney and Portland.

Uncle Ricky talks about the big picture of Dja Dja Wurrung people, the Clans, Moieties. Language and Kulin Confederations.

STOP 3: The ‘Major’s Line’

Thomas Mitchell’s October 1836 crossing on the Loddon at Newstead (later the Gold Escort route to Adelaide): Roadside stop opposite Mount Tarrengower.

View north towards Gough’s Range (Robinson & Parker reconnaissance trip, Feb 1840 and Neereman (Nov 1840-June 1841 Protectorate Site) 6km beyond Cairn Curran Reservoir & Baringhup.

We are now pretty much on the ‘Major’s Line’, one marked by the wheel ruts of the huge wagons as they headed back from Portland to Sydney in October 1936. A few days before he had climbed and named Mount Greenock near Talbot. Once of the volcanic plains he took a compass bearing to bring him out south of Mount Alexander, which took him north of Mount Cameron, through Strathlea to Newstead then through Expedition Pass near Chewton.

We know a lot about this area in 1840 because of the incredibly detailed (and accurate) diary records of George Robinson, Chief Protector of Aborigines (1839-1850) who came here through with Edward Parker in Feb 1840. They were loaned a cart by John Hepburn and ventured down from Hepburn’s Station via the Smeaton Plain, the Stony Rises (near ‘Tuki Trout Farm’), Campbelltown, and Joyce’s Creek to where it joins the Loddon (now beneath Cairn Curran Reservoir) and to Newstead. Below Newstead they described the still massive pools downstream that John Hepburn referred to in February 1840 as ‘the fishponds on the plains’ on account of the huge Murray cod and Macquarie perch in the big water holes downstream of Newstead.

They climbed to the western edge of a rocky range (now Gough’s Range) between Mount Tarrengower and the Loddon, ’20 miles north of Koretanger’ giving them a vantage point, Robinson describes the scene in detail on 21 Feb 1840:

Near to where we stood was the last of the Mameloid [breast-like] hills … red gums, sho oak [Allocasuarina], white gum, honey suckle (Banksia) trees. The low plains were mottled or carpeted with flowers in full blossom, patches from 1 to 2 acres of white everlasting flowers and then patches of an acre or more of yellow … or the beautiful blue flower with clumps of honey suckle and gums, and the pea green reeds of the Lodden (sic), like a broad green ribbon running in a tortuous line among the varigold and beautiful landscape, the glassy surface of the water shining between the branches of the trees.

To the north is Mount Tarrengower, (called ‘Salus’ by Mitchell), thankfully retaining its original name. Where there were no trees there was lots of Kangaroo grass. (Themeda). In many places on this Feb 1840 journey, typically on the edge between the woodland and the plain, Robinson noted many ‘bark huts of the natives’ and ‘ovens’. Just to the north of Cairn Curran Reservoir is Lauchlan McKinnon’s ‘Tarrengower’ Homestead.

Uncle Ricky talks about the relations between the Dja Dja Wurrung peoples, the explorers and the pastoralists.

STOP 4: Roadside stop above Joyce’s Creek (Knee-rarp) opposite Moolort Plains.

This stop is near remnant Buloke (Casuarina) trees, where we discuss the nature and importance of humans living in places where many different ecosystems intersect.

For the next 10 km we drive south along the eastern edge of Joyce’s Creek, a ‘lateral stream between the edge of the Moolort (volcanic) Plains and the Campbelltown Forest (on the old, rocky and relatively infertile Ordovician bedrock). Joyce’s Creek like the Loddon River, was then a well-travelled and settled Aboriginal highway. Robinson reported many camp, huts and ovens ‘where the natives had been’, with many freshwater mussel and emu shells. Robinson was ‘at a loss to account for the [immense number of] wheel and cattle tracks we now met with’ near Strathlea until he realised he was actually on the Major’s Line.

Uncle Ricky talks more about the food resources here.

This area was an ecotone: teeming with food resources in every direction: Emu, Kangaroo and Yam Daisy on the Moolort Plains; Murray cod and Macquarie perch in the massive pools in the Loddon downstream of Newstead to the north; possums and small mammals in the river red gums along Joyce’s Creek and forests to the east; rich fauna and flora in the Banksia and Buloke woodlands Blackfish and freshwater mussels in the creek; 30 large wetlands on the Moolort plains with a whole range of aquatic plants, birds, yabbies.

ON the way south the bald volcanic hills gradually come into view, Powlett Hill to right, then Moorooklye, Stony Rises and Kooroocheang to far left.

STOP 5: Graves associated with the 1840 Middle Creek Massacre

This stop is 1 km north of Campbelltown on the Strathlea Road.

The memorial grave is to the left of the road on private property. On the opposite (west) side of the road verge opposite the graves is a stand of unusual and inedible Osage oranges (Maclura pomifera)

A brass plaque on the grave displays the following text:

HERE LIE THREE UNKNOWN PIONEERS OF THIS DISTRICT.

A COOK ON GLENGOWER STATIONKILLED BY THE ABORIGINES IN 1840.

A TRAVELLER KILLED BY MIS-ADVENTURE BY THE STATION DOGS IN 1841.

AND A YOUNG EMPLOYEE,

DIED FROM NATURAL CAUSES IN 1841.

MAY THEY REST IN PEACE.

The three European people buried in the Pioneer Memorial Graves were all associated with the Glengower run. This spot was first used as a burial ground following an initial disturbing incident and burial by Dugald McLachlan in winter or spring of 1840, and again in 1841.

The third burial, unrelated to the violence associated with the first and second burials, is the grave of the young son of the original informant about the massacre story, Donald (‘Rhu’) McDonnell.

The first burial is that of a cook at the Glengower station who was killed by a band of Jadwajali Aborigines returning to the Grampians after obtaining greenstone axe blanks from Mt William, near Lancefield. The Aborigines are said to have called at the station for food when McLachlan and the stockmen were away mustering sheep for shearing, and only the cook was present in the cookhouse. The cook is alleged to have added Plaster of Paris to a damper he had cooked for the Aborigines, which once ingested would have caused a horrible and painful death. An altercation allegedly followed and the Aborigines are alleged to have murdered the cook, hanging his body in the cookhouse on a meat hook. When McLachlan returned he immediately organised a punitive expedition comprised of Glengower and neighbouring Smeaton Hill stockmen.

McLachlan buried the cook, whose name is not known, at the present gravesite only 800 yards north-east of the homestead. In expectation of a reprisal raid, McLachlan released his savage hunting dogs into the station grounds (he purportedly used for hunting dingo) after nightfall. About a year after the cook’s murder in 1841 the dogs, savaged to death an unnamed visiting itinerant traveller, who was buried beside the murdered cook. The third grave is of George McDonnell, the son of shepherd (and the original informant of the oral history) Donald McDonnell, who died of natural causes in 1841.

McLachlan was well known amongst his contemporaries as very hard and ‘austere’ man. He was very fond of using guns and hunting dogs. He was described as ‘austere’, grasping, ruthless and uncompromising of men and beast even by his contemporaries.

On Middle Creek, Glengower (on private land) is ‘The Bloodhole’, the site of an 1840s Aboriginal massacre that took place approx. 8km to the west.

The Aborigines thought to be those associated with the death of the cook were tracked down with McLachlan’s dogs and they hid in the waterholes on Middle Creek. On seeing the approaching men on horseback with guns, the Aboriginal men jumped into the creek to swim to the other side or hide under water. The mounted men from the station including McLachlan fired on the Aborigines in the water. Some had hollow reeds to breathe through while submerged, which still grow at the site today. By the time the firing stopped at least 12 Aboriginal men were dead and floating in the bloody water. The place (on private property) is still known locally by some residents as ‘The Blood Hole’ or ‘Slaughter Hole’.

STOP 6: Smeaton Plains, Williams Road (do NOT leave the road reserve and enter private land)

  ‘A favourite place for the Aborigines’, described by G. A. Robinson in Feb 1840.

Robinson writes on 14 February 1840 that being a fine and pleasant day, John Hepburn took him to the top of Kooroocheang. Hepburn then:

Showed me a plain with some open forest on it, 3 miles [5km] from his house in N [northerly] direction. Said it was a favourite place for the natives. He has seen 30 women on the plains at a time digging murrnong while the men went into the forest to hunt kangaroos, opossums, &c. which are abundant.’

After dinner that same day, being summer the evening would have been light. Robinson:

‘… rode out with Mr Hepburn to the place of the native camp aforementioned. Rode over some beautiful country. The Mameloid [‘breast like’] Hills has a natural appearance when seen from the plains. And so the hills in the distance than when viewed from the top of Koratanger. The trees from Kor.ra.tanger looked diminutive but when we came to them found them large, 2 and 3 feet diameter at the butt, with large umbrageous branches . Well covered with foliage, they stood at a distance of from 20 to 50 to 50 yards and the whole which was about half a mile square, had a park-like appearance.’

Robinson’s use of term ‘park’ to describe what was an Aboriginal Australian woodland was common amongst many British squatters and explorers familiar with parks created in the ‘old country ‘around country houses and estates.

The creators of this deliberately managed Australian park were still living and cooking underneath the trees in this 1840s landscape. Robinson continued:

‘We saw the remains of from 30-40 screens or shelters of boughs where the natives had been. Also several of the native ovens or fireplaces where they baked their murrnong. Some 10 feet in diameter. … Returned through another part of the native camp. Saw some more native huts or screens. Rode round the S end of Koretanger. The dogs killed a native cat, dark color and white spots’.

PASS former Kooroocheang Swamp [private] (on right).

Several oven mounds described by Robinson have been recorded in the vicinity the former Kooroocheang swamp. Jack Sewell recalls plentiful freshwater crayfish in the swamp before it was drained in the 1960s.

There are historic records of the Brolga (Grus rubicunda) nesting around the swamp, indeed the word Kooroocheang is thought to reference the brolga. ‘Turkey Hill Road’ north of Powlett Hill references the former Bustard (Ardeotis australis) common on the local grasslands before the introduction of sheep and cattle as well as  hunting. 

STOP 7: Hepburn Family Private Gravesite

This site must be accessed from a gravel car park on the south side of Estate Lane, below Mount Kooroocheang, Please note that Smeaton House nearby is strictly a private residence.

John Hepburn’s decision to replace his first timber house and commission a huge new, 20 room, double storey mansion was announced in his journal on 2 April 1849. That day his family had shared ‘a pleasure party’ with neighbours on the nearby Kangaroo Hills.

The Smeaton House mansion has for the past 130 years been the private home to the Righetti family. The mansion complete with verandahs on three sides of the lower storey, stables and a coach house was finished by the end of 1850, just before the first discovery of gold at nearby Clunes. Unsurprisingly, the mansion is highly classified by the National Trust but remains private.

The Hepburn family graveyard on a nearby picturesque knoll is now owned and maintained by the National Trust. There is public walking access across privately owned paddocks to the Hepburn Graves via a car park recently constructed south of the cemetery on Estate Lane. John Hepburn was buried here in 1860. The pallbearers at his funeral comprised the men of the Creswick and District Roads Board.

At the time of Hepburn’s death in 1860, just 20 years after Mitchell’s wagons rolled through this Dja Dja Wurrung landscape, the telegraph had arrived and the railway was advancing from Geelong towards Ballarat. The first 1851 gold rush in nearby Clunes was then only nine years old, but by the 1880s had spread for 100km in every direction and totally transformed the landscape and society.

Only three of John Hepburn’s ten children plus his wife Eliza (died 1869) are buried in the family graveyard: including the two children who came overland in 1838, Alice (died 1865) and Thomas (died 1859) as well as George (who was born at the property in 1838 and died 1903). Other Hepburns buried there include the family of John Hepburn’s brother, Benjamin who died in 1888.

Aside from the Hepburn family graves and inscriptions, the exotic trees within the fenced off cemetery as well as the views are sublime (on a fine, sunny day).

One view is towards Mount Moorookyle, another is towards Mount Kooroocheang. A third vista south overlooks the valley of Middle Creek, locally called ‘Captains Creek’, through scattered, remnant, ancient woodland eucalypts.

 

Mitchell ‘discovers’ Dja Dja Wurrung’s Australia Felix

 

Mitchell passed twice through Dja Dja Wurrung country in Winter and Spring of 1836. This account focuses on the implications of Mitchell ‘discovering’ the highly productive, carefully created, and responsibly managed Dja Dja Wurrung grasslands, that he otherwise took to be empty and ripe for subsequent picking by European invaders.

NOTE: Much of my account was added on 24 September 2018 to my much longer and wider historical and autoethnographic narrative on the ‘Beyond Contact’ page.

Major Thomas Mitchell’s 1836 traverse across what is now inland Victoria is important as part of the wider historical narrative by virtue of being the first European to describe and give (mostly new European) names to most of the inland rivers and mountains of northern and Western Victoria, including those rivers already mapped, named and cultured by Dja Dja Wurrung peoples for around one thousand generations.

Mitchell’s diary, published in Three expeditions into the interior of Eastern Australia; with descriptions of the recently explored region of Australia Felix and the present Colony of New South Wales, records his 1836 overland expedition of ‘exploration’ from Sydney via the Murray River then south to Portland, returning via Western Victoria and present day north eastern Victoria.

While Mitchell made some notes about the local traditional owners he encountered, his main interest was in describing, naming and ‘opening up’ a country’ he regarded as essentially uninhabited. That said, his 25 man official party including his second in command, G. C. Staplyton carried a total of 36 firearms. The men were dressed in red woollen shirts and grey trousers crossed by white braces, ‘giving the men somewhat of a military appearance’ (p.2) as they set off, in Mitchell’s words, ‘to traverse unexplored regions, peopled, as far as we know, by hostile tribes’ (p.3).

The expedition anticipated using boats along and in order to cross some larger inland streams including the Murray and Darling Rivers, which they carried in a boat carriage. The several heavy wagons left their wheel ruts discernable for several decades after their expedition. The track the wagons followed was often already an Aboriginal highway, and the expedition’s track across Victorian’s northern plains quickly followed by squatters, sheep and cattle later became known as the ‘Major’s Line’.

Twice during this 1836 expedition Mitchell passed through Dja Dja Wurrung country, twice crossing the Loddon River. The first traverse and river crossing was in mid winter (late June and early July, 1836) whilst heading southwest between Pyramid Hill and the headwaters of the Richardson River. The second time the expedition crossed the Loddon River near present day Newstead in late September 1836, on router between Mount Cole and Mt Alexander as the expedition was heading back towards Sydney. Mitchell named what is now known as Mount Alexander (to the Dja Dja Wurrung, Leanganook) ‘Mount Byng’, though the name did not stick. Admiral John Byng, an English Royal Navy officer was court-martialed and shot dead by a firing squad in 1757.

Unlike Chief Protector of Aborigines, George Robinson, Mitchell not only took the country to be uninhabited but also prepared and predestined for European intrusion by a then unknown cause. Mitchell came close to identifying the then unknown explanation for such extensive areas of open grassland on what later became the heavily grazed and cultivated plains of northern and western Victoria when he wrote that:

On highest mountains and in places the most remote and desolate, I have always found every dead trunk and the ground and any living tree of any magnitude also, the marks of fire; and thus it appeared that these annual conflagrations extend to every place. (p.328)

What Mitchell described were grassland, woodland and forest ecosystems carefully and deliberately created and managed by thousands of years of regular and systematic Aboriginal burning to encourage and sustain their desired food plants and animals.

On 30 June 1836 Mitchell was towards the north end of Dja Dja Wurrung country when he climbed to the top of Pyramid Hill and described:… a land so inviting, and still without inhabitants! As I stood, the first European intruder on the sublime solitude of these verdant plains, as yet untouched by flocks or herds; I felt conscious of being the harbinger of mighty changes; and that our steps would soon be followed by the men and the animal for which it seemed to be prepared’ (p.159).

The ‘fine plain’ Mitchell and his wagons passed across the next day was covered with what both he and Robinson called anthisteria, now known as Themeda triandra, ‘Kangaroo’ or ‘Oat’ grass, also covered in places by what Mitchell recognised as banksia and casuarina, and what Robinson respectively called ‘honeysuckle’ and ‘oak’. By July 5 they passed a lofty hill Mitchell recorded as Barrabungale (likely present day Buckrabanyule, unbeknown to Mitchell the sacred home of the feared ancestral giant serpent, Mindi). By July 6 the party were on a river Mitchell named the Loddon, because ‘… of its resemblance in some respects to the little stream in England.’ On July 10 they crossed and named the Avoca River, and on 13 July crossed and named the Richardson River after his botanical collector, John Richardson, who had an unplanned swim when his horse slipped during the river crossing. By July 19 they has encountered another river they ascertained from the locals to be the Wimmera.

By late August 1836 the expedition had passed north of (and renamed) Gariwerd the Grampians, and travelled along the Glenelg River, launching their whaleboat to explore the wide and navigable lower parts of the river. They came onto the southern Australian coast downstream of present day Nelson close to the present day South Australian-Victorian border. On 29 August Mitchell’s party was ‘astonished’ when one of the expedition’s Aboriginal members (not listed but invaluable amongst the ‘official’ expeditioners) whom Mitchell called ‘Tommy Came-last’ came to him with the unexpected news of fresh cattle tracks, the ‘shoe marks of a white man’, ‘portions of tobacco pipes and a glass bottle without a neck’. Mitchell understood that whalers and sealers had for several decades made camp along the same stretch of coast on Portland Bay, but the presence of cattle tracks astounded him. In Mitchell’s words, ‘How cattle could have been brought here I did not understand’. At anchor in the bay they found the answer: ‘The Elizabeth of Launceston’ and on shore ‘a considerable farming establishment belonging to Messrs. Henty’ that had been in place for at least two years. Mitchell wrote that Henty ‘was ‘importing sheep and cattle as fast as vessels could be found to bring them over’ (p.241).

The return journey towards Sydney took the party south of the Grampians, and apart from Mitchell’s personal side trip to climb and name Mount Macedon, on a steady north-east bearing across the ‘open downs’ of the Western District volcanic plains. The expedition re entered Dja Dja Wurrung country as they crossed the Great Dividing Range between Mount Cole and Mount Greenock (close to present day Talbot), both of which Mitchell renamed. Mitchell’s wagons skirted the base of Mount Greenock and headed northeast towards the open volcanic plains north of present day Clunes towards present day Newstead on a compass bearing of 60.5 degrees. The intention was to head for ‘Mount Byng Pass’, effectively at the south end of Mount Alexander that had been in the expedition’s sights on the horizon for several days. The dozens of smooth, grassed, breast-like volcanic hills visible to the east of the summit of Mount Greenock Mitchell called the Mammeloid Hills. On 25 September 1836 as the party lumbered across this vast Aboriginal grassland, Mitchell wrote: ‘In travelling through this Eden, no road was necessary, not any ingenuity in conducting wheel carriages wherever we chose’ (pp.276-7).

As the party headed north-east onto the open grassy plains, Mitchell climbed a nearby ‘smooth round hill’, likely what later became known as Mount Cameron, to get the lay of the land and try and map the course of the many small northward flowing streams. Mitchell’s party:

… entered on a very level and extensive flat, exceedingly green and resembling an English park, bounded on the east by a small river flowing to the north-west (probably the Loddon) and abrupt but grassy slopes beyond its right bank.

 Mitchell’s was correct in assuming it was the Loddon, the same river he had crossed around 100km north approximately three months earlier. Mitchell’s description on 28 September puts the party close to present day Newstead and heading through belts of forest and grassland towards present day Castlemaine. On 29 September the party found a route through the steep wooded ranges for their wagons, down onto the ‘more open granitic country at the foot of Mount Byng [Mount Alexander]’ near present day Chewton, naming it ‘Expedition-pass’. Mitchell was confident ‘that such a line of communication between the southern coast and Sydney, must, in the course of time, become a very considerable thoroughfare’.

At this point, at the foot of Mount Alexander, whilst waiting for repairs to the wagon carrying their boats, Mitchell resolved to take a side trip from his wagon train ‘to the lofty mountain mass which appeared about thirty miles to the southward’ (p.281). From this mountain, that Mitchell called Mount Macedon after Philip of Macedon in honour of the fact that he was able to view Port Philip from the summit, he could see signs of European activity at the Port Phillip settlement in the form of ‘white objects which might have been either tents or vessels’. Port Phillip had been briefly settled near Sorrento on 1803-4, then left mostly undisturbed by Europeans until the previous year, 1835, when settlers from Tasmania led by John Batman and John Pascoe Fawkner (who incidentally had been at the Sorrento settlement as a child) established what became Melbourne on the lower reaches of the Yarra River.

On the return journey towards Sydney across what are now the northern plains, Mitchell went ahead to ensure he was first with the news of his discovery of Australia Felix, ‘the better to distinguish it from the parched deserts’ that Mitchell ‘had wandered so unprofitably, and for so long’ in Western New South Wales. Mitchell wrongly took this Eden wrongly to be ‘still for the most part to be in a state of nature providing a fairly blank sheet’ for subsequently being carved up by European towns and lines of communication. The expedition’s return route approximated the current Hume Highway, fording the Goulburn River near present day Mitchelton and the Murray River near present day Albury. Mitchell buried letters of instruction to Staplyton who followed behind him with the wagons. As Hawdon along with Gardiner and Hepburn were heading south on the first ever overland journey with herds of sheep and cattle towards Port Phillip in late 1836, they encountered Stapleton who was also crossing the Murrumbidgee River near present day Gundagai on his way back to Sydney.