ADHS Newsletter No. 211 MAY, 2003

Items of interest -

A.G.M. - The Nineteenth Annual General Meeting of the Society was held on Sunday, 18th May, 2003, with 29 members and visitors in attendance at the historic Victoria Hotel in Avoca. We were pleased to welcome Cr. Chris. Goodman, representing the Shire, and his wife, Bridget, as official guests, also Tim and Dianne Western, from the Landsborough Historical Society, and Wendy Hicks and Carole Trevillian from the Echuca Genealogical Society. We welcomed, too, our long-time members Jocelyn Milne and Allan Hall, who always join with us on this annual occasion, and Beryl Maidment and her husband, from Ballarat.

After partaking of an enjoyable meal, our party adjourned to the upper level of the dining room, which was probably the stage in days of yore from which visiting entertainers brought pleasure to the local population. On this occasion, our member, Pearl Collins, was guest speaker and she gave a lively and entertaining account of her goldfields ancestry, leading to the book she compiled of the many, many letters written to and by "Dear Aunt Emma", who was Miss Emma Stavely, of Maryborough. This wonderful set of family letters, covering many years, is now deposited in Canberra for posterity, one of very few such complete sets registered with the Historical Records Register at the National Library of Australia. In thanking Pearl for such an interesting talk, President Stuart Smith made the comment that it would be difficult to gather such a collection of letters today, when people communicate by phone and e-mails. (See separate account of Pearl’s talk.)

It was time then to proceed with the formalities of the A.G.M. and the President began by presenting his annual report, beginning with the interesting overview of the convict era given by Margaret Oulton at last year’s A.G.M. An interesting and varied year of activities followed, highlights being the great success of our Photo Call Day in July, with special thanks to Murray Little who put in such a great effort that day copying so many photos. In August we enjoyed the wonderful hospitality of Len and Betty Fleming and a tour of the Talbot/Amherst area (this was the second tour of the area hosted by Len and Betty). Next was the very interesting and popular tour of the Mountain Hut and Amphitheatre areas with guides Mary and Pat Dridan in September, with 41 people in attendance despite the blustery, gale-force conditions prevailing that day. A happy time was had by all at the Christmas break-up in November when we were entertained by the Lost Chords and their excellent unaccompanied harmonious singing. This was a nice surprise organised by Colleen Allan who sings with the group. This year began with another successful annual Garage Sale held in February, when the grand total of $1,493.00 was realised, and many thanks are due to those loyal stalwart members for their efforts on that day

The President continued his report by calling for ideas for serious fund-raising in the coming year and asked all members to give this much thought and submit their ideas. He extended the Society’s congratulations to Margaret and Harry Oulton who were recently awarded the Federation Centenary Medal for long and voluntary service to the community of Lexton and surrounds. A special award of a Certificate of Appreciation was then made to Lorna Purser in recognition of her long service of 17 years as Newsletter Editor and she was also made an Honorary Life Member of the Society.

Dorothy Robinson presented the Treasurer’s Report and a copy of this statement can be found on page 5 of this newsletter.

Cr. Chris. Goodman then took the chair and declared all positions vacant before conducting the election of office-bearers for the coming year, 2003/2004, with the following result:-

President Stuart Smith

Vice President Max Hobson

Correspondence Secretary Jill Hunter

Minute Secretary Edna Jarvis

Treasurer Dorothy Robinson

Research Officer Jan Burnett

Publicity Officer Edna Jarvis

C.H.H.A. Representatives Edna Jarvis and Marj. Partridge

Public Officer Jill Hunter

Newsletter Editor Vacant

A motion was passed by the meeting that our newsletter become a bi-monthly publication forthwith, to be done in January, March, May, July, September and November. This will make the position of Newsletter Editor much less demanding and it is hoped the task will appeal to someone among our many members, as Lorna Purser did not stand for election at this A.G.M. and will not be available as from the end of 2003. She will fill the position unofficially until then, in the hope that someone will offer to take over before that time.

The lucky winner of the raffle of a basket of goodies, kindly donated by Lorna Purser, was won by Carole Trevillian, from Echuca.

Next Meeting - This will be a general meeting to be held on Sunday, 15th June, at the Court House at 1.30 p.m., when activities for the coming year will be planned. Suggestions for speakers, outings and fund-raising will be most welcome.

Restored Wagon for Lexton’s Toll Bar Park - A special event is planned for Saturday, 14th June, 2003, at 10.30 a.m., when celebrations will mark the restoration and return to Toll Bar Park of the old wagon which has been displayed there.

The wagon was built by McGrath’s, of Ascot, and was originally used in the district from the 1920s. In 1985, it was donated to Toll Bar Park by P. J. Ryan and family, of Waubra. It has been restored by Geof. Little, a wainwright, of Maldon. Geof. will bring the wagon back to Lexton overland, pulled by his team of Clydesdale horses, the journey to take three days. The arrival at the Park should be quite a sight.

The celebrations are being organised by the Lexton Progress Association, in conjunction with the Pyrenees Shire Council, and the official handover ceremony will be followed by a BBQ lunch in the Park.

July Meeting - At our meeting on Sunday, 20th July, at the Court House at 1.30 p.m., Angus Watson will be the speaker, his topic being based on our colonial Victorian history and why some early towns survived and others are now forgotten.

Angus is the author of the recently released book, Lost and Almost Forgotten Towns of Colonial Victoria, which is the result of many years of meticulous research. It gives a comprehensive analysis of census results for Victoria in those early years of our history, 1841 to 1901. This book of 500 pages should be useful as a reference guide to historians, researchers, and all folk with a fascination for colonial history. We look forward to an interesting talk as Angus shares with us some insights from his research.

Angus will have copies of the book available for sale at our meeting, at a cost of $23.00 each. Those folk ordering by mail should allow another $7.00 within Victoria for postage and packing and $10.00 interstate. Enquiries and orders should be directed to the author/publisher, Angus B. Watson, Unit 1, 13A Railway Road, Blackburn, Vic. 3130, Tel./Fax 9878 0174.

Help Wanted - Pioneer Cemeteries at Mountain Hut and Glenpatrick - As no registers exist of the burials in these two small cemeteries, the Society is keen to build up a register for each one and seeks the help of researchers who may have records of family burials in these locations. If you have any information at all, the Society would be pleased to hear from you.


The following is an abridged version of the talk given at our A.G.M. by Pearl Collins, telling of her goldfields background and her compilation of the family letters in her book, "Dear Aunt Emma" :-

One out of every three Victorians is said to have an ancestor who came to the goldfields. I’ve done very well. All of mine ended up on the goldfields. To complicate my ancestry, maternal grandfather Alf Sandland, and paternal grandmother Hannah Stockton, married twice, because of the death of their spouses.

I must have been interested in family history from my early years, as all my siblings are amazed at how much I knew when I started out on this great family history adventure in 1980. My mother always told me about the Stavely and Sandland families, who lived at Majorca and Talbot. Grandmother Hannah Stockton was born in Bourke Street, Melbourne, before the family moved to Carisbrook and, when she married, she lived at Maldon.

The catalyst that started me out though was my wanting to find out the details of my mother’s mother’s death – "she died in childbirth", whatever that may mean to a small child. Mary Sandland (nee Stavely) died at home in Talbot in 1908. The baby was the fourth full-term baby although I was told she had several miscarriages. In 1906, husband Alf and Mary were diagnosed with TB, Alf having had x-rays in Melbourne, among the first available about 1906. In the hope of improving their health, they went to the Seventh Day Adventist Sanatorium in Sydney that year. Mary longed for her cups of tea and used to walk, although breathless, up the hill to the nearest café for an occasional cuppa. Returning home, their health was no better and they were told that Mary should not have any more children. However, that was not to be and her last pregnancy taxed her body too much, resulting in her death.

While Mary was pregnantg in 1908, her in-laws, Charles J. and Maria (nee Day) Sandland, were to celebrate their golden wedding on 2nd June at the Granite Rock Hotel at Caralulup. Her mother-in-law died the day before the occasion, of a stroke, and Mary wrote to Emma that flowers from mother-in-law’s sisters were given and gifts lay unopened on the table. Despite professing to be teetotallers, this hotel was run by the Sandland family from 1880 to 1940.

Letters written and received within this family were numerous. My grandmother, Mary Sandland (nee Stavely), was one of six and all but Mary became deaf, making writing the only communication. Mary’s youngest sister, Sarah Emma Jane, kept everything and so, today, we have a vast knowledge of this family from the letters Emma kept. This total correspondence, contained in two shipping trunks, makes up one of very few such sets of family documents in existence and is now registered at the National Library of Australia. But let me go back to the start of these families.

Robert McFadden came to Australia on the Miles Barton with his five children in 1853, Robert having been widowed at home in Ireland. His children were Margaret, Hugh, Mary, Suzannah and Eliza. Also on board were Margaret’s husband, James Ennis (they had married just before the ship sailed), and Mary’s prospective husband, David Stavely. They all came from Ard’s Peninsula in Co. Down, Ireland. But, in fact, Robert McFadden had ten children. Why did only five come to Australia? We may never know. Sadly, Robert died three months after he arrived but his death was not registered.

His children who came to Australia are as follows - (1) Margaret and husband James Ennis – lived at Dunach for a time, then left for Charlton and farmed there. (2) Hugh McFadden, who returned to Co. Down. (3) Mary married David Stavely. (4) Susannah married Robert Morrison and lived at Lamplough before going to New Zealand. (5) Eliza married Henry Spiers and lived in the two-storey house at Amphitheatre, called Mountain View.

Now we turn to David Stavely’s family. He and wife Mary had six children. (1) Essie, who did not marry. (2) Will who, after prospecting, lived at Sunshine. (3) Margaret Annie never married and had the business knowledge to run the shop in Maryborough – drapery, haberdashery and made wedding dresses. (4) Mary, who married Alf Sandland. (5) Atch, who had the gorgeous name of David Atchison Weir Stavely and lived in the Fitzroy/Preston area. (6) Sarah Emma Jane, who lived above the shop in Nolan Street, Maryborough.

So how did this book, Dear Aunt Emma, come to be written? My mother’s two sisters said I should write to their cousin, Hugh Stavely, who had looked after his Aunt Emma prior to her death. He "knew everything". Sadly, my letter arrived in his letterbox the day he died. His only child, daughter Pat, rang to tell me the tragic news and we agreed to be in contact later. That took seven years! When Pat finally got round to sorting through her Dad’s things, she could not make head nor tail of all that she found. She found an address book then remembered that a "something" cousin had tried to contact her Dad on the day he died. She found the name "Green" and then rang all the M. Greens to find out if any of their relatives were interested in family history. "Yes", Auntie Marion said, "I’ll give you her phone number". She rang and said, "This is Pat Baird". "Yes", I said, "you’re Hugh Stavely’s daughter". She couldn’t believe her ears. How did I remember? That’s what being a family historian means! I agreed to go to her home and found trunks full of letters and other wonderful things, like David Stavely’s bankruptcy document of 1860, a wedding dress, a christening gown, green stone from New Zealand and hundreds of letters. What should we do?

We outlined a plan, sorted documents out, typed up the letters, and I pieced together the family tree from the documents and letters. Pat said, "You know, Emma should have written this book. She wrote to all these people, knew who they all were, was fiercely independent, had great determination and was a clear thinker". I made charts of families, dates, places, wrote hundreds of letters and came to know all these people as close rellies. It was a tedious job and I had a couple of breaks in compiling the book. Finally, in July, 1993, we launched it. Lorna and Jack Purser were present to see it come to pass.

Not long after I had really got the hang of this Stavely/McFadden story, I got a letter from Lorna saying that Marj. Partridge had found a newspaper account of Talbot’s Golden Jubilee celebrations in 1908 tucked away in the old rates book at Talbot. I knew about these celebrations, for Alf had written to Emma saying that the children wanted to go but, as they had just lost their mother, he wanted to take them out into the bush for a quiet picnic. Included in this article in the Talbot Leader was an interview given to a roving reporter by Charles Deakin Sandland, an early resident of the district. David Stavely also got to have a word or two and I’m sure I can pick out my great-grandfather in the photos that were found with the newspaper report. I was ecstatic and so would you be too.

My mother, Freda Sandland., was the eldest of the four daughters born to Alf and Mary Sandland, her sisters being Amy, Marion and Mary. Their widowed father, Alf Sandland, later married Jessie McLeod, and a son was born to this marriage, known as Mac. from his mother’s maiden name. Freda married Will Collier in 1924 and, after their honeymoon, they set off as missionaries in Western Australia, where they served until 1929. Many years later, Pat and John Baird visited Derby and met some of the Aboriginal people my parents had worked amongst and found the Aborigines remembered Freda and Will Collier. I had planned to go the next year but circumstances meant that I just could not get away and I have left it too long now. Apart from mum’s father, Alf Sandland, Aunt Emma was the most ardent supporter of their work as missionaries.

Let me now explain about the "family letters". When my mother, Freda, left home in 1924 and went to Western Australia, she wrote home to Bell Street, Coburg. The letter, of course, was read by the family. Freda returned to Victoria just before her sister Marion went to Mt. Margaret in Western Australia on 1st February, 1930. Marion, too, wrote home and her letter was circulated. Mary married Stuart Munro in 1934 and so the obvious happened. She wrote home and the letter circulated. You are probably thinking, well, every family does that. Just be patient. Then Marion returned from Western Australia in 1935 to marry Harrie Green. During all this time, their sister, Amy, who lived at home, was the secretary, directing the right letters to the right person. They wrote each week or when the mail boat or train was ready to carry their letters. When my mother died in 1964, the five Collier children were asked, or were told to share writing the family letter. The oldest, Jessie, was to write the first week of the month, the second, Dora, on the second week, Vic. on the third, Edgar on the fourth and, because I was still fancy free, I was to write on each fifth Friday. Then Auntie Amy died. I wondered what was going to happen. The family was pretty resourceful and, after some discussion and because Auntie Marion had had the most education (I think that was the reason), she was to be the secretary. Uncle Mac’s wife, Betty, wrote most weeks and, when she died, her two sons were invited to contribute their bit! It should be in the Guinness Book of Records that Auntie Marion, on her 100th birthday on 14th June, 2002, was still the secretary of those family letters after 34 years. There are not many secretaries of such standing or devotion around today, let alone 100-year-old ones. Auntie Marion is the first relative to reach the century and that alone makes family history!

I could talk about my Dad’s side of the family, who lived in Maldon and Baringhup, but that has to do for today. If I don’t stop now, it will be said, "Spoke far too long!"

(We thank Pearl for this brief insight into her very interesting background. Lorna Purser)

Interesting Web-site - Can be helpful for deciphering that terrible handwriting on BMD certificates we come across at times.