ADHS Newsletter No. 212 JUNE/JULY, 2003

Items of interest -

Return of Restored Wagon to Toll Bar Park, Lexton - This special event on Saturday, 14th June, was a great success, despite the cold conditions, and created great interest along the way from Maldon to Lexton. 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, and he is to be congratulated and thanked, not only for the restoration, but also for creating and organising such a memorable overland expedition from Maldon to Lexton. For this was indeed an expedition, taking three days to cover the distance at a steady clip, clop. The wagon itself carried feed for the team of magnificent Clydesdale horses, and was followed by a large, gypsy-like caravan, which provided accommodation for the crew of six handlers and support staff, including a cook. This wagon was also pulled by Clydesdales.

Stopovers at Carisbrook and Talbot gave schoolchildren and local folk an opportunity to spend time enjoying this reminder of the past, with the children asking Geof. questions about the horses and what was involved in caring for them, and older folk becoming nostalgic as they reminisced about the days when the faithful horse was very much a part of daily life. The procession approached Lexton along the Major Mitchell track from the local cemetery to the school, passing the Major Mitchell cairn, and on to Toll Bar Park, with a good crowd of interested people lining both sides of the road, while other folk within the park took up their positions, ready to witness the grand entrance.

After the formalities, there was time to get close to and stroke the five gentle giants which pulled the wagon and to inspect the restored wagon. The McGrath family took advantage of the occasion to make it something of a family reunion, and the 25 members of this family who were present had a group photo taken with the wagon. Later, when the wagon shafts and horses were removed, the wagon was placed in its permanent home, a specially built shelter within the park.

Why is this wagon such an important symbol for Lexton? The answer to that is because the establishment of the town came about as there was already a teamsters’ depot at the crossroads.

Major Thomas Mitchell, surveyor-general of the Colony of New South Wales, is an important figure in our history. On the return portion of his journey of exploration of 1836 from Portland to Sydney, he passed through what was to become the township of Lexton. His heavy supply wagons left deep ruts in the countryside during a particularly wet spring. When the Major returned to Sydney, he painted a glowing picture of the Western District and it was not long before squatters, with their flocks of sheep, were travelling overland, down the Major’s line of road, to the Western District.

Also, in the late 1830s, squatters from Van Diemen’s Land were coming across to Geelong with their flocks of sheep, in search of new pastures, and they headed for Mt. Buninyong, then across to a gap in the hills at Waubra, down into the valley (now Lexton) where they crossed over the Major’s Line on their way to the Wimmera. The crossroads formed by these two tracks intersecting soon became a teamsters’ depot where weary travellers stopped for a day or two beside the Burnbank Creek to adjust their loads and catch up on news from the two Colonies of Van Diemen's Land and Sydney.

By 1845, two Scottish gentlemen, David Anderson and William Millar, who had been conducting a hawking business selling goods to folk on the sheep stations in the Western District and the Wimmera, began to look around the countryside for a headquarters for their business. They decided on the teamsters’ depot at the crossroads. So, in the winter of 1845, they built the Burnbank Inn, a blacksmith and wheelwright shop, and a warehouse to use as a base from which to continue servicing the sheep stations. Burnbank, as it was then known, soon became a centre for government administration in the era before Victoria became a state.

In 1851, when gold was discovered at Cameron’s sheep run, Clunes, Lexton (or Burnbank, as it was known until 1852) was the closest town to the diggings. The Pyrenees Store Co. from Burnbank was the first supply wagon on the diggings. All traffic at that stage was coming via Burnbank, travelling along the Major’s Line and then diverting to the diggings.

That is why a wagon symbolises so much of what is important in the early history of Lexton.

The Lexton Progress Association, in conjunction with the Pyrenees Shire, are to be congratulated for organising this interesting event, which was attended by many of our members. Thanks must go to those of our members who were so actively involved, to the good folk who manned the barbecues and the tea urn, when something hot to eat and drink was so welcome in the cold conditions, and to all those who worked so diligently in the background one way and another, thus ensuring that the event was so successful.

( Thanks to Margaret Oulton for the historic content of this report.)

June Meeting - This was held at the Court House on Sunday, 15th June, when suggestions for speakers and outings for the coming year were discussed.

July Meeting - On Sunday, 20th July, Angus Watson was the speaker, his topic being the how and why some settlements have flourished over the years whilst others are now no more than a signpost on the roadside which you would miss if you blinked! With his knowledge of statistical methods and great interest in maps, Angus has come to know the goldfields areas very well in the course of his research for his book, Lost and Almost Forgotten Towns of Colonial Victoria: A Comprehensive Analysis of Census Results for Victoria 1841-1901, enabling him to give some interesting insights on places in the wider Avoca area. Details for obtaining a copy of his book can be found in our May newsletter, No. 211.

Looking Ahead - Our next meeting will be held at the Court House on Sunday, 17th August, at 1.30 p.m. after which a working bee will be held, the prime object being to assist with filing, etc., in the Research Room.

On Sunday, 21st September, we are to meet at Bakery Park in Amphitheatre at 1.30 p.m., to continue our tour of the town which we did not complete last year. Again, Mary Dridan will be our guide, and we are looking forward to this outing. If time permits, we may go on to Glenpatrick to complete the afternoon.

Have You Paid Your Subs? This is a reminder that annual subscriptions are now overdue and this will be the last newsletter for those who are unfinancial. If you have not yet paid your subs., please refer to your March/April newsletter No. 210 for a renewal form to send with your cheque. If, for some reason, you do not wish to renew your membership, a short note to this effect would be most appreciated.

Members’ Interests Directory, 2003 - This is ready to go to the printer and copies will be available in the near future for those who requested them. Our thanks to Lyn Cosham for her assistance with this project.

New Members - A warm welcome is extended to the following new members -

Ms Carole CZERMAK, of Elwood, Vic., who is researching ROWLAND, SUMMERS, URQUHART and VOIGHT in the Avoca, Bendigo, Homebush and Maryborough areas.

Mrs. Jennie DAVIES, of Rosebud, Vic., who is interested in the BRERETON family.

Mr. Trevor KAY, of Melton, Vic., researching John and Harriett WILLIAMSON, and George HOYING at Percydale.

Pauline LING, of Bendigo, Vic., whose interests are HARRISON, LYONS, McDONALD and ANSOME.

Mr. Tom and Mrs. Julie MARSHALL, of Avoca, Vic., who are interested in Avoca Lead.,

Mrs. Cathy TONKIN, of Mooroopna, Vic., who is researching the ILES family of Amphitheatre.

Ms Yvonne TOOMEY, of Cheltenham, Vic., researching DARLINGTON and EARP of Barkly nd Navarre.

Wanted – A Newsletter Editor, Urgently! Strictly speaking, there is no Editor, as indicated at the top of this newsletter. Lorna Purser continues on a temporary basis because communication is vital, but will not be available after the bi-monthly edition for November. How can the Society flourish without a newsletter? This is an opportunity for someone to make a worthwhile contribution to the work of the Society. You can contact Lorna on (03) 9808 9284.

Can You Help? Charles Joseph La Trobe was Superintendent of the Port Phillip District of New South Wales in the years 1839-1851, and Lieutenant-Governor of the State of Victoria from 1851 to 1854. In that time, it is believed that he made about 95 trips on horseback to different towns within our State of Victoria. In 1999, W. Bruce Nixon, with the assistance of the State Library of Victoria, published a book called Charles Joseph La Trobe – Landscapes and Sketches, which contained all the known paintings and sketches done by La Trobe prior to his coming to Australia and during his time here.

A team consisting of a State Library librarian, an historian and a retired State Library of Victoria publisher is now planning to publish La Trobe’s diaries and it is felt the work should be studded with pictures, daguerreotype images and photos from his era. The team is appealing for any photos or items connected with such visits which could enhance the book. The publishing committee will be happy to meet any costs incurred in forwarding such items.

The contact person for the publishing committee is Mr. W. Bruce Nixon, 351 Glenview Road, Yarra Glen, Vic. 3775, Phone (03) 9730 1649, Fax 9730 1119. It is hoped to publish the book in early 2004.

Burial Registers - The Society is endeavouring to build up registers for the cemeteries at Moonambel, Redbank, Mountain Hut and Glenpatrick. If you have records of deaths and burials in any of them, we would love to hear from you. For Moonambel and Redbank, contact Wendy Taylor at R.M.B. 267, Redbank, Vic. 3478, and for Glenpatrick and Mountain Hut, contact Stuart Smith at R.M.B. 4212, Elmhurst, Vic. 3469.

C.H.H.A. Family and Local History Expo 2003 - This is a reminder to mark this event in your diary. It will be held on 3rd, 4th and 5th October, 2003, at the Australian Aquinas Campus, Mair Street, Ballarat, the theme this year being Batons, Bayonets and Bushrangers, linking the R.H.S.V. theme of Colonial Law and Order to the celebrations marking the 150th year of the Victoria Police.

The Expo will commence with a lecture on Friday night, 3rd October, by Chief Inspector Ralph Stavely, Police Historian. This Expo is a good opportunity to find out what the various societies who belong to the C.H.H.A. can offer, to assist you with your family history research.

For further details, please contact Gordon Dawes on (03) 5475 2041 or Beryl Maidment on (03) 5331 2847.


A letter posted in Burnbank (Lexton) in 1850, when this area was still part of the Colony of New South Wales, has recently been sold at auction for $179,200 (including Buyer’s premium).

Frank Shore, originally from Kent in England, wrote a letter to his mother, Arabella Shore, asking her if she would approach his father, Rev. Shore, for a sum of 100 pounds sterling. The letter, with its valuable envelope featuring the Burnbank post mark, was held by the family until 1980 when it was put up for auction for the first time.

This auction was held in Switzerland and the letter to Arabella Shore sold for SF20,000. Since then it has changed hands on a number of occasions. In 1995, it sold at an auction in New York for $US88,000. At Premier Philately’s International Rarities Auction held in Australia on 25th January, 2003, the letter sold for $179,200. This is almost double the previous record for an Australia/Colonies item sold at auction in this country.

A description of this cover is taken from Stamp News December edition 2002, Vol. 49, No. 11 –

"Discovered only in 1980, this very unusual 1850 Victorian cover bears the exceptional franking of Half-Lengths Second Printing 1d. and First Printing 3d. interpanneau strip of three, cancelled with

fine strikes of the ‘Butterfly’ ‘23’ of Burnbank." The envelope and its contents are in excellent condition and the letter is addressed as follows :

England via Sydney

Mrs. Arabella Shore

(care of) the

Rev. I. Shore

Elmer’s End



In philatelic circles, this famous cover is known as the "Arabella Shore of Elmer’s End".

Recent research has shown that a Mr. Shore took up land with Messrs. Ellis and Elliott in the vicinity of Glenmona, near Alexander Irvine’s sheep run, about 1850 when the letter was posted.

According to the Government Gazette, the Official Post Office at Burnbank (Lexton) came into existence on 1.7.1848, with David Anderson as Postmaster. However, the Burnbank Inn had been a distribution centre for mail since it opened in 1845, with letters to sheep runs as far away as Deniliquin addressed "Via Burnbank".

Today, Lexton’s Post Office is run by a Co-operative formed with shareholders from the local community. For over 154 years, this Official Post Office has provided unbroken service to the community. The famous cover, "Arabella Shore of Elmer’s End", adds another fascinating chapter to a Post Office with a historic past.

(This interesting story was passed on by Margaret Oulton. Thanks, Margaret.)


It was pleasing to receive a note from our member Nicole Murphy to say how interested she was to read of the accident which befell her ancestor, Mr. W. B. Helliar, in June, 1927, the story of which we included in our newsletter No. 210. Nicole had never heard this story, so we are pleased to have helped her "put some flesh on the bones" of this forebear. We certainly hope that these stories are reaching descendants of other folk involved in these accidents, whether as victims, helpers, or witnesses, thus adding a little more to their family history knowledge.

We trust the following stories will be of interest to some of our readers :

From "The Avoca Mail’, 21st February, 1917 –

"Serious Accident – Cyclist and Motor Cyclist Injured. On Saturday afternoon last, word was brought to Avoca that a serious accident had occurred on the Lexton road, about three miles out. Mr. F. Richardson, organiser for the Australian Workers’ Union, was returning to his home at Warrenmang, from Melbourne, via Ballarat. Messrs. Karslake Bros.’ thresher had just completed work at Mr. George Laing’s farm at Riversdale, and a number of the employees, who resided at Lexton, were returning to their homes. They were mounted on bicycles, and Mr. T. Mann, who was a short distance ahead of Mr. John Roxburgh, passed the motorist. A few seconds later he was horrified, on glancing round, at seeing his companion and Mr. Richardson lying on the hard metal road. They had collided and appeared to be seriously injured. Medical assistance was immediately sought, and Dr. Johnson proceeded hastily to the scene of the accident. The doctor examined the men, and found that Mr. Roxburgh’s injuries were very serious indeed, consisting of a broken jaw, concussion of the brain, internal injuries, and abrasions. The poor fellow was unconscious, and he was lifted into the doctor’s buggy, and brought to Avoca, and afterwards taken to the Amherst Hospital, where he was admitted two hours after the accident. Mr. Richardson sustained painful injuries to the head, neck, and shoulder, and also suffered from shock and minor abrasions. He was brought into Dr. Johnson’s surgery in a buggy by Messrs. A. Wolfe and P. La Roche, and after treatment by the medico, he was taken to Mrs. Harrowfield’s private hospital.

Mr. Richardson, who is still under the doctor’s observation at Avoca, is improving.

Mr. Roxburgh’s condition, we regret to state, is still very critical.

Both men are married, and have large families, and sympathy is felt for them throughout the district, in which they are well-known and highly esteemed."

From "The Avoca Mail" 25th November, 1892 -

"Fatal Mining Accident At Homebush - A young man named Charles Templeton was killed in the Working Miners’ Homebush Company’s claim on Tuesday night at about 10 o’clock. Deceased was engaged in a panelling strip, and had proceeded only some four or five feet when, without the slightest warning, the strip collapsed, burying Templeton beneath the laths and earth. His mate, Henry Shiels, who was engaged on a strip alongside the deceased, gave the alarm, and a number of willing hands were soon engaged in removing the debris. When the body was reached it was found that the head was pinned down by the laths, and the face of the deceased was held firmly to the bottom of the strip. Deceased was dead when recovered. An inquest was held on Wednesday evening, Mr. J. Bradley conducting the enquiry. Mr. Agnew, mining inspector, was present. A verdict was given in accordance with the evidence, no blame being attached to anyone. Deceased, who was 22 years of age, was a single man.

"The funeral took place yesterday afternoon and was very well attended. The mournful procession, headed by the Avoca Brass Band, left the parents’ house, Homebush, shortly after 2 o’clock and did not arrive at the Avoca Cemetery until 4.30. The buggies numbered about forty and there were a large number of miners on foot. The Band played 'The dead March in Saul' on leaving Homebush and again on arrival at Avoca. The service, which was very impressive, was delivered by the Rev Mr Gray of the Presbyterian Church and a hymn was sung over the grave. This Unfortunate and melancholy accident has cast quite a gloom over Avoca and Homebush".

From "The Avoca Mail", 25th November, 1904 -

"A fire occurred last Sunday on the farms of Mr. Gordon Abbott, and Mrs. Sims, of Bung Bong, and destroyed some 40 acres of grass before it was stopped."

From The Avoca Mail, 22nd September, 1893 -

"Accident at The Working Miners’ : A Serious Burst of Sand and Water. A sudden burst of sand and water occurred in the Working Miners’ Homebush Company last evening, which fortunately was not attended by any loss of life, though several miners had a narrow escape. The day shift had just knocked off work at four o’clock, and the afternoon shift had just gone below and were making their way to the faces to work, when they saw the sand and water coming down on them from an old drive some 200 feet in length. To give the alarm, and make all haste to the shaft, was the work of an instant. It was not a moment too soon for the water came rushing onward, and the men made their way up the ladders, watching the logs and timber floating beneath them. In a very short space of time the water was 21 feet up the shaft and one of the pumps went wrong, either through being choked with sand, or something breaking. The other pump was also choked temporarily and the fly wheel came to a standstill, the engine being unable to move it. The result of this was that fully a dozen men then had to get on to the wheel to aid the engine in starting it, and luckily this had the desired effect. Pumping proceeded then without hindrance, though it dare not be stopped for a minute, or the pump would have become useless. Fortunately the sand soon settled down, and the water became clear; this aided the work and the water was lowered at the rate of eight inches in half an hour. It was anticipated last night that, unless a fresh burst occurred, the men would be able to get below today to commence cleaning up, but usual work cannot be resumed for some days. Of course the extent of damage done is not known, but it is sure to be somewhat considerable.

"The escape of the men amounts almost to a miracle, and had the burst occurred ten minutes later they certainly would not have got away, as they would have been 1,000 feet away from the shaft with the locality of the accident between them and the means of escape, and had it been ten minutes sooner, the day shift would have been caught as they were coming from work.

"It is most unfortunate that the mishap should have taken place, for we understand that gold likely to prove good had just been struck, which renders the occurrence the more deplorable."