ADHS Newsletter No. 215. JANUARY, 2004

Items of interest -

Garage Sale on Saturday 14th February 2004 from 9 a.m. at The Court House - As this is our main fundraiser for the year we ask for the full support of our members. Donations of any items for sale may be left at the Court House, or contact Colleen Allan 5465 3296 to make other arrangements. Melbourne Members please ring Margaret and Harry Oulton on 9596 2500 - Please remember we cannot accept electrical goods. Help will be required to price the goods in readiness for sale whilst assistance with the setting up and dismantling of Stalls on the day would be appreciated Don’t forget to come along, bring your friends and make this day a success. Our first meeting for 2004 will take place at the Court House at 2pm on Saturday 14th February following the Garage Sale.

Looking ahead - A visit to St Arnaud on Sunday 21st March 2004 - We are to travel by private transport, meeting at Old Malcolm’s Inn, a B & B which also serves Devonshire teas at Stuart Mill at 1-30pm. Then, after an inspection of that premises, we will proceed to St Arnaud for the remainder of the tour.

Denis Strangman will be our guest speaker at our next AGM on 16th May 2004. Some years ago, Denis did an in-depth study on the history of Lamplough, which was published in a quarterly journal of the Royal Historical Society of Victoria. To date, we understand it remains the only attempt at writing up the history of this area and we are sure a talk by Denis on this topic will create much interest among family history researchers.

Change of Address - Rural Numbering System - As will be noticed at the top of this newsletter, both our President and Correspondence Secretary now have new addresses, under the Rural Numbering System, which took effect on 17th November. We ask that those members affected by this change in postal address please notify the Society of their new address by ringing Jan Burnett on 5465 3265, or by writing to her as soon as possible, so that our records can be up-dated.

Report on Fraser Reunion and Book Launch - Late last year, Saturday November 8th 2003, the Avoca Shire Hall played host to a reunion of the Fraser family A total of around 150 descendants of Duncan Fraser and his sister Margaret (McArdle) gathered for an afternoon of reminiscing, reaquainting with old friends and meeting new relatives. Descendants travelled from as far as Mildura, Murtoa, Melbourne, Adelaide and Bairnsdale, with many staying overnight at various motels in Avoca.

It was the first reunion to include the whole Fraser clan descendants, since Duncan, Margaret and their older sister, Isabella, migrated from Scotland with their mother, Catherine (Ross) back in 1865. The Frasers originally settled in Natte Yallock, Rathscar area. Margaret married Charles McArdle and remained in Rathscar, whilst Isabella married and moved to New Zealand. Duncan married Amelia Castleman in Avoca

before they embarked on a 25 year tour of Victoria. They eventually returned to Avoca in the early 1900s and then settled at No. 1 Creek.

At the reunion, a book written by Ashley Fraser, Great Grandson of Duncan, through the Donald George/ Donald Hugh Fraser line, was launched with over 160 copies sold. The Avoca Historical Society, along with a number of other sources was credited in the book for helping provide information. A copy of the book was donated to the Society as a gesture of thanks.

Contributed by: Lorraine Fraser and Family

Return of Restored Dray to Toll Bar Park - The arrival of the restored dray at Toll Bar Park on Sunday, 30th November, was a direct contrast in many ways to that of the restored wagon last June. Whereas the l4th June was an extremely cold day, the 30th November was an unpleasantly hot one. And while the return of the wagon was much publicised and created great interest as it slowly made its way from Maldon to Lexton, drawn by a team of magnificent Clydesdales over a period of three days, the dray was transported from Maldon to its permanent home with much less fanfare, and its arrival was quite a low-key event. However, Mr. Geof. Little, who again did the restoration of the historic vehicle, showed that his feeling for history runs much deeper than his involvement in his restoration work, for he also transported one of his Clydesdales to pull the dray as it made its grand entrance into Toll Bar Park.

Again, it was a time for reminiscing for those in attendance who once worked the land with horses. We know that one of the very senior members of our Society sat on the park's chock-and-log fence, watching Geof. closely as he harnessed the horse, quietly approving each move and going back in time to the days when, as a l5-year-old, this was his task each morning on the farm where he was employed.

With the horse harnessed between the shafts of the dray, Geof. then moved off, taking the vehicle on a tour 'round the block' before coming into the park, where the dray is now exhibited alongside the wagon in a specially built shelter .

During the formalities of the hand-over, Geof. was presented with a copy of Margaret Oulton's book on the history of the Shire of Lexton, "A Valley of the Finest Description". Those of you who are familiar with this book will know that the cover features a magnificent painting of the crossroads at Lexton, with the old Pyrenees Hotel and the Court House in the background and a loaded wagon drawn by Clydesdales in the foreground. As Geof. cast his practised eye over the harnessing of the horses depicted, he commented that whoever painted the picture knew exactly what they were doing! So our congratulations to the artist, Anne McGregor (now Mrs. Anne Briody, of Lexton). Incidentally, both of those buildings in the painting still stand today.

Like the wagon, the dray was donated by P. J. Ryan and family, of Waubra, and Mr. Ryan's daughter (Mrs. Verna Loader) and granddaughter were in attendance at the park to see the completed restoration and arrival of the old vehicle. After the formalities, members of the Lexton Progress Association hosted an informal barbecue lunch for the official guests.

At a future date, and to complete this project, it is proposed to place an historical interpretative plaque, including old photographs, beside the vehicle shelter in the park indicating the importance of the wagon and the dray as symbols of the history of Lexton.

(See Newsletter No.212 for the full report on the restored wagon.)

Contributed by: Lorna Purser 9th January, 2004.

Members’ Interests Directory; 2003 - There are still a few copies of 2003 Members’ Interests Directory. If any members would like one, please write to Mrs. Lorna Purser at 250 Burwood Highway, Burwood VIC 3125, enclosing a long, self addressed and stamped envelope and get a copy by return mail

Settlers In The Sun - 5th Victorian State Family History Conference - This Conference will take place at St Joseph’s College, 12th Street, Mildura, 16-18 April 2004, proudly hosted by the Mildura and District Genealogical Society Inc., under the auspices of the Victorian Association of Family History Organisations Inc. (VAFHO). Those interested in attending should contact the Registration Officer, "Settlers In The Sun", P.O. Box 3467, Mildura VIC 3502 Telephone Numbers are 03 5023 2313 (ah) or 03 5027 6228 (ah).

The e-mail address is whilst the web-site is Those wishing to attend are advised to book accomodation early, as there will be several other major events taking place at the same time in the Mildura area.

Cornish Festival in Bendigo, 27-29 February, 2004 - The aim of this Festival is to focus attention on life in Cornwall during the 19th century, the mass migration to Australia and the subsequent lives and achievements of those early pioneers. Activities like the ancient Celtic Bardic Ceremony will centre on the Bendigo Town Hall on Saturday, the 28th, whilst a Cornish Picnic will be held at the White Hills Gardens on the Sunday. Other features will include the St. Piran’s Festival Dinner, heritage walking tours, goldfield mining tours, historic displays and a church service. To obtain full information about this festival, contact Mrs. Alison Chapman, Publicity Officer for the Bendigo Festival Committee, on 03 9555 3645 or web-site


Full extract from’Avoca Mail’ 11th July 1884

A disastrous fire, resulting in the total destruction of Messrs. Green Bros’s Flour Mills which occupy a central situation in High Street Avoca, occurred at about 2 o’clock on Thursday morning. At that hour, the inhabitants of the town were in a state of complete repose, not a sound breaking the peaceful monotony of the night, save (perhaps) the solitary footsteps of the one guardian of the peace now left to do duty in Avoca. The denizens of the town however, were rudely awakened and startled into sudden activity by a shrill feminine voice proclaiming the unwelcome fact that a large and destructive fire was then raging without any check whatever, in the main street, owing to the entire absence of any local agency in the shape of a fire brigade to suppress it. The brightening glare occasioned by the fierce and remorseless flames at once indicated the exact locality of the conflagration, and showed at a glance that the building was Messrs. Green Bros’ Flour Mills, and its contents were doomed to complete destruction by fire. The building was a three storey brick structure, and had been in the occupation of Messrs. Green Bros., who were doing a lucrative trade for about 10 years. Mr. William Shields, who occupies an adjoining tenement belonging to the same firm, was the first to perceive the outbreak, and he lost no time in calling Mr. Green’s attention to it. By the time however, attention had been fully aroused, the work of devastation was proceeding unchecked, and though a number of persons had been attracted to the spot, it was even then at once evident that the fire had obtained such a hold of the building as to render it hopeless to attempt to save any part of the structure. The interior was one roaring mass of fire, with the timbers crackling with the intensity of the heat, and threatening injury to the adjoining store in the occupation of Mr. E. Kelley.

The inmates of the latter who were thrown into a state of great alarm and excitement, aided by the assistance of the spectators, quickly adopted such means as suggested themselves to prevent the spread of the fire to that building, which is separated from the mill by means of two narrow rights-of-way. Water was procured from Mr. Kelley’s tanks ( for he has several large ones), and blankets were saturated with it and nailed to the side of the house next exposed to the burning mill. Necessarily a great deal of excitement and confusion prevailed. When the fire originated the wind was blowing from a south westerly direction, and consequently threatened Mr. Kelley’s premises with immediate danger; but it is a most fortunate circumstance that the wind, by suddenly veering round to the north-west quarter, changed the direction of the fierce fiery current, and by sweeping it across the main road, saved Mr. Kelley’s premises from being enveloped in the burning mass. Otherwise Mr. Kelley’s place of business must have succumbed to the flames, for although a narrow strip of roadway divides the two places, such was the great heat and strength of the fiery mass, and the scattering of the sparks, that the blast was immense, and but for the circumstance mentioned would have caused ignition, more especially as the back portion of Mr. Kelley’s establishment is composed of weatherboard. As it is, all that was saved is one of the ledgers and a few bags of flour of inconsiderable value.

The northern gable end of the front portion of the mill was completely split by the force of the heat, a large crack being visible from the base almost to the summit of the building. Between 700 and 800 bags of wheat, valued at 3s 6d per bushel were destroyed completely. The machinery which is much damaged consisted of an 11 horse power engine and mills together with the ordinary milling gear. The mill had been in full operation during the whole of the previous day, and when Mr. Green left the premises at half past 12 o’clock at midnight everything was safe and intact as usual.

The police passed the mill about half-past 12 o’clock, and then there was nothing to indicate that a fire was to happen so soon afterwards. Another gentleman went by the mill about a quarter past 1 o’clock, but saw no sign of fire or anything wrong, The fire having exhausted itself burned completely out, although the embers were smouldering today. Besides the engine there were a corn-crusher and chaff-cutter, all the woodwork of which is destroyed and the other parts damaged. Mr. Green estimates the loss of the firm at 2,000 pounds; but this is covered to the extent of 1,500 pounds by the amount of the policy in the Royal Insurance Company.

Great sympathy is expressed for Messrs. Green Bros., for although the bulk of the property is covered by the insurance, their loss in the stoppage that must ensue to their business, and the general confusion that prevails and paralyses business after such a fire, must be considerable, if not ruinous. The owners of the mill are old residents, and have occupied it since its erection, some 20 years ago, and enjoy the general respect and esteem of the entire community,

A further report from ‘Avoca Mail’ 25th July 1884

Mr W.P. Gilbert, who has been interesting himself in forming a local Fire Brigade, has recently received a communication from Mr. Superintendent Hoad, of Melbourne, from which it appears that the cost of a fire engine with the necessary appliances to be worked by from 20 to 30 men would amount to something like 200 pounds.

There is hardly a doubt but that the establishment of a local brigade would lead to a substantial reduction in the rate of insurance of premises, besides being an invaluable safeguard to life and property. The question therefore, alone is the practicability of raising the requisite funds - for the propriety of establishing so useful an organisation is unquestioned - and one means suggested is that donations be solicited from the various insurance companies represented in the town, whilst another is that the amount thus collected should be augmented by contributions from property holders, for whose special benefit the brigade would be created. In addition to these a few demonstrations and torchlight processions, with open air concerts by a local Fire Brigade Band, would, it is anticipated, increase the amount available sufficiently to make a good start.

We learn that Messrs Green Brothers, of the Avoca Flour Mills, so recently destroyed by fire, have received the award of the Royal Insurance Company in which they were insured, covering the whole amount of the damage occasioned by the disaster. This, we believe, is the first fire which has occurred in Avoca since the establishment of the local agency conducted by Mr. Edward Kelley, and the promptitude with which the claim of Messrs. Green Brothers has been settled, while reflecting credit on the business capacity of the Company, must be very satisfactory to the unfortunate sufferers.

(Note: The Avoca Fire Brigade was duly established. Fires attended were recorded in a Fire Report Book. Surviving books dating from the 1880’s to 1950’s have been indexed by the Society. They show both the owner and occupier of the building, the construction materials, the date and extent of the fire, insurance coverage etc,)


From its commencement in 1984, the Society has issued a Newsletter. At first, when I wrote it, it was simply a two page sheet. In May 1986 I asked for a volunteer to take on the position of Newsletter Editor, purely as a temporary measure , as I was going overseas. Lorna Purser kindly offered to do so, and continued, with only a few breaks for her own overseas holidays, until the end of 2003. The Newsletter gradually expanded to four, five, then from June 1989, the six pages members receive today. Lorna commenced on a manual typewriter, and continued in this fashion until 1996, when she and Jack decided to buy a computer. Having got it home and turned it on, they were unsure what to do next, so I got a phone call asking for advice. Naturally I dispatched my husband Gary to sort things out (that’s what husbands are for, after all). That night he spent a number of hours explaining the basics of operating a computer, before discovering that there was a CD tutorial already provided. Along the way, Jack asked about ‘sloppy discs’, so it was clear to Gary the pair had a bit of learning to do.

Although there were more worried phone calls, Lorna picked up the workings of a computer fairly quickly, and the Newsletter continued as ever. In all these years I don’t think I’ve ever found a spelling or grammatical error in the Avoca Newsletter, unlike a lot of others I could name. While this is mainly due to Lorna and her secretarial training of many years ago, it helped to have Jack doing the proof reading, as a backup.

An editor needs material for the Newsletter, and while a number of members provided some historical material, it was Lorna and Jack who travelled from Melbourne and attended and wrote accounts of Society happenings; who read other newsletters and extracted items of interest; and who generally kept us all up to date with what was happening, not merely at Avoca, but in the wider genealogical and historical world. The Society owes an enormous debt of gratitude to Lorna and Jack for all their work over the years, and on behalf of the Society, I extend our grateful thanks and good wishes for their retirement.

Contributed by: Helen Doxford Harris OAM, Founder and Honorary Life Member.

Garage Sale on Saturday 14th February 2004 from 9 a.m. at The Court House - As this is our main fundraiser for the year we ask for the full support of our members. Donations of any items for sale may be left at the Court House, or contact Colleen Allan 5465 3296 to make other arrangements. Melbourne Members please ring Margaret and Harry Oulton on 9596 2500 - Please remember we cannot accept electrical goods. Help will be required to price the goods in readiness for sale whilst assistance with the setting up and dismantling of Stalls on the day would be appreciated Don’t forget to come along, bring your friends and make this day a success. This is a repeat of the first item on Page 1. The success of this event will minimise the need to increase member subscriptions.