ADHS Newsletter No. 141 SEPTEMBER, 1996

  • Talk by Gregory Eccleston on Major Mitchell
  • Death of Sylvia Greenwood
  • George Chambers and Michael Murphy/Hannah Williams reunions

On Sunday, 15th September, the Society commemorated the 160th anniversary of Major Thomas Mitchell’s ‘Australia Felix’ expedition, with a meeting held at the Lexton Community Centre, which is situated almost on the ‘Major’s Line’. We were pleased to have representatives from neighbouring Historical Societies present as well as interested folk from the surrounding district.

The speaker on this special occasion was Gregory Eccleston, the surveyor appointed by the Government in 1983 to follow Major Mitchell’s 1836 trek and create the Major Mitchell Long Distance Walking Track through Victoria (now known as the Major Mitchell Trail). This was a Bicentennial project to mark Victoria’s 150th anniversary in 1985. The basis for this project was a set of 1 : 100 000 topographical maps on which Mitchell’s route was plotted very accurately.

Greg’s extensive knowledge of, and enthusiasm for Mitchell’s ability as a surveyor and explorer soon became apparent, as was his admiration for his second-in-command, Granville Chetwynd Stapylton.

Major Thomas Livingston Mitchell was born in 1792 in Stirlingshire, Scotland, and served in the Peninsula War (Spain) between 1811 and 1814 as a military surveyor. He and his family arrived in Sydney in 1827 where Mitchell held the position of Surveyor-General of New South Wales from 1828 until his death in 1855.

His third expedition explored the country south of the Murray, which is now the State of Victoria, a region which Mitchell called ‘Australia Felix’. His party were the first Europeans to cover this area. Whilst Mitchell was aware of the settlement at Melbourne, he was very surprised to meet the Henty family at Portland. South of the Murray, Mitchell and his party traversed a distance of some 2,100 kilometres in 128 days, filling in the topographical features on what was, at that time, a blank map. In naming these features, Mitchell used the Aboriginal names where possible; in other cases, they were named for soldiers or places connected with the Peninsula War and even, at times, figures from Greek history. (Mount Cole was named on 23rd September, 1836, for Galbraith Lowrie Cole, a senior officer in the Peninsula War.)

The winter of 1836 was very wet. Mitchell had divided his party into two groups, leaving Stapylton in charge at Lake Repose, where that second group rested for two weeks before following. This was very easy because the wheels of the drays in the leading party, especially those of the heavy boat carriage, sank into the sodden ground and those ruts were to remain visible for many years. The ruts became known as ‘The Major’s Line’, which the early colonists followed on their trek south to the new pastures of the Western District and the ‘Line’ was also used when determining the location of land holdings in those early days.

Not only did Mitchell leave an easy-to-follow track for Stapylton, he also left messages in bottles in camp-fire sites. These messages might contain warnings of hostile Aborigines or perhaps rivers to be crossed, etc.

Mitchell was an outstanding observer of all aspects of his journeys and, through his skills as a surveyor, excellent sketcher and writer, each day he recorded in great detail, in pencil in his fieldbooks, information of geological interest, flora and fauna, geographical features, meteorological data, Aboriginal customs, etc. In the evening, he would write up his journal at the camp, which was always set up in the same precise military fashion.

After question time, Gary Presland, on behalf of the Society, thanked Greg. for sharing with us the results of his in-depth research and his admiration for both Mitchell and Stapylton on this expedition, which passed through the future site of Lexton on 25th September, 1836.

Special thanks for this successful function must go to Margaret and Harry Oulton for arranging and setting up the Lexton venue, and to a great band of helpers who assisted behind the scenes, who provided soup and casseroles for lunch, did the dishes, and cleaned and tidied the building afterwards. Grateful thanks to you all!

On Sunday, 22nd September, under the auspices of the Lexton Progress Association, a group of fifteen people braved the gale-force winds and assembled at the Major Mitchell cairn opposite the Lexton Primary School. With two good guides, Cr. Clark and Max Hobson, the party set out along the Major’s Line for a five kilometre walk, crossing Doctor’s Creek at approximately the same spot as Major Mitchell did on 25th September, 1836. Many of the walkers had attended our meeting the previous Sunday and had talked with Greg. Eccleston on various aspects of the Major’s trek across their properties on that third expedition. A week later, they were still discussing these areas of Greg’s research, especially the flora and fauna mentioned by the Major, now rare or extinct, like the white-footed tree-rat or rabbit rat of the Rostron area. This commemoration of the l60th anniversary of the ‘Australia Felix’ expedition through the Lexton area was enjoyed by all, despite the blustery conditions.

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The month of October brings us to our two-day display as our contribution to the annual Wool and Wine Festival. This will be held at the Court House on 19th and 20th October, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and the admission charge will be $3, which will include refreshments. The theme this year will be ‘Migration – Our Diverse Heritage’. As we are all descended from migrants to this country, we are looking to members to do a display about their own migrant ancestor and, if they were of Swedish, French, German, etc. origin, it will add some variety to the exhibition among the English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish backgrounds of so many of us. Volunteers are required to be at the Court House at 7.30 p.m. on Friday, 18th October, to set up. As always, we look to our members to support us with donations of scones, slices, biscuits, etc., to serve with the cups of tea and we will also welcome donations of goodies for the cake stall.

As a fund-raiser, we will be raffling a hamper of groceries on that weekend and donations of suitable items would be much appreciated. These can be left at the Court House or with Jan Burnett or Colleen Allan over the next few weeks.

Our Treasurer, Dorothy Robinson, is working on a project about the Avoca Primary School No. 4 and would be grateful to receive any memorabilia, names of former students and teachers, and photographs, etc. She can be contacted at 27 Orme Street, Avoca, 3467.

Member Eulie Driscoll advises that preparations are being made for the unveiling of a plaque to mark the discovery of gold by James Law at Barkly in 1858. It is hoped this will take place on Sunday, 15th December. More details later.

Our congratulations go to proud grandparents Elizabeth and Graeme Mills who have recently welcomed another little granddaughter to the family – Anna Jessie is a little sister for Rachel.

Members have been saddened to learn of the death of Sylvia Greenwood on l3th September and extend their deepest sympathy to her family. Sylvia was a true ‘local’, being a great-granddaughter of Rachel and William Jolly, the latter being employed by the Robertsons at Mt. Mitchell from 1856 to 1875. Sylvia was the youngest of the seven children of George Jolly and Rose Emma Elliott and was born in 1918 at Rathscar West. After her marriage to William Greenwood, they settled at Lower Homebush where they raised their family of five children. Sylvia was a great family historian, a long-time member of this Society, and contributed much to the Lower Homebush School, her association there spanning fifty years.

Reunions: CHAMBERS – Descendants of George Chambers (1831-1919) are invited to meet at the Anglican Church Hall, Cnr. Barnett and Russell Streets, Avoca, from 11 a.m. on October 13, 1996. George, born Lincolnshire, England, arrived in Victoria in 1852. He married twice and his twelve children were all born at Avoca. First wife, Ann Donohue (1834-1880) was mother of George Jnr. (1862-1952) m. 1891 Ann Sims; Thomas (1863-1903); John (1866-?) m. 1892 Elizabeth Leis/Jones; Annie (1868-?) m. 1888 Archibald Cathcart; William (1871-1901); Bertha (1873-1886); C lara (1875-1955) m. Thomas Waters. Second wife Margaret Randall (1855-1917) was mother of Millicent (1884-1967) m. 1907 Patrick McCarthy; Harold (1886-1949) m. 1904 Ada Rowland; Hubert (1888-1977) m. 1918 Jessie Myers; Elsie (1893-1982) m. 1919 Percy Bailey; Kathleen (1898-1996) m. 1920 Stuart Clifford. Contact person is Margaret O’Brien, Cant Road, Pine Grove, via Mitiamo, Vic. 3573 (Phone (054) 88 2290.

MURPHY/WILLIAMS: The descendants of Michael Murphy, a marine on the First Fleet 1788, and Hannah Williams, a convict on the Nile 1801, are planning a reunion at Warrnambool on Saturday and Sunday, 26th and 27th April, 1997. Contact is sought with descendants of their children – (1) Ellinor Murphy/Charles Lucas surnames include Baylis, Collins, Juniper, Thomsett, Gabbett, Hunter, Ashton, Despard, Williamson, Munro and Rannard/Reynolds. (2) Elizabeth Murphy/(a) Alexander McKenzie (b) John Porter © William Hughes, surnames include Haydon, Cock(s)/Cox, Gilbert, Myles, Hind(s), Pitt, Scott, Smithern, Marshall, Barnes and Herbert. (3) Jane Murphy/Theophilus Feutrill. (4) Michael Murphy Jnr./Sarah Baker surnames include Green, Winterbottom, Hartwell, Jenkins, Coffey and McCaldon. (5) Maria Murphy/Samuel Feutrill.Elizabeth and John Porter’s daughter, Mary Ann, married William Cock on 25.12.1843 at Launceston. Their children were Peter/Isabella Morrow; George/Sarah Eastward, Louisa/Thomas Gilbert; Elizabeth/George Myles; William/Annie Falkkenhagen; James/Margaret Madin; Samuel/Sarah Ward. The family moved to South Australia in 1849and to Ararat in the 1860s. Contact Margaret Oulton, P.O. Box 269, Caulfield East, 3145.