ADHS Newsletter No. 169 APRIL, 1999

Items of interest:

  • Fifteenth AGM Sunday 16 May, speaker Alleyne Hockley “The Chinese on the Castlemaine Goldfields”. Contact Jill Hunter 0354 672211
  • Avoca, Iowa, USA
  • 125th Anniversary of the Natte Yallock Primary School
  • Index of Deserters of Wives and Children 1880-1885 – From Vic Police Gazette. Includes 3,000 entries. Information on content and purchasing.
  • Can you help re Miss Helen Hart?
  • Avoca’s missing Watch House Charge Books, Occurrence Books, etc
  • Research on Avoca as it was in the period around WWI
  • Volunteers for the AIF, 1914. Names mentioned: Surgeon Captain Deane, Gus Ebeling, M Rafferty, Reg Johnson, W French, D Summers, V Samers, Mr Evans.
  • WWI Australia’s Heroes. Names mentioned: R Stavely, Sgt Rabey, Dr Bonnin, Lieut Douglas, Sgt Maj McDonald, Thos McLaughlin, A E Preston, Walter Barnes, Henry J Barnes, Edward T L Miles, A Worthingtn, Arch Mockett, Walter French, Corporal William French, Harold Davenport, Jno Mackereth, Rev O C Esperson, Chas A Gibson, A B Porter, Mr Jenkins, Fred Spiers, W H Bowen, Jas Irwin, A E Driscoll, R M Weldon, H B Weldon, Eb Reid, O Looney, Jos Moyle, Herbert Harbour, Gordon Brereton, William Brereton, Frank J McEwan, A R Edwards, George Towing, G H Stodart, W H Rayner, Arthur L Lofts, Mr Dridan, W Cameron, Bert Brown, Jas Douglas, Thos Phillips, Mr Cowan.
  • How to obtain WWI and WWII documents.
  • Avoca RSL. Names mentioned: Miss Larkin, T T Mitchell, V H Lowe, G H Featherstone, R Potter, H J Costello, Fred & Nita Gleisner, Cr K Jardine, J McDowell, N Peel, D Astbury, M West, Mr W Dawson .


The report of the Society’s general meeting held at the Court House on Sunday, 18th April, indicates very clearly that we have a very active, though small, group of members who put in many hours working on behalf of the Society. Our thanks to each of them for all that they do.

The Fifteenth Annual General Meeting of the Society will be held on Sunday, 16th May, 1999, at the Wesley Hall of the Uniting Church, Avoca, 12 o’clock for 12.30 p.m. This event is to be a fund-raiser. The three-course luncheon will be provided by a group of our local members so that the $10 per head being asked will be a donation to our Court House Restoration Fund. This has been a very successful event for the previous two A.G.Ms and members are keen to do the same again this year.

The speaker on this occasion will be member Alleyne Hockley and her topic is “The Chinese on the Castlemaine Goldfields”. Alleyne has spoken to our members twice before and her talks on the history of the Amherst area and its hospital have created much interest. Knowing the depth of her research, we look forward to hearing her speak again.

We would urge you to support this fund-raising event by phoning our Secretary, Jill Hunter, on 0354 67 2211, by the 7th May to say that you are coming. This will assist with our catering and the setting up of the hall.

Please note that the Court House will not be open on the day of the A.G.M.

Notification of our Annual General Meeting is enclosed in this newsletter. It includes a Nomination Form for those wishing to become more actively involved in the Society’s work, an Appointment of Proxy Form for completion by those unable to attend the meeting, and a Renewal of Membership notice. Membership fees fall due in May each year and are $14 for singles and $17 for a family. Prompt attention to this matter will help those working behind the scenes, especially the Treasurer and the mailing team and we thank you in anticipation.

As we are an incorporated body, it is necessary to have a minimum of 25-30 people present, including proxy votes. Members unable to attend are urged to forward their proxy votes to one of the current office bearers.

As at all A.G.Ms, an election of office bearers will take place. Remember that a society is only as good as those involved in the organisation of it and a shared workload makes things so much easier. With our present President and Secretary not being available for re-election, we would urge members, especially those residing in the Avoca area, to consider nominating for a position on the committee.

Looking Ahead – Dates to Mark in Your Diary –

19th – 20th June – OPEN DAY WEEKEND. The aim of this weekend is to familiarise folk in the Avoca district with our holdings, such as an excellent library, our extensive photo collection, index card system and all our facilities to help them get started on researching their own family tree. Along with our display and use of research facilities, our monthly meeting will be held on the Saturday at 2 pm at the Court House, whilst on the Sunday, bus tours will depart from the Court House at 1 pm, 2.30 pm and 4 pm, when Graeme Mills will act as tour guide to show visitors all the historical points of interest in the Avoca area. A $5 ticket will entitle the holder to a bus tour, entrance to our display and research centre, use of research facilities, and afternoon tea.

Sunday, 18th July – The ever-popular “Show and Tell”.

Sunday, 15th August – A working bee to prepare the Court House for the conservation workshop which this Society will host on Saturday, 11th September. This workshop is being run by the VCCCM (the Victorian Centre for the Conservation of Cultural Material). ( See Newsletter No. 168 for full details).

Avoca, Iowa, USA – Wendy Taylor reports that she is in constant touch, via e-mail, with five people in the town of Avoca in Iowa, USA. She recently received a copy of a local newspaper cutting with the headline, “Sixth Graders Meet Penpals in Avoca, Australia”, which indicates that the American children are as excited as their Australian counterparts here in Avoca with this opportunity to communicate with others far, far away via today’s technology. Jan Burnett and Colleen Allan also report being very busy assisting researchers.

125th Anniversary of the Natte Yallock Primary School – This very successful event was held over the Easter weekend, with over 800 people attending on Easter Saturday. Our President, Graeme Mills, conducted ten bus trips round the Natte Yallock area, pointing out places of interest, such as the sites of the old saw mills, blacksmith’s shops, old swimming holes, etc. The oldest pupil present was Mona Embleton (née Cain), now aged 94. Her 90-year-old sister, Alice Peck, also attended. Mona and the youngest pupil there unveiled a plaque at the school to mark the occasion.

Time Capsule to be buried at Natte Yallock – On Tuesday, 18th May, a time capsule is to be buried at the Natte Yallock Primary School, to be opened in 25 years time. Among the items to be placed in the capsule will be a current list of this Society’s holdings, a current newsletter and a membership form.

Index to Deserters of Wives and Children 1880-1885 – Helen Harris continues to keep busy indexing information to assist researchers and has compiled this new index from the weekly issues of the Victoria Police Gazette from 1880-1885. It contains over 3,000 entries relating to men who deserted their wives and or families, and women who deserted their children. While the indexes published in the Gazettes only list the name of the offender, this index includes all names published in each entry.

Details provided in the index include the offender’s name and, where known, their birthplace, age, occupation, the area in which they had been living, their possible future movements and known relatives. In a number of cases the victim also is named, and these entries have also been cross-referenced back to the offender.

An additional index of locations is included. Researchers may find this useful when seeking details of the paternity of an illegitimate child. If the birthplace of such a child is known, the locational index can be used to search for a possible matching entry, as the mother (usually unnamed in the Gazette entry) may have laid charges against the father, at a local court.

This index is available from Harriland Press, P.O. Box 92, Forest Hill, 3131, at a cost of $25.00 each, plus $1 postage within Australia.

Our thanks to Helen for her donation to the Society of a copy of this index.

Can You Help re Miss Helen Hart? Our member and founder, Helen Harris, is researching the life of Miss Helen Hart, who travelled all through Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and possibly Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australia, from 1880-1908, lecturing on a variety of subjects, including women’s rights. Helen is anxious to fill in several gaps regarding Helen Hart’s travels, particularly 1894-1896 when she was in the Broken Hill area, and 1905-06 when she was in South Australia. Helen would appreciate hearing from anyone who has come across a reference to this lady at any time, however slight, as it could provide a lead to her movements at that time. Helen Harris can be reached at 40 William Street, Box Hill, 3128, or e-mail hdharris@ozemail.com.au

Avoca’s Missing Watch House Chargebooks, Occurrence Books, etc. – Helen continues her research at the Public Record Office at Laverton and has submitted the following report on her latest ‘find’:- Since its inception, the Society has endeavoured to find police records relating to the early days of the district. The Avoca police station was the headquarters for the area, and thus a collection of Watch House Chargebooks, Occurrence Books, etc., would have been in existence. Our efforts were always in vain, and the file recently found in correspondence records at the Public Record Office shows why:

Avoca Station, 3rd December 1897

Report of Sen. Constable Monks: Re purchase of a case for old records.

I have to report that Supt. Maud instructed me today to forward to Maryborough a lot of old record books etc. from a room which is required for a Barrack room, a large case will be required to pack them in, the cost of purchasing a case will be 3/-. [The police department approved the expenditure, and the account was duly forwarded to headquarters, with the following memo from Supt. Maud:

Maryborough 15th December, 1897

Account herewith. I had the old books etc removed in order to provide increased accommodation for the mounted constable, thus saving the cost of repairing his present quarters.

Source: VPRS 807 Unit 70 No. 9028

Help is sought by our member Anne Young who is doing a local history course at the University of New England, Armidale, NSW. Her interest at present is focused on Avoca as it was in the period around World War I, including the war’s effect on the district and the community’s response to the war. As Anne lives in Canberra, much of her research is based on local newspapers. Perhaps some of our members could help with stories of how their own families in the Avoca area were affected during this period.

Anne can be contacted at P.O. Box 30, Red Hill, ACT, 2603, or e-mail to

Greg.Young@anu.edu.au and is willing to share her research.

Volunteers for the A.I.F., 1914 – With Anzac Day almost here as I write, the following article sent by Anne Young is of interest. It is from The Avoca Mail, Tuesday evening, 18th August, 1914, just two weeks after the outbreak of World War I:

“In response to an invitation for applications for volunteers for the Australian Expeditionary force, between twenty and thirty attended at Maryborough on Saturday last, including five from Avoca. They were examined by Surgeon-Captain Deane and only two failed to pass.

The Avoca volunteers were Messrs. Gus Ebeling (late Lieut South African contingent), M. Rafferty (who also served in South Africa), Reg. Johnson, W. French and D. Summers, all of whom passed the medical examination. Yesterday they were notified by wire to proceed to Melbourne to-day and they left by this morning’s train. Messrs. V. Samers and Evans have also volunteered and the former also left this morning to submit to the medical test. In Melbourne a final selection will be made and the chosen ones will be sent to Broadmeadows for three weeks training by which time everything will, it is anticipated, be in readiness for the transport of the 20,000 men as offered the Imperial Government by Australia.”

WWI AUSTRALIA’S HEROES (From “The Avoca Mail” of 12th February, 1916. My thanks to Helen Harris for this article. Ed.)

“The Avoca Shire Hall presented a very animated appearance on Wednesday morning, when 37 volunteers came forward for their final examination. Twenty-six were accepted, 4 were referred to the Dental Board and 7 were rejected. Mr. R. Stavely and Recruiting Sergt. Rabey were in charge of the local arrangements, and the splendid response made shows that good work is being done for the recruiting movement. Dr. Bonnin, of Ararat, was the examining officer, and Lieut. Douglas and Sergeant Major McDonald were also in attendance. The latter was associated with Recruiting Sergeant Rabey in the campaign at Gallipoli. The following is a list of the men who submitted themselves yesterday, also the names of recent volunteers:-

ACCEPTED – Mr. Thos. McLaughlin of Glenpatrick. This gentleman is well-known as one of the leading cricketers of the district. He is a good sport, but has discarded the willow to take up the rifle and do his share for the Empire. The Glen people are justly proud of their hero. Mr. A .E. Preston also comes from Glenpatrick, and he had no difficulty in passing the test. The bracing air up among the mountains must be conducive to good health, as Glenpatrick scored the possible.

Mr. Walter Barnes of Warrenmang, has been engaged in contracting work for the Avoca shire, and should be very fit to take on the strenuous duties of a soldier. Mr. Henry J. Barnes of Warrenmang is a brother of the last-named, and is well-known throughout this district. Mr. Edward T.L. Miles is another of the Warrenmang contingent, and is very popular amongst a large circle of friends. Mr. A. Worthington has also brought honor to Warrenmang by joining the colors. He is a good athlete, and a promising young man.

Mr. Arch Mockett, of Avoca, enlisted here, and is already in camp. He has been congratulated on all sides on his patriotism. Mr. Walter French is a son of Mrs. French of Avoca Lead, and a brother of Corporal William French. Mr. Harold Davenport hails from Birmingham, England, and has been in the employ of Mr. Jno. Mackereth of Avoca for some time. Harold is very enthusiastic, and anxious to do his best for the Motherland.

The Rev. O.C. Esperson, Anglican minister of Landsborough, enlisted at Avoca, and passed the final examination at Ararat. The action of the rev. gentleman is likely to give a stimulus to recruiting in the district.

Mr. Chas. A. Gibson is a resident of Lamplough, and is well-known locally.

Mr. A. B. Porter of Avoca is prominent in local Methodist and Rechabite circles. Like Mr. Mockett, he is a married man.

Mr. Jenkins, engineer of the Lexton shire, is giving up a lucrative position to join the ranks. He passed the final examination at Ararat.

Mr. Fred Spiers, who was also accepted at Ararat, has been engaged in business at Amphitheatre for many years, and is one of the leading residents of that township.

Mr. W. H. Bowen belongs to Amphitheatre; this centre also has done well in providing volunteers.

Mr. Jas. Irwin, who passed on Wednesday, comes from Redbank. His brother is on active service.

Mr. A. E. Driscoll resides at Barkly, from which place many young men have enlisted.

Mr. R. M. Weldon, after being rejected previously, was accepted at Ararat. His father, Mr. H. B. Weldon, is head teacher of the State School at Barkly.

Mr. Eb. Reid is a son of Mr. and Mrs. John Reid of ‘Mount View’, Avoca; as a concert performer, Mr. Reid has always given his services freely for all patriotic, charitable, and other deserving objects. He will be greatly missed, but his friends will be pleased to learn that he has thrown in his lot with Australia’s heroes.

Mr. O. Looney of Amphitheatre, is connected with the Education Department, and has charge of the State School at Lamplough. He is a brother of Mrs. Jos. Moyle of Avoca.

Mr. Herbert Harbour is a son of Mr. and Mrs. J. Harbour of Avoca River, and is a member of the local branch of the A.N.A. and is a promising rifle shot.

Mr. Gordon Brereton of Avoca is a son of Mr. William Brereton, one of our shire officers. He has been used to farm work and life in the open, and should make an excellent soldier.

Mr. Frank J. McEwan of Homebush Lower, was connected with the cricket, football and other local sporting bodies, and is a valued citizen. The family have been residing at Homebush for many years.

The already lengthy list of Lexton recruits was swelled by the addition of Mr. A. R. Edwards, who passed at Avoca on Wednesday.

Messrs. George Towning (sic), G. H. Stoddart and W. H. Rayner were amongst the successful men from Amphitheatre, whilst Arthur L. Lofts of Lexton was accepted for service. Mr. Dridan, another of the successful volunteers, comes from Amphitheatre.

Mr. W. Cameron, one of the men accepted on Wednesday, is a recent arrival at Avoca. Mr. Bert Brown has followed the occupation of a wheelwright at Avoca for some years. As previously reported, Mr. Norman McCracken of Avoca was accepted in Melbourne. He has shown a fine patriotic spirit right through, having been previously rejected.

Referred to Dental Board – Mr. Jas. Douglas, Homebush Lower; Mr. Thos. Phillips, Navarre; Mr. Cowan, Amphitheatre.

WWI PERSONNEL RECORDS SERVICE – Fact Sheet No. 62 Australian Archives.

The National Office of the Australian Archives in Canberra holds the personal service dossiers for members of the First Australian Imperial Force, Australian Flying Corps, Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force, Royal Australian Naval Bridging Train, Australian Army Nursing Service, and Depot or home records for personnel who served within Australia. Approximately 420,000 dossiers are held. A photocopy of a dossier can be obtained by applying to the following address: WWI Personnel Records Service, Australian Archives, P.O. Box 117, Mitchell, ACT, 2911. A charge of $15 per complete dossier covers handling, photocopying and postage.

WWII PERSONNEL RECORDS – Inquiries about those who served with the Army during WWII and more recent campaigns should be directed to the Soldier Career Management Agency, GPO Box 393 D, Melbourne, Vic. 3001. Where a serviceman or servicewoman saw service in both WWI and WWII, the records have usually been amalgamated on a WWII dossier held by SCMA. SCMA also process all applications for medal entitlements. Inquiries must be submitted in writing.


PERMANENT MILITARY FORCES (PMF) DOSSIERS – Copies of nominal rolls for most Victorian and NSW Boer War units and some units from other States are available on microfilm in all offices of Australian Archives. All inquiries relating to information from the dossiers of Boer War service personnel should be directed to the Victorian office at the following address. Dossiers are held for a third of the approximately 15,000 who saw Boer War service. These relate mainly to those who saw service in the Commonwealth battalions following Federation in 1901. No similar records appear to have existed for those who served with colonial units (i.e. pre-Federation). For information, write to – Melbourne Archives Centre, GPO Box 432PP, Melbourne, 3001.


The Australian War Memorial holds citations for most recommendations for honours and awards from Australia’s participation in all 20th century conflicts and information relating to the Red Cross. The AWM holds official Commonwealth records such as nominal rolls, embarkation rolls and unit diaries, and privately donated papers such as letters and diaries.

Contact: Australian War Memorial GPO Box 345, Canberra ACT 2601, Tel. (02) 6243 4315

AVOCA RETURNED SERVICEMEN’S LEAGUE (From a Souvenir Booklet on Avoca issued in 1974). Shortly after the termination of the Great War, 1914-18, a branch of the R.S.L. was formed in Avoca. Unfortunately the Movement collapsed soon after its inauguration, and it was not until 1934 that the interest was revived.

On August 14 of that year, a meeting was held at Miss Larkin’s Cafe (next door to the present newsagent) and approx. 90 per cent of the district men attended.

The President of the Progress Association occupied the chair at the meeting, the outcome of which was the re-forming of the Branch. Officers elected were – President, T. T. Mitchell, Vice-presidents, Messrs. V. H. Lowe and G. H. Featherstone, Treasurer, Mr. R. Potter, and Secretary, H. J. Costello.

After the 2nd World War, 1939-45, members met wherever they could, and in May, 1958, commenced building the present R.S.L. Memorial Hall, Avoca Branch. This was built by members and friends with working bees.

Some time later the Branch formed an indoor Bias Bowls Club, instigated by Fred and Nita Gleisner. This club is still very strong and active with mixed social bowling Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.

The Avoca sub-branch meets on the 2nd Tuesday of the month and each year holds a very successful Smoke Social. Present office bearers are – President, Cr. K. Jardine, J.P., Vice-presidents, J. McDowell and N. Peel, country v-p, D. Astbury, Treasurer, M. West, and Secretary, Cr. M. W. Dawson, J.P.

The R.S.L. is blest with a very strong and active Ladies Auxiliary who assist us financially each year, and of which we are justly proud.


The Fifteenth Annual General Meeting of the Avoca and District Historical Society Inc. will take place on Sunday, 16th May, 1999, at 12 noon for 12.30 pm at Wesley Hall, at the Avoca Uniting Church. The guest speaker will be Mrs. Alleyne Hockley who will speak on the Chinese on the Castlemaine Goldfields.

The business of the Meeting shall be to receive the Reports of the President, Treasurer and Auditor, to confirm the minutes of the previous Annual General Meeting and to elect office bearers. Any member wishing to bring forth any special business must give notice to that effect to the Secretary, Mrs. Jill Hunter, “Stronvar”. R.M.B. 4342, St. Arnaud, Vic. 3478, by the 10th May, 1999. Nominations for office bearers shall be on the attached form and must be forwarded to the Secretary by the same date.