By courtesy of the Proprietor of the Dunmunkle
"In October 1871, myself, Martin Uhe, Fred and Gustav Degenhardt,
set out from Mt. Gambier to look for land in the back country. Driving along the Penola
Road we saw a party camping and I went over to them and found an old friend, Ernest Boehm
from the Bremmer, S.A. I told him we were going to Naracoorte to look for land. He said it
was no good going there as he had been there. He invited us to go with him to Horsham in
the Wimmera district, 150 miles away. He explained the Liberal Land Act, and under what
conditions we could each select 320 acres. He said he had been there and selected and was
going back to build his house; then he would bring his family. We consulted together as it
was my team of horses and we could travel slowly only, being unprepared to travel a long
After two and a half days we arrived at Mt. Arapiles, where we met a lot of farmers who
had selected previously, including Sudholz, Kruse, Bretach, Hauestorfer and a few more -
all Mt. Gambier farmers. All were on the land preparing to build houses. When we arrived
at Boehm's selection, at the entrance to Lake Natimuk, we found that the whole of the
frontage to the lake was open for selection, so we pegged around the water. It was all
red, tussocky ground. We knew what sort of land that was for wheat growing; we had no
faith in the crab-holey ground on account of the cracks in it, some being more than two
feet deep and we could not see how that type of land could hold moisture.
After pegging, we went back to Mt. Gambier to furnish ourselves with survey fees,
intending to return to see the land surveyed. When we got the needful funds, we returned
to shepherd our pegs. On reaching Mt. Arapiles, we camped at Jackie-Jackie. There a couple
of swaggies came over to us and asked for tea, and one of them said; "I suppose you
are looking for land, what will you give if I lay you on to some good country - all open
plains, no timber, no stones, you can put the plough into it and work away - there is a
nice lake with plenty of water and plenty of wildfowl on it? I have been shepherding there
for 17 years and the lake never went dry. The information is worth 5 pounds. I will direct
you and if it is not what I say, don't pay me anything." Gustav said; "Now old
man, we will pay you 10 shillings if you tell us where to go and if the land is as
represented, you will find us there and shall have your fiver on top of the 10
shilling." He agreed and then instructed us to reach the place called Marma Gully,
but warned us against the squatter who would tell us nothing. I forgot to mention that
Gustav Degenhardt had sent word to an Adelaide friend Herman Volprecht, to make one of the
party and he had joined us.
We left Jackie-Jackie and went straight to Horsham, where we called on Robert Clarke, a
storekeeper, for information about the place. As Volprecht had his father in law living at
Drung Drung, where the land was taken up a couple of years before, we decided to go there
first. Driving along the road we saw a splendid crop of wheat as high as the fence and out
On examining the land, we found it to be all crab-holes and full of cracks, and at once
we changed our opinion about crab-holey ground. We returned to Horsham and again called on
Robert Clark, who told us of a boundary rider on Longerenong Station, names Harry Friend
who was willing to take us to Marma Gully, as he had selected there. He took us in a
straight course across the plains. We passed where the Longerenong College now stands and
saw the first pegs with the name "Bodey"; they were the only pegs we saw.
At last we arrived at Marma Gully. Harry Friend had pegged 180 acres on the corner
where the Church of England now stands at Murtoa. We camped along side of Friend's tent.
The only house was a shepherd's hut, which the squatter afterwards burned down. After
inspecting the land, we pegged a block for each around the water. M Uhe who was the oldest
had first pick and he took the block next to Harry Friend, on the east side of the lake.
After drawing lots for the others, Volprecht got the adjoining block to Uhe. G Degenhardt
took the block to the north west side adjoining him. Fred Degenhardt was next to me, so
that the whole lake frontage was pegged.
Although we waited there till the middle of December, we could hear nothing of the
survey party, so we were compelled to break camp and return to Mt. Gambier to take of our
crops. We were then tilling rented land at Mt. Gambier, paying 10 shillings per acre per
year. We finished in the middle of February and I told F Degenhardt and Uhe that I was off
to the Wimmera - that I was not going to pay 10 shillings per acre rental, when I could
open land at 2 shillings per acre and make it my own in ten years. Of course, there were
objections on account of the women folk, as no houses were prepared and the nearest store
would be 20 miles away at Horsham. How were they going to live? I said, "never mind,
we will find ways and means to pull through." When they saw that I was determined,
they resolved to follow. We made sack tents over the waggons and off we went. I took the
lead, Uhe and Degenhardt followed. Everything went well, till approaching Natimuk, when
heavy rain fell making the roads sticky and we had to double bank the teams. When we got
within a mile and a half of Marma, we had to double bank again. To make it easier on the
horses, the women and children had to walk and soon got tired of kicking the mud from
their boots. Mrs. Uhe said; "Oh what a terrible country you are taking us to."
Of course they were unused to Wimmera mud.
At last we arrived at Lake Marma and each camped on the block he had pegged to within 3
chains of the high water mark, that being the condition of the Land Act. M Uhe, F
Degenhardt and myself with our families, were the first lot of settlers at Marma Gully and
we arrived on 16th March 1872, which date I recollect as it was my wife's birthday. G
Degenhardt, Volprecht and Hoff arrived six or 8 weeks afterwards with their families.
Uhe's family consisted of wife and 8 children; F Degenhardt, wife and 4 children; myself,
wife and 4 children and my brother Herman Anders, making 23 in all, the first settlers in
Murtoa as it was afterwards called.
At last the land was surveyed, but I was disappointed as I was put back 20 chains from
the lake, so was F Degenhardt. G Degenhardt's block started at Rabl's corner and ran east.
Friend's block started at the Church of England corner, running east. We were then able to
go to work at fencing and building our houses. One day a gentleman drove up and told me
that he was an officer of the Lands Department, here to see how we were getting on with
our improvements. He enquired why I was building so far from the water and I told him the
boundary line was only a chain away. He pulled out a map and informed me that I should be
closer to the lake than Degendardt on the opposite side. He marked something on the map
and said, "I'll look into that." After a while G Degenhardt received notice that
40 acres would be excised from his block and Friend that 20 acres would be taken from his,
for township purposes. They left F Degenhardt and me where we were. Three years after,
Murtoa township was surveyed.
When Degenhardt and Hoff arrived, they settled on the east side of the lake at the
corner of Marma and Duncan Streets and lived in tents. We used to call it the Calico
Township. These later families all told numbered 19, making the total population of the
settlement 42. Breen and Sheehan selected south of Friend. Selectors soon surrounded the
place, including Kiefel, Cromyn, Delahunty Bros., Tobin, Adler, Jellet Bros., Seery,
Habel, J. B. Millar and others - all of whom may be classed as the first settlers around
Murtoa. My first crop was 28 acres of wheat, about 12 bushels to the acre and Stawell was
our market. Friend told me to steer straight toward Mt. Ararat.