Hudson at Murtoa -- Past Links Revealed

Paul Anders Story

By courtesy of the Proprietor of the Dunmunkle Standard.

"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 distance.

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 in ear.

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.

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So Uhe, F Degenhardt and I loaded our waggons and we landed the first wheat in Stawell, that was ever grown around Murtoa. The first wheel track that we made to Stawell in 1873, was used for many years after. The first child born at Murtoa was a daughter of Harry Friend's. (As he was an old station hand and not a farmer, I think we cannot count him among the first settlers. William McClintock also lived for many years before that on Longerenong Station, so did Doyle, who built the first public house at Murtoa.)

The second child born was my daughter Augusta, the third was G. Degenhardt's daughter Alma, and the fourth, a daughter of R. Sheehan. One day we had a visit from the old shepherd, whom we met at Jackie-Jackie, and who told us about Marma Gully. Of course he found us settled there and he came for his 5 pound note ($10). We clubbed together and he got his money according to our promise, as we could thank Tommy - that's what we called him - that we found Marma Gully."