Edited highlights of a talk given at a combined
guild afternoon, hosted by Murtoa Catholic Women's Guild in April 1967. Kind permission to
publish given by Jenny Rabl and Jenny Uhe. Doctor Rabl gave a brief account of the Paul
Ander's story in his introduction and then went on to say -
"Now the next
thing that happened was that very shortly afterwards, other selectors began to arrive,
notably the Irishmen from Warrnambool. There were the Delahunty brothers and their mother.
Seerys who were a big family from South Australia settled north of the cemetery and the
two Comyn brothers were where Vincent Delahunty now lives. German settlers came - the
Adlers, Schaches, Schul(t)zes and Nowotmas whose families are still here. You can see it
went in circles, square circles if you like around the lake. The first settlers, around
them the Irishmen and around them the next lot of Germans. That all happened within about
12 months and inside two years I think there were something like 24 families.
The first thing they would think of, especially the German settlers, was a church and a
school. They applied to the Education Department that a school be supplied, but no
satisfaction came. So they set about themselves to build a school, which was a mud brick
establishment which they built with their own hands, about where the court house stands
today, next to the kindergarten. It was thatched with rushes from the lake. They got their
teacher, a German by the name of Meyer, who couldn't speak English. Gustav Degenhardt knew
him and brought him here and he was the teacher for only 2 years until Mr. John Walther
came. John Walther had a large family and he remained here for many years. About 3 years
after he came, about 1876-77, the Education Department then built a school and took on
John Walther as the teacher. The Education Department took over many of the private
schools at that time and took over the teachers as well, as happened to John Walther. He
remained for many years of his life here. Mr. Walther was a very talented man and after he
retired from the Education Department he taught music for many years. He taught piano and
he was choir master at St. Johns Lutheran Church for many years. He and his wife lived in
Duncan Street, as a matter of fact they lived next to where my grandmother lived, so I saw
quite a lot of them.
The old school building was also used by St. Johns Church as well, then when the
Education Department built the new school, St Johns decided to build their new church up
on the hill, the one which has just been pulled down. Eventually the old school was
shifted, I don't know how, but it stood for many years as a cow shed about the place where
Mr. Villiers house is now. I remember the thatched roof was there and the poles and the
remainder of the pug wall, and Mr. Walther used it as a cowshed for many years. The town
itself was surveyed about 1875. To establish the town, 20 acres was taken from Friend and
40 acres from Gustav Degenhardt and they were given land further from the lake as
The first general store was where Curringtons now is [ since demolished ] at the corner
of Marma and Duncan Streets. It was a tin establishment built by a man named Anderson.
There were two Anderson brothers and I remember one as they lived here for some years
before going to Western Australia. Lawrence Anderson came back here and lived for many
years. Of bricks made here, he built the two story brick shop occupied by Mr. Currington.
Those bricks were made at the Sawpit Swamp where there was a brickworks operating. That
building is the only one I know built of Murtoa bricks and still standing. It has stood
for 85 years.
My father of course was a much later arrival, he didn't come here until 1884. But there
was a Doctor here before that, a Dr. Garlick who died in 1890. The memorial window in the
church of England was put there by his widow in his memory. She continued to live here for
very many years after and we all knew her very well. They are buried in the Murtoa
Cemetery, it is hard to distinguish the printing on the tombstone now, it is one of the
granite obelisks not far in from the gate of the cemetery.
Now you know of course that Coromby has a brass band, it is one of the famous brass
bands of Victoria. Those settlers up there of course came just a little after those at
Murtoa. The first thing they wanted was land and the next thing they wanted was water.
There was a swamp out there and they got as close to the Black Swamp as they could. It was
not long before they formed the Coromby Band, and it's still going.
However, did you know there was a Hopefield Band? (Hopefield is now known as Ashens)
And they used to have elaborate uniforms these bands. I heard a story, several times, from
one of the members of the Kewell Band, he'd better be nameless. I used to go and see him
frequently in his old age and from him I first knew there had been a Kewell Band. "Oh
yes", he said, "we used to have a good band at Kewell. There were 4 Ruwoldt
brothers, 2 Hill brothers, the Wynnes and Moores. They used to go to band practice on a
set night of the week, all on horseback with their instruments. One played cornet, another
the euphonium and so one. The Hills were Salvation Army people and of course could play an
instrument. The 4 Ruwoldt brothers had come over from Mt. Gambier and they were very
musical. The others were not quite so musical but they could play. Charlie Ruwoldt was
band master and everything went on very well for a while. Then some of them got a bit
restive and decided to have a meeting and an election and chose a new bandmaster, I think
one of the Hills. When that happened, Mr. Charlie Ruwoldt put his cornet in it's case,
went out, got on his horse and went home.
Julius Ruwoldt put his trumpet in it's case, got on his horse and went home. Elmore
Ruwoldt put his cornet in its case, got on his horse and went home. Harry Rowoldt put his
trumpet in its case, got on his horse and went home. We were in a bit of a mess then
because the Ruwoldts could read music. The Hills too could read music, but there was only
2 of them. So all we could do was go out to Ruwoldts and invite them back again and to be
bandmaster again." I was told this story several times and it never varied.
Now I met a lot of these old people in the course of my services and many of them were
very old identities here, original settlers, who lived to a big age. McLintocks for
example. Three McLintock brothers came out as teenagers, they were nephews of the Wilsons
who owned Longerenong Station. One of them died young but the other two remained here and
selected land. They weren't game to select it early when the first settlers came, because
they were part of the family of the Wilsons and they were warned not to select because it
was illegal. However they did select land eventually and both lived to a ripe old age.
Billy McLintock was 94 and I spent many interesting hours talking to him in the last years
of his life, when he lived across the road here after he retired. He told me many stories
of the old days.
Another one was Mr. Harry Hateley on the corner of the Rupanyup Road in Murtoa. He also
lived to the age of 94 and I spent many hours with him. These identities here from the
early days told me many things about their early experiences. And that's when one begins
to become long winded I think, when thinking about these things.
There was old Mr. Gerdtz who came here from the diggings. He came here I think from
Great Western, gave up the gold, came up and selected land. His family still remain here,
his name was Fred Gerdtz, his son was Fred Gerdtz, his grandson was Fred Gerdtz and his
great grandson was Fred Gerdtz and the two last ones are living here in Murtoa now. Fred
Gerdtz's grandfather had some amusing experiences. He was on a farm and was a horseman who
always had a good thoroughbred horse to ride. About the year 1890 there was a bank crash
and the banks closed down after a land boom at the time. They were all closed, all over
Australia for a while. He came into town this day, went to the colonial bank to get some
money and found it closed. He was very annoyed and rode off, but the railway gates were
closed, so he jumped the 2 gates which were a metre high and went home.
I don't know that there is much more that I can tell you, but perhaps as you are all
members of the church guilds, it might be of interest to know about the churches. St.
Johns Lutheran Church was the first church of course. The Irish influx brought the Seerys,
Delahuntys and Tobins. A priest came from Stawell and said mass in Seery's house for the
The Church of England was not built until a good while later, I think it was nearly
1900. And it is claimed that the first child baptised in the Church of England was Dorothy
Hackett who I know was born in 1888. I also know that when they built that church and
opened it, that night they had a concert in the Court House, which hadn't long been built.
My father had been here a few years then and he played violin solo at that concert to
celebrate the opening of the Church of England.
Another important thing I think was the founding of the flour mill. W.C. Thomas, the
original owner, came here from England and built the flour mill. He built the house where
Hughie Gawith now lives. W.C. Thomas had six sons and no daughters.
Now he was a very devout Methodist and I remember hearing that anyone that could sing
in the Methodist Church would be certain to get a job at the mill. His son Arthur was the
conductor of the choir at the Methodist Church. A few years ago an old gentleman came up
here, a retired Methodist Minister named Bottoms. He was very much retired, aged over 80,
about 85, and when I met him he knew who I was. He said, "When I was a student, two
of us came up here and we left the college, which was a probationary course, to take
charge of the Methodist congregation." The first person we met was W.C.Thomas who
said, "do you know of anyone who could drive an engine and sing in the Methodist
choir?" I said my brother was a very good singer and he was a good engine driver.
"All right, bring him up". So Mr. Bottom's brother came up and he was the engine
driver for many years. He was a very good singer too, he and his wife were a very talented
couple who used to sing at every concert, duets and so on. This Mr. Bottoms by the way was
later a prominent singing teacher in Melbourne and spent many years in London studying. He
then came back to Australia as Barton, A.C. Barton, he had changed his name. That was a
sidelight of the early years of the Methodist Church.
I don't know a lot about the Presbyterian Church, but I have no doubt there are plenty
here who do. The women's guild of course was very early established in most churches,
especially St. John's. Oh, another important thing was the establishment of the other
Lutheran Church, St. Lukes and the establishment of their College. Concordia College was
built where the Hospital now is and was the headquarters throughout Australia. The next
house to it was occupied by the day school teacher and in the next block was the Concordia
day school. The next house to that was occupied by Professor Munchen, who was in Charge of
the College. The College was a big concern, they had a big number of boys who came from
all over Australia.
Some of them were of course studying for the ministry and others were just gaining a
general education. Many of us attended the Concordia Day School, where we were taught
German in the morning and English in the afternoon. Everything in the morning would be in
German and everything in the afternoon would be in English. Of course the Professor of the
college was German, actually German/American, from one of their colleges in America. The
college went on for a number of years and was eventually transferred to Adelaide and the
last Professor here was Professor Grueber who had come here from Western America. He
transferred with his family and was in charge of Concordia College in Adelaide for many
After the first store, Anderson's on the corner there, three or four businesses
commenced. Several blacksmiths, because there were wagons, drays, carts and buggies, and
blacksmiths were important people in town. Two Habel brothers came here in the 1870's. One
was Emil Habel a saddler who established his business on the corner, opposite the State
Rivers. Carl Habel opened a general store and timber yard on the corner where the new SEC
building (now the State Bank) has just been built. There were usually two saddlers here,
three or four blacksmiths.
There were always a number of fairly decent blacksmiths here including Mr. Franz Wagner
who had a big business where Griggs (Murtoa Motors) garage is now. Petering & Pipkorn
was another blacksmith establishment and Franz Miller had a small one in Duncan Street.
These people could also make ploughs, mend harrows, put tyres on wagons & drays and
shoe horses. They were most important people.
When people first came here there was no railway and for the first three or four years
they carted their wheat to Stawell on wagons. The first day they would come to Glenorchy
and camp there overnight by the river. The next day they went to Stawell, delivered their
wheat, loaded provisions, came back to Glenorchy, camped there again the second night and
came home on the third day. And that was the way they delivered their wheat.
The first hotel was built by a man named Doyle, he built a hotel behind where we now
live, where Petering's home is. The Doyles were here for many years, the sons were great
athletes - footballers, runners and firemen. A picture of two or three of them is there in
the Fire Brigade Station now, with lots of medals on their chests. Mr. Jack Doyle remained
in Horsham until his death a few years ago. He was head ganger on the railways at Horsham
for many years.
Mr. Walther's youngest son, Paul Walther, still lives in Horsham, over 90, he still
plays bowls. I see him regularly in Horsham and he is a very well known person there. The
Walthers had a big family. Several girls married here. One married Mr. Traugott Deutscher,
another married Ernest Uhe the eldest son of Martin UHE. Another was married to Clarence
Noske, flour miller in Horsham and I think his brother John Noske also married another of
the Walther girls. They were all married but Paul, the oldest son who went to Western
Australia but kept in touch with people here.
My mother is in that (indicating) picture of the first school. During the war she got
busy, knowing that 1922 was going to be the 50th anniversary of their arrival at Murtoa.
She had a number of copies of that picture made and sent them all over Australia to
anybody she could find or the relatives of people in the picture and she was going to
organise a get together for the 50th anniversary. Of course she didn't live to see 1922,
but there was some celebration here at that time to mark the 50th anniversary of their
arrival in this area. Now in 5 years time it will be our 100th anniversary and what are we
going to do about it? I hope something will be done in five years time or before as it
takes a lot of preparation. Do something to celebrate the real beginning of Murtoa.
Maybe some representatives of families feel they should have had a mention, I have
missed a lot, there could be a book written on it. When I think of the Peterings between
here and Minyip, I should mention their family. There were 5 brothers and two nephews who
came out from Germany and all settled around here 80 of 90 years ago. All except one had
families, so no wonder there are about a hundred Peterings around here. Then the
Schultzes, with and without the "t", between Minyip and here.
They didn't have many sons, they had plenty of daughters. The Schulz without the
"t" had very few sons. They have been well known around here for four or five
generations and look like going on for several more.
I won't keep you any longer, thank you for your patient hearing. I've left a lot out I
know. You all know I appreciate what the old families have done for the district and I'm
likely to think of something anytime now and start all over again, so I'd better knock
Question. "When was your residence built?"
Answer. "About 1900, probably started in 1898. The outside bricks were Horsham
bricks, the inside were Stawell bricks. The bottom storey was built three years before the
top storey was added to try to avoid cracking, a problem here you know. It didn't crack
until after the 3 years was up and the top storey put on. I might say it was built around
a grand piano. We had a big room upstairs that would take a Bechstein grand piano."
Question. "Your family planted trees around Marma Lake
Answer. "My father had an interest and he thought there was room for tree
planting, of course the town was well established when he came here in 1884. He went to a
medical congress in 1888 and met Baron Von Mueller who was the director of the Botanical
Gardens in Melbourne. Father became very friendly with him and was advised to plant sugar
gums from South Australia. He got some seeds, put them in the stove in our kitchen to
crack them and planted them in boxes. When they came up he transplanted them into pots,
watered them day after day, then when they grew up he planted them. All the sugar gums in
this town, around the lake and in clumps on farms around the district, were all grown in
our back yard from seed. If anyone wanted to plant sugar gums they could come and get as
many as they wanted. That's how the sugar gums started. Now they are past their prime and
have served their purpose, they will be replaced by more suitable varieties. As I said,
they served their purpose, they improved the drainage around the streets when there were
no gutters, no main roads and everything was mud in the winter time. Father's sugar gums
improved that immensely, they have been here for 80 years or more. There were no telephone
lines or electricity wires in those days, so you didn't have to worry about how high they
grew. They have been chopped about now which may have shortened their life to some extent.
So that's the story of the sugar gums."
Question. "Can you tell us about the layout of the
Answer. "The North Park was designed by my mother and laid out just after the
Boer War in 1901 or 1902, You can't see it now, but it was designed in the shape of the
Union Jack. There are sugar gums and avenues of pines. The pines represent the crosses and
the sugar gums fill in the spaces. I don't know where you would have to go to see it, you
might be able to see it from the air. That was the Boer War Memorial."