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Pioneers of Harcourt

The following brief particulars of prominent personalities and pioneers are but a sample chosen from among the many who have dwelt and laboured in the Harcourt valley.

Barker, William, M.R.C.S. – Our district’s first European settler. Newly arrived from England, he took up the Mt. Alexander (No. 1) pastoral licence in July 1845. Encroachment by the gold diggings, towns and small farms reduced his pastoral holdings to 640 acres. Dr Barker left the district in 1863 to resume medical practice. He died in June, 1899, unmarried. An entry in “Men of the Time in Australia” is the most detailed reference

Bastow, Henry Robert. Senior Victorian Government Architect from 1873 to 1894. Bastow’s designs are in evidence in schools and court houses all over Victoria. His was the “typical state school gothic style” of which examples are to be seen in Castlemaine, Bendigo, Maryborough, etc. Retired to a property he owned at Harcourt and became a leader in the community. He worked as an orchardist until his death 26 years later. References are numerous, the best is “Victorian Schools 1837-1900”.

Bertuch, Oscar and Annie. First settled at Walmer, growing vegetables which they sold in the Castlemaine Market. Later moved to “Glenhope” Harcourt. Oscar’s thorough grounding in Horticulture in his native Germany was manifested in the training that he gave his sons – Henry, Charles, Francis, Richard, Paul and Arthur Bertuch – who were Harcourt orchardists and among whom were the pioneers of closer settlement at North Harcourt in the early years of this century. All were deeply involved in the Methodist church. With their wives, they were prominent in church, charitable social and community life.

Blight, Joseph. Qualified as quarryman and mason in Cornwall where his father and brothers owned granite quarries. In 1859 opened up the first major quarry on Mt. Alexander in response to demand for stone for the railway bridges. The largest stone sent from Blight’s quarry was the 36 tons Burke and Wills monument. After his death, the quarry was administered on behalf of his estate by members of the Jenkin family. The quarry was sold to Layton Granite Pty. Ltd. in 1963.

Chellew, Annie and James. In the early 1890’s settled at the northern end of the road that now bears their name. The land was originally owned by Joseph Young. Jim Chellew had cows and an orchard and carried on general farming. These were the earliest settlers in that part of the Harcourt Valley.

Code, John. Came to the district as a lad and purchased land in the late 1850’s in what is now Coolstore Road after his marriage to Margaret Coyne. Margaret’s parents were pioneer settlers in what is now known as Peelers Road.

Comini R. Jock, awarded the Order of Australia Medal in 1988. A resident of Ravenswood South. Among his other commitments served as a Maldon councillor from 1971, represented Harcourt for 20 years on the Coliban Waterworks System Investigation Committee, was a member of the Harcourt and District Fruitgrowers Association (president for 7 years) and of the Harcourt Rural Fire Brigade. Over 40 years service to this latter organisation earned Jock the National Service Medal.

Davey, Robert F. A Yarmouth man and, inevitably a ship Captain, left the sea after being shipwrecked. In 1858 was operating a Wesleyan School at Barkers Creek under the Denominational Schools Board. Was head teacher at Barker’s Creek until his death in December 1884 and was a founder member of the Wesleyan Church in Barkers Creek.

Douglas, John, James and George. John and James were in the Port Phillip district before the gold rushes and worked for William Dawson at Tuerong. Purchased land at Harcourt in 1854 then returned to Scotland to bring out George, Ellen and their three daughters. John purchased land in 1860, married Mary Dawson and combined orcharding with dairying. James Douglas’ home was at the corner of Woodbrook Road and Symes Road

Eagle, William. Migrated to Sydney in 1851 from Cowlinge, Suffolk. Whilst working as a brewer’s carter quite accidentally met his old school mates Henry and William Ely. The trio came to the diggings in 1852 and after 5 years purchased land conjointly – 36 acres – at Harcourt. Wm Eagle obtained apple seedlings from Watmough’s at Greensborough and planted Harcourt’s first orchard. Mr and Mrs Eagle had 10 children. The family home was “Pine Lodge

Ely, Henry. With William Eagle and William Ely, one of the pioneer orchardists, who worked alternately at gold mining and clearing the land to establish their orchards. Henry  Ely opened up great areas of land at Harcourt North which was on-sold to become a model of ‘closer settlement’ . At his death Henry Ely was termed “the father of Harcourt”. He was closely associated with the Methodist Church and the Rechabite Lodge as well as being chairman of the cemetery trust. He left a family of 13 children.

Facey Family. Thomas Facey was a successful gold-miner who established a dairy farm at Barkers Creek in the late 1850’s. The family story is recounted in detail in “The World of Albert Facey.”

Ferries, Duncan. The Mt. Alexander Mail reported in January 1880 that “Duncan Ferries has purchased the Harcourt Hotel for polishing granite.” After D. Ferries’ death the monumental works was carried on by his widow, Jane, for four years till she married Alexander Guthrie. Alex Guthrie left the business in 1901, leaving Jane in charge once again. At this time the business traded as “Harcourt Steam Granite Polishing & Monumental Works.” In 1905 the enterprise was taken over by the two Ferries sons. George set up as a stonemason in Castlemaine and Duncan (jr) went to St Arnaud to operate a monumental yard there.

Frankling, Alfred. Purchased property at North Harcourt in 1895 and in 1896 married Bessie McLean. Alfred was involved in many district activities, serving a lengthy term as councillor of the Maldon Shire. Their four children were Ken, Hugh, May (Mrs Barnes) and Una (Mrs Anderson).

Frost, Alfred and Ann. Alfred Frost was herdsman on the commons at Harcourt in the early days. Today we would describe him as a ranger. The family moved to Canary Island in 1877 and endured primitive conditions as they pioneered that district. Retained strong links with Harcourt. References are “Smoke from the Hill” and “Canary Is. Centenary History.”

Gaasch, Anna, Gottlieb and August. Arrived from Germany in 1867 and after 6 months gold mining at Wesley Hill purchased land at Harcourt where they carried on farming, beekeeping and orchard work. They were active members of St. James Lutheran Church, Castlemaine. The Gaasch family orchards included the first commercial plantings of the Golden Delicious variety.

Gartside, James Gibson. The first of this family to reside in the district, J G Gartside was station master at Harcourt in the 1880’s. Gartside Bros operated a steam-driven case factory making boxes for use by the fruitgrowers. Robert Gartside was prominent in the militia, served with distinction in the South African War and , as a Lt-Col., was killed at Cape Hellas on 8th May 1915

Grant, John & Margaret came out from Scotland in 1853 and settled in Black Jack Gully. This family now boasts seven generations of descendants of the original settlers.

Hampson, John. was a substantial land holder in central Harcourt in the early days. Conducted a store firstly at Barkers Creek and then moved it to Harcourt in 1874. The stone storeroom at 12 High St, Harcourt, is all that remains of the 1874 store. Refer “Shire of Metcalfe Heritage Study.”

Hawkins, Samuel. Sergeant Major Hawkins (or Hawkings) opened the Porcupine Inn in December 1846. The first post office in Central Victoria was opened here in 1848. During the 1850’s the inn became notorious, both for the prices charged and for the persons who frequented it. By this time Hawkins had taken up the management of Dalyenong pastoral run near Avoca. Refer “The Ballad of Samuel Hawkings”

Hayden, Christopher Henry B.A.  After a career as auctioneer, private tutor and newspaper reporter Henry Hayden became an activist on behalf of the Land Convention, working closely with Ebenezer Syme and the Irish-born radicals to promote the interests of the general population (the ex-diggers) against the entrenched interests of the landed squattocracy.  Henry Hayden was appointed Head Teacher of the new Harcourt Primary School in 1859 and served until 1870. He was one who ‘burnt the candle at both ends’, prominent in public affairs and political agitation during his stay at Harcourt. He later opened the school at Concongella near Stawell. Refer “The People’s Hero”

Hogarth, John and Jane. In 1853 John and Jane Hogarth arrived at Walmer pushing a wheelbarrow containing their worldly possessions. They were later to buy land at one shilling an acre. Their son George married Charlotte Upstill and had a family of twelve. Refer “The Porcupine Rush”. Perhaps the best known member of this family was Tom Hogarth who operated a farm on the Midland Highway and who for many years was the mail contractor.

James, Isaac (Senior). After a brief spell at Campbells Creek took up 40 acres of land at Harcourt and built a granite cottage, today known as “Atherstone”. Deeply religious, Isaac James was a foundation trustee of the Wesleyan Church (1865) and was actively involved in the life of the church until his death in 1918.

Jenkin, Ern and Ada. Came to Harcourt North from St Arnaud about 1920. Purchased portion of the land originally attached to the Porcupine Inn. Pioneered the selling of fruit at a roadside shop.

Jennings, Caroline and John. Emigrated in the 1880’s from Cornwall to Melbourne where John obtained work in his trade as a mason. He was recruited by Joseph Blight to manage the Granite Quarry at Mt. Alexander and held that position for 45 years. In 1902 John Jennings was credited with shifting the largest block of stone ever moved in quarrying operations, 5000 tons, loosened by ordinary spike and feather operations, assisted by a single blast. Refer “Shire of Metcalfe Heritage Study.” John Jennings was a member of the Harcourt IOR Lodge and a trustee of the Harcourt Methodist Church.

Johansen, Sven and Jean. Originally from Norway, Sven Johansen was a sailor who, after several years at sea asked to be paid off in Melbourne. Seeking work he found his way to Harcourt and found employment with the Douglas family. Here he married Jean McDonald and settled down as an orchardist at “Green Acres”. A great lover of music, was choir master at the Methodist Church, trained Sunday school children in singing and was a supporter of the Harcourt Brass Band. Also taught ballroom dancing. During WW2 Sven was secretary of the Harcourt Patriotic Committee organising the sending of hampers to our lads serving overseas. Jean Johansen’s war efforts are remembered to this day; working tirelessly sending parcels overseas and co-ordinating the aircraft spotting for the district. This was an around-the-clock activity. Enemy planes were occasionally identified; they followed the railway lines as a means of navigation. All sightings were promptly reported. The bulk of this watching fell to the women of the district.

Jones, Lewis Thomas. Came to the diggings in 1852 and later purchased 160 acres of land in the Faraday district on which he conducted general farming. The home that he built in 1854 with rough stone and a shingled roof, was called “Glen-Y-Nant” (Edge of the Valley.)

Kimber, John and Charlotte. Came out to Victoria in 1852 and worked at ‘Stratford Lodge’ before going to the gold diggings. Realising that the land at Harcourt was similar to that of his native Devon John Kimber was instrumental in bringing his brother and two sisters to settle nearby, along the Faraday Road. The details of this family migration are – Michael Kimber arrived 1855, Jane and John Shilson arrived 1857 and Ann and George Milford arrived 1859. One brother, Charles, remained in England and became a successful grocer in Exeter.

Lang, James visited Harcourt as a youth while travelling to visit his brother on the Campbells Creek diggings. In December 1858 came back with his family and settled down, naming the property “Langdale” , developing an orchard that became a showplace and operating the Talbot Nursery. Pioneered the export of apples to the UK in 1886 and 1888. James Lang was an active member of the Royal Horticultural Society and a councillor of the Shire of Metcalfe. In 1908 the Victorian Minister for agriculture declared “There is no greater authority on apples in the state than Mr Lang”

Leversha, Henry. One of the first diggers at the Mt. Alexander diggings, holding licence No. 15. Operated a store at Barkers Creek 18574867 and then moved to Woodbrook. An active member of the Pioneer and Old Residents Association; his memoirs are printed in “Records of the Castlemaine Pioneers.”

Lubke, Henry and William. A stonemason, Henry was recruited in Hamburg by the railway contractors and arrived 1859 on the ship ‘P C Kinsch”, one of the few stonemasons to bring his family to Victoria. The Lubkes were friends and neighbours of William Schier (Junior) and moved to open up the new settlement at Narioka with the Schier, Ormond, Thacker and Scouller families in 1875.

Lupton, James. Established the “Live and Let Live” Hotel at Black Jack Gully, in 1875 and maintained the licence until his death in 1912. James Lupton and his brother George Thomas Lupton were members of a family that was famous and influential in Leeds, U.K. The brothers first came to look for gold.

Maddern, William and Elizabeth. Came to Barkers Creek from Cornwall in 1854. When William died in 1873 his wife Elizabeth was left to raise ten children aged from a few months up to eighteen years. This was in the days before widow’s pensions. In difficult circumstances Elizabeth Maddern raised her large family and lived to the age of 90.

McKindley. Archibald and Mary Anne left Ireland in 1867 with three children and settled in Specimen Gully where six more children were born. The family conducted sluicing operations in Specimen Gully. There are many descendants of this pioneering couple in the district.

McLean, Hugh Pope. Purchased the Old Talbot Hotel in the early 1880’s as a residence for his large family. Although the hotel was popular with the teamsters and bullock drivers a licensed house did not appeal to him and he allowed the licence to lapse. As a result Harcourt became a “dry” area for over 100 years.

McMahon, Bryan. had phenomenal success at the diggings and purchased 300 acres at Farady where he operated a large-scale dairy, supplying milk, cream and butter to Castlemaine and establishing all of his children on large acreages.

Milford, George and Ann. Settled alongside the Faraday Road in January 1859. A lane bearing their name marks the spot. George established an extensive orchard and survived by growing turnips and gooseberries until the trees came into bearing. He settled his five sons Thomas, William, Charles, John and Amos on orchards adjacent to the family homestead; the brothers worked together to share equipment and to cope with seasonal peaks. The original homestead is listed in the “Shire of Metcalfe Heritage Study.”

Neill, Sara Florentia. Mrs Bladen Neill established plantations of mulberries on the upper south eastern slopes of Mount Alexander in 1874, to provide employment for women in the production of silk. By 1877 the project was considered unviable and the surviving trees were removed to Corowa, NSW.

Neilsen, Matthias and Katherine were married in Australia after journeying from their homelands of Denmark and Germany respectively. They settled at Woodbrook and had seven children. Matthias Neilsen had a few cows, but like many others spent most of his time cutting wood and transporting it to Castlemaine. Refer “The Porcupine Rush.”

Normington, Maurice. A pioneer resident of Specimen Gully. For many years was manager of the well known Wilson & Corben slate quarries.

Norris, Nathan. A miner, Nathan Norris married Elizabeth Scott in 1858. The couple had eleven children. The Norris family was a large part of the Barkers Creek community. Nathan Gully, Nathan Hill and Norris Gully were all named after the family.

Peeler, William. Three generations of Peelers were headed by men of this name. William and Mary Peeler came to Launceston Gully from richmond before December 1851, William engaged in mining for the remainder of his life; one of the few diggers who did not move on to other goldfields. The second William, who married Mary Ellen Scott, lived in Ironbark Gully and, with his brother Thomas was a prominent member of the Barkers Creek Wesleyan Methodist Church. Thomas Peeler was accidentally killed in 1883 by falling 65 feet from a ladder at the slate quarry. In the next generation William Peeler married Ellen Sarah Murray; there are many descendants of this family still living in the district. At the time when names were being applied to roads Alf Peeler and Don Peeler were living at each end of the road that now bears the family name.

Pellas, John, August (Gus) and Christian (Kit). Natives of Jungsund, Finland. The three Pellas brothers, all seamen, came to Australia at about the turn of the century, August and Kit went to mines in W.A. where Kit was accidentally killed. John and Gus leased orchards of Miss Trevean, during which time they established orchards of their own. The family has been an integral part of the community down to the present days.

Pritchard, Edward. Was born 1865 at Barkers Creek and 1888 had 90 acres of land part of which was laid out in orchard. A noted cricketer, he was selected to play cricket against England in 1895. In 1915 gave evidence to the Royal Commission on Fruit, Vegetables and Jam to the effect that a greater water supply should be provided to Harcourt. In that year he was working 60 acres of orchard, was president of the Fruitgrowers Association and President of the Shire of Metcalfe. Mrs Pritchard was the first President of Harcourt CWA

Rice, Adolphus. Was born at Chiltern in 1892, one of seven children of Benjamin and Harriett Rice who had moved from one gold field to another for many years. Dolph Rice came to Harcourt early this century. His mother married Charles Symes. Awarded first prize at the August 1946 Royal National Agricultural Exhibition Brisbane for a display of 25 cases of apples, beating stiff competition from growers in Tasmania, NSW and elsewhere in Victoria.

Robins, George. There were two George Robins’ – the first came with his father John Robins from Glasgow in 1854. Mother Isobel, brother William Hill Robins and other siblings followed later. The younger George Robins was one of W.H. Robins’ family; he is noteworthy for having raised a family of seventeen on hard country at Woodbrook.

Salathiel, William, was an early settler at Faraday. Quarried the first stone at the Fraday granite quarry in the 1860s and also provided the stone for the Farady School in 1868.

Schier, William and Anna. Emigrated from Hamburg, Germany and settled here in 1856. They began by conducting a dairy farm but soon had 9 acres of fruit trees under cultivation. Son William Schier Jr pioneered the northern Victorian settlement of Narioka.

Seelenmeyer, Chas H. Came to Harcourt as the adopted son of Dr Adolphe Seelenmeyer In 1914 built a cement tile factory West South West of the ANA Hall, supplying drainage tiles to the orchardists. The book “Greater Than Gold” tells how C. Seelenmeyer was the first to bring cuttings of the Golden Delicious apple variety from America. He is also remembered for his association with district cricket as is his son Roy Adolphe Seelenmeyer, a life member of the Harcourt Cricket Club. Both played international cricket,

Stevens, Thomas Operated a butcher’s shop-cum-general store and hotel at Porcupine Hill, an area that was in its heyday when the railway was being constructed. Owned substantial area of what is now Harcourt North, including the land now occupied by the Reservoir.

Symes Bros. James, William, George, Edmund and Charles worked together as builders and bridge building contractors. Were foundation members of the Church of Christ and the Rechabite Lodge and also were orchardists. Their parents originally came to the diggings from South Australia and conducted a store near Black Jack Gully until 1862 when William Symes died. Sarah Symes then married Fred Cartledge and lived near the Black Jack Railway Arch in a house that still stands. The Symes Bros. were all cricketers and Charles is reported to have formed the first Harcourt Cricket Team in 1874.

Sutton, Samuel. Proved the fertility of the granite sandy loams of Harcourt by growing in 1853, commercial quantities of vegetables which he sold to the miners, one load each day and two loads on Saturdays. His garden also included fruit trees and demonstrated that apples and pears would thrive in Harcourt. A popular and genial man, Sam Sutton worked as a gardener in Campbells Creek in later life.

Trevean, Phillip. Came to Harcourt in 1877 and was reported in “Victoria and Its Metropolis” 1888 as having 25 acres of orchard and a fruit storing room with 1000 cases capacity. Irrigated the upper portion of his garden by a windmill and the lower portion by gravity from the open water race. Phillip Trevean was first president of the Harcourt District Fruitgrowers Association.

Vick, Nathaniel. Was at Harcourt before 1855. Numbered with the Messrs Ely and Eagle as being the first to plant fruit trees in Harcourt. The land occupied and cleared by N. Vick was divided by the survey of the Melbourne – Echuca Railway and the three arch viaduct over Barkers Creek became known as Vick’s Viaduct. Nathaniel Vick, with W. Barker, A. Moncur and C. Thacker, was one of the initial patrons (i.e. promoters) of the Harcourt School.

Walter, John Hopkins. Commenced in business at Barkers Creek in 1854, operating the Post Office, The Old England Hotel and the store which stood alongside the Hotel. Was one of those who petitioned for the opening of a school at Barkers Creek in 1858. The store was later transferred to Harcourt and run by grandson Alex Walters and his son.

Warren, James Rowe. Came from Cornwall while still a lad. He originally resided at Barkers Creek and was employed by the Railways. In later years he moved to Harcourt and was an orchardist. Was prominent in the founding of the Rechabite Lodge in 1869; it was on his suggestion that it was named the “Hope of Australian Tent.” In 1871 was appointed trustee of the Wesleyan Church. JR Warren had a family that was large even by the standards of those days. 15 children with his first wife Sarah Jane Ely and three with his second wife Annie Lang. Refer entry on ‘Cairn Warren’ – Shire of Metcalfe Heritage Study.” In the early twentieth century he was recruited by Lohmann & Co and , in that employment, did much to develop the export of apples to great Britain and Germany.

Williams, W. Lloyd. Settled at Harcourt in 1869 purchasing 110 acres of land of which 14 acres were in orchard at the time he was listed in “Victoria and Its Metropolis” 1888. The Shire of Metcalfe Heritage Study provides an extensive description of the property. Sons William (Jr) and Ellis continued to run the orchard after their father’s death. Ellis Williams lived at “Birsemoor.”

Wilson, Claude came to Harcourt from Tasmania in about 1920 to manage the Harcourt Fruit Supply, residing in a distinctive granite home in High Street.

Worley, John was a bullock driver who brought his wife Bridget and daughter from the Goulburn in 1849 to work for Dr Barker. Joined C T Peters, R Keen and G Robinson in mid 1851 in the search for gold at Specimen Gully and was later rewarded as one of the discoverers of the mineral which had brought immense wealth to Victoria.

Young, Joseph, of ‘Preston Vale’ conducted a large-scale grazing property from 1867 until his death in 1915.A man of keen business acumen, his interests included ownership of the Standard Brewery at Campbells Creek 1892-1911. He was approached by leading figures in the State Government in 1908 asking him to sell upwards of 2,000 acres for expansion of Harcourt orchards. This sale, to Robert Thompson, facilitated the development of Harcourt North. Thompson subdivided and on-sold all that land on the western side of Mounts Barker and Mount Prospect, land that is normally frost-free and therefore ideal for apple growing.