In The News – 8 February – 13 February 1901

I have an interest in the weather, not just for today or the coming weekend but also historically.  Participating in Melbourne University’s Climate History newspaper tagging project involving tagging Trove newspapers articles about weather events, it became evident the weather behaves in a cyclical nature.  If it has happened before it will happen again, droughts, floods and storms.

Taking my interests a step further,  investigating how weather events effected my ancestors can add greatly to their story. That is why the Victorian bushfires of 1901 are of interest as the Byaduk district, where many of my ancestors lived, was heavily affected.  The weather was similar to two days in my lifetime,  Ash Wednesday on 16 February 1983 and  Black Saturday on 7 February 2010. On each day, fires blazed across Victoria.  

The first reports of fire came through on 8 February 1901.  The following article from The Argus describes the weather of 7 February 1901.  The descriptive language takes the reader to that day.  The heat was oppressive, the wind was strong and dust storms crossed the state, causing an unnatural darkness.

HEAT AND GALES. (1901, February 8). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 5. Retrieved January 29, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article10533956

Fires had sprung up throughout the Western District.  Early reports from Branxholme were tragic with one death, stock killed and houses lost.  I have family links to three families who lost their homes, the Millers, Storers and Addinsalls.  George Miller, a racehorse trainer, lost his house and stables and no doubt his horses.

HEAT AND GALES. (1901, February 8). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 5. Retrieved January 29, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article10533956

The two-day race meeting at Ararat was held in stifling conditions. A fire started at the course on the second day, with horses receiving burns.  Later the wind picked up and ripped iron off the grandstand roof, sending the ladies within running for shelter.

HEAT AND GALES. (1901, February 8). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 5. Retrieved January 29, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article10533956

Fires started across Victoria including Warrnambool, Alexandra, Wangaratta, Buninyong, Yea and Castlemaine.

DESTRUCTIVE BUSH FIRES IN VICTORIA. (1901, February 8). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), p. 6. Retrieved January 30, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article14337694

The articles below report on homes lost at Byaduk, but hardest hit was Byaduk North.  My relatives were closer to Byaduk further south and while they were lucky not to lose their homes but terrifying anticipating the fire’s approach.  The fire travelled at a great pace, coming within a mile of my ggg James Harman’s property Mount Pleasant, on the Hamilton-Port Fairy Road, reaching the properties of the Christie brothers just to the north. As well as James and his wife Susan Reed, my great-grandmother Sarah Elizabeth Harman, and her father Reuben James Harman were living at Byaduk but lived further south again in the Byaduk township.  Numerous other family members lived in the area from the Byaduk Caves through to the Byaduk township.  

TERRIBLE BUSH FIRES. (1901, February 9). The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 – 1931), p. 7. Retrieved February 7, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4818069

DESTRUCTIVE BUSH FIRES. (1901, February 9). Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal (NSW : 1851 – 1904), p. 2. Retrieved February 7, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64452557

The Hamilton Spectator reported twelve homes destroyed at Byaduk North leaving just three remaining.  Most were close to the course of the Lyne Creek running to the west of the township. The Free Presbyterian Church was lost and the Byaduk North Hotel was under threat.  In the days after the fire, the hotel served as a refuge for the homeless.

BYADUK NORTH HOTEL c1906. Image courtesy of the Museums Victoria Collections http://collections.museumvictoria.com.au/items/766487

BYADUK NORTH HOTEL c1906. Image courtesy of the Museums Victoria Collections http://collections.museumvictoria.com.au/items/766487

The homestead of Richard Thomas Carty at Brisbane Hill, a large property to the north of the township of Byaduk North, was destroyed.  While running for the creek, after escaping the homestead, Mrs Carty’s dress caught fire was fortunately quelled.  The Cartys rebuilt and the replacement homestead Dunroe  still stands today.

"ALONG MACARTHUR ROAD." Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 - 1918) 9 February 1901 .

“ALONG MACARTHUR ROAD.” Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 – 1918) 9 February 1901 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article226087594&gt;.

 

"THE VICTORIAN BUSH FIRES." Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 - 1907) 23 February 1901: .

“THE VICTORIAN BUSH FIRES.” Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 – 1907) 23 February 1901: <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article71463761&gt;.

The fire burnt through the Monivae Estate with a large loss to fences and livestock and burnt within a mile of Hamilton.  On the other side of town, closer to the Coleraine railway line, the Hamilton Racecourse fell just short of the fire’s path.

"MANY FAMILIES HOMELESS." Leader (Melbourne, Vic. : 1862 - 1918) 9 Feb 1901: 18. .

“MANY FAMILIES HOMELESS.” Leader (Melbourne, Vic. : 1862 – 1918) 9 Feb 1901: 18. <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article198084151&gt;.

Other areas throughout the Western District felt the brunt of fire on 7 February 1901.  This photograph from Birregurra shows the devastation in that town.

THE VICTORIAN BUSH FIRES. (1901, February 23). Australian Town and Country Journal (NSW : 1870 – 1907), p. 38. Retrieved February 7, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article71463761

Portland was also under threat with fire circling the town.  The fire did not stop until it met the sea.

VICTORIAN BUSH FIRES. (1901, February 11). The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 – 1931), p. 5. Retrieved February 7, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4818536

Buninyong near Ballarat was one of the worst areas hit.

BUSH FIRES IN VICTORIA. (1901, February 9). The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954), p. 3. Retrieved February 7, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article23853766

THE VICTORIAN BUSH FIRES. (1901, February 23). Australian Town and Country Journal (NSW : 1870 – 1907), p. 38. Retrieved February 7, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article71463761

Macarthur had losses as did Princetown on the south coast.  At Timboon, bullock teams from the local sawmill were lost.

FIRES IN VICTORIA. (1901, February 12). South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 - 1900), p. 6. Retrieved February 7, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article54558042

FIRES IN VICTORIA. (1901, February 12). South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 – 1900), p. 6. Retrieved February 7, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article54558042

By 11 January, aid for the homeless was on the agenda and at Branxholme a public meeting was held to discuss such matters.  Authorities discovered the fire near Branxholme, which was probably the same fire to hit Byaduk, was accidentally started by a travelling tinsmith fixing a trough at Ardachy Estate.

THE BUSH FIRES. (1901, February 11). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 5. Retrieved February 7, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article10534297

A meeting was called at Byaduk for 18 February 1901, and ggg grandfather James Harman donated £2 2/ to the fund for the homeless.

"BUSH FIRE BELIEF FUNDS." Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 - 1918) 21 February 1901: .

“BUSH FIRE BELIEF FUNDS.” Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 – 1918) 21 February 1901: <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article226090204&gt;.

The fire was so strong and relentless, old residents were drawing comparisons to Black Thursday almost fifty years earlier to the day on 6 February 1851.

TELEGRAPHIC. (1901, February 12). Kalgoorlie Western Argus (WA : 1896 – 1916), p. 32. Retrieved February 7, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article32205605

Today and for the past few days, the temperature has struggled to reach 20 degrees. In 2009, the temperature was more than twice that.  Future summers will have days like today,  but there will be days again like 6 February 1851,  7 February 1901, 16 February 1983 and 7 February 2009.  It is the nature of the weather.  Let’s hope the devastation is not repeated.

3 thoughts on “In The News – 8 February – 13 February 1901

  1. very, very interesting . I nursed an elderly lady out of casterton in the late nineties ( mrs penny annett ) who grew up in the Byaduk area . mrs annett lived into into her 100 s , and told me there was a terrible fire that burnt down the home she grew up in . I will ring her granddaughter kaye annett to find out penny/s maiden name . penny and her husband were living at Wallacedale before they moved to Bahgallah. . if I remember correctly she was 107 years old when she passed away. ,two of her sisters who predeaced her & were also around 100 yrs old.

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