W is for…What Else Could It Be?

Naturally I had to rejoin the Gould Genealogy Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge at “W”.  W is for Western District and that means a lot to me not only because this blog “Western District Families”.  I was born and raised in the Western District and all the families of my maternal lines, going back six generations, chose to settle in the wonderful Western District.

One of the highlights of the Western District is the geography.  Entering from the east, the Western Plains lead to the rise of the Grampians and on to the volcanic plains and green rolling hills beyond.  To the south are the forests of the Otways, the south-west coastline and volcanic Tower Hill.  And there are the rivers, meandering through the countryside to the sea.

I will take you on a geographical journey through the Western District, just a glimpse really, beginning with two colonial artists, Nicholas Chevalier and my favourite, Eugene Von Guerard.  These  artists and others traipsed around Victoria sketching and painting.  Von Guerard also travelled to Tasmania, New South Wales, South Australia and New Zealand.  Looking at their paintings reminds me of the lives they lived for the sake of their art.

Chevalier’s sketch shows the Serra Range including Mt Sturgeon and Mt Abrupt at the southern end of the Grampians.

View of the Grampians, Western District [art original] N. Chevalier.
State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/100967

Moving south-west, dormant volcano Mt Eccles near Macarthur has played a part in my family history.  My gg grandfather Reuben James Harman, son of James Harman, owned property at Mt Eccles.  It was also a favourite fishing spot of my grandfather Bill Gamble.

Crater of Mt. Eccles, von Guerard, Eugene,1811-1901,artist.
Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/46307

I prefer von Guerard’s depiction of Lake Surprise, the crater lake of Mt Eccles, to my own (below).  I remember as a child asking about the name “Lake Surprise”.  The answer:  When you get to the top of the crater and see the lake, you get a surprise.  Fair enough.

LAKE SURPRISE, MT ECCLES CRATER LAKE

It’s the photo of my grandfather Bill Gamble during the 1930s that is my favourite.

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A little north of Mt Eccles is the volcanic lava flow, the Harman Valley at Byaduk, named after my Harman family.  In the distance is the source of the lava, Mount Napier.

THE HARMAN VALLEY, BYADUK

South of Mount Eccles is beautiful and historic Port Fairy, the last port of call for the Moyne River, with its origins east of Macarthur, before it reaches the sea.

Port Fairy

MOYNE RIVER, PORT FAIRY

 

Moving east from Port Fairy is Tower Hill, another dormant volcano.

TOWER HILL

Next is Warrnambool.  The cemetery has a great view toward the Hopkins River close to the end of its 271 kilometre journey through the Western District from near Ararat to the sea at Logans Beach, one of the whale nurseries along the south-west coast,

WARRNAMBOOL CEMETERY

WARRNAMBOOL CEMETERY OVERLOOKING THE HOPKNS RIVER

South-east of Warrnambool is the famous Loch Ard Gorge, named for the Loch Ard which wrecked on the treacherous coastline.  The only two survivors, Tom Pearce and Eva Carmichael were washed on to the beach at Loch Ard Gorge.

I find standing on the beach in the Gorge a haunting experience.

LOCH ARD GORGE

East along the coast line is one of the most iconic views, not only of Victoria but Australia.

THE 12 APOSTLES

North-west, and back where we started, are the Grampians.

HALLS GAP, GRAMPIANS

The Grampians are a perfect place to leave the subject of the Western District and move on to another “W” which has been a part of my family since the 1860s, the Wannon River…

W is for…Wannon River

The Wannon River begins its’ flow at the base of Mt Abrupt in the Southern Grampians.  It flows toward Dunkeld, around the base of Mt Sturgeon and leaves the Grampians heading north-west toward Cavendish. Along the way it passes by Mokanger, the workplace of both the Mortimers and Haddens.  Through Cavendish, it passes close to the cemetery, burial place of members of those two families.

DSCN1056

CAVENDISH OLD CEMETERY

 

From Cavendish, the river begins a southward journey toward two of the Hamilton district’s jewels, the Nigretta and Wannon waterfalls.  As the river progresses west, the Grange Burn joins the Wannon north of Morgiana, having flowed from just east of Hamilton, the city founded on the Grange.  This section of the Wannon river was another favourite fishing spot of my grandfather Bill Gamble.

On the river flows to Tahara and then Sandford. I have family links to Sandford with Julia Harman, daughter of James Harman residing there with her husband George Holmes.  Two children were born at Sandford including WW1 casualty Arthur Leonard Holmes.  My gg uncle William Diwell also spent some time around Sandford.  In 1914, he completed extensions to the St Marys Church.

The Wannon River then joins the another great river of the Western District, the Glenelg River, having passed through some of Victoria’s most beautiful countryside.  It is not surprising Joseph Hawdon, travelling overland to Adelaide with Lieutenant Alfred Miller Mundy of the 21st Regiment in 1839, endorsed Major Thomas Mitchell’s description five years earlier. Major Mitchell followed the Glenelg River from its beginnings in the Grampians through to the sea at Nelson. It is little wonder all my direct ancestors stayed in the Western District after settlement.

(1839, September 26). Launceston Advertiser (Tas. : 1829 – 1846), p. 1 Supplement: SUPPLEMENT. Retrieved October 11, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page8723904

After the merge with the Wannon, the Glenelg flows on to Casterton where I have many family links.  My ggg grandfather George Jelly, the father of Elizabeth Ann Jelly, was one man who could say he had conquered the river.  His obituary read:

“He was a remarkably good swimmer and by his abilities in this direction was instrumental in saving many persons from drowning and rescuing the bodies of many others who had perished in the river” 

He even dived for the bones of Robert and Mary Hunt, murdered by George Wains in 1860.

By the time the Glenelg River reaches the sea, it, the waters of the Wannon and Grange Burn have passed by many of the places my ancestors lived, worked, fished, swam and were laid to rest.

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NEAR THE MOUTH OF THE GLENELG RIVER, NELSON

The Wannon River between the Nigretta Falls and the Wannon Falls, about twenty kilometres from Hamilton, would be the section most frequented by myself and my family before me.  My own memories come from family visits, Sunday drives with Nana, school excursions and birthday parties.

The following views near the Wannon Falls are from the State Library of Victoria Collection and were captured around 1878 by  Thomas J. Washbourne , a Geelong photographer.

Wannon River Scene – Washbourne, Thomas J. photographer.Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria Victorian Patents Office Copyright Collection (VPOCC) http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/53092

Wannon River Scene Washbourne, Thomas J.,photographer.
Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria – Victorian Patents Office Copyright Collection (VPOCC) http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/52931

THE WANNON RIVER AT THE WANNON FALLS

Of the two waterfalls, I prefer the Nigretta, especially after rain.  The Wannon Falls could be described as pretty in the way the water drops off the edge, but the Nigretta Falls are, at times, spectacular.

NIGRETTA FALLS ON THE WANNON RIVER Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria – collection: Cogger album of photographs http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/41740

The Vagabond (John Stanley James) described the Nigretta Falls in his series “Picturesque Victoria” for The Argus.  In the 4 April 1885 edition of The Argus, The Vagabond wrote of his visit to the Wannon.  He enjoyed the hospitality at the Wannon Inn and then marvelled at the “miniature Niagara”

PICTURESQUE VICTORIA. (1885, April 4). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 4. Retrieved October 11, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article6073697

This photo taken in August this year by my friend Catherine, after some good rain, sees the Nigretta looking like the miniature Niagara Falls described by The Vagabond.

NIGRETTA FALLS – Image courtesy of Catherine Huisman

My grandfather, Bill Gamble, took the following photo in the 1930s

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It was pleasing to see that the old viewing platforms still remain at the Nigretta Falls.

NIGRETTA FALLS VIEWING PLATFORM

An impressive wooden staircase now leads down to the falls, but the original steps remain.

The Wannon Falls (below) holds memories of walking beyond the viewing platform, down to the rocks and behind the falls, but only when they were flowing lightly as they are in this photo.  A new viewing platform now prevents such precarious escapades, even undertaken while on school excursions!

WANNON FALLS

I have two framed prints of the Wannon Falls by Louis Buveot, painted in 1872.  One hangs on a wall as a constant reminder of Hamilton, the Wannon River and the waterfalls.  The original work hangs in the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery. To see the original click on the link – Wannon Falls

The topic of the Wannon River gives me an opportunity to share my all time favourite family photos.  As a little girl when I first saw Nana’s old photo album, these photos captured my imagination.  When Nana came to live with us she kept her photo albums in her wardrobe. I would take them down, sit on her bed and go straight to the photo below.  It was near the beginning of the album which had black, much turned pages.

From right: Nana, (Linda Hadden), my great-grandmother (Sarah Elizabeth Harman) and my great auntie Alma’s (Nana’s sister) mother-in-law Mrs Issac William Short (Catherine Gissane Tilley). They are standing on the original lower viewing deck.   The photos from a day at the Wannon where originally very small.  It wasn’t until I enlarged them on a computer, that I noticed Nana’s coat hanging on the railing.

I think the reason I like this photo is because Nana looked exactly liked she did when I knew her, but with long braids and I still can’t believe she was only about fifteen.  Even the small research assistant thought Nana was the lady in the middle when he first saw it.  He only knew her as an older person and does not think of her as having been a child too.

The second photo was taken from the lower viewing deck, looking toward the upper level.  I didn’t like standing here as a child and as you can see the rail was high at the front  and difficult to see over and to the right of  Nana was a gap between the fence and the rocks.  I much preferred the lower deck.

My grandfather Bill, before he married Nana, liked to visit the Wannon Falls too, although he didn’t stick to the viewing platforms.

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In more recent years, a rotunda was built at the Wannon Falls reserve with information about the waterfall, the local geography and history.

On our visit, the small research assistant said “Look Mum, they even have family history here for you”  He was right. There is a lot of my family history at the Wannon Falls.

©Merron Riddiford 2012

Trove Tuesday – Matter of Relativity

Try and get your head around this article I found at Trove.  It appeared in The West Australian and the Adelaide Advertiser in December 1951.

I am almost certain this is my first cousin 4 x removed, Amelia Harman, daughter of Jonathan Harman.  Amelia married Christopher (Chris) Bell of Heywood in 1901.  They had three children,  Millicent Irene (born 1901), Clarence Jonathan (1902) and Christopher George (born 1903) all born at Heywood.  Clarence died in 1905.

If it is Amelia, the three children in the photo would be descendants of Christopher George Bell.  I believe that he may have married twice. Cheryl would be his daughter, Helen his granddaughter and Lynette his great-granddaughter.  At the time of the photo, Christopher was working as a senior constable of police at Casterton.  He would have been around 48 at that time. I’m still trying to do the maths!

Amelia would have been around 87 at the time of this photo.  She passed away in 1957 aged 91.

 

MATTER OF RELATIVITY. (1951, December 14). The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954), p. 8. Retrieved October 9, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article49005300

 

Another amazing thing is the three girls are all nine months old! Cheryl, Helen and Lynette would be 61 now.  If they or any other Bell family members see this, I would love to confirm if this is Amelia Harman.

In The News – July 25, 1906

Heavy winter rains in the Western District and the South-East of South Australia left Casterton awash in 1906.  As reported in The Border Watch on July 25, 1906, the Glenelg River reached record levels and evacuations took place.  There was also large stock losses.

I am still working out which “Mr Jelly” carried people to safety.  My ggg grandfather was George Jelly of Casterton, but he passed away in 1896.  He had two sons still living at the time of the floods, William and John and they were both living in Casterton in 1906.

CASTERTON PARTLY SUBMERGED. (1906, July 25). Border Watch (Mount Gambier, SA : 1861 – 1954), p. 2. Retrieved July 25, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article77582924

In The News – February 8 – February 13, 1901

I have an interest in the weather, not just today or the forthcoming weekend,  but also historically.  I  participated in Melbourne University’s Climate History newspaper tagging project that involved tagging newspaper articles at Trove about weather events.  This was an interesting exercise and what did became obvious was the cyclical nature of the weather.  If it has happened before it will happen again, droughts, floods and storms.

Taking it further, I also have an interest in how such weather events effected my ancestors. That is why the Victorian bushfires of 1901 are of interest.  The weather was very similar to two days in my lifetime,  Ash Wednesday February 16, 1983 and  Black Saturday February 7, 2010 and in each case, fires spread across Victoria.  When I look at the  Department of Sustainability Bushfire history of Victoria, I am surprised the fires of 1901 are not mentioned.

The first reports came through on February 8, 1901 of the destruction.  The following article from The Argus describes the weather of February 7, 1901.  The descriptive language used 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 in the Western District.  Early reports from Branxholme were tragic with one death, stock killed and houses lost.  I have family links with three of the 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 under stifling conditions.   A fire started at the course on the second day and horses were burnt.  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 spread 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

Reading the following article about the fires at Byaduk , it really hit home how my Harman and Bishop families may have been impacted.  Even if they were lucky enough not to lose their homes, the scenes would have been unforgettable.

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

In 1901, my great-grandmother Sarah Elizabeth Harman, gg grandfather Reuben James Harman and his parents James Harman and Susan Read were all living at Byaduk.  Not to mention various gg uncles and aunts and cousins, both Bishops and Harmans.  I wonder how they coped.  Did 18 year old Sarah take refuge in a dam or creek with her Grandmother Susan?  Was 70 year James Harman still fit enough to help fight the fires?  These are questions that I will never know the answer to. All I know is they were lucky enough to escape with their lives.

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 Australian Town and Country Journal accounts for 10 homes lost at Byaduk.  The Free Presbyterian Church was lost and the hotel caught alight but it seems it was saved.  The homestead of Richard Thomas Carty at “Brisbane Hill”, a large property at Byaduk, was destroyed.  The Cartys rebuilt and the replacement homestead “Dunroe” still stands.

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

Fire also burnt within a mile of Hamilton.

"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;.

This photograph from Birregurra gives some idea of the devastation.

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 as was Euroa and district.

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

By January 11, 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 possibly the same fire that hit Byaduk, was 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

Nearby Macarthur also 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

The fire was so strong and relentless that old residents were drawing comparisons to Black Thursday of 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. Three years ago the temperature was more than twice that.  The weather will be like today during future summers, but I also know there will be days again like February 7, 1901, February 16, 1983 and February 7, 2009.  It is the nature of the weather.  Let us hope the devastation of each of these past events are never repeated.

Histories of South-West Towns

I often look at the ABC Local radio websites, but usually only a page a link has led me to.  Recently I found myself on the ABC South West Victoria website, and decided to look around.  I discovered a series of radio interviews by Jeremy Lee entitled A-Z of the South West.  Recorded in 2010, the aim was to highlight the history of towns in the region.  The good news is that there are 45 towns featured, not just 26.  The towns include Macarthur, Caramut, Port Campbell, Branxholme and Casterton.

They are great interviews with local residents and historians, some have lived in their town all their life.  Topics covered  include town beginnings, past businesses, local attractions, prominent residents and the future outlook. I enjoyed Jim Kent talking about Casterton and his own contribution to the local population, 11 children, 40 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren.  There are photos of each town too.

An understanding of local history is important when researching a family. It can explain why a family chose to settle in a town.  For example, Peter Watt  talks of  how Cavendish was a town of workers.  Many residents, both male and female, worked for the large stations close to the town such as Mokanger and Kenilworth.  Aside from a sawmill,  a couple of shops and a pub, there was no other employment opportunities except for the stations.  Two of my families, the Haddens and Mortimers, went to Cavendish primarily to work  at Mokanger station and they remained there most of their working lives.

The various ABC websites are a great resource.  I have since looked closer at some of the other ABC local radio websites and found that you can search by topic.  Clicking on the  “Community & Society” tab brings up a list of sub-topics, including “History”.  ABC Western Victoria currently has 86 history related stories available.  I have also subscribed to a RSS feed of stories tagged “history” so I don’t miss any.  Or take 15 months to stumble across.

To listen to the interviews follow the link:

http://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2011/06/03/3234418.htm?site=southwestvic

Witness for the Prosecution

Searching old newspapers has uncovered three family members who were either mentioned or were witnesses at three separate murder trials.  They were my ggg grandmother, a cousin and to my surprise, my grandfather.

The earliest of these was known at the time as the “Casterton Murders” . My ggg grandmother Margaret Ann Turner, (Mrs Diwell)  was mentioned at an inquest in February 1860, which ended with Casterton man, George Waines, being placed on trial for the murder of Robert and Mary Hunt, also of Casterton.

The Hunts had not been seen since 1858, with many believing they had left the colony.  George Waines claimed he had brought furniture off them, but rumours  spread around the town that George may have been responsible for their disappearance.  The local police investigated and where unable to find the Hunts in the other colonies or New Zealand.

Margaret was mentioned in evidence by Dugald Campbell –

THE CASTERTON MURDER. (1860, February 3). Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 – 1876), p. 2 Edition: EVENINGS.. Retrieved August 11, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64513414

This was a gruesome murder, but it captured the attention of people around Australia.  I found sixty articles from four states.  Many are detailed, including  forensic evidence, a letter to the editor from the autopsy surgeon and George’s confession.  He was eventually hung at Melbourne Gaol.

The second murder trial had it all.  Small country town, married Methodist preacher, a young, single,  grazier’s daughter, and arsenic.  A search at Trove for “Omeo 1928” brings up hundreds of articles and I found a Western District connection.

Ronald Griggs moved to Omeo to take up the role of Methodist minister, moving into the residence with wife Ethel.  Originally from Tasmania,  Ronald and Ethel were welcomed into the community by the elders of the church including John Condon and his wife Frances.

OMEO MURDER CASE. (1928, March 8). The Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 – 1929), p. 9. Retrieved August 11, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article57042062

GRIGGS NOT GUILTY. (1928, April 21). The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 – 1954), p. 1. Retrieved August 11, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article1228707

After meeting John and Frances’ daughter Lottie,  Ronald (left) was a regular visitor to the Condon property.  Ethel was pushed to the outer and after giving birth to their first child, she returned to Tasmania  spend time with her parents.

Ronald and Lottie’s “meetings’ became more frequent, but Ethel, (right) inconveniently for Ronald, returned to Omeo.  Only days later, she fell ill and died after several days of severe pain.  Thanks to a suspicious local policeman, the case was taken further and Ethel’s body was exhumed for an autopsy.  Arsenic was present in her body.  Ronald was charged with murder.

Henry Harman was the son of Walter Harman and grandson of Joseph Harman.  He was a well known Ensay grazier and Omeo Methodist church elder.  Henry was called to give evidence against Ronald Griggs, a man he described as a friend.

OMEO WOMAN’S DEATH. (1928, February 29). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 24. Retrieved August 11, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3914287

I  found a photo of Henry, along with some of the other key witnesses, in the Barrier Miner, a NSW paper which continues to reward me with articles about my Western Victorian family.  It is becoming a reliable but most unlikely source.

WITNESSES AT THE OMEO INQUIRY INTO THE DEATH OF MRS. ETHEL CONSTANCE GRIGGS (1928, March 2). Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, NSW : 1888 – 1954), p. 4. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article46008416″%5D

After two trials, the jury retired to decide its verdict.  According to the Canberra Times, thousands waited on the street outside the court to hear the decision.  Ronald Griggs was acquitted, however, his infamy dogged him.  He changed his name and continued to preach, but as his photo was seen around the country, he was found out.  He struggled to find work and the newspapers followed him for months after.

The Western District connection? Henry was born in Byaduk in 1880 as was his sister Susannah Nash Harman.  Susannah married  William Condon, a cousin of Lottie’s father John.  The Condons first settled in the Portland area, before some of the family moved to Omeo.  Lottie’s mother Frances Ethel Huggins was born at Macarthur in 1883 and she and some of her siblings moved to the Omeo area around 1888.  Around the same time, Henry’s father Walter Harman took his family from the Macarthur district to the High Country.

For more reading about the case, there is a book by Reg Egan,  Lottie: A love affair with a man of God and the cruel death that shocked Australia with Henry Harman a key character.  Murder case aside, it offers an insight into life in a small Victorian town in the 1920s.  I have also a public list of newspaper articles at Trove on the case under the heading “Griggs murder

Finally, the “Body under the staircase” trial of fish monger Thomas Garrity, charged with the murder of widow Rose Harvey on April 28, 1931.  Rose had met up with Garrity for a few drinks at a local hotel and they returned by tram to the residence adjoining Garrity’s shop in Port Melbourne.  Police later found Rose’s body stuffed in a cupboard under the stairs of the residence.

Percy Riddiford was a 27-year-old, single man from Ballarat,  boarding at his brother’s home in Port Melbourne.  He worked on the trams, based at the Camberwell depot and happened to be working the day Thomas Garrity and Rose Harvey travelled his route.  As a result, he was required to appear as a witness to assist in determining the movements of Garrity on that day.

BODY UNDER STAIRCASE. (1931, May 20). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 9. Retrieved August 10, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4400320

Garrity claimed that unknown men had visited his home on that night, proceeded to get him drunk then robbed his till.  He claimed they must have killed Rose.  The judge considered Garrity could not have put her body under the stairs without help and reduced his charge to manslaughter.  He received eighteen months jail with hard labour.  Garrity pleaded his innocence after sentencing.

This was an event in my grandfather’s life he kept to himself.  The first my father and uncles had heard of it was when I told them of the articles I had found.  He was one to keep things to himself,  so it was good to find out something of his early life.

Elizabeth Ann Jelly

Richard & Elizabeth Diwell and family

This is Richard and Elizabeth Diwell and their family  in the spring of 1900 in Hamilton.  The eldest child, Margaret was 19 and the youngest, Martha was two. Elizabeth, at 44, is in the last months of pregnancy and is radiant.  Martha’s hand rests comfortably on her mother’s growing stomach.  Edith clutches the arm of father Richard, a successful bricklayer and keen gardener, a member of the Hamilton Horticulture Society.  Chrysanthemums were one of his specialties.   Within months, this serene family scene had been shattered.

Richard Diwell and Elizabeth Jelly were married in June 1877 at Casterton.  Richard, born at Portland in 1854 was the son of William and Margaret Diwell and was their first child born on Australian soil after their arrival in 1853 aboard the Duke of Richmond.  William too was a bricklayer.  Elizabeth was the daughter of  George and Jane Jelly and like William was her parents’ first born in Australia.  They had arrived in 1855 on the Athletae and moved to Casterton where Elizabeth was born in 1856.

Sadness came early in Richard and Elizabeth’s marriage with their first born child, Ada Jane, dying  within her first year of life.  Six more children, Margaret, William, Jane, Ralph, Edith and Ernest were born in Casterton over the next 11 years until 1891.  It was in that year that Elizabeth, her mother and sister-in-law, Annabella McIntyre, signed the Victorian Women’s Suffrage Petition along with one hundred other Casterton women.  It was their contribution to the cause championing for equal voting rights for women.

Later in 1891, the Diwells moved to Hamilton.  The following year tragedy would occur again with the passing of five-year-old Ralph.  In 1893, Ethel was born and  another pregnancy in 1895 saw the birth of Rebecca but she sadly died in 1896 aged 10 months.  George was born in 1896, Martha in 1898.

Which brings us back to 1900.  Despite the losses of  the past, life was continuing on for the Diwells.  In March, William was voting in favour of the cancellation of that month’s Hamilton Horticulture Society flower show due to drought and Elizabeth was pregnant for the 12th time at the age of 44.

Midway through October Elizabeth fell ill in and was nursed for the next three weeks until she gave birth to a daughter on November 2.  The baby was weak and died two days later.  Elizabeth was also gravely ill and underwent an operation after the birth of the baby.  She battled to stay but succumbed to peritonitis 10 days later, on November 12.

Elizabeth’s obituary from The Hamilton Spectator on November 13 read:

“… Another death which has evoked the deepest sympathy of all who knew her took place yesterday when Mrs Diwell, the wife of Mr Richard Diwell, bricklayer of this town, died after a short illness.  The deceased was the second daughter of Mr George Jelly of Casterton where she was born, and she came to Hamilton with her husband in 1891. 

She was taken ill three weeks ago and on the 2nd instance she was confined, the child living only two days.  On Sunday evening she had to undergo an operation as the only hope of saving her life but at 3 o’clock yesterday morning she died of exhaustion, the diagnosis being peritonitis. 

She leaves a husband and eight children – three boys and five girls – the eldest of who, a daughter is only nineteen years of age – to mourn their irreparable loss. Mrs Diwell who was only 44 years of age was highly respected by all who knew her and the deepest sympathy is felt with the stricken family in their bereavement.  The funeral will take place a 3 o’clock this afternoon”

The headstone in the Hamilton Old Cemetery is a tribute to Elizabeth and demonstrates the devotion Richard and her children had for her.  Her headstone read:

“None knew how sad parting was, nor what the farewell cost, but God and his loved angels have gained what we have lost”

 

 

 

 

Despite having several young children, Richard never remarried.  The older girls Margaret and Jane would have taken on mothering duties of their younger siblings.  Margaret married in 1905, but Jane did not marry until 1915 at 30 by which time youngest Martha was 17.  Richard passed away in 1920 and was reunited with Elizabeth.

Life was not altogether easy for the Diwell children, although they always managed a happy disposition.  Margaret had seven children, however, three  died, two as newborns.  Edith, my great-grandmother, suffered through an unhappy marriage and spent much time as a single mother.  Jane was married twice, both husbands dying, the second after being hit by a taxi.  She never had children.

Grandma (Edith) and Auntie Mat (Martha)

Ethel had four known children, one dying at birth.  Martha or Mat as she was known was 41 when she married and she also had no children.  The boys, William, Ernest and George all married and became bricklayers like their father and grandfather before them, but Ernest passed away at just 48.

I was not lucky enough to know any members of this family but my mother fondly remembers and often talks of Grandma (Edith), Auntie Janey, Auntie Mat (Martha) and Uncles Bill and George.  The photo above of Grandma and Auntie Mat depicts them just as Mum remembers, always laughing and smiling.

As I look at the Diwell family photo I see Elizabeth as a devoted wife and mother but also a strong woman whose marriage was a partnership of two equals.  I can see the woman who was confident enough to sign the Suffrage petition and I see a happy, kind person, traits she passed to her children.

Next time I visit Richard and Elizabeth’s grave in Hamilton, I will be sure to take some Chrysanthemums.

 

©Merron Riddiford 2011