Major Mitchell Reaches Portland Bay

On 29 August 1836, Major Thomas Mitchell saw Portland Bay for the first time.  Since we last were with Mitchell on his freezing night on the summit of Mount William in July 1836, he and his party had travelled a great distance and being winter, the terrain was mostly muddy. From Mount William, the party had travelled north to and climbed Mount Zero. Then west along the northern Grampians to Mount Arapiles and Mitre Lake.  Scaling Mount Arapiles, which he named, Mitchell was able to see the country to the south and it was in that direction they next travelled.

http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/136946

MOUNT ARAPILES BY NICHOLAS CHEVALIER 1865. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/136946

As they moved out of the Wimmera and into the Western District, Mitchell noted,

Thus suddenly were we at length relieved from all the difficulties of travelling in mud. We had solid granite beneath us; and instead of a level horizon the finely rounded points of ground presented by the sides of a valley thinly wooded and thickly covered with grass. This transition from all that we sought to avoid to all we could desire in the character of the country was so agreeable that I can record that evening as one of the happiest of my life.  (Mitchell, T. L. (Thomas Livingstone) Three expeditions into the interior of eastern Australia, Chapter 3.9)

They soon met the Glenelg River near Harrow on 31 July, and from there they passed through Pigeon Ponds, Chetwynd, and Wando Vale. On 7 August, the party reached the Wannon valley south of Casterton at the Wannon River’s junction with the Glenelg River and saw a beautiful scene before them.

After fording this stream with ascended a very steep but grassy mountain-side, and on reaching a brow of high land, what a noble prospect appeared, a river winding amongst meadows that were fully a mile broad and green as an emerald. Above them rose swelling hills of fantastic shapes, but all smooth and thickly covered with rich verdure. Behind these were higher hills, all having grass on their sides and trees on their summits, and extending east and west throughout the landscape as far as I could see. I hastened to ascertain the course of the river by riding about two miles along an entirely open grassy ridge, and then found again the Glenelg, flowing eastward towards an apparently much lower country. All our difficulties seemed thus already at an end, for we had here good firm ground, clear of timber, on which we could gallop once more. The river was making for the most promising bay on the coast (for I saw that it turned southward some miles below the hill on which I stood) through a country far surpassing in beauty and richness any part hitherto discovered. (Mitchell, T. L. (Thomas Livingstone) Three expeditions into the interior of eastern Australia, Chapter 3.10)

http://collections.museumvictoria.com.au/items/766481

MERINO DOWNS. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria Museum Victoria Collections http://collections.museumvictoria.com.au/items/766481

From there, they travelled to near where Dartmoor is today and Mitchell launched a boat on the Glenelg River at Fort O’Hare and with a small party, made his way to the sea.

http://collections.slsa.sa.gov.au/resource/PRG+280/1/14/36

THE GLENELG RIVER. Image courtesy of the State Library of South Australia http://collections.slsa.sa.gov.au/resource/PRG+280/1/14/36

Expecting to come out near Portland Bay, they were further west, reaching the mouth of the river at what is now Nelson.

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AT THE MOUTH OF THE GLENELG RIVER, NELSON

The party turned back up the river and returned to the camp at Fort O’Hare. They then travelled along the Crawford River and with the carts getting bogged down in heavy ground, Mitchell and a small party set out on horseback to Portland Bay.  Their first stop was near Heywood and a large hill Mitchell climbed and named Mount Eckersley.  From there they crossed the Fitzroy and Surry Rivers bringing us back to 29 August 1836 and Major Mitchell’s first sighting of the coast at Portland Bay.

LOOKING TOWARD PORTLAND BAY

LOOKING TOWARD PORTLAND BAY

Major Mitchell walked on to the beach littered with whale carcases, evidence of whalers in the area.  A member of the party, Aboriginal man Tommy Came-last, reported cattle tracks and the footprints of a white man.  Tobacco pipes and a broken bottle were also found, possibly from the whalers but they would not have had cattle.  Looking around the bay, Mitchell saw houses, possibly whalers huts, so they headed toward them.  Mitchell and his party descended high cliffs and could see a ship anchored in the bay.  Approaching the wooden houses they found they discovered they were abandoned whalers’ shacks but just as they were moving on, two shots rang out.  Mitchell ordered one of his men to fire off a shot and to sound the bugle.  They climbed to higher ground and found a cart track which they followed until a man approached them. Mitchell continues,

He informed me in answer to my questions that the vessel at anchor was the “Elizabeth” of Launceston; and that just round the point there was a considerable farming establishment belonging to Messrs. Henty, who were then at the house. It then occurred to me that I might there procure a small additional supply of provisions, especially of flour, as my men were on very reduced rations. I therefore approached the house and was kindly received and entertained by the Messrs. Henty who as I learnt had been established there during upwards of two years. It was very obvious indeed from the magnitude and extent of the buildings and the substantial fencing erected that both time and labour had been expended in their construction. A good garden stocked with abundance of vegetables already smiled on Portland Bay; the soil was very rich on the overhanging cliffs, and the potatoes and turnips produced there surpassed in magnitude and quality any I had ever seen elsewhere. (Mitchell, T. L. (Thomas Livingstone) Three expeditions into the interior of eastern Australia, Chapter 3.11)

The following day, Mitchell made a trip to Cape Nelson then returned to Portland.

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AT CAPE NELSON LOOKING TOWARD CAPE BRIDGEWATER

Major Mitchell said his goodbyes to the Hentys and continued on his way.

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THE MEETING OF MAJOR MITCHELL AND THE HENTYS AT PORTLAND BAY 29 AUGUST 1836. PHOTO OF A PRINT AT PORTLAND’S HISTORY HOUSE

The party returned to the Surry River then continued back to the base camp. On 31 August, Mitchell’s party reached Mount Clay with Mitchell naming it, and by sunset they were back at the base camp.  We leave Major Mitchell now but will join him again on 11 September when he reaches what is now Hamilton. 

The arrival of Major Mitchell at the doorstep of the Henty’s home at Portland Bay influenced their future.  In glowing terms, Mitchell had told them of the land around the Wannon Valley he described as “Australia Felix”.  On his recommendation, the brothers travelled north to see for themselves. Within twenty-five miles from their settlement at Portland Bay, they noticed the change in the countryside.  Stephen Henty’s reaction was simply, “This is paradise.”  By 3 August 1837,  Henty sheep were on the land at Merino Downs and soon Muntham Station, opening the next chapter in the history of the Henty brothers.

J.T. Collins Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/231999

HENTY MONUMENT, MERINO DOWNS. Image courtesy of the J.T. Collins Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/231999

 

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MUMTHAM HOMESTEAD. Image courtesy of the J.T. Collins Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/217208

This video of Muntham Station shows the countryside Major Mitchell and the Henty brothers found so attractive.

 

SOURCES

Back to Merino and Henty Centenary Celebrations Committee Historic souvenir of the Back to Merino and Henty centenary celebrations, November 11th to 15th, 1937. Back to Merino and Henty Centenary Celebrations Committee, [Merino? Vic, 1937.

Glenelg Library Historic Treasures – Major Mitchell meets the Hentys

Mitchell, T. L. (Thomas Livingstone) Three expeditions into the interior of eastern Australia, with descriptions of the recently explored region of Australia Felix, and of the present colony of New South Wales. London, T. & W. Boone

 

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.

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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

In The News – July 29, 1929

Although many of the Western District newspapers are not digitised at Trove, it is possible to find articles from the likes of The Hamilton Spectator in the The Portland Guardian,  for example.  On this day 83 years ago,  an excerpt from the Albion newspaper of Coleraine appeared in The Portland Guardian of July 29, 1929.

Prompted by the deaths of many of the early pioneers, the article reflected on the history of the Western District  from the time Major Thomas Mitchell made his way across the land he called Australia Felix 93 years earlier.

 

 

Early History. (1929, July 29). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 3 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved July 23, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64270110

There is a clue in the article for those of you who having trouble finding your Western District family member’s arrival in Victoria.  The writer mentions many people from Van Diemen’s Land making their way to Victoria once news got back the Hentys had pushed up from Portland into the Merino district.  It could then be possible that family members travelled to Victoria via Tasmania where they had resided as convicts or otherwise.

Jenny Fawcett, on her great South-West Victoria genealogy and history site,  has indexed the names of those who travelled to Victoria as part of a Geelong and Portland Bay Immigration Society scheme in 1845 and 1846.  The idea behind that and similar schemes was to bring labour into the colony with those behind the society being squatters and merchants.  Jenny provides a great description of the scheme on her site.

Browsing through the names,there are many I instantly recognise as Western District family names.  Also, a lot of the pioneer obituaries I have read tell of the deceased having come to Victoria via Van Diemen’s Land.

So, if you are beginning to think your ancestors were good swimmers, follow-up the possibility they came to the Western District from Tasmania.  You just never know.