|Looking south towards Dickman's Bridge|
I first found mention of him plying his trade at Meredith in 1866 when he appeared in the Steiglitz Court of Petty Sessions in relation to the theft from his house of a shirt belonging to an employee who was staying there.
The case - against a 12 year old boy - was proven and the boy received a punishment of 20 hours imprisonment, however the magistrate was unimpressed by what he perceived (in today's terms) as entrapment by the Dickmans who, suspecting a thief, locked their doors, pretended not to be home and waited to see what would happen.
The Dickmans themselves however appear to have been upstanding, law-abiding citizens. William's name periodically appeared in the Geelong Advertiser as he applied to have his slaughtering license renewed. On each occasion, his application was successful and a visit by the inspector at the end of 1884 noted that Dickman's slaughterhouse was clean and in good condition but that the piggery and "manure depot" were situated a little too close to it. Whether this situation was rectified is not recorded.
Life was not always rosy for the Dickmans and 1874 seems to have been a particularly bad year. In February, a bushfire swept through the district on Valentine's Day. It started to the north east of the township and traveled back towards the town. It was reported that the only thing which saved the cemetery and possibly the town itself from incineration was the tireless efforts of the townspeople. One of those to suffer significant losses in the fire was William Dickman, although whether the land in question was owned or merely leased I cannot tell.
Following on from this setback, less than a month later, William was unloading his cart, having just returned from Stony Creek (several miles to the north of town), when he was struck by lightning. He later described it as feeling like a blow from a heavy stick on his chest and leg which knocked him unconscious for 15 minutes.
|The view looking across the Dickmans' land towards the bridge (middle left)|
|The current sign|
Early in 1880, a complaint was made against Dickman for "continually allowing sheep to trespass on the common" whilst he in turn had a neighbour charged with attempting to steal one of his sheep and a lamb. The charge was dismissed.
William however did not live long to enjoy his new cottage and land as it is recorded that he died at the family residence "Home Villa" on 8th November, 1889. The Geelong Advertiser records that his will was proved a few weeks later, dividing his land equally between his wife Mary and three sons William Henry, Thomas Arthur and Sidney John, with Mary's portion to pass to the sons upon her death. At this time, the real estate was valued at some £2,500 and the remainder of his personal effects at £230.
After her husband's death, Mary also took on his business interests. The slaughtering license continued to be renewed into the early 20th century and she even expanded her property holdings in 1894 when she purchased a few more acres between the Police Paddock and the Ballarat Road.
By 1899 the bridge itself was in need of repair with re-decking required, however it seems that the contract to re-deck "Dickman's Bridge" was not awarded until January, 1902.
Only a few months later, dramatic scenes were enacted at the bridge when a wanted criminal, on the run from the Ballarat Police Court was captured just near the bridge after a fierce struggle by the local constable.
Mary, like William, spent the remainder of her life in Meredith at "Home Villa", outliving at least three of her sons. She died on the 8th February, 1927 and was buried with William and sons Frederick Edward Muir, James John and Thomas Arthur in the Meredith Cemetery. Other children still living at the time of their mother's death included daughters Robina ('Beanie' Schefferle) Evangeline ('Eva' Toomey), Daisy (Musgrove), Mary (Lord) and Martha (Gargan) as well as sons Robert and Arthur.
|The Dickman grave at the Meredith Cemetery|
In 1880, the "little bridge over the Coolebarghurk Creek and the Moorabool-bridge on the Steiglitz Road" survived a substantial flood which saw the partially-completed Sharps Bridge downstream washed away.
The next mention I found of the bridge was a series of articles dating from 1899 to 1902, once again discussing the repair and re-decking of the bridge which by this time was specifically described as Dickman's Bridge.
|Plaque on the current bridge|