05 October, 2013

Branching out - Woodbourne No 2: where is it now?

Well this turned out to be a whole lot more complicated than I expected, so what was going to be one post will now be three of them. I initially set out to discover the history of Woodbourne No. 2 - one of the original squatting runs lying in part on the Leigh River, but covering the entire length of Woodbourne Creek, a tributary of the Leigh.
The Woodbourne Creek at the Meredith-Mt Mercer road crossing

The Woodbourne Creek at the Meredith-Mt Mercer road crossing
Woodbourne No. 2 is perhaps one of the lesser known squatting runs in the region of the three rivers. It is of particular interest to me however, as I grew up on a farm which formed part of the original run. I also attended the local Woodburn Creek Primary School - yes, the spelling is different.
The run itself covered the area bounded on the south east by Native Creek No. 1 run (then in the hands of the Learmonth brothers of the Derwent Company), to the south west by Golf Hill and the Upper Leigh runs of the Clyde Company, to the north and west by the Cargerie run of George FH Read Jnr and on its short north eastern boundary just above Meredith, by the Borhoneyghurk run of John Norman McLeod. In total, an area of about 14,000 acres.
Prior to European occupation, the land was of course home to the indigenous tribes of the Wathaurong and according to the Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New South Wales (1877-1884) there were obvious signs of Wathaurong habitation along the Woodbourne Creek in the form of oven mounds and trees stripped of their bark which had a variety of uses.
The Woodbourne No. 2 run was first occupied in 1844 by Alexander, Charles and John Wilson who formed a partnership known as Wilson Brothers. It was the smallest of three squatting runs held by the Wilsons, the other two being Kewell (117,760 acres) and Walmer (40,000 acres), both located in the Wimmera district.
Whilst it is reasonable to assume that the brothers spread themselves between their three runs, we know they spent enough time at Woodbourne to build a house.

Woodbourne homestead. Copyright Department of the Environment
The structure was a six room, timber homestead which records indicate had a central hallway and was constructed from pit-sawn stringybark or yellow box planks. The roof was covered by stringy bark shingles.
Original section of Woodbourne homestead showing timber walls and roof
battens. From the Bob Reid Collection, Copyright, Department of the Environment
The site of the house whose remains still stand, is close to the head of the Woodbourne Creek. The creek rises from a natural spring around 5.5km north west of the present day town of Meredith and would have provided a permanent water source for the settlers.
In November, 1847 the brothers placed an advert in the Geelong Advertiser seeking information on a bay mare branded with a W (presumably for Woodbourne) which had strayed from the property two months earlier.
About a month later the brothers applied to have the licences for their various properties renewed. They are listed as the landholder of Woodbourne No 2 in the Squatters' Directory of the Occupants of Crown Lands of Port Phillip 1849 indicating that their application was successful.
However, the partnership did not long survive this point and was dissolved at the behest of brother Alex when the following announcement appeared in The Argus of 1849:
Notice,
The partnership hitherto existing between John Wilson, Charles Wilson and Alexander Wilson, under the designation of Wilson Brothers, is this day dissolved as far as the said Alexander Wilson is concerned, he having withdrawn from the firm.
EALEX WILSON.
For WILSON BROTHERS,
                          CHARLES WILSON.
Witnesses   ANDREW LOVE Jun.
                         CHARLES MACKINNON
Woodbourne February 26th, 1849

The homestead and its surrounds today
Further testament to the Wilson's time in the area is a little creek (just over 10km in length) which bears their name and which is joined by Woodbourne Creek about 1.8km above their confluence with the Leigh River at Bamganie.
Whether the longer Woodbourne Creek (about 15km in length) takes its present name from the name given to the run by the Wilsons or the run was named for the creek, I do not know, however I have seen at least one survey map from the 1860s which gives the name of the creek as Reid's Creek.
This name reflects that of the person who took over the run after the departure of the Wilsons, in 1853 - William James Reid, an Irishman from Letterkenney in the north of Ireland.
William James Reid, squatter
Reid took possession on 2nd January, 1853 and a few months later in May of that year brought his new bride Elizabeth Elliott Armstrong to live on the property. Together, they raised a family of nine children and as the need arose they extended the original timber house with a bluestone extension consisting of three extra rooms and a passageway. The new section was situated in front of the original house and was roofed with slate and surrounded by a verandah of corrugated iron. At some point the shingle roof of the original building was also covered with iron. The ceilings were of pressed metal and - in the front rooms - lathen plaster whilst the floors were hardwood.
The homestead showing the old (rear) section and the newer (front) section.
From the Bob Reid Collection, Copyright, Department of the Environment
At the time of purchase from the Wilsons, the run carried 5,000 sheep. A geographical and topical map produced for the surveyor's office in 1867, indicates a brush fence separating the Woodbourne run from that of George Russell's to the south as well as a set of "brush yards" which if I calculate correctly would have been about 1km west and 3.5km south of Bamganie and the Meredith-Mt Mercer roads respectively.

Reid and his family remained at Woodbourne until 1872 at which point one source indicates that he forfeited the lease on the run. I suspect that the timing of his exit may have been no chance thing. In the early to mid-1860s, the Victorian government introduced new laws to encourage closer settlement, allowing small "selectors" to take up blocks of crown land on easy terms, including areas held under current squatters licences. The squatters complained vehemently to the government that the new laws discriminated against them, the very people who had opened up the countryside and brought about such improvement.
After all their effort, they were - they claimed - at risk of having their land snatched from beneath them by moneyed "land sharks". On the other hand, many squatters themselves attempted to rort this new system by having "mediums" purchase the rights to the land on their runs which in turn would immediately be leased back to the squatter - in return for a fee of course!
Wilson Creek below its confluence with Woodbourne Creek looking across land
which was selected from the original Woodbourne run in 1872 by P O'Donnell
His obituary claims that William Reid argued long and hard against the land sharks and his refusal to pay "tribute" to them cost him dearly. Newspaper reports of the day indicate that Reid did in fact fight against the resumption of "his" land and looking at the surveyor's maps of the era, there were several blocks of Woodbourne land selected during the 1860s and possibly further blocks sold outright to selectors. Much of it seems to have been to the east of the railway line with some to the north of the homestead site. This may well account for statements indicating that the size of the run had been reduced to 10,000 acres by 1865.
By 1869 and during the 1870s however, the uptake of land seems to have gathered considerable pace. Much of the land to the west of the homestead and down to about 1.5km south of the Meredith-Mt Mercer Road was taken up. A number of blocks towards the most southerly part of the run along Wilson's Creek were also selected.
Henderson's Road which crosses Wilson Creek at "Tayolor's Bridge" was named
for a later selector from the 1880s who took up land to the west of this site on the
Leigh River - probably on Golf Hill land. This road may have formed part of the
boundary between the two properties. Edwin Taylor selected the land which can
be seen immediately the bridge in 1880.
behind the bridge
At this point, Reid probably saw the writing on the wall for his run and in 1872 chose to forfeit his lease and sold the remaining 3,000 acres and homestead to John Matheson of Moranghurk.
 This enabled him to pursue his squatting ambitions on the Darling River. From there, he went on to purchase a number of stations in New South Wales and one as far north as Cloncurry in Queensland as detailed in his 1914 obituary. In later life, he retired to Geelong and is buried at the Eastern Cemetery with his wife and several other family members.

Views fit for a squatter. The Reid family grave at the Eastern Cemetery
From 1872 onwards, the homestead was used as staff housing by the Mathesons, remaining in good condition until the 1950s. The land along with the neighbouring Native Creek No. 1 run - also acquired by Matheson - was absorbed into the Moranghurk Estate, remaining intact until soldier settlement arrived in 1953.
At that time, the block containing the homestead passed to Mr George Morris Lloyd and his wife Olive. The Lloyds and their children farmed the block until 1973, despite having suffered heavy losses in a fire in 1967. In that year, they sold the farm to Alan and Margaret Parkinson, who are still the owners of the farm they called Woodbourne.
The remains of the homestead today. The walls of the bluestone section
remain standing however the roof appears to have completely collapsed. The
stables (right) built in the 1870s appear to be mostly intact.

The rest of the Woodbourne No. 2 run - mostly the southern section - seems to have reverted to crown land which was taken up by selectors during the 1880s, 1890s and into the early 20th century. The only part to remain in government hands today is the land along the lower section of Woodbourne Creek which now forms the Bamganie State Forest.
Inside the state forest, looking across Woodbourne Creek
The creek at this point is steep and quite heavily wooded and would not have been appropriate for either grazing or cultivation which may in part explain its continued reservation as crown land.

One of the many gullies running down to Woodbourne Creek near the state forest
There is however another possibility which will be the subject of my next post - GOLD!

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