10 February, 2016

Making tracks: beside Yuille's Swamp

When gold was first discovered at Hiscock's Gully in August, 1851, the track from Geelong led to Buninyong. There was no town at Ballarat. At the time, the only European settlement in the area that would become Ballarat, was a squatting run. It was occupied in 1838 by 19 year old Scottish settler, William Cross Yuille and his cousin Archibald Buchanan Yuille who had left their earlier run on the Barwon River at Murgheboluc after coming into conflict with the local Wathaurong tribe.
In March, 1838 therefore, they selected 10,000 acres north west of Mt Buninyong on the shores of a swamp. This run which in today's terms included the inner suburbs of Ballarat and extended south as far as Sebastopol was known as "Ballaarat". When William Cross Yuille first arrived (shortly before his cousin), he camped on the edge of what was then known as Black Swamp. Soon it became known as Yuille's Swamp and today is recognised as Lake Wendouree.
A memorial erected in 1938 on the banks of Lake Wendouree
(near the end of Pleasant St) commemorating the arrival of
William C Yuille, the first European to live in the district
Whilst William remained only a short time in the district before heading to New Zealand in 1840, his cousin retained the license for the run until 1857. One of his nearest neighbours was Henry Anderson who settled at what became known as Winter's Flat at about the same time. He named his 26,000 acre run "Waverley Park" and built a homestead near the junction of Woolshed Creek and the Yarrowee River. He did not remain long in the district however and in 1842, sold out to John 'Jock' Winter who renamed the run "Bonshaw".
Photo of William Cross Yuille, taken in 1894. Image
held by the State Library of Victoria
The homestead built by Anderson however, was taken over by Archibald Yuille who also began constructing a more permanent house on the property. With the coming of the gold rush however, Yuille abandoned his plans for the run and by 1852, had left the district.
The site of the homestead was described some years later in The History of Ballarat from the First Pastoral Settlement to the Present Time (WB Withers, 1887, 2nd Edition)
Down the valley of the Leigh where the Sebastopol streets and fences run over the eastern escarpment of the table land, may still be seen the sandstone foundations of a station begun by the Messrs. Yuille, whom the coming of the first hosts of gold-hunters scared away from a place no longer fit, in their opinion, for pastoral occupation. Those unfinished walls are in a paddock overlooking a little carse of some four or five acres by the creek side, owned by an Italian farmer, and close to the junction of the Woolshed Creek with the main stream in the valley.
In today's terms, the homestead site would have been situated at the end of Bala Street in Sebastopol and the "little carse" later owned by Mr J Grenno forms part of the wetlands next to the river, through which the Yarrowee Trail now passes.
Sketch of the homestead on Woolshed Creek, built by Henry Anderson and later'
occupied by Archibald Yuille. Image held by the National Library of Australia
When the Yuilles first arrived however, there was no Sebastopol and no Ballarat township.The tracks made by their bullocks and those of the other squatters spreading out across the region became the road from Buninyong. The branch of the track which led to the Pyrenees region near Avoca, passed only a stone's throw from the Yuille's homestead. In time, this section of the track became Albert Street; now one of the oldest roads in inland Victoria.
After passing the Yuille's homestead on Woolshed Creek, the track followed the ridge line above the Yarrowee River before curving away to the north - somewhere near the intersection of Grant and Moyle Streets - taking a path to the east of Lake Wendouree towards the Pyrenees.
At that time, Yuille's Swamp really was a swamp, teeming with wildlife and a summer camping place for the local Wathaurong people. After the town of Ballarat was established however, earthworks were built and modifications were made in order to provide a water supply for the town, resulting in the lake we see today.
The view across Yuille's Swamp (now Lake Wendouree) from the site of W.C.
Yuille's first camp
Whilst the very first gold diggers to spread out from Hiscock's Gully to search the creeks and waterways of the area may have forged their own paths through the bush, those who came after them, followed the bullock tracks and stock routes used by the Yuilles and other squatters in the area.
The track to the Pyrenees district also led to the town of Clunes, where gold had been discovered a few weeks before Hiscock's discovery at Buninyong, so some of those disappointed at Hiscock's Gully, decided to try their luck at Clunes instead.
Others, upon hearing the news, rushed to investigate the new find by Dunlop and Regan only a few miles away on the Yuille's Ballarat run.  Taking to the track once again, they made the much shorter journey to Poverty Point, taking with them their pans, cradles, tents and what supplies they had, hoping this time to strike it rich.

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