04 April, 2016

Making tracks: the Colonel and the one-armed shepherd

With the advent of the gold rush in 1851, diggers flocked to the goldfields of Ballarat and surrounds. In previous posts I followed their path from Geelong via the Geelong-Buninyong Rd and the track from The Leigh (Shelford) to Buninyong. In addition to these routes, there was also a third option, one which a hopeful real estate agent in the Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer of 13th October, 1853 claimed was "the best line of road to Ballarat, Canadian Gully, Jeweller's Flat & c".
The road in question lay to the east of the Geelong to Buninyong Track, following a similar line to today's Steiglitz Road. After cresting Bell Post Hill, the route led towards Batesford, but instead of following the main road down into the Moorabool Valley, those wishing to take the other road to the east, took the track towards Steiglitz. Other than the above advertisement however, there is little mention of the route before October, 1855 when Steiglitz became a significant destination of its own. According to the Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer of 16th October, 1855:
The shortest road from Geelong [to the new goldfield at Steiglitz] is to pass Colonel Kelsall's Station, cross Sutherland's Creek, follow the well defined dray road to the left of the creek till you come to the old shepherd's hut, when you are within two and a half miles from the diggings, which are situated on a point or tongue of land between Sutherland's Creek and a tributary creek flowing from the Anakies.
Sounds simple enough, but who were the Colonel and the shepherd?
The colonel was Roger Kelsall, engineer, sailor and then squatter who, according to fellow squatter Thomas Manifold, arrived in the district in the spring of 1836 and took up land on the upper parts of Sutherland's Creek. Prior to his arrival, Kelsall served as Clerk of Works at Port Arthur and was responsible for the design and construction of several of the buildings there. It was not however, until 1845 that he sold his commission with the Royal Navy and retired to Victoria. During this time I believe his run on Sutherland's Creek was maintained for him by a manager named Sharp.
The grave of Colonel Roger Kelsall, his wife Ann and son Roger
at the Eastern Cemetery
 By December, 1854, Kelsall had converted part of his lease into 1,490.5 acres of purchased land - including his pre-emptive right of 640 acres. The latter lay nestled between the left and right branches of Sutherland's Creek down to their confluence, with the rest of the land in several blocks on either side of both branches branch. He gave this property the name 'Chesterdale'. Additionally, the Colonel also purchased 557 acres of land lower down Sutherland's Creek on the west bank, directly opposite the Hope's land. This property, 'Strathey', eventually extended to 1,100 acres by the time both properties were subdivided and sold in 1908. Until that point, they had remained in the hands of the Kelsall family, however not long after the death of the Colonel in 1861, they were leased out to local graziers.
Contrary to the above description of the route, a look at the survey maps shows that the diggers would first have crossed first through the Hope's 'Darriwill' property before crossing the creek onto Colonel Kelsall's 'Strathey' and joining the bullock track. The creek crossing was presumably near the site of today's Hope's Bridge on the Steiglitz Rd. Clearly, the current bridge is not the original, that bridge stood slightly upstream of the modern one. The concrete and bluestone buttresses of the old bridge and various related timbers can still be seen just north of the existing bridge.
Looking upstream at the abutments and some remaining timber and concrete
at the site of the original Hope's Bridge
The earliest mention I can find of a bridge at this site is 1863, when drains were installed on the nearby road. In 1865 when the decking timbers were being replaced, it was discovered that the timbers beneath were rotten and in need of attention, indicating that the bridge had probably been in existence for some years at that time. Other timber bridges I have researched seem to have had a lifespan of around 10 years before structural timbers needed replacing, which might indicate that the bridge dated back to the 1850s. As far as I can tell, two bridges were erected on the Steiglitz Rd. One in 1857 and one in 1858. The latter was on the "Approach to Steiglitz gold-field" so perhaps this was the erection of the Five Mile Bridge, much closer to Steiglitz, whilst the bridge built in 1857 was at the crossing between Hope's and Kelsall's - but that is speculation. Whether an earlier structure such as a ford existed at the site, I don't know.
Looking east across Sutherland's Creek and the original Hope's Bridge
towards 'Darriwill'
After crossing the creek and making their way through Colonel Kelsall's property, it was - according to the above article - a simple matter of following the dray road on the left of Sutherland's Creek, towards the diggings. Other than the above reference however, I can find no mention of a road to Steiglitz before November, 1855, but presumably the dray track mentioned, led originally to the Durdidwarrah squatting run of Charles Augustus Stieglitz.
Another description of the trip to the new goldfield at Steiglitz which appeared a few months later in the Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer, 28th January, 1856, was perhaps not quite so flattering, but provided a little more detail about the route:
"the road from Geelong to Steiglitz leads, for the first ten miles, through an open and slightly undulating country, the aspect of which is, of course, monotonius(sic) enough. Passing this space you arrive at Sutherland's Creek, now a chain of waterholes not particularly limpid. Next comes a tract of thinly timbered land, terminating in an open piece of rising ground known as the Bald Hill. Beyond this point and within eight miles of the "diggings," you pass in a close succession three refreshment tents, recently pitched, and a weatherboard establishment of a similar character not yet completed. A mile or two further on you find yourself suddenly in the gold country. The rapidity of the transition here is very remarkable. The easy undulations of the soil which prevail in the early portions of the journey give place at once to short and abrupt hillocks, pretty well timbered, and sprinkled over with great quantities of grass...
Being summer, it seems that there was little water in the creek. I can find no other mention of the "Bald Hill", however from context would expect it to be somewhere near what would (by 1856) become the township of Maude. At this point it is also worth remembering the "Buninyong Road from Melbourne" - described in my post "All Roads Lead to the Green Tent" - which intersected the Geelong to Buninyong Track at the Green Tent. This east-west track dating back to the 1840s, also crossed the track to Steiglitz, probably at Thompson Rd, Maude, as evidenced by an 1857 survey map which marks this road as "towards Melbourne". For those not wanting to make the steep climb in and out of the Moorabool Valley at this point, the Steiglitz route provided an alternative for those travelling from Melbourne.
From November, 1855 however, Steiglitz itself became a destination with the discovery of extensive gold reefs, making the track from Geelong even more popular.
Remaining brickwork footings of the United Albion Mine, Steiglitz
Not surprisingly, the sudden increase in traffic heading up the Steiglitz dray road resulted in the establishment of a "close succession of refreshment tents". They were probably similar to those which sprang up on the Geelong-Buninyong Track in the earliest days of the gold rush to Ballarat.
As far as I am aware, prior to the rush to Steiglitz there was no public house between Batesford and these new diggings.
Within a very short time however, that changed. In addition to the "coffee tents", an array of traders scrambled to set up shop in Steiglitz. According to the Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer, by the first week of January, 1856, tents and stores were popping up by the dozen. As well as the essential butchers, bakers and general stores, hotels were quickly established. Upcoming applications for new liquor licenses advertised in February, 1856 included five for Steiglitz and a further two for Sutherland's Creek, all no doubt capitalising on on the traffic heading up the dray track to the goldfield.
Once past the "coffee tents" as noted, the terrain changed and became more rugged, signalling the presence of auriferous ground. From the turn off to Melbourne, the track fell away, down to a second crossing of Sutherland's Creek, this time at Five Mile Bridge and it was here, several newspaper accounts indicated, that the "one-armed shepherd's hut" could be found. Various reports shared around the colony, stated that a gold reef had been struck near the one-armed shepherd's hut, after crossing Sutherland's Creek, about 20 miles from Geelong.
The bed of Sutherland's Creek. During the 1850s numerous gold mines
operated along the banks of the creek
But who was the one-armed shepherd? Well, despite my best efforts, I have not been able to discover a name. In addition to his hut being a common point of reference on the road to Steiglitz, it was reported that on 21st January, 1856 he was the victim of a robbery, when three armed men known to be from the nearby diggings invaded his hut. Neither his name, nor indeed his presence at the time of the robbery, were not mentioned.
Once past the shepherd's hut, it was only a matter of a few more miles to Steiglitz, if that was the digger's intended destination; and for many, from October, 1855 it was. By December that year, a coach was running from Geelong to Steiglitz, carrying those who could afford it. In fact, within a short space of time, Steiglitz became a staging post for the coaches running to and from Geelong and the goldfields.
The view down Regent St towards the site of Cobb & Co.'s
staging post (left), April, 2010
But Steiglitz was not the end of the journey for every digger. Indeed, prior to October, 1855 it was just another creek crossing on the way to Buninyong, and later, Ballarat. It was also roughly the half way point on this eastern path to the diggings and according to some, was crying out for a public house; a stopping point along the road, where the drays carrying supplies to the goldfields of Ballarat and Buninyong and a little later to places such as Mt Wallace, Mt Egerton, Dolly's Creek and Morrisons, could spend the night or break their journey with a meal.
That need was filled in April 1853, when Richard Coombs announced that he had purchased the mansion until recently owned by Charles Von Stieglitz and converted it for use as an hotel...

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