31 March, 2018


The subject of my previous post was a short walk with a small group of interested individuals along the Moorabool River downstream of the Slate Quarry Road Bridge a short distance to the north east of Meredith. Following European settlement, this section of the Moorabool formed part of the boundary between the squatting runs of Durdidwarrah - established by Robert von Stieglitz - and Borhoneyghurk - first claimed by John Norman McLeod. As I have already written about each of these properties, I thought I would have a look a little further upriver at a third run, much smaller in size than the other two and sharing boundaries with both: 'Moreep'.
The earliest mention of 'Moreep' in the newspapers of the Port Phillip District as the area was then known, is in an 1848 listing of applications for squatting leases (Geelong Advertiser, 29th April, 1848). The applicant was J N McLeod. This was John Norman McLeod, leaseholder of 'Borhoneyghurk'. According to Victorian Squatters (Spreadborough & Hough, 1983) however, McLeod originally took up the 'Moreep' lease in October, 1837 which was about the same time at which he took up the Borhoneyghurk lease.
At an estimated 4,300 acres (Melbourne Daily News, 13th February, 1849) 'Moreep' was less than a quarter of the size of the 24,700 acre Borhoneyghurk run It was estimated that the land was capable of grazing 2,000 sheep. By January, 1850, McLeod had transferred the licences for both the Borhoneyghurk and Moreep runs to Messrs Ball and Sinclair (The Argus, 22nd January, 1850) who continued to occupy the Moreep run - populated with 4,000 sheep - until 1853 (Victorian Government Gazette No 8, 16 February 1853, 205--page 220). By February, 1854 however, the lease had passed to the Rev. Thomas Nattle Grigg (Victorian Government Gazette No 13, 14 February 1854, 327 - page 418)  who had also taken up the lease for the larger portion of 'Borhoneyghurk' which had by that time been subdivided.
Grigg's tenure however appears to have been fleeting with Hugh Morrison installed as licensee by 4th April the same year (Portland Guardian & Normanby General Advertiser, 7th May, 1854). Whilst Morrison also occupied the run for a relatively brief time, he remained in the district throughout his life. Survey maps for the Parish of Ballark show that on 7th June, 1856 he was the first to purchase the pre-emptive selection for the Moreep run - a 640 acre block a little to the east of the Moorabool River and somewhat west of the Meredith-Ballan Rd. Today, most of that block is planted with pine trees but the nearby settlement of Morrisons is a reminder of his tenure.
During the time of Morrison's occupancy, the gold rush was in full swing and an extension of what was called the Morrison's Lead, ran through 'Moreep'. Speaking in retrospect, Mr DM Morrison, son of Hugh, recalled the following (Geelong Advertiser, 4th May, 1907):
The northern extension of the lead through Moreep on the north side of the Moorabool gave a party of 20 for about 20 years a dividend of about £25 per man per week. Mr. Silas Hoyle, one of this party is still to the fore, enjoying the good things of this life upon his farm at Morrisons. 
Before the close of 1856 however, Morrison had also sold up, moving to the neighbouring Borhoneyghurk run which he occupied for the remainder of his life. Morrison died at his Geelong residence in Pevensey Crescent in 1871 and was buried with other family members at the Eastern Cemetery (Geelong Advertiser, 4th September, 1871).
The Morrison family grave in the Old Presbyterian Section, Grave 77 at the
 Eastern Cemetery, March 2018
'Moreep' meanwhile, passed to Thomas and Joseph Bray in partnership with James Wood. Between them, they were running 10 horses, 40 cattle and 500 sheep on their property and parish survey maps show that on 24th June, 1856 they expanded the extent of their holdings with the purchase of a 518 acre block of land which connected their original block `to the Moorabool River as well as two smaller blocks to the east of about 142 acres, which provided frontage to the Meredith-Ballan Rd.
Wood did not remain long in the partnership, leaving the Bray brothers to run the property alone which they did until 1861 when they were forced to declare their insolvency (Victorian Government Gazette No 177, 3 December 1861, 2325--page 2352). Originally, the pair were drapers who had been resident in Geelong since the 1840s (Geelong Advertiser, 25th June, 1849), where they ran their business in the Market Square. Like many at the time it would seem they decided to try their hand as pastoralists, apparently with disastrous financial results.
Following their failed venture at 'Moreep', the pair moved back to Geelong where Joseph returned to the trade he knew best, operating a drapery store (Geelong Advertiser, 22nd December, 1869), a business he successfully pursued for many years.
An image of Moorabool St, Geelong 1852 looking south west. "Bray's Drapery
Warehouse" is the light coloured building left of centre. Image held by the
State Library of Victoria. Click to enlarge
By 1872, his brother Thomas had moved to Sebastopol near Ballarat where he entered into community life, serving as a Justice of the Peace. In 1871 he was elected mayor of the Borough of Sebastopol and held the position until 1873. By the 1880s however, Thomas had moved to Corowa in New South Wales where he owned a grocery and drapery store (Weekly Times, 29th June, 1929) and also a vineyard - Mossgiel - where he lived until his death in 1907 (Melbourne Leader, 2nd July, 1898).
Joseph died at his Laurel Bank Parade home in Geelong at the age of 93 in 1919 (Geelong Advertiser, 11th January, 1919) and was buried at the Eastern Cemetery.
During their tenure at 'Moreep', it is clear that Thomas resided on the property with his wife and children as family notices show that two of his children died on the property in 1860 - one a stillborn baby (Geelong Advertiser, 30th January, 1860), followed later that year by his five year old son Thomas Charles who contracted diphtheria (Geelong Advertiser, 24th November, 1860). The child's body was returned to Geelong for burial at the Eastern Cemetery.
With the departure of the Brays, the next tenant to occupy 'Moreep' was Charles Samuel Morrow who by that time was also the licensee at nearby 'Bungal' and like others his tenure at 'Moreep' was short-lived.  By 1863, he was selling up and in May that year it was reported  that Morrow had sold the property for the sum of £10,000 to George Bassnett and John Bennett Evans, stationers from Ballarat turned graziers (Hamilton Spectator and Grange District Advertiser, 8th May 1863). The brothers however had seriously overcapitalised and were declared insolvent by 1864, having paid only £2,500 of the purchase price (The Argus, 14th April, 1864).
The Evans Brothers' substantial printers and stationers store in Lydiard St
Ballarat, 1861. Image held by the State Library of Victoria
And so, by early 1864 'Moreep' was on the market once again (Ballarat Star, 17th February, 1864). It was advertised as consisting of 2,030 acres of freehold land and a further 3,000 acres of land leased from the Crown. A house consisting of six rooms plus various outbuildings stood in in a ten acre garden which was planted with fruit trees and vines. Facilities for stock, including a wool shed and draughting yards for both sheep and cattle had been constructed and the titled land was fenced.
The next owner of 'Moreep' was a Scotsman by the name of Donald McKinnon from the Isle of Skye who had moved from South Australia with his daughters and wife Elizabeth. However, his tenure was also brief as he died at the property later that same year. Despite this, his family remained at 'Moreep' for many years until 3rd March, 1898 when disaster struck. At around 4am Elizabeth who was living there with one of her daughters awoke to find their home (by now an eight-roomed timber structure) on fire. With no water to hand and no help nearby, the house burnt to the ground. It was suspected that a spark from the kitchen started the blaze (Geelong Advertiser, 5th March, 1898). After this time, Elizabeth leased the property out and moved to St Kilda where she died at her home some five years later on the 26th September, 1903 (The Argus, 28th September, 1903). She was buried with her husband Donald at the Meredith Cemetery.
The next chapter for 'Moreep' saw the property purchased from the McKinnon daughters in 1911 by Mr William Rhodes. The sale included a homestead which presumably had been rebuilt after the fire (Hamilton Spectator, 9th March, 1911). Whilst Rhodes and his family retained ownership of the station for many years, they chose to base themselves at 'Bungeeltap' which they purchased in 1922, instead installing a manager - Rodolph Paulden - at 'Moreep'. The Paulden family were still in residence on the property at the time of Rodolph's death in 1952 (The Argus, 11th December, 1952).
After this time, I can find little information about the property but do know that by October, 1970 it was on the market once again (The Age, 24th October, 1970). More recently, according to the Australian Government Business Register, the Parsons Moreep Pastoral Trust held an Australian Business Number (ABN) which was cancelled in 2016, however it seems that much, if not all, of the property is in the hands of a Colac-based company by the name of Australian Kiln Dried Softwoods (AKD Softwoods) who from the mid 2000s began planting the property out with pine trees to supply their various timber products.
'Moreep' as seen on Google Earth today. The map shows the approximate extent
of the original squatting lease (red) as well as the 640 acres of the pre-emptive
right (green) and the current holding (yellow)
Today, 'Moreep' is covered almost entirely by pine trees (see above) which continue to mature. The venture however is not without its risks as the company newsletter Splinter illustrated when its February/March edition for 2014 described the loss of 3.2 hectares of trees during a fire started by lightning strike in hot summer conditions.

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