In March, 1836, it became the site of one of the very earliest squatting runs in the Port Phillip district when John Anthony Cowie and David Vere Stead moved into the district. The pair had arrived from Tasmania in November the previous year with John Batman's party of settlers. The only other settler in the district at that time was Dr Alexander Thomson who arrived some two months after Cowie and Stead and settled on the south bank of the Barwon at the future site of the suburb of Belmont, Geelong.
On 9th July, 1836 John von Steiglitz (recently married to Cowie's sister Emma) arrived at Point Henry with stock for the run which they continued to build on for the next few years. The land held by Stead, Cowie and Steiglitz as their grazing run extended from Bell Post Hill down to the Moorabool River near Batesford and north towards what is now Lara - known to the early settlers as Duck Ponds.
|Looking across the Moorabool Valley towards the Batesford quarry from Bell|
Post Hill over what would have been part of Cowie and Stead's holding running
down to the river
|The view towards Corio Bay today from Bell Post Hill|
Being close to the newly established town of Geelong, the original Bell Post Hill run was soon divided up for closer settlement - possibly a reason for the departure of Cowie & Co. By 1852 subdivision was occurring in the area of Cowies Creek and by the 1860s it boasted a population of about 500 people and two pubs. Land at Bell Post Hill on the Bates Ford Road was being auctioned in lots upwards of an acre by 1853.
During 1859-60, John Calvert Esq who then owned land at the top of the hill, had a grand house erected which he called "Morongo".
|"Morongo" 1863, image held by the Victorian State Library|
|A roughly similar view today|
|Bell Park 1863, home of Captain John Bell. "Morongo" can be seen at the top|
of the hill in the background. Image held by the State Library of Victoria
In 1921 Senator James Francis Guthrie purchased "Morongo". The senator was active in the wool trade in both Geelong and Melbourne and was largely responsible for establishing the Corriedale breed of sheep in Australia. Further biographical details for Senator Guthrie can be found in the Australian Dictionary of Biography.
After only five years in residence, Guthrie sold the property in October, 1926 to the Presbyterian Church. The church then established the Morongo Girls College which opened its doors in 1927. It is said that the old bell used by Cowie and Stead which had been discarded but later found and retrieved from the Moorabool River by a fisherman, became the school bell which was used for the next 26 years until it was stolen in 1953. An article appealing for information was published in the Argus.
|"Morongo" homestead today|
The "Morongo" homestead survives as one of the school buildings and one side of the driveway would appear to be lined with the trees planted during Calvert's time and which appear as saplings in the sketch of the homestead.
|Trees lining the driveway leading to the homestead|