Alexandra last year (2018) celebrated its 150th anniversary with a series of public events. The 150th anniversary of the Yea Roads Board in February 1869 has passed silently this month.
A feature to be published for the first time in The Local Paper this week (Feb. 20, 2019) looks at life at ‘Muddy Creek’, 150 years ago:
The Yea Roads District was declared on February 1, 1869 – some 150 years ago this month.
The local Roads Board had its first meeting in the Yea Court House in April 1869.
The Yea River was still known as Muddy Creek in most circles at that time.
The Kilmore Free Press had published a report around this time about the area and the chase for gold.
“Rumors are rife of a rush to Muddy Creek; several parties. are out prospecting but it is not yet known with what result,” said the September 4, 1871 newspaper article.
“Building has almost entirely stopped, with the exception of a few small cottages for our lucky miners, the township. having altogether overgrown the requirements of the place. “A new bridge is.now in course of erection, being much needed. “There is much scope for the operations of the Society for Cruelty to. Animals here, as-the-horses and
bullocks employed in the-necessary transport of goods are frequently bogged in consequence of the disgraceful condition of the roads, and often betean most unmercifully by their drivers.
“It is not advisable to encourage any new comers here at present, but
if they must come, it is best to go by the steamer; the overland route occupying quite 10 days, unless they. ray be of the same way of thinking as the Highlander who complained of the. professional dentist who charged half a guinea for pulling out a tooth in an instant,, whereas he. stated he once visiteda blacksmith who performed the same operation,.and was dragged round the smithy for half an hour and only charged, sixpence.”
Earlier, on July 14, 1870, the Free Press reported on a local Board meeting:
“At a meeting of the Yea Road Board held on. Tuesday, June 24, the members present were Messrs Grant (chairman), Ker, M’Leish, Doyle and Smith.
“There was not much business before the Board.
“A sum of £19 was paid to Kummer and Co for the erection of the Muddy Creek bridge, between the Glenmore and Island stations.
“A letter from Mr Glover was ordered to be acknowledged, and the clerk was instructed to inform him that he would receive due notice of the day appointed to hear appeals against valuation.
“Fourteen days extension of time were granted to Mr Watt to enable him to complete his contract.
“It was decided that a sum not exceeding £4 should be expended in procuringa rope for placing across the Goulburn at the ferry near the junction of the Muddy Creek.
“The clerk was instructed to give notice to G. McKenzie that an applicatioa for a road through his property had been made by Mr Ker, and the Board would hear any objections he had thereto.
“The Dog Officer, Mr Brackenbury, was nismissed for neglect of duty:
“Tenders were ordered to be called for the construction of a culvert and approaches on the Yea road, opposite McCristal’s section.
“Ac counts, amounting altogether to £52 6s Sd, were passed for payment, and the meeting rose.”
On October 20, 1870, the Free Press reported on a sad death at Muddy Creek: “It is our duty this week to record a melancholy death by drowning – the victim being a young man, about 18 years of age, named Maurice Fahey O’Neill, well known in Kilmore, where he also had the good wishes of those with whom he came in contact.
“From what we can learn it appears that about three weeks ago the young man left the Merton Rush, about seven miles from Godfrey’s Creek, where he had been mining for some time, with a view of joining
his relatives at Kilmore, but the next thing heard of him was that his body, in an advanced stage of decomposition, was found at the middle bridge, about half a mile from Yea, on the Muddy Creek, in a standing position against a tree, with arms out stretched, and partly out cf the water, on the 11th instant.
“A letter and prayerbook, bearing his name, found on the body left no doubt as to identification, and the matter having been reported to the police, an in quest was held and a verdict of “Found Drowned” was returned.
“In connection with this matter we are led to the belief that the police were not as active as should be expected in tracing the relatives of the unfortunate young man.
“The sad occurrence was duly reported at the Kilmore police station, and certain particulars supplied which left no doubt as to the young man’s relatives being resident here, but they took no action, and the body was interred before the friends were even made aware of the unfortunate occurrence.
“Deceased was particularly sober well-behaved young man and most of his earnings we are informed went towards the support of a large family.”
Bad floods hit the region in November 1870, and the Kilmore Free Press noted “the great influx of water into the Goulburn from the Big River, the Jamieson, Ochre, Devil’s River, Muddy Creek, the Sugar Loaf, and Sunday Creek, caused the flood to rise”.
The flood hit nearby Seymour badly: “A correspondent writing to the Argus, states, “This week Seymour has again become the scene of a vast inundation, resulting in the destruction of two lives, those of Mr Vickers, landlord of the Lamb Inn, Elizabeth street, Melbourne, and a Mr Greenwood, an old resident of the township.
“The loss of property forms also a heavy item in the consequences of the calamitous visitation, and but for the opportune assistance rendered to
the Rev Mr Cameron, Presbyterian minister of Seymour, and his do- mestic, both of whom were precipitated into the stream by the foundering of their boat when escaping from the rev gentleman’s submerged residence, the loss of their lives would have been added to the list of disasters.
“During. the night of Tuesday rain fell heavily and continued during the greater part of Wednesday, when the rapid rise of the water warned all persons who had the means of leaving Seymour to do so without delay. “Several commercial tra vellers staying at the Royal Hotel took the hint, and departed, though not until the water had, risen so high as to render pilotage necessary.
“During the whole of Wednesday night the rain continued, and on Thursday morning the aspect of affairs was so alarming that it was deemed necessary to at once remmove the inhabitants of the low lying dwelling to a place of security. “In the course of the day no fewer than eighty persons availed them-selves of the services of the Messrs Guilds, who, assisted by several of their fellow townsmen, conveyed them in boats to the Royal Hotel, where they were most hospitably provided for by Mr and Mrs Guild.
“Early in the morning a telegram was received from Benalla, announcing the destruction of its bridge, and consequent impossibility of forwarding. the mail.
“Soon alter the receipt of this telegram a buggy and pair of horses was driven up to the Royal Hotel, by Mr Vickers, who announced his intention to proceed on to Melbourne.
“He was advised of the danger he would incur if without a guide; but relying upon his per sonal knowledge of the road, insisted upon proceeding. In less.than five minutes from the time of leaving the hotel he,. together with Greenwood, who with two other persons occupied the buggy, were lost.
“Crossing a flush culvert, the scene of a previous similar disaster, the horses jibbed the force of the current whirled the buggy round, and over it went into the foaming water beneath
“The two unfortunate men, Vickers and Greenwood were drowned.
“The other occupants of the buggy saved themselves, with great
difficulty by swimm ing to an adjoining bank
“Greenwood disappeared with- the buggy, and was not seen to rise again.
“Once only was Vickers observed above the surface, and then he appeared to be holding tightly to the reins; his immediately disappearance thereafter suggests the probability that he was rendered insensible by a kick from one cf the struggling horses.
“In less than tive minutes all that could be seen was the hoofs of the drowned horses just above the surface.
“As was expected, the great influx of water into the Goulburn from the Big River, the Jamieson, Ochre, Devil’s River. Muddy Creek, the Sugar Loaf, and Sunday Creek, caused the flood to rise so rapidly as on Saturday morning to render the removal of the families from the hotel to the high land on the other side of the river imperative, and notwithstanding the rain which had continued to fall in torrents all through tbe
previous night, their removal was effected without accident, the residents in the immediate neighborhood rendering every hospitable assistance to the unfortunates.
“It was on the return of the large boat from one of the trips across the river that the perilous position of Mr Cameron was observed by Mr Guild, who at once took steps for his rescue (the boat in Mr Guild’s charge being too large to approach) by hastening back and despatching a smaller one, which was immediately manned by volunteers, who divesting themselves of all superfluous clothing, manfully pulled away, reaching the tree to which the reverend gentleman and his servant clung, just in time to save one of them at least from a watery grave, Mr Cameron afterwards declaring that he could not have held out much longer,” the newspaper said.
They were tough times. In late December 1870, the Victoria Government Gazette declared: “Murrindindi East Run, on the Muddy Creek, and Glenburnie Run, on the Running Creek, are declared Quarantine districts tunder the “Scab Act, 1870.”
The distances that had to be traversed by government officials were extraordinary.
The Gazette (July 11, 1878) spoke of the appointment of Mr Richard Fennelly, of Sydney-street, Kilmore, as Mining Surveyor for “for the Kilmore Division of the Sandhurst Mining District, and for part of the Goulburn Division of the Beechworth Mining District hereunder described, viz:- Commencing at the source of the McIvor or Patterson’s Creek; thence by a line north-easterly to the junction of Hughes’ Creek and the River Goulburn; thence southerly by the river Goulburn to its junction with the Muddy Creek; thence south-westerly by the Muddy Creek to its junction with the Murrundindi Creek; thence by the Murrundindi Creek to its source; thence by a line southerly passing over Mount Despair and along the summit of the Black Range to the Great Dividing Range; thence north westerly by that range to the most western source of Mollison’s Creek; thence north-westerly and north easterly by the range forming the western watershed of Mollison’s and Sandy Creeks to the source of the McIvor or Pattereon’s Creek to the commencing point aforesaid.”
On February 11, 1865, The Age had reported on the bid for a major road through Yea:
“The hon. Commissioner of Roads and Bridges yesterday received a deputation, introduced by Mr Snodgrass, M.L.A., and Mr Sands, M.L.A., from the inhabitants of tho Goulburn Valley, including the
townships and districts of Darlingford, Yea, Kilmore, Reedy Creek and Jamieson.
“The deputation presented several very numerously signed memorials from the inhabitants of the above districts. The memorialists recommended to the immediate attention of the hon. Commissioner the road recently surveyed via the valley of the Goulburn, Yea and Darlingford, to the Jamieson and Upper Goulburn, and the surrounding gold-fields, for the following reasons, namely, that’it is the shortest route, being nearly fifty miles shorter than the present coach road via Longwood; that it is the best route; that scarcely any public money has ever been expended in improving this line of road ; that a small expen-
diture in tho summer season would make the road available for heavy traffic all the year ; the opening of the proposed road would render available an immense quantity of rich agricultural land, the sale of which would amply compensate for the proposed expenditure -notwithstanding the amouuts of money expended on the other roads to tho Jamieson and Upper Goulburn gold-fields, the traffic has frequently been stopped in the winter, and that, by opening up this road, tho cost of carriage of goods to the abovenamod places would be reduced nearly one-half. For these, and other reasons, tho memorialists urged that immediate steps should be taken to improve the line of road and make it fit for winter traffic.”