PECK OF NEW HAMPSHIRE, COBB & Co., ASCOT VALE, STRATHMORE AND "MEMOIRS OF A STOCKMAN".
John Murray Peck came from the town of Lebanon, near the Mascoma River in New Hampshire, U.S.A. With Freeman Cobb and two other young Yankees he set up the famous Cobb and Co. coachline to Mt. Alexander in 1854; Cobb was the man in the office while Peck, with his daring and commanding voice, took charge of huge teams of horses on their hair-raising trips along the poor roads. He once drove a 14 horse team which hauled 40 passengers to the Melbourne Cup. Before long the partners had sold out and the firm went on to cover many more routes. Peck had another brief period in the coach business but was later to establish himself as Australia’s foremost auctioneer of fat cattle, often travelling to other colonies to conduct sales. He was enticed into this occupation by Dal Campbell in 1862, and later teamed with William Hudson (who owned much of Peter McCracken’s Ardmillan from 1872) and T.R.Raynor, an accountant, to establish a stock firm which dissolved amicably in 1887 when John established Peck and Son with his son Harry.
He served as Mayor of Essendon and must have been the first American -born official of a (future) A.F.L. club, being a vice-president of the Essendon Football Club; his strong voice (which Mrs. McCracken could hear at Ailsa when he was conducting auctions at Newmarket Saleyards) and the Sturt desert pea he wore ensured that others in the crowd at the footy were left in no doubt about which team he supported. No doubt some of his grandchildren barracked for Essendon as in 1884 his daughter, Mary, married that club’s first secretary (and the first V.F.L. President from 1897 till his death in 1915), Alexander McCracken.
His son, Harry Huntington Peck, was born at Gisborne in 1860, left school on 1-1-1878 and in January 1884 became an auctioneer. When he retired in 1938, he had the longest-running licence among stock salesmen in Australia. Luckily, Harry was not content to fade away and started to write at the age of 81. His book MEMOIRS OF A STOCKMAN gives wonderful pen-pics of a great number of pioneers as well as providing extensive information about properties and is a much-used local history source.
John Murray Peck built a house called Mascoma in Ascot Vale (on part of lot 2 of section A in the parish of Doutta Galla). It consisted of 8 rooms and was situated on lots 29 and 30 of the Fernhill Estate on the south side of Mascoma St. The house was probably built shortly after April 1880 when William Fleming bought the estate. Peck must have wanted more land for (shortly after William Fletcher had converted Smith’s old land just south west of the Pascoe Vale bridge to Torrens in 1881) he bought 40 acres and in 1882 built his Italianate mansion, Lebanon, which is now a private residence in Wendora St., Strathmore. His son, Harry, built Hiawatha, still standing at the top of Kilburn St., on the Byron Vale Estate in 1891. It may have been designed by Harry’s brother, Solon.A.Peck, the resident architect of the Howie estate* in the city and was modelled on the lodge of the family home at Lebanon, New Hampshire-in which area the Pecks had been pioneers. (*Henry Howie was an early squatter near Gisborne, gaining in 1837 the licence for Cairn Hill which was taken over by J.C.Riddell and Hamilton later on. Howie and his family perished when the Sarah Jane foundered en route from Sydney in 1838 but he had obviously bought city land, which his relatives in England still owned in 1942.)
It is likely that J.M.Peck built Wanganui, a house later referred to as Cook’s Homestead, which was on the Red Rooster site at the East end of the footbridge over Pascoe Vale Rd. near Peck Ave. The house was said to have been built for Peck’s THREE boys and occupied by Harry for some time. It was later the home of Albert Cook, probably from about 1928 when Broadmeadows Shire, of which he was Secretary, opened new offices at the present site. In 1920-1, Richard O.Peck* had 7 ½ acres in Norfolk Rd. (Gaffney St.) and it is likely that this was the same land owned a decade or so later by Miss Roberts, which extended south from Cook’s Homestead to the garage built by Fred Chisholm and his mechanic, Mr. O’Shea. (Peggy McKenzie, a resident of Gaffney St. from 1935.) The Roberts family was related by marriage.
(*Richard Osborne (Dick) Peck had started in the wool trade and had risen to the position of buyer for Edward Jowitt & Sons of Yorkshire but in the late 1890’s joined his father’s firm, its name changing to Peck and Sons.)
In 1920-1, Mrs. Louisa Ellen Peck owned a house and 38 acres (Lebanon) as well as a house and land which Mrs. M.McCracken (her daughter and Alex. McCracken’s widow) was renting from her, Harry owned 5 acres (Hiawatha) and with Richard owned 18 acres at the west end of the Byron Vale Estate (probably near Lincoln St. ie. Carnarvon Rd.) and 20 acres adjacent to Lebanon. Dick Peck had earlier owned land, which in 1914 was acquired to extend the army camp at Broadmeadows. (“Broadmeadows: A Forgotten history” A. Lemon. P. 131.)
Buried in the Will Will Rook Cemetery, just west of this piece of land are:
JOHN MURRAY PECK, born at Lebanon, New Hampshire,U.S.A. in January, 1830 and died at Lebanon, Pascoe Vale on 19-11-1903.
LOUISA ELLEN NEE? ROBERTS, wife of above, born Bond St., London 6-6-1840, died Lebanon, Pascoe Vale 5-7-1928
.ANNIE M.PECK, died at Hiawatha, Pascoe Vale 11-11-1940 (after which Harry moved to Bolobek at Macedon where he was living when Memoirs was published in 1942),wife of
HARRY HUNTINGTON PECK who died at Wangaratta on 24-7-1943 and their son
GUNNER HARRY HUNTINGTON PECK of the 4TH. F.A.B., 1st. A.I.F., who died on 6-10-1947.
In the equally historic Bulla Cemetery, in the 12th. Row of the C.of E. section lies SARAH SWINBORNE ROBERTS who died at Lebanon, Pascoe Vale on 31-1-1916.
(Sources as stated plus: Sam Merrifield’s House Index & Street names of Essendon by Lenore Frost, Essendon Conservation study by G.Butler, Kilts and Cow Dung Flats and Ardmillan by MYSELF and of course, Harry’s book.)
Who was Hugh Peck? He was obviously related to John Murray Peck because of an entry in Broadmeadows’ rates of 1879-80 which throws into doubt the claim that John bought the Lebanon land in or shortly after 1881. The entry shows that Hugh Peck owned a house and 34 acres at Pascoe Vale with a nett annual value of 60 pounds. This was probably Lebanon. Hugh Peck was also leasing a house and land at Yuroke,N.A.V.12 pounds from Henry Papworth; this was probably in Section Rd., Greenvale.
In 1900, Hugh Peck, landowner, owned 6 acres on J.P. Fawkner’s grant, 11B of Doutta Galla between Milleara and Rachelle Rds. in East Keilor. This was probably a site Fawkner reserved for a school just south of Groves St. or a block east of that street labelled Fawkner Executors on a C.1890 map.
I also recall having seen a map 10 years ago, which showed Hugh Peck as the owner of section 19 of the parish of Maribyrnong. This accounts for the naming of Pecks Rd., Sydenham, which is its eastern boundary. As confirmation of this hazy recollection, I have found notes from a discussion with longtime Sydenham farmer, Merv Landers, in which he described the land west of Pecks Rd. as having been Bob Morton’s and earlier Peck’s.
Was Hugh an alternate name for J.M.Peck, an older son or a brother? I prefer the first theory.
On 30-7-1903, the late James Robertson’s Upper Keilor estate was sold by Pearson, Rowe and Smith in conjunction with J.M.Peck and Sons. This land was between Calder Highway and the river, and on the north side of the Melton Rd. from Calder Park Dr. to the Beattys (Sic!) Rd. corner. Just south of the Melton road was William Taylor’s Overnewton Estate, which was sold at about the same time*, probably by the same firms. If J.M. was indeed Hugh, he had only a few months left to buy the land near Pecks Rd. before he died.
(*Taylor died in 1903)
on 2012-02-02 08:13:35
Itellya is researching local history on the Mornington Peninsula and is willing to help family historians with information about the area between Somerville and Blairgowrie. He has extensive information about Henry Gomm of Somerville, Joseph Porta (Victoria's first bellows manufacturer) and Captain Adams of Rosebud.