BLACKWOOD, VIC., AUST., THE HISTORY BUFF AND BUSHWALKER'S PARADISE.
Oh to be in Blackwood town
One hundred years ago,
When axes, picks and shovels
Were a'swinging to and fro.
Blackwood is a town in Victoria, Australia. The town is located on the Lerderderg River, 89 kilometres north west of the state capital, Melbourne. Blackwood is in the Shire of Moorabool Local Government Area and had a population of 235 at the 2006 census.
The town was founded in 1855 during the Victorian gold rush and at one stage had a population of around 13,000 prospectors. The Post Office opened on 22 September 1855 and was known as Mount Blackwood until 1921.
Attractions include the State Park and Wombat State Forest, a mineral spring, miners' cottages from the 1860s and Mount Blackwood, an extinct volcano offering panoramic views of the surrounding area.
Blackwood is so-much better described in that one verse than in wikipedia. As I jogged a hundred metres at a time up the Old Blackwood Coach Road, my mind was on a coach driver applying the brake with all his strength so the coach would not overtake his weary team and cruelly kill the horses. As I threaded my way up the ridges between the ruts, I could well imagine axles being broken and passengers, already bruised from the jolting, seeking shade or helping while repairs were carried out.
Blackwood is no Bendigo, Castlemaine or Maldon, time capsules filled with beautiful architecture. But it has the beauty of discovery about it and for those who like to combine fitness with the thrill of discovery,the Blackwood area is just the ticket. Blackwood has a tiny population now but amazingly has a newsletter of such quality that it can truly be called a magazine, and many organisations that require hard working volunteers to serve on many of them, so that the terrific community spirit can be maintained.
The type of hard work described in the first verse of the late Grace Rayner's Blackwood (A haven in the hills) was typified by Ray Meade, who served on the Cemetery trust and progress association as well as being president of the cricket club, social club and crown reserves committee. This history is dedicated to the late Ray Meade.
MARGOT HITCHCOCK. Margot is in the process of writing a history of Blackwood and its pioneers. As my aim is to supplement existing histories, not repeat it,, I will summarise the articles she has written for the Blackwood News so you know what information is available, but not include it in my work. Margot is willing to help people
with genealogical detail about any of their family who have been Blackwood pioneers. Margot would also appreciate any anecdotes, photos etc that you can supply. She can be contacted by email on
Margot has replied to my email and provided some valuable information.
Tyrrell should be spelt Terrill. The pioneer after whom the backtrack and the street (joining old Golden Point Rd to Golden Point Rd at the pub corner) were named was Byres, not Byers as I had written.
The school site at Golden Point is listed on old maps of Blackwood and a photo of the school is in my Aspects book. Blackwood North was not the main food growing area as food and sheep farms were also in Green Hills, Blackwood and a Chinese Market was where the Sport Ground is.
Mt Blackwood was named after Captain Blackwood of the 'Fly'.
There is information about the aborigines of the area in her books.They are:
1. 'Aspects of Early Blackwood - The Goldfields, The Landmarks, The Pioneers' by Alan J. Buckingham and Margot F. Hitchcock. (89 pages including photos and index - with information on early gold mining days and the pioneers - $ 14 or $16 including postage.)
2. ' Some History of Simmons Reef, Blackwood', compiled by Margot Hitchcock for the Blackwood & District Historical Society.(55 pages and 51 photos plus index with information on the early Quartz mining in Simmons Reef - $13 or $15 including postage.)
�The Story of Blackwood� � a small booklet of 8 pages with brief information on Blackwood � �The Beginnings, Gold, The Diggings, The Township, Quartz Mining, The Surrounding Districts � Barrys Reef, Simmons Reef, Golden Point, The Cemetery, Blackwood Today, and a map of 'Where to Go, - What to see.� Produced by the Blackwood & District Historical Society. Cost $4 from the Society or $5 posted.
Available from the Blackwood & District Historical Society Museum at the Old Police Stables Blackwood, open 1st Saturday of every month 10-30am - 12.30pm. Or can be purchased from the 'Garden of St. Erth', Blackwood Post Office, Blackwood Hotel, Mineral Springs, Caravan Park -or
For orders - contact Margot Hitchcock, email - email@example.com
If I don't summarise an article, it's because I don't have that newsletter.Variations in spelling are as found in articles. Descendants of pioneers who may never have lived in Blackwood are included in the surname list for genealogical purposes.
April-May, 2011.Graves in the Blackwood Cemetery. John Wightman started the first steam sawmill at Barry's Reef, Blackwood in 1866. Details of his wife, children and their spouses.(Kennedy, Dunlop, Thompson, Wolters.)
June-July, 2011.Silas Gay, mine manager, Blackwood. Excellent biographical and genealogical detail. It is interesting that the evidence of Albert Sweet was included in the police report regarding the accidental death of Silas in 1898.
December 2011-January 2012. Holes in the rock wall at the sports ground resulting from a competition displaying a skill used in mining; drilling holes in which dynamite was inserted.Results from the 1902 sports. The race behind the spring on the Shaw's Lake side of the Lerdie was constructed by Vincenzo Cocciardi.
(Cocciardi, Strangman, Coleman,Healy, Daymon,Terrill, Kathleen Maxwell.)
Also, World War2 Memories from Jack Rayner and Alan Wellsley Griffin and SOME EARLY MEMORIES OF BLACKWOOD by Don Owen.(Richards, Walker, Simmonds, Bricker,Dr Wisewould, Dwan, Sweet, Tyrrell, Callaghan.)
The historical society seem to have the police stables as its Museum. I'll have to check that out next time I'm up!
June- July, 2012. LAST BIG NUGGET FOUND IN BLACKWOOD.Much genealogical information about Tom Matthews, his spouse and children. (Tom Matthews, William Walters (wrong)/Waters (correct), Brennan/Brannan, Beasley, Considine, Eccleston, Wells.) Also a trip down memory lane by Kathy Blair. (Matthews,Cann, Tyrell, Gribble, Sweet, Shaw, Broad, Denman, Webster, Morgan, Amery, Hill, Walker, Seymour.) Tom Matthews used to play accordian at the dances. Kath used to go to school at Golden Point. I wonder where the school site is!
August-September, 2012.FLOOD AND LOSS OF LIFE AT BLACKWOOD. Two of John and Jane Williams' children had died from Scarlatina and two others were affected, one recovering and the other taken to Melbourne by Jane for treatment. While she was away another son drowned, during a heavy flood in mid 1861, while returning from the post office at Golden Point.(Williams, Harry.)
Also a poem UP HOME (NORTH BLACKWOOD) by Minnie Turner (nee Bawden) circa 1920's, (Elliott, Service, Brown, Bawden, Goudie, Cassidy, Thomas) and DOES BLACKWOOD HAVE A NORTH? by Jimmy Olsen (Dunn,Berg, Rodgers, Lillis, Meredith, Millyard, Donnely, Guppy, Bawden, Wright, O'Connel, Meier, Stewart, Ambler.) In 1865, Charles and William Dunn were the first settlers at Blackwood North, which became the foodbowl of the diggings.
Just two points on behalf of family historians, if you write poems about your family or the people of an area: (a)write notes, giving surnames, maiden names etc for such as Aunt Annie, Uncle Tom; (b)names in a list provide very little information so if you can't work some detail into the actual poem, try to add a note about each surname. For example one family might have had a huge number of children, another might have been a dairy farmer while most others grew spuds etc. For example:
Jack Rayner sat on council;1
War dangers did he face.2
He's living still up in Lourdes Hill3
With fond memories of Grace.4
1.Jack was a Ballan Shire councillor from -- to --.
2.Jack served in world war 2. See details in the December 2011-January 2012 edition of Blackwood News.
3. Grace Power bought the log cabin in Clarendon St, which overlooks Jackson's Gully, in 1938, according to her poem THE LOG CABIN (at the age of 17 according to Jack.)Given the name of the Rayner residence,it is no surprise to see the name, Power,mentioned in her THE CHURCH UPON THE HILL (St Malachy's Catholic Church.)
4.Jack married Grace Power at----on---- etc.
See how much information can be extracted from just one verse but a family historian isn't going to guess what it is and must be told the background. To avoid littering the poem with numbers, I prefer to write a page of notes corresponding to the verse numbers. e.g.
verse 1. Jack was a Ballan Shire councillor from -- to --.
Jack served in world war 2. See details in the December 2011-January 2012 edition of Blackwood News.
Grace Powell bought the log cabin in Clarendon St, which overlooks Jackson's Gully, in 1938, according to her poem THE LOG CABIN (at the age of 17 according to Jack.)Given the name of the Raynor residence,it is no surprise to see the name, Power,mentioned in her THE CHURCH UPON THE HILL (St Malachy's Catholic Church.)
Jack married Grace Power at----on---- etc.
IN THE BEGINNING.
I know nothing of the first inhabitants of the Blackwood area but I hope to remedy this. Despite expecting to find that the first white inhabitants were a lawless lot,quite the opposite was generally the case. I have not had time to ascertain whether the Pyke brothers' run included the Blackwood area,but if they attended Patrick Phelan's meeting at Blackwood, I doubt they would have voted for him.
A cursory glance at the voters' roll for the Mt Blackwood Division of the West Bourke electorate (Page 6, Argus, 22-5-1856)has revealed where the various diggers and storekeepers etc. were resident and the person after whom Vigor St was named. The Mr Langhorne who chaired Patrick Phelan's meeting, was probably Edward Langhorne, a householder at Red Hill, that is, near the present hotel and store. I will leave it for readers to look at the roll; Margot may include it in her book.
A description of several Runs near Blackwood can be found on pages 1 and 4 of The Argus of 3-10-1848. With boundaries described in some instances as ploughed lines,or as adjoining a run leased by a named person, it is difficult to determine which of several runs encompassed the Blackwood area. One item discovered from a description of one of the possibilities, Run 152, is that the native name for Mt Blackwood was Moonia.
Mt Blackwood was obviously named by 3-10-1848 but I have found nothing to indicate after whom it was named. I believe it was named after Vice-Admiral Henry Blackwood (Nelson's third in command who had no surviving children to succeed him as Baronet according to one source but not the one about Francis Price Blackwood), the Hon.Henry S.Blackwood or Francis Price Blackwood. The Blackwood River in Western Australia was definitely named after the Vice Admiral.
Blackwood, Francis Price (1809�1854)by Ann Mozley
Francis Price Blackwood (1809-1854), naval officer, was born on 25 May 1809, the second son of Vice-Admiral Sir Henry Blackwood and his third wife Harriet, n�e Gore. He entered the navy at 12 and obtained his first commission in August 1828. In 1833 on the East India Station he was appointed to command the Hyacinth, in which he first visited Australia and contributed hydrographic data on the north-eastern coast. He was promoted captain in 1838.
In 1841 Blackwood was appointed to command the corvette Fly in the first hydrographic survey commissioned by the Admiralty for exploring and charting the north-east Australian coast. The Fly, fitted with costly instruments, and carrying two scientists, Joseph Jukes, geologist, and John MacGillivray, zoologist, sailed from Falmouth in April 1842 with the cutter Bramble, under the charge of Lieutenant Charles Yule. After a stop in Hobart Town from August to October, the two ships called at Sydney and began the survey in December 1842.
In the next three years the Fly charted from Sandy Cape to Whitsunday Island, including Swain Reefs and Capricorn Islands and the broad passages between, and marked the outer line of the Barrier Reef from 16� 40' S. to 9� 20' S. Early in 1844 a beacon was successfully erected on Raine Island to mark the best passage through the reef. Meanwhile the Bramble completed a survey of Endeavour Strait. Late in 1844 the Fly visited Surabaya and returned in April 1845 to chart a track for shipping from Bramble Cay to Endeavour Strait (Great North-East Channel) through Torres Strait. The expedition then surveyed 100 miles (161 km) of the south-east coast of New Guinea, charting the dangerous off-shore shoals and the mouths of several rivers. The discovery of the Fly River commemorates their work. After a call at Singapore, the Fly returned to Sydney by way of the Swan River, and in December 1845 sailed for England. Next year Blackwood entered Jesus College, Cambridge, and on 12 October 1848 he married Jemima Sarah Strode. He died on 22 March 1854.
The records compiled under Blackwood were important not only for hydrography but also for the detailed sailing directions, many of which still appear on modern charts. In addition to the astronomical observations for the hydrographic survey, magnetic observations on sea and shore were made. The expedition was one of the earliest to visit Papua and bring back detailed reports of the natives.
The Hon. Henry S. Blackwood is appointed one of the Queen's Messengers for foreign service. (P.4, The Argus, 25-9-1849.)
And something closer to home for the next Blackwoodians' trivia night:
Maurice Baldwin BLACKWOOD - (born 1882 Britain died 1941 Australia).
Captain of the Stonecrop, a British E-boat sunk in the First World War,
became an admiral in the Royal Australian Navy in the Second World War.
A great grandson of Sir Henry Blackwood.
(Dennis Bell Burnaby, B.C. on rootsweb. The Blackwoods were also prominent in the U.S.A.)
THE ROADS AND THE ORIGINAL TOWNSHIPS.
4 corrections, most recently by culroym - Show corrections
MOUNT BLACKWOOD DIGGINGS.(FROM OUR OWN CORRESPONDENT.)24th September, 1855.
"What is Mount Blackwood like?" This question is frequently asked of a visitor from these diggings when in town. As it is likely to prove a very interesting place in many ways to the community at large, in the gra- dual development of the prodigious wealth known to exist there, it may be not uninteresting to your distant readers to give a brief description of the district in question.
In the first place, it is certainly a very mountainous one consisting entirely of a continued series of precipitous ranges, generally running, as near as may be, north and south, covered by a dense forest of trees and numerous perennial plants and shrubberies. Golden Point, where the Government Camp is located, and where a township is in process of being surveyed in allotments, is situated on a large sloping bank, close upon the main creek. On either side it is hemmed in, east and west, by very steep ranges. Further up the main creek, about a mile or so, is the celebrated Red Hill, where a considerable quantity of gold has been obtained. Both at the Red Hill and Golden Point, from the want or utter absence of any thing in the shape of sanitary regula- tions or preconcerted arrangements for that important object,an intolerable stench salutes the nostrils of the passers by , and from the same unfortunate cause, one may easily predicate that when summer comes on death and the doctor will be actively engaged among the inhabitants of those two abominably filthy spots At the Red Hill, the main creek is divided into the important tributaries, one coming down from the Yan- kee's, or Acre's Quartz Mining Reef, and the other from Simmons's Reef, numerous other smaller tributaries running into them, along the high ridges overlooking the Yankee Creek tributary.(P.6, Argus, 25-9-1855.)
THE OLD BLACKWOOD COACH ROAD.(Shown as King St on a Bushwalkers' association map.)
The Old Blackwood Coach Road went straight to Golden Point, which makes sense because that's where gold was first found on 14-11-1854. It emerges onto Clarendon St between Albert and Victoria Sts,closer to the latter. The original continuation was the North Blackwood Road. Heading south the road climbs very steeply and for this reason huge ruts,almost on the scale of the Grand Canyon, develop in rainy weather so it must have been worrying for coach drivers and very uncomfortable for passengers. The only good thing about the ruts, when I was running to heaven up this road, was that having to look intently for a safe footfall, so I wouldn't break a leg, distracted my mind from the climb ahead that went on and on and on. This road (also known as King St) meets the Morning Star track, a continuation of Golden Point Rd.
THE NORTH BLACKWOOD ROAD.
In DOES BLACKWOOD HAVE A NORTH? (P.5, Blackwood News August-September 2012), Jimmy Olsen states that this was the main route in and out of town in the 1800's,the Fern Hill-Blackwood Rd.
SETTLEMENT AT NORTH BLACKWOOD.TRENTHAM, WEDNESDAY.
It is proposed to place 200 families on some very rich land near Laver's Mill, close to Fern Hill, North Blackwood. Each family is to have two acres of land for a building site and garden and then there will be in addition to this 1,000 acres on the fringe of the state forest to be worked by the men in occupation of the two acres. They will work on the company system, dividing the profits made out of it on equal terms.
(P.6, Argus, 19-10-1893.)
While searching for "Fern Hill",I discovered an article (P.6, Bacchus Marsh Express,6-10-1906) which mentions the Fern Hill Railway Station and Charles Dunn, who with brother William,pioneered Blackwood North.
Mr. Charles Dunn, jun.,it should be mentioned, is a most public spirited man, and, with his father, pioneered this region over 40 years ago, living for two years in a hollow tree (big enough to turn a dray in) while subduing the wilderness. He thinks nothing of walking all day in these acclivities and declivities, and on Sunday last walked to Blackwood and back to send a message by Cr. Walters to Ballan to the Ed. to invite the party to luncheon on the Tuesday.
THE OLD TRENTHAM ROAD.
If you head down Martin St from the pub and ignore the curve to the left (the Trentham road until the bypass was built),continuing straight down to the river past Whalebone St, you're on the old Trentham Road. It intersects with Yankee Road after a fairly steep climb. I've run up this hill once and down once with much discomfort resulting each time. (See FUN? RUNS AND STROLLS.)
GOLDEN POINT ROAD.
This road, starting at the pub corner, curved slightly to the north before heading due south into Jacksons Gully to a leftie hairpin and a climb back to the direct route (with Hettie the Hen on your right!) This section has been replaced but can be clearly seen, with a plaque on the slight curve to the north. It states that gold was first found at Jacksons Gully by two teamsters on 14-11-1854. Golden Point Rd runs east to the river, turning right at the big rock to climb steadily past the log cabin, zig zag around a gully and pass the Byers Back Track before levelling out.At thispoint,it becomes the Morning Star Track which heads west and south west to meet the Greendale-Trentham Rd, intersecting with Thompsons Rd on the way.
OLD GOLDEN POINT RD.
As mentioned previously, the Old Blackwood Coach Road is very steep and is easily eroded.When the present centre of Blackwood (Red Hill) also became an important mining venue, it made sense to make a new and slightly less steep road directly to that area. I believe that old Golden Point Road skirted the upper reaches of Jacksons Gully to connect with Clarendon St, Golden Point.(Jack Rayner thinks my theory makes sense.) Old Golden Point Rd east of Campbell's Cutting is a dead end but has two houses of interest. Norm Campbell, a steward on Merchant ships, loved Blackwood and built Cambrae from whatever material he could scrounge in 1939.
The next house was owned for ages by the Simmons family. Across the road is a gum tree which was planted by Mr Simmons but was accidentally pruned with a mower, resulting in today's fascinating three gigantic, conjoined trunks.
THE WALKING TRACKS.
FUN RUNS AND STROLLS.
Before you cross the bridge at the mineral springs there are two short walks you can take. If you go left for only about a hundred metres,the track comes to a waterhole and a big rock from which children love to launch themselves into the water. This provides a good opportunity to teach water safety, such as how water holes can be very deep in places, and rocks, submerged logs etc can be hidden under the surface so exploring by wading should come before jumping, while noting current strength and planning exiting points should be taught.
If you follow the river to your right, you will find some interesting information about the gold mining era.
If you cross the bridge and turn left up some steps, the track will take you to Shaw's Lake where there are information boards in regard to history and walks. Primary school children can manage the climb with a few rest stops and it's a good jog for the athletically minded being not too steep and not too root and reef affected once you get up the hill a bit.
You can also drive up the North Blackwood road to Shaw's Lake Rd and try some of the circuit walks near the lake. Jogging up to the lake on the North Blackwood Rd is less difficult than the Old Blackwood Coach Rd (King St) but the climb does go on and on.
If you go straight down Golden Point Rd past the North Blackwood turn off till you reach the river, you will see a huge rock across the river. We always called the rock "The Sphinx" because it had the lion shape, even including the haunches, the absence of a human face not detracting too much from the comparison. It can be climbed fairly easily and safely by children of eight or so, presenting a splendid photo opportunity and making them feel like heroes. Jumping into the waterholes is a no no, being far too dangerous, but a short swim is possible, even in dry weather.
Golden Point Rd turns right and commences a long climb near the sphinx. Blackwood is a great place for stirring the imagination, not just historically as in Grace Rayner's THE DESERTED SHACK. No matter how tired the children were after walking to the sphinx, they just had to walk part of the way up the hill. For there was the Three Little Pigs' house;a log cabin sitting right beside the road. They didn't have to be inside it to provoke a bit of Drama.
The bridges at the springs and at the start of the North Blackwood road could not be crossed by the children without dad spending at least ten minutes being a troll!
My favourite runs were from the springs to Shaw's Lake returning down the North Blackwood Rd, the Byre's Back Track to O'Brien's Crossing, the Golden Pt Rd/Morning Star Track/Greendale-Trentham Rd and old Golden Point Rd circuit,and the previous circuit shortened by going cautiously down the Old Blackwood Coach Road.
One glorious hot moonlit night, I fancied a naturally illuminated run up Old Trentham Rd from Martin St to Yankee Rd, but when I turned after the bridge I ran straight into a puddle, and learning my lesson quickly, slopped back home. One day, feeling extra heroic, I tried the North Blackwood, Yankee Rd, Old Trentham Rd circuit and again came to grief on the last-named track. Reefs were a worry in places on the way to Five Ways,on most of Yankee Rd and for a while as I turned left for the last leg. Soon the road smoothed and, hearing some thumps, I took the opportunity to spot the roos. You guessed it; I tripped on a reef and did my very best Superman impression,removing most of the skin from my forearms and knees. And it was a long way to the Lerdederg, even if it was downhill!
Late one overcast afternoon I was about to reach a crest as I climbed Golden Point Rd from the sphinx when I saw an Alsatian's head appear. Oh no,a feral dog! But it was a kangaroo which received as big a shock as I had
and took off like a dragster. Another day on the Byre's Back Track, I heard a single thump behind me as I commenced a zig zag around a gully. It was a koala which had jumped to finish its descent of a big gum.Magic! I eased my way slowly towards the lovely creature which stared curiously at me.I crossed its too-close line and up the tree it went with a speed that would put Spiderman to shame. Magic!
Easter is a busy time at Blackwood with the woodchop, parade and concert being major events. Dances were once higlights when I was much younger.
Recalling the first verse of Grace Rayner's poem,which starts this journal, where she wished she could be in Blackwood "one hundred years ago", if you have the same desire, you can combine it with the chance to become an Australian Champion. The Australian Gold Panning Championships will be held at the Blackwood Cricket Ground on 24 March 2013. Results do not depend on luck. For details, contact Marcus (0418 474 427) or Geoff (0408 396 644). Powered sites are available at the mineral springs caravan park for only $25 per night but it would be wise to book early on 03 5368 6539.
See comment 2.
on 2013-02-12 07:09:35
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.